Last week I was invited to an interesting event in Dennis restaurant by their marketing chef – Merit Kuusniemi. Name of the event was “Vege-evening”. Which meant – vegetarian and vegan tasting menu. Some of you might wonder what so interesting about that… but the thing is… I am a meat eater and a meat lover. To the bone.
Another question that might come to your mind: why the heck I’ve accepted the invitation? There are two reasons for that. First, is of course the fact that tasting was happening in one of my favorite restaurants in Finland – Dennis.
I’ve visited this restaurant for the first time in 2005. So, twelve years ago. I could say it was love at first sight. I liked everything, – warm and inviting atmosphere, lovely Italian style interior, great service, wonderful wine and of course incredibly delicious food. If I close my eyes right now I can easily imagine and even feel the taste of a crunchy coleslaw and the smell of garlic bread, which me and my husband are always taking before the main course. These sweet memories make my mouth water!
The other reason was… simple curiosity. I’m well aware that curiosity killed the cat. But… as they also say: “But satisfaction brought it back”. Besides I do enjoy vegetarian food (once in a while), I even make it myself time to time. And I was almost certain that vegan food won’t be that bad either. “It just can’t be!”, I kept repeating to myself as a prayer.
So, what was on the menu? Three different appetizers. Tomato salad with spinach and rucola:
And baked breaded eggplant:
Risotto for main:
Two choices of pasta… Fettucine Verdura (cherry tomatoes, spinach and olives in garlic olive oil- balsamic vinegar sauce, grilled broccolini and hazelnuts):
And spaghetti with härkis:
Härkis is a ready to use vegetable protein product made from so called broad bean (also known as faba/fava bean or bell bean). It’s a meat alternative for vegetarians and vegans. Unfortunately, it is possible to find it only in Finland. Although I’m sure that Verso Food Oy (company that produces it) will find the solution on how to export their products in the near future.
As for me, I’ve tried härkis for the first time in the end of last year. Out of curiosity. And let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea. I rarely eat beans because I don’t really like them that much and when I ate härkis I felt quite strong taste of beans. But it might be just me because some of my friends (also meat eaters) who also tried it, said that it just tastes weird, but they couldn’t describe in what way. It looks like meat and brain thinks it’s meat but when you eat it brain gets confused.
Soon after came my favorite part of the meal… pizzas! We were offered three different kind. Pizza Verdura (avocado, with smoked salt seasoned grilled eggplant, rocket leaves, bruschetta tomato, crispy onion and vegan cheese-like grated product).
Härkis pizza (härkis with ras el hanout-spice, red onion, harissa and Emmental cheese):
Pizza Vegano (ras el hanout marinated chickpeas, roasted Jerusalem artichoke, spinach, Harissa (hot), marinated red onion, hazelnuts and vegan cheese-like grated product):
And that’s how I ate vegetarian/vegan pizza for the second time in my life. I liked Verdura the most. But (in my humble opinion) real cheese instead of “vegan cheese-like” thingy would make this pizza taste even better. What can I say, I love cheese.
After tasting vege-dishes, I came to a conclusion that vegan food is not so bad. Of course, it didn’t change my “religion” and didn’t turn me into a vegetarian or vegan. I also cannot say that I enjoyed absolutely everything from the vege-menu. That would obviously be a lie. But I liked few dishes. And for me personally, eggplant antipasto was the star of the evening. I love eggplant and I know how to cook it well. I use it in many different ways and I can always tell if someone cooks it wrong. As you might have guessed, I have high expectations when it comes to an eggplant (or zucchini for that matter). It might be also the reason why I have had quite some disappointments over the years. And seeing baked breaded eggplants in Dennis made me hold my breath. I gave it a critical look and put two pieces on my plate. Let’s be honest, I had my doubts. But as it turned out they were groundless. That eggplant dish was more than just delicious, it was to die for! Oh, it was so good it almost made my eyes fill with tears from indescribable joy and happiness. And in that moment I felt exactly like a restaurant critic Anton Ego from Pixar computer-animated film “Ratatouille”.
I really hope that Dennis will include this antipasto in their regular menu. Then I will always know what to choose from the starters.
Hope you enjoyed it!