by Tinky Weisblat
A few years ago Andrea Beaudoin was all business. Today her business, Hearty Eats on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls, has a lot of heart.
The 30-year-old Conway resident obtained a master’s degree in accounting and a license as a certified public accountant after college. She worked for several years as a management consultant in Boston and in western Massachusetts.
Health issues made her step back and take a look at the food she and other Americans were cooking and eating.
“I changed my ways,” she announced when photographer Micky Bedell and I visited her restaurant.
Beaudoin quit her job and studied macrobiotics at the Kushi Institute in Becket. She emerged from her studies with new food skills as well as a new outlook on life … and pondered her future. She asked herself what she could do with her life and her business skills that would make her happy.
She decided that the best way to stay happy and healthy—and to spread the word about her food concerns—was to start cooking for others. Hearty Eats began as a vegan food truck in the summer of 2013.
When space opened up on Bridge Street a few months ago, she decided to expand her business into a restaurant, although the truck still caters to many events and festivals.
Her partner Colin Bergeron, who specializes in what Beaudoin calls “the physical stuff,” renovated the space to suit her needs. “He makes the show go on,” she said of Bergeron.
Beaudoin’s menu at Hearty Eats is vegan, local, and gluten free. She noted in conversation that her primary emphasis is on flavor and customer satisfaction.
Her customer-service manager (and stepbrother) Greg Nichols concurred. “We’re not making [this food] just because it’s good for you. It has to taste good FIRST,” said Nichols.
The restaurant opened on June 7 for Riverfest. It is closed Tuesdays but open every other day of the week from 11a.m. to 8 p.m. Beaudoin is working on expanding her menu; she hopes to add desserts to the main courses soon and to incorporate fish into the repertoire at Hearty Eats.
She intends to keep her menu fast and doable with a small staff, however. And she is determined to vary seasonally so that she uses foods that are available locally.
“January and February are going to be a challenge,” she predicted with a smile.
Beaudoin is pleased with the business so far, which is consistently meeting and often even exceeding her expectations.
“There’s a definite tourist element due to the summer, but we seem to have locals who come pretty regularly,” she explained.
“I do think we cater to a niche that exists in Shelburne Falls.”
Beaudoin choose to prepare a carrot-and-onion sauce on pasta with tempeh and vegetables for us. She explained that many customers have requested the recipe, which blends sweet, salt, and the savory flavor type known in Japanese as “umami.”
The sauce gets its special character from the carrots and from a Japanese vinegar known as umeboshi, made from pickled ume fruit. Beaudoin called the vinegar “kind of a secret weapon.” It is available at health-food stores like McCusker’s and Green Fields Market.
The dish offered vibrant, contrasting flavors and textures and proved highly satisfying. “I’m showing people that vegetarian food can be good and filling and delicious,” said Andrea Beaudoin.
Hearty Eats Carrot Pasta Sauce
1/2 cup safflower or sunflower oil
2 pounds carrots, cut thinly on the bias (about 8 cups)
2 pounds red onions, cut in half and then thinly cut to resemble half moons
3 cups water
1/4 cup dried thyme (or a bit more fresh thyme)
2 tablespoons dried oregano (or a bit more fresh oregano)
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup umeboshi vinegar
In a braising pan or Dutch oven heat the oil until it is hot. Add the onions and cook them, uncovered, over medium heat until they are translucent (about 5 to 10 minutes), stirring occasionally to keep them from burning.
Place the carrot pieces on top of the onions. Do not stir them in; leave them in a separate layer from the onions. Cover, turn down the heat, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the water, the herbs, the tamari or soy sauce, and the vinegar. If you have an immersion blender, blend the sauce with it. If not, let the sauce cool slightly and then blend it in a regular blender in small batches.
Makes about 3 quarts of sauce. This recipe may be halved.
Andrea Beaudoin serves this sauce over rice noodles. She also likes to add flax-seed tempeh, which she recommends cooking in a pan of water for 20 minutes and then pan frying in oil for 2 minutes on each side. She tops the noodles, sauce, and tempeh with lightly sautéed vegetables.
She notes that the sauce would work with just about any noodle and with chicken or meatballs as well as the tempeh.
Tinky Weisblat of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” If you have a suggestion for a future Blue Plate Special, please email Tinky at Tinky@TinkyCooks.com. For more information about Tinky, visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.