Market carrots, hazelnuts, smoked
paprika, roasted onion, white bean
“gnocchi” and coriander purée come
together in Carrots Romesco at The
Signature Room at the 95th.
October 2009. And more than 30 hospitals
nationwide have signed on to Health Care
Without Harm’s Balanced Menus Challenge,
agreeing to reduce meat purchases by 20%.
The state of Michigan sponsored Michigan
Meatout Day to encourage residents to cut
down on meat, and San Francisco passed
a resolution calling on schools, stores and
restaurants to offer non-meat food options.
With child (and adult) obesity at the
forefront of a governmental initiative
around healthier eating, plant-based,
meatless meals are an increasing trend.
This can be seen particularly among young
people, as noted in a recent survey of
students at State University of New York
at Purchase, N. Y., in which about a third
of respondents identified themselves as
vegetarian, but more than 90% regularly
ate at the on-campus vegetarian cafe.
And giving even more impetus to
restaurants that want to increase their
vegetarian options, Restaurants &
Institutions 2010 New American Diner
Study showed 23% of consumers eating
more meatless entrées than just a year ago.
HOOKED ON VEGGIES
Dovetail, The New York Times rated three-star restaurant on the upper west side of
Manhattan, instituted a Monday four-course
vegetarian and vegetarian-focused menu in
March. Chef/proprietor John Fraser started
it initially as a challenge to the kitchen.
“Vegetable cookery has been status quo for
a long time,” he says. “We’d do a purée of this
and a little of that. I felt we needed to mess
things up a bit in the kitchen and push the
envelope to make things more interesting
and collaborative. We also wanted to better
source the abundance of produce available
at New York’s farmers markets.”
In addition to the regular menu, Monday nights
feature strictly vegetarian selections, including
a vegetable consommé cooked in a Mason jar
with mushroom dumplings and spicy pickled
carrots, a lasagna of braising greens with pine
nuts, feta cheese and morels, and parsnip
“acting like a spare rib,” with tamarind BBQ
sauce, pineapple and crispy shallots.
The vegetable-focused entrées include
English cucumber/potato stew, shiso,
jalapeño, sea urchin and congee, and a
fennel confit with bonito flakes, eggplant
miso purée and kimchi.
“It’s been wildly successful,” says Fraser.
“I wasn’t sure how it would be received,
but there are many reasons that people
are eating less meat. Some do it out of
concern for the way farm animals are
raised and treated, and others for health
reasons. And some just decide to try the
menu for fun, and get hooked.”
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
In Chicago, executive chef Patrick Sheerin
would be the first to point out that The
Signature Room at the 95th would most
likely not be thought of as particularly
vegetarian-friendly. Situated atop the John
Hancock Center, the dining rooms and
lounges take up 25,000 square feet over two
floors, averaging almost 500 covers a night in
addition to lunches and special events, with a
staff upward of 60 people in the kitchen.
Yet Sheerin is among the city’s Green City
Market’s largest supporters, purchasing on
the spot and forming long-term relationships
with farms that grow specific items toward
which much of his food budget goes. He is
King oyster mushroom, black winter truffles,
cocoa/rye crumbles and herb goat cheese
tempt The Signature Room’s diners in this