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Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012 – Best Restaurant

ElkCreekCafe_pan

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awarded, Best Restaurant 2011

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awarded, Best Restaurant 2011

What a splendid year of dining out 2011 has been. Sometimes accompanied by our friends and family, Jim and I have tasted foods from all over this region (see map here). The most difficult part was when we interrupted our dining experiences to actually photograph, write down, and try to subjectively judge the food and restaurants. We hope that the sharing of it has been interesting, maybe even helpful, for a few veggie folks who may want to eat out in this area.

Elk Creek Café + Aleworks, mentioned as noteworthy in the Vegetarian Specials award this year, is the winner of Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 – Best Restaurant. This is the second year running they have won for best overall restaurant.

Turnip + Lentil Stew with Roasted Beets

Turnip + Lentil Stew with Roasted Beets

Innkeeper of this laudable restaurant in Millheim is Tim Bowser and he has crafted the perfect balance of color, flare, seasoning, rhythm and down home goodness all under one roof. The feel of the place is hospitable, everyone from granny to toddler is welcome, and every member of the staff treat the customers with care and high regard. Assistant General Manager Genny Uhl sees to everyone’s needs with gentle conduct and a caring smile.

If live entertainment is your thing, there are high quality performers brought in a few times every week and celebrations that embrace local events. Art buffs can look forward to receptions or enjoy the works of art displayed on the cheerful main dining room walls. These are some of the pluses that have kept Elk Creek Café + Aleworks king of the heap.

The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar, Carlisle

The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar, Carlisle

It is true that there are other regional restaurants that have a rotation of quality local art, fine musical groups and outstanding staff. The Green Room Bistro & Juice Bar in Carlisle is such a place that is a burning close second place for this 2012 award. Executive chef Pippa Calland can create culinary magic with local and sustainable resources that are regularly vegetarian and vegan. The interior is charming, a perfect place for the local balletomane soiree or family dinner celebrating their Dickinson grad’s accomplishments.

Elk Creek Cafe - Soba Noodle + Seaweed Salad Special

Elk Creek Cafe – Soba Noodle + Seaweed Salad

What still sets Elk Creek Café + Aleworks apart for 2012 is that it offers a more complete spectrum of hospitality for vegan, localvore foodie, pub hanger, and city slicker all under the same roof. World travelers and sophisticated diners have been known to choose the vegan bowl specials over what was offered on the regular menu because of Chef Mark Johnson’s carte du jour mojo. Such patrons share the same pleasure as the kiddos at the next table munching Belgian-style Hand-cut Fries and their parents marveling at the perfectly prepared Walleye Fillet on the plates the smiling server just placed in front of them.

It is only at Elk Creek Café + Aleworks these myriad diners can sit happily together and raise a glass of head brewer Tim Yarrington’s finest together. Bring your whole family out to celebrate this fine establishment’s 5th anniversary this month or go by yourself and cozy up to the friendly bar. Either way you will then personally be able to smile and know why this is the best stuff in Pennsyltucky, especially for us veggie folks. Cheers for winning the Pennsyltucky Veggie 2012 – Best Restaurant!

BiNaH_Hex_2012RestaurantHave you enjoyed a restaurant better than Elk Creek Cafe? Share it with me so it can challenge the best for 2013! If it’s in central PA (see map here) 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!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2012

2012 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards

Inspired by the many Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs, we took the Bacon is NOT an Herb logo and transformed it into a new Hex Sign that will be used as this year’s award.

This year has happily seen a huge increase in local vegetarian and vegan restaurant choices and the 2012 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards will be announced throughout December.

The winners will be local, limited to the counties that are touched by the keystone center of our state illustrated below. The annual awards recognize the year’s best vegetarian foods available by highlighting a few menu items from restaurants we have been able to visit this past year. I hope I will get suggestions from readers on favorites that I have overlooked for 2013; perhaps a People’s Choice category which I would do nothing but tally reader votes.

This year, the categories include region’s best Appetizer, Salad, Soup, Portobello, Chili, Veggie Burger, Specials, Vegetarian Restaurant, and Best Restaurant. Extra emphasis will go to dishes/restaurants that use local ingredients and are created in-house.

2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie Award

Decisions are made from what is offered on regular the menu with limited “hold the pickles, extra lettuce” high maintenance tweaks. To stick with the BK theme, realize I won’t be including large franchise restaurants so don’t expect the BK Veggie to be garnering any awards.

2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards recognized region’s best of the year. Congratulations to those who were acclaimed for their Portobello, Veggie Burger, Soup, Salad, Appetizer, Specials, Menu, Ethnic Restaurant, Vegetarian Restaurant and Best Restaurant.

Do you know of a Pennsyltucky restaurant or menu item that you think I should consider in 2013? 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!

Green is Good

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As a customer of Green Bowl, my favorite sauce combination was chosen to be displayed for the month of March! I love my Thai/Peanut/Ginger Soy/ Super Hot combo and winning a $20.00 gift card made me appreciate it even more.

I went in to claim it last night and had a big bowl of veggies with that exact sauce combo to celebrate! I also took a photo of my name and combination on the suggested combos board. I haven’t done too much to win me fame so I wanted to get a shot of it before the month was up.

I love getting the little extra “V” on my stick so my food is cooked separately and away from the meat. The flavors were perfect and the veggies and tofu cooked just right. Jim and I had a great meal out at what is the 2011 Pennsyltucky Veggie award winner for Best Ethnic Restaurant. Looking at all the options they have for vegans and vegetarians, they are going to be hard to beat in 2012.

I couldn’t get enough green and decided to make Manzana Chile Verde from Veganomicon today for lunch. The recipe is out there, if you do a web search, but I won’t post it because I don’t change the recipe at all from what is published, nor have the authors posted it on the internet as far as I can tell. It is perfect and worth the price of the whole cookbook.

Here are a bunch of the green ingredients that go into the recipe. They are just so beautiful together, I couldn’t resist photographing them to go with this color themed post.

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards – Bring on 2012

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards – Bring on 2012

We couldn’t resist a meal at Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks after a long day at work. We were introduced to Chef Mark Johnson and were honored to place the Pennsyltucky Veggie Award – Best Restaurant of 2011 sticker on the front door of the restaurant with the proprietor, Tim Bowser. I didn’t do too badly getting it straight even after a couple of quality brews (Anniversary Ale & Olde Millheim Strong Ale).

Supper was an amazing vegan plate of Quinoa and Beets Stew with Pickled Turnips – hella yum! How any other place is going to beat Elk Creek in 2012 is going to be an amazing feat. I am looking forward to every tasty moment.

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Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Restaurant

Hideaway Latte Café, Lewisburg, PA

What a splendid year of dining out 2011 has been. Sometimes accompanied by our friends and family, Jim and I have tasted foods from all over this region. The most difficult part was when we interrupted our dining experiences to actually photograph, write down, and try to subjectively judge the food and restaurants. We hope that it has been interesting and maybe even helpful for a few veggie folks who may want to eat out in this area.

Many hours on the road this past week allowed us to weigh our opinions on which one restaurant gave the best vegetarian/ vegan dining experience in the Pennsyltucky region. We included restaurants in any of the 27 counties that even brushed up against the boundaries of our designated area (see map here).

Marzoni's in Holidaysburg- to beer or not to beer - that was one question.

We debated for hours, each of us playing devil’s advocate to the other’s argument; “They have regular entertainment,” was countered with “I prefer to dine where I can have a conversation,” which was met by “They don’t always have bands.” Then there was the bar and alcohol arguments; does serving alcohol make a place less family friendly – not always but sometimes. Price arguments were tempered by quality, portions size was confuted by presentation. Decor, hospitality and serving food that is locally produced were all factors in choosing what we felt was the best dining experience for vegans and vegetarians of any age.

I have raved about it all year so it will be little surprise to regular readers of this blog that Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks tops out every other restaurant in the region for best vegetarian/ vegan dining experience over all. I think of the great meals I have had at Elk Creek over the past year; an abundance of great vegan flavors, cozy conversations over a snack, chummy family brunches and laughs with quality crafted brews in hand and foot tapping tunes lifting my heart.

Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks (you can read my full restaurant reviews here and here) started off 2011 offering hearty Vegan Bowls of grain, legume, root veggies and greens. That’s when they got their hooks into my heart. Or was it? Maybe it was how Tim Bowser and staff always greeted me and every member of my family as though we were all welcome friends. No, it was the fresh local veggies Chef Mark used in his soups and salads. Wait! I forgot they also won the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 for Best Specials so it has to be for that!

If you are overwhelmed with the many great things Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks has offered up this year, you can understand how they beat out every other restaurant (including strictly vegetarian ones) for hundreds of miles surrounding them. For all that I applaud them, congratulate them and award them with the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Restaurant. It’s also great to be able to congratulate them on their 4th anniversary this month. With all of that also comes the challenge to do it again next year and I will enjoy every moment of judging that they can.

Have you eaten at a better restaurant than Elk Creek Cafe? Share it with me so it can challenge the best for 2012! If it’s in central PA (see map here) 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!

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Vegetarian Restaurant

The last week The Enchanted Kitchen was open in State College was much like any other; it was interspersed with occasional unfortunate changes in hours due to family and personal crisis. That is one drawback to having a small family run business, limited staff and no structure to keep things up and running to establish a trust with your customer base. A place run solely on the karmic principles of joy, compassion, gratitude and equanimity are sadly probably destined to close, especially in today’s economy, without some sound business sense. Forgetting that customers won’t check FaceBook every time they decide to patronize a place isn’t all that compassionate anyway.

That makes Jayyid Harvest in Harrisburg currently the only vegetarian restaurant that falls (just) within Pennsyltucky. Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards include the county of Dauphin but it is not through default Jayyid Harvest is given this award.

With many of the same challenges that other local businesses have in this economy, Jayyid Harvest is still giving it a go. They are in a location that has not been successful for a long string of other restaurants (Flow Buffet, Bayou on Second, The Hub). It is also a family run restaurant and knowing it’s a vegetarian menu is going to scare some people away. Since October however, they have been serving a menu of delightful dishes with grace and promptness. They, unlike even when The Enchanted Kitchen was at its best, are customer friendly with affordable meals. Families with kids, dating couples, and seniors using canes will all feel accommodated, welcome and comfortable.

Latanya Henderson, co-owner of Jayyid, and her family have created a wonderful restaurant. The walls are painted in a warm pattern of textures, the tables are arranged in ways that take advantage of the limited space. The lack of WiFi access is nothing and if you don’t like watching the 2 raised HD televisions, the large windows offer a northern view of the neighborhood.

The all vegetarian menu is written on a large chalkboard on the back wall which allows for the addition of specials. With a quick wipe of a wet cloth, immediate amendments when they have run out of something can be made. Tempting vegan sweets like Carrot Cake are added for the lunch and supper menus while the brunch staples are written high above.

At brunch, I tasted the very best Tofu Scramble ever and had a side of perfectly cooked Grits. Many brunch dishes are served with a nice side of warm grilled Flat Bread. The bowl of fruit I had with my Chorizo Hash was not too bad for being melon cubes in winter and fresh blueberries were added to it.

Daytime isn’t the only pleasant time to visit Jayyid. Open 10 AM – 8PM Tuesday – Saturday, the city on street parking seems safe enough on Second Avenue even for supper time. The dining area has some nice track lighting as well as pretty hanging lamps to add to the decor. We just loved how it made the old patterned ceiling feel. Take note of the antique thermometer quite near the walk-up counter.

On our second visit, I took advantage of a one of their new raw foods specials, the Mock Salmon Pâté and Salad. It came with a side of warm Flat Bread and was served in a huge salad bowl. The pâté was chilled and a very nice smooth consistency; creamy with the flavors of cashew, carrot, celery and fresh red pepper. The generous portion was served over a bed of fresh mixed greens, plum tomato slices and grated carrot.

Jim shared some of his Simple Heat sandwich wrap with side salad. He chose the chili wrap (not doughy like many wraps can be), pepperjack cheese and wasabi sauce on the side. Simple Heat’s main ingredient is a soy chicken that is bathed in a wonderful jerk sauce and heated with some mushrooms, peppers and onions before wrapping it all up into a melty flavorful meal. I don’t like wraps all that much but could have easily enjoyed ever bite of his Simple Heat. Just to note, many of the regular dishes on the menu have fun names like The Inspiration or Awesome!

In its cute corner spot on Second Avenue in Harrisburg this is our region’s only strictly vegetarian restaurant. Maybe that will assure it sticks around and I am thinking the quality of everything mentioned above will certainly help. The meals are so affordable, not oily nor salty. I appeal to everyone in central PA to visit, discover and enjoy Jayyid Harvest to help sustain a real gem. It may be a drive for some of us but it is worth the trip. Check the Green Street Vegetarian Club events page for the dates they will be making regular visits. You won’t regret supporting the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Vegetarian Restaurant.
Have you discovered another strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurant in Pennsyltucky? Good golly don’t keep it to yourself and let it be in the running for 2012! If it’s in central PA (see map here) 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!

Jayyid Harvest on Urbanspoon

Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011 – Best Ethnic Restaurant

Indian Pavilion lunch buffet

Some of the best food vegetarians and vegans can have when dining out can be found in different ethnic restaurants. Grape leaves and falafel are wonderful things to order in middle eastern restaurants because they can be a pain to make for yourself at home. Similarly, the many curried daals, chutneys, pakoras, samosas and raitas that you can order on a vegetarian sampler platter or buffet at places like Indian Pavilion take a lot of effort and may make too much for just one or two people at home.

Veggie Boxty - Kildare's Irish Pub

We are lucky to live in an area that can support many Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Asian fusion restaurants although the menus are usually much different, Americanized if you will, from what you would ever eat in the countries of origin.

Mexican, Italian, Ethiopian, Irish, and Greek are all such different cuisines. When choosing a “best of” it came down to a matter of our personal tastes and what vegetarian options each restaurant had to offer when we were able to visit. It was difficult to compare each and a most enjoyable chore over the course of the year. A nod must go to Addisu Ethiopian Restaurant in Lancaster for being runner up.

Red Curry Tofu- Cozy Thai Bistro

Like the restaurants that we take time to rate, we aren’t considering national chains like P.F. Changs, Pizza Hut, Benihana or Loving Hut. Extra consideration goes to places that are trying to incorporate foods from local sources.

This year we give Green Bowl in State College the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards for Best Ethnic Restaurant. This restaurant stocks local veggies from Greenmore Gardens and each month has been featuring a few different special items. One of two Mongolian grill styled places in the area (Chen’s Mongolian Buffet near Boalsburg is the other), you pick from an assortment of toppings, which include proteins, vegetables, noodles, nuts as well as sauces to accompany them.

Green Bowl grill

I reviewed Green Bowl earlier this year and shared in great detail the care they go to for vegetarians, vegans, and people with specific food allergies. Sauces are clearly marked if not vegan, separate cooking areas if you so choose, and a bounty of fresh vegetables go into exactly what you make of it. I suppose this might not be award worthy if you make a lot of foolish choices when selecting what you wish to have cooked but I can’t think of anyone who would do that to themselves.

Green Bowl, one of many creations you can come up with.

The Hoisin, Thai, Black Bean, Teriyaki and Orange Ginger sauces are all great flavors for the Asian Fusion theme. Frequent veggie options of Sugar Span Peas, Bok Choy, Water Chestnuts and Baby Corn with a few Peanuts or Edamame allow for enough variations right there. If you factor in huge hunks of Tofu, Rice Noodles, making it all into a bowl, a soup or a wrap… I think you can see the combinations are endless.

As I congratulate Green Bowl as Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards’ – Best Ethnic Restaurant, I will take the lead of the one chalkboard in the restaurant that shares the employees’ sauce combination suggestion. Pennsyltucky Veggie suggests, 1 scoop Peanut Sauce + 1 scoop Thai + 1/4 scoop Super Hot + 1/4 scoop Ginger Soy = sheer delight for your taste buds.Do you have a favorite ethic restaurant that you want considered for the Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards in 2012? If it’s in central PA (see map here) and has regular vegetarian menu items, 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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