Adventures in Veganism: Pop Up Goes the Veggies

Wine is thankfully vegan-friendly.
Last Friday night, experienced local chef Ryan Barnett hosted his fourth and final dinner in a series themed Sea, Air, Land and Earth. Intrigued by the pop-up concept and a themed dinner with a bunch of strangers, I brought a friend along to check it out.

Let's back up a bit and talk about the dreaded "V" word. Veganism, vegetarianism's uptight cousin, is pretty foreign to me, because I can't comprehend a lifestyle that doesn't include cheese, coffee with cream or a proper brunch. At the same time I recognize there are many vegans out there who can't understand how I can down half a wheel of brie, some pizza or even a Greek yogurt a couple times a week and still live with myself. Thus, we will continue to agree to disagree.

I wasn't at all worried about the food tasting good, as Barnett is a French-trained chef cooking within vegan guidelines, not a vegan chef who may or may not have lost all ability to know what good tastes like. I do fear such a chef's taste buds may have all given up and died. But I figured, if anyone could make vegan food taste good, it's a legitimate gourmet chef.

I put my sarcasm on pause and walked into My Private Chef, a very unassuming space on Elm Street in Deep Ellum. The dining area held two long tables full of guests, some vegan and some not, stocked with wine (the dinners are BYOB) and ready to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of Barnett's labor. As he introduced each dish, it was clear he had paid close attention to the guidelines of veganism and had prepared each dish with care. Later in the evening I chatted with Barnett about the concept of his pop-up series: the themed dinners that help give his culinary creativity direction without too much blue-sky opportunity, and specifically in "Earth," the challenge of using ingredients within the vegan diet prepared in gourmet style.

photos by foodbitch
Chef Barnett's chilled melon soup with cava foam and fennel fronds.
But enough with philosophy and ideology, as they are not at all edible. Let's get to the dishes. The first course was a chilled melon soup. It was light and refreshing, sweet and still slightly savory, topped with cava foam and fennel fronds. A great start, I thought.

Texas Pea Cassoulet
The second course was a bit less my style. Three different types of peas made up the Texas Pea Cassoulet, each less enticing-sounding than the last. But it certainly tasted healthy, and I ate as much as I could of my substantial portion, particularly relishing the crispy-fried quinoa-dusted onions that graced my little pea mountain. "Vegans must develop the ability to eat large volumes of legumes as an evolutionary way to keep up with the protein requirements of daily metabolic life," I thought to myself. All that protein was going straight to my head.

Paquet of courgettes.
Paquet of courgettes, which is French-vegan for "many squashes inside adorable handmade pasta pouches," came out next. The pasta, made from a simple mixture of semolina flour and water, was a bit gummy for my taste, and I thought the squash mixture could have benefited from some tomato or onion to add flavor.

Financier with summer fruits
Our final course was a financier with summer fruits. Or more plainly, a vegan cake topped with macerated strawberries and blueberries. Despite the lack of butter, eggs or even sugar (Barnett used agave nectar instead), this cake was surprisingly rich with a bit of a savory edge from the somewhat liberal use of salt. It tied the dinner together nicely and in the end, I felt good about what I'd eaten.

Admittedly, that didn't stop me from hitting up Pacuigo for a late night snack. I'll never be vegan, and I likely won't ever truly understand veganism, but I can certainly appreciate the desire to prepare good-tasting food within the challenging confines of thought-provoking dietary restrictions. Barnett says he will likely develop another themed pop-up series, after a little R&R, in the coming months.

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Location Info

My Private Chef

2901 Elm St., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Glad you enjoyed it (to a certain extent) Foodbitch. It's great that Chef Barnett sought to make this a vegan event - you can get vegetarian in many places, but vegan is certainly harder to come by.


But just because you don't eat vegan food, or have ever eaten vegan food by a vegan chef (not someone slinging sandwiches at Spiral Diner - no offense to Spiral), doesn't mean that the food doesn't taste good. You don't lose your taste buds when you go vegan - I've still taste pretty awful food from time to time - it's that your palette changes and you actually experience more varied foods than ever before (at least in my case).


Also, chefs that aren't vegan - regardless of how good they are - often have a hard time actually mastering a good vegan meal, especially without much practice, as obviously it's a completely different set of ingredients that many chefs just don't have experience with.


I wish I could have made it to this, but unfortunately was out of town - hopefully there will be a next time.


I have sent a petition to my local representative asking him to sponsor new legislation to outlaw the use of the non-word 'veggie' by anyone over the age of four. Because really. Isn't that a week one lesson in journalism school? "Only use words that actually exist outside of vapid toddler babble".


Seriously. Are we adults?


"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"


"The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency." UN Food and Agricultural Organization's report "Livestock's Long Shadow"


“If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund


Why would someone choose to be vegan? To slow global warming for one! Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: and


"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." ~ Albert Einstein


Unfortunately none of this sounds appetizing to me. At all.



Google results for the word Veggie: About 48,600,000 results


Fighting a losing battle sir.


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