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Vegan Friendly: Blissful Gatherings Monthly Vegan Pop-Up

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PHOTOGRAPHY by
Kelly Bone
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May 30, 2018
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The Short and Skinny

Each month, plant-based diners gather in the hills of southern San Diego for a stylish, intimate backyard dinner party.

The Vibe

Guests slowly meander along a path winding between Chula Vista homes in order to find the affair, taking in the falling light of dusk.

They know they have arrived when they spot the artfully set table and are approached by staff offering Sol-ti juice and Kombucha, often including Boochcraft, a high alcohol kombucha brewed just a few miles west.

A spray of eucalyptus leaves run along the center of the communal table, while floral vignettes from local growers rise from small globe vases, set mindfully so as to not block plate space or lines of sight.

At each place setting you will find a twine-tied menu, a token gift (in the case of my meal it was a copper hammered bracelet imprinted with “Blissful”), and a leaf with the diner’s name hand-painted in gold.

Behind the scenes, a flurry of edible flowers and microgreens fly through the air as Lila Zimmerman and Alexa Soto finish plating the first of five courses for the more than 20 guests waiting in the backyard.

The best friends, who met through Instagram, share a passion for plant-based cooking and marketing, which they have parlayed into monthly gatherings that are equally fueled by their youthful vigor and eye for aesthetics.

Image courtesy of Blissful Gatherings

The Food

In the kitchen, Lila and Alexa’s hustle began days ago—with much of their prep antics documented in @BlissfulGathering Instagram stories.

Alexa leads the kitchen, designing menus whose circling themes give a sense of wanderlust throughout the meal as they hark on global motifs using ingredients from San Diego markets and partnerships with local business.

All the dishes are vegan and scratch-made from mostly local, organic ingredients.

Highlights from my meal included an artful mezze platter of beets, roasted red pepper, and basil hummus with roasted carrots, crisp snap peas, cucumber coins, and Alexa’s freshly baked pita.

The soup courses were also particularly strong, with bowls ranging from a vegan Shakshuka with lobs of juicy cumin and chili soaked tomatoes and plump chickpeas, to a silky Butternut Squash Bisque topped with roasted Brussel sprouts.

For the entrée, thick rolls of salsa verde marinated Jackfruit Stuffed Enchiladas come accented with roasted corn and peppers. Wide ribbons of cashew creme are lashed over the rolls and finished with delicate fans of radish and avocado and a dusting of marigold petals.

A tea and coffee break precedes dessert with the aroma of brewed-to-order jasmine and chamomile filling the air.

Those with a longer drive home (at both of my meals I’ve met diners who have come from as far as Los Angeles), coffee swirled with almond cream is in order.

As night settles over the finality, a fresh wave of creativity surges from the kitchen. Brownie a La Mode comes topped with coffee laced coconut ice cream and cinnamon spiked caramelized date paste.

But the show stopped on the Sticky Baklava Rolls.

Yeast risen dough baked under a sprinkle of pale green pistachios, bloom on the plate beneath a warm drizzle of apple nectar.

What to Order

With pre-set menus, there is no need to choose anything except for beverages.

Faintly sweet Goji Strawberry SuperAde by San Diego’s Sol-ti juice is a crowd favorite and when Boochcraft is on offer, the crisp acidity of their Apple Lime Jasmine is a great complement to the meal.

Seats must be purchased ahead of time and cost:

$47 for brunch events, $59 for dinner events, and $150 for “membership” packs for three seats.

Next Blissful Gathering Event:

Gathering #10, June 10, 5:30pm-8pm

A five-course, plant-based pop up dinner featuring local ingredients. 10% of all proceeds from this dinner will go to the Autism Society San Diego.

Reserve seats and learn more: blissfulgatheringsevents.com

Image courtesy of Blissful Gatherings
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Kelly Bone
Kelly Bone is a vegan food writer, photographer, and pizza nerd. She has served as a food judge at various US festivals and is part of the Vegan in San Diego team providing resources and hosting charitable vegan events in San Diego. You can follow her work on Instagram at @KellyBone or on her blog The Veg Foodie.
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