30 3 / 2014
Dinner at Vedge, a vegan restaurant in Philadelphia, has me seriously contemplating the “Best” food I’ve ever eaten. I mean, EVER; even as a former omnivore. The food at Vedge wasn’t just food but an experience and one not soon forgotten. As each small plate came to the table and was lip-smackingly savored to the point I wanted to lick the plates, I began to think about food in an entirely different way. This wasn’t simply vegan food, it was food that any eater, vegan or not, would absolutely adore. Many vegan joints try to sell their food as familiar versions of non-vegan food such as a veggie burger or tofu hot dog. I believe there’s legitimate psychology behind this practice, but I have a complete respect for the chefs at Vedge for not trying to sell their food as something it is not.
I compared eating the food at Vedge to having a religious experience. The vegetables in the dishes were featured as the food they are-vegetables!! My friend, who eats vegan food but not an exclusively vegan diet, said she wasn’t a fan of beets. When my salt roasted beet appetizer with avocado, capers, and red onion with dill sauce arrived, I took a bite and my eyes became as big as saucers. It was (here I go again…) the BEST vegan bite I’ve ever eaten. My friend asked for a taste after which HER eyes became as big as saucers! She said it tasted like tuna tartar (which I’ve never eaten) and that any meat/fish eater would not only NOT know it wasn’t tuna, but they would love it. I had a main hot plate featuring variations on cauliflower along with trumpet mushrooms. Again, I found myself maneuvering the fork around the plate in order to deliver every drop of food and sauce into my mouth. Would’ve been much easier to bring the plate to my face and lick with impunity, really. We shared a fingerling fries plate with a vegan Worcestershire cream sauce-how they made the sauce, I have no idea, but that’s part of the magic of Vedge. They transform what we expect a food item to be into an experience of the best kind.
Our desserts-yes, we ordered two although in all honesty, we were about to order three-were SUBLIME. The cinnamon sugar donuts had a blood orange compote and sat in a pool of vanilla sauce deliciousness. This dessert warms your soul. The other dessert was a chocolate chunk layered dessert that we likened to eating the layers of a Snicker bar. Its salted pretzel base was crunchy; the layer of caramel-like fudge was creamy; and the chocolate top completed the perfect bite. Along side this layered wonder was a scoop of aptly named stout ice cream. At first bite, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but after eating the entire scoop and again fighting the urge to lick the plate clean, I realized that it was an unexpected treat. Luckily, my friend was entirely full after only a few bites of the desserts so I could finish them greedily, and I did, happily.
While the meal was a financial splurge for me, we talked about going back again before the weekend was over and the cost wasn’t even a factor in entertaining the idea. Sadly, there were no open reservations, so we didn’t return. There was a murmur, however, of eating at the bar. Who really needs a table? I would have eaten the food off the floor for heaven’s sake! No joke.
This place has really rocked my world and made me thoughtful about what I think REALLY good food is. While I’ve eaten “good” food in my past and will again in the future, this meal wasn’t simply a meal. It was a journey into redefining the possibility of ingredients, a rethinking of the depth of flavor vegan food-hell, ALL food-can have, and an experience which has me examining how I cook and eat and think about food. In attempting to remember pre-vegan meals, I fail to recall any meal that ever came close to touching what eating at Vedge was. I fail to recall any meal that provided the kind of thinking that Vedge has. I fail to recall any meal that was a celebration of the simplest ingredients. I fail to recall any meal in which I literally struggled to keep my tongue off of the plates! That’s not to say I haven’t eaten good meals in the past, but none were revelations, none were an exaltation of what food can be. Get yourself to Vedge…and don’t delay, seriously.
20 2 / 2014
08 2 / 2014
"I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you."