Maybe it was the prospect of a seven-course meal with no animal products on the menu. Or maybe it was a sense of adventure, to see what kind of spin Instant Karma owner Jason Miller could put on some favorite dishes.
Whatever the reason, the restaurant at 527 S. Main St. had a full house Sunday evening for its first-ever vegan beer dinner.
"We've always had vegan and vegetarian items on the menu since the day we opened," said Miller. "We tried a vegan week four or five months ago, and it was so popular we decided to take it to the next level with a beer dinner, which we've been doing for a while.
Representatives from Mother's Brewing Company made the trip from Springfield to pair the food with a beer they felt would complement the flavor of each course. The beer, Miller said, is also vegan.
First course: Foie gras lollipop
Served on sticks, the "foie gras" is actually made from ground up portabella mushrooms, truffle oil, onions and vegan butter. Miller used agar agar -- a vegetable protein -- to help it set. It's served upon a plate of Pop Rocks candy.
Second course: Bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts
The "bacon," says Miller, is made from azuki beans, combined with buckwheat, liquid smoke and real maple syrup. They are served with a vegan peanut sauce.
Salad: Carrot and zucchini noodle salad
One of our table mates, Mike Schmitz, is at the dinner as what he calls "an unofficial ambassador" for Mother's. He tries the salad and remarks that the almonds taste a lot like Cheerios. This prompts a lengthy discussion about favorite breakfast cereals. Honey Nut Cheerios are a favorite, and Joe loves the marshmallows in Lucky Charms. But back to the dinner.
Soup: White gazpacho
The dish is made with soy milk, almonds, cucumbers and grape slices.
Fish: Lobster roll Napoleon
Presented like a traditional lobster roll, the "lobster" is actually hypomyces lactifluorum, also known as the "lobster mushroom."
Main course: Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy
The "chicken" is an edible mushroom known as laetiporus. It has been sauteed in vegan butter and poultry seasoning, dipped in vegan buttermilk and a flour mixture, then fried. The gravy has been made from the pan drippings.
Dessert: Sweet eggs Benedict
An absolute marvel in terms of presentation. Served on a small pastry with a red chocolate, the "egg" is actually made with a sweetened coconut milk and blended mangoes. Not only does it look like it should, the "yolk" actually runs when you cut into it.
Scott: The absence of meat didn't bother me a bit. While I'm not a vegan, my recent push to try and find healthier alternatives dovetailed nicely with this menu. The portion sizes were perfect. After seven courses, I expected to be feeling stuffed, but this was exactly the right amount of food.
Lauren Bynum (green) takes a picture of her serving Sunday as she dines with (left to right) Bruce Akuna, Melanie Akuna, Constance Everitt and Kalani Akuna.
Almost 50 people attended Sunday's vegan beer dinner at Instant Karma.
Servings of lobster rolls Napoleon await diners during Sunday's vegan beer dinner at Instant Karma.
Under the glow of heat lamps, Jason Millier, owner of Instant Karma, delivers plates of vegan Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.
Jason Miller assembles the meal's final course, an animal free interpretation of eggs Benedict. Mangoes and coconut milk were used to simulate a fried egg.
Each course in the vegan beer dinner was paired with a beer from Mother's Brewery. Though not all beers are animal-free, brewery officials said the recipes selected for the dinner were all vegan, including one flavored with cucumbers.
Kolourz Voss pours samples of Foggy Notion, a beer from Mother's Brewery, served for dessert.
Mike Schmitz, of Springfield, takes a picture of one of the vegan courses in Sunday's seven-course vegan beer dinner.
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