Last Monday I attended A Tasteful Experience at the Pleasantdale Chateau in West Orange. The event was a fundraiser for Clara Maass’s Child Life Program, which helps children and their families cope with illness and hospitalization. The area’s finest restaurants, caterers and purveyors of spirits donated their time, talents and food to the cause.
I attended A Tasteful Experience to report on it from a vegan perspective. Since this was my first time attending the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I didn’t know if there would be anything vegan at all. I went into the event with no expectations and I was pleasantly surprised to find a few vegan dishes.
First up was the Mesob table. Mesob is one of my favorite restaurants for meatless meals, so I was quite happy to see them. They had a large array of foods available for sampling with several meatless options, and they made me a small plate consisting of Buticha (pureed chickpeas seasoned with onions, garlic, jalapenos olive oil and lemon juice), Azifa (whole brown lentils seasoned with onions, garlic and jalapenos) and Timatim Fitfit (diced tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and injera bread).
I could have happily spent the evening at Mesob’s table, but I moved on to see what other dishes I could sample. I stopped by the Costanera table where chef Juan Placencia served me a plate of delicious braised potatoes and pureed winter squash with mushrooms. The dish is part of their usual vegetarian menu and is usually served with cheese, but it was left off for me.
Michael and Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane were serving pork tacos with cheese and vegetables on homemade tortillas, and they were kind enough to make me a vegan version, made with just spicy vegetables. It may have been the tiniest taco I’ve ever eaten, but its small size didn’t mean it lacked flavor and it was quite yummy.
At the Blu table, chef Zod Arifai was serving scallops with fennel in a pumpkin chai puree, and he made me a special dish with just fennel and pumpkin chai. The crisp, thinly sliced fennel paired perfectly with the delicate pumpkin chai puree.
I wasn’t expecting to find anything vegan in the dessert room, so I was happy to find Vegan Bobbi Cookies from Miss Nicky’s Gourmet Toffee. The cookies were flourless, butterless, eggless, dairy-free and gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean they were flavor-free, as these tasty little treats were made with comfort food favorites oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon.
Along the way, I also sampled several wines from the Amanti Vino table and a few ciders and fruit flavored cordials from Warwick Valley Winery.
With the popularity of veganism being on the rise, and people like Rosie O’Donnell, Michelle Phieffer and even Bill Clinton converting to a vegan diet, I’m hoping there will be more vegan options at events like A Tasteful Experience in the future.