Arizona Restaurant Week brings special menus and special events at local restaurants around the Valley. This year I actually had the chance to enjoy one: a special vegan dinner at Tempe’s Four Peaks Brewery. The menu, designed by a local vegan chef and owner of 24 Carrots, was designed to pair with Four Peaks’ seasonal Pumpkin Porter. I joined my vegan friends for this five-course meal paired with a beer for each course.
I’ve never had an issue with vegan food (except vegan cheese – yuck). However, I don’t think I ever would have thought that a vegan meal could be so flavorful, so unique, and so incredible.
We were brought to a small area set aside for the special event, toward the back of Four Peaks’ dining area near the large brewery vats. Guests were seated at long tables decorated with a cute fall theme. We were all pleased at the effort made to make this event special, even going so far as to change Four Peaks’ usual aesthetic.
The first course was a vegan version of a classic Indian street food called pani puri. The chef brought a piece of her Indian heritage, masterfully combining vegan choices with the brewery by using beer as the base for the “water” poured into the puff. This was an incredibly fun way to start a meal. Everyone enjoyed the new experience. The light, hollow puff is tapped to open a hole. The potato based filling is then stuffed, and the fizzy and spicy sauce is poured in and over. The powerful mix of flavors and textures made a strong impression on our palates and set high expectations for the rest of the meal.
It was paired with the Wow Wheat wheatbier. It seemed almost unnecessary due to the beer in the sauce, but it was the best tasting beer next to the porter.
A light salad followed, perhaps less exciting than the starter, but delicious nonetheless. This salad of earthy salad based mostly in kale was lightened by citrus and fall fruits, counteracting the bitterness of kale. It was dressed with the perfect amount of dressing, imparting flavor consistently without drowning the individual flavors of each component. I would have only left out the chamomile flower. Though the chef described it as edible, it carried an overwhelming perfumed flavor out of place from the salad.
This was paired with a Raj IPA. I don’t particularly enjoy IPAs, but I noticed most of the table didn’t finish the entire drink.
As I mentioned before, I’m generally cautious of anything vegan that is said to have “cheese” in it. However, instead of fake cheese this dish was made primarily with coconut milk and pumpkin to create the creamy texture of a cheese sauce. There was the slightest hint of spice, most prominent in the “beef” mixed with spicy peppers. At this point we were getting full, but no one was willing to put their fork down or stop themselves from finishing the food on their plate.
This course featured the star beer. The pumpkin porter is a dark beer suited to the sweet addition of the pumpkin. I’ve been looking for it at every grocery store because it was so delicious.
I can only describe this dish as sorcery. To take a piece of mushroom, bread it and season it to the point that it is indistinguishable from meat, is pure skill. The breading was crisp and light. The mushroom was not too dense and the flavor was savory like fried chicken. However, the waffle was so dense it was hard to cut and chew. I have no idea how the chef made the “hunny” on it, but the sweetness was the perfect complement.
This course was paired with the Chai-PA. Again, I don’t care for IPA but the chai spices added to this were nice. I would not think to pair chai with “chikun” and waffles!
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, they bring out the piece de resistance, a beautiful slice of chocolate cake. The cake was perfectly moist. The frosting by itself tasted strongly of vegetable oil, but was sweetened to complement the rich cake. Paired with the crunch from sweet candied pecans and a hint of pumpkin caramel, we devoured this amazing dessert.
Porters go amazingly well with dessert. This last beer was the Double Pumpkin Porter. When I asked what the difference was, I was told this had a higher alcohol content.
My vegan friends were happy to find a vegan meal worthy of the hype for Restaurant Week. I was along for the ride and enjoying every bite. If Four Peaks ever does another event like this, I highly encourage vegans and non-vegans alike to attend. In the meantime, the chef has her own restaurant in the Valley – 24 Carrots in Tempe. I’ll definitely be visiting in the future!