Modesto Tapas Goes Vegan, With the Help of STL Veg Girl


       The bar at Modesto. | Kristen Klempert
  •        The bar at Modesto. | Kristen Klempert

Modesto is trying something a bit different this Thursday: a vegan menu. The Spanish restaurant has some vegetarian offerings, but it's definitely something new for a restaurant that celebrated its birthday last summer by grilling pork ribs outside all day. Modesto has paired with STL Veg Girl, a.k.a. Caryn Dugan, for Noche Verde: A Springtime Spanish Culinary Tour.

See also: The 5 Best Tapas/Small Plates Restaurants in St. Louis

"It's important to highlight vegan dishes at every restaurant -- I don't care if you're at Tony's or Courtesy Diner," Dugan tells us. "It really is very accessible and financially feasible."

Dugan works as an instructor and an advocate for a plant-based diet and has done vegan menus with the now-shuttered Mosaic in Des Peres and Sunset 44 in Kirkwood, with two more on the calendar. Dugan and Modesto owner Brendan Marsden began talking about a collaboration at the suggestion of a mutual friend.

"It just sounded like a great idea," Marsden says. "Since we already have a lot [of vegetarian items] it made sense, because these are things we can continue to feature and maybe develop more vegan specials." Some of the items from the five-course dinner will be available at Modesto in the coming weeks, perhaps even added to the menu.

Dugan developed Thursday night's menu with Modesto's executive chef Carlos Hernandez, who had actually never worked with tofu before. He'll be using Mofu Tofu, a local producer.

"We're ending the night with coconut tofu flan. I've taste tested, and it's the creamiest, most delicious thing," Dugan says. "It's awesome, which says a lot about Chef Carlos. To knock this out of the park on the first time is impressive."

There will be celebratory cocktails -- it's actually Dugan's birthday -- plus vegan snacks, like roasted chickpeas and roasted red pepper hummus. Each course has a wine pairing that is vegan and gluten free. There will also be giveaways from Clink!, a delivery wine and spirits service co-owned by Marsden.

"It was just such a pleasure. Any time a chef allows me into their kitchen, I'm just tickled because I understand its their home," Dugan says. "Because I'm not a classically trained chef, any time a chef brings me in and has a serious conversation with me about food, I'm humbled."

Noche Verde starts at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 20, at Modesto. Tickets are $65 per person for five courses and wine pairings, available here.

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