Living in France my diet was very meat heavy. I went to the butcher about once or twice a week and picked up fresh-cut veal, lamb, steaks and many times things that I did not recognize (just translate tête de veau and get back to me). My diet was heavy in cheese, wine and red meats but I felt healthier in France than I ever did in America (my theories behind this for a future post). So when I got back to The States where chicken is the staple on my table, I missed the charcuterie and unprocessed meats I ate overseas. A bigger shock, however, was getting used to the large vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan culture that has developed in America.
One of my dearest friends is vegan; Another one vegetarian. My friends and I often get together over meals so I had to get used to making sure that the places where we meet are sensitive to my friends’ needs. Whole Foods is an easy choice but a girl can only eat so much quinoa and sprouts in a box. So we have made sure to do some investigating and take trips to unknown destinations to spice it up a bit. Major metropolitan areas seem to have an abundance of options available for the food sensitive and since we live just outside of Philadelphia, taking advantage of them is not a problem.
Since my homecoming, I have experienced some really great restaurants and foods during these girls-night-outs. Many of them are places I would never have found without my ladies because the cuisine is specifically catered to the vegan culture. And don’t just think of salads or veggie burgers. One of my favorite vegan plates was the smoked coconut club at Memphis Taproom. My favorite part was that the smoked coconut tasted like bacon! Maybe that grosses some vegans out but for a non-vegan, eating vegan, it was a nice surprise.
Last weekend the destination was Hip City Veg. This new hot spot is not only vegan safe but it strives to provide a completely plant-based experience. From the delivery of food (on a bike) to the packaging of the gigantic burgers (compostable paper), this Rittenhouse Square eatery impressed me by putting its “hippest” foot forward 🙂
And what is dinner without dessert? My friends and I crave ending a meal on a sweet note. I am baking challenged, but I know that eggs and milk are important in creating that moist, well-balanced baked good. If you know anything about the vegan diet, you realize that these ingredients are on the Do Not Consume list. So when vegan desserts first came to my mind I was nervous that things would crumble apart. (Remember my experience doing some vegan baking?) Well this is just not the case. There are so many alternative ingredients and ways to make finger-lickable treats. My friend always finds delicious recipes: she is a great baker! This weekend, after our feast at Hip City, we decided to buy our goodies at a bakery on South Street. The bakery we chose, which was featured on Cupcake Wars, is worth putting on your list.
Sweet Freedom Bakery in Philadelphia is gluten-free, vegan and allergy friendly. I suggest getting the huge cookie sandwiches with icing in the middle.
But I am who I am and even if I love eating these new foods and hanging out with my friends while doing it, a slice (or 5) of pizza at the beach is something I just wont be giving up 🙂