Vegan goes mainstream this month with the launch of a series of workshops, masterclasses and dinners hosted at well known Dublin restaurants. Afternoon tea at The Shelbourne, sushi at Kyoto, Indian food at Ananda, cocktails and finger food at Bow Lane, and cheese and wine tasting at Hugo's, are all part of a series of events being organised by Sivan and Scott Renwick of veganinireland.com.
With the exception of The Shelbourne, which already offers gluten-free and vegan versions of its afternoon tea, the menus for these events will be specially created for the occasion and will feature some dishes not currently available on the restaurants’ menus.
Sivan, who is originally from Tel Aviv, and her Irish husband Scott, organise holidays in Ireland and run food tours of Dublin, all vegan of course. Sivan is also founder and editor of the online lifestyle magazine, theveganwoman.com.
Both have been vegan for almost a decade, and Sivan says she has seen huge improvements in the plant-based food offering in Dublin in that time. “In the past few years, so much has been going on here. We try to surprise our guests.”
Those surprises might include a full menu of vegan fast food, including battered sausages, nuggets and curry cheese chips, at McGuinness Traditional Take Away on Camden Street; cocktails, including an Irish cream liqueur made to Sivan's own recipe, or afternoon tea with lots of cake at the Silk Road Cafe in the Chester Beatty Library.
The guided vegan food tours (€69) take in six stops for food and drinks, and run over the course of 3½-hours. None of the places visited are exclusively vegan, “but all are vegan-friendly”, Sivan says. Neither are the guests all followers of a plant-based diet. “We get a lot of non-vegans on the tours. People are really curious about what vegans eat, apart from salad,” she says.
The food tours have been running for 15 months, and the culinary event series is a new initiative for the company, which is based in Sandyford. A vegan Indian food night at Ananda in Dundrum kicks off the sereies on Tuesday, August 21st. A spice workshop and cooking demonstration with head chef Karan Mittal, with a wine reception and gift bag, can be booked for €59, and the optional four-course dinner which follows at 8pm is an additional €69.
Making vegan sushi about more than avocado, and a chance to roll your own, under the direction of chef Kwong Yew Liew at Kyoto Asian Street Food, is on Sunday, September 16th (masterclass and four-course dinner €79).
Afternoon tea without cream, eggs or smoked salmon sandwiches? Discover how it is done at The Shelbourne hotel, with a talk and demonstration by executive head chef Garry Hughes and a full service afternoon tea, on Tuesday, October 23rd (€99).
Interest is expected to be strong for the cheese and wine tasting on Sunday, September 30th, where five types of 'cheese' will be served alongside six vegan wines. The mystery of what makes a wine vegan will be explained by sommelier Guillaume Lasalle, and Sivan Renwick says the mix of cheeses will include commercial brands, some home-made by herself, and some artisan-made by Bob Christie of Little Green Leaf in Cork.
For many people following a vegan diet, cheese is their equivalent of the vegetarian's temptation by bacon. The Irish online vegan food store plantgoodness24.ie has no fewer than 34 varieties, including variations on Parmesan, halloumi, mozzarella and Cheddar.
Sivan says she wants attendees to be made aware of the wide range of vegan cheese on offer. They can be made from a wide variety of ingredients, including coconut oil, soya milk, rice, nuts and seeds. Wine tastings and cheese and dips platters, accompanied by a glass of the vegan wine of the guest’s choice, are included in the €65 ticket price.
With the commercial brands, it is worth keeping an eye on what is in them. One brand of flavoured vegan cheese slices is made with the following: water, vegetable oil (23 per cent), potato starch, modified starch, sea salt, emulsifiers (sodium polyphosphate, sodium citrate), vegan flavours. Preservation: Sorbic acid. Colour: Carotene.
Bow Lane cocktail bar on Aungier Street goes vegan on Tuesday, November 6th for a cocktails, canapés and finger food event, at which you can learn how to make four cocktails, and taste them, alongside matching finger foods chosen by chef Yash Raj Jooree. The ticket price of €75 also includes a full-sized cocktail.
Eggs, cream and even the dyes extracted from insects, such as cochineal, that end up in some alcoholic drinks, will be off limits for the mixologists on this occasion.