Whole Foods Park Lane goes gourmet for vegan wine dinner debut
It's a good time to be vegan in Dallas. The latest windfall is the advent of the vegan wine dinner, which premiered May 24 at the Whole Foods at Park Lane. The event drew a sellout crowd of about 60 diners, who supped on a four-course dinner paired with wines selected by staffer Emily Gould.
The Park Lane store has a soft spot for vegans, thanks to the efforts of chefs John Mercer and Michelle Vandenhende, who've become accomplished at the art of elevating vegan food to gourmet standards. The chefs introduced each course, sharing their techniques. Mercer said they'd also made the entire meal gluten-free, just to show that it could be done.
For the first course, Mercer layered thick slices of tomato and avocado purée atop a smoked portobello mushroom cap. Diners clucked over the idea of smoking a mushroom, although one woman at my table said she'd become such a smoking aficionado that she even smoked garbanzo beans.
The "secondi" was a clever "pasta" made of raw zucchini cut into spaghetti-like strands with a spiral machine, then tossed with tomato and basil. It was especially good paired with a Vinum Cellars Chardonnay.
The main course was a stick-to-your-ribs risotto tossed in a "cream" sauce made from puréed cashews, a popular and effective device in vegan cooking because the puréed cashews add such a creamy mouthfeel. What made the risotto so good was the inclusion of freshly shucked peas and fresh asparagus, cut on the diagonal into bite-size pieces.
Dessert was an incredibly rich construction with a peanut butter base topped by a crunchy chocolate shell, sprinkled with fresh raspberries, shredded coconut and toasted pecans.
The dinner took place in the supermarket's second-floor events room, which staffers primped up by covering the fluorescent lights with red fabric. Nice effort! Boo to the water served in environmental unfriendly plastic bottles. Next time, I would volunteer to be the water gal, happy to tote around a pitcher and top off everyone's glass. But points for their use of real glasses, not plastic.
Dallas vegans now have their own website, their own monthly drink series, their vegan-only and gourmet restaurants, and their own annual fall festival. Now they have their own wine dinners too — which Whole Foods intends to do more of.