Hence the merging of the two worlds into another blog I have always itched to start: one that documents my passion for food while exercising my passion for writing, all while trying and reporting back on new recipes, old favorites, places, ingredients, and methods. Most often with my favorite cooking (and life!) partner by my side.
So this adventure begins, appropriately, with a New Year's Eve dining experience at New Hope, Pennsylvania's Sprig & Vine. A 100% vegan eatery that opened in 2010, they offer a local, seasonal menu for lunch and dinner, Sunday brunch, and, to our delight a six-course, one-price-fits-all celebratory meal to ring in 2012. If it's going to be your last meal of the year, it better be a good one.
While the amuse bouche made it into my mouth before the camera even graced the table (I saved up for this meal all day long, a tactic I am not likely to try again), the cauliflower bisque was the real-deal meal starter. How they master the texture and taste of a bisque that includes no dairy product is a stunning feat, and one that had me ready to raise my bowl for seconds, extra curry-roasted cashews included. If not for the four following courses, that is.
The following plate was not your typical salad, despite the boast of baby lettuces that complemented rather than overran the dish. The fried quinoa added crunch while the meyer lemon tahini added brightness, all perfectly combined with the sweet bite of both golden and candy-cane beets. Color, color, color.
Next came a life-changing combination of flavors, one I was tragically becoming too full (already?!) to consume. Thank goodness the Sprig & Viners will box your food without judgement. This creamy risotto was sweetened by coconut milk, and the unmistakable freshness of lemon grass was the perfect compliment. There were cubes of parsnip throughout the dish, as well as two crisped pieces for adornment, both shielding over the crowning glory of the dish: the champagne-battered butternut squash. Oh my yum.
With a few moments to digest between courses, I was amped and prepared for the fifth, pan-roasted wild and exotic mushrooms. While my cute dining partner requested a fungus-free substitute (Yes! They do that! One call is all it takes!), I was presented with several varieties all plated over a garlic-intense polenta, grilled green onions which we both deemed perfection, and roasted kale that still managed to retain its glossy purple stems.
Ah, finally. To know me is to understand that no matter how full the belly, dessert is never ever (ever) optional. Especially when that sweet ending involves pumpkin-cashew cheesecake. I know what you may be wondering: vegan ... cheesecake? How does that work out? The logistics have escaped me, but the result is heavenly, and one I find that even your most anti-vegetable friends would have trouble distinguishing. The spice of the ginger-cashew crust held together the perfect pie, all of which sat on a plate adorned with pomegranate arils and gooseberries. (I'd yet to taste or even see a gooseberry until that night. Write me up as a fan.) To top it all off was the coconut whipped cream, a dessert-worthy treat in itself.
As far as final meals go, this one takes the cake. Or the vegan pumpkin cheesecake. Since discovering this restaurant (and since converting to vegetarianism a little over two years ago), this has truly become a favorite dining spot for special occasions. The atmosphere is quiet, the servers polite and the food is flavorful, filling, and memorable. A winning combination for a Happy New Year, and in this case, a happy new blog.