A Very Veggie Valentine


Are you seeking a romantic restaurant for a Valentine’s Day rendezvous?
Then whet your appetite with one of Portland’s high-end vegetarian tasting menus. Two of the following restaurants (Farm Spirit and Natural Selection) maintain entirely vegetarian kitchens, so there is no opportunity for meat and milk to mix.

Aviary

This celebrated Asian fusion restaurant, which offers a daily vegetarian tasting menu, will serve a special four-course, prix-fixe dinner on Valentine’s Day. Chef Sarah Pliner, who once eschewed meat, is especially committed to serving delicious vegetable-focused cuisine. This Valentine’s Day, she will offer an exciting menu that features a chanterelle terrine with a layer of quince gelée, pickled chanterelles and brioche toast, and a chestnut soup with crème fraiche, Brussels sprouts, maple syrup and salted duck egg. Says Pliner of her culinary innovations: “It’s much harder to find a way of preparing vegetables that feels like it’s enough, at the same time avoiding the usual tired vegetarian options – like risotto and pasta. The reward is when I do manage to come up with something original that works, vegetarians seem to really appreciate and recognize the effort.”

1733 NE Alberta St., 503-287-2400, aviarypdx.com

Castagna

On Valentine’s Day, Chef Justin Woodward will serve a multicourse, vegetable-based menu. Woodward, who has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef award, prides himself on cuisine that is “seasonal and progressive.” The Willamette Week dubbed Castagna “Portland’s most adventurous kitchen.” Diners have been known to ooh and aah over its modernist masterpieces.

752 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-231-7373, castagnarestaurant.com

Farm Spirit

It’s rather difficult to score a table at Portland’s first (and only) vegan tasting-menu restaurant. However, Valentine’s Day promises to be the ideal holiday to try to snag a reservation. Farm Spirit’s extra-special meal will consist of 15-plus courses of “horticultural cuisine.” The dinner, which will last for more than four hours, will end with three desserts: vegetable-based, fruit-based and chocolate. You are sure to be mesmerized by the culinary creativity of chef/owner Aaron Adams; in the past, he has served purple carrots dressed with rosemary pinot noir vinaigrette and toast with walnut milk jam and raisin puree. Says the chef: “Our approach is modernist; we look at the ingredients with new eyes. What is this, what can I do with it? We try not to have preconceived notions so that we can come out with surprisingly great new things that never existed before.”

You can book your dinner online at farmspiritpdx.com; tickets are $98 not including supplements.
1414 SE Morrison St.

Natural Selection

For the past five years, this fine, Mediterranean-focused vegetarian restaurant has enchanted diners with its creative cookery. Chef Aaron Woo creates beautiful preparations of local, seasonal ingredients; his artistry has been lauded by Sunset Magazine, Portland Monthly and Eater.com. Natural Selection’s five-course Valentine’s Day dinner, which includes a wine-pairing option, will be entirely vegan and gluten-free. That does not mean it is devoid of decadence: Chocolate, a traditional aphrodisiac, will make an appearance in the dessert course.

3033 NE Alberta St., 503-288-5883, naturalselectionpdx.com

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