Last December, over silky chanterelle soup and a wild salad at Morchella, the idea for a seaweed centric Veganizer popup was born. My friend Rachelle works with Blue Evolution, and I’ve been wanting to work with Chef Cameron Dunlap, who opened Morchella last fall, for some time. One thing lead to another, and we hosted what is probably the most ambitious and creative Veganizer dinner to date. It was also the first in-person Veganizer event in two years.
Morchella x Blue Evolution x Veganizer
A Vegan Tasting Menu of Seaweed and Foraged Ingredients
Located in the charming Fremont neighborhood, Morchella serves seasonal foraged and wild foods. I visited when Morchella first opened, after several years of following Cameron’s work in the Portland restaurant world. It was exciting to finally have an opportunity to work with Cameron — even better that it was at his own place, which he refers to as his “weird little restaurant.”
Connecting Morchella with Blue Evolution and Veganizer made perfect sense: Morchella focuses on sustainably sourced foraged foods, Blue Evolution brings seaweed cultivation closer to home, while Veganizer works with restaurants to offer delicious and satisfying vegan food. Together, we share a vision of more sustainable food systems. To top it off, we donated a portion of ticket sales support Growing Gardens to support their mission of building healthy and equitable communities.
It was no easy feat to incorporate Blue Evolution seaweed into every course of the dinner. The meal began with heirloom carrot topped with pickled sugar kelp and elderflower, before moving on to celery root “scallops” with sea lettuce, green daikon, and agar “caviar.” The “scallops” paired beautifully with the robust skin contact orange wine. Next up was a Morchella classic: Japanese knotweed with seaweed vinaigrette and wild salad. Halfway through this dish, I learned that Japanese knotweed is an invasive species, and I remembered that’s what the pesky plant taking over a corner of my backyard is! Perhaps I will finally get my revenge by eating it.
My favorite course of the evening was the dreamy linguini infused with Blue Evolution ulva (Cameron calls “the matcha of the sea”) served with earthy morels and wild pesto. I wish I could have seconds of this pasta… what a knockout. Last, but not least, the meal concluded with a sweet application of seaweed: sea lettuce tofu creme brulee and candied kumquats in a sea glass sugar dome. The dessert looked like an edible terrarium, and it was fascinating to discover vanilla notes in seaweed. One of the highlights of the meal was smashing the dome!
This Morchella x Blue Evolution x Veganizer partnership was truly one of a kind. Beyond the delicious plates, my hope is that this unique dinner can inspire change. We’re two years into a global pandemic that stems from animal exploitation. We’re also facing a terrifying climate crisis that scientists are calling a code red for humanity. This is a time to take action. My hope is that we can all embrace food, not just as nourishment or entertainment, but as a form of activism and make better choices for ourselves and our communities.
Note: This post is in collaboration with Veganizer PDX. I’m the director of the local chapter of Veganizer, and Morchella and Blue Evolution were our restaurant partners for this event.