My first day as a vegetarian was in spring of my freshman year in college. A high school friend was visiting and I ordered a hamburger at Friendlies (an East Coast mid range diner type of place.) My friend looked at me, slightly disgusted “you mean a flesh burger?” Uh…make that a grilled cheese. I spent the better part of the following decade a strict vegan, including cooking in a macrobiotic restaurant and helping my ex-husband open an ill fated vegan restaurant at the current location of the Slide Inn in NE Portland.
Over time I found that the lifestyle wasn’t right for me, health wise (full story here), but I’m still always thrilled to find a vegan restaurant that can really, I mean really do food. Pure Food and Wine in NYC, Natural Selection in PDX, a few remarkable places tucked away in unlikely places– the countryside in England, a spa in Mexico.
Tonight in my own hometown of Portland, OR, at a restaurant called Farm Spirit, I had an experience that topped, by a league, every vegan meal I’ve had. Not exaggerating. And now that I’m stopping to think about it, I can safely say that this meal topped most of the meals I’ve had in PDX, period.
Owner Chef Aaron Adams and his team: Chef Ricardo, Chef Timothy Dearing and Chef Taylor Brigman served us a tasting menu full of exquisite combinations that were not only delicious (I had not one complaint about any of the 10 courses) but were also artfully prepared and yes, gluten-free for those of us who requested the accommodation. There was an optional wine pairing which we didn’t choose but my husband did sample a few of the options a la carte from the “Salubrious Pairing” including the Lemongrass-Mint-Anise Sparkling Tisane and a glass of the Huckleberry Kefir. Chef Ricardo was kind enough to have a discussion with me about how to feed the Kefir grains (I’ve always called them babies but from the look he gave me when I called them that I’m thinking that was maybe just a pet name from my kefir baby mama…awkward.) as I have serially killed every batch I’ve ever had.
Chef Aaron called out each plate with detail about sourcing and ingredients before we were served and generously explained how they prepared the dishes where we inquired. This was more than a meal, it was an experience. Here’s the menu.
Autumnal Salad: Matsutake | Roots | Mache | Erba Stella | Celeriac Pureé | Allysum | Sorrel
Roast Parsnip | Spiced Yogurt | Apple Pureé | Parsley | Licorice Mint
Sunchokes | Garlic Cream | Chrysanthemum | Cress Flowers
Escarole | Chanterelle | Leek | Smoked Walnut Milk
Maitake Mushroom | Farro (quinoa for GF) | Savoy | Onion Pureé
Roast Eggplant | Smoked Eggplant | Smoked Tomato Jam | Swiss Chard | Savory Sauce | Seeds
Asian Pear | Lunga di Napoli | Chickweed
Unripe Poached Persimmon | Carmel Broth | Hemp Granola
Hop Syrup Quinoa Cake | Stewed Raisins | Sweet Potato Fluff | Anise Hyssop
The chefs finished the meal off with coffee or tea and sent us home with a yummy sweet treat to-go.
The meal wasn’t inexpensive but after we were done all I could think was that it was half the price it should have been. My only slight complaint was that the seating is linear, at a bar, and it a bit difficult to include our entire party of 4 in our conversations. My husband was left out a bit, and I was so busy with the food and our friends I kind of missed that. Bad wife. Still, an apology or two later, well worth the trip– but next time I’d probably go with just my husband or a friend instead of a couples night out.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the food. Each dish was well balanced and the perfect size for a tasting menu. I wish I could tell you that one dish or another was my favorite but they were all so unique and delicious it’s impossible. I even ate most of the dessert. And I don’t like dessert. You’re just going to have to go yourself. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Yours in Health