Not too long ago, chef Scott Schroeder of South Philly Tap Room and American Sardine Bar hosted a Spam night at one of his restaurants. Yep, you read that right: a night full of culinary creations made with the infamous canned meat product, Spam. Spam nachos, Spam tacos, Spam sliders—Spam everything. So it might be a tiny bit hard to believe that this Spam-enthusiast (to his credit, he doesn’t actually love Spam—he just appreciates it’s versatility) recently went vegan. Well, six days a week, at least.
We chatted with the Philly chef to get the lowdown on why he ditched meat (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t actually disagree with eating animals at all) and to soak up some vegan cooking inspiration. Check out what Schroeder had to say about his vegan diet below.
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.
We here at Foobooz certainly enjoy Philadelphia’s food scene but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally roll our eyes at some of the other dining room’s tables. Here is our list of the thirteen kinds of diners you’ll find in Philadelphia. Who do you recognize, what behavior are you guilty of?
Compiled by Isabelle Gallicchio, Ela Torres and Alex Tewfik
Adam Erace checks out the vegan P.S. & CO. on Rittenhouse Square and doesn’t come away impressed.
The initials stand for Pure Sweets, Kyan’s original online business, but they could also mean Punishingly Saltless in the case of the summer roll’s tuft of clover sprouts, oranges, mint, and roasted chile tofu and weak ginger-pickled carrots wrapped in a double layer of brown rice paper that was like chewing through rubber cement. While local vegan restaurants have been striving for crossover appeal, P.S. takes a more hardcore stance — the tea party Republican of vegan eateries.
The sweets fare better but ouch.
P.S. & CO., a business built on treats, opens a vegan eatery in Rittenhouse [City Paper]
P.S. & CO. [Foobooz]
Here’s another spot to add to your list of go-to’s for vegan ice cream in Philly: Pure Fare. The healthy grab-and-go lunch spot used to have vegan soft serve, but they just started making their own vegan ice cream, dairy-free custards (no milk products, but they do contain egg), and ice cream sandwiches this summer.
We took one for the team and tried them out ourselves. I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical that ice cream made primarily of avocados could taste like the real thing. But let me tell you, all of the flavors were absolutely deeeeelicous and the texture was super rich and creamy. If I hadn’t known ahead of time that I was eating vegan ice cream, I wouldn’t have even been able to tell the difference. Read more »
Just how much sinning do you like to do over dinner?
That’s a good question to chew on at Nicole Marquis’s mysterious new bar on 13th Street, where you can drink bourbon and absinthe beneath a looming hardback edition of In Cold Blood, watch sultry projections of Marilyn Monroe flicker upon the ruffles of a diaphanous wall curtain, and soak up your alcohol with food completely untainted by animal products.
In an era abounding with culinary hobgoblins—gluten for him, fructose for her, GMOs for the guy down the street—veganism still reigns unrivaled as the diet of the ethically upright. But the plant-only jawn feels a little racier at Charlie Was a Sinner, and not just because it’s next door to the last surviving porn shop on this once-seedy strip. Marquis, the woman behind HipCityVeg, named her lounge the way Elmore Leonard started crime novels. Who’s Charlie? Has he—or she—repented? Exactly what sort of sin are we talking about here?
A few years ago, during a frenzied Whole Foods shopping trip en-route to a cookout, I accidentally grabbed a block of vegan cheddar “cheese” instead of the plain old cows’ milk variety. I didn’t realize my mistake until later on when, after a good 15 minutes on the grill, the cheese still had not melted onto our veggie burgers, which were now burnt to a crisp. Needless to say, it was a total cookout fail, and I’ve been pretty skeptical when it comes to non-dairy cheeses ever since.
But it looks like my skepticism might soon be a thing of the past: A group of scientists is attempting to create Real Vegan Cheese (their term, not mine), by engineering a vegan version of the milk protein casein, and combining the protein with water, vegan sugar and oil to make a vegan milk of sorts. The vegan milk would go through the age-old cheese-making process, as cows’ milk does, to create vegan versions of your favorites, like emmentaler and parmesan, according to the project’s Indiegogo page. Lots of folks are into the idea, it seems: The project has already reached its $15,000 goal, with 21 days left.
Last week, our pals at Foobooz posted their First Look review of the recently opened P.S. & Co. cafe near Rittenhouse Square, brainchild of Pure Sweets bakery owner Andrea Kyan. You should go read it to find out what our resident foodies have to say, but we wanted to make sure we brought to your attention a few of the cool happenings coming up at the organic, vegan, gluten-free cafe.