Nourishing the Body and the Soul
Within the last five years, the Lower Cape has become a speculative breeding ground for health-conscious establishments. From food trucks to fine dining, each business owner endeavors to connect to customers through eco-conscious cuisine.
“People will travel for good food, people will travel for a place that will accommodate them, and they’re going to tell everyone,” declares Zia Auch, proprietor of Brine restaurant in Eastham. Her respect for dietary anomalism can be traced back to her time as pastry chef, consultant and eventual kitchen manager at 141 Bradford Market in Provincetown, where she put out a daily vegan and vegetarian hot bar. Auch saw the gratitude of customers with dietary preferences deemed a burden to other places, and, she says, her eyes were open to possibilities. “It’s not as hard as you think to switch up ingredients for a similar end result,” she explains. Brine’s popular artichoke cake appetizer came from a soy-free, gluten-free, vegan wedding that Auch catered. “Their guests didn't know there was no crab in them, and when I decided to open Brine I was very conscientious of that concept. And I know some people aren’t going to understand it, and that’s okay. But you can do nothing but change your diet and it can transform your life.” Vegan Key Lime pie (almond crust, cashew and coconut milk, coconut oil, honey mixture and key lime juice) is popular for dessert, and mimics the custardy texture of the real deal. Brine serves breakfast and dinner and features meals like saltfish and sweet potato hash, a Portuguese staple, and achi, a Jamaican favorite. Nostalgic choices like duck au poivre and lamb chops feed the soul.
But this kind of diet can be medicinal, too, and at Brewster’s Karma Foods and Wellness, it’s the first line of defense against illness, claim owners Coree and Brian Aussant. Cucumbers, kale, lettuces and heirloom tomatoes grow in their garden, and there are viable choices to superboost any beverage for extra healing power. The Aussant’s vision extends beyond the reaches of food; the right side of the building boasts a modish, tranquil yoga and meditation studio. “We want to be a resource center, so people who have just been diagnosed can come in and we might offer them a helping hand.”
Alix Tillet of Wellfleet’s BŌL reaches out through this ethos as well. After a Lyme diagnosis six years too late and strict adherence to a 95-pill-a-day antibiotic regimen. “Everything I put in my mouth became a conscious choice,” says Tillet. She grew up in “a screenprinting factory the size of a football field” in Western Massachusetts where her eye for color and composition came into focus. Before Tillet’s Lyme diagnosis, she was enrolled in a nursing program, and has carried the commitment to enlighten others about their health. Bowls like the Whydah and the Sparrowhawk blend textural elements like açai, goji berries and bee pollen with a smooth finish of blended fruits—homages to the “pure, untouched territory” of Wellfleet. She speaks about the support from fellow Fleetians with high praise, and estimates about a half-dozen locals stopped by every day to lend a helping hand while BŌL—an acronym for “Bowl of Love”, was in its fledgling stage. “They are the ones who wanted this, and they’re the ones who will keep us here.”
And like the bowls of love that Tillet describes as her gifts to her steadfast following, Nadia Bricault and Megan Duffy produce juices and smoothies that most decidedly come from their hearts. Each coldpressed juice is made from a commercial masticated machine and is strained three times to yield the most nutrient-dense product. The two women own and operate every facet of their food truck, The Biq Squeeze, that churns out the opposite of fast and fried. Astute ingredient choices instantly level-up the everyman’s work-break sandwich—instead, you may find a smoked ham, garlic aioli and cheddar wrap or a curried chicken salad sandwich with raisins, almonds and apple to pair with a Hulk smoothie (kale, spinach, orange, banana and coconut cream). Quinoa bowls adorned with fresh pea shoots, goat cheese and marinated tomatoes; creamy chia pudding and chai tea freeze pops are among the Squeeze’s offerings, but the bar is constantly being raised. After acquiring their truck in January of 2017, the women spent six months renovating it themselves: ripping up floors, hand painting their ultra-mod logo, YouTubing plumbing installation and educating themselves on the legalities of commercial refrigeration. Housed at the Mid-Cape Home Center parking lot in Orleans, the women knew their mindful approach to hasty and healthy would be a hard sell to a demographic used to less-than-good-for-you-grab-and-go lunches. They’ll head to Florida with the truck this winter, but are keen to coalesce again with those who have made The Squeeze’s inaugural season a success. “The town of Orleans has been so lovely and welcoming. We have survived our first season here with the help of our local regular customers,” says Bricault, a Wellfleet native.
Indeed, it’s the cornerstone of Cape business to appeal to yearrounders. “What’s going to sustain us through the winter are the construction guys,” says Mike Dufresne, who operates Viv’s Kitchen seven days a week, year-round with his wife Viviane. Marmitas, a daily Brazilian special that builds from rice, beans and salsa (and a nod to Viviane’s Brazilian heritage), feed entire families of local workers. A favorite, too, is mochecha—a fish-based stew. Viv’s uses its surroundings to their advantage, too, conscious of their proximity to BodyStrong Orleans and Orleans Yoga. The Bikini Bottom Bowl (blended açai, coconut water, strawberries, bananas and blueberries, topped with granola and fresh fruit in half a pineapple) has become the social media darling among millennials, and Viv’s was able to expand to a wider age range through their juice and smoothie bar. “No one in Orleans was doing cold-pressed juices, and we didn’t want to travel anymore.” Equal parts bohemian, Brazilian and sui generis, Viv’s has parlayed the former delicatessen to a niche breakfast and lunch joint.
Idiosyncratic in its own right, Sunbird in Orleans has also built an ardent following. Owners Jaime and Christian Sparrow acknowledge, “There’s a nice mix for us. I feel like we're very lucky but we have tried from the beginning to make this approachable.” Gen-X’ers and millennials alike constitute a large part of the Sunbird crowd—a foregone conclusion given Sunbird’s super-contemporary, West Coast vibe. Still, Sparrow says, “I can say that the coolest thing is the connection. More than healthy food it’s about the experience. When we came up with what we were doing, it was really about creating an experience where people are happy and inspired. It’s almost more the mindset than the stuff that goes into your mouth.”
Exposed light bulbs illuminate large chalkboards boasting artisanal creations Sunbird has become known for. “Seasonal bites” offered for lunch (or brunch on Sundays) include a leafy green salad (seasonal organic greens from CBI Farms, pecorino cheese, shaved seasonal veggies, fresh-picked herbs, balsamic vinaigrette), and dinner from the Brewster Beet Salad to Mexican and Pho, a traditional Thai noodle dish. But the food, Sparrow says, is only a small bite. More important is the customer’s appreciation of what they’re paying for. “All the guys in the kitchen, they talk to the farmers, the girls in the front of the house know where everything comes from and pass that on to the customer. When people are interested and you can talk to them, they pass that on and they're the next part of that connection. It’s an easy extension.” Sparrow tell of a customer in her nineties who comes in three times a week to enjoy a burger or a cheese plate. “She doesn’t feel uncomfortable here and that speaks to yes, the great food and yes, the comfort of the space, but also to the people in the space.” Though they’ve operated the Sunbird food truck out of Wellfleet for six seasons, the inception of the cafe space took some planning. The Sparrows visualized Sunbird on a 3-D computer program and simulated people of all ages at the round sofa lounge and the large wooden “family table”. “This is exactly the way we envisioned it. You’re a part of the flock.”
Mentioned in this article
70 Main Street, Wellfleet
413-854-5100 / boloflove.com
410 State Highway, Route 6, Eastham
774-561-2967 / brinedining.com
2628 Main Street, Brewster
508-896-8804 / karmafoodsandwellness.com
85 Route 6A, Orleans
508-237-0354 / birdinthesun.com
The Big Squeeze
15 Main Street, Orleans (in season)
130 Route 6A, Orleans
508-225-3354 / vivskitchencc.com