Upscale Vegan Restaurants in Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaI stumbled upon an article which is discussing vegan food in Philadelphia. The article is basically indicating that a large percentage of the people who are eating at several upscale vegan restaurants in an around Philadelphia are not vegan or vegetarian. Hmmmm...  Perhaps I need to plan a trip to Philadelphia next time I am back east...

One mil­lion Amer­icans now fol­low a veg­an life­style, according to the Veg­e­tar­i­an Re­search Group, making them a cer­ti­fi­able de­mo­graph­ic that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need the im­pri­ma­tur of carnivores. Still, the new gen­er­a­tion of Meat­less Mon­day-ers can only help the cause — more de­mand for veg­an cooking means more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants. And these more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants, at least in the Philadelphia re­gion, are evolving to­ward an al­to­geth­er new kind of cui­sine that all can en­joy.

Last time I checked, which was quite a while ago, I believe that 5% of the USA population was vegetarian, and of that only about 1% were vegan. Well, if there are 330 million people in America, then 1% of that number would be about 3.3 million people. Perhaps I am incorrect. Well, if the VRG is right, and there are only about 1 million vegans, then only about 0.3% of the USA population is vegan. But how can "they" determine how many people are vegan anyway?

Regardless, it's nice to see more and more vegan restaurants, especially upscale vegan restaurant popping up in various locations around the USA - not just in New York, Los Angeles, and Portland.

If you're interested, here's snippets from the article.

Upscale veg­an eateries in the Philadelphia area have a dirty lit­tle se­cret: “I’d say at least two-thirds of our cli­en­tele are not veg­e­tar­i­an,” says Ross Olchvary, chef-own­er at New Hope’s Sprig & Vine. “I think most of them are just looking for some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Rich Lan­dau, chef and co-own­er of Center City’s Vedge, with his wife, Kate Jacoby, has observed a sim­i­lar pat­tern. “With so many celebrities like Bill Clin­ton, Mike Ty­son, and El­len De­Gen­er­es talking about eating veg­an, peo­ple re­al­ize that it’s not just some cleanse, and it’s not some hip­pie-dip­py diet of steamed beans and len­til loaf. It’s a le­git­i­mate way of eating,” Lan­dau says.

One mil­lion Amer­icans now fol­low a veg­an life­style, according to the Veg­e­tar­i­an Re­search Group, making them a cer­ti­fi­able de­mo­graph­ic that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need the im­pri­ma­tur of carnivores. Still, the new gen­er­a­tion of Meat­less Mon­day-ers can only help the cause — more de­mand for veg­an cooking means more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants. And these more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants, at least in the Philadelphia re­gion, are evolving to­ward an al­to­geth­er new kind of cui­sine that all can en­joy.

One of the most im­por­tant hall­marks of the new veg­an food is the move away from big slabs of er­satz meat on the plate. A veg­an, even a Phil­ly one, cannot live on im­i­ta­tion cheese­steak alone. At Lan­dau and Ja­co­by’s former res­tau­rant, Horizons, customers came to ex­pect the sei­tan and tofu dishes they were used to seeing. “It became a kind of stig­ma, when peo­ple only focused on what I call the ‘fake steak,’ ” Lan­dau says. “When we opened Vedge, we wanted to move away from processed products. We wanted to fo­cus on what peo­ple grow and what you eat through the seasons.”

“I think in gen­er­al, veg­an cooking used to be more about mimicking existing dishes, but now we can say we’re striving to cre­ate some­thing new,” Olchvary says.

The veg­e­ta­ble-for­ward style exemplified by both Vedge and Sprig & Vine (Olchvary got his start in Horizons’ kitch­en be­fore striking out on his own), focuses in­stead on the par­tic­u­lar fla­vors and textures that can be teased out of pro­duce. The re­sults are dishes such as Vedge’s roasted maitake mush­room with cel­ery root frit­ter, or Sprig & Vine’s cur­ry-fried cau­li­flow­er with potato pave, co­co­nut-creamed chard, and gin­ger-on­ion braised collards.

“Some of our techniques in­clude mar­i­nat­ing vegetables be­fore roasting or smoking them, which tru­ly max­i­mizes the fla­vor,” Lan­dau says. A prime ex­am­ple is his “pas­tra­mi”-spiced carrots, served over a sau­er­kraut-bean pu­ree. The gar­licky, pep­pery, tangy notes play­ful­ly evoke a Reu­ben sand­wich, offering a gratifying in­ten­si­ty with­out the as­pi­ra­tion to “re­place” the deli orig­i­nal.

“I like to call our cooking in­gre­di­ent-inspired,” Olchvary says. “I will pick­le it, grill it, broil, poach, de­hy­drate — what­ever it takes to bring the veg­e­ta­ble’s es­sence to the fore­front and let it shine.” Late­ly, he’s been excited about his for­ag­er’s re­cent batch of Jap­a­nese knot­weed. “It has a tart fla­vor like rhu­barb, and when you sau­te it, it takes on a mild, al­most ar­ti­choke-like qual­i­ty.”

Olchvary’s fa­vor­ite sta­ple is cash­ew cream. Soaked over­night and whirred through the food pro­ces­sor, cashews make a mild­ly fla­vored, pro­tein-dense base for every­thing from cake frost­ing to a “cheese” spread. “We can usu­al­ly achieve the same mouthfeel, textures, and rich­ness you can get in non-veg­an food.”

The re­sult of all of this in­ven­tion and nov­el­ty is that diners, both meat-eating and non-, are coming away from their veg­an dining experiences satisfied. “Customers used to come in and say, ‘I’m here for my wife, but I’m going out for a cheese­steak af­ter­ward.’ Now we don’t hear it as much,” Lan­dau says.

Not every meal calls for mush­room car­pac­cio, how­ev­er, and for the rest of the time there is a growing list of more ca­su­al, everyday options. Black­bird Piz­ze­ria in Queen Village is a strict­ly meat- and cheese-less af­fair, while Pure Fare in the Rittenhouse Square area offers a host of veg­an options along­side its non-veg­an foods. HipCityVeg, which opened this week in the Rittenhouse Square area (from yet an­oth­er Horizons alum), is a fast-food con­cept slinging burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Falling square­ly in the mid­dle is Miss Ra­chel’s Pan­try, a soon-to-be-opened res­tau­rant on West Passyunk Avenue, serving prix-fixe meals at a farm­house ta­ble that seats 14.

“There are def­i­nite­ly junk-food vegans out there, but most of us start to crave some­thing more af­ter a while,” says chef-own­er Ra­chel Klein, daughter of “Table Talk” columnist Michael Klein. “I grew up veg­e­tar­i­an and I no­ticed that most of the offerings were greasy sandwiches or fan­cy places I couldn’t af­ford. I’m trying to give peo­ple those in-be­tween options.”

Klein, who first sold her wares at rock shows a few years back, has ex­pand­ed the busi­ness to of­fer in-home services to like-mind­ed eaters as a per­son­al chef and ca­ter­er.

While Klein’s cooking is de­cid­ed­ly hom­ey, focusing on the foods that re­cent veg­an and veg­e­tar­i­an converts might be miss­ing, she, too, has seen an evo­lu­tion in her kitch­en style. “I’ve moved away from processed fake meats, and while I still use tofu and tem­peh, I try to keep every­thing fresh and healthy and lo­cal.”

Her most pop­u­lar dishes in­clude a shiitake-gin­ger ri­sot­to topped with aga­ve-glazed beets and a sweet po­ta­to la­sa­gna with a tofu-based ri­cot­ta cheese.

Klein is pleased that the options are opening up for veg­an eaters in Philadelphia. “People be­come veg­an for dif­fer­ent reasons — some for health reasons, some for an­i­mal rights — but now most of us can say that we don’t have to feel like we’re sacrificing.”

It's really great to see more upscale vegan restaurants. If anybody reading this has eaten at any of these restaurants, you might want to leave a short review below for others to see.
Source: philly.com
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