August Raw Night: My Last of the Year

Lo and behold, last Thursday marked the end of an era, the finale of an epoch, the conclusion of a generation—I enjoyed my last Green Owl Raw Night of the year. After six progressively stunning ventures to Madison’s hub of vegetarianism for six increasingly complex dinners, culminating in a veritable uncooked feast of impeccable Thai flavor, I must bid adieu to my beloved monthly Raw Nights as I relocate in a mere week to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. While I anticipate a plethora of superb eating excursions to New York City, living only a simple hour-long Amtrak ride away from Manhattan, I won’t feel the welcoming sweep of the Green Owl’s kelly-green wings into its palace of raw yummies until returning to Madison in January for winter break. In the meantime, I’d like to mourn my four-month hiatus from the Owl by commemorating the astounding amalgamation of pure summer bliss in which I reveled last Thursday.

The Last Supper of summer’s bounty began with a juicy salad of yellow watermelon and heirloom tomatoes in a balsamic drizzle, topped with fresh basil. Literally any dish featuring heirloom tomatoes will smack a huge smile on my face, guaranteed, and this tangy, acidic, ever-so-slightly sweet salad certainly proved no different, especially considering that the refreshing crunch of the watermelon mingled amusingly with the tender succulence of the tomatoes. I only wish the Owl had perfected some sort of raw baguette (is that even possible?) to sop up all the juicy tomato deliciousness left behind on my otherwise clean plate.

A creamy soup of cucumber and dill followed, providing effective textural contrast and a palate-cleansing flavor against the bold salad that preceded. My waitress informed me that cashews formed the base of this soup, though I could only detect an incredibly fresh lightness of cucumber rather than a heavily cloying nuttiness. Every spoonful reminded me of biting into a crisp, perfectly fresh cuke.

Our last appetizer consisted of flax crackers with veggie hummus. The crackers harbored an intense sundried tomato flavor studded with Italian spices, rendering them rather pizza-like, while the cool, creamy squash-based hummus served as a mellow accompaniment. I did, however, think that the plate came packed with a few too many flax crackers than I would have cared to enjoy—I still had to save room for an entree and dessert!

And oh, what an entree for which I saved room. From left to right, the Green Owl mad genius team offered a cob of sweet corn slathered in garlic-infused coconut “butter”; two kebabs of tender red bell pepper, earthy cremini mushrooms, and crunchy summer squash; and two slabs of juicy barbeque papaya “steak” coated in a spicy dry rub. While the notion of a papaya steak blew my mind (not to mention my taste buds), the unbelievably sweet corn, brilliantly coated in coconut oil to mimic the melting deliciousness of fresh-off-the-grill corn cobs, claimed the title of my favorite aspect of the entire meal…

…except, perhaps, for dessert (how can you blame me?). While not the most photogenic dish I’ve enjoyed, I could not have wished for a more satisfying denouement to my numerous Raw Night experiences than this messy, juicy, fruity, tangy berry cobbler with banana ice cream. A bright magenta sauce of mixed berries that popped upon contact with my tongue pooled around a surprisingly smooth, walnut-based cake topped with fresh raspberries, while an ice cream consisting simply of bananas and vanilla bean rounded out the dish. According to my waitress, the cake contained some sort of seaweed that I would assume to be irish moss, since that would certainly account for its meltingly tender texture.

Farewell, Green Owl. You’ve fulfilled my yearning for gourmet raw goodies over the past 6+ months, and I will miss your joyous atmosphere, your unceasingly friendly waitstaff, your neverending creativity with uncooked vittles, and your ability to make me and my tummy incredibly content. Until January, thank you.

Until next time, Ali.

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