9:39 AM EDT, August 11, 2014
Gabriella daSilva-Taylor has been a vegetarian since before birth, dating back to her vegetarian mother's pregnancy. Later, she discovered she had an allergy to eggs, which left plenty of foods off-limits, including birthday cake.
But instead of feeling left out, she trained herself to create modified versions of the meals and treats that would otherwise be forbidden.
"That's kind of been, as a young person, my inspiration to start cooking… was to make the things I couldn't have, brunch foods, baked goods," she said.
Years later, daSilva-Taylor's self-taught skills, combined with a passion for good food, came together in the form of a red-and-turquoise truck that she operates with her partner in business and in life. Amor Food Truck brings healthful and flavorful vegan cuisine to a number of venues in greater Hartford and beyond.
Raised in Los Angeles, daSilva-Taylor drew culinary inspiration from her vegetarian mother and two grandmothers – one of Mexican descent, the other a native New Englander. Nearly five years ago, living on the East Coast, she planned a return to her native California. But at her going-away party, two weeks before heading west, she met the Hartford-based woman who would later become her wife. As Mal daSilva-Taylor put it, "she changed [her address] from CA to CT." The two married three months after they met.
In Connecticut, Gabriella daSilva-Taylor started catering and working as a personal chef, servicing clients in West Hartford and local venues like Real Art Ways and West Hartford Yoga. The two women started the truck in 2013 and have enjoyed their first full season with the business this summer.
Mal daSilva-Taylor comes from a food-loving background as well, born and raised in Brazil to a tight-knit Brazilian-Italian family.
"Italians love the food, they meet up in the kitchen, talking and cooking, it's a family thing," she said. Her father, a medicine man in their village, "treated people with a knowledge of plants."
Their food truck venture started off as The G-Stream, but rebranded as Amor ("love" in several languages) earlier this year, and now the brightly colored truck can be found regularly at the Wethersfield farmers market on Thursdays and the Coventry Regional Farmers Market on Sundays. The rotating menu features entrees, salads, sides and desserts made with local and organic ingredients.
Among Amor's greatest hits: the "Un-Beet-Able" veggie burger, a patty made with beet, lentils and quinoa on a wheat roll with cashew cheese, avocado crema and vegetables; and the Bangin' Beet Salad, with beets, carrots, apples and raisins on a bed of arugula, with maple pepitas and lemon-maple dressing. "As you can tell, we really like beets," said Gabriella.
Other recent items include a Mal-inspired Brazilian plate, with barbecued local tofu (from Middletown's The Bridge) and vegan potato salad and roasted polenta with vegetables. Specials such as vegan meatballs, vegetable summer rolls and vegan tacos will appear from time to time. And desserts, despite the absence of butter and eggs, are equally decadent – consider the triple-chocolate baked doughnuts, with chocolate glaze and a scatter of chocolate shavings.
Amor even makes a vegan version of poutine, drizzling a rich gravy made with vegetable and mushroom stock and cashew "cheese" sauce over roasted potatoes. "It's a play on flavors," Gabriella said.
But the truck still maintains a healthful focus. "We don't fry anything. We were very proud to take that fryolator out of our truck when we bought it," said Mal.
The food features produce from local farms, such as Oxen Hill in Suffield, Serafina Says in Canton and George Hall and Rutabaga in Simsbury. The daSilva-Taylors say it's important to them to work with companies with integrity. "It's simple comfort food, really," Gabriella says of Amor's menu. "[And] you source from people who really care about what they're doing."
That simple comfort fare is meant to attract anyone who's looking for tasteful cuisine, not just followers of vegetarian or vegan diets. "It's not a label thing. We're not just there for that community. We're just there for anyone who wants to eat good food," Mal said.
And as it turns out, the mobile format is the perfect setup for the daSilva-Taylors. "We love people and love food," Mal said. "What else could you have but a food truck, so you can go all over and share that?"
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