Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Yes, it's an unimaginative title for the year's first post, but I guess that I - not unlike a few others around the blogosphere - am feeling perhaps slightly below par. Under the weather. A little fried.

No, send no sympathy my way. I know it's mostly my own fault for ringing in the new year with - arguably - one glass of champagne too many. But actually, to be fair, my pounding head does owe something to the fact that My Beloved and I just returned from taking the boys for a run in the forest and they screamed all the way there and most of the way back. The walk itself was tremendous - the sky today is a piercingly bright blue, the white of the snow blinding. And the simple contrast of the evergreens was exquisitely refreshing and invigorating.

But the barking....and the high pitched screaming from Humphrey...was just horrendous.

And so, while My Beloved labors to bring up a stack of firewood and build a fire to doze in front of, I thought I'd quickly share some pix of last night's revelries with you. We were fortunate enough to get a reservation at a local restaurant here in Westfield, the School Street Bistro. They were offering a 6-course meal beginning at 9pm which was just perfect. My Beloved, while making the reservation, had 'used the v-word' and, although the evening's fixed menu was a veritable Noah's Ark of animals, they assured him that I would not go hungry. So, in we went!

The appetizer was a choice of cold cucumber soup (which given that there's 2 feet of snow outside did not seem overly appealing last night!) or a fresh salad of arugula, grilled lemons and toasted cashews. We both chose the latter and it was delicious! I have never toasted cashews before but if you like pinenuts, you will love the cashews done in this way. They're slightly salty and utterly more-ish! So much so that this is all the evidence I have of it:

Eek, sorry, that's kinda gross, I admit!

Next came a special dish for me in place of the non-vegan options. It consisted of portabello mushrooms in a balsamic reduction with roasted red peppers and grilled fennel. It was just delightful. Again, grilling fennel is new to me and I really enjoyed it this way. It has a much more mellow flavour and it's one that I will be trying to reproduce from here on in. I think it would be a super topping for a pizza....but that's a thought for a whole other post!

Anyways, since their presentation was very nice, I managed to contain my enthusiasm long enough to get a pic this time:

Then, the intercourse, or whatever the real, fancy name is: eggplant rollatini. Thin slices of grilled eggplant were generously stuffed with a mix of fresh and sun-dried tomato, red peppers and mushrooms, rolled up and scattered with pinenuts. A sprig of fresh dill finished off the mis en place nicely. The eggplant rolls almost looked like stuffed crepes at first and - although I adore crepes - I was glad to see the whole vegetables instead.

After a palate-cleansing dish of home-made lemon sorbet (which was delightfully more like a granita than a sorbet - refreshingly icy and not at all sugary) we moved onto the entree which, for me, was off-menu again. A massive plate of succulently marinated and fire roasted squash, eggplant, onions and peppers lay atop a ring of light and fluffy rice. As you see, a little sweetness was offered by the balsamic reduction playing across the plate:

Towards the end, I could manage no more and was actually relieved when our waitperson returned from surveying the dessert options to pronouce - uncomfortably - that there were no vegan choices. I was extremely happy to accept a coffee in lieu! My Beloved did partake of a chocolate-hazlenut moussecake and pronounced it admirable:

At the stroke of midnight (about 15 minutes before we finally finished eating!) we had a champagne toast to our absent friends. Our families are spread as far afield as the UK and New Zealand, whilst our friends are as close as Westfield and as far away as California. But we thought about you all and quietly wished you everything you wish for yourselves in 2009 and beyond.

Happy New Year, Friends....and...stay vegan!