Sunday, April 6, 2014

Miss Rachel's Pantry - Philadelphia, PA



While taking the bus back to New York City from dinner at Miss Rachel's Pantry last week, I kept thinking about the lovely dining experience I had at this cozy spot in South Philadelphia.  Upon arrival, we were greeted with warm service, which continued throughout the evening. MRP is a much-talked-about place serving a communal farmhouse table dinner with simple, but beautiful decor, specializing in local vegan fare.

Chef Rachel Klein began in her small kitchen back in 2007 .  Since then, Rachel has been making homestyle meals for pick up or for delivery to many areas around the city.  MRP has grown to include, not only the meals at home, but full service catering for special events, the weekly farmtable  dinner, and now cooking classes!  Visit the website for more detailed information. 

Dinner at the Pantry begins at 7:00 pm.  Rachel serves a 4-course pre-fixe vegan tasting menu.  The menu changes weekly, with two options for each course.  There were six of us in our party and we decided to get three of each course.  This way we could sample the entire menu!


I began with the Walnut-Tempeh Slider Trio.  The dish had a bottom layer of sweet BBQ sauce, then topped with three small sliders, finished with homemade pickles and fresh sprouts.  A nice start to the evening.

Walnut-Tempeh Slider Trio
 (homemade pickles & sweet BBQ)

 Next, I couldn't wait to try the empanadas.  I've made empanadas from scratch at home before and totally understand the labor of love that goes into making these little scrumptious pockets.   When the dish arrived, I could smell the savory aroma coming from the filling.  The empanadas were filled with grilled seitan and topped with a house-made chipotle cream.  A nice crunchy cabbage slaw accompanies the dish to give it the perfect balance of texture.  One of my favorite dishes of the evening!
Grilled Seitan Empanadas
(Chipotle cream sauce and cabbage slaw)

Our second course included both a salad and a soup. This wasn't your ordinary soup and salad.  Let me start with the lemony Caesar.  Just the right amount of dressing to coat the greens, this dish was simple, but tasty.  Served with seared tofu croutons and a sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper. 

Lemony Caesar Salad
(Green leaf and tofu croutons)

Then came the bisque. OOOOHHHHHHH the best bowl of goodness I've had in a while!  To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of celery, but Rachel did some magic in her kitchen.  The celery-yukon gold bisque was definitely my favorite dish of the night. The velvety creamy soup was smooth and delicious.  The bisque also had griddled apples, which gave a touch of sweetness and finished with toasted coconut.

Celery-Yukon Gold Bisque
(Griddled apple & smoked coconut)

After our second course came the Grilled Tempeh and Macadamia Ravioli.  I enjoyed the smoked brussels sprouts and the creativity of the crispy carrots.  The tempeh was seared nicely and had a wonderful nutty flavor.

Grilled Tempeh: Mustard-maple gravy
(Smoked brussels sprouts, black garlic aioli, & crispy carrots)

Another dish that intrigued me was the ravioli.  The maiitake mushrooms, sunflower shoots, served in caramelized onion butter sauce had me coming back for seconds and thirds.

Macadamia Ricotta Ravioli
(Seared maiitake, sunflower shoots, and caramelized onion butter)

To finish a selection of two sweets from the menu including a fabulous chocolate cake with avocado-cocoa frosting, chocolate covered espresso, and fresh berries.  From the luscious chocolate to the sweet berries, this dessert was spot on.  (Fair trade coffee with non-dairy milk in the background)

Flourless Chocolate Cake
(avocado-cocoa frosting & chocolate covered espresso)

I also really loved the tiramisu layered cake with coconut-cashew cream.  Soft, moist, yet rich and oh so satisfying.

Tiramisu
(coconut-cashew cream, chocolate-covered espresso)

Dinner Menu

House Bread with Rosemary Butter

Table Setting 1

Table Setting 2

Wall Decor 1

Wall decor 2

If you ever have the chance, make a reservation in advance to dine with Rachel and her wonderful staff.  We will be back for sure!  

  
The lovely Chef Rachel 

1732 W. Passyunk Ave. 
Philadelphia, PA.
215-798-0053




Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vedge Restaurant Philadelphia, PA.



The husband and wife team of Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby have been garnering a whole lot of buzz since opening in 2011.  Their vegetable restaurant is inspired by fresh and locally sourced ingredients. When dining at Vedge, there is always something new and exciting to try off of their menus including the Vedge bar (cold plates), hot kitchen, dirt list, and desserts. 

Whenever I travel to Philadelphia, I try my best to dine here.   Luckily, I was able to snag a last minute reservation.  *Tip-Book in advance.  However, if you are not able to, they also except walk-ins earlier in the evening.  

On a recent visit, rather than order your typical appetizer and entree, I sampled many items on their seasonal menu.  At Vedge, it is suggested to order 2-3 plates per person (tapas style). Although there were two of us dining, we ended up ordering 9 plates!  It was my friend's first time dining here and she loved it.  I suggest you go if you haven't tried it yet.  Be sure to order the roasted golden beets and the fingerling potatoes...my two favorites. Also, save room for dessert.  Pastry Chef and co-owner Kate Jacoby was recently nominated as James Beard Foundation 2014 Outstanding Pastry Chef (Semifinalist)...Congrats Kate! She wasn't the only one...Chef Rich has a nomination as Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. What an honor and achievement. I hope you both win!  Take a peek at their lovely creations below.

The Vedge Bar

Salt Roasted Golden Beets
(avocado, smoked tofu, capers, creamy cucumber, seedy rye)


Winter Chopped Salad
(green goddess, cured olive, pumpernickel)

From the Dirt List

Grilled Black Kale

Brussel Sprouts
(shaved and grilled, smoked mustard)

Nebrodini Mushrooms "Fazzoletti"
(basil, olive oil, charred tomato)

Fingerling Fries
(creamy worcestershire)



Spaetzle with turnips


 From the Hot Kitchen
Eggplant Braciole
(smoked eggplant, cured olive, sicilian salsa verde)


 From the Dessert Menu
Sticky Toffee Pudding
(brown sugar date cake, smoked pecan ice cream)



Even after a full meal, I can't wait to return.  Until next time, I'll try and make my way through their new cookbook. Thanks Karen!!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cha Gio Chay (Vegetarian Crispy Spring Rolls)

Homemade Veggie Spring Rolls

A craving for a childhood favorite came about a couple weeks ago. Rather than walking around the corner to the local Vietnamese restaurant and ordering the Cha Gio Chay off their menu, I ventured off to Chinatown.  Hmmm, what did I buy?....Well, when I traveled home to Lancaster some time ago, I asked my Aunt Hong for her recipe.  Of course she didn't divulge the exact measurements, but she gave me the recipe that my mother taught her when she was little.  She also showed me how to make the spring rolls from scratch (lots of small details that make it special, but I'll save those tips...thanks Aunt Hong!)  The recipe called for shrimp and pork, but I veganized the recipe to include tofu and taro. Therefore, I had to get the right ingredients.  

First and foremost, you have to buy the correct spring roll wrappers.  I tried different a brand and boy was that a disaster.  I'll keep the wrapper as my secret:)  Moving on, I also bought bean thread vermicelli, carrots, cabbage, onion, and dried mushrooms.  I made some with and without mung beans too.   Add a little salt, lots of black pepper, and a touch of sugar and you have your spring roll filling.   I think the best part of making spring rolls is the rolling part.  This truly reminds me of my mother in our kitchen on Orange St. in good ol' Lancaster.  Thanks for the memories mom.  Here are the results.  Quite tasty!







Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blossom Du Jour


My next food adventure led me to Hell's Kitchen in NYC.   There are 3 Blossom Du Jour locations including Chelsea, Midtown West, and the Upper West Side.  The Midtown West or Hell's Kitchen location is at 617 9th Ave (between 43rd and 44th St).  


All BDJ locations  are 100% vegan and restauranteur Pamela Elizabeth launched this "FUN, HEALTHY...food on the go" or "alternative fast food" concept in 2010.  Looking through their menu, you will find sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, add-in options, smoothies, shakes, fresh pressed juices, and sweets.  It's always tough to decide what to order when I go to an all-vegan restaurant because the options are endless.  However, I picked two sandwiches and a side.  

First up:

THE SKYSCRAPER

vegan burger, v-bacon, v-cheese, onion rings, lettuce, tomato, pickles, special sauce
Inside THE SKYSCRAPER

Next up:

SEITAN PHILLY CHEESE STEAK

marinated seitan, peppers, onions, v-cheese, chipotle aïoli

Finally: 

TINY CAESAR

                                                    crispy romaine, capers, creamy caesar dressing 

Here are some other photos of BDJ.  

Front Entrance

Juice/Beverage Case

Prepared foods to go

Caesar Salad

Sweets anyone?

Shrewd Fast Food


Next time you're in NYC and need something quick, on the go, and fresh...be sure to stop by one of the BDJ locations throughout the city.