After a bit of a break, Guest Blogger Derrick returns with a special thankful to be back Thanksgiving post!
It’s been a while since I’ve last contributed to Lost and Found in Philadelphia. I’m back and excited as ever to contribute fresh thoughts on the Philly food scene, and share with you a truly unique food experience, just in time for American Thanksgiving (As Canadians living in the US we get to benefit from two Thanksgiving feasts!)
Over the summer and fall seasons, Mike and I had the chance to experience so much in Philadelphia: the Night Market (aka: food truck festivals!), BYO restaurants, and of course, Mike’s Groupon experiments (Don Quixote on South St anyone? Not our favorite…) Exploring more of the city’s food scene has really helped us get to know some of the great energy, great flavors, and great culture that Philly has to offer.
For my return post I’d like to share our experience with WholePHL which specializes in hosting intimate pop-up Feasts and cooking classes utilizing only plant based foods. And before I lose the carnivores out there, don’t tune out just yet! The food Whole makes is not only delicious, it’s filling, and leaves you wanting for more!
It was through one of Mike’s random newsletters that we stumbled upon Whole, and we decide to attend a pop-up Feast they hosted late this summer. By pop up, we mean that they take over a restaurant or cafe around the city after hours when it typically would be closed. We didn’t quite know what to expect walking in, but a few hours later, we left full, totally satisfied, and a little tipsy (it was BYO after all). I can still remember the wonderful flavors of the meal: mushroom ceviche with chipotle crema (Mike of course had to sub the mushrooms – but the chipotle crema was so tasty I could have had it by itself), summer corn and tomato gazpacho, tacos with 3 different ways (my favorite was the squash), and salted caramel ice cream with shortbread cookie crumble (made with coconut milk so anyone could fully enjoy dessert).
Having enjoyed the Feast – I really wanted to attend another one of Whole’s events, so we quickly signed up for the Guilt Free Thanksgiving cooking class in November for my birthday.
Fast forward a few months later… to last week. I arrive at the class, hosted at a coffee shop in the Italian Market, and again, not necessarily sure what to expect. Our Feast experience was great, and I am really hoping for tonight’s class to be similar. Upon arrival, there are about 20 guests, and I find Mike chatting away with two of the people we met at the Feast (other repeat costumers is always a good sign!). As I walk in, I’m warmly greeted by Jen and Jess, the owners of Whole. It was like old friends reuniting. A quick look at the night’s menu and I’m again, super excited. It all sounds great, with no risky ingredients (i.e. no questionable faux turkey in sight!). Guilt Free Thanksgiving consists of Pumpkin Hummus, Brussel Sprout Slaw with Pomegranate, Butternut Squash and Chickpea Soup, Roasted Green Beans with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette, Wild Rice and Quinoa Stuffing, and lastly, Pumpkin Fudge for a take home dessert.
The class quickly gets started. It’s not hands on: Our role really is to gorge ourselves on the delicious food, and learn about the food as we go. We watch the chef prepare creative recipes using only fresh vegan ingredients, while she explains the process and techniques to preparation. Participants can ask questions and share their thoughts along the way.
Each dish has a special twist that would make it fun to bring to a holiday party, or serve for a family dinner. The hummus is extra creamy, mostly due to the roasted garlic and real pumpkin used (not pie filling). The slaw is marinated overnight, complimented this evening with almonds and cranberries to give it crunchiness and texture. The green beans remind me of my grandmother’s casserole, minus the unhealthy parts. It’s really the roasted garlic that makes the dish because it brings so much flavor. During the soup course, it’s the wide selection of choose your own toppings that are the stars. I love putting apples and apricots in my soup, something I’d never thought about doing before. I’m not much of a stuffing guy, yet the Rice and Quinoa Stuffing is so tasty and the fresh sage brings me back to the holiday dinners at my grandparents. As the main menu concludes, Jen and Jess surprise me with my own special vegan chocolate birthday cupcake with strawberry icing. I practically lick the plate after eating it. A small gesture that truly is the icing on the cake to a wonderful evening. Another Whole success! Mike and I exchange glances and quickly decide that we’re definitely going to try these recipes at our next holiday dinner: Moms, sign us up!
The evening lasts a few hours in all. New friends, new food ideas, and a full belly! We’re already asking when the next Feast will be. Jen and Jess think it will be January. I’m excited, but this is too long! I really want another one of their great meals soon!
As we leave, I noticed that I don’t feel that typical post Thanksgiving uncomfortable lethargic gut pain that I’m used to. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
Any great vegan recipes you’d like to share? Have you stumbled across a food experience that surprised you and left you wanting for more? Any vegan restaurants you’d like to suggest? Wishing our American friends the very best Thanksgiving!
Song of the Day: Thank You For Being a Friend (Golden Girls)