Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Autumn Harvest Vegan Dinner at Departure

Many moons ago I was vegetarian. It was tough finding places that served vegetarian food and even tougher finding vegetarian food that wasn't seasoned with bell peppers. But times have changed and so I decided to see just how much by attending Departure's Autumn Harvest Vegan Dinner created by Chef Gregory Gourdet.
First up were the vegan drinks. Root Down consisted of Cazadores Blanco tequila, red beet and ginger juice, agave and fresh lime. Topped with a mango slice. Not overly sweet but really nice combination with the tequila.
The Pioneer made up with Jim Beam rye whiskey, averna, apple shrub and apple juice. Thin apple slices for a garnish. Very smooth and ever since drinking this I have had a hankering for whiskey in apple juice.
Our first course arrived and it's the one that got me wanting to go to this dinner. Onion and mushroom tart. Almond flour crust. Rosemary, ginger and charred peppers added even more flavor. I admit to removing a few chili peppers from this. I liked this dish so much I ended up making tiny onion and mushroom tarts a night ago.
 Roasted multicolored carrots and semi-dried beets in a carrot-coriander broth and pomegranate syrup. Amazing how changing up the simple carrot can bring a dish to a new level.
 Another amazing thing was the view behind me. Looking out towards the Willamette River.
A take on a winning menu item at Departure. Fried brussels sprouts and sunchokes. Smoked garlic, yuzu kosho, pickled chilies and shiso. I've only recently been introduced to sunchokes and each time I love them.
 Time to take it up a notch with the plating. Spiced roasted squash with cranberry, kale juice, pumpkin butter and creamy cashews. Filling and quite delicious. Chef Gourdet is a master of flavors and this dish represented his talent for that. I say flavors because of instead of mixing everything together into a homogenous mess, one can find different tastes in one dish. The secret is having them complement each other and work together.
 We were then served this green juice which we guessed was kale.
Could South America be in the future for Chef Gourdet's Compass Series? Sweet potato, dried chili and chocolate, similar to a mole and definitely reflective of South America cooking. Seasoned with pumpkin seeds, ginger and cumin. This was for me the spiciest dish of the night but I did enjoy the perfectly cooked sweet potatoes.
I'm going to say it again, Chef Gourdet knows deserts and does them very well, serving up a Persimmon and Huckleberry cheesecake. I thought coconut milk was used for the cheese cake and it worked really well. With delicious Kaffir lime sherbert sprinkled with tasted like matcha green tea. I don't usually eat desert when dining out but if they all were as good as what I've had at Departure then I'd probably just eat deserts for dinner.

Departure is up top at  525 SW Morrison Street, Portland, Oregon 97204
Their website is here.

Chef Gregory Gourdet is continuing his excellent Compass series with Haiti as the theme for next month. You can check in with Departure at their Facebook or Twitter accounts to see when to make reservations.

Very glad I had a chance to try another special meal by Gregory Gourdet. No surprise that he is one of the Top Chefs in Portland.

Let me add the beautiful produce was provided by Groundwork Organics. Always should remember where our food comes from and the hard work that goes into growing it.
Groundwork Organics website is here


  1. Right. That's it. This vegetarian* is moving to Portland.
    * For the sake of transparency and journalistic integrity, I would eat meat in a restaurant or when invited to someone's home, but prepare it myself, or eat it when I have other options? Never.
    PS: I love your food posts.

    1. Oh good, then I can still serve you fish =)

      Get ready, I've got a few to post soon including a really creative take on Japanese fast food with the BEST KITKAT EVER.

  2. " ... even tougher finding vegetarian food that wasn't seasoned with bell peppers."
    Wait, what? :D Why?

    1. Back in the 1980's and before, people here in the US were afraid of spices. There were a few main ones and then those used if someone wanted to cook French food. It was sad. Real vegetarian food from cultures that it's a common way of creating food was not happening here. I wonder if anyone has really analyzed the food culture in the US that came out of WWII like it's been analyzed in Japan. I think there was a lot of influence after WWII and even still today by meat producers in this country.

      So it was difficult to dine out and have a real meal. Even vegetarian frozen food was the same way. For some unknown reason most of it was hot. Spicy. And the main way of seasoning was bell peppers. I don't think at the time a lot of people knew how to cook vegetarian foods.

      I'm so glad food culture in the US has changed a lot. I hope it keeps evolving. It's great that chefs are trying to expand their repertoire and that a lot of people here are wanting to try new foods and be adventurous. Now if some can back off the cayenne pepper and stop trying to make everything "blackened" it would be even better.