With the holidays upon us the opportunities for the vegan and the carnivore to venture out, and chronicle the details of our dining experiences, are plentiful. As it is customary to identify the start of the holiday season with Thanksgiving, that is the focus of this post. My approach to the holidays is quite simple. I prefer to enjoy time with family and friends, and not cause anyone to endure the unnecessary stress of hosting parties or holiday meals. I figure, if I am unwilling to host an event at my home, then why should I feel comfortable asking someone else to do it in theirs? To that end, I opted to find a suitable restaurant to enjoy this year’s Thanksgiving festivities for the carnivore clan. As the vegan graciously agreed to join me and my family for our Thanksgiving meal, the event took on a new dynamic, inasmuch as I had to ensure that her dietary requirements were not only considered but that she was also provided with a memorable and enjoyable Thanksgiving feast. I assure you, given that the traditional Thanksgiving fare – turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, etc. – is not at all vegan friendly, this was not an easy task. After careful consideration, I chose to make reservations at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Austin. It is here that our Thanksgiving post begins. . . . .
Anyone who has ever dined at the Four Seasons knows to expect an exquisitely prepared meal and a very high level of service. The top shelf experience provided by the staff at the Four Seasons actually began a month before Thanksgiving when I called to make reservations. The person with whom I spoke specifically asked if there were any special dietary requirements within our party. Upon notifying the gentleman that a vegan was in our midst, he quickly and confidently assured me that this would not be a problem and that the vegan meal would be as impressive as the carnivorous options. I don’t mind telling you that I was exceptionally pleased with myself for choosing a venue that so willingly accommodated the vegan’s needs. Score one for Austin proper!
When Thanksgiving finally arrived, we pulled into the hotel valet and embarked upon our Thanksgiving festivities with high hopes and considerable anticipation of a quality meal. I have to say that neither the vegan nor I was disappointed. The carnivorous options were AMAZING. While I have never enjoyed beef short ribs on Thanksgiving, I have to say that it was my favorite item on the buffet. The mashed potatoes were as smooth and creamy as I have ever eaten (sorry Mom!), and the shrimp and crab claws were a nice respite from the heavier fare that I so often enjoy. I would be remiss if I didn’t also comment on the fresh churro that I enjoyed for dessert. Admittedly, the warm flaky Spanish treat seemed a bit odd on Thanksgiving Day, but who can pass up a caramel filled fried pastry? Obviously, not this guy!
I could end the post here because it is obvious that the Four Seasons is committed to creating an environment where carnivores and vegans (or any other dietary sects) can dine in harmony. I honestly think that a guest could indicate that they only consume dung beetles and acorns, and the Chef would return 20 minutes later with an appropriate dish that tasted like filet mignon and pommes frites. However, not commenting on the interaction that impressed me most would be doing a disservice to our ardent followers. So here is what impressed me most: When we arrived, we were seated in the ballroom and there was no indication that the vegan’s dietary needs were being considered. I was somewhat disappointed by this apparent oversight, and voiced my concern to Banquet Director, Sylvia Wash. Ms. Wash quickly assured me that the chef would be right out to visit with Kellie and set me at ease that my expectations would be met, and likely exceeded. She was 100% correct. The chef appeared and visited with Kellie about what she liked and the various options that were available to her. Moments after that discussion, the chef delivered a meal that looked more like a work of art than merely food. Kellie didn’t say a lot for the next several minutes because she was too busy enjoying her meal. I will allow Kellie to give you the culinary details but, sufficed to say, the Four Seasons made the entire experience enjoyable and memorable.
This carnivore gives the Thanksgiving event at the Four Seasons a solid four happy cow faces. And Ms. Wash, if you happen to read this post, THANK YOU!
So I might be dating myself a bit but ever since I became vegan back in 2006, I have worried that I would become the Chandler Bing of Thanksgiving. Luckily my family is in Kansas and we generally wait until Christmas for any visits so I haven’t had much need for worry. Over the years I have generally practiced yoga, ate tacos and most recently attended a few “friendsgivings” where potlucks and vegan dishes were tolerated, even welcomed! This year however I was honored to be invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Carnivore and his parents. I knew this might be tricky but when he suggested the Four Season’s TRIO as an option, I relaxed slightly as I had heard they cater to vegans on the regular. Thanksgiving, however, is still a different situation and I urged him to double check when making the reservation that they could indeed accommodate me. He did and they assured him all would be well.
Thanksgiving day arrived and all dressed up we gathered the parents and headed downtown, feeling hopeful and swanky. Upon arrival, we checked in and headed down to the ballroom. We were shown to our seats and met our waiter who took our drink orders. I nervously surveyed the buffet and wondered aloud how they expected me to navigate this situation. Was I to approach the spread and guess what might be vegan? Would somebody come to give me a tour? Or would I be receiving some sort of plated meal? Larry decided to find the answers to my questions and hailed down a coordinator. She brought out the chef who guided me to the salad section where I anxiously regarded the single salad she was describing as vegan. Either the look in my eyes or her general knowledge of the remaining options prompted her to offer me a plated vegan dish that she would make immediately. She told me “I don’t know what it will be yet but I know it will be delicious!”. I responded that that was all I cared about and said I would start with the salad while I waited.
Now as mentioned in many previous posts, the “about us” section and the silly movie I made about this visit, I am NOT “just a salad” girl. I do enjoy a nice salad…as a STARTER! That said, I must tell you, this salad was amazing. Just wow so good. I think it had baby spinach and maybe arugula, roasted cauliflower and chickpeas. I’m not sure but I ate every last leaf. I also went to pick up some fruit and ran into the chef who informed me my main course was waiting for me at the table.
This dish had a black bean base with a cauliflower steak and broccolini. On top of the steak were some carrots and mushrooms. All these fresh, simple ingredients were whipped up into something magical. It was seasoned perfectly and cooked to just the right amount of bite. I gobbled it down! (See what I did there?)
To finish my meal, I requested some coffee with soy milk which the waiter brought straight away. I mused that perhaps there would be no dessert but another wait staffer urged me to ask the dessert crew about it. I went ahead and asked and while there were, yet again, no options on the buffet, they did have sorbet which they brought out to me. I ate what I could until I realized that I too was stuffed. (Yes, I did it again)
TRIO did an amazing job and I can’t wait to visit them again. I give the whole experience four rutabagas and only held back one due to my initial confusion about the procedure. That said, I highly recommend vegans and carnivores alike give this place a try for your next holiday, special occasion or just a lovely evening out.