Thursday, September 29, 2011

Olivia, Austin TX

You are so not ready for what is about to happen. We certainly weren't. Follow along. You see, we went to Austin to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. This is a big deal. We wanted a fancy meal to match the fancy occasion and, while Austin has a gazillion vegan food trucks and casual eateries, they have zero high-end vegan places. What's a gal to do? Well, I researched all the fancy pants places, found a few that always have veg or vegan entrees on their menus and asked if they'd kindly make our group of 6 an all vegan meal. Only one replied in the affirmative (well two, but the other wasn't open on the Big Day) AND they replied that not only would they be happy to help, they'd like to create a TEN COURSE TASTING MENU. Bless whoever came up with Southern hospitality. Here's what the wonderful Oliva restaurant gave us:

So other than to say that it was incredible and long and we also drank a lot, I'll keep it to a short blurb about each dish.

That's okra, olive oil, an basil waiting in the bowl for the rich tomato soup to be poured on top. Next level gazpacho, people. YUM.

In the fresh and light melon and herb salad I encountered my first taste ever of powdered ingredients. Molecular gastronomy goes vegan, and the results are divine.

This pepper was one of my faves of the evening. The apricots brought just the right amount of sweet to an otherwise savory and slightly spicy dish. Beauty, texture, and flavor perfection.

Battered and fried eggplant! Another huge hit at our table. The sesame glaze was to die for and the powdered ingredients really just melt on the tongue. A nice contrast to the crispy eggplant. Umami heaven.

This was the one course we all could have done without. Except for the potato chips. Those were bangin'! Wish I could pick them up on the shelves of my local grocery. The other two were just too plain potato-y.

Holy risotto. This one was fantastic. I know it doesn't looks like much (it was getting darker and harder to photograph by the second) but the creamy and slightly sweet rice paired so well with the olives and (yes) coffee crumbs that it was kind of hard to believe. The ginger crisp was a brilliant way to incorporate a bit of brightness and it made for a great scooper. Talk about the perfect bite! Mmmmmm....

The lemon in this quinoa dish was in powdered form and it was amazing just how much it lightened things up. And crispy mushrooms? Yes please.

So pretty, right? Sadly, the rutabaga tasted a little too much like plain rutabaga, even with the tasty red wine syrup. I'm a fan of greens, though, and I remember the peppery arugula pairing nicely with whatever wine I was drinking at the time.

Our last savory course was this grilled peach with truffle oil. I would not have thought this would work (and for some at our table it did not) but I loved it. I thought it was a genius way to bridge to savory/sweet gap at prepare our palates for dessert.

Now, you know me: I like a rich decadent dessert, but honestly, after so many courses, sorbet was a lovely ending. I forgot which one I took a picture of, but the table's favorite of our choices was an unbelievable raspberry pepper combo. Another one that I didn't think would work but which really surprised me. Go chef!

Speaking of the chef, we thanked him profusely at the end. I mean, he and his team went out of their way to accommodate us, on a night when their entire dining room was packed with regular menu eaters, and the food blew us away. We were truly unprepared for how good the vegan food coming out of this omni kitchen would be and so so SO grateful to Olivia for making it happen. Moral of the story: Ask. You never know which restaurants have chefs just dying to cook something different for a night. Not to mention that the more us vegans demand vegan food, the more vegan food there will be!

Up next, I'm back in SF and have one casual and one high-end meal under my belt (literally) already, so stay tuned.

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