22 hours in Philadelphia {Vedge Restaurant + Blackbird Pizzeria}

by JL Fields on January 11, 2012

Saturday afternoon I boarded the Amtrak for Philadelphia.  The purpose of my trip was business (an event to attend on Sunday morning) but I’m usually pretty good at finding lots of fun things to do when traveling for work.

I packed lunch to enjoy on the train.

I filled my thermos with piping hot brown rice-barley+black chickpeas+veggie broth.  While on the train I mapped out my plans for the weekend (love the WiFi on Amtrak).  It was a gorgeous weekend — 60 degrees on Saturday — so I decided that I would try my best to walk everywhere.  I had big eating plans so equally big walking seemed to be a good strategy to balance food and fitness.

My hotel was about 1.5 miles from the train station.  I wheeled my little green suitcase behind me and hoofed it.  It was such a gorgeous day and the fresh air was welcome after the 2.5 hours on the train.  I chilled out for a few hours (by chilled out I mean I took my Kindle up to the 19th floor hotel lounge and enjoyed a glass of wine and the view) before heading out for dinner.

I met my friend Dynise, author The Urban Vegan and Celebrate Vegan, at Vedge Restaurant for dinner. Truth be told, this is why I was in Philly! (Edited to say: Go check out Dynise’s recap — her photos rock!)

We were greeted by the gracious owners and chefs Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby. Both are delightful and are present throughout the dining room, ensuring that guests are enjoying the food and the experience.

And that’s just it. This wasn’t simply a meal. It was an experience. Like going to the theatre.

After perusing the drink menu and small plates, our evening of food entertainment began.

Kyoto Sour (sake, grapefruit, cucumber, agave, lemon) and Crispy Cauliflower with kimchee crema and black vinegar.

I could have sucked down Kyoto Sours all night (you know, those dangerous drinks in which it doesn’t taste like you’re drinking alcohol!) and I could have made a meal out of the cauliflower. But I didn’t; I woman-ed up for the occasion.

Dynise and I ordered four plates (and the wonderful chef tossed in an additional plate because he wished we had ordered it).

From the top left: spiced cured little carrots (white bean sauerkraut puree + rye toast), fresh hearts of palm (garbanzo crepe, curried gold lentils), roasted maitake (creamy celery root, seared turnip), grilled seitan (black lentils & mushrooms , creamy horseradish) and grilled gochujang tofu (smoked miso dashi, edamame puree).

As we were deciding on the plates to share, Dynise noted “the chef does tofu really well.” Indeed, it was the best tofu dish I’ve ever had at a restaurant.  The seitan was delightful. It seems these days I’ve been eating seitan breaded or smothered in heavy sauce but this was grilled — such an amazing smokiness to it — and served over lentils which made for a filing plate that was light in taste. The maitake mushroom dish, which the chef offered us, was an amazing treat and I highly suggest you order it when you dine at Vedge.  The spiced carrots delighted.  The hearts of palm wrap was not my favorite of the five, but it was certainly very good.

Next up, the dirt menu.

Sunchokes and brussels sprouts

Vedge offers daily “dirt” specials — vegetables prepared special for the day.  It was hard to decide but we were both thrilled with our choice of sunchokes and brussels sprouts.

We saved room for dessert. Meaning, when we sat down we both made it clear that dessert wouldn’t be optional.

Toffee pudding, cheesecake and, wait for it, popcorn ice cream.

When the server described the ice cream trio of the night we knew we would pass because other desserts caught our eye.  Dynise ordered the cheesecake. I ordered the pudding.  And then I asked “can we get one scoop of ice cream? I have to taste that popcorn ice cream.”  Of course the answer was yes.  Stuffed as we were, we persevered pretty well with our dessert. Kudos to the inspired pastry chef.  All were absolutely delicious.

So, who exactly ate all of the food?

We did!

No shame in our game!  Dynise and I love food and we are unapologetic. Oh, okay, we didn’t eat it all and lucky for Dynise, I didn’t have a refrigerator in my hotel so she got to take home a seriously awesome doggie bag!

I’m not normally a fan of “plate” menus (you know, sharing!) but at Vedge this really works.  The chef makes the vegetable the star on each plate and essentially pairs the vegetables with just the right flavor or spice. The result:  lightly prepared dishes — light enough to sample a variety — that leave you feeling full and as if you tasted an entire garden.  Three drinks, one starter, four plates, two sides and two and a half desserts = a $125-ish check.  Brilliant!

The next morning I had to scramble to shower, pack my belongings and get a bite in before the work event.  I opened up the room service menu with great trepidation but then quickly saw these words:  Vegan Breakfast Wrap. Holla!

Brown rice, black beans, mushrooms, squash and avocado in a whole wheat tortilla with fresh suit. Oh, and a big-ass pot of coffee, for one!

I walked to the meeting, had a blast with teen philanthropists for several hours and then I ran into the bathroom, like Wonder Woman, and changed into yoga pants and trainers.

Because I was on a mission.  Walk one mile to lunch…

Haymaker slice

…for vegan pizza at Blackbird Pizzeria.  I want to tell you I swooned. I didn’t. It was good, though, and I would gladly go back for more.

Then, off I went, dragging my little green suticase on wheels behind me for a 2.5 mile walk to Union Station.

Oh, one more thing.

It’s quite possible that I picked up a pumpkin whoopee pie by Vegan Treats at Blackbird and I devoured it on the Amtrak back to New York. Possible.

It was a delicious 22 hours.

Vedge Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Blackbird Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

***

Have you entered to win a copy of Eat Vegan on $4 a Day?  Do it!

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  • Bianca

    Fun!! Dinner with Dynise at an awesome vegan restaurant and vegan pizza and whoopie pies!! Jealous!

  • http://twitter.com/dermiederm Andrea

    Those sprouts look SO good! 

  • Shinyhappyvegan

    I live in Philly and haven’t been to Vedge yet!  I got a gift certificate for Christmas though, so hopefully soon!  As for Blackbird, I find their sandwiches much more exciting than the pizza.

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      Next time I will have te Phiilly cheese!

  • http://greytveganlife.wordpress.com/ Christina

    What a fabulous 22 hours. I’d go to Philly for that food! And a vegan breakfast wrap on a hotel dine-in menu? Seriously?! Score!

  • http://peaceloveandgreens.com/ Lolita

    Wow, those are some amazing eats! 
    Just wanted to say that your blog is awesome and has been an inspiration to me to start my own vegan blog (peaceloveandgreens.com), which I have just launched!

    Thank you for the awesome journaling. 

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      I look forward to checking out your blog!

  • Urban Vegan

    It was a wonderful, hedonistic evening, and I can tell you the kennel-sized doggy bag was gone the next day. Thank you for sharing that! Can’t wait to nosh with you again soon!

    xoxo

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      Indeed! I will be back!

  • Taylor Trash

    My favourite part of traveling is always the food.  We always research the area to find what’s going to be near our hotel for unique dining instead of resorting to fast food like most of our friends.  Looks like you had a tasty trip!

  • http://www.choosingraw.com/ Gena

    Absolutely cannot wait to try this place!

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      You will love it! Take the grown up camera. Tough lighting for iPhone pics, as you can see!

  • http://twitter.com/CityLifeEats City|Life|Eats

    Dynise wrote one of the first Vegan cookbooks I ever bought – love her! Sounds like my kind of 22 hours in Philadelphia :)

    PS when my husband and I had jobs in different cities, I did the wondewoman trick a lot – Amtrak requires comfy clothes in my opinion – of course this was way before WIFI, IPads or Kindle.  Those would have helped :)

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      Dynise is so wonderful!  And I completely agree that comfy clothes are an Amtrak requirement! LOL

  • http://www.tiedyefiles.com/ Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles

    I’m literally drooling. I need to travel more. And with you apparently!

  • http://idreamofgreenieblog.com/ Bess

    I really did just let out a pool of drool on my keyboard…all of those eats look amazing! I definitely had my share of Vegan Treats delicacies when I lived on the East Coast and miss them tremendously!

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      Vegan Treats donated the dessert at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary Thanksliving event last fall. Off. The. Hook.

  • http://cookeasyvegan.blogspot.com/ Andrea

    Philly is my hometown, and I was there visiting family and friends not that long ago. I’ve never been to Vegde, but clearly that’s an oversight on my part. Next time!

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      You must!  You will love it. 

  • http://www.onearabvegan.com/ Nada (One Arab Vegan)

    So much deliciousness in one post! That vegan breakfast wrap looks insane.

    • http://jlgoesvegan.com JL

      I have to say that wrap was a really pleasant surprise!

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