It’s an oversimplification, but you could say that there are two approaches to food. One is home cooking. Most of us don’t have exotic ingredients or hours to spend in the kitchen, so we stick to things that are relatively straightforward. Then there is restaurant fare. Restaurant chefs need to give you more bang for the buck, so they source hard to find ingredients, or showcase some tricky techniques, or use their kitchen full of prep cooks to build multiple components and sauces for dishes.
And some restaurants pull out all the stops, and really put something interesting on the plate. Such is the case with Milllennium, where chef Eric Tucker applies creativity and technique to a menu of pure plant foods. The result is a beautiful presentation of amazing food, on a par with any high end restaurant.
You would think that vegans had something to prove.
This year’s conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals was held in San Francisco, and I was hungry to attend. I’ve been to SF once before, and made a pilgrimage that time to Millennium. This time, I would tempt some less-vegan colleagues to come and sample really good plant-based food.
We were not disappointed.
In fact, my friend Dan from Napa, a dedicated omnivore, had a few doubts about coming, at first. It’s really good, we assured him, really, really good. You have to understand, members of this organization are really into food. When you tell them it’s really good, it had better be.
He asked whether he would have to stop for a burger on the way home. We did have something to prove.
As soon as Dan got a look at the menu and wine list, he looked relieved. Millennium has a selection of Organic and Sustainable wines that are paired with all the dishes on the menu, and as a Napa insider and wine aficionado, Dan was impressed with their choices. He recommended the Eight Arms The Octopod Syrah from Santa Cruz, and the Folkway Revelator, and over the course of a the meal, I enjoyed them both thoroughly. The syrah was a good pair with the spices of my entree, and the Revelator was a big, exciting wine full of dark fruits and balancing acidity.
I had a flatbread appetizer, but the main event was my entree, the Brik Pastry Purse. Here is the description:
Brik Pastry Purse
cashew saag with sun dried tomato, chard, potato & winter squash,
cardamom & fenugreek scented moong dal, seared brassicas with Achar-orange glaze,
caramelized red onion & tamarind chutney
The plate was a collection of flavor packed components, so that each bite might be spicy and savory, tangy and fruity, or sweet and sour, or a combination. The dal was deep and spicy, and chunks of cauliflower and brussels sprouts gave it some crunch, and the chutney and orange elements brightened the plate. Inside the shatteringly crisp pastry, a creamy cashew base gave some weight to the roasted vegetables and tangy tomatoes. The sensory effect was surprising enough to keep me engaged and focused on the dish, even with a table full of interesting conversation.
At that point, I really didn’t need dessert, so I shared a bite of one of my companion’s divine treats. The vegan dessert is often unfairly maligned, and at Millenium, they put the lie to the myth that you need butter and cream for a good dessert. Creamy, rich, and chocolatey, this intense dessert would thrill even the most skeptical omnivore.
Chocolate Almond Midnight
almond cashew crust, mocha chocolate filling,
raspberry sauce, white chocolate mousse
Oh, and Dan? He enjoyed the meal throughly, from the Cornmeal Crusted Trumpet Mushrooms to the Nettle Tamale filled with Pumpkinseeds and Sweet Potatoes, and of course, the wine.
There was no stop for a burger, he assured me when I saw him the next day.
So, if you are even in San Francisco, make a reservation at Millennium. It’s worth the trip.