Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happiest Hour

Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group
The dining room at The Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan was packed on Saturday evening. The vegan dinner, a first here, was a sellout, a fact that both amazed and delighted Anna Marie Harouvis, lead chef and creator of the Greek-inspired meal. Grinning and glowing, the exuberant evangelist of fruit and vegetable-centric eating told the crowd it was the happiest night of her life. She couldn't get over how many people turned out for what was a most unusual and esoteric menu. I'm sure she felt even better as they were leaving, when satisfied guests stood in line to offer compliments and congratulations.

Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group
Harouvis, who produces Anna in the Raw fresh juices, had challenged herself to make dishes rooted in her family heritage without using meat, dairy products or eggs. It was also gluten-free, and some elements were raw. Not an easy task. But she pulled it off, serving her own versions of spanakopita, moussaka, rice pudding and a reinvented baklava with squash blossoms standing in for phyllo dough. We also feasted on olive "bread," and zucchini "muffins," pickled vegetables, hummus, cashew "cheese," grape leaves filled with minced cauliflower, mushroom cakes with spicy aioli and micro-greens, and raw ginger "ice cream" with strawberries and rhubarb.
It takes a lot of help to produce and serve beautifully plated food for 130 people. Harouvis had a stellar volunteer lineup to assist in the kitchen — a testament to how loved and respected she is in the local culinary community. Those volunteers included the new chef at CVI, Jamie Simpson, and his chef de cuisine Ulfet Ralph; Jill Vedaa, executive chef at Rockefellers, who brought along her new employee, Aubrey Johansen; Jennifer Plank, co-executive chef at Toast; John Selick, executive chef of Sodexo USA and his wife, Allysun Doty; Terry Bell, team chef for the Cavs; and Lanny Chin, formerly at Lago and soon on his way to Alaska. My compliments and apologies to all those hard working folks who I don't know and didn't name.

Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group
The event was part of the Earth to Table series at CVI, a beautiful place to be on a summer night, with other chefs and other menus to come in June, July and August. CVI also used to be the site of an annual food and wine extravaganza to raise money for their educational efforts. But this year the Veggie U fundraiser will be held at Tri-C Hospitality Management Center and Pura Vida downtown on Public Square on July 19. No doubt it will be another not to be missed pleasure.


obat pelangsing alami said...

happy ending :)

Veggie U said...

Thank you so much for including a mention of the Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration on July 19th. It is shaping up to be a fabulous event! Anna certainly does veggies proud! #TeamVeggies #VeggiesRock

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