Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dining Out (at Kaya!)

Whenever I hit the wall, so to speak, emotionally, both of us happy vegans pretty much understand the role food can play in pulling me back to where I belong. I do my best not to turn to "comfort foods" (sugars, sweets), although I do tend to work through angst with batters, doughs and cake pans, while the other happy vegan knows it's time to pull me out of the kitchen for a meal out. And so it goes this weekend.

On Friday, the other happy vegan and I made plans to head down to Kaya Island Eats on Saddlebunch Keys. We were there perhaps about a month or so ago, before Christmas. This time of year it is exceptionally difficult for us to have any form of a social life, both of us are so very busy. But, with planning, the trip to Kaya was on.  As I've blogged about before, I resist the temptation to go to Kaya and make a request. The owner Scott, and his kitchen staff are so much a cut above what I'm accustomed to down here that I like to let their inspiration take over, and just make whatever they're "feeling" at that time. Last time we were there, I was served tempeh (!!!) which was so good I truly wanted it again. But, no, I knew just to let them do their thing.  I'm so glad I resisted that temptation! Here's the little story.

After a full day in my kitchen plus some experimenting with new recipes, then some serious time spent organizing my recipe collection into several notebooks, I went for a run. As soon as I got back, I got cleaned up and put on my best Marilyn Monroe hair (I wasn't feeling the magic purple hair last night), a pair of sparkly flip flops, a tiny bit of glitter (glitter fixes everything...), and something dragged out of the closet that didn't need to be ironed. Off we went to Kaya. Once we arrived, I studied the menu as usual; it's habit. There are some "accidentally vegan" things on the menu, but as I mentioned when we go there we pretty much just ask "do your thing" and this is also what we suggest to anyone else who is vegan headed there. We had the Kaya simple salad, an amazing blooming onion with smoky vegenaise dipping sauce (ok, seriously now what restaurant actually stocks Vegenaise in their kitchen?!!!! WHEEEEEE!) and then dinner. It was a feast. The dinners arrived, and I was absolutely taken with our plates. Scott had made us portobello mushrooms with a silken tofu ginger (I think ginger) almond sauce, en papillote. Yup, you read that right. Also on the plate was grilled bok choy, jasmine rice and a bowl of dipping sauce again made with silken tofu, ginger and garnished with black & white sesame seeds. Now, my description may be lacking an ingredient or two, so perhaps this isn't the exact terms Scott would use. He did (as always) explain everything on our plates. I have to say, this was one of the most creative meal I've had since moving here.  Since I have gone vegan, never has anyone or any restaurant, made an effort to serve me anything en papillote.  For me, that's close to TWENTY years. Funny thing is, I really like food cooked this way, especially on the grill. Plus, it was just so obvious that a lot of thought went into our meal preparation and presentation last night; it's nice to be cared about and valued as a patron especially since my current line of work is firmly entrenched within the lodging/service industry.

I cannot help but think back to that horrible fancy restaurant we visited a few months ago where a "chef" served me cold, undrained, unseasoned, naked tofu, and considered that acceptable for a patron. With every trip we make to Kaya, I so want to take photos of my meals and send them over to that awful restaurant "chef" and just say "see, now THIS is how it's done!"  But, I don't (by the way, despite a non-attacking, thoughtful letter written to that other alleged fine dining restaurant about my awful experience with their food, I never got a response. I mention this because ironically the other happy vegan found the gift certificate from that place just yesterday...which still has well over $100 worth of dining on it.... we will not be going to that other horrible place ever again).  Ah..... our meals at Kaya were so good last night.

After all was said and done, a beautiful plate of fruit, crushed and slivered nuts, and candied ginger was before us to wind up the evening. Everything was perfection, and here are some photos:

Ok, aside from being blurry (why oh why does this always happen?!) ...
this is my simple salad; it has some type of hibiscus (I think) house made dressing.
I order this every time we go there, it's delicious.

Whee!!!!! Innovative! Delicious!
My beautiful dinner... en papillote!

Wonderful way to end a fine meal.... fresh fruit with macadamia nuts,
almonds and a hint of candied ginger.... all with a pretty banana leaf tucked under there.

And, here is the little girl kitty who is always there to meow her way
into my heart; doesn't she look a smidge like Peri?

We aren't sure when we'll have the good fortune (i.e.: time) to get back to Kaya, but the next time we do have that window of opportunity for dining out, we absolutely will be headed straight back there again, with great anticipation. Bon Appetit!

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