Are you ready for some crazy delicious dinner party ideas? Then come take a peek at the incredible six-course dinner Jeff and I enjoyed in celebration of our 10-year anniversary!
The twist? The entire anniversary dinner was vegan. And raw. And loaded with inspiration for entertaining—and everyday dinners, too!
Elizabeth’s Gone Raw: Outside the ordinary
We enjoyed our unique anniversary celebration at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, one of DC’s best-kept culinary secrets. An offshoot of the Catering Company of Washington, this “restaurant” operates only on Friday nights in an opulently decorated Federalist townhouse in the heart of DC.
Walking inside feels like stepping back in time into an exclusive dinner club, replete with oriental rugs, warm dusky lighting, and a marble bar that beckons patrons to linger over a cocktail in the intimate lobby before proceeding upstairs to the main dining room.
Each week in this gorgeous setting, Executive Chef Francisco Hernandez serves up an innovative and ever-changing six-course raw vegan tasting menu—offering a fine-dining experience that’s not only exquisitely delicious, but healthy to boot.
Even more interesting is the backstory to this hidden gem. Elizabeth Petty, owner of the Catering Company of Washington, launched Elizabeth’s Gone Raw after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Upon improving her health with a vegan raw-food diet, she decided to share the delicious benefits by offering an elegant evening of raw cuisine every week.
If you ever dine at Elizabeth’s Gone Raw, odds are you’ll meet Elizabeth herself, as she assists the wait staff on the floor. She’s incredibly friendly and caring; when I told her after dinner that I’d had breast issues myself, she whisked Jeff and me into the kitchen, showing us her favorite juicer (an Omega), recommending a daily shot of wheatgrass juice (how she starts every day), and encouraging me to ditch sugar. (Working on that!)
We also got to speak to Chef Hernandez, and learned that his interest in raw food came from a desire to improve his health, too. Not only did he lose weight after incorporating raw vegan food into his life, but both he and his family are healthier than ever and loving what they eat.
Speaking of which, let’s get to the good stuff: the menu, along with ideas for making your dinner parties and everyday meals—raw or otherwise—a success!
Amuse-bouche: Hempseed & chia cracker with smoked tomato relish & aleppo apricot jam
Creamy smoked tomato relish redolent with allspice melded beautifully with apricot jam and cilantro in this two-bite treat. All on a buttery hemp cracker so crunchy you would swear it was baked!
Dinner party idea: Copycat hors d’oevres using tomato paste as a base for the relish, purchased apricot jam, and gluten-free Mary’s Gone Crackers.
“Bread basket” – Cashew & red pepper kale chips
These delightfully crisp kale chips (“roasted” in a dehydrator) combined a hint of sweetness from red pepper with salty-savory cashews. Yum! We ate every last chip and practically licked the bowl. (Jeff and I are delicate flowers, what can I say?)
Dinner party idea: Winter kale salad with red pepper and cashew dressing.
Starter: Green apple & baby spinach soup with almond milk & caraway crème
I still can’t get over how amazing this soup was. I didn’t think I’d like the caraway flavor, which I normally associate with Indian cooking, in an apple-spinach soup. But it was to die for! Plus, the flavor of the soup itself was deliciously intense. Luckily, the chef shared one of the secrets to the soup’s rich flavor: he used dehydrated apples instead of fresh.
Dinner party idea: Blending dried apples into soup for extra flavor, like vegan leek and sweet potato bisque.
Appetizer: Papaya & spaghetti squash salad with coconut, chocolate & rose water crème, and kelp caviar
Mind = blown! First, I didn’t know you could eat spaghetti squash raw. (You can.) Second, I didn’t know it would be good. (It was.) Third, I never would have thought of pairing papaya, of all things, with spaghetti squash. But wow! Delicious.
Just to explain what you’re seeing: The bottom layer is the spaghetti squash. The middle layer is coconut that’s been soaked in passionfruit juice for 3 days and has taken on the soft, delicate texture of crab meat, or maybe cherimoya. The top layer is vegan kelp caviar, which you can actually buy. The whole ensemble is garnished with sliced radish, cilantro microgreens, and alternating chocolate/rose water and passionfruit crèmes.
Dinner party idea: This cool presentation! I’m guessing they stacked the layers in a round cookie cutter, then removed it to give the appetizer its fun shape. I bet this would work with any salad that can hold together.
Intermezzo: Beet & strawberry sorbet with lemon water
I love a sorbet intermezzo! Hardly any restaurants serve one, which is a shame, because how else can you justify ice cream in the middle of a meal? In fact, this course took me right back to Jeff’s and my wedding reception, because we served a sorbet intermezzo of our own that day.
Anyhow, the beet-strawberry combo was delicious, and not at all earthy like I’d suspected it might be.
Dinner party idea: Serving sorbet between courses. Because sorbet!
Entrée: Quenelle of sprouted beluga lentils with turmeric pickled pears, chestnut crème, black truffle, and porcini mushroom cappuccino
To be honest, I had to look up what a quenelle was while I was writing this! (According to Google: “a small seasoned ball of pounded fish or meat.”) This quenelle, however, was made with sprouted lentils so tender I forgot they weren’t cooked. In fact, this dish was so complex and delicious that I had to close my eyes while I was chewing to taste everything that was going on. (Does anyone else do that?) I mean, from bottom to top, there was chestnut creme, pickled pears and fresh corn, and lentils, while truffle “tapenade” and porcini mushroom foam lent the dish a savory, umami flavor. Oh, and the pop of pink is julienned water radish.
Dinner party idea: Chestnuts. I’ve never in my life cooked with chestnuts! (Of course, I’ve never made cappuccino foam out of mushrooms, either, but I can live with that.) For the holidays, I’m thinking of trying Lentil Chestnut Stew from Closet Cooking.
Dessert: Orange panna cotta with pomegranate seeds, raspberry, and yuzu
Man, oh man. I would have sworn there was dairy in this—heavy cream for sure! But no, the base for this stunning panna cotta was coconut, scented with orange and accompanied by dehydrated raspberry powder, pomegranate arils, chocolate mint (it really does taste like chocolate), and a sweet yuzu creme. (Yet another ingredient I was clueless about: Yuzu is a rare Japanese citrus fruit that tastes like lemon, mandarin orange, and grapefruit all together.) Needless to say, it was incredible.
Dinner Party Idea: Pomegranate as a dessert garnish. Not only is pomegranate a breast cancer fighter, but it’s so gorgeous I can barely stand it. I mean, how beautiful would a slice of deep orange pumpkin pie be with coconut whipped cream and a sprinkling of these little ruby jewels? Thanksgiving bling!
Visiting Elizabeth’s Gone Raw definitely inspired me to include more raw food in my daily diet. I also came away with a host of ideas for holiday entertaining and everyday dinners—and I hope you did too. And if you’re ever in DC and in the mood for a special meal, well, now you know where to go!
Have you gotten any entertaining ideas from a restaurant lately? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays.