Private dining – you mean, let a chef come in and do all the cooking, while I enjoy myself with my friends? Don’t mind if I do!
Vegan private dining
I’ve always loved a dinner party. Sharing food, stories and laughter with friends. Setting aside dedicated time to share with them. I also love getting creative in the kitchen, and by providing them with tasty (and usually healthy) food, that sense of giving to my friends. But spending so much time in the kitchen often means I miss out on half the fun.
So when I was offered the chance for a vegan chef to come and provide a private dining experience, I said yes. And I’m so glad I did.
A real treat
It was a real treat to be cooked for in my own home. I had so much confidence in Tomas, the chef, that I found myself able to completely relax. I’d invited a few friends, and one of them got to work making vegan cocktails with whisked chickpea water in the lounge to, er, get in the spirit of things. I’d already shown Tomas where everything was and set the table, so I just kicked back with my dinner guests until the starter was announced.
Warm cauliflower and chickpea salad on a crescent moon bed of truffle houmous. My, the flavours were good. Complex but clean on the palate, nourishing but light. Prettily decorated with micro herbs. Noisy conversation turned to silence as we all savoured each mouthful. This was actually my favourite course, and I was very happy to find truffle houmous leftovers in my fridge the next day (thanks Tomas!).
Tomas presented the star of tonight’s show: 28-hour fermented tofu on a homemade rosti with pak choi and a date, saffron and ginger sauce. The dinner guests all had questions, especially about the super flavoursome tofu, and Tomas was happy to answer them all. Except for the secret ingredients in the sauce!
I was really surprised how filling and substantial this vegan main was. I know vegan food really can be – I’ve made plenty of it myself – but wasn’t expecting that from a chef. And the hoisin duck inspired flavours were amazing. One guest said it was the best tofu he had ever tasted.
We needed a break after the main, and Tomas was happy to accommodate. The timings all evening were as strict or relaxed as we wanted them to be.
When we were finally ready, it was definitely worth the wait. I’ve made many a chocolate avocado mousse in my life, but this one came beautifully piped, and with a wonderful paprika kick. Alongside orange compote (read homemade marmalade), deconstructed shortbread (read nutty vegan crumble), physalis fruit and more micro herbs. Fancy, interesting and a lovely way to finish the meal.
This was private dining, not a health retreat, and yet I can confidently say the food was by and large nutritionally balanced and complete. We were nourished with all the amino acids required to pack a protein punch, a selection of fibre and nutrient-rich vegetables across the menu, a variety of colours providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and a seasonally appropriate ratio of cooked to raw.
Tomas also pointed out the balance of elements in his flavour choices, which gave us pungent, sweet, salty, bitter and sour. And yes, I felt pretty balanced at the end of it too. Grounded but not heavy, alert but not over-stimulated.
The clearing up
All done by the chef! Plates, cutlery, pots and pans all washed up and put away. Surfaces cleared. Various leftovers in tupperware (my own) in the fridge. So much so, that my private dining experience continued to the following evening.
Vegan private dining – should you try it?
Yes! Definitely. Don’t wait for an excuse, treat yourself next time you fancy spending quality time – and food – with a bunch of your favourite people.
Mine came courtesy of La Belle Assiette – and for full transparency, they offered it free in return for this blog. I’d have written about it anyway, though, it was such a delight. There were a couple of minor hiccoughs, but nothing that would prevent me recommending Tomas to vegans and non-vegans alike.
Photographer: Jo Hunt (who was wonderfully non-intrusive!)