Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yes, I am a vegetarian. No, I'm not on a diet.

As I've noted on several occasions, a quality that most impresses me in a restaurant is a healthy selection of vegetarian choices. What I appreciate are thoughtful offerings that show that the chef and owners have taken the palates of what has become a large majority of the eating population into consideration. Too often, the vegetarian choices are limited to pastas, salads, or sides. First of all, one would think that a quality restaurant with an eclectic menu could think of something more creative to offer vegetarians than items such as pasta primavera, mushroom risotto, or butternut squash ravioli. At one point, these items were creative, but now they are cliche. Just like at one point goat cheese as an element of a dish was new and intriguing to our shores, now, when you see it on the menu in the portobello wrap at Bennigans, its just predictable. Second, just because I'm a vegetarian, it does not mean that I'm on a diet. I like to eat, dammit. Most days, I wake up and immediately start scheming about what delicacies I will feast on in the coming hours. Most of what I think and do revolves around food. Yes, I do love salad, but not as my only choice on a menu. Usually, when I make the choice to go out to dinner, especially at a time when the $20 bill is the new $1, I want to eat. And I don't mean a chicken Caesar or a cobb salad. And, if you are going to offer these old favorites, and I understand that they are favorites, give it a twist, mix it up, play with my expectations.

But I digress. As a vegetarian, living New York City, the "greatest city on Earth," I expect more from its restaurants. I expect to be able to go to a restaurant other than one specializing in vegan and raw foods to have my needs met. This is why vegetarianism and how it relates to my dining adventures will be a predominant theme of this blog. Don't get me wrong. I don't expect to eat more than a tomato salad if I go to Peter Luger's. I know my limits, but I would expect a bit more from restaurants whose claim to fame is not steak or seafood. Vegetables offer endless possibilities for culinary creativity. So, my challenge is for chefs and restauranteurs everywhere to open their cookbooks and their minds, pick up a fresh bunch of beets from the local farmer's market, and make something a little more innovative than borscht. Which I do like, by the way. But not for my entree.

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