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By Melissa Groth

I’m not a vegan. I was a vegetarian from fifth grade part way through freshman year of undergrad. My eating habits were always met with the chagrin of my extended family around Thanksgiving. Gradually over the course of years I added white meat to my diet, then even more gradually red. All the while thinking, when I get my own place I’ll go back to vegetarianism.

Growing up I always felt like the odd one out. I don’t remember ever meeting another vegetarian, definitely no vegans. Now I find that it’s just about everywhere. I know vegan folks, vegetarian and pescatarian folks. It’s almost commonplace. But not commonplace enough to warrant much in way of fine dining experiences. Chef Todd Gray is changing that at Equinox with vegan dishes, and a new vegan brunch in which the white truffle plays a large role.

Brunch is served buffet style and features gorgeous, bright salads, hearty french toast, a tofu scramble station which is a lot of fun, seasonal pastry selections, and my new favorite thing ever– truffled risotto fritters with a dollop of garlic chive veganaise.

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The menu offers plenty of savory options. Truffled calypso bean soup is a deliciously creamy way to kick of the meal, rich without being heavy, with truffle shaved table side and sprinkled on top. Toasted couscous salad with burgundy poached “forbidden apple” (quince), spiced pumpkin seeds and hazelnut vinaigrette, as well as a spinach and radicchio salad make up the first course. The truffled lentil cassoulet with golden beets and caramelized Brussels sprouts was a hearty, delicious dish.

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On the sweeter side, french toast stuffed with pear and topped with granola and maple syrup was very satisfying, but a healthy and light tasting alternative to traditional egg-dipped butter-soaked french toast. Also available was a selection of bite-sized pastries served with white truffle vanilla anglaise. Surprisingly, truffle works in sweeter adaptations, especially on top of the mini coconut muffin.

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There is also a made-to-order tofu scramble station where you can pick and choose different ingredients to add like artichoke, eggplant, and daiya cheese. I’m wary of tofu scrambles because I have vegan friends who Instagram their heinous-looking scramble concoctions, but I ordered mine with the pickled eggplant, daiya cheese, spicy banana peppers and scallions, and not only did it look incredibly appetizing, it also tasted great.

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Chef Gray co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Ellen, and they insist upon using strong, un-doctored ingredients. You won’t find anything processed on this menu. The focus is on the skillful preparation of fresh ingredients, not masking something to taste like something else. This brunch is a strong contender among D.C. brunches, even without meat or dairy.

Additionally, the cocktails are delicious. Definitely give the pear martini a try to start off, and finish with the chocolate pumpkin pie puree and vodka martini while enjoying the pastries.

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I don’t foresee a lifestyle change leading me back to vegetarianism any time in the near future, but I can definitely see myself returning to this brunch.

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