Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Food Rant: Risotto Sans Cream

{photo credit: Simply Recipes}

Tonight I went to Paggi House, an Austin favorite, with my friend J for Austin Restaurant Week. I chose Paggi House because its menu seemed the most veganizable, namely because one of the entrees is wild mushroom risotto. I called ahead several days to make sure it wouldn't be a problem to prepare my risotto sans dairy, aka sans chees, and the woman on the phone assured me they could. (The reason I called ahead is because I know certain snooty chefs at certain Austin restaurants who REFUSE to change their dishes, so I just wanted to make sure Paggi House would be accommodating.)

I was very much looking forward to a delicious bowl of risotto - so comforting on this cold and rainy night, right? Wrong. After letting our server know of my requests, J and I were soon after visited by the manager who informed me that the kitchen couldn't make the risotto without cream because if they did, it would be "dry and crunchy." Okay... Even though I was 99% sure that risotto is not traditionally made with cream, I let it go. He said they'd prepare something else for me. Ok, fine, whatever. I didn't want to make a big deal, and I didn't want to ruin our evening.

When dinner finally came, I was served... vegetables. Well, it was a "vegetable medley" with a side of sliced beets. Did they taste good? Yes. But it annoyed me that: (1) I wasn't getting my risotto, and (2) The only dish they could come up with was sauteed vegetables. Lame.

Despite that, I had a lovely evening and great conversation with my friend. Also? Paggi House has really, REALLY good sourdough bread, and needless to say, I ate a lot of it. But I got increasingly pissed the more I thought about the risotto and the condescending manner in which the manager informed me that my request was simply not possible.

When I got home, I immediately googled "risotto" to discover, much to my delight, that I was right. Risotto is NOT traditionally made with milk or cream. The creaminess is a result of the type of rice (arborio) and the method in which it is cooked (very slowly stirred with broth). Oh how I wanted to call Paggi House immediately! Oh how I WISH I had said something at the time. Don't insult my foodie intelligence and tell me risotto can't be made without cream! Do I believe that you add cream to it? Yes. But that's not the point. The POINT is that risotto is not creamy because of cream, you morons! Ugh. I still can't believe I paid $35 for a plate of sauteed vegetables.

I'm annoyed and disappointed, but most of all, I'm insulted. This isn't about being vegan. Paggi House did accomodate me and for that I will give them credit. But they also lied to me. About food! And that is not okay.

P.S. - The reason this rant isn't on vegan tomato is because again, this isn't about being vegan or vegan food. This is about me being pissed off. :)


Analiese Marie said...

It's possible that they make their version with cream, but you're right - it's totally not necessary and any chef worth his/her weight in arborio rice would know that. You could write a letter to the manager explaining the situation, if for no other reason than to make them more aware the next time someone makes that request. Poop on Paggi House!

michele said...

I would definitely write a letter to the manager!! Especially after you went through the trouble of planning ahead and calling them several days ahead of time to make absolutely certain they could accommodate your dietary requests. I second Analiese: Poop on Paggi House!

Globetrotting Cacti said...

I also would write a letter. Decent chefs should be able to accomodate dietary requests (my Mum is an insulin dependant diabetic and we have had some wonderful service where the chefs have adapted a dish for her). $35 for a bowl of veggies - wow!

Anonymous said...

For sure write a letter. Chefs (particularly ones at high end restaurants) should absolutely know how to cook for vegans, vegetarians, people on special diets, people with allergies, etc.

Even if they were unwilling to modify the risotto for you - they should have made you something other than a plate of vegetables and if they could only make you a plate of vegetables - you should not have been charged nearly that much for it!

But, I'm glad the bread was good and the conversation was good. Sometimes, situations like this remind me why I go out to eat in the first place - to spend time with my family and friends. The food used to be number one in priority for me, but now, not so much and I have to admit that I like it better that way.

As far as cream in a risotto, I used to make risotto all the time (and I look forward to making vegan versions) I NEVER added cream. Just cheese. Lots of cheese.

City Girl said...

I have been in this situation so often what with not being able to eat dairy on account of being allergic - I am so sorry you had to deal with that :( Honestly, they probably had a pre-made batch of risotto they were reheating and did not want to make you a fresh batch just for you - so while it sucks to be lied to and pay $35 for vegetables, your dish was likely more freshly made.

And yes, you can make vegan risotto very easily :)

Nina (Femme Rationale) said...

oh i hate that! when i was a full time vegetarian, i had a difficult time eating out cuz usually the only veg dish on the menu would be grilled veggies for $20+. it's a shame that restaurants don't offer more veg/vegan options.

Pink Heels said...

I feel your pain but, having known several top chefs, they will tell you that they are not willing to compromise quality. However, if they informed you prior to your dinner that they could meet your needs, then that is exactly what they should have done.

This was another reason why I couldn't maintain my vegan ways. I never want to be labeled the "impossible eater." I have to attend too many business lunches and dinners. I just can't make a scene everyday...unfortunately.

Sallie Ann said...

Ok, now I totally understand what you were tweeting about. This sucks! Especially since you called ahead. I'm forever telling people to call ahead, and if the chef knows you're coming he/she'll have time to come up with something yummy. I've challenged some of the top chefs in Chicago, and I know you've got amazing chefs in Austin. So sorry Miss Carolyn. Maybe you should just come to Chicago!

Crystal said...

What really kills me is that you called ahead. You had been very thoughtful in doing that, and their thoughtlessness in their response is just rude. :(

Elise said...

Hi Carolyn,

I'm delighted that you like my photo of risotto well enough to post it on your site. I would ask that if you do so, you provide a credit to me, the photographer, and a link back to the source page on my site, Simply Recipes. Otherwise you are violating my copyright.


Thank you for your consideration,

Elise Bauer