One of my earliest food memories is walking into my grandmother’s kitchen. The aroma of cinnamon and sugar was prevalent and I enjoyed helping her. I clearly recall helping her to fill the deep, white porcelain sink with cold water to rinse fresh spinach leaves to remove all of the grit. My mother never had to say “Phyllis, eat your vegetables.” I have loved nearly all of them, from green beans to asparagus, ever since I cut my first tooth.
I think there are a number of reasons why Vedge, a new vegan restaurant on Locust Street, is successful. Obviously there are scores of vegans in Center City, but we also have learned more and more about food allergies in recent years. Gluten-free has entered the lexicon.
Vedge is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of chef Rich Landau and pastry chef Kate Jacoby. They have succeeded in elevating vegan fare into new culinary heights, using farm fresh local ingredients and creating lovely dishes — to look at and eat — at moderate prices.
Vedge is housed in a 19th-century town home that housed Deux Cheminées previously. Those who adored chef Fritz Blank’s French fare served up in gorgeous antique-filled rooms will experience a slight take back upon entering the restaurant. The stained glass windows are still intact as is the warm wood trim and the fireplace in the lounge.
I dined alone at the cool, white marble bar, sipped a Bombay sapphire martini ($12.50) and enjoyed reading the bill of fare. I enjoyed the in-house baked bread — similar in taste and texture to challah but without the eggs or butter — with an herb-infused olive oil.
I do not know how Landau and Jacoby create creamy dishes without milk, cream or butter. I do know that the smoked vichyssoise ($7), which was on the “dirt list,” was a masterpiece of tastes and textures. The “dirt list” is an assortment of changing specials using ingredients reaped within one day. The flavor of smoked potatoes, along with the natural sweetness of pureed leeks, was astonishing. I could swear the small mound of flaked potatoes in the bowl was smoked whitefish salad from a top deli.
I grew up eating grated radishes or turnips tossed with oil as an appetizer. This Viennese creation, along with other radishes, was a staple in our home. Landau’s fancy radish “sushi” ($8) was a whimsical collection of these root beauties either pickled or roasted. Red small rolls of watermelon radish were lovingly pickled and shared the long, black serving vessel with finely grated daikon, which looked like a thin noodle. Small, round whole black radishes were included with small white ones and a tamari sauce that I was literally enjoying by dipping my finger into it.
I wanted to try the hearts of palm crepe. I asked one of the bartenders for her opinion.
“The crepe is light, but I like the braciole ($13),” she said.
Landau roasted small eggplants and sliced them quite thin. He smoked eggplant and cauliflower that he turned into a soufflé-like stuffing and tucked it and jasmine rice inside the eggplant sheet and rolled it. Chickpeas and an herb-infused olive oil sauce surrounded the braciole, which was one of the finest vegan dishes my taste buds had ever met.
I sipped a glass of Primitivo ($12) a rustic red wine from Puglia that the bartender recommended.
Jacoby’s sticking toffee pudding ($8) served warm with a dollop of Bourbon vanilla ice cream was a glorious sweet ending to one fine meal. I guess she uses soy and coconut milks to create the creamy consistency, but I think it is just magic.
There are a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Center City. Vedge is outstanding on all levels: Quality of ingredients, flavors, textures, presentation, originality, creativity with a hint of whimsy and friendly, professional service. There is no vegan or vegetarian restaurant to match it.
Three tips of the toque to Vedge.
1221 Locust St.
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