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2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards

2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award


Inspired by the many Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, we took the our main logo and transformed it into a new Hex Sign that will be used as this year’s award.

The year of 2014 has been blessed with vegan food almost being mainstream reflected by many central Pennsylvania’s restaurant menus. This year’s winners are all local, limited to the counties that are touched by the keystone center of our state (illustrated at the bottom of this page.) The 2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards recognize the year’s best vegetarian foods available by highlighting a few menu items from restaurants we have been able to visit. The annual Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards and past winners are described in further detail at this link.

This year, the categories include region’s best Appetizer, Chili, Veggie Burger, Portobello, Soup, Specials, and Vegetarian Restaurant. Extra focus is put on those restaurants that use local ingredients and create as much as possible in-house.

BEST APPETIZER
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014AppHVBC_App_2014Just celebrating it’s first anniversary, Happy Valley Brewing Company takes the award for Best Appetizer for the second year in a row. The Mason Jar again takes this award for the perfect veggie appetizer. Appropriately priced and presented with thematic class, The Mason Jar’s “House Pickled Seasonal Vegetables” are served with a side of locally baked Gemelli crackers. The sweet yet sour brine and the the lightly pickled veggies come out in a short mason jar and frequently reflect the season. Thinly sliced root vegetables are mixed in with a green beans, a couple baby onions and sweet pepper slices that enhance seasoning. The toothsome cracker on the side are great on their own or dipped directly into the pickle juice. It stands exactly as I described in 2013, what an appetizer should be, not a meal on its own but something to get your ready for the quality of the entrees that you can expect. The Mason Jar is great to nibble on with a great beverage but sets you up for wanting to taste more on the menu.

BEST CHILI
Bullfrog Brewery
Williamsport, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014Chilibullfrog_chili_2014 Unbeaten from 2013 is Bullfrog Brewery for Best Chili this year. Their Habanero Veggie Chili is house made and has enough spice to call it a chili. Another outstanding brew pub in Pennsyltucky, the recipe uses it’s flavorful beer to add a pleasant depth of flavor. I love wandering through the lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans and enjoy the tomato chunks, onions, celery and carrot shreds that balance out the best vegetarian chili in our region. I love it piled on their nachos, sitting atop their Veggie Chili Salad or a nice bowl topped with soy cheese.

BEST VEGGIE BURGER
Yorkholo Brewing Co.
Mansfield, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014Burger_YorkholoYorkholo_burger_2014It is rare to enter a pub or even diner that now doesn’t have some version of a veggie burger. Many brew pubs are using their spent grain and have really stepped up their house made burgers. This made me have to return for second tastings to at least 3 restaurant. Third year consecutive, Yorkholo Brewing Co. is the best. Their Black Bean and Spent Grain Veggie Burger beat the close second offered by Gamble Mill in Bellefonte. Yorkholo’s burger of black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onions blended with spent grain, peppers & bread crumbs is still best in all of central Pennsylvania. Congratulations Yorkholo Brewing Co. for streaking this annual award!

BEST PORTOBELLO
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014PortoHVBC_porto_2014I blanched when I saw that Happy Valley Brewing Company had changed the name of their award winning sandwich. ‘Shroom with a View looked the same on it’s grilled sourdough bread. It is a huge sammich decorated with awesome sprouts and frisée but would the sliced mushrooms still steal the show? I was thrilled, they are still brightly marinated then pleasantly complicated by oregano and grilling with a grounded smokiness. Juicy and firm with grilled tomatoes and with or without the blue cheese aioli, these mushrooms are winners. Again, the Best Portobello I have ever eaten.

BEST SOUP
The Green Harvest Co.
Bedford, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014SoupGreen_Harvest_soupThis was a difficult year to compare soups because the days I chose to visit certain restaurants they were out of their vegetarian options. I can’t judge what I can’t eat and I do love soup. Pretty consistent in offering vegetarian and frequently vegan soups, The Green Harvest Co. has had many outstanding soups this year. Creamed Butternut Squash was a warm autumn puree, the Asian Soup was a clear broth with mushrooms and great spicing and they had a super Gazpacho this past summer. Knowing just how to get the best out of blending seasonings, grains, beans and veggies in a simple broth can be tricky but The Green Harvest Co. has done it consistently this year.

BEST SPECIALS
Otto’s Pub & Brewery
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014SpecialsOttos_Specials_2014Nothing sets my tummy grumbling in anticipation like Wednesday Specials at Otto’s Pub & Brewery. Thier regualr menu has pleanty to offer every day but the vegetarian and vegan specials have stepped up even from years past. The well plated and perfectly prepared Crunchy Vegan Tacos are represented in this photo but it is every single week they have different delights to look forward to. Vegetarian specials of this caliber are found regularly in Philly or New York but that is quite a drive from central PA. I feel really blessed to live close enough to enjoy Wednesday specials at Otto’s Pub & Brewery.

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
The Seed
Lancaster, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2014Veg1002682_667149683344232_3346396352365255284_nFor the second year running, The Seed again wins the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in central PA!

This worker owned collective is thriving in Lancaster with Pizza and Games night, monthly sandwich specials, live music and progressive cause support. It is a spot where everyone feels welcome, cared for and can get a great, meat-free, meal.

The food is always fresh and well thought out. The sides are always a real treat and the Bahn Mi Chay was wonderful. (I wasn’t able to get photos this year but am representing from the ones I took last year and a couple from their Facebook page.)

The Seed has grown into a solid haven for vegetarians and those who love great food. The truly deserve the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the central PA.The-Seed

Congratulations to all 2014 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award winners! See links below map if you want to be considered for 2015.
PAcoMap_mostDo you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant or menu item that you think should be considered in 2015? If it’s in central PA (see map above) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, PLEASE let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment on any of the awards pages!

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2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards

2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

Inspired by the many Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, we took the our main logo and transformed it into a new Hex Sign that will be used as this year’s award.

This year has seen another huge increase in central Pennsylvania’s vegetarian and vegan restaurant choices. The winners are all local, limited to the counties that are touched by the keystone center of our state (illustrated at the bottom of this page.) The 2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards recognize the year’s best vegetarian foods available by highlighting a few menu items from restaurants we have been able to visit. The annual Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards and past winners are described in further detail at this link.

This year, the categories include region’s best Appetizer, Bakery, Chili, Veggie Burger, Portobello, Soup, Specials, and Vegetarian Restaurant. Extra focus is put on those restaurants that use local ingredients and create as much as possible in-house.

BEST APPETIZER
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013AppHVBC_AppOpening in the last quarter year, Happy Valley Brewing Company takes the award for Best Appetizer. With choices on their young menu listed as “Killer Apps” and “Pub Grub” vegetarians don’t want to overlook what they also have listed as “Sides.” The huge warm Jumbo Pretzels and the plate of Rosemary Garlic Fries are both impressive but it is The Mason Jar that takes this award. Nicely priced and presented in style, The Mason Jar’s “House Pickled Seasonal Vegetables” come out with a side of locally baked Gemelli crackers. In a brine that is not too tart nor syrupy, the lightly pickled veggies come out in a squat mason jar and are as varied as a hand full of gems from Aladdin’s cave. Turnips, green beans, and other thinly sliced root vegetables are snuggled in with a few capers, garlic cloves, baby onions and hot peppers that provide seasoning. The dense cracker makes for a pleasing vehicle or dipped directly into the pickle juice. It is what an appetizer should be, far more than an amuse-bouche but not a meal on its own. The Mason Jar is great by itself and makes you want to order more from the rest of the menu.

BEST BAKERY
Spruce Creek Bakery
Spruce Creek, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013BakerySPB_cakeI think it was about 3 years ago we took my parents to Spruce Creek Bakery’s first open house. They impressed us as genuinely pleasing individuals and we were excited for their new business. Mid 2012 I learned that they were regularly making vegan doughnuts and I treated myself to a couple after my first 16 mile training run and was really impressed. Since then, they have started regularly suppyling weekly vegan delights to at least one State College restaurant (Otto’s Pub and Brewery on Wednesdays). From pumpkin and apple pies to vegan cheese cakes and chocolate torts, Spruce Creek Bakery has never failed to please the vegan palette. We find ourselves eating dessert first on Wednesdays! Call ahead to see what they have in their shop that is vegan or gluten free.

BEST CHILI
Bullfrog Brewery
Williamsport, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013ChiliBullfrog_Chili Consistently outstanding for years, Bullfrog Brewery takes the award for Best Chili this year. Their Habanero Veggie Chili is house made and has an initial pleasant beer flavor that adds a really special quality to it. Be aware, the heat grows on you! Spicy enough that you notice but so flavorful that you keep dipping your spoon back in for more. The lentils, black beans, garbanzos, tomato chunks, onions, celery and carrot shreds balance out the spiciest vegetarian chili in our region. We have enjoyed it piled on their nachos and sitting atop their Veggie Chili Salad (yes – salad!)

BEST VEGGIE BURGER
Yorkholo Brewing Co.
Mansfield, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013BurgerYorkholo-BurgerWhen we give an award, it is my goal to try to find something that can beat it the next year. What a treat it was to return to Yorkholo Brewing Co. this year to find they had added so many more vegetarian menu items. They were all very good with the Tofu Bites being a real hit at our table. Determined not to be distracted, it was my focus was to see if their Black Bean and Spent Grain Veggie Burger would still beat out the same contenders. It was additionally tough coming up against Chef Andrew Monk’s new Quarter Pound Beet Burger and tres jolie Vegan Sliders that the Nittany Lion Inn from State College had debuted in early summer. Yorkholo’s burger of black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and onions blended with spent grain, peppers & bread crumbs were exactly as I remembered, best in all of central Pennsylvania. Congratulations Yorkholo Brewing Co. for holding on to your title!

BEST PORTOBELLO
Happy Valley Brewing Company
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013PortoHVBC_portoOnly my husband knows how many portobello sandwiches and salad toppers I have eaten over the past few years. Always trying to find one better than the reigning champion, if a restaurant in central PA has a portobello on their menu I am obliged to try it even if I am not in the mood. Some are nicely marinated but lack something, a few have been grilled just right but the seasoning was flat or nonexistent. This was an award that I thought was certainly going to the same restaurant (Luna 2 Woodgrill) for the third year in a row. Just before Halloween, Happy Valley Brewing Company opened and what do I see on their menu? A Grilled Portabella Sandwich. It was with little hope that I raised the sourdough sandwich with roasted tomatoes, sprouts, and pickled onion and grilled mushroom to my mouth. I took a bite, as did my husband. We looked at each other with wide eyes and I started to cry. I know it sounds like the silliest thing but our waiter saw it and probably thought I was a bit crazy. I was crying over the passing of the title of an old champion to a new one. It was the Best Portobello I have ever eaten and I have returned to sample it more than 3 times since. Seasoned and woodgrilled like the winner of years past but a serious notch above. It is honestly like a vegetarian steak that has been marinated cooked to perfection.

BEST SOUP
Cherry Alley Cafe
Lewisburg, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013SoupCherry_Alley_SoupIt is hard to compare soups; a Pumpkin Curry Bisque is very different from a Chilled Gazpacho. In categories like Best Soup we have to consider if a restaurant has vegetarian soup that is regularly offered. This year, no restaurant in central PA guaranteed a house made vegetarian soup every day it was open. What we had to do was then compare how regularly it was available and the quality of what was served when we could get it. Cherry Alley Cafe has only once not had a vegetarian soup and I had called ahead (as their menu suggests) therefore we did not waste a trip. Each soup I have had there has been proper temperature, served quickly and been delicious! I know that not every veggie soup Cherry Alley Cafe serves is vegan but it has been my luck that they have been when I visit. The soup in the photo is a vegan White Bean, Tomato & Kale Soup that had big slices of nutty garlic in it and seasoned with the perfect amount of thyme. It was a chilly day and it blissfully warmed me to my toes.

BEST SPECIALS
Otto’s Pub & Brewery
State College, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013SpecialsOttos_SpecialsIf I could take up this whole post with the very best photos of vegan food I have eaten out all year, it would be of the many weekly Wednesday Specials at Otto’s Pub & Brewery. Trying to decide on just one photo that represents all of the varied menu items and flavors that Otto’s presented this past year was difficult (and had me drooling as I viewed them). Stuffed Peppers, House Made Kale Chips, Tempeh Fajitas and Tacos, as well as Deep-fried Vegan Raviolis photos were like a virtual gustatory trip down memory lane. I settled on Collard-style Kale with Red Beans and Rice. It was a dish that fit the large white plate well and the choices were complimentary. The starch was well-chosen to balance the collard style dressing on the well massaged kale as they do in true southern cooking. I would have to travel well outside of my dear Pennsyltucky region to find vegetarian specials like these. Wednesdays at Otto’s Pub & Brewery are like a vacation without having to leave our own region.

BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
The Seed
Lancaster, PA

BiNaH_Hex_2013VegSeedSammichToo new to rate last year, let’s welcome The Seed to our region with hearty congratulations for being the Best Vegetarian Restaurant! By starting with an Indigogo campaign, this collective of individuals brags to being the “First and only worker owned and operated community space and vegetarian cafe. “

What we found was a real haven for anyone wanting a casual, meat-free space with young pleasant staff that is ready, willing and able to veganize any sandwich you order. They have multiple tea blends, organic kombucha on tap and an answer for any question I could come up with without taking the conversation over with their own agenda. The bright and clean dining and communing area has ample comfortable seating and is on the second floor. It has a walk up sandwich counter with a pleasant and casually disarming staff. The walls are decorated with local art for sale and shelves stocked with books and a Twister game that could be played on their brightly colored floors. The Wifi is free with a password and the climate was well controlled with ceiling fans and air conditioning. The edgy Indie rhythms rounded out a bit of a hipster mood but us old-timers felt very welcome. Shoot, any local place that brags that it will soon be composting gets my attention.Seed_Rueben

The food was fresh and very flavorful. The portions were decent and the prices very reasonable. The above right photo is a veganized version of their Cuban Sandwich. It was a pannini pressed sandwich which was crusty and warm healthy portions of thick seitan, sour pickles melty Daiya Mozzerella, a nice smear of mustard. We also got The Reuben (photo left) which was also heated on the panini press. It was on a seeded rye with a nice ratio of components, Daiya Mozzerella, multiple thin slices of warm tofu, a Russian dressing, and sauerkraut. The side of Cucumber Salad that came with each was fresh, light and well made. It wasn’t a cop-out like a few carrot sticks or small bunch of grapes. Every component was well prepared.The-Seed

Last year The Seed was planted and it has now grown into the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the central PA. Well done!
The Seed on Urbanspoon

Congratulations to all 2013 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award winners! See links below map if you want to be considered for 2014.
PAcoMap_mostDo you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant or menu item that you think should be considered in 2014? If it’s in central PA (see map above) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment on any of the awards pages!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Soup

Fiddlehead – 11-bean Soup

The Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012- Best Soup award goes to Fiddlehead in State College. From Sweet Potato to Tomato Basil to good and Hearty 11-Bean, they are dedicated to having a daily vegetarian soup on the menu and each is more delicious than the next. Many times the soups are vegan or can be made so by leaving off a vegetarian topping like the creative blueberry coulis that topped one chilled soup this past summer.

Fiddlehead – Sweet Potato

Other Fiddlehead vegetarian options over the past year have included (v = vegan): Cream of Mushroom, Mushroom Bisque, Carmelized Onion & White Bean, Roasted Vegetable (v), Roasted Red Pepper with Cilantro Lime Cream as well as Spinach & Rice with Lemon (v). For daily updates, check out their Twitter Feed.

Espresso Yourself Cafe- Chilled Avocado Gazpacho

All of the vegetarian soups in Pennsyltucky were judged on availability, flavor, texture, choice of ingredients, appropriate temperature, creativity, presentation and use of local ingredients. Other restaurants had some super soups but Fiddlehead always had an outstanding vegetarian soup on its menu every time we checked in.

Slurping vegetarian soup in as many central Pennsylvania restaurants as I possibly can is really no hardship for me; I chose to spend one birthday on what I called a local Soupcation. The biggest challenge was finding restaurants that were dedicated to having at least one vegetarian soup on their menu every day.

Otto’s Pub and Brewery – Vegan Gumbo

Jayiid Harvest in Harrisburg has a lot of great vegetarian food but their soups are not their strong point. I found even better vegan and vegetarian soup specials in 2012 at many first-rate restaurants in Central PA. Each restaurant had so many outstanding soups, unique in their own right, pleasant seasonal choices with carefully chosen local ingredients. After my bursting at the seams with soup this year, it was honestly close to being a 4 way tie for this award. I enjoyed every cup, every bowl that the chefs created.

Cherry Alley Café – Plantain Vegetable

Actually, second place was a 3 way tie between last year’s award winning Espresso Yourself Cafe in Newport, Otto’s Pub and Brewery in State College and Cherry Alley Café in Lewisburg. As the staff of Cherry Alley Café said, “Nine times out of ten,” they have a vegetarian soup on the menu. So many great soups but it means checking the online specials or calling ahead to know whether or not you can count on enjoying one from day to day.

Consistent in quality, using local ingredients and dedicated to having vegetarian soup as a fresh daily menu item, kudos goes to Fiddlehead (restaurant review in full here) for being awarded Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 Best Soup.Do you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant’s soups that you think can beat the pants off of these in 2013? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and is a regular vegetarian menu item, let me know and I will include it in the judging next year! Drop me, Pennsyltucky Veggie, a line or feel free to leave a comment!

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