“I love to show the versatility of vegetables and make them palatable for even the pickiest eaters,” says Bree Smith, the chef and educator behind The Afro Indigenous Vegan, which operates out of a satellite kitchen in Providence to deliver Sunday Suppers and cater events. From early experimentation at the stove to honing her title of “food alchemist”, Smith’s relationship with cooking has always been about transformation, namely taking the comfort food she grew up with and recasting it within plant-based parameters.
Enter Smith’s “World Famous” Seafood Alfredo. Normally, this coastal classic dish is the essence of indulgence, conjuring a yearning for homestyle cooking and parmesan-smothered shrimp. Strip away the cheese and the shellfish, and it’s hard to fathom what’s left, but this is where Smith’s alchemy comes in.
I’ll admit, I was especially curious to discover what Smith’s vegan take on scallops and crab cakes would be when my meal arrived early on a Sunday evening packed in a compostable container, environmentally friendly down to the box. All restraint abandoned, I dug into the main course immediately. I was delighted to find cavatappi pasta dense with a creamy white sauce, despite thickening from a roux that contained no butter, and any milk that went into this alfredo was cashew-based. Topped with ample Italian seasoning, a smattering of pan-seared “scallops” or king oyster mushrooms, and crisp “crab” cakes, the whole dish has the effect of an upscale seafood buffet, all in one bowl.
While the king oyster mushrooms were nicely tender, offered notes of earthy umami, and seared to mimic the look and texture of scallops, the crabcake stole the show, tying the whole dish together with the peppery heat of Old Bay seasoning and a refreshing lemony tang. This fritter gets its meatiness from jackfruit or a similarly peel-apart textured substitute like hearts of palm or artichoke, so the inside is succulent and fibrous, adopting the flavors of the pasta’s garlic cream sauce and subtle warming spice.
Next up was a side of New England Clam Chowdah, though I’d argue this iteration takes more cues from its Rhode Island-style cousin – Smith’s clear-broth soup is generously heaped with potatoes, and mushrooms serve as a natural substitute for actual clams. Full-bodied yet light and citrusy, it captures the salty brine flavor with no shucking required.
Following two rich dishes, dessert is Peach Cobbler Eggrolls. Crispy on the outside and warm and flaky on the inside, the dainty treat mimics a pie but much lighter and with just the right amount of peach filling. All washed down with sweet hibiscus tea house-blended with ginger, it’s evident the menu is planned around balance: sweet and earthy, dense and delicate, all evenly matched. That’s the other trademark of Smith’s Sunday Suppers: “I try to make the meal cohesive from soup course to dessert, so you have what we refer to as ‘The AI Vegan Experience’,” says Smith, an experience that defines “comfort” broadly across individual preferences and cultural influences and puts wholesome, authentic ingredients first.