Yes, glamour-puss Beyoncé recently credited vegan food for helping her get back into red-carpet-ready form, and a slew of other celebrities have announced their vegan allegiance (Brad Pitt, Russell Brand, Jessica Chastain, and Woody Harrelson, to name a few), but the cruelty-free, earth-friendly cuisine still has a reputation that is way more sensible than sensual. The locavore movement, too, with loyalists who lobby supermarkets and stump clueless waiters about where the chickens in the cordon bleu were hatched, has more of a cerebral than sumptuous connotation.
But with an upcoming event sponsored by Miami's favorite group of delicious do-gooders, Conscious Bite Out, diners will get to witness the glamorous side of both movements. During the group's 100-Mile Dinner at the Sacred Space, guests will have the opportunity to dip into a five-course locally sourced vegan menu that is at once decadent, ethical, and healthful. (And there will be lots of organic and sustainably produced booze, to boot.)
Chef Keith Kalmanowicz, now head chef of Love & Vegetables, a vegan dining initiative based at Earth N Us Farms in Little Haiti, will lend his culinary and local food-sourcing skills to the event. Previously a chef at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, he launched into the vegan lifestyle over the past year, a move he credits for his significant weight loss and improved fitness and health. The goal for the by-donation events he has created this year has been to raise money to help fund the opening of a nonprofit vegan restaurant aimed at promoting healthful, plant-based, ethical eating in our city. He sees the collaboration with Conscious Bite Out as a perfect pairing because he and CBO founders Veronica Menin and Marcela Andron share similar views on conscious consumption.
"I sat down with Veronica and we discussed different options on how I wanted to approach the dinner," Kalmanowicz says. "I had tried something like this a year ago, and it was so challenging. But at that time, I didn't know all the ins and outs." After organizing and preparing dozens of vegan and largely locally sourced happenings at the communal farm in Little Haiti, as well as many pop-up events at local restaurants and venues, the chef says he's gained confidence in his ability to meld vegan and locavore cuisine.
"When you eat local, you're supporting your local farmers, you're eating food grown in your climate zone, you're eating food that's available and ripe at the right times, and it's traveling a shorter distance to you, so it's using fewer resources," Kalmanowicz says. "It's also fresher, so you'll have the best taste... We'll get a lot of stuff that was picked that day."
Cofounder Menin, whom Kalmanowicz met through a mutual yoga teacher friend, echoed the chef's excitement about the collaboration. "We share a lot of the same philosophies and ideas about food, and I loved hearing about what he's doing with Love & Vegetables and the path he wants to go on. It's exactly the type of partner that we want."
Of the dinner this Thursday, Menin says she hopes to attract a different type of attendee from the ones who typically show up at local vegan events.
"Basically we wanted to create something that's appealing to a range of people," Menin says. "Marcela and I are both health-conscious, but we're not hippie granola people. We combine good taste and conscious eating with elegant events, and we don't necessarily need granola people to come, because they already know. We want to make it appealing for people who aren't already familiar with all the aspects of conscious eating so we can spread awareness."
With all of its events, their organization aims to encourage restaurants to offer more locally sourced foods and sustainably produced options. "We want to show them that there is an option to serve amazing, delicious food that is also... organic, that there are vegan dishes that are amazing, and to teach that health food does not just mean a carrot and a celery stick anymore. There is lots of great food coming from very talented chefs who can create beautiful menus," Menin says.
The five-course meal costs $85 per person, which includes gratuity, several organic wine pairings from Kaina & La Parra, delicious locally made kombucha, and cocktails from VeeV Açaí, a sustainably produced vodka. The set menu includes an amuse-bouche of fermented sem-chi rice crackers with house-fermented kimchee, heirloom tomato and lemon basil soup sourced from Teena's Pride farm, confit byaldi (a mix of seasonal veggies thinly sliced, lightly roasted, and served in a piperade sauce and herb-infused vinaigrette), and a handpicked strawberry salad served with a red wine sorbet.
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"Keith created a menu based on what's available, instead of creating the menu and then going out to get the ingredients, no matter where they came from," Menin says. "The ingredients we have available created the menu, not the other way around. This is one way we can work toward a sustainable planet."
Go to consciousbiteout.com to reserve.