Arts & Culture

Eating Well For A Good Cause: The Brooklyn Food Conference

I really love it when my boyfriend gets excited about a meal.  He stops, breathes in. “Oh,” he says quietly, “oh, wow” a little louder.  That usually makes me pause.  “Oh this is amazing,” his eyes go wide and a … Read More

By / April 23, 2009

I really love it when my boyfriend gets excited about a meal.  He stops, breathes in. “Oh,” he says quietly, “oh, wow” a little louder.  That usually makes me pause.  “Oh this is amazing,” his eyes go wide and a smile begins to play across his face, “I can’t believe how good this is.”  Sometimes he reaches across the table to include me in the moment, sometimes he revels in his experience alone.

We had one of those moments last night.  Earlier in the day, I had been bored at work so I checked out Facebook and noticed an invitation to several restaurants with a focus on sustainable food that were donating a portion of their proceeds that night to the Brooklyn Food Conference.  Since I was planning on being in the neighborhood of one of these restaurants, I decided to check it out – boyfriend in tow.

Cheryl’s Global Soul was warm (except at the seats next to the door since New York City is still a little cool) and cozy with artistic wood paneling reminiscent of Noah’s Ark.  Cool jazz played forcefully through the speakers giving a funky and young vibe although the crowd was eclectic from the young family seated next to us to the older genteel woman relishing her pork chop alone.  The menu was unassuming, just a sheet of paper in plastic that didn’t mention at all that the vegetables were procured at the nearby farmer’s market, but the wait staff was knowledgeable enough to let us know where the fish and meat was farmed when we asked.  And catching on that we were into the local and sustainable thing, our waitress discussed at length which local and organic wines were available that night.

Cheryl herself, a commanding presence in the room, choreographed every aspect of the evening.  From welcoming new patrons, to ensuring her customers have everyone they needed (including extra napkins to wipe up what appeared to be very juicy chicken at the table next to us) to the food exiting the semi-open kitchen, which I could occasionally glimpse a few tantalizing details of the cooks preparing our dinner.

Although my boyfriend’s reaction may have been slightly reminiscent of that iconic scene from When Harry Met Sally, he wasn’t kidding that the food was really quite good and the portions were remarkably large.  After we were seated a large plate of soft crusty bread was quickly brought to our table with a bowl of salted olive oil we enjoyed dipping into again and again.  We splurged (after all, the more money we spent, the more that was being donated to a good cause) on an appetizer of pumpkin ravioli drowning in sage butter.  Had it been socially acceptable we probably would have licked the plate, but instead resorted to dragging more of that soft bread into the last slicks of butter and pumpkin filling.

I ordered the trout, farmed raised in Maine and on the “good” fish list which came to the table grilled and with the head still attached.  A rarity as most restaurants shield us from what they we really eating, but without the head you are missing the best part – the fish cheeks.  My fish was served with jasmine rice and black beans.  So simple and so delicious.

My boyfriend ordered the vegetable tagine, which was remarkably complex in flavor and filled the large bowl with local carrots, zucchini, celery as well as (although probably not local) chickpeas and tofu.  The dish was spiced with turmeric, cardamom, and slightly sweet with cinnamon and was that tamarind we tasted?  Tired from his long day at work, my dining companion perked up when the food arrived digging hungrily into the generous portions.  We only got through half of our meals, and had the rest packed up, making me look forward to lunch tomorrow.

We left the restaurant smiling, contented with good food, nice atmosphere and the knowledge that we had discovered a new cozy spot with a solid menu that was unpretentiously making a real effort to do the right thing by buying fresh and local.

Cross-posted from the Jew and the Carrot