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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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11 Bean Soup (vegan)

Just after Penn State’s Spring Break in 2012 a fresh new restaurant opened downtown 134 W. College Ave., State College. After some hands on researching of similar dining establishments like Sweetgreen and Chop’t, owners Marya, David, and Jack Schoenholtz opened Fiddlehead.

With a focus on fresh ingredients, large serving sizes, and overall sustainability, Fiddlehead has filled a niche in the jungle of pubs, pizza and burgers on College Avenue. The focus is soups, made from scratch daily using fresh stocks and preparing their salads made to order using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. All foods are served in environmentally friendly packaging and they are happy to fill your own to-go container.

Literally their first paying customer, I have enjoyed Fiddlehead from day 1. The interior is clean and set up in an efficient way to minimize waiting time for those on the go. There is limited counter seating and a few token tables by the window for those who need to take a break and enjoy the healthy offerings of this restaurant. The interior isn’t just nice to look at, the materials from which it was constructed were carefully chosen with the health of the environment in mind. Read all about their green philosophy here.

Care has been given to the flavors that come together in each of their 6 suggested salad combos but us veggie folks want to focus on the Own It! option. I can just imagine a lot of you thinking, “Salad? I can get that anywhere.” I will try to make it clear through my descriptions and photos that the ingredients are all crispy fresh, no slimy nasty greens to be found, the choices are varied enough that you can put together myriad salad combinations and the portions are immense.

The Own It! allows for a choice of leafy greens (romaine iceberg mix, baby spinach or spring mix) a choice of 4 toppings plus a dressing. Toppings for vegans include: Artichoke Hearts, Banana Peppers, Beets (raw!), Black Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Chick Peas, Cucumber, Dried Cranberries, Edamame, Frizzled Onions, Grapes, Kalamata Olives, Mandarin Oranges, Mushrooms, Pears, Radishes, Red Bell Pepper, Red Onion, Roasted Corn, Roasted Potatoes and Sundried Tomatoes. Lacto-ovo vegetarians also have the choices of: Bleu Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, Hard-boiled Eggs, Feta Cheese or Asiago Cheese. If 4 toppings isn’t enough for your hungry belly, for an up charge you can get extra toppings for an additional $.50 each, Avocado ($1.25) or Seasoned Tofu ($1.75).

Tomato Basil soup and Own It salad.

Initially, it was unclear which of the more than a dozen of the house made salad dressing was vegan. Upon discussing the options with Marya on the opening day, she was surprised to learn that vegans typically don’t eat honey thus eliminating the Honey Mustard and Grapefruit Honey dressings as vegan safe. It was on my second visit of many over this spring that the owners had clearly marked which of the dressings were vegan, eliminating all confusion. The dressings containing honey were not included. This is a business that clearly cares about getting things right.

I have enjoyed the Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette , Lemon Tahini and Fresh Lemon Squeeze as dressings. When the time comes to choose your dressing, they also allow you to choose how much dressing you like on your salad; light, medium or heavy. I have found light to be plenty even when I get as many as 4 extra toppings but they will be kind and ask you if it is enough before they move the salad to the cashier station.

Sweet Potato soup and Own It salad.

The reasonably priced cups and bowls of soup have been so various. Each we have tried have been delicious. Top vegan choices for me have been the 11 Bean, Hearty Bean, Carrot Curry, Tomato Basil and Sweet Potato. Other vegetarian options over the past weeks 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 a full list check out their Twitter Feed. I think it is obvious that Fiddlehead is strongly in the running for the Pennsyltucky Veggie Best Soup of 2012 award.

The owners are no newcomers to the game of successful restaurateuring. In 1993 they successfully launched and eventually relocated Irving’s to E. College Ave. It is known for its bagels and baked goods. They also took the same care in researching both east and west coasts before bringing the beloved Green Bowl to downtown State College before selling it. Their fresh ideas have added so many veggie dining options to downtown State College and I salute them for their care and good business practices.

Grab it to go or sit, listen to the mellow music while taking advantage of the free Wifi. Fiddlehead is set up for a streamlined, green and healthy dining experience via counter service leading to a clear self-service station for utensils and drinks. I haven’t explored the options that their Gelato offers, vegetarians may want to check this out too. The menu is limited to soup and salad but you can make it as delicious as you can only imagine. The staff is friendly, well-trained and have no problem in asking management for clarification if they cannot directly answer any questions about the menu. Parking is not free, either metered on street or nearby garages but it is worth it to experience this bright new place.Fiddlehead on Urbanspoon

Lunchtime Love

Lunchtime Love

So many places like Fiddlehead and Otto’s Pub and Brewery were offering up cheerful Tomato Soup on their lunchtime menus today. Otto’s even had the lunch special of Grilled Cheese with Spinich (sic), Bacon (yuck), and Tomato served with Beer Chips and a Cup of Tomato Soup. I would have asked for the bacon to be omitted but the spinach and tomato made it sound pretty good! It’s days like this that I want to cave in and just revert to my less challenging vegetarian ways.

Thank goodness I had some Galaxy Foods Rice Vegan Cheddar slices on hand. With the right ingredients, I was able to make a fun Valentine’s Day lunch for me and Jim. I know it gave him a smile when he came into the kitchen and we both loved how the slices made puffy hearts when put under the broiler.

We didn’t waste any of the scraps I made when cutting them into hearts; we ate them with the vegan tomato soup I made. Nope, not a can of Campbell’s with soy milk, I made this from a few on hand ingredients for some…

Lunchtime Love Soup

2 Tbs. Earth Balance stick
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. almond butter
1 C. plant based milk of choice
1 C. tomato sauce
1 Tbs. lime juice
1 tsp. agave nectar
fresh ground pepper to taste

Over medium heat, melt Earth Balance in 1 quart sauce pan and add flour. Stir continuously for a minute and add the almond butter. Stir until blended and slowly add the milk. Cook until it thickens a bit and add tomato sauce, lime juice and agave nectar. Continue stirring until heated through and pepper to taste.

I served it with a decorative heart of vegan sour cream thinned with just a bit of lime juice.

Wordless Wednesday – Easy Being Green

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