by Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson
From Lupini Beans or Pickled Curry Cauliflower as appetizers to Shaved Brussels Sprouts and grilled Seiten as entrees, topped off with Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert, Vedge Restaurant in Center City Philadelphia is a culinary adventure that appeals to a broad audience. Named one of The Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2013 by GQ Magazine, Vedge focuses on vegetable cooking in a fresh way.
The name Vedge, a combination of the words “vegetarian” and “edge,” fits the restaurant’s philosophy that it is a vegetable restaurant for vegans and meat-eaters alike. To explore the restaurant that goes beyond traditional vegetarian and vegan cooking, we talked to the owners, husband-and-wife team Rich Landau, vegetable chef, and Kate Jacoby, head of desserts and beverages.
Since one of you does the veggie cooking and the other prepares desserts, do you work together to make menu decisions or on your own creating your special recipes?
Our creative process is mutually inspired—by sharing a life of travel and dining together—but independent. We change our menus around the same time since we’re both motivated by seasonal produce changes, but we do different recipe testing and brainstorming. We are, however, our number one fans and biggest critics, and we rely heavily on each other as guinea pigs.
Your book, Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking is emphasized as a vegetable—rather than vegan—cookbook. How does this philosophy encourage meat eaters to try your recipes as side dishes or even main dishes?
Nearly everyone eats some amount of vegetables, so by focusing on the food and not the diet/lifestyle, we’re much more inclusive. Anyone can walk through the door to check it out, not just card-carrying vegans. It makes for a much more comfortable experience when there is a “mixed” table of strict vegans and meat eaters.
Which recipe(s) in your book would you suggest for a meat eater or a novice in the field of vegetable cooking?
The Shaved Brussels Sprouts are easy to prepare and delicious. Everyone has a Brussels sprouts recipe, but we love the shaving technique here. If people want to try something a little more complicated and they’re really into food, try the Korean Eggplant Tacos with Kimchee Mayo. That’s a powerful dish that proves we’re not just making fancy salads.
Your book highlights good food that tastes great. Do you think this is a reflection of people’s increased awareness of eating healthy?
The accessibility of the Internet—cluttered with biased and incorrect information as it may be—does give people more connection to their food sources, so it’s easier to take accountability for your choices. Our primary focus has always been animal rights and ethics. It was a huge bonus to us that human and environmental health is benefitted by plant-based eating. I’m glad to see that whatever brings people to the plant-based table—be it diabetes or blood pressure, or concerns about factory farming spreading disease and environmental degradation—the audience for vegetable restaurants and vegetable cookbooks is growing.
Vedge Restaurant is located at 1221 Locust St., Philadelphia. For more information, visit VedgeRestaurant.com.
Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson is a freelance writer in the field of food and health. Connect with her at Menupause.info. March 2014.