Monday, March 23, 2009

Eating Vegan

Last weekend I got to participate in a vegan dinner. The Epicureans were hosting a second dinner with The Touring Vegan Chef, Joshua Ploeg.

I had not gone to the first one last fall, but heard such rave reviews of how great the food was that I decided to give it a try. Luckily we got to glance at the menu first. I had to check because I don't like eggplant, olives, and mushrooms in particular. This menu was done with an Indian flair and I figured I could handle it.

Joshua is kinda of an unkept punk rocker turned chef. He's played for years in bands, but also as a chef known for his vegetarian and vegan fare. He does a good amount of business doing special orders, catering, and teaching. I'd definitely suggest him if you are a vegan/vegetarian determined to have your wedding catered that way. Some more information about him is provided in links below.

Here was our appetizer course with Golden Samosa with potatoes, string beans, peppers, red onions and spices and Tofu, Date and Pistachio Rolls served with Orange Chutney, Spicy Coriander Sauce and Tamarind Soy Sauce. Samosas are always a safe vegan bet (unless you get the Pakistani meat version). But what really was a nice, tasty surprise were the tofu, pistachio, date rolls. And I don't care for dates or tofu. But that's the point, isn't it? To see how these foods can be prepared deliciously. They had a good blend of textures and flavors and, of course, the chutneys added extra zip.

Next was the Tomato and Roasted Chickpea Salad with Popped Mustard Seed Dressing, Parsley and Mint on a bed of Spring Greens. Honestly, I only ate the greens. Don't like raw tomatoes and chickpeas.

Then came a Black and Red Lentil, Yellow and Green Split Pea Soup with Roasted Eggplant and Cauliflower, and Herb Relish. This was another safe bet because there are loads of Indian lentil soups which are pretty much the same. They get differentiated by which types of lentils or vegetables you use and, of course, the spices.

Here was our 'entree' plate of assorted items. First was the Mushrooms and Peas with sautéed garlic in Red Curry-Coconut Milk Sauce, from which I picked out all the mushrooms, which it mostly was. (Sorry, mushroom lovers.)

The Okra with a variety of carrots and onions in Sweet and Spicy Tomato Sauce were actually pretty good with not too much of that okra slime factor. I believe that's because he chose baby okra and so they hadn't gotten to that slimy seedy stage. He even left them with just a little bit of crunch to them.

The Cinnamon-Saffron Rice with Currants, Spices, Roasted Cashews and Squash Seeds was everyone's favorite and the safest item on the entree plate. I liked the sweetness from the cinnamon and the currants to balance the spices from the other items.

The most interesting item was the Green Flat Bread with Cilantro, Parsley, Green Onions, and Green chutney in the dough. He mentioned a way that he soaked it for hours in a way to ferment it so that it would rise and be yeasty, yet used no yeast at all. It was, indeed, very bready and good, although a bit on the bland side so that we all dipped it in the cool cucumber yogurt like stuff in the bowl.

Our dessert was a Vegan "Yogurt" with chunks of avocado, mango, and cucumber. We all conversed about using avocado and cucumber in a dessert. But it was a delightfully cool and refreshing end with the spiced 'yogurt' made with ? I recall mentioning of macadamia nut cream and the roasted macadamias on top.

All in all, a very good meal for a vegan newbie. And, there was a lot of food! I was trying to hold back to make it through all the courses, but I still got full barely into the entree.

I highly recommend you give Joshua a try. His food is sold at Pangaea on Franklin Blvd. and he caters and does special orders.

He has a cook book published. He also has a blog and newsletter.
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