If your weekends lead you to Williamsburg, you better go stuff your face at Chickpea & Olive, proudly serving locally-grown, organic, and all vegan “peace on a plate”. They’re set up on Saturdays at Smorgasburg (27 North 6th Street, 11am – 6pm) and on Sundays at Smorgasbrewery (at Brooklyn Brewery 79th North 11th St, 12pm – 5pm).
They’re also about to restart Inwood Flea, a flea market for the most uptown of uptown folks, and doing cooking classes near Union Square. Read on for details!
Jason: How long has Chickpea & Olive been going? Who’s involved? How did you get started?
Danielle: Chickpea & Olive was born a year ago by Danielle Ricciardi & Daniel Strong. We are both veterans in the food industry. Its really a cute story of boy meets girl. Girl is vegan. Boy isn’t even anywhere close to being vegetarian. Boy and girl start dating. Girl slowly starts to impress the boy with how delicious vegan food is. Boy starts losing weight, thinking clearer, and reading Eating Animals. Boy turns vegan overnight! Quits his job as a sous chef at HOT West Village restaurant Dell’Anima and WHAMMY! Chickpea & Olive is born. Girl is very happy. So is boy.
What’s it like being a vegan business at Smorgasburg & Smorgasbrewery? Are people glad to find you? Do you get grief from meathead jerks?
Well, our customers seem to come back to us with religious fervor. And the meatheads are pretty supportive too, actually. If a passerby starts grumbling something about grass or cardboard or proselytizing we give them free samples and all of a sudden they are all “ooh, that’s GOOD!” There are other vegan vendors at Smorgasburg, such as Barry’s Tempeh and the Bombay Sandwich guys, but we are the only company that puts it on our signs. No one else advertises that they are vegan. In that sense we are the only company so far that is representing or keeping it real.
Most of our customers aren’t even vegetarian, and they don’t even seem to notice that they aren’t eating meat. Our vegan customers certainly do though. They have a hyper-awareness of what they put in their bodies, and express a real gratitude for being able to eat junkfood that is good for them.
What else do you do that no one else does?
We make everything ourselves. We make our own burger patties. We make our own buns. We make our own bread for our grilled cheese sandwich. We make our own ketchup, our own pickles, and our own desserts. Dan is a little OCD about that stuff.
What’s your favorite kind of olive?
Arinou and Hadalkis. Go to Titan Foods Market in Astoria!
You’re also involved in Inwood Flea. What’s that like?
It’s a lot of fun curating a market. We plan on having only vegan food vendors, and city permits are a nightmare! We should be open in a month (fingers crossed)
What advice do you have vegan visitors to Inwood?
Go on a Sunday after the Inwood Flea opens! Indian Road Café has a good vegan bahn mi, and pretty killer vegan biscuits and gravy. While you are up here take a walk through Inwood Hill Park. It’s New York City’s last natural forest, and it’s loaded with little dirt trails. If you check out Wild Man Steve Brill’s website, he leads monthly tours showing you all of the edible flora (and only flora! No fauna on these tours!), and he will teach you to identify some fantastic wild mushrooms. If you skip the tour, still keep your eyes on the sides of the path because there are wild raspberries everywhere this time of year.
What else do you have coming up?
We are teaching cooking classes at Haven’s Kitchen (17th st. and 6th ave) on a fairly regular basis. Come check out our vegan burgers and beer class on July 17th, our vegan Paella and Sangria class on August 6, and vegan tamales and moles on August 13th.