This past week was Easter Break at my school, so I’ve been home on the island. After visiting the city with my parents on Saturday, I joined my friend Astrid* (or as I like to call her, Asid) who invited me to dinner with her and a friend she knows at Columbia University.
After scoping out the East Village for an open table (note: it may be keen of you to make reservations if you’re eating out on a Saturday night in NYC), we finally snagged three bar stools at a narrow, bustling Thai food place called “Ngam”. The interior vibrated with that “cool” attitude so often associated with NYU’s neighborhood: a diverse crowd of students mixed with native New York men and women were squeezed into the long tables running down either side of the main aisle, and the exposed ceiling dripped at its center with light bulbs dangling at various lengths. Instead of blasting music over an ominous radio speaker, the walls bounced back noises of laughter and joyful conversation. In front of us, three or four chefs cooked away at an open kitchen, pounding out bean sprouts and searing sustainably sourced shrimp.
Yes: I said sustainably sourced shrimp! It was an exciting, unexpected shock to see their note about using local and seasonal ingredients on the menu cover. Take a look at how Ngam introduces itself on its website:
“We serve artisanally prepared, seasonally based, modern interpretations of classic Thai comfort food, inspired by the childhood memories of our chef, Ngamprom ‘Hong’ Thaimee… In addition to making all of our curries, sauces and condiments from scratch (the old fashioned way), we use only all natural, premium ingredients in our dishes. We source all of our produce from local farms when possible, use only hormone-free and naturally raised poultry and meat, and select only sustainable and non-endangered seafood.”
After reading this, I think it would be safe to say that world-renowned Chef Hong Thaimee realizes what the NYC restaurant hub has the power to accomplish: bringing local eating into the urban setting.
Eating “green” or “responsibly” isn’t just a matter of picking the right grocery products when you’re stacking up the fridge– it’s a matter of constantly being aware of where your food is coming from, dining out or at home. What kind of world would we be living in if every restaurant wrote the name of the farms from which it sourced its products, just as Ngam advertises on its menu? How much power lies in selecting the right ingredients to feed the masses of New York City– the populations of any urban environment?
Ngam proves that the farm isn’t as far from the city as we all think. Just stumbling into a restaurant such as this on a busy Saturday night makes me believe that the promise for ethical food consumption is gaining momentum– let’s keep the movement growing strong.
*While I waited for Asid in Herald Square (the small urban gardens are blooming just beautifully) I started reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan– I’ll make sure to write a post once I’ve finished!