By Linah Colgrove, Foodable Contributor
To many, the words “vegan” and “brunch” do not belong in the same sentence. Brunch evokes images of comfort food: stacks of rich, buttery pancakes; cheesy, fluffy omelets; and of course, bacon. By definition, vegan is devoid of animal products – so say goodbye to butter, eggs, cheese, and, without a doubt, bacon. A vegan meal, however, doesn’t have to be lacking in flavor, and a recent vegan brunch at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., proved exactly that.
Eat Your Vegetables
Hosted by acclaimed local chef Todd Gray and his wife Ellen Kassoff (Equinox, Todd Gray’s Watershed, Muse Café), the “Eat Your Vegetables” vegan brunch offered a delectable assortment of vegan dishes in the Corcoran’s Muse Café – a Gallery staple that is always delicious, but not vegan.
The reason for the vegan twist? Joe Yonan, the two-time James Beard Award-winning Food and Travel Editor for The Washington Post, recently published a new cookbook, “Eat Your Vegetables,” a delightful collection of “bold recipes for the single cook.” The brunch was an opportunity to give Washingtonians a taste of some of the book’s recipes – some slightly adapted to qualify as vegan.
What resulted was a beautiful smorgasbord of dishes like curried broccoli and warm Israeli couscous salad, bean and poblano soup with cinnamon croutons, Thai-style kobocha squash with tofu curry, and kale and mango Niçoise salad. Each dish was packed with, well, vegetables, but also a ton of color and flavor.
The Thai tofu was creamy and spicy, as if from a Thai restaurant menu. The bean and poblano soup was made perfect by large chunks of cinnamon croutons, giving the broth a spicy fall flavor.
The sweet potato galette with mushroom & braised kale was a crowd favorite. This ooey gooey comfort food was referred to by some as “Thanksgiving in a dish.”
And there were desserts! Yummy vegan treats like chocolate chip macaroons, mini banana nut muffins, and summer berry tart in a jar rounded out the meal by satisfying everyone’s sweet tooth.
The Tale of Kale
With full bellies, it was time for a Q & A about vegan food, as well as a demonstration that can only be described as a “kale massage,” which was quite enlightening. Yonan acknowledged that kale, while one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, is also quite difficult to eat raw because of its tough, curly ends. Using only his hands, Yonan demonstrated how caressing bunches of kale for just a minute or two creates a more “relaxed” leaf; one could actually see the kale start to wilt and soften right away.
While a kale massaging demonstration may not seem like the most exciting way to enjoy brunch, Washingtonians can rest assured that there are many more ingredients when it comes to being vegan – and quite a few vegan restaurant options in the District as well.
As we head into the days of gourds and gorging, enjoying a vegan meal or two might be a nice way to give the body a needed break. And it just might make you appreciate that unmatched taste of (real) turkey, gravy, ham, and buttery mashed potatoes.
Vegan Hot Spots in the District
Elizabeth’s Gone Raw – 1341 L Street NW
Sticky Fingers – 1370 Park Road NW
SouperGirl – 314 Carroll St NW
Woodlands Vegan Bistro – 2928 Georgia Avenue NW
Senbeb Café – 6224 3rd St NW