This is a guest post from TIME’s Kayla Webley:
As a full-fledged carnivore, I attended Farm Sanctuary’s 25th Anniversary Gala last weekend to eat a three-course vegan meal. Having been a vegetarian in years past and as a general lover of tofu, quinoa and other vegan staples, I was very open to the evening’s eats.
During the opening reception and silent auction a series of seven appetizers were brought around. The first thing that struck me was, at least as far as hors d’oeuvres are concerned, vegan-friendly food is not all that different from non-vegan fare. The typical suspects were on hand: a series of bruschetta some topped with tomato and basil and others (which they called canapes, but I think that is just because they wanted to use the fancy word because they all looked the same), with roasted peppers and sweet onions and another with white truffle paté. The “franks”-in-a-blanket were identical to the non-pig-friendly variety and just as scrumptious. But my favorite pre-dinner treats were the guacamole topped endive and the mini pizzas, which seem to have been left off the official menu below, but consisted of phyllo dough topped with tomato sauce and some surprisingly delectable vegan cheese.
As Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur welcomed us to the meal, he spoke first to the non-vegans in the room, inviting them to experience how mouth-watering cruelty-free food can be. And, to the vegans in the room (and there were many) he said, as the crowd cheered, “This is one time where you don’t have to ask, ‘What’s in this?'” before digging in.
The first course was a brightly-colored salad of red and yellow tomatoes, romaine hearts and fava beans. It’s was light, fresh and tasty, although I don’t imagine it’s generally a challenge to make a vegan-friendly salad. The second course, a ravioli stuffed with tofu and herbs topped with tomato sauce, chickpeas and scallions was bland, but otherwise non-offensive.
To create the meal, David Lee, founder of Field Roast, worked hand in hand with Paolo Dorigato of Cipriani, where the event was held. Their goal was to create a vegan meal that was not necessarily your traditional vegan fare. Farm Sanctuary wanted them to serve foods that, although vegan, were foods that any carnivore would enjoy. To that end, Lee and Dorigato crafted the gem of the evening: the non-descript “cutlet,” which is most easily comparable to chicken or veal parmesan. Simply put, it was delicious. If Lee prepared a cutlet for me every night I may never feel the desire to eat meat again.
According to Lee, the cutlet is a made from porcini, shitaki and champignon mushrooms and flavored with their basic vegetarian grain meat. Each cutlet is then dipped into a dijon-flavored batter and dredged in a breadcrumb mixture. The cutlets were lightly fried and served with marinara and tapioca cheese as well as sides of polenta and asparagus. More on how-to prepare the dish can be found here.
“It’s always a challenge when you’re working with chefs who have worked with animal meat their whole lives,” Lee told TIME. “But in focusing on animal-centered food, which we then made vegan, I think we came up with a great meal.”
Here’s the full menu, for anyone who would like to create their own vegan-friendly banquet-quality meal:
Field Roast “Franks” in a Blanket with Dijon Mustard
Phyllo Cup with Porcini Mushrooms
Field Roast White Truffle Paté on Crostini Pizzatta
Tomato and Basil Bruschetta
Guacamole and Endive
Canapé of Roasted Peppers and Sweet Onion
Canapé of Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto
Heirloom Tomatoes, Hearts of Romaine, Fava beans,
Olive Tapenade on Grissini with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ravioli with Chao Cheese Filling and Spring Vegetables,
Finished with Tomatoes, Chick Peas and Scallions
Field Roast Porcini Dijon Crusted Cutlet,
With Roasted Asparagus and Yellow Polenta