Three weeks ago I sent out a teaser e-mail to a group of area eaters to gauge interest in a potential dinner at my house with Joshua Ploeg, the touring vegan chef.

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I guessed that our dining + living room could be stretched to accommodate around twenty, so I asked that folks RSVP quick.

Many already knew his work, but for those who didn’t, I named his cookbooks:

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This Ain’t No Picnic: Your Vegan Punk Rock Cookbook
Image by Alissa at Connoisseurusveg / Book for sale at Microcosm

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So Raw It’s Downright Filthy: A Raw Vegan Cookbook
Image by Buy Olympia / Zine for sale at Microcosm

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Fire and Ice: Warm, Cool, & Spicy Vegan Recipes from Hot & Soul
Image by Buy Olympia / Zine for sale at Buy Olympia and Microcosm

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In Search of the Lost Taste
Image by Buy Olympia / Preview several recipes and buy the book at Buy Olympia

To further stoke the flames of excitement, I shared Adam Gnade’s florid description of his cookery:

Joshua Ploeg’s cooking blows my mind so much that a secret door opens in the back of my head and white doves, musical notes, and winged horses fly out. His cooking is transcendent: Dangerous, strange and perfect. It¹s full of colorful tastes that explode in your mouth like Pop Rocks ­flavor combinations you never thought possible. Crazy alchemy. Freaky magic. Joshua’s the Traveling Chef; you make an appointment, he shows up at your house with a load of groceries, makes an incredible multi-course vegan meal using your pots and pans, and then he’s gone like the Lone Ranger riding into a big Texas sunset. Joshua’s been in a bunch of hardcore bands and he brings all the good things punk rock gave us: risk, passion, creativity, and weirdness; then he applies them to his meals. I randomly lucked into one of his dinners last year. I usually eat really fast and mindlessly, but I had to take this one slow and let all the flavors develop and do their respective stuff. Each had its own distinctive note ­ its own voice that rang out to let it be known that it was something special and unique. It was an experience in the finest sense of the word.

I became a fan after trying Joshua’s food at a Dinner & Bikes event two years ago. We’d stayed in touch since then, and every time it seemed like there was the possibility that he might be passing through this area, I let him know I was still up for hosting. Finally the stars aligned and we picked a date!

I expected there to be some enthusiasm, but was thrilled to find that within an hour reservations were full and we even had a wait list. The date set, RSVPs triple-confirmed, and wouldn’t you know it? On Saturday, July 12, Mr. Ploeg arrived via Greyhound to fix a feast for me and my friends!

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I picked him up at the train station and after chilling a bit at home and chatting about the menu, we took off to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market for ingredients. An accomplished cook myself, I was surprised to feel like such a kiddo tagging along while my cool older brother shopped. Joshua buzzed through the massive produce section – a little epazote here, some Mexican zucchini there, and sacks of peppers in every hue — and navigated the dry aisles just as deftly. I learned about a cheapo vegan sugar, the story of canary beans, and made mental notes as he perused spices.

Once home, he got to work. Nate took a much-needed break from cleaning while I went out and shopped for flowers for our tables. I’m glad I left – I would have gone crazy at the smells had I stayed. Nate sent frequent texts in disbelief of how quickly things were coming together: our chef always seemed to have at least five things going at once. Baking a cake, stuffing chiles rellenos, tending the refried beans, dressing tamale cupcakes… what can’t he do?

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“Tamale cupcakes”

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In progress: cupcakes, spicy chocolate cake, colache, and chilaquiles

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Chilaquiles and canary beans simmering with onion

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Setting up the dining room. Fifteen seats down, eight more to go.

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Flowers make a party.

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Peppers are important.

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Shortly after 7pm, guests started arriving. Here are a few toasting their good fortune.

(All images to follow by Seth P. of VeganESP. Thank you Seth!)

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Joshua and I announced the first courses: a veggieful salad with pepita pesto and “tamale cupcakes” topped with guacamole frosting and fresh salsa.

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Shiitake-studded chilaquiles topped with crispy crunchy jackfruit chicharrones

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Chiles rellenos filled with a creamy-dreamy cottage cheezy mixture and topped with a chipotle sauce. The crispy charred bits were my favorite.

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One of my favorite parts was when Colin announced, during introductions, that he was an undercover fire marshal. I laughed so hard.

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My lovely friend Allison of Pure Abundance (above, far right) contributed two giant wheels of her terrific aged cashew cheese to the night’s festivities. Everybody adored it! You can find her tasty goods at Dough Bakery and bi-weekly at the East Atlanta Village Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.

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Speaking of Dough Bakery: there’s Kevin and Laura on the left!

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Plating dessert on our varied assortment of bowls, plates, and whatever else I could find in the china cabinet. Did I mention that we used every plate, cup, fork, and cloth napkin in the house? We did. (And that’s after my pal Sarah brought nine extra dinner plates!) Thanks also to all of the guests who contributed extra chairs. My first pop-up dinner felt like a real team effort!

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Can’t get enough of Seth’s beautiful photography? Check out his and Elena’s blog, VeganESP and follow them on twitter: SethP23 and VeganESP. They cook and blog regularly and everything they make is delicious.

Now: time for a GIVEAWAY! Joshua left a copy of his entertaining cookbook “In Search of the Lost Taste” for a lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment and share your answer to the following: if Joshua were to cook a dinner party at YOUR house, which cuisine would you prefer? We went with Mexican-ish because it’s what a vegan feels is most lacking in Atlanta. How about you?

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Entries will be collected through next Monday, July 21 and the winner announced that afternoon. US + most international mailing addresses welcome. Good luck!

Thanks to our touring chef for a marvellous, magical meal and evening. ‘Til next time…