Summer’s End Vegan Dinner

My birthday cocktail was one Luck or Fortune martini – mandarin and vanilla vodkas, fresh orange, coconut. Delicious.

The restaurant with spectacular views is Departure, located on the top floor of The Nines Hotel, in the historic Meier & Frank building downtown. Sleek and modern with panoramic views of the city, this place feels very cool.

The event, which happened to fall on my birthday, was the Summer’s End Vegan Dinner. Portland’s fabulous veg friendly rock stars – Chefs Wes Hannah of Blossoming Lotus and Lisa Clark of Petunia’s Pastries – joined the supremely talented Gregory Gourdet to celebrate not only the close of summer but the incoming flavors of fall.

Flavors, indeed. and dining in a room of vegans was familiar and awesome.

As people were arriving and being seated, the amuse bouche was shared:

poppadoms with peanut dipping sauce.

delicious. crispy poppadoms with a lively spicy peanut sauce. great start.

first course:

vegan charcuterie board – vegetable terrines, nut cheeses, savory pates, live seed crackers and early autumn pickled vegetables

a bright and beautiful carrot terrine – great flavors. a broccoli block of awesomeness is without photo, my favorite part by far. a tofu and tempeh pate was incredibly rich in the most wonderful way, as was the nut cheese. the perfect crunch of the cracker served as a efficient and tasty vehicle for all elements of this course.

second course:

roasted Kabocha squash soup – sunflower seed cream, sunchokes, Asian pear, crispy ginger, spice oil

a hush fell over the restaurant, I swear it did. all you could hear was the jingle of spoons in bowls as this sweet spicy loveliness was enjoyed all around. just beautiful.

third course, in three parts:

tempura figs, roasted grapes, candied walnuts, spicy greens and ginger vinaigrette

well. this left me speechless, and thinking about it again now has rendered me without words again. sweet figs in tempura, as it turns out, make a perfect warm topper to a spicy cool salad. perhaps my favorite portion of the night. I wanted a bowl three times the size.

sweet corn custard, grilled Romano beans, local sea greens, pickled shallot-sesame dressing

for reasons unknown, I have never been a corn custard fan – and I even liked this! beautiful flavors and beautifully executed.

maple-soy glaze grilled tempeh, smoked heirloom tomato – peach marmalade, tomato crisps

tempura figs have some competition for my favorite with this – the smoky jam and the crisp tomato were layered with the tempeh to make a sandwich of flavor delight.

fourth course:

roasted early autumn mushrooms, wild ginger, spruce, sake – white soy glaze, crispy hempseed cake, pumpkin seed condiment

there were a few different mushrooms represented here, and one in particular that I loved. I will be hunting for that. the hempseed cake? bring me another bowl of that gorgeous soup and let a couple of these crispy squares float around in there… the creamy flavor with crispy coating was fantastic.

dessert course, in three parts:

coconut crusted pistachio tart

a crunchy cookie-like base, oaty in flavor, with a decadent rich topping. I was delightfully full at this point, and still enjoyed this confection perfection.

plum soda

tart and bubbly, this added softness and a mild break between two rich and bold desserts.

candied plums, crystallized ginger, coconut cardamom ice cream

you know I’ve been loving my cardamom lately. this was velvety perfection.

While Chef Gourdet is not vegan, he is dairy free. As a result, the Departure menu is 98% dairy free. I am also hoping the rumors of vegan additions to the menu are true! This stunning restaurant with the fantastically talented chef could easily become a favorite.

My favorites this night included the crispy hempseed cake, the maple soy tempeh, the tempura figs and the amazing salads served with it… oh, I loved everything! Those three are just the first I will try to replicate in my own kitchen.

Our next outing, though, will be Blossoming Lotus. Jason loved this event and wants to go there soon!

The desserts – and the extra take home surprise dessert – Petunias Pastries far surpassed my expectations, as always.

Yes, it’s the end of summer and the end of my birthday month. This was a celebration of that, and a welcoming of autumn’s flavors, textures, celebrations to come! This was a grand event, and that it fell on my birthday, well that was just sweet.

Departure on Urbanspoon



    • spabettie says

      Heather you would have loved this, for sure. the wheels are turnin’ here, if I can recreate any of my favorites I will share! :)

  1. says

    How awesome that event fell on your birthday! What a amazing birthday dinner!

    Ok that soup looked amazing, I can see why all you could hear were spoons clinking, yum!

    Everything looks so great! Fine dining Vegan style!

    And that first drink, wow that looks good!

    Happy Thursday love! xoxo

  2. says

    wow! I love that there were so many courses, and so many flavors! Everything looks delicious, and I’m so glad you had this great experience on your birthday!

    • spabettie says

      thank you so much! ha – never too early to count down! 😉 I heard on the morning news that stores … already … have holiday decor! WHAT? 😀

  3. Laura says

    Sounds fantastic!! Very envious!! I’m so glad that it was so wonderful!!! More people would embrace a vegan tolerance if they could eat that!!!! My mouth was watering just looking at the pictures!!!

    • spabettie says

      exactly – I started to write something like that in this post – Jason is not completely vegan (he is at home) and he LOVED this, and now wants to make plans to go to Blossoming Lotus. everything was so flavorful and rich, it may not be questioned and could pass for “regular” food. :)

    • spabettie says

      yes! there were several servers and they would all come out at once, serving each table one by one (I love those kind of dinners). it was really fun, and yes, we were full and happy! 😀

    • spabettie says

      oh, they were. I want to recreate them… right now. 😀 it was pretty cool that it was on my birthday – celebrations all around!

    • spabettie says

      thank you, friend! I’m sorry you missed it too – you would have enjoyed. I am now working on hinting to Gregory that more of these events need to happen… 😀

  4. says

    Great restaurant review! I’m a little jealous; we need more restaurants like that where I live. And when I say we I really just mean I because the vegetarian/dairy-free community’s not that big. But what I love is that this looks like food that anyone could enjoy.

    • spabettie says

      Evan, I was thinking the same thing – it most definitely IS food anyone could enjoy. I feel very lucky to be in a city where there are so many veg friendly people and food establishments – it’s really pretty mainstream here.

    • spabettie says

      we have been to a few of them – they are really fun! the courses are generally smaller and in this case, there was a nice amount of time between to relax and enjoy!

    • spabettie says

      thank you, Stephanie! 😀 I did have a great birthday, pretty much all month… then this was a great end!

    • spabettie says

      thank you!! we had a great time – I am now hinting to Gregory that these need to become a regular occurrence … 😉

  5. Sam & Barb says

    I wish I had known about this one! if they do more can you let us know somehow? excellent review and the pictures look good!

    • spabettie says

      thank you, Angela!! 😀 and can I just say that I LOVE that you are “getting caught up” on your reader, instead of just hitting ‘clear all’… I love to do that too – even if it means late comments 😉

  6. Lori Larson says

    I am going to try Departure, looks great! I love that you were able to do this, and that it was on your birthday (happy belated…)

    this is a great review, you have a way with words!!


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