A wedding should be a fun time for one and all, but I think most guests look forward to one thing in particular: drinking! Ha ha, kidding... sort of. What I really meant was, the food! Food becomes a focal point of many weddings, and every bride fears the dreaded "rubber chicken": food that has apparently been frozen and/or sat under heat lamps for too long so as to become an entirely wrong texture, which is basically edible but unappealing. (In the vegan world would this become rubber tofu?)
The wedding is now slated to be a fairly low key affair. The party, for which we need the food, is at my parents' house. And believe me people, it ain't a big house. We basically need platters of food spread out on my ma's dining room table, a (very) small staff to keep them full and looking pretty, and a bar out back - because people really do look forward to the drinking. OK fine, because I'M looking forward to the drinking. It's really not such a tall order. I could do it myself if I wasn't gonna be all busy getting married and everything. But I will, and taking on too many responsibilities for the big day is a sure recipe for disaster. Enter: the caterer.
Well, as I've mentioned before finding a vegan caterer even in New York City is a challenge. Now that we're having the wedding in New Orleans, we didn't even know if it would be possible. But that's just my defeatist inner child talking - anything is possible with a little determination.
I sent a few emails to various caterers in the NOLA area that I dug up on el internet, and got no response whatsoever - unprofessional much? I'll take a "sorry, we don't do vegan events" over dead silence any day. Thus, my hope was beginning to dwindle. But then along came Food Art. No, they hadn't done a vegan wedding or event before, but they were knowledgeable about what vegan meant which was a promising start, and more importantly they were willing to work with us to come up with a menu.
The first set of selections they sent us felt a little like a bunch of side dishes slapped together, and they had some novice questions such as "is pita bread vegan?" Well dear heaven I hope so - what the heck kind of pita bread are you buying if it isn't? But they were extremely communicative, great about answering our questions and listening to our suggestions, and in short time we'd worked out a menu that we found pleasing. So the communication was great - which is high on my list of importance with vendors - and the food sounded good, not to mention that the price was totally reasonable; all that was left was to taste it.
The week of August that we spent in New Orleans was busy, and the tasting with Food Art was probably the most important (and exciting) meeting on the list. Because food was only being prepared for the two of us we were only getting to taste about half of the items on our list, but that's fine; half is enough to give you an idea of whether a chef can cook. What we tasted went as follows:
*Tuscan grilled vegetables including zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant, served at room temperature: Very tasty, nicely seasoned with herbs and grilled to perfection.
*Eggplant Capanata and Artichoke Hummus served with grilled pita and roasted cloves of garlic: Exactly as delish as it sounds.
*Eggplant curry with a variety of toppings: this was the clincher. I've never had anything like it, and let me tell you that I've eaten some curry. It was a very thick curry, not the runny kind. Simultaneously sweet and savory, with just enough spice that you knew it was spicy but tons of real flavor. I could eat this stuff all day long.
*Dessert: vegan blondie squares, and dates stuffed with nuts and rolled in coconut: The chef was so proud of his vegan baking expedition that he had to come right into the tasting room and talk to us about it. They were a little odd, and not how I would make a blondie, but a nice little sweet bit anyway. The dates are a classic, with the right amount of nut to set off the oh so sweet dried fruit - my mom loves these so she'll be thrilled.
You want to see the whole menu don't you? Yeah, I thought you did.
*Tuscan Grilled Vegetables
Including asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, green onions, fennel, carrots, mushrooms & sweet peppers (based on seasonal availability) all brushed with an herbed infused olive oil & served room temperature
*Grilled Pita Served with a trio of chilled spreadsHurrah! Tasting declared a success - we've found ourselves a caterer! As anyone who's planned an event knows, that is one major hurtle. There's still a long way to go between here and "finished", but at least the ducks are rowing. I can sleep a little more soundly knowing that my guests will get to eat!
to include roasted garlic cloves, classic eggplant capanata & homemade artichoke hummus
*Fresh Fruit Salad
with cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew, strawberries & grapes (based on seasonal availability) tossed with a fresh mint & maple dressing
*Trio of Louisiana Tomatoes
Creole, yellow and pickled green served atop mixed greens finished with a Balsamic reduction and fresh basil
*Southern Style “Caviar”
Fresh black-eyed peas, green onion, sweet peppers, garlic & chopped jalapenos tossed with a maple syrup vinaigrette and served with tortilla chips for dipping
Made with coconut milk, green curry, Thai basil, and tender eggplant served with parslied rice and a selection of toppings to include crushed peanuts, shredded coconut, diced onion, mango salsa, diced pineapple and chopped cilantro
*Pasta Marigny with seared spinach, fresh artichokes, caramelized leeks and Roma tomatoes finished in a light tomato, olive oil and Chardonnay stock reduction accented with fresh basil and oregano
Now, if we could just figure out a way to have a vegan wedding cake...
Until next Monday,