I know, I know. You’re probably asking yourselves “Hey, why is Joe dressed up as a vegetarian?”. Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because tonight I went undercover to probably the last place you’d ever expect to find me. A venue that hosts sustainability lectures? A yoga studio? An organic vegan food restaurant? Try all of the above because this evening, in a bid to expand my culinary horizons (and pay up the coin flip bet I lost to Exec. Producers’ Assistant Ashleigh), I dined at one of the Vancouver’s premiere vegetarian restos.
When Ashleigh first floated the idea, I was admittedly dubious. Especially when I learned that the place doubled as a yoga studio during the day (in addition to fronting the odd [and I mean that in both senses of the word] green event). To allay my concerns, Ashleigh directed me to the restaurant website, no doubt assuming I’d be much relieved at the sight of such savory selections as the Quinoa nut burger platter or the raw cashew cheesecake (both of which she swears by). Instead, a preliminary perusal of the online menu had the opposite effect when my eyes alighted on the “red velvet chocolate cake”, described as “chocolate beet cake layered with chocolate icing and summer preserves“.
I mean, come on! I understand the need to substitute vegetables or alternate proteins for meats, but what the hell had chocolate ever done to warrant this sort of treatment? I imagine the kitchen conversation went something like:
“Hey, how can we fuck up chocolate cake?”
“I know! Let’s add beets to the recipe!”
Despite my low expectations, I was nevertheless looking forward to the outing, having taken great pride in the suitably low-key vegetarianesque ensemble I’d put together for the occasion. A touch of patchouli oil to mask the un-hippie scents of soap, shampoo, and deodorant and I was ready for action. It was Donnie Brasco meets Dazed and Confused on Halloween night!
Eventually, we were joined by the fourth member of our party, Ashleigh, and as we settled in, we were served a little pumpkin seed appetizer. Of sorts. We let Carl go ahead and do the test run…
I wasn’t a fan. And neither was Carl, at first. He actually found the little tidbits unpleasant. And yet simultaneously addictive. For the next ten minutes, he snacked away, alternately popping them into his mouth and bitterly complaining about the lingering aftertaste that he likened to a ghostly presence haunting him everafter. Or at least until he exorcised the spirit with a glass of red.
Lots of interesting selections to choose from on the menu. Sadly, no one went with the spaghetti and beet balls. Instead, I started with the feature appetizer: sage and kamut gnocchi with butternut squash and apple that was actually quite good. Lawren had the nori rolls (raw sunflower hemp seed pate with sprouts and avocado in toasted nori with homemade pickled ginger and orange dragon dip) which proved less so. “Earthy” is a nice way of describing them. Carl had the golden potato wedges (organic potato roasted in olive oil and served with a spicy chipotle mayo) which he liked a lot while Ashleigh enjoyed a warm wild mushroom and pear salad.
Poor Ashleigh struggled to maintain a modicum of decorum amid our boorish antics. At one point, after she had excused herself to use the ladies room, I suspected she’d slipped out the back and was on her way to her car. But happily, she returned – well, she didn’t exactly “happily return”. Let’s just say she came back and put up with us for the rest of the meal.
Next up were the mains. Ashleigh and I both went with the quinoa nut burger platter that, I have to admit, was surprisingly good (although the accompanying salad was a sad little disaster).
Lawren, who unfortunately had the worst appetizer also drew the short, spicy, odd-tasting straw when it came to the mains as well. His red pepper, jerk-stuffed with a “an autumn medley, dried plum and red quinoa pilaf, prove almost inedible. He packed it away with the intention of giving it away to a homeless person, but made a mental note to offer it to someone outside of the immediate area lest the local transients be all-too familiar with the offerings (“Aw, come on! The stuffed red pepper again! You’ve gotta be shitting me!”).
Next up was the course we’d all been looking forward to – dessert – partly because Ashleigh had done such a great job of talking up the raw cashew cheesecake and partly out of sheer curiosity about that chocolate beet cake.
So, what was the verdict? Well, over to Carl for his review of the cheesecake:
While everyone else had wine, I enjoyed a chocolate hemp milk smoothie that I enjoyed immensely. In fact, were it not for dessert, I’d say I had a very good meal. Of course, had I ordered Lawren’s dinner, my review may have been very different but, as it was, I can’t really complain.
Now if I could only get the scent of patchouli oil out of my clothes…