City Grit: Veggie Tales

I knew vaguely of City Grit, the so-called “Culinary Salon” here in NYC. Every dinner has a different theme, and often a different chef. Donny went to one featuring dim sum, but they’re usually meat-heavy so I never really paid much attention to it. Then I read on another blog that they were having a vegetarian dinner, called Veggie Tales, and promptly signed up. The dinner cost $65, for a five course meal prepared by Chef David Santos. I was unable to find anyone who wanted to join me, but because of the communal nature of the seating I ended up making a few new friends over the opening snack — pickled turnips, three ways: a play on kimchi, which had fermented for a few months and was spicy with wasabi; a sweet one pickled with honey and black pepper, and another one pickled with curry. All delicious, and all conversation pieces.

The first course, artichoke carpaccio with favas, mizuna, and barigoule vinaigrette, was an interesting one. My love of artichokes is well documented on this blog, but I’ve never had them like this. The carpaccio part was made of pureed artichokes, chilled and solidified with agar, and thinly sliced. This was topped with marinated artichoke hearts, bitter green mizuna, sweet fava beans, and a sweet and creamy dressing.

The next course was my favorite of the evening: chilled carrot soup, English peas, ginger flan. The plate was placed in front of us, composed and beautiful, and the cold carrot soup was poured over it. As Chef Santos promised, every bite tasted slightly different — the one constant being the rich, buttery carrot soup. The ginger flan was not as solid as I would have expected, it was more of a foam, but it lent a nice extra “oomph” to the dish. Also good were the little bits of pickled vegetables spread throughout.

The asparagus risotto with white asparagus foam was also good, and I ate all of it despite my newly acquired asparagus allergy. The risotto was wetter and loosed than I am used to, almost more like rice in broth, but the dish worked very well. There were even a couple of pickled asparagus stalks (Chef Santos warned us at the beginning of the meal that he loves pickles) for brightness. Breaking out in hives was never so delicious.

Wild mushroom cassoulet, with a poached egg, spring pole beans, and crostinis was good but less interesting than the previous courses. Cassoulet is normally a meaty, porky dish, and Chef Santos explained that this version was meant to be lighter, though still rich, and to represent the transition from Winter to Spring.

Dessert was fantastic. The pineapple upside down cake, nutmeg caramel, and rum gelato managed to hit all of my pleasure points. The cake was a polenta cake with a bit of salt, the pineapple was sweet and acidic, and the rum gelato was… well, it was rum gelato, what could be bad about that?

After the dinner, City Grit co-founder Jeremie Kittredge made it a point to visit every table and talk to all of us about the food. Then Chef Santos came by to do the same. Between the great food and the wonderful dinner companions, City Grit was an excellent experience. I hope there are more vegetarian dinners in the future so that I can enjoy another one.

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