This past Sunday evening I had the pleasure of partaking in a memorable meal among old and new friends alike. At a candlelit table situated in a shaded residential garden terrace in the heart of the East Village, I dined on delectable vegan vittles, savoring the flavors, the company and the conversation. Not to mention the weather. But it wasn’t my backyard and I didn’t do the cooking – or the clean up. So, how could I possibly be so spoiled?
I’ll let you in on a little secret, so that you, too, can be as pampered as I. I attended Dinner with True Friends, a monthly dinner party hosted by the co-owners of Vérité Catering, Daphne Cheng and Cassie Karopkin. The adorable duo met while studying culinary arts at New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute and, wisely, they decided to become partners. Perhaps even more significant than their skills in the kitchen, though, the two have successfully launched a business that, to my mind, fills a much-needed void: sustainable animal-, planet- and people- positive catering.
Not only do Cheng and Karopkin bring ethical and delectable alternatives to the table, challenging standard dishes, but, with their DWTF “program,” they also do so with the altruistic intent to unite strangers and forge bonds among the unlikeliest of individuals. What else makes these savvy chefs and their intimate (12 place settings) get-togethers worth their sea salt? 50% of ticket sales go towards a charity of that evening’s guests’ choice. You’re probably wondering the pretty penny such a lovely affair will run you; the truth is, it won’t break the bank. $45 without wine, $60 with, for a 5-course gourmet meal. I’d call that a steal, especially in Manhattan. Take my word for it, you’ll leave satisfied. (I had leftovers. And, on second thought, don’t take my word for it; sign up!)
You see, whether you’re a vegan of the highest order, an imperfect vegan, a vegetarian or someone who eats meat, all are welcome at Dinner with True Friends. These social gatherings, the title of which was inspired by the play-turned-TV-movie “Dinner with Friends,” began in April and will continue roughly every four weeks indefinitely. The location sometimes changes (for instance, the first took place at a loft in Tribeca), but the mission remains the same: bring together people of diverse backgrounds with healthy appetites for a night of cruelty-free cuisine. The menu also morphs, so diners can sign up for a date that suits their tastes. Thus far donations have supported Sea Shepherd and Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. This past Sunday’s collective loot will be donated to Gene Baur’s Farm Sanctuary.
Can’t make one of the coveted group dinners? Consider enlisting the twosome to cater your next party or a private dinner. Or hire them to guide you and yours in a plant-based cooking lesson – or nine. Why not? The options are endless with Vérité Catering. Are you a nonprofit organization in need of refreshments at your next event? These ladies won’t leave you high and dry, as they make charitable endeavors a priority and will donate their time and delicacies for a worthy cause. Apply through their site. These superhero food buffs have got a lot going on and I’m certain we’ll continue to watch them rise both within and outside of the vegan community.
The next dinner lands on July 17th. Hope to meet you there.
Photo of Cassie & Daphne by Tara Punzone
All other photos by Daphne Cheng