Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chick'n Pitas & Faux-McRibs: Vegetarian Tasting at Harvard

Another sign, in my opinion, of our culture's ever-changing values, has been the sudden upswing of veganism. Conscious eating has found acceptance in everyone from Bill Clinton to even Orpah (taking the challenge once again, her and her staff of 378).

The first multiple episode vegan cooking show (Vegucating Robin) is now on TV, NYC is having their city's first Vegetarian Food Festival in April, and even the James' Bread Foundation has hosted and recognize vegan cuisine as of late (Chef Angel Ramos from Candle 79, NYC).

So it's little surprise that acceptance of vegetarianism, and less-meatarianism, has gained prominence through the college scene as well. Last semester in London I helped start the first vegetarian society at UCL and now, according to Jonathan Safron Foer, almost 18% of all college students identify as vegetarian.

So when I was invited by the Harvard Vegetarian Society to a vegan/vegetarian food tasting by the Harvard University Dining Service, an event to sample and get feedback on new vegetarian and vegan dishes, I knew this was a step forward. Showing all students, even omnivores, that vegan and/or vegetarian food can be delicious and filling is always a step forward. So sixteen students including myself got to sample a bunch of potential new dining hall meals and provide our feedback.

Check out some of the items tested below & their reception:

Vegetarian Ribwich (above)
This was apparently a hit for the students. Since this was a vegetarian option though, not vegan, I didn't have a try. Being the healthy bunch many of us are, we suggested making the sandwich buns whole wheat--a suggestion which Chef Martin & Chef Breslin agreed to.

Vegan Chick'n Pita Sandwich
My second favorite dish, this combined HUHDS's infamous Chick'n patties deliciously smeared with a fresh tahini sauce and filled with extra veggies. Some students thought the sauce was a bit bitter, but ultimately it was a bit hit!

Seitan Pepper Steak
Mimicked after a Philly cheese steak sandwich, this seitan sandwich had a delicious serving of sauteed onions and peppers but seemed to be missing a bit of something, perhaps a bit dry. Some students suggested extra sauce or offering a side of BBQ sauce. Chef Martin thought having too many ingredients separated from the dish may be a bit difficult to achieve, but one thing we all agreed upon was changing out the bun of a whole wheat version.

The best part of this sandwich? The HUHDS house made seitan! Store-bought seitan is often packed with additives and preservatives, but this seitan was made fresh and the difference was apparent. The texture was completely different, so much more tender, and it absorb its sauce amazingly.

Ethiopian Vegetable Stew
The best dish served up, and Chef Martin's favorite as well, this stew was a warming mix of winter for the soul. All of the flavors were bold but blended perfectly with the seasonal sweet potato and a hint of cinnamon to boot.

Korean Pickled Cucumber Salad
One of my favorite dishes, this salad was simple but balanced the acidity well (perfectly in my opinion). Some students thought it aired on the bitter side a bit too much, though as the Chefs pointed out, for a pickled salad that is often the case. The chefs thought a little less dressing could help this, particularly because the salad had quite a bit of extra liquid to it.

Sweet & Sour Veggies with Seitan and Cashews
Another dish with HUHDS's homemade Seitan and this was definitely the best. he seitan soaked up the exquisitely balanced sauce superbly. The cashews were a great crunchy addition, always a favorite of mine.

Mushroom Ragout with Whole Wheat Penne
Though I'm not usually a mushroom lover (I know, Vitamin D, I really should be), this pasta was great. With protein packed penne and tender, savory mushrooms though, this dish was a hit. Nothing fake here which is always nice. My only complaint, and many students agreed, was that the mushrooms are a bit on the salty side.

No comments:

Post a Comment