While other children spent their elementary and middle-school years watching Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, my after school channel of choice was the Food Network. I filled our family’s DVR with recordings of “Chopped” and “Rachael Ray,” preferring cutthroat cooking shows to cartoons. So naturally, when Chef Aarti Sequeira came to campus, I recognized her from the sixth season of “The Next Food Network Star,” as well as her subsequent TV show, “Aarti Party”.
Sequeira kicked off the Chef’s Table: Women in Culinary series, hosted by NYU Eats, on Nov. 13. The series, which will continue into the spring semester, aims to celebrate women in the culinary field, with menus featuring ingredients from local or female-owned businesses. In honor of National Vegan Month, Sequeira curated a plant-based, three-course menu. As a fan of Sequeira and vegan food, this was an opportunity well worth two meal swipes.
The event was held in The Torch Club, a venue typically reserved for NYU faculty, staff and alumni, complete with wooden furniture, warm lighting and paintings on the walls. Upon arrival, guests were led to the Tap Room, a student-accessible dining area on lower level, and offered a vegan mango lassi — a staple Indian mango milkshake. The first 20 guests to arrive were also given a free copy of Sequeira’s cookbook.
As the staff circled the room passing out appetizers, carrot hummus and olive pistachio relish served on cucumber slices, Sequeira came out to meet guests, take photos and sign books. The room was abuzz with chatter from what was clearly a niche but excited group. The appetizers were light, but full of flavor and left us eagerly awaiting the rest of the meal.
For the remainder of the meal, we were taken back to the dining room on the main floor, where each guest found a table setting and menu. Sequeira came out to introduce and explain each course to diners.
The first course consisted of sweet potato pakoras seasoned with Indian spices and served with fresh green chutney. The pakoras were inspired by Sequeira’s Indian heritage, and the potatoes were used to create a latke, a nod to her brother-in-law’s Jewish heritage. The texture of the pakoras was perfect — crispy on the outside but warm and soft on the inside, with a little kick from the spicy chutney.
The main course was a mushroom potli with pickled beet tabbouleh. Sequeira explained that the dish was inspired by potli, which means “parcel” in Hindi, as the mushroom and potato stew was served in individual parchment pouches. Guests were invited to untie their pouches to reveal their main course. The mushroom and potato stew was hearty and nourishing, while the beet tabbouleh was a refreshing complement.
The dessert was Falooda, what Sequeira described as an Indian milkshake, made with red rose syrup, chia seeds, vermicelli noodles, cashew ice-cream and topped with almond milk. Sequeira invited guests to Americanize the dish by putting Pop Rocks on top. The unique textures and flavors made for a memorable finish to the meal. Many guests, myself included, declared dessert the best dish of the night.
Complete with a fireplace and cellist, the Torch Club set a nice enough scene to make you forget you were even eating on campus. The food and service was upscale but not stuffy, a perfect way to relax in the midst of midterms and cold weather, even if just for a few hours.
If you have a two meal swipes to spare, which let’s face it, we all do, spend it on a future Chef’s Table event. Sequeira’s recipes will be featured at another on Wednesday at Jasper Kane Cafe.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, print edition. Email Divya Nelakonda at [email protected]