Lest the details slip my mind, I'm welcoming 2010 with last night's prix fixe New Year's Eve Tasting Menu at Madeleine Bistro, L.A.'s only all-vegan gourmet restaurant.
With too many friends out of town for me to pull off a New Year's Eve vegan potluck at home, I happily agreed when a friend suggested we celebrate with this tasting menu followed by fireworks in the Hollywood Hills. It turned out to be a fabulous evening that was made even better when I spotted another friend at Madeleine Bistro who graciously agreed to join us. We were there, talking away, for over three hours.
Our 7-course extraveganza began with Dim Sum (from the menu: steamed bun, tempeh "lollipop," crispy wonton). A spicy sesame dipping sauce perfectly complimented this trio of a steamed bun filled with almost-sweet seitan, soft, meatball-like tempeh pierced with a lemongrass stalk, and a fried wonton.
Clam chowder topped with a delicious split biscuit, which I tried to eat before it had a chance to absorb too much liquid, arrived as the second course. Thick, rich, and full of vegetables, this was the only course I wasn't able to finish. While I thought the mushrooms (shiitakes, I believe) were meant to stand in for the clams, our server informed me that the potatoes held that role. Fortunately, all that mattered was that the chowder was good!
The next course was a Chestnut and Apple Salad with pickled pearl onions, fennel puree, and mulled cider vinaigrette. After swiftly transferring my peal onions to one of my dining partners' plates, I dug into this lovely mix of greens. The chestnuts, chopped in a way that initially fooled me into thinking they were walnuts, provided a soft, yet dense texture and mild flavor, while the cooked apples brought a subtle sweetness. The puree to be a wonderful accompaniment to the salad.
The fourth course was Quinoa-crusted Moroccan Seitan with artichoke and chickpea tagine, lemon confit, and harissa emulsion. I don't remember artichokes or a lemon confit in this dish, so that could have been a last-minute change. The seitan was extremely soft, which nicely contrasted the red quinoa crust. It also sat upon a tasty bed of more red quinoa mixed with a small amount of dried fruit. I think, although I'm not sure, that the chickpea tagine also contained eggplant. This was good and festively topped with a smattering of chopped edible flowers. To give it some spicy heat, I ate the tagine with the harissa emulsion.
The fantastically crispy Portabella Chasseur with house-cut arugula tagliatelle and wild mushroom ragout also featured Brussels sprouts and microgreens. The pasta reminded me of tofu shirataki noodles in texture and I didn't detect the bite of arugula, but they were still good. The mushrooms were nothing short of amazing.
Popcorn and Cheese (from the menu: herb-crusted cashew cheese, kettle corn, crackers, popcorn ice cream) greeted us sixth. The homemade crackers tasted of rosemary and had a very crisp bite to them, which was nice with the creaminess of the cashew cheese (I only wasn't 100% sold on the cashew-cheese because I could detect chives, but I generally love the cashew cheese at Madeleine's and specifically their smoked cashew cheese). I enjoyed the gentle sweetness of the kettle corn and, although I didn't taste popcorn in the mildly-flavored and almost dense ice cream, really liked this playful dish.
Dessert was the 3 x 3, a trio of sweets each containing chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel. On the left is a rich dark chocolate disk acting as a crust to a peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate mousse. A raspberry coulis and peanutty powder garnished the plate. In the center, there are three candies: a peanut butter cup, a Butterfinger-like bite, and a plain caramel (I believe I tasted the delicious brown rice syrup in this caramel). Finally, there was a rope of fudge (which I ate separately) decorating a crispy peanut patty (this did taste like the interior of a Butterfinger) that was topped with caramel. The crispy peanut patty covered in caramel was my favorite part of the dessert plate.
Today, I started a month-long cleanse, but that is a topic for another day so as not to distract from the above.
May 2010 be a peaceful and joyous year for you!