Located on an alley of Daehangno, the restaurant is run by a married couple, Lee Yun-seo and Kang Dae-un. Their menus are not only products of their culinary experiments but also the personal changes that they have gone through. Suffering from severe psoriasis, Lee had decided to dedicate her time to studying the basic elements of her life, which led her to finishing overseas academic courses on macrobiotics. After three months of following a macrobiotic diet, she regained her health as well as peace of mind, which she had lost due to her health issues. As she began to understand the centrality of food in one’s everyday life, Lee began working on procuring sustainability in every step involved in food preparation. With the owners' effort to “respect the producers and pay attention to living creatures,” the fresh vegetables and fruits from Marché@ Farmers’ Market and Hansalim co-op are cooked without any chemical additives. Their sugar-free, organic vegan brown rice cake; vegan pizza made with brown rice dough; and specialty coffee brewed with foxtail millet and chicory show their desire to share their mindfulness of living a healthier, happier life in this city.
“Our space is ultimately a story of the people who wish to make their lives more sustainable, right at home, right where they reside,” Lee explained. According to her philosophy and experience, “changes in every part of our lives” are possible, and here at PPURI on the plate they start with one of the most basic elements of life—food.
Walking along the main road of Tongindong, you’ll quickly spot Gavi café when you see the couple dozen potted plants underneath its brown awning. Inside, you’ll find NOGARDEN, a gardening shop owned by Noh Eun-ah, who once worked as the feature editor for Vogue, Marie Claire and InSytle, and as editor-in-chief of Maison.
For Noh, the “chemistry” between the gardener and the plant is what matters when it comes to indoor gardening. “Think of the plant as a companion; you need to pick a good candidate for your relationship,” Noh tells every customer. Accordingly, every plant in the shop awaiting its ideal companion is one that the owner has tried growing herself and has loved being in a relationship with. Based on her experience and expertise, Noh said that “understanding” is the key to a successful partnership first and foremost, as each plant has its own “rhythm” that it has relied on to survive and “when the owner fails to respect that, it dies off.”
When you visit NOGARDEN, you’ll be asked lots of questions about your environment and lifestyle before you take a plant home. “Will the plant be provided with enough sunlight in your home?” or “Do you often work until late at night?” are only the conversation starters. Chances are, you’ll leave the shop empty-handed. But that would be a much better option than “letting a plant die off, feeling bad and then starting to think ‘it’s not for me.’” Or, you might be ready, and matched with a plant, which according to Noh means that you have the emotional space to “always hope that the plant will be healthy in your home.”
They get together, play in a wading pool, make detox juices and have barbecue potlucks on their rooftop. Pajeori, a cooperative of young farmers, is an enjoyable group to hang out with. However, that doesn’t mean that Kim Na-hee and her friends aren’t a serious bunch of farmers. They harvest different vegetables and herbs every season, including tomatoes, basil, corn and potatoes, on a rooftop in Gusu-dong and at their government-supported community garden near Nodeul Island.
Their goal is to help single-person households achieve self-sufficiency. They meet up on this rooftop every week from March to late October, cook what they’ve harvested from their farms, drink beer and hold cooking classes. What does it take to be a part of this co-op? Kim and her friends are pretty inclusive—the monthly 10,000 won fee (which goes towards rent and maintenance fees for the venue) and an open mind are all you need.