Everyone needs a hero. For some, it's Buddha; for others, it's Led Zeppelin; for me, it's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, affectionately known as Jackie-O. For as long as I can remember, when things became difficult, my mother would always tell me to think of Jackie-O and how she would handle the situation - with perfect grace. That is the purpose of this blog, to allow me to channel some of Jackie-O's intangible grace and dignity in meeting my latest challenge: surviving carcinoid cancer. - Marlena Johnston

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vedge Restaurant in Philly, PA

Last Friday, Gary and I went to Philly for an early Valentine's Day dinner.

The last time we went into Philly, we had a wonderful meal at Barbuzzo Mediterranean Kitchen and Bar, followed by an amazing concert (Owen) at North Star Bar and Restaurant. When we came out of the bar, however, we found that our car had become part of a crime scene - and we ended up waiting hours before the detectives released it.  

Our car is the silver Mazada; the black car with the bullet holes in the windshield belongs to a drug dealer involved in the shoot-out that we thankfully missed

Luckily for us, Friday's trip into Philly was all about the action packed flavors of Vedge, a new vegan restaurant, instead of the action packed streets of the "City of Brotherly Love".


Opened in Fall 2011, Vedge is an modern vegetable restaurant
by Philadelphia Chefs Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby
The dishes at Vedge are "globally inspired" but feature locally grown produce. The restaurant is tapas style and recommends 3 plates per person, which allows you to venture out and try interesting items you may otherwise pass up in favor of a "safe" entree. And trust me, you'll be grateful for the culinary freedom since Vedge has so many interesting sounding combinations, you're not sure where to start.

Vegan (no animal products at all including milk, egg, cheese, butter etc) sounds scary, and tasteless - but forget the tofu... Vedge focuses on flavorful vegetable  concoctions, which are so wonderful that you don't even miss the usual hunk of meat that comes with most upscale dinners. We ordered two dishes off of their regular menu, and four dishes off of their "dirt list" - which is a daily rotation of dishes using only organic vegetables from nearby Lancaster farms:

- portabella cappacio, salsa rustica, arugula crema, olive oil, capers, crostini
- grilled seitan, black lentils and mushrooms, creamy horseradish, kohlrabi
- brussels sprouts, shaved and grilled smoked mustard (dirt list)
- crispy cauliflower, black vinegar, kimchee mayo (dirt list)
- grilled shittake mushrooms, soba noodle salad, menma, cucumber, cilantro, scallion (dirt list)
- black kale, grilled garlic, preserved lemon aioli, balsamic hazlenuts (dirt list)


brussels sprouts

Our favorite dishes were the portabella cappacio, brussels sprouts, and grilled sietan.

The portabella slices were firm in texture and tasted like soft, velvety veal - with a nice salty kick from the salsa and capers. The brussels sprouts were chopped rather than left whole, and slathered in a savory, smoky mustered sauce. The seitan (derived from the protein portion of wheat) was well seasoned and worked perfectly with the rich mushroom and lentil stew. (Why people eat tofu instead of seitan is beyond me; seitan is denser, "meatier", and more flavorful than tofu.)

If the main courses were a harmony of flavors - the desserts were Vedge's opus. (Note: the dessert small plates aren't as "small" as the entree versions - we ordered four dishes, but three is probably the magic number.) For dessert, we had:

- cheesecake, meyer lemon marmalade, clementine juice, blood orange supreme
- sticky toffee pudding, salted carmel, vanilla-bourbon ice cream
- apple cake fritters, waldorf salad, cider caramel
- ice cream trio: peanut butter and jelly - popcorn - strawberry cheesecake

The "best dessert award" was a tie between the sticky toffee pudding and the ice cream trio.


The sticky toffee pudding was reminiscent of a fluffy cinnabun, and the vanilla-bourbon ice cream on top gave it just the right hint of punchy flavor.

The ice cream trio (peanut butter and jelly, popcorn, strawberry cheesecake) was just plain wacky... and delicious. The creamy consistency not only tasted like the real thing - but delighted our taste buds in a way that usually only the best artisan ice cream can.

Vedge is definitely worth the drive to Philly, and one great romantic epicurean adventure.

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