Anyone who knows me knows I have a great fondness for bacon. And chicken. And shrimp. And beef, and tilapia, and duck, and pork, and lamb, and crab, and venison, and buffalo, and salmon, and turkey… In short: I’m a carnivore.
Over the years I have come to know many who are vegetarian, and recently I’ve met a growing number who are vegan. While I myself have had many meals in the past that didn’t include meat (salads, soups, desserts, etc), I had never had an entire meal that contained *zero* animal products: no broth, no milk, no cheese. That is until I met Lindsey.
Lindsey Riddle is Admissions Coordinator at the Matthew Kenney Academy. “Matthew Kenney is a chef, restaurateur, caterer, and food writer. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Food Network, and numerous morning and talk shows.” (yes, I copied that straight from the back cover of his book, “Everyday Raw Express”) He also happens to have a restaurant and culinary academy right here in Oklahoma City at 5820 North Classen Boulevard.
While speaking with Lindsey, she mentioned that they were having a special event, at the restaurant which bears his name, to celebrate the release of Matthew’s new book. Well, you know me. I’m looking for new and different places in OKC to eat so I immediately asked if there were any open spots available. Luckily she was able to get me on the list.
The restaurant itself is a very open, and inviting venue. Enormous windows that reach from floor to ceiling, the whole room was awash with natural light. A veil of thin fabric separated the dining area from the bar, while there is no such barrier hiding the kitchen. Patrons a welcome, no, invited to watch the chefs create their magic. Being a vegan restaurant that serves only “raw” foods, there are no stoves or ovens. Lots of open space for slicing and arranging, with the occasional blender to break up the monotony.
I got there early, so I was fortunate to get a seat at a table right next to the main prep area, where the student chefs worked with precision. I chatted with a couple of others at my table as we all waited with eager anticipation what Matthew Kenney had in store for us.
The first course was a Candy Cane Beet Carpaccio with Fennel Confit and “Goat Cheese.” Of course being vegan it wasn’t really goat cheese at all, but rather a mixture that included cashews and macadamia nuts. Amazing.
Next up was the equally amazing “Pho.” Again, I use quotation marks because, as some of you may already know, Pho is a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. And yet Matthew Kenney was able to create the same effect without the beef. Or the noodles, for that matter. Rather, the broth consisted of nama shoyu, sesame oil, lime juice, orange juice, agave (common in many of his recipes), ginger, lemongrass, miso, cinnamon, star anise, salt & pepper, and kelp noodles. To this concoction was added zucchini and carrot sliced long and thin like “noodles,” along with broccoli, red bell pepper, and bean sprouts. To say it was delicious would be a staggering understatement.
So, how do you follow that? By serving squash blossoms, of course. Squash Blossom Tamales stuffed with a sweet pea puree, to be exact. In a million years I’d never have thought to eat, much less stuff, a squash blossom. And yet, there I was relishing every bite of these delights, which were served with pico de gallo and guacamole as condiments.
The grand finale was a dessert fit for royalty. A chocolate custard so rich and decadent, you almost feel guilty. But wait…how is this vegan? I’m sorry, did I forget to tell you? It was a Chocolate Hemp Milk Custard, the milk being a blend of hemp seeds, water, and agave. But here’s the mind-blowing part: the main ingredient is avocado. I don’t know about you, but when I think avocado, I think guacamole-green. This dessert looked, and tasted as chocolately as anything I’ve ever had.
The entire meal was amazing and delicious from start to finish. Included in the special event dinner package was a copy of his new book, ‘Everyday Raw Express,” and afterward I was able to meet the maestro, have my picture taken with him, and he was kind enough to autograph my copy.
I love bacon. Nothing will ever change that. But every once in a while, I’ll take a walk on the wild side and go vegan. And Matthew Kenney’s restaurant is where I will go.For more info: www.kenneycuisine.com 405-842-1050