Vegan (to go)
Dancing Vegan food has no animal products whatsoever.
For those unfamiliar with vegan cooking, fear not. Dancing Vegan food is delicious. It is not necessary to be vegan or even vegetarian to enjoy it. In fact, most of those laughing and chatting at the little shop the day after they opened enjoying nibbles of cookies, pies, trifle, mousse, soups, salads, loafs and more were neither.
It was fairly hopping. Cus-tomers, friends and well-wishers kept coming into pick up orders, choose dinner or tomorrow's lunch or sample the women's offerings of the day.
Their room-sized building is dominated by an open kitchen. A glass-fronted cool-counter of housemade salads, entrees and desserts faces the front door. A small hot bar to the left features soup and brown rice.
Throughout the afternoon, groups of twos and threes stood around tasting lemony, garlic-free hummus and black bean corn dip on housemade rosemary flatbread; or slices of brown rice sushi rolls of sweet potato tempura and smooth, salty ume plum; or baked tofu with carrots and scallions, among the many selections.
Pittsfield twenty-somethings Tom Scott, Nick Durwin and Nick Adornetto stopped by to support the new business. Scott has eaten Bergtold's food since he was a teenager. He brought his friends in to cheer the women on. The three young men happily tasted some white chocolate mousse trifle, richly flavored with organic chocolate liquor and whipped with silken tofu instead of heavy cream.
They ate bits of each of the five cookies Bergtold offered: Almond, apricot-thumbprint, oatmeal-raisin, peanut-butter chocolate chip and pumpkin seed-coconut. They had strawberry amasake pie and muffin chunks.
None of the three are vegetarians, they said, but they want to include healthy food in their diets.
"I like a good steak now and then," Durwin said. "But I'm looking for things a little more nutritious."
Bergtold and Sato stayed busy offering bites and slurps of all their items, answering questions and filling and weighing containers for customers who knew what they wanted to take home.
Both women had dreams of opening a place "where you can feed people really good food and they don't have to get sick from it, because it doesn't have chemicals and sugar," Bergtold said.
Bergtold, 44, and Sato, 29, both studied macrobiotics at the Kushi Institute in Becket.
Bergtold was a gourmet chef in California where she was born.
"I have a background in cooking for many years, but I burnt out by the time I was 30," she said. "I grew up in a family that was very into food, very into gourmet cooking and wine. I lived that diet and cooked it and ended up getting really sick from it."
She moved to Becket after she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and given three months to live in 2000.
"I had a friend who was doing a macrobiotic diet because she had cancer. She told me about the Kushi Institute. I was done with western medicine. I had done western medicine my whole life and I was sick and dying."
"I wasn't working so I packed up my car, came out here and started going to the Kushi Institute. Because I would not do chemo I was refused disability. I did not have the option of not working. I started to volunteer there and then they hired me. I was not cooking, I was the operations manager."
"During this whole period," she explained, "I learned how to cook macrobiotically and recovered. I had a CAT scan last July and I had completely recovered. That's pretty good considering the doctors had given me three months to live over eight years ago."
Sato's life was very different. She was born in Japan but lived much of her life in the United States. She graduated from Cali-fornia State University at Long Beach in 2001 with a degree in marketing and returned to Japan where she began studying macrobiotics.
"I started cooking when I was kid at home, " Sato said.
She had never cooked professionally until 2006 when she left Japan to study at the Kushi Institute. After a short time there, she was hired as one of four head chefs and cooking class assistant for a year and a half.
"For me, I just love cooking, cooking for other people and sharing the food I make. That's been always my dream. Not dealing with (perishables) makes it so much easier," Sato said of opening the Dancing Vegan.
For the second time since Dancing Vegan opened the day before, Lisa Desrosiers stopped on her way home from her job in Guido's natural foods department to pick up dinner she had ordered for herself and her boyfriend, tattoo artist Shawn Hanegraaf, who are both vegans.
People at work had told her about the new shop. "I went back, really," she said, "just because I loved it so much. And for my boyfriend it's so much easier than, say, a pizza place. He's working all day long and he can run over there and he doesn't have to ask what's in it."
So far, the two have had white bean soup, carrot soup, tofu sushi rolls and quinoa salad. This week they tried the lasagna.
Toward closing time, Linda Mitchell, and her husband Giora Witkowski, co-owners of USBlues Ware, an online and retail new and preowned designer clothing and accessories business on North Street in Pittsfield stopped to visit and pick out their supper. They have been enthusiasts of Bergtold's cooking for two years.
"I had know Mariana as a customer," at her designer clothing resale business, US BluesWare on North Street, Mitchell said.
"Every week she would come in a different size. She would be a 12. Then she would be a 10. Then an 8. I said, 'Help!' She said, 'I'll be happy to help," Mitchell went on.
"Mariana trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and at Kushi Institute in Becket and we said, 'Sign us up!'" She started cooking for us and it was fabulous!"
With her busy working life, Mitchell appreciates not having to come home and cook.
"We had the meal plan. We'd call and say, 'What's for supper today?' Now that they started the Dancing Vegan we're ordering off the menu."
"It's absolutely healthy. It's full of flavor with varied menus. It's just excellent, Mitchell said. "Goira and I, eating it, lost weight. Our blood pressure, our cholesterol, came down. Our primary care physicians asked, 'What are you guys doing?' We told them that a friend of ours was cooking for us and it was macrobiotic and organic."
Their physicians' responses were, "Excellent," Mitchell said. "There's nothing bad. What could be wrong with eating healthy?"
"You do feel better," she went on. "You do have more energy. You do feel healthier."
Mitchell and Witkowski eat many meals out.
"Any restaurant," Mitchell said, "I don't care how inexpensive, these days there are vegetarian and vegan choices. And now we have a place in Pittsfield that specializes in it. It's wonderful to have lunch and dinner to pick up and take home at reasonable prices."
Sato ended a conversation saying, "I just want people to come in and try our food. We give out samples. We're not promoting this as healthy food. We're just selling it as good food and, afterward, you feel good and energized."
Hours: Open Monday through Friday noon to 7
Menu: Dips, spreads, sushi, soups, salads, entrees, sides, condiments, desserts, baked goods, beverages.
Vegan take-out using primarily local, organic vegetables; no animal products; no refined sugar or chemical sweeteners.
Sensitivities such as soy or gluten accommodated
Menu changes frequently and seasonally
Prices: Soups $3.50 to $5.25; sushi $6.75 per eight-piece roll; deli items $7.99 a pound.
Special: Weekly or daily full-meal plans available: $17 for soup, entrée, two side dishes and dessert; $80 for five days of meals,
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