Sunday, February 24, 2008

Note to self: Always meet the chef

The first night of food at the Frank Sinatra golf invitational was pretty bleak for vegans, as I said in my previous post.

The good news is that the next two nights were considerably better.

On Friday night I happened to see executive chef Greg Picard surveying the buffet, and I pulled him aside. I explained that I'm vegan and asked which foods would be safe for me to eat. He took me through the line and told me the ingredients for each dish. It's a good thing we did this, because it turns out some things that seemed veggie-friendly were actually made with chicken stock.

Maybe the disappointment showed on my face because the chef said, "Hey, why don't I make you some whole wheat penne with some vegetables? Would you like that?"

Hell yeah I would.

So this is what I had:
Pasta dish

The woman next to me leaned over and said, "Why did you something special?"

Because I am a very special vegan.

"Oh," she said. "Well, I used to be vegetarian, but it's too hard and I really like chicken."

I wanted to tell her that I like chickens too -- that's why I stopped eating them. But I didn't. (I'm working on being less of a smartass these days.)

Saturday night was at the invitational was a formal, four-course meal. We called the chef ahead of time to let him know I would be at the event.

"I figured you would," he said. "I already have a vegan meal planned."

The staff fawned over me all night as they brought my special meals. First course was an heirloom tomato and onion salad. Second course was a variation of the pasta from the night before. Dessert was a big sundae glass full of fresh berries that had been drizzled with sugar.

And my entree was this -- a big bowl of lentils, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables.
Lentils and veggies

It was amazing.

Seated next to me was baseball hall-of-famer Brooks Robinson.

"What do I have to say to get that?" he said, pointing at my entree.

I told him a little bit about veganism and why I eat that way for health and compassionate reasons. He asked me some really good questions and then said, "How do you spell it? I'm going to have to try that."

So, major props go out to the open-minded baseball player, who was genuinely interested in a different way of eating, and to Chef Picard at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort, who went out of his way to be accommodating.

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