I just had the supreme pleasure of hosting my Bostonian pal, Shelley, for the long weekend. A fellow vegan, and pregnant to boot, she made for a terrific eating partner, and we ate our way through the city for a glorious 3 days.
First up was brunch at The Plant. Shelley had the scrumptious tofu scramble, which I've had, loved, and written about before. I, on the other hand, was more in the mood for lunch, and went for something I've never had at The Plant before: The Napa Cabbage Salad. The sesame lime vinaigrette is wonderful, especially when paired with the cilantro, mint, and peanuts. I added baked tofu and it was a light and tasty lunch. Always nice to have another item on a menu that I know I love. (I think you'll love it too!)
That evening, I was so psyched as we headed to Oakland to try encuentro, a wine bar and vegetarian (not all vegan) small plates restaurant brought to us by Eric Tucker (of Millennium fame) and Lacey Sher (former owner of the now-defunct Down to Earth restaurant in NJ where I was once a regular). Knowing these two genius culinary minds are behind the wheel, I went in with extremely high hopes. Much to my delight, I was not even remotely disappointed.
My group and I enjoyed a smorgasbord of offerings from the friendly folks at encuentro, including those you see here. The vegan cheeses coming out of this kitchen are amazing, and I was in heaven while devouring the dates stuffed with macadamia nut pate (on the left). Served warm, they are sweet, salty, melt-in-your mouth fantastic. If you're looking for a more traditional cheese presentation, the vegan cheese plate will make you very happy. I can't remember which was which from the photo, but I do recall that the cashew cheese was my favorite. They were all so good though, as were the chutneys and mustard with which they were paired.
For slightly more substantial fare, there are salads and sandwiches to choose from, like the vegan caesar and the grilled portobello above. The salad is very much like the one you can sometimes find on the menu at Millennium, which is to say I loved it. Tangy, crunch, and with little smoky bits of tempeh floating throughout. Yum. The sandwich, sadly, was not something I got to try, but the husband loved it. Next time.... and speaking of next time, we neglected to order the truffled mushroom pecan pate this visit. I've heard a few people rave about it, so try it if you go. I also didn't try, nor did I photograph, the tempeh bacon sandwich, but my friends loved that one too. In fact, there was not one miss at this meal. All hits, encuentro!
For a sweet ending, we ordered some fresh-baked vegan cookies, which were great, but the star was the apple cake, above. Not overly sweet, and perfectly spiced, it gets a drizzle of caramel sauce before entering your mouth and transporting you directly to a state of euphoria.
Needless to say, I loved my encuentro experience. Beyond the food, I got to talk to both Eric and Lacey, and they are just super cool people. I hope the restaurant does well so that I can continue to go back.... and bring many more of my others with me!
As for me and Shelley? This was only the beginning of our weekend of eating. Stay tuned for more shortly.