For those of you that know me, you will be familiar with the fact that I love beer. You will also know that I am a huge meat lover and like nothing better than a juicy, whopping steak served rare as it can be. So when Michelle, Sales Manager at View the Vibe, asked me to join her on a Beer tasting dinner, you can imagine my delight. On finding out that the Golden Juice of the Gods was to be paired with a vegan meal… well, let’s just say I was dubious. I have nothing against the vegan way of life, I think it’s rather admirable but I know me and my taste buds and they’re not easily fooled when it comes to any kind of meat substitute! So, off we went with empty stomachs and open minds, eager to see what was in store…
On arrival, we were greeted by the wonderful team at ‘Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company'(@BeausAllNatural). Based in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, the Beau’s Brewery was co-founded by Tim Beauchesne and his son Steve and is run by the entire family and their life-long friends. I’m a sucker for that small town charm and this clan has gallons of it! I had never tried any Beau’s products before and I was immediately won over by our arrival tipple, Lug-Tread Lagered Ale. Crisp like a lager but with modest characteristics of an ale, this is the perfect chick beer.
Once sat, we were introduced to vegan Chef, Doug McNish. The first dish on his list? Crispy Fries Smothered in Black bean Chili, Rich Cheese Sauce, Cashew Sour Cream, Tempeh Bacon bits and Green onion. Now, as a meat eater, the whole chili thing got me nervous… no meat?? Really?! Well, in my face because it was incredibly flavourful, rich and filling. The Cashew Sour Cream gave the dish a whole new edge and proved that vegan food can be equally as naughty! Paired with Beau’s ‘Dr. Jekyll’ blend, this was a perfect ‘Sunday Football’ kinda meal.
Round Two: Red Beet Ravioli with a creamy Red Pepper Dill Cashew Ricotta Cheese topped with Red Pepper Marinara sauce. As the title suggests, the primary flavour in this dish was red pepper which worked for me as I happen to love the flavour of sweet, red peppers. I had to keep reminding myself that this dish was vegan… no real cheese, no butter but yet all the flavour was still there. Paired with Beau’s ‘Mr. Hyde’ blend, this was my favourite dish of the night.
Course Three: Grilled Chermoula Rubbed Tofu, Braised Collard Greens, Sweet Potato Quinoa Croquette, Spiced Almond Butter Buerre Blanc. I can’t even pronounce half of the ingredients used in this course so I just dug in and hoped for the best! This was another hearty dish with a distinctive Moroccan flavour which paired well Beau’s ‘Bog Water’… don’t let the name fool you, it was delish!
And finally, we finished off with Warm Apple Crumble, Sticky Toffee Caramel Sauce, Coconut Banana Puree and Maca. As pleasant as this was, it was the only dish that I felt was missing something for me. The ingredients were fresh and tasty but it did taste like a healthy version of the real thing… and when I’m bad, I like to do it right!
All in all, this was an eye-opening experience for me. I left with satisfied taste buds and a very full tummy so kudos to Chef McNish and his team. Am I converted?? Goodness, no. But perhaps I’ll peruse the vegan options in future, if only to try an alternative side to go with my Filet Mignon… 😉
Chef Doug McNish can be found at www.DougMcNish.com