Last night I went out for a lavish dinner for my brother-in-law's 40th birthday (Happy Birthday Rob!). I'd been looking forward to the experience for months, but not because of what I might eat. In actuality, it was all about Rob's birthday, a night off from parenting and what I was going to wear, in no particular order. We don't get babysitters too often, and when we do, we always go to the movies. So when I know months ahead of time that we are going out on a Saturday night to a hip neighborhood in Cleveland (yes, we do have those) you can bet I'm going to look forward to it.
But last night surpassed my expectations by 100 miles.
The restaurant, Dante, brainchild of chef and musician Dante Boccuzzi, was chosen by my brother-in-law Rob and his wife Kathy (biggest carnivore I know, hands down) as apparently this is the spot that you can find them on many a Saturday night. I thought about doing the "call-ahead" move and letting the kitchen know that a Vegan (not that I even qualify, but it's easier than explaining the whole Nutritarian thing over the phone) was coming, but I didn't want to be a bother. Something inside my head was saying, "Leave it alone, if you tell them that a Vegan is coming they will probably put pig fat in your food just to spite you."
I even glanced at the menu before we left, but I must have been extremely distracted because I didn't take note of what was on there. I think I had made up my mind that I was going to beg the waitstaff for a huge salad ("Really, more lettuce, please. Yes, a giant bowl, as big as you've got, please").
You can imagine my surprise when I looked at the menu and there were two salads labeled as Vegan, one soup and one entire entree! This was going to be more fun than I imagined.
I'm not going to go into gory detail about the food that I ate (which involved the best hearts of palm that I ever tasted and a banana butternut squash soup-yum!), except to say that it was absolutely delicious and creative and that dessert did involve a lot of sugar and dairy (hey, I'm NOT a saint). What I do want to tell you about is what transpired after dinner. Before we went in the restaurant's basement and my sister-in-law Janet kicked Chef Dante's ass at two games of Millipede, that classic 80s video game (very, very impressive Janet!).
We were sipping coffee, it was getting late, and who happened to stop by our table? Dante himself. Incredibly warm and personable, I think he spent time talking to all eleven of us at the table, individually. Jim, my other bro-in-law, mentioned to him that I write a food blog so the conversation naturally went in that direction.
I thanked him profusely for having Vegan options on the menu and asked him about the demand for them. He replied that it was very strong. I asked about the possibility of having greens (kale, collard, swiss chard, spinach, etc.) on the menu as a standard selection and I could tell that he'd never considered it before but would after our conversation. I told him that greens were becoming more and more of many peoples' everyday diet, that he could have a constant rotation of them on the menu. I explained that they were the single most nutritious food known to man. But then it hit me, as fun and cool and hip as these restaurants are, they are in the business of nourishing people's minds, not their bodies. I asked him if he had ever read The China Study and guess what . . . he had never heard of it.
I really liked him anyway.
I didn't even bother to mention the no oil thing. I didn't want to scare the pants off him.
So I know that even though our Nutritarian movement is gaining momentum, we're just at the beginning. I invite Chef Dante Boccuzzi, his wife and four kids to come to my house for a home cooked Nutriatarian meal, sans oil. On his one day off, of course. We've got kids of the same ages and he seemed super nice. I don't have a vintage Ms. Pacman or Millipede, but I think I can convince him that there is a place on his menu for greens, everyday.