July 7, 2013

Next . Vegan

About a month ago, Heath and I had the great pleasure of getting Next tickets. Next is a restaurant in Chicago that changes its menu completely every few months. And each change has a theme. The current theme is vegan. That means the entire menu is vegan for everyone...not just on special request. And Next is certainly not a vegan restaurant. So...when I heard they'd be having a vegan theme, I watched their facebook page very patiently to see when tickets would go on sale. (They have a ticket system, as opposed to a reservation system). After several very frustrating failed attempts, I finally got tickets for a day when were planning to be in Chicago for work. Our very good friends Susan and Todd joined us (Susan is vegan and co-writes Fried Tofu). 

I am going to try very hard to explain the ingredients in each dish, but they were so elaborate and unique, that my descriptions are just the highlights. 

The first bite was a frozen baked potato, with chives and I believe some kind of truffle.

Then, an avocado puree, browned with a blowtorch, with kale, passion fruit, yerba, and pineapple.

We used the vegetable crackers in this tree for dipping. Most of the time, the decorations become part of the meal.

Nori dumplings with a rambutan custard. We actually turned over those spikey things (the rambutan) and slurped a custard from them - sounds strange, but it tasted amazing!

Homemade sprouted tempeh with microgreens

Baby artichoke with mint pesto and lemon

Apple in three stages - 8 year cider vinegar, frozen apple with cashew cheese, powdered oil, rose candy, fried lichen, and fermented apples.

We drank the vinegar by itself and it was so good.

Lily bulbs with celery, crab apple, and meyer lemon

Rice yogurt and white asparagus

Salsifies with oyster and dandelion, strawberry, rhubarb, and black pepper - my husband tells me the oyster leaves taste just like oysters.

Swiss chard and douchi - really great flavors here, I can't even begin to guess everything involved.

Kombu atoll with tamarind, aloe, and peas - the tofu skin has a very strange texture, which was a bit difficult for me.

Each course can be accompanied by wine, cocktails, or non-alcholoic drinks. I went with the non-alcoholic selection and some of my drinks were: Strawberry, Rhubarb and peppercorn; Blueberry and burnt orange; Charred pineapple with yerba mate and passion fruit.

Mushrooms with huitlacoche, blueberry, and bell pepper. This was really tasty.

Red onion, inspired by Stupak, with mago, galangal, and kaffir lime - I'm slightly obsessed with kaffir limes. And I loved the presentation here. That wiry thing on top is quinoa wire.

Curry roasted cauliflower

We actually tapped the contents out of the straw onto our plates, and it became part of the dish.

Olive oil jam and bitter chocolate with truffle - this was heavy on the truffle, a unique combination.

Hibiscus and pistachio with malt, bitter chocolate, and black sesame - the textures were amazing, frozen ice cream paired with cake and crunchy bits. I absolutely loved this dish, really complex but everything went together so well.

Steamed crepes - these were adorable little cakes with different flavors.

Overall it was an incredible experience. I must say, everything was very rich. I usually prefer things a bit lighter, but given the circumstances and the audience, it was nice to see how fulfilling and complex vegan food can be. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it. Check their facebook page often for ticket openings.

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