The V Word

I’m not sure how to start this post.  It’s been three days, so I feel like it’s time to write about it – three days with no meat, that is.  I finished Skinny Bitch last night.  I’m definitely not ready to adopt a completely vegan lifestyle, but the book made me question a lot of my decisions about the food I eat.  And quite frankly, after reading the chapter on factory farms, I have no desire to eat meat right now.  So I haven’t.

I’m not ready to call myself a vegetarian.  I guess I don’t know if this is something I can (or will) stick to, and that’s partly why I’m hesitant to even write about it on here, but I feel strongly about the decision right now.  I’ve been making an effort to eat “less” meat for awhile now, but this is a pretty big jump.  I even feel a little guilty for not giving up dairy products as well, but I’m taking baby steps.  Actually, it feels like I’m taking giant steps as it is.  Party of me wonders if I would feel this strongly if I were able to find environmentally friendly & cruelty free meat – but as I said before, I just don’t have the desire, so I’m going with it for now.

The first two days weren’t hard at all.  I actually like meat substitutes, and it’s been fun to try new recipes.  But tonight was my first real challenge.  Eating dinner out in public with friends.  I wasn’t ready to “announce” my new lifestyle, but it’s pretty hard not to when you’re faced with a menu that is almost entirely meat.  We went to eat at Garson tonight – a Persian & Mediterranean restaurant just outside the Loop.

Although my new diet may have come up in conversation (and although I know I shouldn’t feel ashamed for not eating meat, I couldn’t help feeling my cheeks turn a little red), I was not ready to announce my new hobby to the crowd as well.  So thanks to my shyness, the pictures tonight are via the iPhone.  *Sigh*

The atmosphere at the restaurant was really nice.  It felt like a nice restaurant, but people weren’t really dressed up.  Our waiter was very suave.  He had the perfect accent to go with the setting and asked if he could start us off with some wine.  Umm, could we see a wine menu please?  He did this again with the appetizers – “Would you like some apps?”  Well, what do you have to offer??

Before I get into the appetizers, let me explain what happened when I ordered.  I was faced with a menu that was divided by different kinds of meats.  The only vegetarian items were labeled as “Vegetarian Appetizers.”  Some of the stews sounded good, so I asked if I could order the Gheimeh (tomato stew) with no beef chunks.  The server informed me that the beef is already mixed in.  So instead I asked for an order of Hummus and a Shirazi Salad.  He asked if that was all – yes, thank you.  He then asked if I would like both items brought out at the same time.  Yes, thank you.  He then brought both items out at the same time – as appetizers.  I felt a little embarrassed, since that was supposed to be my meal.  But many of the others had ordered apps, and the main dishes came out quickly, so it was not a big deal.

While waiting on the appetizers, I ordered a glass of Toscana wine.  The server brought out pita bread and a plate of parsley, mint, lemon and feta cheese.  Clearly, I am not ready to become a vegan.  I had some feta on pita.

I had two slices of this.  And then the appetizers (and my meal) came out.

The hummus was amazing.  It was definitely my favorite of every food item I tried tonight.  The lovely oil you see there was sesame seed oil, lemon juice and fresh garlic.  Just amazing.  The oil made the whole thing feel really buttery and it spread smoothly on the pita bread.

I also tasted the Babaghanosh (baked egg plant with the same oil dressing as above), the Mizra Ghasemi (grilled eggplant with tomato, Persian spices, garlic and scrambled eggs on top – don’t worry, I avoided the eggs) and the Eggplant (pureed, seasoned with mint and Persian spices).  It was all very good – especially the Mizra Ghasemi.  I loved the sauce it was baked in.

The other half of my dinner was the Shirazi Salad.  Tomatoes and cucumbers (and parsley) served with the house dressing (a lime vinaigrette). 

I was a little weary ordering this because I don’t really like cucumbers, but it was only $5, so I thought I might as well try it.  I’m glad I did.  I really liked the tomatoes, but the cucumber was pretty good with the dressing.  The dressing was extremely acidic, and it made my lips burn, but I still really liked it.

I really filled up on everyone else’s food.  I tried the dill rice – it would have been good, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the dill flavor.  It tasted too much like pickles to me and I hate pickles.  The only item I didn’t like at all was the Gheimeh Bademjan (Persian style tomato based stew).  It was pretty bad, which was surprising, considering it was surrounded by so much good food.

Pat ordered the Garson’s Favorite – fettuccine tossed with grilled chicken, smoked sausage and chive cream sauce.

He said it was really good (I didn’t taste this one).  He said the chicken was especially tender, but the sausage was just so-so.

Then the dessert tray came out.  I wasn’t planning on dessert, but look at this thing.  How could you resist?

The server caught me taking a picture of this one and joked, “No pictures!”  I think he was joking anyway.  One person ordered tiramisu, another ordered that rolled up crepe type dessert in the right hand corner, I ordered baklava, and others ordered tea and coffee.  I am so glad I ordered the baklava.

I remember the first time I had baklava.  I was at a Key Club convention in Columbus, OH.  We were having lunch in a mall, and there was a Greek place.  I remember how much I loved it the very first time I tried it – and I didn’t have it again until the same convention a year later at the same mall.

This baklava was one of the best I’ve ever had.  Probably the very best.  As someone else at the table pointed out (yes, I shared!), it was much softer and more moist than other versions I’ve had in the past.  So true.  But I was good, and only took a few bites.  Really, I was just too full from all that pita bread to eat anything else.  So the rest is in the fridge waiting for me to take it to work tomorrow 🙂

Pat had the Persian tea for dessert.

It was black tea with cardamom.  It was really good – not very sweet, but just sweet enough.  I can’t drink tea completely black.

Overall, it was a great dining experience, and I would love to go back.   Every single thing I ate (with the exception of the stew) was just wonderful.  Our total bill came out to exactly $30/person (including tip).  This wasn’t too bad considering the alcohol, appetizers and dessert.  I highly recommend this restaurant!

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