Meatless Monday with Chef Lenka Zivkovic

Chef Lenka Zivkovic of The Plough and The Stars has been creating Meatless Monday meals now for about a year.  For some reason I just wasn’t able to get to any of these Monday meals.  The past few vegan events I have been to I have heard a number of people saying how great her vegan meals taste.  I also was lucky enough to meet her and run into her at a couple of events as well and she has such a warm and caring personality you can’t help but instantly feel comfortable around her.  So between hearing the talk of her food and a personal invitation by her to join the weekly event on 03/28/2016 how could I possible refuse?  This event was also benefiting The Humane League Philadelphia and their tireless efforts to improve the lives of all animals. So really it seemed like a no lose situation – a great meal for a great cause!

We got there a few minutes early and were greeted right away by the hostess who told us  they were almost ready to serve and we could enjoy a drink at the bar while we wait.  That is exactly what we did!  We enjoyed a couple of cold beers while the finishing touches were being put on the buffet which was set up for the event on the second floor of the restaurant.  This is the first time I have been in this place and it has all the required charm of an Irish pub, including a fantastic fireplace that not only warms the room but also sets a great atmosphere with the smell of the fire-perfect for a chilly early spring evening.

We made our way upstairs and found a couple of seats and then hit the buffet.

For starters there was a drink station that had two cold pressed juices – the first had celery, fennel, ginger, and lemon and the second was made from raspberries, carrots, and oranges.  And along side there was water infused with fruit and herbs.  The celery based juice was light and crisp while the raspberry drink had a stronger and bolder flavor.  The water provided a bright flavor that was thirst quenching.

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We made a ‘first pass’ through the buffet loading up on one of each offering until I didn’t have any room left on my plate.  I love how the food was all individually portioned and plated – like tapas.  I started with the Spring Mix Salad (At 3 o’clock on the plate above) which had fennel, oranges, pecans and a citric vinaigrette giving it a refreshing yet an in your face orange flavor that I loved. Moving clockwise is the Watermelon Poke: marinated watermelon cubes with seaweed in a sesame dressing provided a crisp yet strong punch of flavor. Next is the chocolate ganache with raspberry coulis. It was rich and creamy with deep chocolate flavor and sweet raspberry sauce. Sunrise Pinwheels: This was one of my favorite bites; she achieved a fantastic chorizo  and egg taste and I’d gladly have an entire wrap for breakfast any day. ‘Shrimp Pop’: Maybe I am just a sucker for a something deep fried on the end of a stick smothered in a classic tasting buffalo sauce but this was probably my favorite bite tonight. Perfectly fried crispy exterior and an interior with a excellent chew. Beer battered culinary nirvana in hot sauce!  Fresh Fruit Cup: Simple, clean tasting fresh fruit.

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On our second run we netted the above plate of food…starting at the top of the plate is the Fish Taco: Truth be told I never ate fish tacos as a non-vegan, so while I can’t compare this to the ‘real’ thing I can certainly say it was a very good taco! Delivered on everything you would expect – crispy ‘fish’, slaw with a hit of acid and a chipotle aioli delivering a nice heat and smokiness.  Crostini: this was another big flavor in a small bite offering.  Smoky wild mushroom and sprouted buckwheat served with a horseradish cream sauce provided a powerful umami punch of flavor!  Vol au Vent: Light and fluffy puff pastry filled with a ‘beef’ confit of braised seitan, mushroom and tomato topped with a rich and silky Cabernet veg au jus – this provided a really good satisfying savory bite, executed very well!

We ended with one of my wife’s favorite sweets – IMG_4083creme brûlée! This was a raw vanilla cashew based creme that was perfectly brûléed on top.  The crispy sugar with hints of bitter from the brûlée paired perfectly with the creamy vanilla rich creme that had hints of nuts thanks to the cashews.  This was a great way to top off a fantastic plant based meal that was thoughtfully assembled and perfectly executed by Chef Lenka and her team. IMG_4084It was such an enjoyable night of food, drinks and music, which was provided by Lenka’s son who D.J.’d the event.  It was also a great way to meet other like minded people:  we enjoyed our meal with a group from the Hamilton Vegan Meetup Group who were great dinner companions. We hope to hang out at another event with them sometime soon. Thanks again Chef Lenka for helping reshape the culinary landscape here in Philly.  An Irish pub may be the last place one would look for a vegan meal, but through her hard work and guidance there is one more place in Philly that not only is accommodating a vegan lifestyle but showcasing that one can be full of rich, delicious and satisfying foods.   I not only encourage my fellow vegans to go enjoy her food, but bring along a skeptical non vegan friend.  With food like this you are sure to help change some hearts and minds about eating more compassionately.

 

 

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