Jay Kitchen Pop-Up Dinner: Fine dining by vegan wunderkind Jay Astafa  »

Late last month, your Vegansaurus was invited to attend a fancypants vegan pop-up dinner by up-and-coming vegan chef Jay Astafa. As part of our constant effort to bring you the most important news on the best vegan dining, we accepted.

The pop-up was an eight-course tasting menu of Jay’s savory vegan delights, with dessert by vegan pastry chef and fellow wunderkind Dani McGrath, and wines by the Vegan Vine.

Here are some photos that I took. They’re … adequate.


First course: King oyster mushroom scallop with aged balsamic caviar and green pea purée


Second course (one of my favorites!): Spring crostini duo (ramps & cashew chèvre; sorrel-mint pesto, micro pea tendrils, green peas, cashew parmesan)


Third course: Chilled potato and leek soup with chive olive oil foam


Fourth course (SO GOOD YOU GUYS): Ravioli with asparagus and ricotta (house-made cashew cream butter, cashew parmesan)


Fifth course: Smoked cauliflower steak with sunchoke purée, morels, fava beans, snap peas, green garlic, truffle vinaigrette, shaved black summer truffle


Sixth course: House-made cheese plate with aged cashew cheese and brie, strawberry-rhubarb compote, orange-infused vegan honey, rosemary-almond crackers


Seventh course: “Dragon Breath” caramel popcorn


Eighth course: Grand Marnier-infused chocolate rart with pistachio gelato, raspberry coulis, pistachio tuile, raspberry pop candy, fleur de sel salted caramel powder

Lucky for you, Ms. Hannah “Bittersweet Blog” Kaminsky took much better pictures of the menu that really do Jay and Dani’s dishes justice. She also has Jay’s recipe for the sorrel-mint pesto crostini, which was one of my favorite dishes and which I fully intend to (attempt to) reproduce, because holy moly, it was so good. Go see for yourself!

To find out more about Jay Astafa and Jay Kitchen, follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He also catered Farm Sanctuary’s Fashion Loves Animals event (which we attended, too!) last weekend. Keep an eye out for more from this super-talented kid; he is amazing, and we are lucky to have him on team vegan.

(And seriously check out Hannah’s photos, they are gorgeous.)

Got a tip about an awesome vegan-friendly event? Let us know! We love fun!


Measuring “gastronomic value”  »

"Carrots are the new caviar," according to Daniel Patterson in the Financial Times. Patterson is the chef and owner of Coi, one of a handful of haute cuisine restaurants in San Francisco that serve vegetarian specialties alongside meat dishes.

Patterson says that modern haute cuisine végétarien began when a French restaurant stopped serving meat during a 2001 European outbreak of BSE; instead of failing, as expected, the restaurant, l’Arpège continued to do excellent business. The next time someone asserts that “the French” wouldn’t stand for vegetarian or vegan food (Bourdain!), you can tell them that l’Arpège was very successful during its vegetarian period, and that stereotyping French people is kind of over (at least among the set who would rather not be associated with freedom fries).

Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic, assembled a list of six haute cuisine restaurants in the city where the chefs prepare vegetarian and vegan dishes with the same skill and creativity that they put into their meat-ful ones. I was surprised by all of them, though considering how infrequently I dine out on the fancy, that is not so big a deal.

After checking out the list in detail, I especially want to go to Coi and Fleur de Lys. Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys was the “first high-end French chef to offer a vegetable tasting menu,” (currently $70) in 1992. Coi is consistently rated as one of the top five best restaurants in San Francisco—extra-impressive for a restaurant whose chef only prepares “two or three” (out of 11!) dishes with animal products per menu. This menu will run you $125 per taster.

Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York, who grows his own produce and raises his own animals for his restaurant, does a tasting menu with lots of vegetables too. Barber says that “plants grown from seeds adapted to their place [are] the new luxury,” and Patterson explains further that “by creating associative value in certain ingredients…[they] can have a trickle-down effect on the market by stimulating demand.” That is, demand for more high-quality produce, as opposed to some other type of animal or animal product.

Ultimately, what this means for us vegans is that as these famous chefs invent new techniques for cooking flora, our fine-dining choices expand. As omnivores find themselves eating vegan food at their usual haute cuisine restaurants, they learn not to fear and loathe the idea of cruelty-free dishes. As demand for fancy vegan food increases, chefs at smaller/lesser-known/not-so-fine restaurants put more vegan items on their menus. Then we have even more choices, and a vegan diet becomes more mainstreamed; that is pretty all right. Now go out and demand fantastic vegetable preparations: it is your duty as a citizen of the world to increase demand for fine vegan dining.

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