I'm a 36 year old librarian who loves to run, read, do yoga and hang out with my friends and family. I ran the 2008 & 2009 Boston Marathon for Team Eye & Ear to support the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Go Team Eye & Ear!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Veggin Out

Despite the fact that I think it would be easier for me walk the Freedom Trail backwards on my hands than it would be for me to give up cheese (and dairy in general), I have an interest in vegan cuisine. There are several vegan blogs that I enjoy reading- I'm pretty much in awe that so much can be created with seemingly limited ingredients. About a year ago, my husband and I went to Grasshopper, but I made the mistake of ordering a seitan dish without ever having tried it before, and I didn't enjoy it at all. (Nick ordered a noodle dish and fared much better.)
Recently, I was given an opportunity to try the Vegan Tasting menu at Upstairs on the Square. My friend Vince and I headed there last Wednesday, and I was anxious to give vegan food another shot. Vince has written several restaurant reviews before, and I was so happy to have his opinion and expertise during the meal. While I was waiting for him at the bar, I noticed the man next to me was eating an gooey grilled cheese with a bowl of tomato soup and tried to push how good it looked out of my head.
We started with roasted beets with horseradish and passion fruit, which were quite tasty. Vince taught me that this is called an "amuse bouche" and "it's only meant to be a small bite to engage the palate and be something small and fun."

Our bouches were amused

The first course was a nice mixture of tempura snap peas, chunks of avocado and jicama with a soy ginger marinade. The marinade was my favorite part of this course, and although this wasn't in the spirit of our dinner theme, I think it would go great with grilled tuna or chicken.

Tempting Tempura

The second course was one of my favorites! It involved roasted artichokes and some other vegetables and ingredients, that unfortunately I can't remember. (This could be partly due to the fact that the wine pairings were extremely generous.)

Our third course, poached veggies in a wine and cardamom broth, was my least favorite course. Whereas I really enjoyed the other ones, I actually disliked this course. The veggies weren't very flavorful; and the broth's cardamom flavor overpowered the dish.

This course looked a lot better than it tasted

For our fourth course, we had panzanella with a shiso emulsion and truffle vinaigrette. Unfortunately my photos from this point forward were lost, but take our word for it that the shiso emulsion looked quite impressive. It was essentially a minty bubbly green foam sitting on top of our cous cous, that tasted incredible.

We ended the evening with some cantalope sorbet accompanied by (peeled) lime and clementine wedges. We learned the hard way that the lime wedges should be eaten in the same bite as the sorbet, as the lime on its own was quite sour. We originally thought dessert was a trio of sorbets, and were a little disappointed that we were only offered one flavor; however, the cantalope sorbet was a fresh cool way to end the evening.

It should be mentioned that each course (including the amuse bouche) was paired with a wine or champagne. My knowledge of wine is quite limited and the only words I use to describe it generally are white, red or boxed. That being said, I unfortunately don't remember any of the pairings, but they were absolutely fantastic, more than generous, and one of the best parts of the experience. Also, the service was very friendly (the chef came out to introduce himself) and efficient. As Vince noted, it was maybe overly attentive, as some dishes were explained twice and we had multiple servers over the course of the evening. What I really enjoyed about this menu is that they didn't go the soy, tofu, seitan route and stuck to creating courses with fresh vegetables, grains, and fruit. If you're looking for a new and interesting experience, I would recommend checking out Upstairs on the Square, but the vegan tasting menu isn't for everyone. Don't come too hungry and be prepared to spend at least 3 hours over dinner. I'll definitely go back to the restaurant for it's fun atmosphere and friendly service, but next time I think I'll try the grilled cheese and tomato soup.

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