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Harvest Dinner Event Shows Off Flavorful & Healthy Possibilities of Vegan Living

The Tower Bridge Bistro hosted an elegant 6-course fall harvest dinner last Thursday as six chefs from five restaurants each created their own organic and locally sourced dish. Each course was elegant, creative…and, oh yeah, it was also vegan.

Before jumping to conclusions about the taste or satisfaction of an all-vegan meal, let me say right out, the dinner was delicious. From roasted butternut squash to sage risotto to spiced chocolate ganache to wild mushroom soup with six varieties of mushrooms, the food was exquisite, flavorful, and filling.

And it’s the perfect example of what the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, organizer of the dinner, is all about.

Started in 2011 by nutritionist and teacher Bethany Davis, the SVCC was created with the goal of increasing vegan awareness and providing more vegan options at local restaurants by getting chefs to add a vegan appetizer, entree, and dessert to their menu for the entire month of October. People are then challenged to explore the restaurants’ offerings while going vegan for 30 days—and discovering how good it can be.

“We truly live in the produce basket of the United States,” said Davis, noting that our fortune in having such widely accessible produce makes the vegan diet rich with possibilities. “[The SVCC] helps people see vegan food is healthy and delicious. You don’t have to have meat to have a satisfying meal.”

Davis’ own transition from meat-eating to plant-based eating occurred quite accidentally. While in a bookstore one evening, she started reading Kathy Freston’s “The Veganist” and what Freston had to say about veganism’s positive impact on health, the environment, social justice, world hunger, and animal welfare made sense to Davis.

“I couldn’t unlearn what I had learned,” said Davis, whose choice to go vegan was a family affair. “It was about stewardship. If [my family and I] wanted to make positive impacts in all those areas, there wasn’t any other choice.”

Davis pointed out that not only is a plant-based diet good for your overall health—and able to prevent diseases such as cancer or even reverse diseases such as diabetes and heart disease—but it also reduces global warming by decreasing animal agriculture pollution, helps world hunger by reserving grain for people instead of animals, and conserves water by decreasing the vast amounts of water needed to sustain animals and grazing land.

Tower Bridge Bistro‘s Chef Clay Purcell, SVCC participant and one of the five chefs who created the harvest dinner, is not a vegan himself, but eats 2-3 meat-free meals a week and is an enthusiastic supporter of SVCC and the vegan community.

“It’s not a trend anymore. It’s a phenomenon,” said Chef Clay. “It’s better for everyone, whether you’re vegan or not, to be conscious of food and society.”

Proceeds from the harvest dinner went to Family Promise of Sacramento and Alchemist CDC, whose work with needy communities and produce accessibility Davis applauds.

To learn more about making the vegan transition and SVCC (including the variety of vegan events they host throughout the year!), visit sacveganchallenge.com.

Course 1. Seasonal kale salad with roasted butternut squash, toasted pepitas, and hard cider vinaigrette by Chef Andre Reiter, Capitol Dime.
Course 2. Wild mushroom soup with truffles by Chef Carina Lampkin, Blackbird.
Course 3. Candied beet and pickled fennel salad with carrot coulis, arugula and toasted pecans by Chef Raphael, Capitol Garage.
Course 4. Arborio rice and sage risotto parcels with rainbow chard and red garnet yam cornucopia by Chef Clay Purcell, Tower Bridge Bistro.
Course 5. Fall harvest pot pie with early winter vegetables, cashew emulsion, herb crust and olive oil by Chef Joelle Marie Davis.
Course 6. Coconut mochi cake with candied chestnuts, pached bosc pears, pumpkin spiced ganache, and agave granola by Chef F.J. Villalobos, 58 Degrees and Holding Co.

 Photos by Bethany Harris

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About the author

Bethany Harris

Bethany Harris

Bethany joined Sacramento Press in 2013 and enjoys writing articles that uncover the happenings of the city and the people behind the stories who make them so worth telling. A native of Sacramento, she also loves photography, running, and discovering new places and new things to do--both in the city and throughout California.

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