Trenchermen [Photo: Jason Little]
Are vegetarian tasting menus in Chicago a lasting trend? According to Trenchermen executive chef and partner Pat Sheerin, who is now offering a "Meatless Monday" prix-fixe menu, they are. They have also popped up at Mercat a la Planxa, GT Fish & Oyster and Feast & Imbibe.
Trenchermen is in their fourth week offering their four-course veggie menu featuring seasonal vegetables from The Green City Market. According to Sheerin, the menu can be made completely plant-based and has made a permanent home there. Each course will continue to evolve based on what is in season and will change each month.
"Vegetarian menus are not just a trend...it's not going away," Sheerin says. He cites "the science behind the diet, the potential to cure diseases and the environmental impact" for the trend, "plus it is a great challenge to our team to craft with plants as opposed to meat as the focal point of the dish."
The current menu features a sweet pea falafel, charred eggplant and date pine nut chutney; heirloom tomatoes, house-made red wine and olive oil sorbet with fried bread; Szechwan-inspired heirloom wheat berry with mapo tofu, squash, carrots, chilies and pumpkin seeds; and apple crisp a la Mode for $36 with optional wine pairings for $18 more.
Mercat a la Planxa's prix-fixe vegetarian menu launched October 1 for Vegetarian Awareness Month. The menu features three courses of three different tastings of Catalan-inspired vegetarian tapas and is available every night through October. An evolving vegetarian menu will find a permanent home after that.
GT Fish & Oyster, who is known for contemporary twists on seafood, has a "secret" vegetarian tasting menu that mirrors the standard menu. The vegetarian version of "ceviche" uses jicama in place of the fish. Diners should notify the hostess when making a reservation for the alternative vegetarian menu.
Feast & Imbibe recently announced a seven-course vegetarian dinner set at a secret location in Evanston on October 18 and October 19; a few spots are still available for the latter date.
With restaurants such as Trenchermen (whose name literally means "hearty eater") and Mercat offering them, perhaps the sprouting of veggie tasting menus in Chicago is a lasting trend.
· All Trenchermen Coverage [-ECHI-]
· All Mercat a la Planxa Coverage [-ECHI-]
Ashley Gilday is a vegetarian, blogger and freelance writer. Follow Ashley @plantstrongdiva