Behind the Scenes with Sous Chef Sarah Hassler

On April 11th, for the first time since the inception of Veraisons Restaurant in 1999, we will host a wine pairing dinner, serving 100% Vegan dishes and 100% Vegan wine. The menu, artfully created by Executive Chef Orlando Rodriguez and Sous Chef Hassler, features six vegan courses, each paired with a vegan wine from Glenora and our sister winery Chateau LaFayette Reneau.

Why 100% Vegan you ask…

Our goal at Veraisons has always been to create an excellent experience for our guests. One that’s both memorable and comfortable from start to finish, from the front of the house to the back.

Over the past 15 years our guests needs have changed, therefore we’ve changed. No matter their dietary tendencies, or lifestyle choice, our guests’ enjoyment is our culinary and service teams’ top priority.

To shed some light on this dinner and the ever-changing nature of Veraisons we sat down with Sous Chef Sarah Hassler to learn more:

What makes you so passionate about cooking vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free cuisine?
I know what it’s like to dine out with dietary restrictions.   I am allergic to both gluten and dairy, something I discovered only a few years ago.  Once I had, dining-out went from a relaxing and fun experience to something that was nerve-wracking and complicated, and sometimes downright scary.  How lucky for me to be in a position where I can not only advocate with words, but with the food itself?  Orlando and I want every guest in our dining room to feel relaxed and enjoy the experience.

It also has to be said: vegans are passionate about food and I totally connect with that.  Quality, sustainability, food-miles, and flavor have always factored in to our menus at Veraisons.  We care about where our food comes from, about our farmers, and about the environment that creates it.

Vegan Carrot "Pappardelle"

Vegan Carrot Pappardelle-Spring Menu 2015

Where do you draw inspiration from to create these creative dishes?
To be honest, I’m a total nerd.  I read whenever and whatever possible; you never know what might spark an idea or what might tie into another one.  Cookbooks, chef biographies, magazines, food blogs; I even subscribe to as many food-related subjects as I can find on social media – I find they are an efficient way of keeping up with our ever-changing industry.

At the core, cooking for vegans is exactly like cooking for everyone else; there needs to be balance in flavor, color, texture, and nutrients….and it needs to taste great.

Vegan Falafel

Vegan Falafel – Spring Menu 2015

The creation of the vegan cheese plate must’ve come with quite a bit of trial and error. How intense of a process is it to make cheese with cashews and coconut milk?
It depends on the cheese really.  Some cheeses, like the Rarebit, are almost instant, requiring only a soak in hot water and a good blender.  Others, like our new Smoked Gouda, need soaking, sprouting, culturing, and smoking time.  It is a really fun process though as we are constantly learning how to create new flavors from ingredients we might not have otherwise tried.  The end result is something that you cannot buy anywhere else; to those who cannot or do not eat dairy our cheeses are precious.

Vegan Cheese Plate  -Fall Menu 2014-

Vegan Cheese Plate -Fall Menu 2014

Are there any styles of cheese that you’d like to tackle next?
I’d love to try to create a bleu; to get that funk in there that would be totally awesome.

What dish are you most excited to share with guests at the upcoming dinner?
Personally, I love the sesame cucumber noodles.  As someone who loves Asian cuisine and is allergic to gluten…well, I really miss my noodles.  This dish nails it for me – a little sweet, a little spicy, a lot savory, and came be eaten with chopsticks!

Take a look at the menu:

Vegan Dinner 2015 FINAL

In addition to the wine pairing dinner, Veraisons Restaurant just launched their new spring menus! Check them out here.


9 responses to “Behind the Scenes with Sous Chef Sarah Hassler

  1. As the owner of the 100% vegan B&B, The Ginger Cat, located just 10 minutes from Veraisons, I am thrilled that Chefs Sarah and Orlando continue to feature vegan food at the restaurant. My B&B guests have raved about their meals there and we’re all looking forward to this upcoming wine/food pairing on April 11th.


  2. The meal was epic! The food amazing. The presentation, service and attention to detail worthy of a 5-star restaurant. Thank you to everyone at Veraisons who worked so hard to make this happen. I know that everyone that I have talked with who was there felt the same way.


      • Thank you! Can you please confirm which are vegan? Or which are not if that is a shorter list? We appreciate this information very much, and that some of your wines are vegan and that the vegan pairing event was held – sorry we missed it – hope it will return! Blessings ~


      • I will get back to you asap with a list! Those that were featured in our Vegan dinner are 100% vegan. It was a wonderful evening and another event like it will certainly take place in the future. We hope you will join us!


  3. Please extend our appreciation to your winemaker for this information. We enjoyed a vegan meal (and the wine was vegan as it turns out!) for my wife’s 60th birthday May 17th. It was all a very special celebration. It was my first taste of wine in many months, after a near fatal auto accident 11/30/14. The wine was excellent! We will be acquiring more Glenora wine soon now that we are comfortable with which are vegan. We will pass this information on to other vegans, including an Ithaca Vegan Drinks group, some of whom might have been at the April event. Thank you so much for your time and courtesies. May this fall season bring good things to you, to all those close to your heart, and to all at Glenora providing a positive experience for customers with diverse dietary lives. Gratefully, Daryl & Mary Ann


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