Jennie Cooks Plant Based Parties (Los Angeles, CA)

There are few chefs I truly trust*—Jennie Cooks is one of them.

Beneath an angled mirror at Surfas, Jennie—my hometown culinary champion—poured a generous amount of olive oil into a pan and whipped up Sweet Potato Pistachio Fritters with Saba and Jaffna Potatoes. I sat there waiting for the non-vegan ingredient to get dumped in—a pat of butter, a drizzle of yogurt —but it never happened. As the Endive Avocado Potato Salad and Cape Verda Vegetable were passed around, I realized every dish she made was vegan—and that never happens on accident.

At that moment I knew I wanted her to cater an event for me. That event turned out to be my wedding reception.

In her Atwater Village kitchen vintage pitchers, cookbooks, and salt and pepper creatures stare down at us. Jennie dances in and out of the kitchen, filling the tables with food. Some dishes are by request, some are by surprise. Wedding meal planning—as I learned—is a strange balance of personal taste tempered with the attempt to please the sometimes irrational and sometimes dietary needs of guests.

First up, a fritter—the overlooked champions of cocktail hour. Jennie’s Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachios and Crema are flecked with meaty bits of pistachios and pan kissed to a crisp. Spinning the globe, we toasted with Sweet Potato Samosas dripping with raven dark tamarind glaze. I loved them both, but sometimes the needs of others trumps love.  Translucent rice paper swaddling bean thread, red pepper, carrot, and cucumber as Fresh Rolls with Peanut Sauce (gluten free) were selected as our tray pass appetizer.

Not shown here are the Chicken and Waffles because there as no questions those would be served.

One of Jennie’s surprises turned out to be my favorite: Korean Dave’s Amazing Tempe with Campania. Caramelized onions, red peppers, and capers pucker with balsamic vinegar over panko crusted tempe—a distinctly Los Angeles ingredient. This chewy cutlet of fermented brown rice and black bean that is a local cult classic. Dave has no online or marketing presence yet almost everyone knows his Framer’s Market food. After sampling Jennie’s prep of this protein, there was no question my guests needed to taste it as well.

To balance the fried dish, we followed with the Spinach Salad with Crumbled Fettata, Apricots and Toasted Walnuts. While I had expected fresh apricots I realized such ideas were ridiculous for a March event. The soft fettata—seasoned tofu—clings to the leaves which we switched out for romaine to accommodate oxalate sensitive attendees.

Roasted Vegetables seemed boring option—one I’ve consumed ad nauseam in my vegetarian then vegan life. I had every intention of nixing this side until suckling on sweetly charred yet still juice carrots, onions, peppers, and zucchini caramelized kissed with balsamic vinegar.

Through the experience of wedding planning I learned that I basically love Thanksgiving food. I fell quickly for legumes melting into the Red Lentil and Apple Load of Love—the flavors blooming in a pool of thyme spiked creamy dijon gravy. Paired with rolling hills of Sourdough Stuffing cradling crescents of celery, carrot, and tart cubes of granny smith apples.

Just to prove that I’m not simply gushing, the soft mash layered inside the Sweet Potato Lasagna became too monolithic for my taste. But when these dishes made their way home as leftovers, my soon to be husband loved the lasagna more than the loaf. So we ordered a half pan of each because compromise and making each other happy is what marriage is all about.

Jennie Cooks
3048 Fletcher Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Facebook: Jennie Cooks Catering & Plant Based Parties
Instagram: @jenniecooks

*They are: Pancho Castellón, Jennie CooksGenet Agonafer, my mom

 

Advertisements

The Vegetarian Option: Weddings 2013

My 2011 post on vegetarian options at wedding remained one of my most viewed posts on this blog! In the past two years, wedding have become all the more vegetarian friendly… so for your brides, caterers or food porn lovers out there searching for silent/loud/delicious vegetarian options for your affairs, here are my favorites from the past two years:

Dani and Andrew (Los Angeles)

One half of this couple is vegetarian, so options abound. Catered by HerloomLA, this is by far my favorite of this post. You can view the tasting for this wedding here to contrast expectation verses reality.

The Cheese Course, set out before the ceremony even began!

Chives and wild mushroom ragu atop a crispy lemon polenta cake! These totally met the expectation of the tasting samples.

Twice-baked potato with crème fraiche. Not as pretty, but still delicious!

Various breads, pizzas, and fondues. The smoked mozzarella and pumpkin parmesan fondues held up well, but there were no forks out at this point of the service, making this a messy smack. The cheesy pizzas got soggy piled on atop each other in this presentation.

The Spring Pea Salad, full of fresh and crunchy vegetables, held up to its light dressing throughout the evening.

There were a million different kinds of cake in there, each layer was a different flavor. I don’t remember what I had, I was still stuffed from the cheese course!

Malibu Wedding

Over the summer I worked at a wedding at the gorgeous Villa Cascata in Malibu. Again, half the wedding party was vegetarian so there was plenty to gorge my vegetable loving belly on!

Simple Salad with Mango dressing, a flat of Mac’n cheese and a view of the Pacific Ocean! A stellar start to dinner.

The salad was actually not that simple with spinach, avocados, strawberries and pistachios.

Veggie Samosas!

Chewy Chapati. Delicious on its own, but even better with:

Herb and onion flecked Fried Tofu, little Falafel patties, vegetable laced Couscous and Grape Leaves!

The bride’s southern roots appeared in the baskets of Sweet Potato Fries and Cornbread Muffins!

Heirloom LA Catering (Los Angeles, CA)

The elegance of brown paper

This weekend is my dear friend Dani’s wedding but perhaps more importantly, my first ultra vegetarian-friendly wedding dinner! Catered by Heirloom LA, I was lucky enough to attending the tasting a few weeks back.

Perfect bites, no really!

Kicking off the wedding with inspired tray passed appetizers. The twice-baked potato with crème fraiche are perfectly savory and soft, topped with delicately sharp chives and homemade crème fraiche. But it’s the unassuming yellow disk of lemon polenta that stands out. The chives and wild mushroom ragu atop a crispy lemon polenta cake are an unexpected bite of acidly citrus that is thoroughly addictive!

Continue reading

The Vegetarian Option: Weddings

Getting into the spirit!

It’s wedding season… again! A menagerie of formal sit down dinners, buffets, and lowered expectation. Vegetarians often suffer through meals which the cook –I hesitate to say chef—probably didn’t even bother to taste. We all love our friends no matter the quality of the event, but I can’t help but hold those with outstanding vegetarian options above the others. As I ready for this year’s weddings, which will take me from LA to NYC to South America, here’s a look at the most notable meals from last year’s season:

Continue reading