On Friday I was invited to a tasting from the graduating class of culinary students at the Natural Epicurean Academy. The academy is a plant-based intensive training program here in Austin Texas and I was really excited to get to attend. One thing that our city is totally lacking is a fine dining establishment that is totally vegetarian so I was giddy with excitement tasting all of the students wonderfully thought out dishes. It was like being a judge on Top Chef except I wanted to eat everything. And there was minimal drama. It is a good thing I wasn’t judging because I never would have been able to decide on a winner. We started with a homemade kombucha and I think moved on to a little appetizer of cherries stuffed with ginger to get things going. I thought it sounded like an odd combination but I really enjoyed it.
Then we tried a mushroom soup with roasted vegetables and rosemary. I thought they gave me a handout that had all the descriptions of every dish so I didn’t take any notes but rest assured that there were some wonderful mushrooms in this dish. It was so intensely earthy and mushroomy and I think it had a cashew base because it was very creamy and didn’t have any off tastes.
Next we tried the samosas. They were very different from the standard Indian restaurant variety. They were only briefly fried and the stuffing had French lentils (I think) along with the peas, and just a little bit of potatoes. They were very delicate. The chef had also made three different dipping sauces that were one of my favorite parts of the whole tasting. There was a tamarind one and a cilantro cashew one that was just cilantro and cashews pulsed with lime. It was so tasty and vibrant.
and they also had plantain and parsnip chips on the side with a chimichurri avocado dipping sauce that I will have to try and recreate at home. It was just fabulous.
Then something happened that I don’t even want to tell you about because you might get totally jealous. But we tried three different kinds of truffles, one with mint, one with chipotle and one with candied beets. They were so creamy and fabulous. I hope that whoever made them starts selling them all over town. Or throwing them at people just to make the world a better place because they were lovely.
We finished with a little pomegranate spritzer and were on out way. I hope that the graduates from the Natural Epicurean will stick around town because I think they could really add a lot to the Austin restaurant scene. Congratulations and good luck!