Finally! I have been wanting to try S+M Vegan for months now (since I first heard of them), and I finally got lucky enough to try it. I can’t recall how I first heard of them early this year, but I think I joined a meetup group in hopes of either attending or hosting one of their elusive pop-up dinners. After realizing that their meetup group was relatively inactive, I saw them listed as a vendor at the east bay vegan beer fest. So, even though I was packing to move that weekend, I drove to the east bay just to partake in this infamous reuben. Sadly, the event was so crowded and the lines were so long, that I had to depart before being given the opportunity to try some of their delectable fare.
Soon after, Republic of V tagged S+Mvegan on instagram to show off their sandwiches they started carrying. So I started following them in hopes of maybe having better luck with my stalking (ahem), I mean finding out about their events before they’re over. And it worked!*
Just days before David’s birthday, they posted that they had 3 tickets left to the blind tiger dinner which was taking place a couple of days from then. Since the location was a secret when I purchased the tickets, I’m guessing that’s the “blind” part of the blind tiger dinner. This couldn’t have been more perfect since I had not yet thought of a birthday present for David.
On the day of the event, the location was announced, and I left early to make sure there wasn’t some auto-induced death or sportsball game causing a traffic delay—nothing would keep me from finally tasting this mysterious cuisine! Since traffic seemed to be in my favor, I had time to stop at Republic of V to pick up Miyoko’s new cheese, which is delicious, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to partake.
The location of the event was in a warehouse/art studio/office building of sorts with a skylight and ideal lighting, so lucky for you, these pictures look 3465936 times better than any I have ever taken at Millennium.
While waiting for the remaining 18 diners to arrive, we talked with Dan, who owns Bison Brewery. We learned all about his brewing techniques, how few certified organic breweries there actually are in the United States, and how his partnership in the blind tiger dinners is such an integral part of the event. I’m not much of a beer drinker, so I didn’t actually benefit from this, but there were beer pairings with 5 of the 6 courses at dinner, including a Red Reuben beer with the reuben course and a chocolate stout with dessert. We also learned that much of the food we ate during the dinner was cooked using the bison beer. So, apparently I do like beer afterall…it just has to be prepared by Shane and Marie in the form of exquisite noms.
Course 1: Tacos
There were 3 kinds of tacos: Red chili pepper stuffed with cashew cheese, trumpet mushroom, and eggplant.
Course 2: Salad with tapenade shards!
In case you missed that, I said tapenade shards! This is complete and utter brilliance! They looked so cute sticking out of the salad, like thin purple crackers, but more importantly, if you think you like olive tapenade, you will LOVE these! The salad also had green zebra tomatoes, early girl tomatoes, and massive croutons (that I couldn’t eat in one bite) from Morrell’s Bread. I get the feeling that S+Mvegan gets all their ingredients from local sources.
Course 3: Smoked popcorn
This was smoked popcorn, on top of a teeny tiny potato (the size of a grape) stuffed with potato and shiro miso on top of a shiso leaf. I was glad this course was tiny because even without drinking beer, I was already starting to feel like I might not make it through 6 courses. And I love all the shades of purple in this dish!
Course 4: Polenta
This ragu dish had polenta, mushrooms, almonds, and tongue of fire beans. The crazy thing is that when Shane was introducing the dish and mentioned the tongue of fire beans, I thought it was something new I had never heard of. But once I googled it, I see that they are the beans I’ve been buying at farmer’s market that are being referred to cranberry beans. Needless to say, it was delicious. I had seconds even though I was getting full.
Course 5: Build-your-own-reuben slate
This was the best thing everrrrrrrrrrr. Not just because I had been waiting to try their reuben since vegan beer fest, but because this seitan could easily be the best seitan I have ever tasted. In life. Seriously. I guess it was marinated in the red reuben beer that was paired with this course. Shane said he slices it by hand. It was the perfect thickness…like 0.5 mm. Ha! Not really, but I hate how every packaged seitan at stores is so thick! Who wants that? I’m pretty sure nobody wants that, but vegans are too nice to be fussy. So, on behalf of all vegans everywhere, please seitan makers, slice it thinner. I also learned that Shane and Marie might be willing to be talked into selling their seitan in quantities of 5 pounds or more, so if anyone wants to share some seitan with me, you know where to find me (sitting in the vegan dollhouse kitchen with piles of seitan in my lap, hands, and mouth). I also loved how this dish was served on a piece of slate. The presentation of the entire meal was so pretty! And those cured beets were so delicious! The butter next to the bread was handmade using maize! Okay, I could go on and on about this course alone, but I will stop now. For you.
Course 6: Dessert
I almost didn’t think I would have room for dessert, but then I remembered that I’m me…which means my dessert stomach is a completely different one, and there is infinite room in it.
I’ve never made creme brûlée before, because it doesn’t contain chocolate, so I figured, what’s the point. But now that I’ve tasted it, I understand the point. Finally my neglected torch will be coming out of the cupboard. This one was made with almond milk and corn, which was a nice reprieve from the typical coconut everything I tend to make.
I didn’t take any pictures of the way everything was laid out, but basically everyone sat at a long table with the dishes (with the exception of dessert) being served family style. I even made a friend who sat next to me, taught me about all kinds of new things, and we even have plans to decorate vegan cakes together in the near future!
These blind tiger dinners apparently take place the last Sunday of every month, so if you are interested in checking one out, visit the S+M Vegan website to learn more.
* Disclaimer: I’m not promoting stalking as a way to get what you want in all situations…just those involving vegan food.