A couple of weekends ago, on Saturday June 2nd, I celebrated my birthday at a garden party dinner hosted by Nourish.
A vegan food delivery service and restaurant here in Charlotte, NC, Nourish hosts an annual dinner for some thirty-odd people. They focus on local, organic whole foods. For this event, the chef Julia prepared a five course vegan dinner, served in the garden of a local organic farm about 45 minutes outside of the heart of Charlotte.
Upon arrival, we were served a cocktail of homemade limoncello, prosecco, and a handful of blueberries. While drinking and mingling, we strolled around the property and admired the sprawling gardens – from which all the food we ate was grown. Talk about farm to table.
A little after 7 PM, we were directed to our seats. The place setting was positively adorable and nailed the outdoor-garden-dinner aesthetic, from delicate gold silverware to the pale green napkins, each folded into the shape of a rose. I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting across from Katie Lovelock, co-creator of Charlotte Agenda.
For those of you not living in Charlotte, it’s probably the number one social media account for millennials focusing on things to do in Charlotte, from new breweries being opened to best hikes in the area. Anytime someone moves to the area, the first piece of advice given is “Follow Charlotte Agenda on Instagram”. It was very cool to learn more about her transition into creating this company and how their now 6-person startup has become so successful.
After a brief intro from chef Julia about the food and Nourish’s mission to bring local, organic whole foods into the spotlight as much as possible, we were served:
First course: Baby leek and pea cake with two tahinis, grape leaf, mint, and chive
This course really set the tone for the rest of the meal. We knew instantly that we were in for a true culinary experience. Much like falafel, this savory chickpea cake was savory and comforting and the two types of tahini based sauces, one with beets and one with activated charcoal of all things, were fascinating.
Second course: Frond butter with stuffed blossom and green garlic rouille
Possibly my favorite course, Julia said this soup was inspired by daal. Thick, creamy, smooth and flavorful with a slight kick of spice. I loved the cheesy-flavored, cashew-cream-stuffed squash blossom on top.
Third course: Nice salad with grilled avocado, preserved citrus, smoked tomato, oil-roasted turnips, and a “hard-boiled egg”
A cool trick in this course was Julia’s vegan replication of a hard-boiled egg. Yes, clearly, it looks a little funky and you can tell it’s fake, but a blind taste test on flavor and texture could have tricked me. I might also add that by this course, they were also serving a different cocktail – tequila moonrises that tasted dangerously like a watermelon jolly rancher. The flow of prosecco and tequila did not stop throughout this whole dinner.
Fourth course: Double-stuffed garden leaves with herbed risotto, “parmesan”, heirloom tomato, muscadine gastrique, silver pickles, and a “grilled scallop”
As hearty as an main entrée, these creamy risotto filled leaves were so satiating and something I would want to eat again and again for dinner on any standard weeknight. A grilled mushroom was set to imitate a scallop. At this point, the sun had completely set, and the ambiance was a vision of string lights, live jazz, and lightning bugs.
I was extremely impressed with the nut-based “parmesan” on this course. Look how well it grates!
Fifth course: Summer cheesecake with orange sherbet, ginger-candied pecans, and strawberry coulis
Of course, vegan desserts are always fun. This cheesecake was no exception, and the orange ice cream was perfectly described by Julia as reminiscent of an Orange Julius. Refreshing and sweet, it was a perfect note to end the meal on.
Every course was mind-blowing in its own way. Having never ordered food from Nourish before this dinner, I am definitely feeling tempted to try out their daily offerings.
Believe it or not, there was more. After dessert, the group was led to the opposite end of the property, through the dark to an opening in the trees. We were served hot, homemade herbal tea while an aerial acrobatic duo performed to the live jazz music.
The evening felt extremely special, and I hope I have the opportunity to attend again next year. For more photos and details from the event, click here to see Nourish’s blog post.