Iron Hill has winner of a vegan beer dinner, plans more

As a self-professed pioneer of the vegan bar-crawling beat, I was all set to tip area vegan drinkers to the Edgy and Veggie Beer Dinner at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Maple Shade, N.J., but by the time I was done chatting about it with Iron Hill head chef Scot Seher, enough people were already tipped that the April 28 event had sold out. It almost seems like there's an increasing popular interest in vegan foods or something.

Either way, I was curious as to how it turned out. In an email conversation, Seher said that "the guests seemed to love the event, and I had some wonderful conversations with guests. It was fun and challenging to cook out of my comfort zone, but in the end it all felt natural." Overall, he called the evening "a great success."

The menu featured such vegan delights as Harissa roasted cauliflower steak, Southern-fried tofu with grilled corn-potato purée and sawmill-style seitan gravy, Zucchini Carpaccio (paired with Phightin’ Phils Pils) artichoke "crab cake" (Galaxy Quest), blood orange-parsnip sorbet, and chocolate chip banana bread with macadamia-almond ice cream, which was paired with Vanilla Coffee Porter. Seher got "rave reviews on multiple courses," he said, adding specifically that "the tofu, carpaccio and crab cake were definitely the biggest hits."

The successful event is already paying dividends as road-tested special menu items. "I will be running a number of these courses next week on our features sheet," he said. "I also have a cashew ricotta whipped up for a few pizza options and a black bean burger wrap as well."

The dinner, a collaboration with Head Brewer Josh Ervine, was a big enough hit that Seher is greenlighting more this year at other Iron Hill locations and figuring out the scheduling now. "I look forward to many more vegan events," he vowed, "and running more [vegan] options on our features sheet daily."

With more bars adding more vegan options, cheers and down the hatch to all those that are staying ahead of the pack with imaginative vegan creations prominently showcased in a casual setting, leaving in the dust the classic meager menu of popcorn, fries and a mushroom burger (with dairy cheese) as a "choice" for drinking vegan eaters.

Even before Iron Hill does another vegan beer dinner - after all, what if it sells out and you have to miss it? - it's probably worth a stop to check out some of those "hangovers" from Tuesday's big event.

Who knows? You might get into some good conversations. It sounds like Iron Hill, at least, is keeping an open ear.