Maiden’s Witch Water
By Rachael Lindley
Photos by Nancy Farrar
To say Amy McNutt, founder and executive chef of Maiden, is a pioneer of vegan cuisine is putting it mildly.
Armed with a sincere interest in animal welfare, McNutt set out to create cruelty-free food. She opened Spiral Diner & Bakery, specializing in vegan comfort food, in 2002, when she was fresh out of college. In 2017, she opened a second location in Denton. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, earlier this year, McNutt opened Dreamboat Donuts & Scoops in Fort Worth, also vegan, and then Maiden in the PS1200 development in the Near Southside.
Maiden is a first-of-its-kind vegan fine dining experience in North Texas. McNutt and her husband, James M. Johnston, were inspired by meals they had on their travels for Johnston’s work as a filmmaker and wanted to bring a similar plant-based fine dining experience to Fort Worth.
“We got excited about the idea of putting our own spin on some of the food we had tried while traveling,” McNutt said. “Those types of recipes tend to be labor-intensive and too time-consuming for Spiral, so we wanted to create a space where we can really take time and prepare everything deliberately and meticulously.”
The highly anticipated fine vegan restaurant opened in June, with guests coming in from all over DFW. Customers have also visited from New York, Los Angeles, Germany and Italy.
“We’ve only been open for three months and we’ve already hosted people who made Maiden a part of their travel plans,” McNutt said.
Maiden boasts seasonal-inspired four-course and eight-course tasting menus complete with a curated selection of wines, cocktails, beers and zero-proof alternatives. Each menu is designed to be a memorable gastronomic experience.
While McNutt recommends being “vegan curious,” she clarifies you don’t have to be.
“We’ve definitely served people who have come in with a group that normally wouldn’t have chosen a vegan restaurant for a fine dining night out, but they end up completely blown away,” McNutt said. “Our main priority is to ensure our guests have an excellent experience. We want people to feel pampered, enjoy a relaxing evening and a delicious meal.”
Maiden intends to change its tasting menus with the solstices and equinoxes. The autumn menu debuted Sept. 23.
“Our guests can expect cozy, familiar flavors with a bit of a smoke element going into the colder months,” McNutt said.
Her process when creating the seasonal menus usually focuses on flavor combinations or specific ingredients.
“We have more ideas than seasons to fill,” she said.
McNutt loves to source ingredients from local suppliers and makes an effort to choose organic produce first. She also showcases ingredients sourced globally. The summer menu featured mangos from Mexico and beans from Australia.
In addition to the tasting menus, Maiden boasts an extensive cocktail, wine, sake and small plates menu that patrons can sample when sitting at the restaurant’s swanky bar.
Maiden recently launched teatime on Saturdays, with children welcome. The tea service includes a tower of small sandwiches and pastries, teas and brunch-inspired cocktails.
Nothing kicks off the conjuring of the autumnal season like a witch-inspired cocktail. Maiden’s Witch Water includes soul-warming rye whiskey, the herb-forward Italian liquor Strega and a simple raspberry shrub for a touch of tanginess.
“We suggest going to Tricks of the Trade on South Main for any bottle-hunting needs,” McNutt said.
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
• 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until pureed. Strain through a mesh sieve and remove all of the raspberry seeds. Stir the mixture in the sieve with a silicone spatula to work the juice through. Discard the seeds.
In a mixing glass, combine the first four ingredients:
• 1.5 ounces Rittenhouse Rye
• 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
• 1/2 ounce Strega
• 1 ounce Raspberry Shrub
• 1 ounce sparkling wine
Strain the mixture into a coupe glass. Top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.