If you discover sweet potatoes and spinach in your fudge brownies at Green Gourmet to Go don't be surprised. OK, you can keep that a secret from your kids because the veggies are not detectable in these moist, chocolatey bites or in the Blondies with a sweet potato base. The chocolate (anti oxidants a plenty!) masks the veggies and you will be better off for having added a few more to your daily intake. My fave desserts were the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and the almond oaties. They tasted most like what I would expect (read: crave) from a cookie. Imagine eating your veggies in your dessert! I didn't mean to jump to the end first but I was so enthralled by the ingredients list that I did exactly that!
Linda Soper-Kolton has been open in Black Rock for only 5 weeks but she is well on her way to establishing herself as a resource for healthy meals and nutrient dense foods. She was trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in NYC. The focus there is on preparing delicious, vegetarian cuisine that is driven by a conscious and purposeful choice of ingredients. Linda has brought the message to lucky Fairfield County residents. Green Gourmet to Go is "take out" only and it is well worth checking out. Linda's menu will change with the seasons and most probably more often than that. She uses Sport Hill Farm in Easton as her resource for as many fruits and veggies as possible and will shop local farmers' markets to supplement what she can't find there. All of her ingredients are organic. If you have a strong urge for something on her menu, call ahead. If the farms didn't harvest that crop that week, it won't be among her offerings.
Enter her simple store front and you see straight through to the kitchen (always a good sign). She carries the green theme through and through as her walls are the color of the early spring leaves and all of her "to go" containers, down to the straws, are eco-friendly. Her menu clearly identifies every item as Vegan, Gluten-free or Wheat free. This meticulous coding of every dish is a dream for anyone with food sensitivities or allergies.
After eating dessert first, I began by tasting the soups of the day and immediately went for the Scarlet Soup. It was served cold but could easily work warmed in the cooler months. This vibrantly colored powerhouse of antioxidant-rich carrots and iron-rich beets was divine. It was blended to a smooth consistency and shimmered with the bright fuscia and orange of its primary ingredients. The ginger lent a little kick without too much heat. Next up was the Mediterranean Vegetable Bean Soup. My guess is that Linda will discontinue making this wintry melange of barley, black eyed peas and fresh kale very soon. It tasted too flat and grey after the brightness of the Scarlet Soup. I may feel differently on an icy winter day when I welcome the heaviness and comfort of those ingredients.
The sandwiches, wraps and entrees (generally priced around $6.95) are available from the refrigerated case, neatly packed in single portions or from a warm food set up where you might consider choosing something like a Dixie burger with Chipotle Sauce. Linda sneaks in as many veggies as possible to all of her foods. In this veggie burger you can see the black eyed peas, sweet potato and kale. The texture is just right and the flavors blend to make a healthful meal or snack. The sauce is a perfect counterpoint with its tangy Greek yogurt base and citrus brightness. You can enjoy the crispy, golden baked sweet potato "fries" guilt free. My guess is that the kids will love them, too. Next up was the Grilled Tempeh and Wild Rice. Tempeh is not my favorite vegetarian protein source but these cubes were grilled golden and crispy and smothered in a mushroom gravy over wild rice with toasted walnuts, squash and dates. The chewiness of the rice and the natural sweetness of the dates against the earthy mushrooms was a great way to enjoy tempeh. I loved the Sweet Potato, Kale and Black Bean Burritos. This vegan option was both creamy and protein packed. Another yogurt based spicy/citrus sauce was the perfect dip for this one. We also tried thesticky rice wraps, packed with brown rice, edamame, sunflower seeds and mushrooms wrapped in steamed collard greens with miso-tahini dressing. What fun to try combinations that I would never think of myself. And, they were all delicious.
Linda will be offering a more tropical approach to tempeh kabobs for the summer. These skewers will be available with a flavorful curry sauce and can be served over Linda's Tropical Coconut Rice. What a great alternative! Grill them yourself or pick them up ready to be plated at your place. Expect a shift in the menu as the warm weather crops rolls in. Gazpacho, "creamed" corn soup, confetti salad with lentil and brightly hued peppers, are just some of the anticipated offerings.
Noticeably absent were salads but with so many greens packed into other combinations, Green Gourmet to Go is not really the place to turn for salad. As the leafy greens like kale, collards, dandelion and mustard greens roll in, save yourself the effort of cleaning and preparing them by buying them here, lightly seasoned with lemon and garlic and quickly flashed in a pan.
A large part of Linda's mission is to educate parents and kids alike about the importance of eating nutritionally sound, seasonal and locally grown food. The blackboard paint covering one of her shopfront walls is scrawled in colored chalk with some of the basic premises: Learn to Cook! Buy Local! Buy in Season! Plant a Garden! Be the Change You Want to See! These messages influence all of us and echo Michael Polan's FOOD RULES as detailed in his must read, "In Defense of Food". Green Gourmet to Go will help by packing "Kids' Meals" with smaller portions of what is offered regularly or with more kid friendly entrees like spaghetti and wheatballs (seitan but well disguised) or mildly flavored wraps filled with white bean and carrot puree. Linda has even created word games and puzzles to tuck into these eco-friendly kiddie packages to help drive the message home. She is responsive to requests and hopes that busy parents and caregivers will turn to her when they need a break from packing those beach or camp lunches. Prices will vary but likely be around $6.00 per box.
Linda hopes to educate her customers by helping them to learn to cook at home, using locally grown crops. As a way of encouraging participation in CSA's and shopping at local farmers' markets, she is planning to give classes in her comfortable kitchen behind the storefront. It may seem like an unusual approach for a business owner selling food "to go." But it is all part of her mission to have us feel more comfortable with what we find at our farmers' markets or in our CSA boxes. Perfect timing as we wait for our markets to open and offer the bounty.
Green Gourmet to Go
2984 Fairfield Avenue (In Black Rock, next door to Timothy's ice cream)