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Café Verve

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This review is long time over due!images.png

State College hasn’t had a solid vegetarian restaurant since the 1970 – 1980s (Sun Seed and New Morning). Sure a couple of others have tried but never quite hit the mark. Café Verve is not only all vegan but pure class.

The interior is small but has none of the grungy feel sandwich counters can have. Extra seating is also available by slipping through the signed door near the restroom. The decor is current and tasteful. The menu has every comfort food a vegan could ask for. The hours are convenient as is the location on Beaver Ave.

Breakfast burritos, mac n “cheese” and a huge assortment of house made baked goods. I have tried over a dozen menu items and all have been delicious and well prepared. The portions are all very generous and prices are super reasonable.

The staff is upbeat, friendly and open to suggestions to add to their menu. From reading past reviews on other vegan cafés, I know someone is going to complain about the soy meat/ soy dairy options. If mock meats aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other choices so don’t use that as a reason to not patronize this café. There are very few customers who don’t fondly remember foods that contained dairy or meat and Café Verve has a great balance for every customer with their smoothies and salads.

Café Verve is an oasis for vegan diners in Central PA. It is just what we have been craving and are very grateful it is downtown State College.

 

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Refreshed Storage Canisters

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Imagine being the only vegetarian 12 year old at summer camp in 1998. Now imagine your parents sending you home made granola in a gallon container that has a big label that says GUINEA PIG FOOD! Some good natured joking took place.

We have been using those sturdy plastic screw top canisters for more that a couple of decades now. They were originally guinea pig and rabbit food containers and we bought so many that we started using them for our dry goods. The original labels just would not come off, even after a good soaking, so we just left them there.

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New spices, new labels.

The new home we are moving into in a couple of weeks has a corner cupboard  where we will be able to highlight these canisters from the front. In the same spirit of our Refreshed Spice Jars, we decided to finally cover up the pet food labels with creative ones of our own.

If you didn’t click on the link to read the history or see the photos of our Refreshed Spice Jars, take note that the names on the labels are far from what you would expect. They sounds like crazy and mythical things that your would never find in someone’s kitchen. We never wanted anything to be so off-putting that we would be turned off when reaching to use our typical flour, sugar and rolled oats so tried to keep the names whimsical.

They turned out really well and can’t wait to feature them in our new kitchen along side our Refreshed Spice Jars.Canister-afterJPG

Potato Rivel Soup

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Anytime I think of rivels in a soup, I think of my Grandmother as the crumbly flour pellets dropped off her fingers and into the boiling pot of soup. Rivels are like miniature dumplings and help thicken any soup. For all of the Pennsyltucky Veggie dishes we have veganized, I have left out a standard:

Potato Rivel Soup
Ingredients:
2 Cups water

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Basic Ingredients

3 Potatoes, peeled and cubed but NOT RINSED
1 Carrot, peeled and sliced
1/2 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Vegetable bouillon cubes
6 drops Liquid Smoke

The Rivel
1/2 Cup white flour
1 Tablespoon Tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon black salt (Kala namak)
2 Tablespoons enhanced* Aquafaba

2 Cups Coconut Milk

Directions:

As you bring the water, bouillon cubes and liquid smoke to a boil, take some Aquafaba and pour it over the cubed potatoes to gather the potato starch. I did this by putting the cubed potatoes in a colander and catching the *enhanced Aquafaba in a bowl underneath it. Reserve the enhanced Aquafaba for the Rivel.

When the seasoned water is boiling, add the potatoes, carrots and onion. Keep covered at a low boil for 20 minutes.

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Uncooked Rivels

While the veggies boil, combine the dry ingredients for the Rivel in a small bowl and make a well in the center for 2 tablespoons of enhanced Aquafaba. Use a fork to blend the wet and dry until pellets start to form, Some will be as small as crumbs and others larger. Make sure the largest are not bigger than a small marble (see photo to the left).

After the veggies have boiled for 20 minutes, they should be tender and it is time to add the rivels to the boiling pot. Add only 1/3 of them and give the pot a stir. Add another 1/3, stir completely again. Add the last third and stir completely before replacing the cover and reducing to a simmer for 5-7 minutes.

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Potato Rivel Soup

During this time, the soup will start to thicken so give it a stir about 3 minutes in. When the rivels have cooked at least 5 minutes, add the 2 cups of coconut milk but do not return the soup to a boil, only warm it to serving temperature. You may like to garish a bowl of this mild soup with chives.

I surprised Jim with this for lunch today and he was all smiles. It was a cool day for late June and he said he hadn’t had rivels for a long time. He just sat there beaming as we enjoyed our soup.

I then realized that it incidentally had no oil and mentioned that to him. He was astonished and thought the onions tasted sauted but I assured him that they had only been boiled along with the potatoes and carrot.

We then discussed Aquafaba, which is not as crazy an ingredient as you might think. It is the liquid in a can of chickpeas. Cooks are using it by whipping it into a foam and I used it, enhanced with the potato, tapioca starch and black salt to be the “egg” that traditionally is added to flour to make rivel.

We were very please with how this soup turned out and happy to have veganized yet another central Pennsylvania standard from our childhood.

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Chives for Garnish

Bacon is NOT Vegetarian

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I can’t make this stuff up.bacon

Vegan Chili Verde

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1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbps canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped small
thinly sliced peppers of choice, seeded and no membrane – I used one green ghost pepper (very spicy), you could use a green bell pepper (mild) or a couple of jalapenos (medium)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1.5 lbs tomatillos, skin papers removed, washed, chopped into 3/4″ pieces
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 cup vegetable broth (plus 1/3 cup for deglazing)
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro (reserve a bit for garnish)
1/4 cup chopped scallions (reserve a few for garnish)
2 (15-oz) cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lime
Avocado slices for garnish

Place the chopped potatoes in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Let boil, covered, for a little less than 20 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork NOT MUSHY. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and peppers in oil for about 10 minutes, until everything is softened and the onions are slightly browned.
Add the garlic, cumin, basil, and salt. Saute for 1 more minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the 1/3 cup broth for deglazing and tomatillos, raise the heat a bit to let the liquid reduce and the tomatillos release their juices, about 5 minutes.IMG_0771
Add the apples, 2 cups vegetable broth, scallions, and 1/2 cup of the cilantro. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to partially puree everything, or transfer half the chili to a food processor and puree, then return to the pot.
Taste for tartness: if bitter, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to level things out. Add the cooked potatoes and the chick peas, simmer for a few more minutes, until everything is heated through.
Add the remaining cilantro (reserve a garnish) and the lime juice. Ladle into bowls, garnish with the avocado and a few chopped scallions and cilantro leaves, and serve.

6 – 8 Servings

Vegan Manicotti Crespelle

Before baking with Miyoko's VeganMozz

Before baking with Miyoko’s VeganMozz

I wanted to try out a new vegan cheese, Miyoko’s Fresh VeganMozz style. I had been inspired to make a crepe style manicotti and used my Pennsyltucky Griddle Crêpe and Tofu Cashew Ricotta recipes.

When I opened the cold block of VeganMozz and nibbled a small piece I was very impressed. I cubed about half of the block and folded it into the Tofu Cashew Ricotta then built the manicottis as I had seen Lidia do on Lidia’s Italy.

Sadly, the new cheese didn’t impress me baked as much as it did cold. It didn’t brown and upon getting hot didn’t get stretchy at all. It just slightly melted and was about the consistency of the Tofu Cashew Ricotta.

Revival Kitchen – a reconnecting

revival-kitchen-logo-e1439827160748-300x246We are born with a connection to where we live that is lost the moment we are fed our first bottled formula. The arrowroot in our first Gerber teething biscuit, that might have been grown in the West Indies, may not be unhealthy but certainly isn’t of our native land. It takes packaging and extensive (and expensive) shipping to get the first juice boxes into our young hands. As I shared in I’m Not Vegan (and neither are you), where and how our food is produced can be more important than what we choose to eat. We are still vegan for anyone wondering if this is to justify a personal change.

When we choose to eat mindfully, we draw our focus closer to home and connect with what is native. Doing so is how we found Revival Kitchen in Reedsville, PA. This blog has always focused on what is (or has been) available in Central Pennsylvania and Revival Kitchen is a way for us to reconnect with what is dear to us. It provides thoughtful dining with a focus on local and seasonal foods from our native land.

The head chef and owner have close and regular communication with local farmers to plan seasonal menus. We hesitated to visit because we could not see anything of the menu that was vegan. I am very shy about asking for modifications or special dishes to be made for us (why our Pennsytucky Veggie Awards were based on regular menu items with no modifications). What changed our minds was an organized group vegan dinner at Revival Kitchen where we had a chance to talk with the Owner Liz Hoffner who assured me that, with a small advanced notice, Chef Quintin Wicks could accommodate us regularly! License to ask for “special” with reasonable notice opened up our world to reconnecting with seasonal and local dining!

Since then, we have dined at Revival Kitchen multiple times. We have taken family and friends who are omnivorous and they enjoyed everything they were served. They told us the gnocchi was done perfectly. The locally raised and butchered beef thrilled and satisfied one of the (self described) pickiest eaters I have ever known. We have all raved about the Coffee Roasted Beets that rightfully won the Sixth Annual Golden Basket Award this year. revival1

Chef Q knows how to celebrate food for what it is with complimentary flavors, textures and impeccable plating. When your dish is set before you, it is a feast for the eyes that prepares you for the ultimate dining experience. Imagine colorful pressed melon bars that have been infused with wine and, in pure Central PA style, topped with a little sea salt. Caramelized grill marks on veggies that are charming with their root ends still recognizable make you stop to appreciate the local foods you are about to eat. Autumnal squash never gets boring at Revival Kitchen, perfect cubes of golden butteriness or wafer thin circles of delicata squash play with your eyes before treating your palate. Forget the tired old plank of zucchini, here you will be served with small lozenges of the squash that are immediately recognizable by allowing a section of their vibrant emerald skin on. Recently, we were overjoyed to be reintroduced to a vegetable we hadn’t had since we were kids; Salsify (oyster plant) was feature along with carrots and sweet potatoes! What a memory it brought back with the slightly slippery mouth-feel and it’s nuttiness complimented with a bit of truffle oil – delightful!

Creatively crafted, local, seasonal food make this restaurant great but what makes it stellar is the staff. Every member of the waitstaff is knowledgeable about the menu. If they ever have a doubt if something is vegan or not, they have no qualms about checking with the kitchen and don’t make you feel like it was an imposition to ask. When your meal is served, they describe what you are about to enjoy in a way you are grateful for. It is like being given a map to an amazing land and you are encouraged to enjoy the journey at your own pace.revival2

Wine pairings are not in print with menu selections but the wait staff can give suggestions if asked. Better yet, talk to the staff at the Seven Mountain Wine Cellars wine bar and get a few tastings. They are experts in all of the wines as well as knowledgeable of the current food menu and will be eager to make suggestions for pairings. There are also non-alcoholic beverage choices or bring your own beer/cocktails (no outside wine).

The interior of the Revival Kitchen is welcoming and its location on Main Street in Reedsville is crucial. It is the lovely young plant that is lucky enough to get a toehold in the sunlight that opened up when the Black Horse Tavern burned down in 2011. How Main Street Reedsville is changing is like polishing off a tarnished kettle you had forgotten about. It is just as charming as it was on the shelf but remembering it useful for making a hot cup of tea is a mindful reconnecting of what is right in front of you.

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