‘Da Bahamian Vegan’ Serves Up Fresh Food Choices
When Giovan Cooper first explored a vegan diet a few years back, he had the mindset that he could not do it. He thought that veganism, a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meats, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients would be horrible — now he’s offering up vegan fare raw and cooked to show that it’s not as horrible as people may think.
Cooper, who refers to himself by the moniker “Da Bahamian Vegan” and has been offering twice-a-week lunch deliveries for the past six months, is taking his services outside of his home to a brick and mortar location to serve his vegan food from the Delancy Towne Bed and Breakfast located at Delancy Street.
In an attempt to test the market, Cooper will open for seven hours for three consecutive Saturdays — today, January 11 and 18 (and possibly the corresponding Sundays to accommodate those of the Seventh-day Adventist faith and Rastafarian religion) offering breakfast between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and lunch from 12 noon to 3 p.m. The three-week introduction to vegan meals and drinks is being offered as Cooper looks at the possibility of officially opening the restaurant full time.
“The next three weeks will pretty much be our test run to see the response we’re going to receive as [people] have been asking for it,” said Cooper. “But it’s one thing to ask for it and it’s available and not supported, so we wanted to take this time to see if this is something we would be moving forward with and whether we would be implementing more days once we’re officially launched.”
For the launch, which Cooper has dubbed $5 Saturdays, he will offer small menus that will change each weekend.
“We’re going to have a variety over the next three weekends to show people that vegans eat a whole lot of different foods and we’re not limited to one dish or one breakfast item. The whole purpose of Da Bahamian Vegan is to get rid of that stigma that the food is the same all the time, or that it’s bland. “We won’t be lacking on taste, presentation or sacrifice any ingredients and we’re going to keep it clean,” he said.
Today he opens service with banana and blueberry pancakes with date syrup for breakfast and a raw vegan lasagna or sweet potato gnocchi with basil and kale pesto for lunch. He will serve green smoothies, ginger fever grass tea (hot or cold) and vegan fritters all day. Every menu item will be sold for $5 and the portions scaled down from regular sizes to reflect the price. He will also offer free samples of his guava duff all day.
If he gets the support he’s looking for, Cooper says Da Bahamian Vegan at Delancy Town Bed and Breakfast could become a staple with a set menu.
“Over the next three weeks we will be playing with the menu and seeing what person’s interests are and what they like,” he said.
For those people that will venture into the restaurant to get their first taste of vegan fare he said they should expect freshness – nothing will taste as if it came out of a can or has been processed.
“The pancakes will taste like pancakes, even though we’re using spelt flour (which has less gluten that regular flour) and you’re going to have fresh bananas and blueberries. I’m excited about the syrup that I’m serving it with which is actually made with dates that I’m pureeing and keeping natural with cane sugar and a hint of vanilla.”
For gnocchi lovers, he assures that the dish will be as light as they expect of the potato dumpling. He’s excited about the basil and kale pesto he will serve with it.
“I’m excited about our pesto because I usually make a basil pesto and this time I figured I’d throw some kale in there so people can see that it can be used differently other than just smoothies.”
His raw vegan lasagna will be made with yellow squash, even though he usually uses green zucchini. It will be served with a raw marinara sauce and have everything that would be put into a typical tomato sauce, but instead of using tomato paste or canned tomatoes, he uses over-ripened tomatoes, fresh garlic, fresh basil and throws in bell peppers, onions, garlic and carrots.
And of course his cheese sauce is not cheese, because he doesn’t use any animal products. It’s a cashew-based sauce with nutritional yeast and a little liquid smoke to give it that smoky taste that cheese has. Cooper promises it will be hearty, but light.
His vegan fritters are pinto bean based with eggplant, corn, okra and different vegetables and are seasoned like a regular conch fritter. They are deep fried and loved by everyone who tries them who are shocked that he’s able to replicate the beloved Bahamian conch fritter, he said.
He serves his vegan fritters with a sauce similar to conch fritter sauce that he refers to as Calypso sauce. He eliminated the mayonnaise, added coconut milk, so people get the same color, the same taste, and the same consistency and creaminess, but you get a different experience with a hint of coconut milk in the background.
For those who question why he fries his fritters, Cooper says: “We also like to give people a guilty pleasure as well and once in a while it’s fine.”
With the weekend openings, the weekday deliveries no longer take place. If he continues with weekdays at Delancy, Cooper said he would keep the menu small and as they go along they can expand to more openings.
By Shavaughn Moss,
The Nassau Guardian