Monday, January 30, 2017

The Art of Fine Dining

My Trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

I happened to be with a group attending a special exhibit at The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  We stopped for lunch at Eleven, the chichi cafĂ© on the premises.  (Eleven gets its name in honor of the Museum's opening on November 11, 2011 at 11:11 am.)

Eleven is pleased to offer gourmet food, light years ahead of the standard cafeteria fare which tarnishes the reputation of many a fine museum.  Vegan options were advertised in the menu’s legend, along with vegetarian and gluten-free selections, but the menu changes every three to four months, and this “season” didn’t offer any actual vegan dishes.  I had to be creative.

The white bean soup lived up to expectations.  Even without the jalapeno cornbread (it contains butter) it was a filling bowl of savory beans in a rich vegetable broth with a stewed tomato as the centerpiece.  You know you’ve picked a good dish when several people at your table want to taste a sample.  

But there was still plenty left to warm my tummy on this frigid winter day.  Had it not been so bitterly cold, I might have considered the Autumn Harvest Salad (have them leave off the parmesan), or the Ozark All Seasons Leaf Salad (substitute the yogurt cucumber dressing with a balsamic vinaigrette.)

There’s also a coffee bar at the opposite end of the dining hall, and their latte was delicious.  (Yes, they have both soy and coconut milk.)
This was a simple enough lunch, but very filling.  Prices are a smidge high, but then, you’re in a world class museum whose admittance is free, so enjoy the fabulous collection before and after your vegan repast.  It’s food for the soul.

The cornbread I took a pass on at lunch reminded me of my own beloved vegan version of this classic dish:
1 cup each whole wheat flour and stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil
4 tablespoons melted margarine (cooled)
1 cup soy or almond milk
Mix all ingredients, but not too thoroughly; leave texture course
Pour into a greased 9” pan and bake at 400 ° 25-30 minutes
Serve hot with non-dairy spread and agave syrup – D-lish!

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