Category Archives: Tour Pennsylvania

Vedge

1221 Locust Street, Philadelphia 19107
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It’s finally happened- I’ve eaten at the legendary Vedge restaurant! The spot is known as a major restaurant to check out for any foodie when in Philadelphia – omni, vegetarian, or vegan. It has taken me so long to write this post- 2 months! There is just so much to talk about. The history of the restaurant, building, chefs, and naturally the food. When we went we pretty much ordered everything from the menu (No- really). The meals are sold as small plates, and are suggested you get three plates per person. Each section has 5 dishes to choose from, and we had 4 people altogether. It was easier to choose what we weren’t going to order, but before I get ahead of myself let’s talk about the history.

Vedge opened up in 2011 with Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. The co-owner Rich Landau has reached a minor celebrity chef status, being featured in many interviews, owning several restaurants, and even being featured on Chopped (and won!) Landau and Jacoby have shaped Philadelphia’s vegan food scene, expanding it from it’s punk and religious background. They opened up V Street, a tapas bar, and Wiz Kid, a fast food cheesesteak shop. Nicole Marquis was an employee at Vedge, and has expanded the vegan high end dining experience by opening up Bar Bonbon, Charlie was a Sinner, and HipCityVeg. Just type in “best of philadelphia” and Vedge will appear in many different articles. There isn’t much debate- Vedge is one of the best restaurants in the entire city.

If you aren’t much for “fancy” food, then grab a drink or dessert at the bar to appreciate the architecture. The building was designed by the legendary Frank Furness. He designed over 600 buildings during the Victorian era. Most of his buildings are in the Philadelphia area, and many were destroyed. But this row home has managed to survive, and it really gives a fun layout for a restaurant. When you first walk up the steps it doesn’t feel like you are going into the right building. Surely you are walking into someone’s apartment? Once you open the doors you make it to the bar area and are quickly greeted by the hostess. There is a dining room in the front of the building and one in the back, we were seated in the front, giving lots of light at the beginning of the meal for photographs. Whoo!

Thinking about visiting? Here are some things to keep in mind. One is that everything I’ve written below is subject to change, in fact, their menu changes daily. Not joking. Part of this is because they try and truly stick with seasonal produce. The waiter said there are staples to the menu, or there are some things that simply get modified. For example the radishes seem to be available year round, but the choice of radishes change according to the season. So this menu is the 2017 spring/summer menu.

Also make a reservation — now! Yes I mean now! Open a new tab, google their number, and call! They book months ahead of time for weekend dinners. My sister tried to make reservations for my birthday, and they were booked. Last year my parents in law tried to take us out to dinner but they were booked. But if you are going to be able to dine during the week- you will probably have a much better chance of snagging a table. Even still, if you don’t mind sometimes they will let you eat at the bar without reservations, which isn’t bad. I wouldn’t mind grabbing a cocktail and dessert at the bar late at night- or right when they open XD!! 

On paper the prices don’t seem too expensive. But the menu is set up to order one plate from three categories. They aren’t particularly shareable- I mean try cutting those tiny radishes into four pieces! So this is what makes the price of your meal to shoot up. The review is divided up in the categories on the menu, cocktails, the vedge bar, the dirt list, the grill, and desserts.

So I will leave you to read my reviews on the dishes after saying this- Hey Vedge! Want to have me back and pay for my meal? I can totally do another review of your fall/winter menu. Hit me up. I can also try Wiz Kid or V Street! *winkie face emoji* Alright I’m done selling out- read and drool.

COCKTAILS

BLACK HOLE SUN
scotch, burnt miso, maria al monte, charcoal 14
Dummy’s Guide: scotch, burnt miso, amaro– a bittersweet herbal liqueur, hip stuff to make things black
Jon, his Dad, and myself all got this cocktail. It is a strong drink served in an old fashion. The combination is very odd, scotch plus an herbally liqueur? And what would burnt miso and charcoal even taste like? They all come together nicely, and the miso and charcoal take off some of that astringent alcohol taste. This was so good that my Father in Law got a second.

THE ELDER SAGE
gin, elderflower, lemon, smacked sage
This is a very tasty cocktail but nothing unique. Gin and elderflower are made for each other. But I can say that the flavors work very well. If you can’t stand neat hard liquor, this is probably the cocktail for you. Simple, light, and not too sweet.

LIFE OF PABLO
tequila, aperol, rhubarb, poblano
Dummy’s Guide: tequila, amaro– a bittersweet herbal liqueur, rhubarb, poblano peppers
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my love of poblano peppers on the blog. They are my favorite pepper, and I get so excited when they start showing up at my CSA. So it was obviously in the cards for me to get this drink. They layer the drink, making a rhubarb layer and a poblano layer. The more you drink, the more they mix together. Truthfully it seems like a weird mix, but they worked so well with each other. I would never think to mix an amaro with a tequila, but they picked out what seemed like the least bitter of all the ones available.

RABBIT FIGHTER (Not Pictured)
rum, strega, pomelo, cardamom bitters
Dummy’s Guide: rum, green herbal liqueur, a citrus fruit, cardamom bitters
Hmm… I blame this cocktail- my third of the night- for my less than stellar memory. Okay- it is probably because we tried almost EVERYTHING off the menu but hey- I can still blame this right? I remember liking this cocktail a lot, but the specifics are a blur. #blogfail

THE VEDGE BAR

FANCY RADISHES
smoked tamari, yuzu avocado, pickled tofu, shishito
Let me first start by talking about how we all had to skillfully cut each and everyone of those radishes into four pieces. We divided ALL of the dishes- but this one was a particular challenge. This dish is a staple, according to our server, but the radishes change as they come into season. Some of the names I reconized from our CSA, but I was a dummy and didn’t take notes. I can hands down say that my favorites were the radish paired with the tofu and the radish paired with the shishito pepper. The tofu and pepper gave a wonderful contrast of texture to the radishes.


PORTOBELLO CARPACCIO
deviled turnip, caper puree, nigella grissini
Personal opinion here- not sure if I get the whole “deviled” veggies thing. But that is only a minor part of the dish. The grissini, or let’s be real- a breadstick, was super yummy and made daily. The portobello was amazing. They are thinly sliced and cooked or marinated to perfection.


SALT BAKED BEETS
crushed cucumber, dill, capers, cured olive, rye
This is one of Vedge’s signature dishes. They bake beets at low temperatures for 2+ hours over a bed of salt. The salt takes moisture away from the beets, concentrating the flavors. It also gives the beets a unique texture. I’m normally not a huge fan of rye or dill, but they worked wonderfully with the beets.


RUTABAGA FONDUE
today’s soft pretzel, yesterday’s pickle, charred onion
Hands down- one of best dishes of the night, or even best in this category. The pretzel was fluffy and soft on the inside but just enough crust on the outside. It is pure magic how they get the rutabaga to be so fondue like. It is fluffy and creamy. I can honestly say that the pretzel worked perfectly with the fondue. Yeah, the pickles and onion were good too- but the pretzel and rutabaga?!

THE DIRT LIST

NEBRODINI MUSHROOMS (Not Pictured)
as “fazzoletti”, “pomodoro”
If you know Italian food you probably have an idea of what this dish looks like. If you are like me and am totally hopeless, you were completely surprised. Fazzoletti is a flat square noodle, which kind-of look like someone picked apart a ravioli. THe mushrooms were served in a similar fashion- flat and square. Pomodoro is a quick light pasta dish with olive oil and fresh tomatoes. Although everything I ate at Vedge was amazing, this dish was less memorable.


POLE BEANS & ZUCCHINI
briam stew, hummus, smoked sourdough
The title is a little misleading, the pole beans and zucchini are not the highlight of the dish. I think the sub-description better explains what you are ordering. There is a big serving of hummus, topped with briam (a greek stew with pole beans and zucchini), and smoked sourdough chunks are placed on top. Even though we were expecting a larger portion of beans and zucchini, the dish was amazing. The hummus was perfectly smooth and not too thick or thin.


PEA LEAVES
flash seared, smoked onion dashi, pickled spring onions
Greens are always a little disappointing. I always want more than what they serve! These pea leaves were super amazing, tender, flavorful and not too bitter. The dashi and pickled spring onions added only a little bit of flavor, letting the pea leaves really carry the dish.


GRILLED GOLD POTATOES
black garlic tahini, za’atar, calabrian chile relish
I think these potatoes were the favorite in this category. I am not a HUGE potato person so that is saying something. It has everything you need- crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. The flavor combinations were perfect. The tahini had a wonderful garlic-y salty flavor, and the chili relish gave it this dish a bright burst.

THE GRILL

ASPARAGUS “COLCANNON” (Not Pictured)
peas & green garbanzos, garbanzo crepe, smoked kohlrabi
It has been a long time since I’ve eaten asparagus. I don’t get any in my CSA and they tend to be pricey. The asparagus was nice and thin, making each bite tender. The garbanzo crepe wrapped around the asparagus, and sat on sauce (I think made from smoked kohlrabi?) with some peas and green garbanzo beans.


SSAMJANG GLAZED TOFU
edamame puree, burnt miso, cucumber, sea beans, toasted nori
I am a sucker for tofu, and this was a delicious small slab of tofu. It was well pressed, grilled, and marinated. I especially liked the accompanying flavors. The tofu itself wasn’t overly flavored, but the edamame, miso, cucumber, and sea greens added to it perfectly.


EGGPLANT BRACIOLE
smoked eggplant, italian salsa verde, cured olive
My Mother in Law was excited to try this. She had made this recipe several times at home using the Vedge cookbook. She first pointed out how much tidier their eggplant dish looked compared to hers. But after doing some googling, I think she did a REALLY good job with her version. Naturally I can’t help but compare this dish to the one she made. I love the rice filling at Vedge, it is fluffy, light, and packed with flavor. But I think I prefer my Mother in Law’s eggplant. Hers is just a little bit thicker, which I prefer. Regardless, this is a great dish, and I am pretty sure sticks on the menu most of the year. Heck it was even on the menu when Gina from The Full Helping went 5 years ago.

SEARED MAITAKE MUSHROOM (Not Pictured)
celery root fritter, smoked leek remoulade
This was another crowd favorite. We almost ordered a second plate of it. Maitake mushrooms (or hen of the woods) are amazing and hearty. The mushrooms are very “meaty,” perfectly cooked to be tender but not too dried out. The celery root fritter adds a nice contrasting texture.

DESSERT

So this is where I really dropped the ball. I forgot to take a photo of the dessert menu, thinking it would be fairly stable each night. Nope. I know they have rotating ice cream flavors each night, which my Father in Law picked since the featured flavor of the night was pistachio. It also appears that they have different variations of cheesecake that are always available. My husband went with the cheesecake, but I can’t remember what flavor he chose. Regardless, it was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve tasted in awhile.

CHOCOLATE UBER CHUNK (Not Pictured)
malt custard, pretzels & peanut butter, stout ice cream
Although the menu changes all the time, this seems to be the staple of the house. My Mother in Law jumped on this dish the second she saw it. I don’t blame her. I had a bite and it was amazing. Perfect for a chocolate lover.

GOLDEN PEACH ROBATAYAKI (Not Pictured)
yuzu-chile cornbread, miso ice cream, honeydew duck sauce
So after three cocktails and sharing two flights of Amari- my memory is a little hazy. Well, at least when it comes to reading. I couldn’t find the name of the dessert I had, until randomly this dessert appeared on the menu again. Oddly, I remember that night being surprised there was a peach in my meal…which seems unlikely since peach is in the title. Who knows, but I am 99% sure this what I had. Peach. Check. Miso Ice Cream. Check. Honeydew sauce. Check. So much to say about what the heck this even is. Well first robatayaki is a slow barbecue method from Japan. So this is what it looked like- the honeydew “duck sauce” is poured onto the plate creating a pool. The yuzu-chile cornbread sits on the honeydew puree, then the robatayaki-ed peach and ice cream sits on top of the cornbread. It is overall sort of like a fancy-pants sundae. All of this sounds very unlikely to be a good match, but it was actually perfection. So many textures and flavors. I love how salty the miso ice cream is, then is balanced by the sweetness of the honeydew sauce. The peach is also sweet, but adds a hint of tartness. The cornbread added only a little crumble to the dish overall.

Photo from my Mother in Law showing some of the Amari we sampled

AMARI FLIGHT
This deserves mostly an explanation, and less of a review of each individual drink. Maybe one day I will go back and give a more solid review, but this is something you will most likely want to do if you visit.

So what is Amari? It’s Italian for bitter, and you might of noticed me listing some amari in the cocktails above. They are herbal liqueurs that have roots back when hard alcohol was a way to administer medicine. Today they are usually served as an after-dinner digestive, which is why they appear on the dessert menu. If you are wondering what it tastes like- well that’s where things get complicated. Each one has their own blend of herbs and strength in alcohol. They can have anything between 16 to 40 percent alcohol. Wikipedia has a great little breakdown of different types, including ones made with artichokes, grapes, rhubarb, truffles, and bark.

Again, I would love to do a sampling with a notebook and all to really do some justice about these different drinks. But for now, I will leave you with a list of drinks offered, with some notes and links to learn more about them. 

*NOTE: Prices are just listed to give an idea of how expensive the bottle might be. All stores will price differently.
**VEGAN WARNING: If you decide to buy Amari/Amaro from a liquor store check this list or barnivore before buying! Traditionally the red color comes from bugs.

Amaro Don Ferne 25% ABV $50
Amaro d’Erbe ‘Nina’ 30% ABV $35
Amaro Meletti 32% ABV $20
Averna 29% ABV 40 proof $25-30 a bottle
Cynar Carciofo style (made with artichokes) 16.5% ABV (there is a special 70 proof) $35
Elisir Novasalus 16% ABV $25
Fernet Branca 39% ABV $35
Maria Al Monte Fernet style 40% ABV $30
Ramazzotti Amaro 33% ABV $20
Sibona Amaro 28% ABV $32

Congrats! You made it to the end!
Which dish are you most curious to try?
Have you ever been to Vedge in the past?


Photo credit to Bar Bonbon website

Bar Bombón

133 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
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May is a busy month for me – having a birthday in May pretty much means you are used to your birthday thunder being stolen. I remember once being invited to two different weddings on my birthday one year (one being my uncle, the other being my grade school teacher.), as well as there being school graduations, Mother’s Day, and copious other birthdays. This year we celebrated Mother’s Day, my birthday, and my 4th wedding anniversary all in the same week. So when Jon told me one Saturday that he was taking me out for a surprise I really didn’t know what to expect. Turns out we were going out for a big birthday dinner with my sister and friends (apparently I am turning 30 this year and that’s a big deal)!

Jon got his parents to watch Wolfie as we got dressed up and got into the car. At this point I didn’t know yet that what was going on. I tried not to speculate since Jon has a poor history of keeping surprises (I’d already found a wrapped gift in the closet). I noticed we were getting off at the exit for the train so I start pulling out my PATCO card… and then we drive right past the station….

“We need to stop by your sister’s house. We split a gift for your birthday and she forgot to bring it into work so we’ll need to pick it up!”

That sounded plausible, so I thought no big deal. She also lives next to a different station so it made sense. As we start pulling to my sister’s house I see a car, one I’ve never seen. So I asked who’s car was that- or rather “Who the fuck did that shitty park job?!” Jon said that it MUST have been a friend of my niece’s – and at this point if I wasn’t sleep deprived I would of gotten suspicious. When we got inside I was surprised by Alexa and both my sisters! That shitty park job was Alexa!!! In her defense there wasn’t much she could of done, it’s just the shape of my sister’s driveway.

So we all got on the train and met up with my friend Justine in the city to eat at Bar Bombon. It is a Puerto Rican/latin tapas restaurant owned by Nicole Marquis. She worked at Vedge, and opened up Charlie Was A Sinner and HipCityVeg. There was a lot of hype when the restaurant opened and much has already changed. The restaurant moved from having a mix of burritos, arepas, and tacos to having more seasonal plates.

If you are thinking about coming to this place YOU MUST make a reservation. My goodness the place was packed! When you come in it is a little awkward as you immediately walk into the bar area. There is barely enough room to walk past the bar to the seating. There is also a few tables outside but it is next to alley, which isn’t terribly charming. But the inside is awesome and very warm.

asksalexaAlexa’s note: At first glance I noticed that I really liked the decor of this place. I don’t go out into Philly that often unless I’m with Jen, so I just love taking in the scenery of new restaurants and such. It was very crowded, but it was also a Saturday night around peak “let’s go out” hour – I guess I was just surprised because it was also pouring rain (I’ve been out of the city for too long and apparently forget that rain stops almost no one from going out and being away from their apartments). 

Overall I really enjoyed the food and drinks, they had an extensive list of cocktails that I did not partake in…unlike Jen I’m wary of liquor as opposed to beer because if I don’t like it, it’s not a pretty sight. This is a place that I would love to come back to and try more off of the menu.

BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER
Avocado, green goddess, black bean puree, mirepoix
Alexa: One of the things I miss most as a vegetarian is good barbecue and food slathered in buffalo sauce. I love buffalo cauliflower for this very reason! Let me tell you – this taco DELIVERS. The cauliflower is slightly crisp and not soggy and the buffalo sauce isn’t overpowering. While I would say that everything we ate that night certainly tasted fresh I especially felt that way about everything in this dish. 

CUBANO CLUB
Blackend chick’n, smoked tempeh, avocado, dill pickles, lettuce, tomato, grain mustard aioli
Jen: This was my favorite of the dinner and it was FILLING. This is one of those confusing tapas how big/small are the plates moments as this sandwich I think was a lot more food than the tacos. The club comes with a side of fries, which makes it pretty much a stand alone meal. The club was amazing! Definetly the chick’n and tempeh make it stand out as a unique sandwich from the original cubano sandwich. The smoked tempeh was tasty, and the pickles and aioli give just enough tang. If I were to go back with hubby, I might get this again with a vegetable plate and probably would have enough to eat (with cocktails too duh)

GUACAMOLE FRESCO & PICANTE
I know it is possible to mess up guacamole, but it happens to rarely. I liked the guac here. They let the avocados speak for themselves. You can pick it “fresco” or “picante.” The picante wasn’t insanely hot, but if you want a more traditional route, get fresco. They give a good amount of guac to chips. I was able to use some of the guac with my yuca fries. The chips were pretty nice too, and clearly fried on location.

MUSHROOM EMPANADAS
Leeks, currants, pickled plantains
I had really high expectations for these empanadas and was a little disappointed. Not to say they tasted bad, I just envisioned something different. The flavor was soft, and the plantains were served on the side. The empanadas were fried to perfection though.

REPOLLITOS FRITOS
Brussels sprouts, peanut, mango, lemon
Jen: My rushed meals at home mean I don’t eat enough veggies. So this night I was craving vegetables so Jon and I split the brussel sprouts. They were roasted to perfection with crispy leaves. There was a tasty peanut dipping sauce which was amazing. The annoying thing is that I tasted zero mango. I am guessing it was mainly in there as a sweetening agent?

Alexa: I love Brussels sprouts. Jen isn’t exaggerating when she said these were cooked to perfection, I probably could have had that whole plate as a meal for myself! To be fair, I didn’t know there was supposed to be any mango involved in the dish so I wasn’t as let down, but the oil used to cook the sprouts did have a sweetness to it. So maybe she’s not off on the “sweetening agent” idea!

SEITAN “AL PASTEUR”
Guacamole, onion, cilantro, pineapple
Alexa: I enjoyed this taco as well, but it wasn’t my favorite of the two that I tried. I enjoy spicier foods, so the buffalo cauliflower was a huge hit. The seitan was cooked well and had a lot of flavor that was brought out more by the onion and pineapple. I would definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a “meatier” dish. 

SPANISH FRIES
Roasted peppers and onions, cheese sauce
Jen: My sister seemed to be very concerned about what was in the cheese sauce. The wait staff was very hesitant to give any clue about what it was made of, but if I were to take a guess it was maybe a veggie based sauce? Whatever was in it ended up tasting great. The fries were thin and extra crispy. My only complaint is that it could of had more toppings.

Alexa: My only complaint was that these weren’t bottomless because…
a) potatoes are a gift on this green Earth
b) potatoes cut into thin pieces covered in sauce and veggies are also a gift.

YUCA FRITA
Maduro sauce
I strongly recommend getting these yuca fries. They are light and fluffy but crispy on the outside. If you like handcut french fries, you will love these. They come with a sauce that made me think of the “special sauce” that my parents would get in Southern Utah. It was just ketchup and mayo, but this sauce tasted like it had a paprika kick.

BETTER & BETTER
aged rum, mezcal blanco, falernum
DUMMY GUIDE: rum, tequila (or something like it), spiced syrup
Hubby got this drink first. I am guessing the mezcal blanco means it is similar to tequila. Mezcal is pretty much an open ended category for drinks made from any type of agave plant. So this ended up being a strong “manly” drink served in a low-ball/old fashioned glass. The drink was very robust and nicely spiced. I question the purpose of the mezcal? I couldn’t particularly pick up on any of it.

LA CLASICA
tequila blanco, orange liqueur, lime
This is a classic magarita- like a REAL one. No neon colors, no slushie ice, and all fresh ingredients. It was really refreshing and tasty. Personally I like less ice, but is perfect for people who don’t like strong drinks.

LA PREFERIDA
tequila blanco, beet, habanero, lime
This is a twist to a margarita. Alexa got this drink and it comes out looking pretty pink-red because of the beet juice in it. It had just enough habanero to give a wee little kick.

NO LOVE LOST
london dry gin, lavender, cucumber, thyme, lime
This was my sister’s favorite drink, so much so she got it twice! I can see why. I found it super refreshing and you could taste all the different components. They worked all so well with each other. I strongly suggest this to anyone, but particularly to people who don’t like strong drinks.

SMOKING DARTS
mezcal blanco, white rum, creme de violette, rose water
DUMMY GUIDE: a tequila like liquor, un-aged rum, sweet violet flavor liquor, rose water.
This was my drink of choice! I’ve been wanting to try creme de violette for some time but not many liquor stores sell the stuff. FYI it is creme because the sugar gives a creamy texture. It was really nice. It had nice floral notes but wasn’t over powering. You don’t taste much of the rum and mezcal but I think they helped prevent the drink from tasting too much like perfume.


A tomato pie right before it goes into the oven

A tomato pie right before it goes into the oven

*A QUICK NOTE FOR US CITIZENS* Go out an vote tomorrow! Even if you don’t like Hilary or Trump, there are lots of local elections that you should pay attention to. And if you aren’t sure about who you will vote for, I STRONGLY recommend checking out the videos made by John Greene comparing Trump and Hilary’s policies to each other. In America sometimes we vote with who we “like” not who is better qualified, will do a good job, or have good policies. There is a very good video on Tax Policies, Health Care, and about the unlikeness that election will be rigged. That being said I hope that everyone votes tomorrow.

Coming up with a local food was a little hard. New Jersey’s culture is a little hard to pin point. We are a very diverse state, but we are also very segregated. We have lots of strong communities of immigrants. I’ve seen a wide range of ethnic supermarkets ranging from Korean, South East Asian, Chinese, Indian, Polish, Caribbean, African, Mexican, Italian, or some sort of mix (weirdest is the Chinese-African market, which might still be open). And looking past the international food contenders, New Jersey is heavily divided by their food influences between North (aka New York City) and South (aka Philadelphia).

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I grew up where Alexa is, and you might notice our reviews for restaurants in Fair Haven, Red Bank, and Asbury Park. These places are super dependent on NYC, even though it takes over an hour to get there. Fun fact, we actually fairly close to New York City- if we took a boat into the city. But otherwise cars, trains, and buses need to go west, then north, the east again. But I am now living in South Jersey, which means I am finding out weird traditions. Like apparently there is a Philly Style Bagel (it’s boiled in beer), irish potatoes, water ice (known as Italian Ice to everyone else),  cheesesteaks, and soft pretzels. Heck, you will probably hear about other various Pennsylvanian Dutch cuisines such as  scrapple and apple dumplings being “Philly foods.”

But it wasn’t until I moved out of Philly I heard of a tomato pie. I was complaining of the crummy pizza selection in Philly and South Jersey when my co-worker suggested I grab a tomato pie from Brunos. He was vegan, and I was eating mostly vegan at the time. I figured tomato pie was a term for a cheeseless pizza. But it isn’t. It is a term for a SPECIFIC kind of cheeseless pizza. There wasn’t really any tomato pies in North Jersey, but we did have the same style of pizza- we called them Sicilian styled pizza. My friends LOVED that pizza, but I wasn’t a big fan. Apparently it was just too greasy, because once you remove the cheese it is perfect.

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I’ve already featured a tomato pie on this site before. It was in the Southern method where you use a pie crust (side note there is a sweet pie using green tomatoes?! I should try that next year!) Well, mine was more like a cobbler with a corn bread crust on the top. So don’t expect a pizza when you order a tomato pie in the South.

I didn’t post a recipe, as this was my first time making it. I think I can tweak it to make it more like my favorite tomato pie. But it is a pretty easy recipe to make, I used the one from Serious Eats. I suggest making it on the weekend. It isn’t labor intensive but there is a lot of wait time. I made the dough in the morning, and about 2 hours before you eat, make the sauce and start proofing the dough. 

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Nervous about how to serve the pizza? Technically the pizza is served at room temperature, and you cut it in big square pieces (the dough is rolled out in a rectangular pan.) Traditionally the dish is pretty much vegan. Sometimes people use butter to sauté the sauce, and some people sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Some pizza shops like to sprinkle cheese on the dough, then place the sauce on top. So ALWAYS ask if the tomato pie is vegan.

Anyone have a local cuisine that has a misleading name as well?


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Animo

210 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield, NJ 08033
1701 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
website | facebook haddonfield | facebook philadelphia | instagram | twitter

I am actually a little surprised it took me so long to post this review. See I use to work at Animo I guess around 2 years ago. I worked there for quite sometime actually, and I really miss the food. Vegan MOFO has the prompt of “Where do you eat when you want someone else to cook for you?” and the answer is nowhere. I usually have enough leftovers in the fridge or freezer to hold us off. We tend to find take out too much of a burden to do. The closest we get is me making a pizza from store bought dough or possibly Chinese take out.

But then I thought about the days of when I worked at Animo. If I ended up closing I would take home some burritos for Jon and I to eat. When I first started to work there they had free food for employees, which meant I would have their fresh juices, smoothies, and salad whenever I wanted. It was pretty nice. I would even sometime suppliment some of the meals there. If I had some soy yogurt, I would toss in some fresh fruit.

So let’s start with the basics- there are two locations for Animo. They have their original location in Haddonfield, NJ, but they have expanded into Philadelphia. I would recommend checking out the Haddonfield location since the Philadelphia location is always packed and is usually visited by office workers grabbing their lunch. Both locations differ, as I think the Philadelphia location tends to have more on location baked goods and special events.

theborder

The stores are not exclusively vegan. Sorry. But it is very easily customizable. The staff is usually pretty knowledgeable about what vegan means and will help you make your meal vegan. They don’t do fake vegan cheese or sour cream, but the flavors are really intense and you don’t need it.

The basic vegan ordering low down- the smoothies have yogurt in them. Ask for no yogurt or to sub with soy milk. The protein shakes are actually vegan by nature! They will probably ask what type of milk you want, cows, soy, or unsweetened almond. If they don’t, they defaulted to the soy. The protein powder is soy based unless you specifically ask for whey. They have acai bowls and special banana ice cream, both have no dairy in them. For the breakfast foods, you have a choice between their oatmeal or a peanut butter banana burrito.

Now for the burritos. My favorite thing about Animo is that they have two burrito sizes! You can get the full size burrito, or the ‘petito.’ A petito is about half the size of a normal burrito. So if you think Chipotle’s burritos are two meals, you’ll enjoy the petito. You can get their classic “mission” burrito, without cheese, and you have the “protein” option of veggies for extra. They also have the Bank Street (with veggies), Kale and Quinoa, and the Hummus and Veggie burritos which are all vegan as well.

And what is that beauty you see up above? That would be The Border Salad. It is lettuce greens topped with guac, blue corn chips, and pico de gallo. Since I’ve worked there I have my own little preferences. I skip the cilantro-lime dressing and go straight for their homemade hot sauce. I also like to get their salsa added, and it is totally worth it to get the roasted veggies added. Only thing is that you need to ask for no-cheese to make it vegan.


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Dizengoff

1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
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There has been a growing movement in Philly that it is a vegan friendly city. The funny thing about that statement is that there aren’t THAT many 100% vegan restaurants. Or rather, I am quick to point out there is a polar divide between culinary styles. You have high end places like Charlie Was a Sinner, V Street, Vedge, and Bar Bonbon (high end tapas bars), but then you have more punk/take out style restaurants like Dottie’s Donuts, Blackbird Pizzeria, Grindcore House, Govindas, HipCityVeg, and the like. And if the cuisine isn’t very American, you tend to get more a fast food places that are owned by Asian owners like Su Xing House, Lee How Fook, Veggie Lovers, New Harmony, and Vegan Tree.

menu

What makes Philadelphia shine is that almost all independently owned restaurants have lots of vegan options. So many, that I know I would never be able to feature all the restaurants that I have been to that I think are worth mentioning (although, maybe I should try?!) Khyber? My husband loved it. Was some dosas? Go to Philadelphia Chutney Company. Gym Rat? There are options at Fuel. Yes, vegan food seems pretty normal in the city of Philadelphia. So if you have a stubborn friend who doesn’t want an all vegan menu, you can pretty much select anything in the city and get something very good.

Dizengoff falls into this category. Not vegan, but super trendy and very vegan friendly. I first heard about the place from photographer Ted Nghiem (who’s photos are much better than mine) And when meeting up with my friend Chrissy, she wanted to try the place out.

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Dizengoff features seasonal food in a middle eastern style. Naturally hummus and pitas are on the menu year round, but aside from that the menu has never been the same each time I have been. When I first went, Chrissy and I pretty much got the two vegan options (out of 4-5 options) which was a fava bean hummus and a hummus topped with beets. It was hard to choose which was better. The fava bean dip was amazing, but the it was nice to scoop chunks of beets from the second dish.

The second time coming I went with my husband. We were originally planning on eating at The Philadelphia Chutney Company, but we got there too early. We noticed Dizengoff was opened and thought it would be a good place to eat. We got Spicy Cauliflower dish, which was a bowl of hummus with tender cauliflower covered in a spicy sauce. The meal was really filling, and we both filled up by just sharing the plate. All of their hummus dishes comes with a side of pickles, a cucumber salad, and a pita. You can buy an extra pita for $1, which I recommend especially when sharing.

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Things to know about the place? Well, the store in Philadelphia is VERY small. It is a hole in the wall and finding a spot to eat might be hard depending on the time you come. They do take out and you can eat in Rittenhouse Square. Just keep in mind that if you take out and eat in the park that you can’t grab a beer to go. No drinking booze in public in Philly. They have a second location in New York City, thstaffough I have never been. I can only assume it is equally as small.

Don’t be afraid to ask which dishes are vegan, since the menu is so small the staff is well aware of what is vegan, vegetarian, or not. I love how small the menu is, because it sometimes forces you to take a chance. I don’t think I would of ever picked out that fava bean dish if there was a huge selection to choose from. And the food is fresh and top quality.

 


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Indeblue

619 Collings Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08107
205 South 13th Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
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I’ve been a long fan of Indeblue. I remember visiting it with Jon and his father when it was starting out in it’s first small location, which is just across the street from their current location in Collingswood. I went with my husband and my Father-in-Law, my Father-in-Law just went nuts with ordering. I’d be looking at the menu and say I was thinking about ordering the soup, and BAM he would just order the soup for us to try without me deciding if I really wanted it or not. I don’t think I actually had a vegan dinner, as it was years ago before I was fully vegan. Since then they’ve moved to a much bigger building and had expanded their menu. They also have a location in Center City Philadelphia, but I haven’t visited it. Why would I? It is much easier to go to the one in Collingswood. So how vegan is it now?

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Very vegan friendly. They might not have a massive selection of vegan options, but there is enough that if you go in you will have some choices. We went during a Sunday for their brunch and we were pleasantly surprised. If you want to drink for brunch, prepare before hand. Collingswood is a dry town, so you need to bring your own booze. This can save you some big bucks on the overall menu. Most places in the town are prepared to make cocktails for you if you bring your own drinks. They have a bloody mary that was to die for. I loved it so much that I had to make my own at home. The only downside is that there is a lot spices in there and the drink is really thick. I didn’t know at the time that worcestershire sauce is used in bloody marys, so if you are interested, make sure you ask. You can buy it by the glass or pitcher. If the bloody marys do use worcestershire sauce, you can get orange and mango juice that you can mix with some vegan champagne.

bloodymary

What I really like about IndeBlue is that all their vegan options are labeled easily along with gluten free options. Some of them overlap. They even list things that are easily made vegan so you can just state “make it vegan” when ordering, you know instead of saying “instead of no cheese and mayo can I….” Once you look at the menu you then realise you have tons of options to pick from. I know Jon and I had a hard time picking what we wanted when we got there.

chickpeas

I got the chole bhature made vegan, pictured above. I was so hungry that I didn’t ask what made it non-vegan. The end results was super yummy, but very spicy. There is a big puffy piece of bread that I spooned the chickpeas onto. The chickpeas were in a curry sauce made from tomatoes and a pomegranate juice, balancing the spicy, sweet, and sour flavors into a delicious brunch. This was super filling, and I actually took some home to eat later.

My husband got the uttapam, pictured below. Uttapam is a lentil pancake, that comes with two different chutneys to dip into. My husband loved the savory pancakes, and appreciated having some protein in a normally carb heavy breakfast food. in fact he was a little too stuffed by the end of the brunch.

lentilpancakes

One thing I can say is that the menu can vary greatly between the Philadelphia location and the Collingswood location. A lot of restaurants do this because the cities have different markets, and it also keeps things a little interesting between the two places. It does also appear that the Philadelphia location does have a liquor license so they have a few cocktails to choose from. If you go during dinner time there is an entire section of vegetarian dishes, make it easier to select your main dish. But if you go during lunch your vegans options are very limited unfortunately.

Personally I love the idea of an indian brunch. I am not a big brunch fan, and usually favor more lunch like options. So coming here is a great compromise. And as mentioned, the vegan options make it easy to pick because nothing is more annoying than having to ask the waiter a bucket full of questions.


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Blackbird Pizzeria

507 s 6th St. Philadelphia, PA, 19147
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Blackbird Pizzeria opened up my last year of college. I vaguely remember spending my last few months of my senior year hearing about an all vegan pizza place. As many vegans may know, people get things confused, maybe they meant all vegetarian or organic. I was in disbelief that there would be a vegan pizza place, especially considering that at the time vegan cheeses were pretty pathetic (and that wasn’t that long ago!) We heard a bunch of people say things like “I THINK it is on 6th between South and Pine….” and I would walk right by the place.

So fast forward to the future, I get my shit together and go full vegan. I heard all my friends who live in New Jersey talk about all the great vegan places in Philly. Clearly I missed my opportunity to try lots of fun new restaurants. But one place that got mentioned often was Blackbird. Then it hit me- it was the pizza place that refused to believe in! In my defense, people were right in which store it was, I was just scared. When I went the first time it all seemed so familiar, walking down 6th street staring at the store front, was it even open? Apparently. And it still is.

inside

Today Blackbird Pizzeria is an important part of Philadelphia’s vegan scene. The place is always busy, and has no frills. The place really punk, and my husband and I joked that it was filled with some stereotypical punks, vegans, and hipsters. But their customer base is really diverse with a large range of people coming in. Our most recent visit included a woman who came in with her 12 month (or less) baby, several single guys, a young couple, and large group of two families. The owner encouraged some of his workers to make vegan donuts, and started a business named Dottie’s Donuts who started by distributing donuts throughout Philly. They are now going to open a shop in West Philly, which I will be sure to review when it opens up. But for now I wrote what I thought of the donuts in my review of Grindcore House.

So what should you expect when you come? Well there is take out and tables to sit at. There isn’t anything glamorous about their set up. There is one bathroom, the sink is outside of it (which is brilliant!), you can even see how they set up their soda machine. The goal of the restaurant is just to provide awesome food, not create a specific atmosphere. It is an order and sit sort of place. They will bring your food out once you order, and usually as the food is ready so don’t be surprised if you get your single pizza slices before your wings.

pizzas

So what is available? They basically have pizzas, calzones, a few pan pizzas, hot sandwiches, a few cold wraps, salads, and seitan wings. They do have some sweet sold in the store and are kind-of done at random and on a first come, first served basis. You can pre-order desserts online. One of their popular desserts is the compost cup, where it looks like a plant is growing a cup full of dirt. I assume it is made with ground up oreos. I regrettably should of gotten on for the review. The soda selection is from Maine Root Sodas, they are all pure cane sugar based, fair trade, and made in the USA.

Before I talk about the specific foods, keep in mind restaurants change their menus all the time- at least good ones. “Really?” you might think, but it is true. It is a sign that owners are willing to improve recipes, and adapt to any changes in the public tastes. So if I post saying there is a certain type of pizza and it isn’t there when you go a year from now, don’t be too surprised. I know from reading old reviews of Blackbird there was a portobello mushroom melt, and it is nowhere to be found on their current menu.

cheesesteak

Since I knew I would be making a review of Blackbird I figured it was time to try something other than the pizza. I see that Blackbird always tries to win best veggie cheesesteak in Philly, in fact they won in 2014. Apparently they changed their recipe since that victory, but it still rocks. I never gotten a “real” cheesesteak before since I was never an all meat sandwich type of girl, but this is one you shouldn’t miss. The sandwich features seitan that was made on location and thinly sliced just like a traditional cheesesteak. There is a yummy cheesey sauce with some grilled veggies in a crispy grilled roll. It is heaven. I think next time we go my husband might want to get this sandwich instead.

Other hot sandwiches? There is a chicken parm, a fried chicken sandwich, and a cubano made with tofu. They have two cold wraps if that is more your style, but truthfully you can a vegan wrap almost anywhere. Can you get a hot crunchy vegan sandwich anywhere else? Not as common.

wings

If you are the sides type of person you have a few options. You have some non-traditional healthier vegan ones like a side of sauted kale, side salad, and chickpea salad. But you if you want traditional pizza food you can get some french fries, cheese fries, or seitan wings. The wings are super noteworthy because they are just amazing. There three different sauces to choose from- smoked habanero, root beer BBQ, or spicy sweet. I assume the smoked habanero is closest to a buffalo styled wing, but I like how they have other options to pick for people who are a little more heat sensitive.

Now I’ve had vegan wings from Good Karma, and yes they were tasty, but nothing compared to these. If you don’t believe me, they were ranked as top 10 wings in the United States by PETA. They were even trying wings from non-vegan restaurants. Blackbird takes their homemade seitan and makes them have enough surface area to get a nice crispy outside. When eating them you get the same crispy and meaty variety that you would get with real wings. We were feeling a little crazy and tried their root beer BBQ and it was fantastic. I’ve always wanted to try that southern sort of BBQ that uses soda to sweeten the sauce, and I wouldn’t surprised if they got really close to that.

pizza

So now let’s talk pizza! This is what Jon and I normally get after walking 5+ miles to the art museum and back. These are honestly my favorite pizzas in Philadelphia, vegan or otherwise. I remember really missing pizza during my college days and part of the problem was that I didn’t order out often and I had high standards to live up to. The dough at Blackbird is crisp on the bottom and chewy in all the right ways. Not too much daiya (which I find most pizza places sprinkle WAY too much on) and excellent toppings. These are the various pizza’s I’ve tried, and I have yet to be disappointed.

  • Balboa PizzaRoasted cherry tomato, seitan sausage, baby arugula, pumpkin seed pesto, tofu ricotta, chili flakes, olive oil
    This one is my personal favorite. It is more like an artisan pizza with the arugula, ricotta, and cherry tomatoes. It all works perfectly with each other.
  • Brunchbird PizzaTofu scramble, crispy coconut bacon, sauteed spinach, garlic butter, daiya cheese
    This is the pizza that gave me the idea to put tofurky deli slices on pizza. This is a joy to eat, and you can order this any time of the week or day (I’ve heard some places make them weekend exclusive)
  • Haymaker PizzaSeitan sausage, red onions, garlic butter, tomato sauce, daiya cheese, fresh oregano
    This is the pizza pictured above. My husband loves the seitan sausages. This is a great pizza for anyone who use to love a typical meat lovers pizza.
  • Funghi PizzaAssorted exotic mushrooms, fresh thyme, truffle oil, garlic butter, mozzarella style daiya cheese
    I love mushrooms, so I really like this pizza. So creamy and the mushrooms were tender. I particularly like how they switch up the mushroom selection and don’t use canned mushroom. Yuck.
  • Marinara Pan PizzaTomato sauce, roasted cherry tomato, fresh oregano, sliced garlic, olive oil
    I still have a soft spot for a tomato pie. Apparently it is a New Jersey speciality, and I’ve grown to like it since I can’t do the whole cheese thing. This definitely will fit that bill if you are craving some good old tomato sauce.
  • Nacho PizzaAvocado, caramelized onions, Jalapeño peppers, tomato sauce, cheddar style daiya cheese
    I am still unsure how I feel about hot avocados. This was really awesome but truthfully I think I would just ask for no avocado, or have it subbed with something else

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Sweet Freedom

1424 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19146
577 haddon Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08108
1039 W. Lancaster Ave Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
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I first came to Sweet Freedom because I friend told me about a vegan bakery in Philadelphia. I went in and got a root beer float cupcake and a oatmeal cookie sandwich. My husband and I scarfed down our snacks and as we left I saw a big “yes, all food is gluten-free.” I had no clue at the time! I shouldn’t of been so surprised that the food was going to be so delicious. I knew before hand that they were on the show Cupcake Wars (season 2 episode 8). In fact Sweet Freedom is the most dietary friendly bakery I’ve ever seem. It is soy-free, corn-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, peanut-free, and gluten-free.

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I think I would be lying if all the desserts were totally undetectable of being so allergy friendly. Some foods work better than others, and some are kind-of awesome as their own product. For example their “cake balls” are my favorite. They go by many different names, cake truffles, cake pops, whatever you want. From the non-vegan cake pops I’ve eaten in the past, they weren’t that great, in fact they tasted like undercooked cake in my opinion. But Sweet Freedom’s cake balls aren’t too sweet, and much drier (in a good way). I can safely say that I prefer their cake balls over traditional ones.

bigdisplay cookies

Their biggest selling point is their cupcakes but they dapple in lots of other desserts. They have cobbler bars, cookies, cookie sandwiches, bars, sweet breads, donuts, and even eclairs. All of these desserts can be found at all three of their locations. They started out in Philadelphia, and then expanded into Collingswood New Jersey. At the new location they decided to give juices, smoothies, and ice cream a try. Then they opened another location in Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania where they seem to carry the same things as the Collingswood location.

cupcake

So what do I recommend getting? Well, if you want to get a cupcake, I suggest their root beer float. But any of their cupcakes are pretty awesome, though I much prefer their chocolate frosting over their vanilla. I love their facon-bacon topped donuts, and their magic bars. Any of their cake balls are awesome as well.

I would say to skip their juice or smoothie if you go to their Collingswood or Bryn Mawr locations. They have always been hit or miss for me. It isn’t something they make frequently so I found that not all people working there make it with the same consistency. But I do recommend picking up one of their lattes or hot chocolates. They are very rich. I personally ask for half creamer, half coconut milk to make it not too rich.

eclair

And let’s talk about their ice cream! I love this stuff. They don’t serve it as plain ice cream you would scoop into a bowl. They instead make them into ice cream sandwiches and ice cream pops. They are both amazing. They ice cream is fairly light, making a great reward for a hot day. You can focus on the ice cream flavors with the pops, like with their fruit flavors such as peach or strawberry. But their ice cream sandwiches are pretty much to die for. I am unsure how many of their locations offer the ice cream, but I know their Collingswood location does.

Their newest addition to the stores are gluten-free and yeast-free breads. I am not too wild about them, but some loafs would make a great bread option for sandwiches. They also carry some breads that are hard to find vegan versions of like Challah bread. And if you aren’t into the sweets, they usually make a tomato pie once a day that is pretty tasty as well.

fauxstess

Which location is the best? Well, the Collingswood duh! It has ice cream! Okay, so each place has their own strong points. The Collingswood location is a little nice since it is slower and you can get a little bit more privacy. As mentioned, they have coffee, smoothies, juices, and ice cream. They will also appear at the Collingswood Farmer’s Market. I have sadly not been to the Bryn Mawr location, but from what I understand carried many of the same foods as the Collingswood location.

The Philadelphia location, from what I understand, mostly just does the baked goods. They may offer coffee, and the last time I checked doesn’t do the juice, smoothies, or ice cream. This location is pretty busy and you will probably see a bunch of people coming in and out. There is more seating as this location compared to their Collingswood location.

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Overall I can say this is one of my favorite bakeries. I am aware if I bake a cake at home, it probably will be like more universally accepted as “cake like.” But I am not restricting the type of sugar I use or not excluding gluten. But I think their baked goods are sweet but have something light and addictive about them.

I think overall what I like about their baked goods is that I always feel great afterwards. I never feel “super horrible” after eating a chocolate cake, but I do feel a little sluggish. With Sweet Freedom’s sweets, I barely feel like I ate anything in the same way I feel after eating a piece of fruit. I love buying their agave sodas and a cookie sandwich and sneaking them into the movie theater. Much better than popcorn!

Who would I recommend checking this place out? Health food nuts who want great sweets and people who don’t like things too sweet will love this place! The owner does a great job taking complex flavors from the various flours and making them work with the featured flavor of the dessert. I may love this place, but I know that it isn’t for sugar junkies. If you dream cupcake is light fluffy and half frosting then turn around and bake something at home.


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P.S. & Co

1706 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
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I’ve heard so many mixed reviews about P.S. & Co. Many people on The PPK Forums have bashed the establishment for being overpriced and having rude cashiers. But the reviews on yelp seemed generally very good (but there were still complaining about an elitist atmosphere.) What should I think?

When I arrived, the place seemed huge. There is seating on the sidewalk, seating in the front where the cashier is. Then you can walk down the hallway to more seating in the back, which seems perfect for larger crowds. Once you are in the back you can see a hidden garden area. Yes, you can sit there. It is beautiful and secluded, though it is connected to an alley so someone might toss something in a dumpster, which happened at one point while I was sitting back there. (Note, it wasn’t a restaurant staffer, just a random person walking their dog)

garden

The person helping me at the counter seemed nice and well education. She seemed to up to date with prices of the food, and reasons why. For example she was explaining why there was a price raise on the smoothies, as certain ingredients were having trouble with farming. She seemed to know regulars and was quick to help get a puppy some water.

sushiwrap

I ordered the avocado nori roll ($6.45) and the salty dog cookie sandwich ($8.00). The wrap was really tasty, but the rice wasn’t quite sticky enough to hold the wrap together. As I was eating it, pieces of rice kept falling out (perhaps they should of had a blend of brown and black rice?). The flavors worked very well with each other. There was some avocado dip off to the side, which helped keep the rice in the wrap.

The cookie was amazing, and super filling. If I knew I probably would of just gotten the cookie as my main lunch. It is, I am faily certain, was a mostly raw cookie-wich. The outside tasted like it was made mostly from peanuts, almond meal, and dates. The filling is a little bit of a mystery to me, but I am guessing it was a caramely date paste with pecans butter.

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I know what most of you are thinking- THAT COOKIE IS $8?! Well, I didn’t notice at the time because I probably would of opted for something cheaper like their tiny little macaroons. But this brings a great point. Organic can be cheap, sometimes not so much. And there are reasons why so many places don’t do all organic. Prices on the menu range from reasonable to absurd. No I don’t think the store is jacking up the price, they are pricing according to the cost of food.

So what should you do? I recommend sticking to coffee, tea, and their savory foods. Organic vegetables tend to overall be cheaper than fruits and nuts. I found their nori wrap yummy and comparable to the price of the sushi wraps at whole foods. I would get that wrap again in a heartbeat. Their desserts are on the higher price range, and I have to say that cookie was yummy and probably worth $8 worth of food, it was very filling guys.

seating

So what’s the verdict? It might seem like a hard bullet to swallow for the such a high price for such casual dining, but you aren’t going to save that much more by making the exact same organic meal at home. You are also getting a great environment when you come there to eat. The back has a beautiful garden area, the seating is huge unlike most places in the city.

Yes, the prices might be high sometimes, but you just need to ask how much things are before ordering. I found everything light and refreshing, which is a style I like to eat sometimes. I plan on coming back, and not dine and dash. I plan on sitting down and enjoying myself, because that is the type of place it is. One that is inviting and relaxing. Anyone who claims that the staff is stuck up or elitist have their own problems. I found the place welcoming and comfortable. The food was delicious, I can’t think of many reasons not to come back.

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Charlie was a Sinner

131 South 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Located between Walnut Street and Samson
website | facebook | instagram | twitter

I am a very big fan of Chalie was a Sinner, but I am aware it isn’t a place that I go to often. It is fairly high end, and your bill can build up pretty fast. My recent trip added up to $90 for two people (not including tip). But on the flip side, if you are just going to drinks with friends, you can enjoy fine cocktails and drinks without it getting too crazy financially. It is also a great bar to go to with a friend who doesn’t drink alcohol, as there are virgin cocktails that put a Shirley Temple to shame.

Charlie was a Sinner is a seasonal tapas bar. So whatever I put into this review may not be on the menu when you go. I’ve been twice, and some drinks have changed, and all their desserts have changed (previously was flan, hot cocoa, and some baked fruit with ice cream if you are wondering). Having seasonal dishes assures that you will get the best tasting food.

outdoorseating

The setting really sells the place. The lighting is really low, so that made photography a little hard (hence why there is only photos of drinks and the outside). The room is colored with royal blues and turquoise, and the place is decked in fine wood and upholstered seating. There is seating in the front for more casual drinks, while there is some seating in the back for dining. In the back there are hanging chandeliers and an abstract video projection.

Waiting staff has always been helpful, and generous. The first time I went we were accidentally given the wrong dessert, and started to eat it. They apologized and gave it to us free of charge, along with the correct dessert. When we went the second time, we got lots of feedback about how much to order, which dishes were delicious, and the waiter was very knowledgeable about the liquors.

I don’t go out for drinks often, so I can easily justify the higher prices. And their cocktails are truly exceptional, once you try one, you will get quite fussy about cocktail quality. Even better is that they rotate their drinks for the seasons, so every time I go there’s always something new to try. Of course, it can be hard to pick since there are many mixers that I tend not to know before hand. Try not to let that scare you, and feel free to ask the servers. They will probably know.

That being said, the list below are the drinks and food that we had while there recently. As mentioned I’ve been twice but the first time I was there I wasn’t taking notes about the cocktails I drank or the desserts we ate. Nor were the desserts still available the second time I went. So the reviews below are to help people who will visit soon and give an idea about the quality and style of food and drinks that they offer.

051715-oMARINATED BEET SALAD
cauliflower panna cotta, apple horseradish vinaigrette
Our server suggested starting with a salad, so we ended up getting the beet salad since it seemed like something we would never do at home. The salad was interesting since there was some greens tossed in a vinaigrette and topped with the cauliflower panna cotta. The beets came in a jar off on the side. The two worked beautifully together, though I would of liked a little more flavor from the panna cotta.

AVOCADO TOAST
habanero aioli, radish, tarragon, red onion
My husband wanted to try this dish badly. I was skeptical of paying so much for such a simple dish, but we ordered. Let me say it went beyond my expectations. The dish seems simple enough, toast, avocado, onion and aioli. The toast was more like bruschetta by being served on toasted baguette slices. The avocado was perfectly ripe as well, which probably makes or breaks the dish. The aioloi adds a kick of heat without giving a Mexican influenced vibe.

CRISPY TOFU ROLL
dashi aioli, shiitake, chili relish
The best way to describe this dish is to call it a tofu sushi roll without rice. Although the dish was incredibly tasty, I am not sure if it fits with the other dishes that we picked out. The other ones are very western while this tofu roll had lots eastern flavors with the chili relish and dashi aioli.

GRILLED ASPARAGUS
garlic truffle aioli, parsley breadcrumb
Perfection is the best way to describe the asparagus. The size of the asparagus was a little thick, which usually results in a stringy dish. But they were cooked perfectly where they could be easily cut into but didn’t have a bitter overcooked taste. The aioli adds a perfect little burst of flavor, while the breadcrumbs add a nice texture.

HEIRLOOM BEANS
hazelnut-tomato vinaigrette
The name can be decieving. I was expecting a bean that was like a butter bean or a fava bean. But they were more like green beans. At first I wasn’t a big fan since the beans were very mature and a little woody, reminding me of green beans from my farm when a crop is on their last legs. But the hazelnut-tomato vinaigrette saved the dish. The tomato was in a thick paste, which gave a punch of flavor. Although I would preferred a more tender bean, I might try making a dish that’s similar on my own.

wheatgrass

WHEATGRASS SHOT
green chartreuse, wheatgrass
When working at Animo I use to try and take wheatgrass shots regularly, but when I got out of the habit I found the smell revolting. So when I saw this drink on the menu I thought it must be amazing, right? Or why would something so gross be on the menu? I asked the server and he seemed to genuinely enjoy the taste. He also raved about the liquor in the drink, 130 different herbs infused for 8 hours by monks. The drink definitely tastes like wheatgrass, but much sweeter. It honestly tastes like the smell of freshly cut grass, flower and all. The chartreuse cuts through the weird earthy flavors in wheatgrass, making a well rounded drink.

ESCAPE VELOCITY
tobacco infused johnnie walker black, carpano antica, cherry heering, orange bitters
DUMMY’S GUIDE: tobacco infused scotch whiskey, sweet vermouth, cherry liquor, and orange bitters
This drink is a strong one. If you like to taste you whiskey in your whiskey sour, you’ll enjoy this drink. It is served in an old fashion glass (the same in the photo above) with a large ice cube. The drink will get most of the sweetness from the carpano antica (sweet vermouth) and cherry heering (cherry liquor) which helps keep the drink strong.

cocktails

GOIN’ DOWN EASY
lemongrass infused beefeater, yellow chartreuse, lemon
DUMMY’S GUIDE: gin, yellow chartreuse (no seriously don’t know what to compare this to), and lemon
If I had to describe this to someone who only gets common cocktails, I would say this is a tom collins served like a whiskey sour. Okay so it isn’t served in an old fashioned like a whiskey sour. But it is strong and a little sour like a whiskey sour. There isn’t any added sugar like a tom collins would be, but instead the sweetness comes from the yellow chartreuse. The lemongrass blends perfectly with gin, making a drink the feels light, but packs a lot of booze.

EAST OF EDEN
bulleit, tea infused dolin blanc, lillet, fig
DUMMY’S GUIDE: bourbon, vermouth, aperitif wine, and fig
Pretty much this is a variation of a Manhattan. The difference is that there isn’t any bitters, and has a hint of fig flavor. I would probably say this was the most boring of all the cocktails that we had. Not to mention the fig doesn’t photograph well (it kind-of looks pathetic on that glass).

Some of the drinks listed seem to vary in descriptions on older blogs. I can only assume that the cocktails change as liquors are available. I like how they are willing to give rarer, small batch liquors a try and therefore your drink might not be exactly the same as a few months ago. I love the wide range of drinks and aperitifs to choose from (simply put a liquor or wine that is drank before or after a dinner).