I've got a rant and a question:
A few weeks ago, a group of friends went to Ruby Watchco for dinner. It was my friend's birthday. She doesn't eat meat, dairy, or eggs (honey is ok, which is why I don't say vegan). While I generally avoid those things at home, when I am out, I don't fuss too much, especially about dairy or eggs.
My friend called Ruby Watchco well in advance of the date we were planning to go out, and asked if they would be able to accommodate her dietary needs. Yes, they would. Just call in advance and let us know how many plant-based, how many regular menu. Because the restaurant seemed so receptive, a few of us thought we would opt for the plant-based option as well, because it seemed too complicated to have plant-based, vegetarian, and regular menu needs all at the one table.
I did express concern that they might not do plant-based well, but the consensus seemed to be that if the restaurant said they would accommodate, and asked for info in advance with respect to numbers and needs, and the chef was Lynn Crawford, and we were paying $49/person, then they would make an effort.
First course on the regular menu was a salad on top of some sort of yoghurt. For the plant-based people, there was salad without the yoghurt. Actually, the salad was very tasty - a mix of greens, grapes, and flavours I can no longer remember well.
A bowl of cheesy rolls arrived at the table, but only enough for one for each "regular menu" diner. Nothing was substituted for those of us who were eating plant-based.
The main course was pork chops, roast veggies, fingerling potatoes, and asparagus with bacon. The plant-based group was given a flavourful lemony risotto and all the same roast vegetables but the asparagus was sans bacon. All well and good here.
Next to cheese: Goat cheese rounds were presented with cranberries. Plant-based diners were given sliced apple and orange with the same cranberries. I was a bit shocked.
Now to dessert: Some sort of mascarpone cookie concoction that looked divine was the regular menu option, and those of us abstaining from dairy and eggs were given a small bowl of bland watermelon cubes, orange slices, and fine shreds of mint.
What a disappointment.
$49 for some salad, rice, grilled veggies, and cut fruit.
Some will ask what did we expect.
Honesty, like this:
"You want a plant-based menu? Well, we can do that, but what that will mean is that we will probably substitute the meat for some sort of risotto, and the cheese and dessert courses will really be just sliced fruit. So, if that works for you, that's fine with us."
And, yes, there are many things a restaurant can serve, especially for dessert, that do not require dairy or eggs, that are also easy to make and inexpensive. Think coconut milk rice or tapioca pudding. Think pie. Think chocolate wacky cake with berries.
Now that I've come to the end of my rant, where is it worth going in Toronto and surrounds where a group of people can get together, and everyone (meat-eaters and vegans) can have a great meal?