A pure vegan experience for the adventurous food lover at the Tephra dinner

By Lindsay Kosma 

May 24, 2016

It felt like an exclusive experience from the moment you pushed past the Closed sign and into Atherton Mill and Market after-hours. The table was set as Chef Shawn Harrison buzzed around preparing for the 100% vegan, four-course meal. Harrison, who has worked in more than 25 Charlotte restaurants, such as Luna’s Living Kitchen and Bean, advocates for and encourages other chefs to implement conscious, plant-based cooking. Self-hosted Tephra pop-up dinners, the culmination of his ideals, aims to show just how attainable and flavorful this way of eating can be.

And flavorful it was!

Sweet pea mint pistou, braised carrot, creme fraiche and hemp oil with Cilantro flowers and lemon zest.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

The often illusive vegan comfort food was captured perfectly with this dish. A base of creamy pea pistou was a fresh-take on what is traditionally a puree including garlic, herbs, and oil. The sauce paired beautifully with a savory, full-bodied carrot that looked as if it had been plucked from the dirt the same day. Sweet coconut creme fraiche and lemon zest accentuated the sweet and luxurious flavors of these not-so-typical peas and carrots.

Green garlic parsley puree, salt roasted beet, turmeric coconut yogurt, radish and baby lettuce.

Photo by Kurt Shackelford

A vibrant display of root vegetables really exemplified Chef’s technique. Seared radishes and salt roasted beet at the anchor were earthy and satisfying. Garlic parsley puree and turmeric with some coconut yogurt added a sour/sweet component that really elevated the dish. And, of course, baby lettuce with the freshness.

Wild mushroom tart, herb garlic lemon confit butter, grilled shallot, cultured cashew and pea shoots.

Photo Kurt Shackelford

“It tastes like chicken” took on a whole new meaning with this dish. The variety of mushrooms, which were crisp on the outside but bursting with a meaty goodness, had a distinct and delicious flavor– A true testament to Chef’s mastery of spices and seasoning. Bright pea shoots were a refreshing component of the dish and added a dose of bright color to the plate. Herb garlic confit and cultured cashews conspired to bring all the elements together and complete the meal.

Strawberry panna cotta, cultured coconut cream, lemon basil shortcake, coconut snow and chocolate mint.

Photo Kurt Shackelford

Oh, the sweet divinity that is dessert. A thick layer of chilled, cultured coconut cream lined the bottom of a cubic, glass vessel. Atop lay a scoop of tart strawberry panna cotta, reminiscent of a sorbet. Lemon basil shortcake was crumbled over the dish like graham cracker. Coconut snow, which looks and tastes as it sounds, and chocolate mint to finish.

From the selection of the courses, to the delicate and thoughtful display, and all of the flavor in between, it is safe to say Chef Harrison accomplished his goal. The absence of meat or dairy was not even an afterthought. The dishes were altogether delicious and, most importantly, nourishing.

Details on the next Tephra Vegan Dinner.

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