Four Course Vegan
Private dining clubs, typically held in the chef's lofts or apartments, have been in vogue in New York for the past few years as a way to create a more intimate dining experience, where the only steps between the raw ingredients and your plate are the chefs preparing and (often) serving you the food themselves. Held weekly, monthly or seasonally, private dining spots are perfect for local, organic cuisine, allowing for meals crafted around whatever is in-season right at that moment, with little need for middlemen between the farm and the kitchen.
Matteo Silverman (or Chef Matteo, as he styles himself) takes this greenmarket appeal to its logical conclusion by serving fantastic dishes made from only local, sustainable produce, all of which are vegan, and some raw. His event, the Four Course Vegan, is a weekly affair that has been going for six years now, a testament to the excellence of what comes out of Matteo's kitchen, which is only a few feet from long, communal tables in a live-in loft. For each week's menu, he crafts a set menu of four new, inventive dishes that guests can preview on his website.
To find the loft, hidden in a warren-like converted factory in Williamsburg, guests RSVP by email and are sent a time and location to show up. The cost — $40 for four courses — might seem rich for some people's blood, but the quality of what's served, in my experience, far surpassed anything I've ever tasted in the city's handful of purely vegetarian restaurants.
The four courses usually turn into five or six, too, with a few complimentary amuse bouche-type dishes served between courses. The menu I sampled included avocado spring rolls with jalapeño and yuzu ponzu, taro dim sum studded with edamame in a homemade sweet chile sauce, and an almond-butter torte with meyer lemon-coconut-tapioca sauce for desert. Pretty far from cliché visions of bland, overly "healthy" vegan food. Throw in some pretty fascinating slice-of-New-York life conversation from a minimum of nine other diners — several of whom weren't even vegetarian when I attended, but were surely converts by the end of the night — and the whole thing begins to seem like a bargain, and an ethically sound one at that.