“Spike Lee passed by earlier on,” Tara Thomas mentioned with a touch of whimsy, a lightness indicative of her cooking style, as we walked down the hip streets of sun-drenched Clinton Hill grabbing last-minute touches for the dessert we’d be preparing that night: mango with a hibiscus reduction, branberries, and microplaned dark chocolate.
Thomas, a plant-based chef and events curator originally from Portland, Oregon, had invited me to cook with her on the night of August 4 at an event called Garden Goods at Fort Greene Garden hosted by Sade Mims of accessories brand Edas. Mims discovered Thomas on Instagram and later met the chef while she was working with Sincerely, Tommy, a café in Bed-Stuy. It’s the fourth in a series of dinners curated by Mims as a way for people to get to know her brand and bring together community. A portion of the event’s proceeds go to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust.
At Peace Tea Factory hosted a pop-up tea house serving single-origin white tea, and Kin Euphorics and Austin Winery sponsored, keeping the intimate crowd abuzz, fluttering around the garden and jewelry display.
The kitchen, which consisted of a folding plastic table and grill, was overflowing with summer vegetables sourced from local community gardens like the Saratoga Urban Agro-Ecological Center and Phoenix Community Garden. Other ingredients, not so local, punctuated chef Thomas’s style, like Danish havtorn, or seabuckthorn, and huauzontle, a cousin of amaranth native to Mexico. She describes her flavors as chaotic, but they taste symphonic.
Somewhere between the first and second course, when the rotis hit the grill and began bubbling into shape, that chaos she noted reared its head and rain began to pour, soaking the party while attendees skipped for shelter under the gazebo with handkerchiefs fashioned as head scarves. Once the rain dissipated, Thomas picked the dinner back up, hand-serving carrot confit with sunflower seed carrot top pesto and huauzontle. The crowd, still standing and huddling around the chef, gushed, marveling at the star ingredient’s transformation. They left the party inspirited to cook with vegetables.
But, thanks to the rain, that mango dessert was left to the imagination.