Friday, February 26, 2010

V-Day Food

And by V-Day, you know I mean Vegan Day.

I know, I know: by this point, this little Valentine's Day cliché is much overused among vegans, but who can blame us for trying to shine some more light on the vegan lifestyle by shifting the significance of the V initial? Even better, making V stand for something else makes people who hate Valentine's Day hate it a little less, or not at all: Vampire Day (I like this one!), Vanilla Day (vanilla cupcakes, anyone?), Vanessa Day (for the Vanessas in your life) are but a mere sampling of possible V-Days.

But I digress, as I usually do.

I used to be one of the Valentine's Day haters. I didn't like the overconsumption it encouraged, nor did I care for the pressure it puts on couples or the loneliness and bitterness it stirs up in singles. But for the same reasons why I came to love Christmas, I can see myself growing to love Valentine's Day. You see, any occasion that offers an excuse to cook and bake above what is normal and, maybe, reasonable offers yet another reason to feel joyous. So, silly as it might sound, when Matt offered to take me out to dinner for our Valentine's Day meal, I was a bit dismayed because that would mean that I wouldn't get to cook. Wait a second, though: V-Day fell on a Sunday this year. Why not go out for dinner on Sunday and, on the Saturday evening preceding the lovely 14th, cook up a dinner chez moi?

Matt said that he would take me to ChuChai, Montreal's premier fine cuisine vegetarian Thai restaurant. How could I complain? Reservations were made, and because we make a point to eat two appetizers, two meals, and two desserts between the two of us (and my appetite is smaller than what might be considered normal, I might add, and not without dismay, because I love to eat), I decided to make my planned V-Day meal a little lighter than the decadent meal I'd initially conjured in my head.

I chose to make a mixed-greens salad with miso dressing (recipe courtesy of the lid on the Cold Mountain Red Miso paste); a warm and comforting garlic-and-greens potato soup (recipe courtesy of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau from her book The Vegan Table), because I had tons of potatoes that needed to be used; and wild rice with raisins, slivered almonds, ginger and other spices, also from The Vegan Table, but modified to use wild rice instead of the quinoa used in the recipe. I had wild rice on hand because I needed it to test a recipe for Lindsay, and I'd been so impressed with it that I wanted to use it in Colleen's recipe, too. Wild rice really is one of Mother Nature's treasures: it starts off black and cooks to reveal a variety of shapes and colours. I marvelled at it for a long moment before adding it to my recipe.

I usually don't put much effort into presentation, but I felt like being fancy. I pulled out the classy candleholder, the single wine glass (I don't typically drink), and cloth napkins (which I use every day anyway, but of course they're more sophisticated than paper napkins).


Don't forget the requisite cinnamon hearts!

Potatoes should be in every dish.

Wild rice with raisins, slivered almond pieces, and spices, one of which was ginger. The problem with that arose in this little piece of dialogue:
Matt: "This is... interesting. It's herby. Is there ginger in here?"
Kris: "Yes, there is! You're good, being able to pick that out amongst all the spices."
Kris: Oh, crap! I... I completely forgot that you don't like ginger!
That's right, folks: leave it up to me to cook my fiancé a Valentine's Day meal especially for him that contains his least favourite ingredients. It's a good thing that I made two desserts.

Lindsay, aka Happy Herbivore, came up with a brilliant recipe for a single-serving brownie (for the discipline- or ingredient-deficient) for her upcoming cookbook. All I did was double the recipe for this, because there was no way I was going to share one. (See my first-month-as-a-grad post about my unapologetic greediness with regards to desserts.) I really wanted to make these brownies, but I'd also promised Matt that I would make him this recipe for home-made Pop-Tarts I'd found on the blog that introduced me to Cookie Cake Pie. So I made both and ate both.

Dear reader, I introduce you to Vegan Pop-Tart.

I didn't think the icing would solidify that quickly, so the only sprinkles present are the ones I mashed in. These were absolutely delicious. The flaky dough recipe was supposed to produce six pastries, but I somehow ended up with only three, with some dough I ended up throwing out because I got frustrated. The third Pop-Tart contained vegan Nutella, thanks to a recent trip to Italy. I ate the chocolate one the night before, just to make sure it had turned out (oh, the excuses we bakers get to make! "I had to eat it to make sure it was edible!"), and oh my goodness--it tasted just like chocolate Pop Tarts! Thank you, CakeSpy and Peabody!


Now, on to the meal at ChuChai.

Our reservations were made for 7:30 p.m., a time a little tardy for my continuously-hungry tummy. We showed up on time and were told that our names didn't appear on the list, but that was not a problem. The fun thing about ChuChai is that the service is always friendly, courteous, and professional. They fit us right in but not amongst the packed restaurant: they sent us just outside and up an outdoor flight of stairs lined with battery-operated candles, and then up another indoor flight of stairs lined with real red candles, all the way up to their private loft, opened just for Valentine's Day weekend to accommodate the extra patrons. We were in awe of the decor that greeted us upon our arrival.

This was just behind our table. Since we were the first couple to be seated in the loft, we had the privilege of choosing our table. I love to be huddled in a corner, so I chose the most secluded spot.

Patrick, the amicable, courteous, passionate, and knowledgeable owner of ChuChai told us that this centrepiece was actually from a church. He painted it black and brought it in to ChuChai to be part of the dark decor.

This was just to the left of our table. Fake rose petals are strewn across the tablecloth along with ChuChai's business cards.

Like tourists, we had our picture taken in front of the pretty heart. And, by the way, every article of clothing that I'm wearing, minus the socks and tank top, is from high school; someone please teach me how to dress! Don't laugh at my socks, though: it was cold, and I needed cloud socks (they're so soft and fluffy that it feels like you're walking on clouds) to keep me warm. Don't forget that I live in "The Great White North!"

This is a happy girl in her happy place, looking disheveled from the revelry.

Red was the theme, naturally. This place is just so classy!

And the most important part of the dining experience: the food. On the left, we have breaded mushrooms with crispy basil leaves. A friend of mine once said that they tasted like sesame beef or something like it, but I honestly would not know. What I do know is that they are absolutely scrumptious, and it's hard to identify that there are mushrooms inside the crispy exterior. We order this appetizer every time. On the right, we have the peanut-butter dumplings, once only vegetarian but now 100% vegan! We literally slurp up the sauce at the end. Okay, I literally slurp up the sauce because Matt leaves it for me. Now that's love.

Vegan shrimp, anyone? Matt ordered the exact same dish but with vegan chicken. We really do love peanut butter sauce, with crispy spinach and brown rice. Patrick even remarked that we were getting the same dish with different types of protein. "No sharing?" he asked with a smile. No sharing: the more peanut butter sauce, the better.

Seriously, though, does that not look like shrimp? It's freaky, and super delicious. (Oh, wait! I spot a piece of vegan chicken lurking on the very left. Matt must have dropped that into my plate.)

And, of course, the requisite red roses for Valentine's Day, on display in my kitchen. Thank you, Matt!

Hope you all had a pleasant V-Day, no matter what your V stood for.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend,

Vegan in Suburbia


g44r4 said...

So. yummy!

Anonymous said...

What a great post once again! It must have been so cool to eat pop-tarts again.

It's too bad you put ginger in your V-Day homemade meal, but everything looked good. Perhaps will you one day manage to get your boyfriend to enjoy the wonders of ginger.

And your meal at Chu Chai looked way over the top. I did not even know they had another room for special events. This place is heaven, really, and I love their peanut sauce. Have you ever tried their lemongrass soup? It's incredible. Now I want be there and eat!

Stefania (Ingredients for Life) said...

Just discovered your blog. Beautiful pictures of great-looking food.

I've been to ChuChai a couple of times but our last experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth so I refuse to return whenever visiting Mtl. Many, many years ago we made reservations to go there for New Year's Eve dinner. It was myself, Hubby and 2 friends. Reservations were made well in advance but the woman who took my reservation failed to mention that the restaurant would be closed on New Year's Eve. We were all so disappointed. Too bad because I loved their food.

Ryan, said...

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