I visited Fairway Market in NYC with one objective: Learn to cook the Impossible.
I stood on the northwest corner of 74th and Broadway in New York City, looking up at the iconic awning that wraps around the corner of the building and boldly proclaims FAIRWAY: LIKE NO OTHER MARKET. Underneath, row after row of meticulously-stacked produce stood right there on the sidewalk —a streetside bounty of strawberries, tomatoes, kiwis…
I entered the market and squeezed my way through its extremely narrow, maze-like aisles near the entrance. On the floor, I quickly noticed an arrow: IMPOSSIBLE, it said, pointing me to the right.
I followed, and another arrow soon lead me to the left. I suddenly found myself in the one aisle of the supermarket that I aggressively avoid.
Today, however, I was there intentionally. I wanted to see it. Fairway was introducing something new: plant-based ground ‘beef’ from Impossible Foods, sold right next to real ground beef.
The two products—one made from animals, one made from plants —looked identical. However, Impossible’s colorful packaging and Fairway’s abundant signage were practically taunting meat-eaters to try plant-based meat.
I took the slow-moving elevator up to the second floor to find Fairway’s The Cooking Place, a very compact cooking classroom. Impossible had invited about 20 popular “influencers” here to learn how to cook their new plant-based beef. There was a large kitchen for an instructor and several smaller cooking stations for students. Ingredients lined the stations…chopped onions, miso, salt, pre-measured spices—a fully-prepared mise-en-place for each student. No knife skills would be required today. A smart move, considering the abundance of free wine.
Impossible ground ‘beef’ can, of course, be made into burgers. However, by selling it as minced meat (instead of patties), the company clearly wants a starring role in other homemade dishes, too. The class syllabus reflected that aim: burgers were NOT on the menu. Instead, Impossible had invited Chef Paul Barbosa to show us how to use their plant-based ground beef in three classically-meaty dishes: chorizo and ‘clams,’ larb (a popular Laotian dish), and, surprisingly, a raw beef pâté. He patiently guided us through sautéing, blending and food-processing the new product.
Fortunately, this event was entirely plant-based. We used vegan butter instead of dairy butter, seaweed instead of clams, and made other familiar plant-based substitutions. However, Impossible’s strategy isn’t actually aimed at vegans or plant-based eaters. Their primary goal is to convert beef eaters (not to be confused with the Tower of London’s world-famous Beefeaters) into plant-based beef eaters. That’s why they put their ground ‘beef’ in the meat aisle and why, for this event, I was one of the few vegans on the guest list.
With that in mind, the class’ main lesson was actually quite simple:
Start with a beef recipe, replace the beef with Impossible beef and do everything else the same.
For meat-eaters just looking to eliminate beef from their diet, that is a revolutionarily simple prescription.
Just one change.
With several other plant-based replacements also made, I found the results rather extraordinary. All of the plant-based dishes we prepared were excellent and could have easily fooled meat-eaters. Impossible beef truly matches the taste, texture, and savoriness of the beef that I remember eating so many years ago; not just in the final dish, but throughout the entire cooking process. Witnessing its beef-like changes as it sautéed was shocking. It’s a true scientific-culinary achievement that will save animal lives —a heartwarming prospect.
I have never consumed actual raw beef and I was highly skeptical of the raw pâté, but the pâté was my favorite of the three recipes. The chorizo and ‘clams’ (seaweed!) were incredibly delicious over pasta. And, the larb was quite tasty and wrapped in very fresh lettuce —a very welcome vegetable presence during the otherwise protein-focused meal.
All around, it was a delicious, enlightening, and slightly inebriating trip to Fairway on the Upper West Side where, if you’re willing to venture into the meat aisle, you can find plant-based ground ‘beef’ sitting right next to real meat.
Text & Photography: Matt Marshall