Photo Credit: J. Feingersh/getty images
I recently spent an evening in San Francisco with some vegetarian friends. As someone who prefers vegetables but still eats meat, I don't often think about how disappointing it can be for true vegetarians and vegans to find happy sustenance in certain dining situations. My friends spoke of weddings as particularly tricky. Creamy pasta primaveras are still offered with regularity, and their palatability is often questionable.
When you hit the high end of the scale, however, things are increasingly exciting. In fact, more and more fine dining chefs are embracing vegetables not as a necessary "alternative," but as showstoppers in their own right—for carnivores, for vegetarians, and for everyone in between. The Restaurant at Meadowood, located in Napa Valley , just announced the return of Chef Christopher Kostow's "Vegetables & Grains menu." Kostow is quoted as saying, "By applying the same level of attention to these ingredients [that] we apply to meat, poultry and fish, we create a series of dishes that are inherently light, healthy and delicious."
While I haven't dined yet at Meadowood, I did recently celebrate a milestone birthday at The French Laundry, Chef Thomas Keller's Yountville restaurant and among the most widely acclaimed in the country. The traditional, nine-course chef's tasting menu shared 100 percent equal billing with a "tasting of vegetables"—both equally priced, listed beside one another on the elegant menu. My husband, a hamburger devotee who grew up in the land of meat (i.e. Texas), didn't hesitate before announcing, "I want the vegetable menu." I was stunned, but only for a minute. After all, the vegetable tasting menu did sound unbelievable. (And it was.) It completely held its own against my meat-inclusive dinner.
Is it overly idealistic (and premature) to presume broader national significance based on the menus at these particular California restaurants? Perhaps. But only time will tell.
Do you ever order a vegetarian entrée when out to dinner? Chime in Below!