‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving…
I’ve always been a fan of Alchemy in the sleepy, but trendy South Park neighborhood of San Diego. I love their approach to cultural faire, small shareable dishes, & their “Dirty Pickle” martini is my favorite cocktail in town (extra dirty, extra pickle!). So when their PR team contacted me & invited me & a guest to attend their “Thanksgiving Before Thanksgiving Vegan Tasting Menu,”how could I resist? Oh but, Thanksgiving eve! Shouldn’t I be to be prepping for my own Thanksgiving feast? Perhaps, yes, but it sure is fun to be catered to once & a while! So I called up my pal, Nichole & we headed out for a pre-no-turkey-day treat. And what a treat it was!
To start, we were served a cup of “Tomato-Fennel Bisque with Almond Milk, Fennel Fronds, & Roasted Garlic Oil.” Wow…this was so flavorful! Tomato & fennel is such delicious combination, with the subtle anise flavor of fennel bringing a bit of sophistication to the classic tomato soup. The garlic oil drizzle, made the soup rich & savory. Oh, if only there were some crusty bread to dip in. But, then again, I’m so happy the bread basket doesn’t exist in this restaurant. No thank you, carb-overload! I’ll have enough of that come Thanksgiving.
Our second course was an “Artichoke Salad with Pickled Purple Artichokes, Watermelon Radish, Jonagold Apples, Oro Blanco Espuma, & Pedro Ximenez Reduction.” The presentation was beautiful, & the dish itself had so much potential. But… I love pickled anything, so when I read the words “pickled” I was excited, but upon tasting the dish, it didn’t seem as though the artichokes were “pickled” at all. So I was slightly underwhelmed.I absolutely love watermelon radish, & the apples were crisp & tart yet we agreed that the components of the dish didn’t seem “cohesive.” If I were to make this myself, I would serve it on a bed of peppery arugula, with a bit of crumbled cashew “goat cheese.”
The third course was a gem. “Manicotti with House Made Vegan Ricotta, Broccoli Rabe, Crudite, Cilantro Pesto, & Pepitas.” Me oh my. That ricotta! I would like the recipe please. It was so creamy, with a slight sweetness to it. At first thought it was tofu based, but now I am thinking perhaps it was cashew based? I’d sure love to know, it was delightful & I can imagine it in all sorts of culinary creations. Along with that delightful ricotta, the filling consisted of broccoli rabe, which added a bitter bite, & zucchini cappelini, which imparted a sweetness & unique texture. The manicotti was topped with a zesty, herbaceous cilantro pesto & baby garden carrots. So cute. I enjoyed the wine pairing with this dish which was a glass of Nicole Chanrion – Cote de Brouilly.Oh, how I do love a French wine. It was dry & spicy, with a dark plum & blackberry finish. An interesting choice to pair with a pesto dish, as I usually prefer a crisp white wine, but I enjoyed it. I like wine, so I am easy to please.
The final course was the always anticipated dessert course. “Guava Shaved Ice with Brûléed Forelle Pears & Crystalized Hibiscus.” The shaved ice was light & refreshing, with a hint of rosemary that I really enjoyed. I’d expected the pears to be a bit more “brûléed.”
We were also treated to the cocktail pairing which was a “Hibiscus Port Wine Cooler” that was sweet & lovely. It was a beautiful pairing, but left me wanting more. It would’ve acted a a perfect palette cleanser before a warm, rich dessert. It was a Thanksgiving dinner after all — bring out the pumpkin cheesecake, or some coconut cinnamon ice cream with baked apples! Perhaps they thought we’d prefer to save our calories for the big day? I find this happens a lot when I go to vegan dinners & non-vegan restaurants & it’s frustrating, especially when I know how incredible vegan desserts can be. I wish these chefs would be a bit more adventurous in the dessert department. I was just listening to the latest Compassionate Cook podcast & CPG mentioned the same thing. In her case, she sent a copy of her book Joy of Vegan Baking to help inspire the chef. Bold! If only I had a cookbook to send!
All in all, it was a very enjoyable meal, & I appreciate their enthusiasm & effort. Not many restaurants in San Diego cater to vegans, let alone prepare an entire menu for them one night a month. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to have an elegant vegan meal. The restaurant is nestled on a quite corner in one of the cities best neighborhoods, so enjoy a vegan meal, some delicious wine & a stroll around the streets lined with darling little craftsman bungalows. Sounds like a perfect date night to me.
A very kind thank you to Alchemy for hosting me & my friend. We are so grateful for your invitation & hospitality. I will certainly be back for another tasting.