Eating at the VEDGE Restaurant in Center City Philadelphia is a culinary adventure for the customers and the authors, reflected in the cookbook by the same name by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. The restaurant itself, located on the corner of Locust and Camac Streets, resembles a pub, with dark brown wood trim and windows with designs and Latin sayings. It felt warm and cozy inside, especially since we ate in one of the small rooms off the main bar/entrance.
The culinary adventure actually started with my reading their second cookbook with the same name as the restaurant, vedge. (The title is in lower case on the cover.) Both Kate Jacoby and her husband, Chef Rich Landau, travel all over the globe to find ingredients (ex. They first tasted the Lupini beans in our appetizer in Portugal) and ideas for recipes that they then create back in Philadelphia. I did not say re-create, because their culinary adventure becomes a springboard for fusing different flavors and homegrown foods into a VEDGE original (The restaurant sign is in all caps.). All the recipes in the cookbook have been served at one time or another at the restaurant, although not everything on the menu is in the cookbook, since both authors keep creating new vegetable dishes and delicious desserts.
Despite the fact that I have been a vegetarian for 30 plus years and have tried every meatless cuisine, our meal was unique, because as Rich Landau states early in the beautifully written and illustrated cookbook, he wanted the book to be a vegetable cookbook, not a vegan cookbook that implies a specific style of cooking. This is an important distinction, because there are no mock meats dishes that are knockoffs of the traditional meat & potato fare that most of us grew up with. The restaurant reflects this “edgy” philosophy. The subtitle of the cookbook also helps refine this distinction: “100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking” (The yellow beet recipe below is reminiscent of bagels and lox, but not enough to make me feel like it was a substitute, but rather an inspiration to make this dish stand on its own.)
Our meal consisted of an appetizer (Pickled Curry Cauliflower, Mixed Black Olives with fresh & dried chiles, and U Peel Lupini Beans with piri piri (Portuguese hot peppers), fried garlic)—very zesty! The small and large plates were also beautifully presented. My two favorite small plates were the Salt- Roasted Golden Beets filled made with avocado, capers, creamy cucumber and topped with strips of seeded rye bread. (See recipe below.)
My other dish I loved was the Brussels sprouts, shaved and grilled with smoked mustard. My husband, a committed carnivore, also enjoyed his small plates: Grilled Seitan with Swiss Chard and Fingerling Fries. Dessert was a delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding, one of co-author Kate Jacoby’s, who creates the desserts and handles the wine and drinks.
Early in the meal, Kate came out to talk to us. I asked her why they changed the name from Horizons (their previous restaurant first in the Northeast and then in South Philly) to VEDGE. She said the name represents the Vegetarian Edge, and after eating there, I agree. The food, the ambiance, the knowledgeable server Nicole, and the simplicity of the whole experience was unique. It was good; it was all good!
VEDGE is located at 1221 Locust Street. The cookbook, vedge, is published by The Experiment and costs $24.95.
Here is one of the dishes I ate at VEDGE. It will make anyone a lover of beets, especially because yellow beets have a milder flavor with no bitter aftertaste. Rich Landau explains this in the notes below. I also made the Shaved Brussels Sprouts at home. Both were delicious! (I forgot to take a photo of the beets, stacked up and filled with the other ingredients. It was so good I ate it before I remembered to take a picture! This is the photo from the book itself.)
salt-roasted golden beets with dill, avocado, capers and red onion
(All the recipe titles are in lower case letters.)
(Notes are from Rich Landau): This dish takes it cue from lox and bagels. The salt-roasting draws out extra moisture and intensifies the flavor of the beets, making them as sweet as candy and as silky as…well, something you might have put on a bagel once. Golden beets are quite different from red beets—almost everyone I know loves golden beets even if they don’t care for reds. That could because golden beets are a bit milder. Don’t be put off by the cook time, which includes the time to roast the beets. You can take care of the rest of the recipe while the beets are roasting, and it’s fine to put other foods along for the ride in the oven—even desserts.
(My Note: The information below is green in the cookbook, so I have reproduced the color here, but in the book, the ingredients are on the right hand side of the directions, which I can’t reproduce easily with WordPress. The book’s format makes creating the recipe easier, since the directions and ingredients are side-by-side.)
PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES
PLUS 30 MINUTES CHILLING TIME
COOK TIME: 2 HOURS
SERVES 4 TO 6
2 cups coarse sea salt
5 pounds golden beets, greens removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
3/4 cup vegan may
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh dill fronds
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
1/4 cup capers, drained
1/4 cup finely diced red onions
1. Preheat the oven to 300º F.
2. Pour the coarse salt onto a sheet pan, coating the entire bottom of the pan evenly in a thick layer. Arrange the beets in a single layer on the salt. Roast until fork tender, about 2 hours. The skin will become very dark, looking nearly burnt.
3. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the beets to cool on the salt bed. When cool to the touch, peel the beets by hand or by rubbing them with a towel. Slice them into rounds no more than 1/8 inch thick. A mandoline works best or use a knife to slice them really thin.
4. Toss the beet slices in a large bowl with the oil, sherry vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but no longer than 24 hours.
5. To prepare the sauce, combine the cucumber, vegan mayo, dill, mustard, salt and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the cucumber has broken down into very small pieces and the sauce is thick and creamy.
6. Fan the sliced beets on a large platter or on individual plates. Garnish with the avocado, capers, red onions, and a spoonful of the cucumber sauce.