Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Perfect Celebration at Cafe Flora: 2901 E. Madison Street, Seattle

One thing vegans frequently face is the common misconception that vegan food is bland, boring, or not very satisfying. There is the stereotype that we live on lettuce leaves and grass and that because we have chosen to not eat cheese, we must not have good palates. We vegans know this is so very far from the truth, which is that most of us are actually the biggest foodies around who delight in discovering new flavor combinations and fabulous culinary creations. The fact of the matter is that in terms of being critical eaters, vegans are often the toughest food critics. Many of us are so used to cooking that we are actually quite good at it. This means that when we go out to eat and end up with something bland or distasteful for dinner, something that we know we could have made better at home ourselves, we grow frustrated or disappointed and we don't forget the experience easily.

Nevertheless, convincing omnivores of our exceptional culinary tastes takes some doing. And that is one of the many many reasons I am glad Cafe Flora exists. Yes I had read the reviews and heard the stories and I knew this place was supposed to be amazing. However, having never eaten there before yesterday evening, I was simultaneously excited to try it out but also fearful of being disappointed. Thankfully, all it took was that first bite to truly realize I had nothing at all to fear.

It was one year ago my husband and I were married and that we celebrated together with our friends and family with delicious vegan food (catered by the talented Jordan and Melanie.) How fitting that we celebrate our first wedding anniversary together with the most perfect meal.

Cafe Flora is light, airy, spacious and comfortable. We were seated at an intimate two-person table right next to a relaxing water fountain. Holly was our server and she couldn't have been nicer. We started with an appetizer that she recommended that was unlike anything I had ever tasted. It was fried avocado battered in spiced cornmeal and served with a slightly spicy vegan aioli and papaya chutney. It was lovely and the avocado melted in my mouth in an absolutely delectable way. The chutney was so tasty and complemented the dish perfectly. The avocado was not in the slightest bit greasy, which is always the fear with fried food, but rather cooked to perfection.

I am always a bit dumbfounded when I have more than one or two things to choose from on a menu since that is what I am accustomed to, so I again asked Holly for a recommendation. She was so willing to offer suggestions and she was also very knowledgeable about the food, which definitely made a positive impression on us. I ended up with one of the best dinner choices I think I have ever had. It was the Artichoke Croquettes with Grilled Asparagus, and was supposed to be reminiscent of crab cakes. (Incidentally, I was curious what someone who has eaten crab cakes more recently would think, so I asked my husband to taste it and he concurred. He thought it was amazingly good.)

For his main, my husband selected the Portobello Wellington, (which although vegetarian was not vegan), and he was truly impressed. We soon realized we were having one of those great food-related experiences because our conversation died while we were consumed with how wonderful our food tasted. And when we did begin to speak again it was to proclaim to each other how delicious everything was, and to compare our observations about the various flavors and what they made us think of. (Luckily, one thing that we have in common is that we both enjoy good food so very much that this was actually a perfectly romantic experience.)

Since I somehow managed to eat everything on my plate, I didn't think I would be able to eat dessert, but my husband reminded me that it is not something I can frequently get at restaurants and talked me into sharing something with him. They have one of those fun dessert trays, so you can actually see what the choices look like before you order. Three of the five dessert options were vegan, and we decided on the Jasmine Ginger Rice Pudding. And you can probably guess what I am going to say about it--yes, it too was amazing and delicious.

Cafe Flora is now our official favorite place in Seattle to have a celebratory meal, and I think this might become an anniversary tradition. I encourage you to check it out next time you have something to celebrate, and bring your omnivorous friends or family because they will not be disappointed. I advise you to either plan on a slight wait or come early because the place is very popular and gets packed quickly. We arrived right when they opened so we were seated immediately, but it did not take long for the entire restaurant to fill up and there were people waiting for tables by the time we left.

And in terms of value, the prices are comparable to our local D'Anna's, one of my other absolute favorite special places. Also similar to D'Anna's is the satisfaction you feel after eating there--full and happy and warm and good. I love that relaxed contentment good times and good food can bring, where it is easy to think about how lucky you are because there are so many wonderful things in your life, where you find yourself smiling without even realizing it, and you really feel sure that the world is full of limitless possibilities.


aredcardigan said...

Love the the pic!!!

Awwwwwww my heart crumbles...

My buddy is moving to Seattle soon...his tummy is going to be very very happy.

Hope all is well with you hun.


CM said...

Yes your buddy will have plenty of good eats to choose from.

Thanks for your kind words. Hope all is well with you too!

Sean said...

I went here back in April with my omni cousin for Sunday brunch. The place was absolutely packed to the gills. We thought the food was delicious, but we waited like an hour to and hour and a half for it to arrive which made the experience bittersweet. We got really simple dishes too. He got the coconut mango french toast and I got the vegan breakfast. Maybe next time I go though, it'll be for dinner I think.

CM said...

I love brunch! That would be so fun but I would probably do like we did for dinner and get there right when they open, and then maybe the wait wouldn't be so bad. From what I have seen and heard, they get busy fast!