Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Memphis Vegan in San Francisco

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Having grown up a vegetarian in the South, I’m used to not having many options when dining out. Dinner at Central BBQ? I’ll have the barbecue portabella mushroom sandwich, no cheese. Huey’s? Veggie burger. RP Tracks? Barbecue tofu nachos, please.

But I spent last week in San Francisco for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies web publishing conference. While I was there, I managed to sneak in a dinner date with a California friend at the all-vegan Millennium Restaurant.

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Unless some omnivore has snuck a slice of bacon in her purse, meat has never entered the doors of this fancy white tablecloth eatery. All of the appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts are completely free of animal products. Even the wines are vegan and organic.

The meal began with a hunk of crusty bread with white bean spread. Now I’m not used to actually being able to eat the spread provided at most restaurants, so I gobbed this stuff on my bread. Had it been real butter, I probably would have suffered a heart attack.

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For a Libra girl from a one-horse town, dinner decisions were nearly impossible at Millennium. But my friend and I finally settled on Fried Oyster Mushrooms and a Black Bean Torte:

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I’ve never eaten actual fried oysters because even in my meat-eating days, that sounded disgusting. But these were crispy, earthy, amazing. They were especially tasty dipped in sweet and sour sauce.

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The black bean torte featured smoky black beans layered with sweet, caramelized plantains inside a whole wheat tortilla. The torte was drizzled with cashew sour cream and served with pumpkin-habanero salsa verde.

I swear it took at least ten minutes to settle on one of the mouth-watering entrees offered. Choices ranged from smoky portabello mushrooms to coconut-macadamia crusted tofu to huitlacoche tamale. After much wrestling with myself, I decided on the Caribbean Jerk Tempeh:

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The salty-sweet tempeh filets were served with coconut and achiote root stew, sauteed kale with caramelized onion and sea veggies, garlic mashed sweet potatoes, and clove-spiced pickled carrots. My favorite part was the coconut stew, but they didn't put much on the plate. Also, the sea veggies (maybe wakame?) in the kale were really tasty.

But the highlight of the meal was, of course, dessert. I only know of one restaurant in Memphis offering vegan desserts (that would be Déjà Vu on South Florida Street). But Millennium’s menu featured at least six desserts, including their house-made truffles and cookies. Since I was a first-timer, they offered us this plate for free:

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And because my friend and I were completely stuffed, we opted to split a a slice of Millennium’s legendary Chocolate Almond Midnight:

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I throw the phrase “best thing I’ve ever eaten” around pretty loosely. But this was seriously the best thing I’ve ever eaten. A mocha chocolate filling and super-creamy white chocolate mousse sits atop a crunchy almond toffee cashew crust. The plate’s drizzled with raspberry sauce. I would drive to San Francisco right now for another slice if a) I wasn’t working and b) had the money. Thankfully, the recipe can be found in The Millennium Cookbook.

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