October 28, 2015
Crowd sourcing at its finest. Landed in Philadelphia yesterday for one of the last laps of my book tour and immediately tweeted out a question: Where should I eat?
The answers came flying back. Fast. Furious. I counted up the votes and went off to explore the most popular.
I had my first lunch at Federal Donuts, eating far too much fried chicken. Crisp, juicy and drenched in spicy sauce (of the six on offer, I opted for garlicky heat) it was almost impossible to restrain myself; I could easily have inhaled the entire half chicken. But sanity prevailed, I ate the delicious dark meat, gave the breast away, and took a single bite of the accompanying donut. This is a serious amount of food (and calories) for under ten bucks.
Then I went across the street for hummus.
Dizengoff was everything people promised – a little corner of Tel Aviv in the City of Brotherly love.
Then, just because I couldn’t help myself, I stopped in at Oyster House. I can never resist the lure of fried clams. Prudence, however, prevailed and I managed to limit myself to a dozen littlenecks on the half shell.
I’d meant to go on to Market on High Street; everyone in Philadelphia seems to love the place, and I was extremely happy with the dinner I had last year at Eli Kulp’s other restaurant, Fork. Alas, I couldn’t manage another meal. Besides, I had a lecture to deliver.
“Where are you eating dinner?” asked someone in the audience as my speech came to an end. When I said I’d been thinking of Vedge the entire audience applauded, and I managed to run over there just before the kitchen closed. Vedge is a much-lauded vegan restaurant, and I was eager to explore it.
We began with “Fancy Radishes,” a sort of vegetarian sushi selection that included pickled tofu, salsify, turnip, radishes wrap in nori, a little heap of avocado.
I liked spicy grilled tofu, but it felt very familiar. The giant wood roasted carrot, on the other hand, with its kimchee reuben on pumpernickel, and its slash of sauerkraut puree was entirely new; I was fascinated. (Will carrots, I wonder, be the kale of 2016?)
I was a fan of shaved and grilled brussels sprouts with smoked mustard.
My favorite dish was mushrooms disguised as fazzoletti; the charred tomato and basil encircling them really did make the pasta disguise work; the flavors were both familiar and comforting. I liked it so much I’d eaten the entire plate before I remembered to take a picture. Too late.
Looking back, I find myself appreciating this meal more in retrospect than while I was at the table. I certainly liked feeling light and buoyant as I left the restaurant, and I admire the sly flavor combinations. This isn’t a meal that could turn me vegan (I don’t think that exists), but it’s an exciting exploration of the many possibilities of vegetables.
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