Keith Kalmanowicz, Love & Vegetables Founder And Chef, Talks Locavore Eats, Earth N' Us Farm And Taqueria Morelia

03/28/2013 11:32 am ET | Updated Mar 29, 2013

The standard Miami narrative gets a little old: celebrities come into town misbehaving, condos sell for record-breaking prices that locals could never afford, folks are so into their cars that our parking garages look like shrines, and on and on.

So when we heard about a vegan, locally-sourced, pop-up restaurant where patrons are encouraged to just pay what they can, we had to know more about this much overlooked side of Miami living.

What's it like pushing local vegetables in this land of Argentinean steakhouses and La Caja Chinas?

To find out, HuffPost spoke with Chef Keith Kalmanowicz, who founded Love & Vegetables pop-up dinners and who also lives in a hippie commune in Little Haiti called Earth N' Us Farms.

Who are you?
Keith Kalmanowicz

Years in Miami?
Three years this July

First memory of Miami?
I remember when I moved to Miami it was late July and I couldn't handle the heat and the sun. So I would take the dogs for a walk before the sunrise. I remember finding mangos on the sidewalks, in the yards, and on the streets. Yummy, delicious, and ripe mangos everywhere! It was amazing. It was beautiful. It began my journey into eating local.

Current Neighborhood?
I live in a hidden urban oasis called the Earth N' Us Farm in the middle of Little Haiti.

Current Gig?
I am the Founder and co-chef of Love and Vegetables, a community pop-up café that operates under the standards of One World Everybody Eats Foundation. We provide vegan, gourmet, locally sourced, organic whenever possible, pop-up dinners to all members of our community regardless of their means to pay with dignity and respect.

Our dinners operate on a 'pay what you can' model, and we allow our guests to pay the suggested amount or donate their time in exchange in food.

What's your idea of a perfect day in Miami?
My perfect day in Miami is my every Sunday. I start with my favorite yoga class, Kundalini with Ganesha at Naam Yoga, and then I head to Key Biscayne to Disc Golf, maybe hit the beach, play community volleyball at the Earth N' Us Farm in Little Haiti and then hang with my farmilia.

Where do you take out-of-towners visiting Miami?
I like to head to Homestead, visit some of the farms, hit up Robert Is Here, and then off to the Everglades.

You were aiming for Costa Rica but landed in Miami. What has kept you here?
I found a job that I loved at BLT Steak working for Sam Gorenstein. I was introduced to the Miami culinary scene, and fell in love with the food here! Miami is such a mixture of cuisines and with a abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables grown year-round. I love living here!

Can you give an example menu from a Love & Vegetables dinner?
We recently catered a fundraiser dinner to Benefit the Little Haiti Community Garden at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, and I created a vegan Haitian fusion menu:
--Amuse Bouche Djon Djon Rissoto Cakes with Earth N' Us Farm Parsley Aioli
--Little Haiti Community Garden Green's salad with cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and a tangerine/dill vinaigrette
--Braised Cauliflower with pan gravy
--Baked Earth N's Us Farm Plantains with creole sauce
--Sauce Poix Noir with cuban oregano from my backyard
--Sweet potato pudding cake

How does the Miami food scene compare to that of San Francisco where you once lived?
They are both amazing and so different at the same time. San Francisco is more mature and wiser. It's been on the journey longer. Miami is still young with a strong ego. Miami is lacking in composting and recycling programs for restaurants. And, there are very few affordable vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

What's it like living at Earth-n-Us Farm?
Living at Earth N' Us is farmtastic! It's amazing. I love it, and I wouldn't live anywhere else in Miami. The folks that live here, we call ourselves Farmilia, are an eclectic bunch of people, all with beautiful energy, and all on the same journey.

We have WOOFER's, bed and breakfast guests, regulars, and people just passing by and saying hi. We have a lot of kids from the neighborhood who stop by and hang out, and we have people who have been living here for 35 years. I love every single one of them. It's not a fully functional cooperative; it's more of hippie commune, with the intention of being a cooperative.

Which are the most fruitful local farms you source from?
I love them all: Little Haiti Community Garden, Little River CSA, Bee Heaven Farms, Teena's Pride, Earth N' Us Farm, and my favorite, Three Sisters.

Most underrated local fruit or veggie?
Sapodilla. I love this fruit. We have a tree on the farm across from my house, and I check it every morning for fresh ripe fruit. It's so sweet, and I love the texture and flavor. It's so unique and yummy!

What vegan dish could convert a meat-eater?
Braised Cauliflower. I pan-sear the cauliflower steaks to caramelize them and give them color, sweat out some mirepoix, deglaze the pan, and then add some veggie stock, cover it, and then braise it low and slow. I make gravy from the scraps and braising liquid, and add some fresh herbs from the garden. Delicious.

Last big project you did:
In February, I did a 100-mile farm-to-table dinner for Conscious Bite Out. I sourced the entire meal within 100 miles of the Sacred Space in Wynwood. (See photos of the event below.)

Upcoming projects you're working on:
We're starting a new pop-up series with Deli Lane in Brickell and South Miami starting April 3rd. This is our first time taking over a restaurant with a full commercial kitchen, where are can run our own 100 percent plant-based, locally-sourced, organic whenever possible, menu.

Our first menu is Chakra Tapas: seven different small plates, all priced $7, designed around bringing balance to each of the seven chakras.

Why do you hate Miami?
I don't hate. I'm a hippie. However, living in Miami I see the divide in the classes. You have the very wealthy and the very poor, and each are completely separate of each other. The truth is we're all the same. We're all one. It's this divide that I dislike, not Miami.

Why do you love Miami?
I love Miami because of the culture, the cuisine, and the beaches. It's so beautiful here.

What are three local meals you can't live without?
I'm vegan now, and I don't have any local vegan meals I can live without, but before I went meatless there were a few: the tacos at Taqueria Morelia in Homestead, weekend breakfast specials at Big Apple Deli in North Miami, and Pack Supermarket in Little Haiti.

In a word or two or three, Miami is...
Waheguru!

100 Mile Dinner Experience with Chef Keith Kalmanowicz

CORRECTION: The post has been updated to correct the spelling of Taqueria Morelia.

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