Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In a kitchen redolent of nutmeg and spice...

Thanksgiving this year was wonderful. Coincidentally, it fell upon My Beloved's birthday but he gave me the best present...a ticket out of the tortured-turkey nightmare by way of a trip to Cape Cod to stay at the area's only vegan inn. The Shady Hollow Inn is in some ways a quaintly typical New England establishment - wide plank flooring covered with sumptuous rugs, perfect white trimwork, handpainted works of art, Shaker-style furniture, and a slightly nautical feel. Everything was comfortable, our wishes were not only accommodated but also anticipated and we wanted for nothing.

But it was more than that. What made it distinctly atypical was the ethic of the innkeepers themselves. David and Ann are simply terrific people with a vision for the inn based in living their own values, which extend far beyond simply offering guests a break from life. Their values are founded in compassion and respect for the natural world: long time veg*ns, they serve only organic vegan (and local as far as is possible) food, recycle and reuse, tend a wonderful garden, decorate the inn both inside and out with 'animalia' and offer the local avian population the widest choice of feeders that I have ever seen.

I knew I was 'amongst friends' the second I arrived when, welcomed into Ann's kitchen, I espied her stack of vegan cookbooks open to several of my favourite recipes. We bonded over cashew cream (from the Joy of Vegan Baking) and vegan pumpkin pie, debated the finer points of the Veganomicon and were excited to find we both possessed largely the same array of culinary tomes. I instantly felt like I had met up with an old friend - one fortunate enough to possess a beautiful, old-worldy kitchen, comfortingly redolent of nutmeg, cinnamon and spices, in which to while away the afternoon. I was enchanted and could have happily spent the whole weekend right there - this is no exaggeration.

On the promise of dinner, however, I managed to tear myself away and set off, albeit somewhat trepidently, for the Ocean House Restaurant. Now, if you do happen to check out their menu you will see a veritable Noah's Ark of animals thereupon. When Ann recommended them, I was hesitant but trusting and I am so glad I was able to put aside my worry. I had a really delightful meal:


Mine was 'The Pear', a delightful concoction the essence of which was a pear-based eau de vie. My Beloved enjoyed the Mojito, made with Kaffir Lime Vodka, fresh mint and lime. To the right on the pic you can see the bread which is worth pointing out. They take a section of a french stick, make several vertical cuts almost all of the way through and into them insert some crispy flatbreads, which end up looking like sails in the wind. Moving beyond the usual herbed olive oil, these breads are accompanied by a white bean, chilli oil and miso puree which was a very nice touch I thought.

The appetizers were extraordinary and the presentation fanciful:

I chose the vegan spring rolls which were accompanied by a ridiculously fresh and citrus-y Asian coleslaw, a dipping sauce and a Chinese mustard drizzle.

My main course was a cobble-together of various entrees: the cod over a bed of pumpkin risotto, minus the cod but with a side of the tenderest, freshest spinach sauteed with sliced garlic I have ever enjoyed. The risotto itself was soft to the bite with not even a hint of nuttiness and yet the rice grains held their shape. Added to that, I split a side of Thai fried rice which omitted the usual eggs and anchovy sauce in favour of 10 different spices, vegetables and even a suggestion of pineapple. It was simply divine.

Oh, and dessert. Well, far from having to 'settle for a sorbet' we opted for it: a fresh, home made apple cider sorbet, delectably sweet and creamy. It arrived with a slender candle and 'Happy Birthday' which once again embarrassed (but secretly, I think, delighted) My Beloved.

Happy Birthday, Darling!
Not a bad start to your 42nd year!

Until the next time, Stay Vegan, friends!

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