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Departure's Chef Gregory Gourdet has hosted an annual vegan dinner for the last seven years.

Image: John Valls

In September 2011, Departure chef Gregory Gourdet teamed up with plant-based eateries Blossoming Lotus and Petunia’s Pies & Pastries to throw a five-course feast showcasing the region’s best late summer produce. “My greatest fondness and attraction to the vegan lifestyle is that it makes you think outside the box,” Gourdet explained back in 2011—before a stint on Top Chef transformed him into one of Portland’s biggest celebrity chefs. “It is so different, and everything is so natural, healthy and very delicious.”

The event was a hit, and Departure has hosted a Summer’s End Vegan Dinner every year since, often collaborating with veggie-loving chefs from (now-defunct) Portobello, Blossoming Lotus, Ava Gene’s, and food blog Wicked Healthy Foods to craft the perfect plant-based dishes. This year, however, Gourdet and his team are taking on the dinner alone. 

“We have done it solo once before," Gourdet explains. “This year, we have chosen to do it solo because we have done a lot of work with vegetables, from utilizing our rooftop garden to our weekly collaborations with the Zenger Farm chef box. Each weekend this summer, we got a mystery box of hyper seasonal veg and created five dishes from them for our specials card.”

The sprawling six-course menu promises traditional dishes with unorthodox twists—expect warm cornbread smeared with chili-laced maple coconut butter; green salad with “a sour pine nut dressing funked up with vegan fish sauce;” and tartare made from butternut squash, beets, and seaweed. A charcuterie plate will show off several types of fermentation, with bites like spicy fermented Brussels sprouts and “celeriac pastrami.” And it’s never too early to get excited about dessert: pumpkin custard served with caramel apple ice cream and warm coconut milk.

The 2017 Summer’s End Vegan Dinner is scheduled for Wednesday, October 4, at 6 p.m. Seats are $86 per person, including tip, and can be reserved by calling Departure at 503-802-5370.

And psst: want to pull a Gourdet in your own kitchen? We've got his recipe for a late-summer salad that can be modified for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.

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