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April 2003
Building Community—One Vegan Course at a Time

By Livia Alexander



What could be better than a fabulous meal, a good glass of wine, and great company? This was exactly the goal of Chef Matteo Silverman and host Gregory Boduck when they began their “4 Course Vegan” dinners. Buddies since they worked together at the famous San Francisco vegetarian restaurant Greens, every Sunday evening the two friends offer a satisfying, top-notch, vegan dinner that will leave you just wowed.

Fine vegetarian food, let alone vegan, is not a readily available commodity. So when Matteo Silverman, known among his followers for his commitment to exquisite vegan cuisine, announced that he will be hosting dinner parties at his spacious Williamsburg loft, I felt compelled to check it out.

The four-course dinner is not just about superb food, but also about bringing people together. When I showed up, Matteo was busily engaged in preparing the food while Gregory very graciously made introductions, filled our glasses, and later served. Vegan and non-vegan guests all gathered at Matteo and Greg’s table by word of mouth. There was never a dull moment. The pacing between one course and the next allowed you just enough time to kick back, chat, digest and enjoy.

The meal I attended had an extra perk to the usual four courses: a fifth dish, a pre-appetizer inspired by raw cuisine—two paper-thin layers of watermelon radish stuffed with a garlicky delightful walnut “rawcotta” studded with dots of herb pesto and nested on a bed of thinly sliced carrots. This dish had it all—a combination of crunchy and smooth, the freshness of the vegetables against the earthiness of the nuts, topped by the radiant colors of the watermelon radish and a beautiful presentation overall. What is food if not a feast for the eye as well as for the stomach?

Matteo’s attention to details was evident in each and every dish served that evening. The appetizer, creamy barley risotto cakes stacked in a pool of roasted onion-chipotle sauce, paired the sweetness of the barley with the sharp spicy-smoky taste of the chipotle. The salad, an assortment of greens with maple glazed roasted beets, spiced with a sprinkle of hot—hot!—cayenne, was served with a slice of toasted baguette and a simply divine white bean spread garnished with poppy seeds.

For a main course we had corn meal crusted tempeh with orange ginger sauce and wasabi mashed potatoes. Matteo was clever enough to go easy on the wasabi, providing just enough flavor to give it presence, but not too much to make it overwhelming. The orange sauce, dotted with chunks of fresh oranges, was a sweet syrupy compliment to the crusted homemade tempeh, and added another layer of flavor to the whole entrée. Then came the dessert, my favorite part of the meal: little chocolate truffles flavored with orange coconut cream that melted in your mouth. It was just the right amount to satisfy that sweet tooth without sending you home completely bloated.

For Matteo, the motivation behind starting “4 Course Vegan” was to provide affordable organic, vegan fare. (All ingredients are organic, except for specific products that can only be found in ethnic specialty stores.) He adds that “people on the whole (especially in New York) are appreciating a healthy motivation to gather. Meals such as this will become commonplace as a more efficient means to nourishing oneself, nutritionally and beyond.” A vegan for the last 12 years, Matteo finds meat-eating unsustainable. “Our food supply is in peril at the hands of a conventional mega food monopoly and our current eco-ignorant president threatens the validity of even organic labeling. Creatures are suffering needlessly.”

Matteo and Greg serve dinner every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with a new menu each week. The cost is $25 per person; a portion of all proceeds are donated to B.A.R.C. (Brooklyn Animal Rescue Center). Visit their website to see the week’s menu and to RSVP (they often have photos of the dishes to be served):; or contact (718) 599-5913 or

Livia Alexander
is executive director of ArteEast, an organization promoting the visibility of the arts and cultures of the Middle East in the United States.