Getting Assertive About Your Veg 1

Gary Steel is really demanding.

Blackberry Food1FOR MOST OF my thirty-something years of vegetarianism, I’ve been a bit of a wallflower, making as few demands as possible, and often putting up with substandard fodder as a result.
Lately, I’ve made a new rule for myself: when eating out, if I can’t get what I deserve, then they can go to hell (in a hat, or otherwise).
In one of my other capacities as a technology journalist, I often get invited to lunch-launches of different gadgets, which usually take place at the kind of posh restaurants I can only dream about eating at in real life.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had a rather delicious late lunch at the French Kitchen, inside the French Café (courtesy of Electrolux), and The Grove for the new Blackberry launch.
When I’m invited to such a launch, I always make prior arrangements so that there’s no excuse for not catering to my veg requirements. At the Grove, all I can say is that both the food and service was superb.
They say that the mark of a really great chef is their ability to whip up a treat at a whim, which really means they’re able to use their considerable expertise to improvise. I don’t know how much planning The Grove put into my vegetarian meal, but it was exquisite, and by that I mean it was the kind of taste sensation you would expect from a $30 entrée and a $45 main.
At a fine dining restaurant, of course, what you’re paying for is partly the kind of lip-licking taste sensations, the symphonies of taste, colour and texture that you would never attempt at home; that, and the kind of attentive service that never leaves you thinking ‘if only I could catch their attention’. The Grove exceeded on both counts, as did the French Kitchen.
Of course, as a card-carrying vegetarian (literally, I carry my Doctor Feelgood cards everywhere I go) I have to bite my lip and blank my mind of all negative thoughts when I enter a fine dining restaurant like either of the above. Why?
Blackberry Food2Well, if you inspect their menus, you’ll find all manner of outrage. There’s clearly no real demand for vegetarian food at such establishments, because it’s just about all animal flesh, and appeals to the most craven and indulgent of carnivore mores. But the most offensive aspect of both The French Café and The Grove is that they both offer foie gras. In fact, the lavish French Café cook book that I was given as a memento of my visit contains a recipe using foie gras. And this in an age where the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese and then eating the resulting enlarged liver is universally disparaged. PETA calls it the delicacy of despair, which could relate to any animal products, but perfectly sums up this barbaric practice.
Still, The Grove does offer a vegetarian tasting plate (for a cool $130) on request, and my guess is that the more people that turn up demanding vegetarian or vegan food, the more likely it is that chefs and restaurants will adapt to demand. GARY STEEL

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