My birthday cocktail was one Luck or Fortune martini – mandarin and vanilla vodkas, fresh orange, coconut. Delicious.
The restaurant with spectacular views is Departure, located on the top floor of The Nines Hotel, in the historic Meier & Frank building downtown. Sleek and modern with panoramic views of the city, this place feels very cool.
The event, which happened to fall on my birthday, was the Summer’s End Vegan Dinner. Portland’s fabulous veg friendly rock stars - Chefs Wes Hannah of Blossoming Lotus and Lisa Clark of Petunia’s Pastries – joined the supremely talented Gregory Gourdet to celebrate not only the close of summer but the incoming flavors of fall.
Flavors, indeed. and dining in a room of vegans was familiar and awesome.
As people were arriving and being seated, the amuse bouche was shared:
poppadoms with peanut dipping sauce.
delicious. crispy poppadoms with a lively spicy peanut sauce. great start.
vegan charcuterie board - vegetable terrines, nut cheeses, savory pates, live seed crackers and early autumn pickled vegetables
a bright and beautiful carrot terrine – great flavors. a broccoli block of awesomeness is without photo, my favorite part by far. a tofu and tempeh pate was incredibly rich in the most wonderful way, as was the nut cheese. the perfect crunch of the cracker served as a efficient and tasty vehicle for all elements of this course.
roasted Kabocha squash soup – sunflower seed cream, sunchokes, Asian pear, crispy ginger, spice oil
a hush fell over the restaurant, I swear it did. all you could hear was the jingle of spoons in bowls as this sweet spicy loveliness was enjoyed all around. just beautiful.
third course, in three parts:
tempura figs, roasted grapes, candied walnuts, spicy greens and ginger vinaigrette
well. this left me speechless, and thinking about it again now has rendered me without words again. sweet figs in tempura, as it turns out, make a perfect warm topper to a spicy cool salad. perhaps my favorite portion of the night. I wanted a bowl three times the size.
sweet corn custard, grilled Romano beans, local sea greens, pickled shallot-sesame dressing
for reasons unknown, I have never been a corn custard fan – and I even liked this! beautiful flavors and beautifully executed.
maple-soy glaze grilled tempeh, smoked heirloom tomato – peach marmalade, tomato crisps
tempura figs have some competition for my favorite with this – the smoky jam and the crisp tomato were layered with the tempeh to make a sandwich of flavor delight.
roasted early autumn mushrooms, wild ginger, spruce, sake – white soy glaze, crispy hempseed cake, pumpkin seed condiment
there were a few different mushrooms represented here, and one in particular that I loved. I will be hunting for that. the hempseed cake? bring me another bowl of that gorgeous soup and let a couple of these crispy squares float around in there… the creamy flavor with crispy coating was fantastic.
dessert course, in three parts:
coconut crusted pistachio tart
a crunchy cookie-like base, oaty in flavor, with a decadent rich topping. I was delightfully full at this point, and still enjoyed this confection perfection.
tart and bubbly, this added softness and a mild break between two rich and bold desserts.
candied plums, crystallized ginger, coconut cardamom ice cream
you know I’ve been loving my cardamom lately. this was velvety perfection.
While Chef Gourdet is not vegan, he is dairy free. As a result, the Departure menu is 98% dairy free. I am also hoping the rumors of vegan additions to the menu are true! This stunning restaurant with the fantastically talented chef could easily become a favorite.
My favorites this night included the crispy hempseed cake, the maple soy tempeh, the tempura figs and the amazing salads served with it… oh, I loved everything! Those three are just the first I will try to replicate in my own kitchen.
Our next outing, though, will be Blossoming Lotus. Jason loved this event and wants to go there soon!
The desserts – and the extra take home surprise dessert – Petunias Pastries far surpassed my expectations, as always.
Yes, it’s the end of summer and the end of my birthday month. This was a celebration of that, and a welcoming of autumn’s flavors, textures, celebrations to come! This was a grand event, and that it fell on my birthday, well that was just sweet.