Why Philly Chef Rich Landau Steers Clear Of the Word “Vegan”

Photo via Facebook // Vedge

Photo via Facebook // Vedge

A few months ago, when we asked a bunch of local vegans to dish on the most drool-worthy vegan foods they’d ever had in Philly, a big chunk of them named concoctions made by the well-known vegan chef Rich Landau. Listing off everything from the grilled seitan and vegan cheesecake at Vedge to the barbecue seitan “wings” at the now closed Horizons, these Philly folks made it clear that Landau is quite the vegan-cooking mastermind. So, it’s surprising to hear that the chef actually shies away from the word “vegan” when it comes to describing the food at his Rittenhouse restaurant, Vedge.

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Twelve Philadelphia Restaurants Make OpenTable Best Restaurants List

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Today, OpenTable revealed its Top 100 restaurants “fit for foodies” in America. The list was determined by OpenTable’s analysis of more than five million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants across the country. The list includes twelve restaurants from Philadelphia, the second most restaurants from one city, only Portland, Oregon had more.

The list includes a high concentration of restaurants from California, Oregon and Pennsylvania but not as many from traditional restaurant cities like Chicago (five restaurants), Los Angeles (five), New York (four) and San Francisco (one).

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The Revisit: Vedge

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Consider the radish…

When I reviewed Vedge two-and-a-half years ago, that was my opening line. Sometimes I wonder how many people stopped reading after the third word. But I don’t regret it. Plenty of things on Rich Landau’s menu sounded more appetizing, but the black slate bearing his “fancy radishes” was a dish that changed my whole way of thinking—not only about that lowly stepchild of the brassicas, but about vegan cooking altogether.

Five varieties came five ways, from roasted to half-roasted to raw, with an artful precision and a cup of smoked tamari soy sauce that boldly begged comparison with top-shelf sashimi. It was a definitive dish: the last word on an ingredient nobody else was really even offering a first word about. So if anything was bound to stay on Vedge’s menu, it was the radishes. As an emblem of Landau and Kate Jacoby’s galvanizing approach to vegetables, it was too perfect to replace.

Yet not too perfect to improve upon, as I discovered on a recent, belated return to a restaurant that I’ve spent the last two years sending people to.

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Gastronaut: The Meat of the Matter

First off, let me say this: I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to portraying Philly as a mecca for twig-and-berry eaters.

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Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Like just about every other food writer out there, I was won over the very first time I stepped into Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s Vedge in Midtown Village. After years of sharkishly eating my way through several major American cities as an itinerant restaurant critic, I’d formed some pretty strong opinions about the depth and limits of vegan cuisine, and all of them were burned away the minute I tasted Vedge’s sweet potato pâté.

This, I thought, is what every vegan restaurant in America should be aiming for. This is a cuisine to be proud of.

Immediately I began telling people about it. Loudly and repeatedly. I brought people to Vedge specifically so I could share the weird sideways joy of finding a groundbreaking and totally unexpected version of something you were pretty sure you were going to hate going in.

And it wasn’t just Vedge. It was the bloody beet steak at the Farm and Fisherman. It was the daily lines outside HipCityVeg, and the vegetarian prix fixe at Le Bec-Fin (which, as things turned out, didn’t go so well), and the sudden explosion of plants on so many menus around town. It was the fact that here, of all places, genius vegetable cookery had become the direct heir of the farm-to-table movement, offering the city’s best chefs a whole new range of flavors and textures to play with. After all, if the people of the city appeared willing to eat turnips and roasted brussels sprouts, someone had to charge them for it.

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4 Cookbooks by Philly Authors to Have in Your Kitchen

I’ve been on a bit of a cooking kick lately, dutifully clipping the most delicious-sounding recipes in my monthly issue of Cooking Light and—and here’s the kicker—actually following through and making said recipes for healthy, delicious weeknight dinners.

In between all the cooking mayhem happening in my kitchen, I started doing some research on other sources for good recipes. That’s when I started noticing something: Philly authors and chefs have a pretty solid showing in the healthy-cookbook department, with a few just-released ones grabbing headlines in local and national media.

Here are four healthy cookbooks by Philly authors I’m definitely adding to my kitchen arsenal.

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New Details on Vedge’s Rittenhouse Restaurant

vstreetOur pals at Foobooz have some fun new details on the vegan spot coming to Rittenhouse, courtesy of the meat-free geniuses at Vedge. I’m sure more than a few of you are on the edges of your seats here.

First off, the restaurant officially has a name—V Street—and it’s going to center around an international street-food concept. Mmmmm. I definitely like the sound of that.

V Street will open at 126 South 19th Street. Head over to Foobooz for more details from Vedge’s Rich Landau.

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Vedge’s Rittenhouse Expansion Has A Name (And Some Details)

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It’s been a while since we had any news on the new restaurant coming from Vedge’s Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. We knew that it was coming to Rittenhouse–specifically to 126 S. 19th Street which, yes, is the space right next door to Zama–and that it was set to open in the spring. But everything else about the place was a mystery.

Right up until Landau reached out this morning with some new details.

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Elixr Is Presenting a Coffee and Cocktail Competitions

elixr-squareOn Thursday, November 21st, Elixr Coffee is hosting coffee and cocktail competitions featuring bars and coffee shops around the city.

On this special night, a latte art throwdown featuring top baristas from sixteen coffee bars in Philadelphia will compete. That will be followed by a coffee-centric cocktail competition featuring bartenders from cocktail bars and restaurants (Vedge, The Corner, 1 Tippling Place, Farmers’ Cabinet and more) around town. It all goes down at Elixr Coffee, 207 Sydenham Street (between 15th and 16th Streets) at 6:30 p.m. As Elixr says, “Come to Taste the Magic. Come, and we All Win.”

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Vedge Expanding To Rittenhouse

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With their L.A. expansion plans currently on hold, Vedge owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby have just signed a lease for a new restaurant in Rittenhouse Square.

The address is 126 S. 19th Street–which, yes, is right next door to Zama and currently home to a pop-up boutique (Smak Parlour), but will soon to be the location for Vedge’s smaller, cooler and more casual little-sister restaurant.

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