What: Alive!’s Chinese New Year Celebration
When: Monday, January 26, 2009
Where: Alive! Vegetarian Cuisine, San Francisco
Why: Because one New Year celebration is one too few
The Scoop: In anticipation of the Chinese New Year, Elizabeth, Lyndsay and I could not resist the urge to spend Monday night out on the town. Three buses, two trains, and a short walk later, we three weary travelers found ourselves at the doorstep of Alive! Vegetarian Cuisine just in time for the party. And—minus the cold food—what a warm welcome we received!
Making our way outside onto the patio, we were delighted to feast our ears upon live, traditional Chinese music, which set the tone for the evening. Under fiery heat lamps we listened to a duet of string instruments—the Guzheng and the Erhu—as we said farewell to the year of the dog and welcomed in the Ox. Chinese lanterns, fans, and ornaments transformed the outdoor garden into a festive feng shui oasis.
After a brief survey of our surroundings, we found—and soon lost ourselves in—the incredible assortment of uncooked edible creations set elegantly before us, almost too beautiful to eat—but not quite. We dabbled in an assortment of appetizing appetizers, delectable hors d’oeuvres, and decadent desserts—all prepared from seasonal, local, raw, vegetarian, and animal-free ingredients. And that handful of adjectives, while impressive on its own, doesn’t dare do justice to the beauty and flavor of the bite-sized works of art displayed on white paper doilies.
Lyndsay and Stacy with empty plates and full tummies
Among the sampling of starter salads in the buffet, we basked in the glory of creations granted titles as sophisticated as their flavors; the Apple-Fennel Salad, Ginger-Carrot-Napa Cabbage Torte, Marinated Kale Salad, and Spicy Asian Pear salad each boasted a unique combination of creativity and crunch. We awarded the Kale concoction, with its tangy dressing and marinated mushrooms, an extra-shiny gold star.
Moving on to more filling fare, we were particularly fascinated by the flax crackers and sesame- seed hummus, a raw version of this traditional veg party favorite. The avocado and cabbage stuffed sushi rolls were nothing to shy away from either. However, the Salmon Paté Sandwich was perhaps the most impressive entrée of the evening, consisting of carrots, sunflower seeds, and sprouts plopped prettily upon a sprouted kamut biscuit slightly sweetened with a hint of agave.
Carrot Sunflower Seed Pate Sandwiches and Spicy Plum Vegan Satay
And last, but certainly not least, dessert. With our choice of Tangerine Cake, Mango-Lemon Cheesecake, Walnut-Chocolate Confection or Asian Pear-Almond Torte, we clearly made the right one: all. The only decision remaining was which to try first. We started on the safe side with the Walnut-Chocolate Confection. After all, it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate. And right we were. These harmless little nuggets of walnuts, dates, cashews, coconut oil, raw cacao, and agave nectar were rich enough to quell any chocolate-lover’s craving. The Asian Pear-Almond Torte and Tangerine Cakes ranked close behind, but it was the Mango-Lemon Cheesecake that took the cake—and every last bit of stomach space.
We departed, none of us ready to part with all things toasty and warm, but exceptionally impressed and intrigued by the raw side of things. An entire meal, and an exceptionally satisfying one at that, created entirely from the highest-quality ingredients available, soaked and sprouted rather than steamed, sautéed, or smoked, earned our utmost respect and left us feeling oh so alive!