Monday, June 6, 2011

Veg Out: Fare

I present to you Philadelphia's cashew cheese plate. It exists.

pink peppercorn raw cashew “cheese” with sunflower sprout salad

I never thought the time would come when I could order cashew cheese at a restaurant in my own city. Can I buy it online and have rounds of luscious cultured cashews shipped to my side? Indeed I have. Can I make this creation on my own, with this timely undertaking testing all will? I have gone there.

I don't know why I love it so much. It doesn't taste like cheese as I remember. Nor do I want it to. It's definitely its own thing. Salty, savory, tangy, mysterious. Spread on a cracker, backed by a swirl of red wine, it is such a good thing. It readily takes on flavors, tastes divine in a salad or on a flatbread, and I savor every bit.

In comes Fare Restaurant, which bills itself as an organic kitchen and wine bar, and while it strives to turn out healthy, "everyday fare", this Fairmount oasis happens to be anything but common.

Healthy eating is my passion. While it certainly is a hot topic in our country, and gathering steam in our city, I still find that it is not common or everyday at all to find beautiful, clean food prepared correctly and presented with enthusiasm. It's getting easier, as more and more restaurants are putting the garden back onto the plate.

My goal has always been to spread the word.

Fare is doing an excellent job of that so far.

soy beans, farro, radish, cucumber and pea shoots

Let's start with the beverages. Still or sparkling water, from in-house purification system, FREE. Organic wines, so hard to find in the city, priced low (starting at $5.50). Two things done right. There will be more.

The $9 Cashew Cheese Salad would easily be $19 in New York. Our salad course surprised us with how fresh and forward-thinking it was. I'd even call the salads risky. Why? How often do you see Americans readily consuming pea shoots and soy beans without grimacing as though they are being forced?

I also agreed with the delightful dehydrated crackers, and even though the pea shoots were a little difficult to tackle with grace, they were worth the effort. I watched my dining partner take on a mass of shoots and had it been our first date, I would have fallen all over again.

To his delight, the tempeh dish turned out to be BBQ Seitan with Polenta and Broccoli Rabe. Mr. Vedge has always loved seitan and calls it his gateway to vegetarianism (he has been eating vegan, and so have 3 of our family members recently) but tempeh is one of his current passions. Still, the seitan was smoky, seared correctly, and the side of polenta and greens on this vegan plate were clearly coming from a kitchen that understood its ingredients.

I'd love to know which seitan they are using...

The other vegetarian entree on the menu is a Griddle Cake Duo that consists of a Wild Mushroom Cake with Asparagus Salsa and Carrot Cake with Edamame Hummus. The Carrot Cake is vegan, and you could order two of the Carrot to veganize the dish, I was told.

I was so caught up in the smaller plates, however, that I voted for Millet and Cauliflower Mash, earthy and comforting, and Lentils & Raisins in Tomato Sauce, reminiscent of a lentil curry. The lentils, surprisingly, were the standout dish and I wish we had a better shot of them.

I believe that Philadelphia can be excited about lentils. And it's clear that Fare does, too.

The restaurant was full and I have a feeling that many people left with their appetites appeased. We tried the vegan dessert, an Apple Crisp with Oatmeal (without whipped cream), and while I believe it was intended to be served warm, it was actually slightly cold. Still, it was delicious, chewy oats, real apple that wasn't too sweet, and something I would gladly order again.  

I can't think of many places in Philadelphia that offer organic food in an environmentally-conscious space, with organic wine and appealing, nutritious food, that is approachable in price. But I can think of one.


I enjoyed the food again on a second visit (tried the Mixed Green Salad, the Carrot Cakes, and had the Lentils) but as satisfying as the food was, the service was lacking in attentiveness and we were stranded at times. I hope that it improves, because the veggie food really is impressive.

The Carrot Cakes are quite large (think a decent-sized veggie burger with similar shape and texture) and I'd recommend that you split this entree.

I tried the Yellow + Blue Rose (Y+B wines are vegan-friendly and there are a few of them on the menu) and it wasn't my favorite...The Fleur de California Pint Noir is also vegan.


A and J said...

Is the millet and cauliflower mash the one with mushrooms? It all seems simple yet special.. dishes you'd eat everyday but still enjoy for a weekend meal out. Top of our list for places to try next!

kellywhitephillips said...

Yes, the mash had a broth worth dragging each forkful through. I hope you guys enjoy it!