By Daniela Degrassi
Everyone who knows me can tell you I am a very picky Italian when it comes to food. I won’t try anything out of my comfort zone… So finding myself at S+M vegan chefs pop up dinner in San Francisco last week, put my culinary limits to the test. I was determined to try all their dishes despite my phobia for garlic (yes, yes, everyone wonders.. an Italian that fears garlic?) and gravies.
Now, let me rewind. I connected with S+M Vegan team on Instagram during my ongoing quest for vegan vendors for The Kind Bride Vegan Wedding Directory. Shane Stanbridge and Marie Chia, founded S+M Vegan in 2013. Both had previously worked at restaurants in New York and the Bay Area (including Pure Food and Wine, Encuentro in Oakland, Millennium, L’ Arpège…) before venturing on their own, and getting noticed fast in their Oakland neighborhood. They now cater in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Shane and Marie’s DNAs combine southeast Asian, French and Italian roots and that’s what inspire and influence them the most in the kitchen.
I was lucky to be in town just in time to attend their Italian Pop Up Dinner event at Picnic on Third Street. I brought my camera along once Shane and Marie graciously allowed me to spend some time with them in the kitchen to document their relaxed yet efficient, professional work flow. And I was so honored to taste everything from their dinner menu, strictly Italian Style.
What’s best then a picky Italian to test Italian food? Bring it on! Their Late Summer Vegan Dinner started with a classic Caesar Salad, crisp lettuce in S+M Caesar dressing with pickled green blueberries, radishes, crisped capers, sourdough croutons, their signature vegan shaved parmesan and black pepper.
Just note, I never had a caesar salad in my life (what planet do I live in?), so I was quite curious to taste it! It was absolutely delicious! I enjoyed the delicate dressing and all the crispy, fresh ingredients.
One food I was familiar with though, was next in their menu. Arancini are a classic Italian appetizers (unlike Caesar Salad which is more of an americanized version of Italian food), probably more popular in the South, and that’s where Shane’s grandparents come from, the marvelous land of Sicily. The original version of Arancini, is not vegan. The rice is usually mixed with mozzarella cheese, ham, peas, tomatoes and spices. S+M Arancini version was simpler yet tastefully mushroom filled. It was served on top of a delicate and flavorful pistachio pesto, preserved lemon roasted broccolini, hen of the woods and radicchio on chili bay leaf oil.
While my tastebuds were already content, next on the menu, was something I could not refuse nor resist. PIZZA!!!! Even in my non-vegan days, I always preferred the simple flavors of tomato and mozzarella pizza. So I was a bit on guard watching Shane and Marie topping their fluffy focaccia-like crust Pizza Siciliana with their signature seitan sausage, cashew mozzarella, basil, zesty tomato sauce, fermented pilacca (spicy chili sauce), ranch dressing and sprinkle-able walnut parmesan. A lot of ingredients but the delicious aroma that permeated my nostrils once the pizza was out the oven was stronger then any hesitation.
Did I like it? I will just tell you I had pizza leftovers at 9:30 am the next morning! Unbelievably yummy!
To end with a sweet note, Shane + Marie made cake too! They served an Almond Sesame Marble Cake with a lovely soy milk yogurt, seasonal berries (that were marinated and delicious!) and tarragon.
So, beyond any doubt, Shane and Marie passed the picky Italian test with flying colors! I am really thrilled to list their vegan catering services on The Kind Bride Vegan Wedding Directory. You will be sure of a massive success even among your non-vegan guests if you’ll hire them for your Bay Area wedding!
Please follow their culinary adventures on their website, and stay tune for all their events around the San Francisco area, as they often organize Pop Up Dinners and Events around the bay at very affordable prices!
A feminist and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California where she lived for 15 years before moving back to her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.