About 2 weeks ago I received a generic email inviting me to something called “StreatingOn9 – street – eat – Tweet”, part of “NoiseOn9″ music, art, food event taking place on August 3 from 6-8pm in the 9th Square section of New Haven.
What??? Anyone who follows my blog knows I’m not really computer savvy. It’s a miracle I get these posts out at all. ”Tweeting” is not remotely in my repertoire of on-line skills. I read the email, thought, “Oh, that sounds fun, maybe I’ll go,” and proceeded to quickly forget about it. I then received a follow-up email, naming me and Augustine specifically, stating we were referred to StreatingOn9 by Amy Christensen from Elm City Market. OK, now I paid attention. I still didn’t understand what it was, but replied that we would attend. I knew if Amy was involved, it was a cool thing that had to do with food.
About 6:20 last night, Augustine and I wandered onto Orange St between Chapel and Crown. Part of the street was closed off and there was fantastic, jammin’, live music going on. Lots of smiling people were milling around, eating, talking, and furiously typing on their cell phones.
We eventually found out guests were invited to eat a meal from one of the participating restaurants. The Wholesome Kitchen was selected because we blog about food; so we were encouraged to eat then blog/facebook/tweet about the experience, creating an on-line buzz of activity. As I said, I can barely access my email on my cell phone, so the possibility of me doing any real-time blogging was out of the question. Facebook? Wasn’t happening. Instead, I took notes, Augustine took photos, and I’m now sitting thoughtfully in air conditioning at Manjares in Westville, writing my official “critique”.
Our meal was a vegetarian selection from Palmeira Brasil Restaurant, located at 56 Orange St. I’m not familiar with Brazilian food per say. And let me interject right here and now: we are not a food critics . . . at least not officially . But that’s what we were invited to do, so here we go!
First course was a fried yucca appetizer with dipping sauce. Yucca is a starchy, potato-like vegetable . . . deep fried, who wouldn’t find these crunchy little things tasty? I think our order could have been cooked a little longer – I’ve had fried yucca that was to die for in Miami at Cuban restaurants. When asked, our server explained the sauce was made of yucca, garlic, and soybean oil. While we are not fans of soybean oil, the ingredients were simple . . . simple is good. Might we suggest they use extra virgin olive oil instead?
Second course/main entree was a black bean stew called Vegetarian Feijoada: black beans cooked down with diced green and red peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, from what we could tell. This was served with white rice, collard greens, breaded and fried banana slices, and a small pile of some bread-crumb-like accompaniment. We finished all the food (except the bread-crumb stuff).
We want to RAVE about the collard greens. They were excellent, lightly cooked (still bright vibrant green, tender yet crunchy) and tossed with olive oil and garlic without being oily. We don’t know of anywhere else in the city where you can get a serving of tasty, properly cooked vegan greens (not to say there are no other places – keep in mind we don’t eat out much, being finicky about food quality). The collards alone are worth coming to Palmeira for. But keep in mind: if collards are not organic, they are one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops in the U.S. today. So Chef – we suggest you source organic collard greens (maybe hook up with Elm City Market?) and let the public know that collards served at YOUR restaurant ARE organic!
The black beans were tasty. Flavor was very mild with no heat (that is not a criticism – most macrobiotic foods don’t have hot spices, so we were fine with that). A nice sprinkle of fresh scallions garnished the top and added a little spice. This dish could have been improved by being served with brown rice instead of white, for taste and nutrition. Of course we are not here to interfere with Brazilian tradition, but The Wholesome Kitchen looks at food as health as well as taste. Just consider the source – no offense intended. (We think ALL restaurants, from Japanese to burger joints, should offer organic brown rice.) And while you’re at it, ditch the aluminum cooking pot the beans were served in; lots of controversy about the possible health dangers of cooking in aluminum. Sometimes tradition needs adjusting. May we suggest little cast iron or ceramic pots? Yea, they’re heavy – but a healthier, un-controversial choice.
Lightly-battered, deep-fried bananas are yummy. No doubt about it. We won’t drive the nail in any further by discussing if these are healthy or not. The bread-crumb stuff . . . well . . . we wanted to ask the server more about what that was, but he seemed to be also serving customers inside the restaurant and wasn’t readily available. We hope the staff at Palmeira understand most of us know nothing about Brazilian cuisine and take the opportunity to educate us along the way.
Overall, The Wholesome Kitchen thinks Palmeira Brasil offers a decent, above-average meal for the vegetarian diner. As we said, getting good collard greens alone is exceptional; and this meal wasn’t just vegetarian – it was VEGAN. Our sincere thanks to Chris Ortwein from On 9 New Haven (www.On9NewHaven.com), Amy Christensen from Elm City Market (www.elmcitymarket.coop) and Palmeira Brasil Restaurant (www.Palm-CT.com) for making this event happen. We are honored to have been part of an amazing event!