Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carnivale came early this year

We're going back to basics for this post. What does a vegan do when going out for a nice dinner in Chicago with her meat-eating (yet totally fabulous) girlfriends?

Back in October, Ali and I won a gift certificate for $100 to Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market), an upscale and totally hip restaurant with a Latin-themed menu. So last week we went out for dinner, and we brought our friend Kate B. (who is an extremely watchable actress, by the way) because she's just so much fun.

Kate was loving the Carnivale Margarita, Ali enjoyed the caipirinha, and I sampled the white sangria and Green City Market Caipirinha. The guacamole was absolutely delicious and the accompanying tortilla chips are that fat-laden kind you always hope the restaurant serves. (Ali and Kate shared the mixto ceviche...for you none-vegans I'm told it was absolutely delightful.)

After an hour of drinks and appetizers we finally opened our menus. The waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu and helped guide me to all the dishes that could be veganized. I settled on an entree called "Quinotto" that I had never seen before but makes so much sense. It's like risotto, my favorite Italian dish, but in place of arborio rice they used quinoa, a nutritious little South American grain. Also in the Quinotto were onions, Brussels sprouts, pine nuts, mushrooms and a chile sauce on the side. Behold:

Isn't it lovely? This dish was unbelievable. I of course requested this without the goat cheese that this Quinotto normally includes. The mushrooms gave it that extra dose of "umami" I've been hearing so much about lately.
After my experience I would highly recommend a night out at Carnivale if you are a vegan but have meat-craving dining companions. They have all kinds of seafood and the steak for which Latin America is famous. (Yum?)

I'm off to Iowa today for Thanksgiving festivities. I was planning to cook an elaborate vegan meal at my apartment for my parents and brother, but last week my brother's dog had a surprise litter of puppies. So I'm riding back to Sioux City tonight to see the six little puppies. In the words of my brother, prepare yourself for some pretty extreme cuteness:

I have been looking at this photo every 30 seconds for the past two days. I can assure you that it does not get old.

Product of the Day: Obviously I'm going with a vegan's best Thanksgiving weapon, the Tofurky. I can't wait to eat this tomorrow. If you're lucky enough to be in Sioux City, they have them at Hy-Vee on Hamilton Blvd. If you are not in the vicinity of a Hy-Vee, on the Tofurky website you can find a list of retailers so you can get your own spherical bundle of meatless joy.

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