A (Raw) Vegan Gourmet Feast.

Ahhhhhhh I made it!  I survived the 15 hour work day and lived to tell my story.  :)  I am even being a super dedicated blogger and staying up until 1am just to share it all with you guys. 

I got to work bright and early this morning, around 8:30am, and met up with Hollace – the invited guest Chef for this week’s dinner.  We did a few hours of prep work yesterday, but we still had a lot to get done for the dinner – we had 50 guests to feed and just to two of us cooking!

We bought in an extra table, which made a HUGE difference this time around.  The last time I helped with the Farm to Table Dinner, it was a little chaotic, so I was determined to help us stay more organized this time.  Lucky for me, Hollace was a total rockstar, and we worked really well together – both clean-as-you-go types!

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We worked on prepping, chopping, mixing – getting everything read to go, so that by the time dinner time came, all we would have to focus on was plating and cleaning.  We had so much FUN cooking all day long – blaring music and singing together to Sting, the Dixie Chicks, Guns N Roses, and Eminem.  :)

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The menu for this dinner was completely vegan, and almost entirely raw.  A few things were cooked, but for the most part it was totally raw and natural – so cool.  She showed me how to make a raw vegan cheese using NUTS!

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Check out that texture – doesn’t it look like ricotta?  It looked and tasted like cheese – amazing!

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The raw raviolis were one of my biggest projects of the day.  I started by slicing turnips very thinly on a sharp mandolin…

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Then a placed a blob of raw nut cheese in the middle of each turnip slice…

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And folded it over to form a raw ravioli!  I wish I could feed these to each and every one of you – words don’t do them justice.  Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever made.

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Raw turnip filled with nut cheese goodness…

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Gooey inside filling – to die for…

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Good thing I liked these so much, because I had to make 250 of them all by myself – gulp.

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Once I finished those, I moved on to the chickpea cakes.

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I got a sauté station set up, and went to work browning the chickpea cakes on both sides in a little bit of olive oil.

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Due to limited stove space, I could only do a few at a time.  Did I mention we had record heat in Charlotte today?  Temperatures reaching 100 degrees – you can imagine what it felt like in a small enclosed kitchen, standing over hot sauté pans all afternoon.

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One hundred ten chickpea cakes later, and I was done.  :)

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With everything else prepped and ready to go, we spent the last few hours washing vegetables and fruit, laying out plates, and getting ready for the craziness of dinnertime to arrive.  Check out these blueberries that the farm guys brought us for our dessert plates – picked straight off the trees.

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Seriously – is there a more beautiful food?

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The guests arrived and it was GO time!  While Hollace did her cooking demo, it was up to me to plate and garnish all 50 dishes.  Many thanks to the servers who held things for me and listening to me barking orders while I tried to get it all done.

First course – chilled cucumber, avocado, and fennel soup, garnished with a swirl of agave nectar and fresh dill.

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This soup was amaaaaaaaazing.  So creamy and smooth and delicious.  And it was just what the guests needed, since they were all dying of heatstroke under the plastic tent in 100 degree temps. 

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I raced around like a mad woman to get all 50 filled, garnished, and ready by the time Hollace finished her demo. 

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Second course – chickpea cakes with piccata caper sauce, and nut cheese raviolis with homemade pesto.

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The chickpea cakes were a combination of actual chickpeas and chickpea flour.  I can’t wait to try to recreate these at home. 

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And of course, my famous raw raviolis – dressed in delicious fresh pesto and a sprig of parsley.

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While the guests were listening to a guest lecturer in the pool house living room, we took a break to step outside and pose with our lovely masterpiece dinner.  Here is the amazing Hollace with course number two!

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And yours truly, with a head full of frizz.  :/  (Can we talk about how hot that chef’s coat was in 100 degrees?  Kill me!)

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Plated and ready to go! 

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As soon as the second course left the table, we got to work on course #3 – the salad.  We heated up our g
reen beans and roasted potatoes…

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And got to work on plating.  It went much faster with the two of us working on it together this time, because there was no demo for the salad course. 

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Third course – arugula and red fire salad with carson beans, pontiac potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and kalamata olives in a rosemary vinaigrette.

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Last but certainly not least – DESSERT!  Thanks to Angie, I got a couple of action photos of the plating…

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Don’t disturb the artist.  :)

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Fourth course – (are you ready for this??)  chocolate torte with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce.  But wait for the best part – it’s all raw, and all vegan.  Yes – vegan ice cream and cake.  I have died and gone to heaven!

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The torte was made with dates, cacao powder, and walnuts, and the ice cream was made with coconut meat, agave, and almond milk.  Quite possibly some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. 

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We had just enough desserts for myself, Hollace, and the four servers to stuff our faces in the kitchen after the plates went out to guests.  Thank goodness there weren’t any extra, or I fear I would have eaten at least ten.

Today was insanely long and so intense.  My feet are killing me and I’ve been awake for almost 20 hours.  But tonight was one of the most fun and interesting things I’ve done since I began this culinary journey here in Charlotte.  I really hope I get the chance to work with Hollace again, as she reaffirmed to me that I definitely want to explore the world of professional vegan cuisine.  I love that this type of food can be so simple, but still be so gourmet and surprising!

Hoping for four short hours of sleep before my alarm goes off and my next adventure starts.  Even though I love sleep, I love the beach more – so I’m forcing myself out of bed bright and early in order to be on the sandy shore of Hilton Head Island as soon as possible!

See you tomorrow from the East Coast!!  :)