Sometimes you just need a weekend to “vedge.”
For me, this meant booking a trip to Philadelphia for a last-minute “girls weekend” with my friend Katie. It had been a rough week for me, where I was forced to make some major life decisions. I hadn’t slept in days and my husband had been traveling for the week in California so when Katie agreed to go to Philly with me for a night, it was just what I needed. Katie and I are foodies of sorts, and I was looking forward to eating my way through Philadelphia, paired with a good hotel-night sleep. Isn’t there something about sleeping in a hotel that just makes the sleep that much better? Anyways, I digress.
Thankfully, Katie went to Wharton and knows Philadelphia well. She suggested going to Vedge, a vegan restaurant in a historic townhouse.
How many times do you walk into a packed restaurant, only to be told it’s a two-hour wait? Especially one that has been open since 2011 (6 years), and is 100% vegan? Vedge is the perfect example of how vegan food is becoming mainstream.
What’s more, Vedge isn’t just a vegan restaurant. It has a serious wine list of 100% vegan and natural wines including an entire section dedicated to orange wines.
What I loved: Vedge is not your typical “tofu masquerading as chicken” place. In fact, only a few dishes feature “meat substitutes” such as tofu or seitan. Vegetables reign and are prepared in a variety of ways from pickled, pureed, smoked, roasted, grilled, baked, and sautéed. Furthermore, the presentations are modern, served on rectangular dishes and with brush strokes of bright-colored sauces and vegetables stacked in angular layers. The sauces often have just as much thought as the dish themselves. All of this occurs in a lively and upscale environment, that almost feels as if you’re in someone’s house with various dining rooms, stained glass windows and a juxtaposition of modern lighting meets historic townhouse.
What I didn’t love: Everything was quite heavy – which seems odd given that we’re talking about vegetables. There were not a lot of “fresh” items or vegetables that weren’t covered in sauce. I’m not sure if this is because we just didn’t order them or it’s the middle of winter so I’ll have to go back.
What we ate:
RUTABAGA FONDUE – today’s soft pretzel, yesterday’s pickle, charred onion
Seriously. Get. This.
I can’t believe it’s not cheese! I kind of want to steal this recipe and bring it to my next Superbowl party for the unsuspecting. And yes, that is a homemade pretzel.
STUFFED AVOCADO – romesco, pickled cauliflower, “fried rice,” black salt
An interesting dish – kind of reminded me of egg salad with the pickled cauliflower. My friend did not like this and thought it just tasted like eating plain avocado. I think the right proportion of sauce / pickle / avocado was quite tasty.
SALT BAKED BEETS – avocado, pastrami-cured tofu, whipped cucumber, everything lavash
I was very interested to try “pastrami-cured” tofu. It had a nice subtle flavor that was not at all like pastrami, and not at all over-bearing. This will convert your non-tofu loving friends! I loved the way this dish was plated.
EGGPLANT BRACIOLE – smoked eggplant, italian salsa verde, cured olive
Really tasted like an Italian sausage.
SEARED MAITAKE MUSHROOM – celery root fritter, smoked leek remoulade
The celery root fritter and smoked leek remoulade could have made the meal. The carmelilzed leeks cut through the fat of the fritter and gave a nice sweetness.
CAMPFIRE POTATOES – black garlic, za’atar (not pictured)
What I drank:
CHENIN BLANC – Storm Point, Swartland, South Africa
Chenin Blanc that could have been straight out of the Loire, but is 100% Swartland (South Africa). I’ve been seeing more and more wines from Swartland and feel like it’s become a trend, similar to Jura, among sommeliers. Interestingly, I read the tasting notes for this wine and the wine was left on its lees for 5 months. Really nice citrus notes, especially lime, some stone fruits and a nice minerality almost like salt water. Would pair really well with spicy foods!
Tami, Sicily, Italy 13
I loved the Tami Nero D’Avola from Sicily! The winemaker, Arianna Occhipinti, purchases the organic grapes from her neighbors and uses indigenous yeast. Sicily is a great place to make natural wine – chemical sprays are rarely needed due to the sunshine, coastal breezes and only moderate rain. This wine paired AMAZINGLY WELL with the eggplant braciole (eggplant that almost tasted like Italian sausage). It’s super easy to drink with a hint of spice – cherry, cranberry, bramble notes, pepper. Very juicy and nice acid. A little bit of a earth but overall very light in body. I probably could drink a whole bottle of this myself. Would go well with other dishes with a lot of herbs or tomatoes.
If Vedge were in NYC it would have a Michelin star, like the recently opened vegan restaurant, Nix.
A great vegan restaurant? Yes. A great restaurant. Period.