Last week, I issued a challenge to Tony Maws, the chef at Craigie on Main in Cambridge: serve a multi-course tasting menu to myself and my meat-eating father, without letting him catch on that there is no meat in his food. The whole goal was to prove to him—a hardcore meat eater—that food can be every bit as diverse, flavorful, and satisfying whether it's got meat in it or not.
I told myself that if we got to course five before my dad caught on, I'd consider the meal a success. We were just digging into our fifth course of grilled leeks with a miso and truffle vinaigrette when he finally asked, "Wait, Ken. So are you still vegan?"
I consider that a success.
Maws told us that he hadn't had that much fun cooking in his kitchen for a while, playing with novel techniques, seeking out new ingredients, and watching through the open kitchen, he seemed to be enjoying the challenge. We sure did.
Disclaimer: Maws wanted me to point out that while they always offer a vegetarian and regular tasting menu and will always do their best to accommodate any sort of diet, depending on how busy the restaurant is, there is a possibility they won't be able to offer a vegan tasting menu at all times. In any case, you must request it at the time of your reservation (I had to request mine a week and a half in advance).
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.