Chef Jenneil “Jenn” Ross Brings the First Jamaican Vegan Restaurant to the Historic Town of Eatonville in Florida

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Visitors never ceased to be mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, smells, and taste of the bustling culinary scene in Florida.  Nicknamed the “Sunshine State”, Florida is one of those states where you can become captivated by the diversity of its culinary scene whether it’s fine dining, the farmer’s market, a street fair, or a quaint café.  I’ve said it once, and I will say it again, any direction you choose, the road will take you to a dining experience that simmers and stirs your soul, leaving you breathless and yearning for more, and definitely bringing you back time and time again to Florida.

Orlando, Florida, known as the home of our beloved Mickey Mouse has turned into a mecca of culinary delights and hidden treasures attracting foodies and celebrate chefs alike. Just six miles north of Orlando, you will find the historic town of Eatonville.   This historic little town is the oldest and the nation’s first incorporated black township and is part of the Orlando–Kissimmee metropolitan statistical area and is known as the town “Where Dreams Are Made.” 

Although author Zora Neale Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance writer best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God” might be Eatonville’s most celebrated celebrity, Chef Jenn has become a household name with her Jamaican vegan dishes and her home-made vegan ice cream. Believe it or not, it all started with an idea, a blog,  teaching cooking classes, a meal plan and delivery service, and a restaurant in the middle of a gas station in Orlando, Florida. 

Jenneil “Jenn” Ross, chef and owner of the DaJen Eats Café & Creamery left her beloved home of Jamaica at the tender age of 16 and found herself in America and quickly learned that dining in might be a more cost-effective way to save money instead of dining out.  A self-taught chef, Jenn studied the art of cooking and learned how to cook and eventually harness her craft and created vegan dishes that provided a healthier option to those who frequent inside the Citgo on North Orange Blossom Trail near Lee Road where DaJen Eats first started and became well-known for their vegan-Jamaican sandwiches and rice bowls. After Jenn’s lease in Citgo abruptly ended, Jenn introduced her cult following to something as equally as amazing as her vegan food and lead her followers to her café in the historic Eatonville at 323 E. Kennedy Blvd. 

Eatonville is a predominately African American community and food traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans of the Southern United States is usually prepared in a style of cooking originated during American slavery referred to as “soul food”. Although soul food is often referred to as comfort food, soul food was born out of the necessity and survival of African slaves who were given only the undesirable cuts of meat from their masters. Ingredients commonly found in soul food has contributed to the high occurrences of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiac and circulatory problems among African Americans.

 For the residents of the historic Eatonville and its surrounding communities, Dajen Eats raises the bar on the culinary diversity that is available within the community providing a healthier food option without sacrificing taste. My impromptu visit to Eatonville led me to DaJen Eats for Sunday Brunch.  Normally during the week, DaJen Eats’ menu consists mostly of their famous vegan-Jamaican sandwiches and rice bowls. However, Sunday is a day of decadence at DaJen Eats. My palate was seduced by the deliciously plant-powered ode to the classic Jamaican Oxtail, “Hoax Tail”.  There’s a saying at DaJen Eats The “meat” may be a hoax, dahling, but the flavor is real.”  To say that the flavor was real would be an understatement, I don’t think that I ever had a real oxtail as flavorful and as delicious as the DaJen Eats’ hoax tail.

While dining in the café a couple dining at the table across from me suggested that I try the mouth-watering Curry Chick’n and Potatoes. As an island girl, curry chicken and potatoes is one of those comfort food dishes that I always looked forward to my mom making as a child.   I’ve tried many times to duplicate my mom’s recipe, I’ve ordered it plenty of times in Caribbean restaurants and always found myself disappointed because it just wasn’t as good as my mom’s, well until now. Hands down this was the best non-chicken, curry chicken and potatoes dish I have ever had, I’m sorry mom. 

There’s also plenty of other options on the menu like Jerk Chick’n Flatbread, Jerk BBQ Jackfruit Sammich, Ackee & Toast, Brown-Stew Cauliflower, Garlic toast and all if Pur Salads.  On this particular day Chef Jenn was preparing for the launch of her first Dinner and A Story Book Club featuring the book BECOMING” by Michelle Obama.  The atmosphere was as vibrant, fun-loving, and as charismatic as Chef Jenn. Her adoration for books is clearly front and centered inside the café, you will find a free lending library area designed with all the comforts of home. Her goal is to open people’s mind to something new and make veganism and African American culture accessible to everyone.

While I was browsing through the books and eating Irie Cream, the Irie Cream is DaJen Eats homemade vegan ice cream, I found myself ending a perfect afternoon at DaJen Eats with an Irie ending with a little “Rum Raisin The Roof”.   Irie pronounced Eye-ree means a good or pleasing, state of mind, and I was definitely pleased with my entire culinary experience.

Vegnews declared DaJen Eats “Rum Raisin The Roof” Irie Cream as one of the top 50 desserts in the United States.  However, if you can’t make it to Eatonville during your visit to Orlando for this grown-up version of Chef Jenn’s favorite ice cream, then head over to Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park on Park Avenue and grab DaJen Eats’ Rum Raisin The Roof” Irie Cream in Peterbrooke Chocolatier grab and go freezer.  The raisins in this grown-up treat are soaked in spiced overproof rum for at least 3 weeks.

 

Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, DaJen Eats will definitely bring us to Eatonville time and time again.  It’s no wonder why DaJen Eats has been crowned the Best Caribbean Restaurant during 2018 Best of Orlando Reader’s Choice competition hosted by Orlando Weekly.  DaJen Eats is definitely the Home of the Irie, Happy Vegan. However, if you’re not a vegan, don’t worry, the food will seduce you into becoming one.

DaJen Eats Cafe & Creamery

Vegan restaurant

Address: 323 E Kennedy Blvd suite f, Eatonville, FL 32751

Hours:

Wednesday        7AM–7PM

Thursday             7AM–7PM

Friday    7AM–8PM

Saturday              11AM–8PM

Sunday 11AM–4PM

Monday               Closed

Tuesday               7AM–7PM

Menu: places.singleplatform.com

Order: grubhub.com, seamless.com

Phone: (407) 775-5791

 

Vegan Ice Cream [ThrowBack Thursday Cookbook Review]

I18339874 scream….. You scream…. We all scream….for “Vegan Ice Cream”

There is one thing I love….. and that is the perfect scoop of a unique flavored ice cream. The pursuit of ice cream has leaded me to some very interesting places. So imagine by delight when I received a copy of the cookbook “Vegan Ice Cream” on my doorstep gifted to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Of course winter is hopefully whining down and the cold air of those brisk winter nights will be replaced by hot summer nights, and with Spring right around the corner…Let’s be honest…the calendar says Spring but I’m still in my winter gear.  However, this ice cream cookbook is the perfect treat for any night..regardless if there’s snow on the ground or not.

Now before you start making excuses about not having an ice cream maker, there are several methods for making ice cream without an ice cream machine. My personal favorite I call “kick the can”, others may call it the “coffee can ice cream method”. There is also the stir every 20 minutes in the freezer method, but it holds you hostage to the freezer.

However, nothing beats the simplicity of the good old ice cream maker when it comes to making ice cream. Nonetheless, no matter what method you choose, the end result is yummy ice cream. However, please note some of the recipes require you to have a blender in addition to the ice cream maker. 

But if you are interested in learning how to make ice cream without an ice cream machine, this website http://www.kitchn.com explains all six techniques.

Just click here http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-ice-cream-without-an-ice-cream-machine-171060

The cookbook Vegan Ice Cream is completely diary free, however the base for most, but not all of the ice cream recipes, is organic cashews. I… an avid lover of nuts always have cashews around, but if you have a nut allergy this ice cream book may or may not be for you…like I said before….. most, not all, of the recipes uses cashew as the base. So there is something for everyone in the Vegan Ice Cream cookbook to keep everyone in the family happy and healthy.

The recipes in this cookbook most definitely made this island girl happy, with over 90 sinfully delicious ice cream recipes to choose from. Of course you all know I love coffee, just as much as I love ice cream, and so I had a few empty coffee cans waiting to be turned into my quick ice cream makers and I made three ice cream flavors from this cookbook…yes, that’s right….three (3). Vanilla Ice Cream

I started with the “Pineapple Mango” ice cream recipe that used coconut milk as the base and it was simple delicious and creamy. The second recipe I tried was “Banana” and this was my absolutely favorite and this one turned out to be the creamiest out of all. The third recipe I tried was “Raw Gingersnap” this recipe used almond milk and fresh ginger juice as the base and it was not my personal cup of tea (flavor wise), but my neighbor enjoyed it and it did have a silky texture like regular ice cream. However, I am willing to try the “Raw Gingersnap” recipe again, but with the addition of perhaps honey, this ice cream recipe was simply not sweet enough for me…. but that’s just my personal taste.

So if you are looking for a healthy alternative to traditional ice cream, vegan ice cream is definitely a good alternative. I enjoyed all three flavors, some more than others, and if you have time and the patience that is required to make the vegan ice cream properly, regardless of what method you choose, you will have a creamy textured vegan ice cream. I think this book is definitely worth adding to your cookbook collection.

NYC Vegeterian Food Festival

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The NYC Vegetarian Food Festival is coming to town…well that’s if you live in the New York City area. This festival is your tour NYC V.egetarian Food Fest (black)jpgguide leading you to vegan heaven as your palate has one love affair after another.

Now if you follow me on my book blog “The Book Blog and Etc.” than you know I have kitchen tested more than my fair share of Vegan and Vegetarian Cookbooks.  I am a part-time vegan/vegetarian…I believe in the Vegan life’s philosophy but I practice a Vegetarian diet as much as possible.

First let’s talk about the ongoing debate of Vegan vs. Vegetarians.

Vegan is a life’s philosophy…while Vegetarian is plant base diet.

Vegans avoid all dairy products and their life’s philosophy goes against the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.  Vegetarians practice a diet that excludes meat…however the staples for both Vegetarians and Vegans are fruits, vegetables, and grains.

The NYC Vegetarian Food Festival is the love child of Sarah Gross and Nira Paliwoda, and the festival was created to bring awareness to the exciting, flavorful, and innovative Culinary World of Vegetarian and Vegan cuisines.

The NYC Vegetarian Food fest is two days of unbelievable vibrant food culture that is stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight.   It a combination trade show, restaurant showcase,  and educational experience. The doors opened to the public at 11 a.m.

With over 100 vendors this festival will inspire you to pack your suitcase and run to the airport.   There is more to being a Vegetarian or a Vegan than Tofu…

Meet local chefs, growers, restaurateurs, educators, authors, and a community of passionate and hard working people that care about making you aware about what you put into your body.  A three-course Vegan feast created by the one and only Chef Jay Astafa will kick off the 2015 NYC Vegetarian Food Festival on Friday, March 13, 2015 from 7:00-8:30pm, at the National Gourmet Institute in Manhattan.

Here’s a little FYI…

Kids 10 and under are absolutely free…And…reduced $5 end of day tickets will be available starting at 4pm for those interested in checking out some of the exhibitors before the doors close at 6pm.