Guest blogger Sue Gordon begins a series of articles for Bucks County Taste on eating vegetarian in Bucks County. Her mission? “To seek out and highlight the best vegetarian options at non-vegetarian restaurants; to encourage our fabulous Bucks County chefs to add more meatless dishes to their menus; and to inspire diners to think beyond the meat.”
Her first post highlights some of the great meatless dishes at Caleb’s American Kitchen.
by Sue Gordon,
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of meeting two of my best friends for lunch at one of our favorite Bucks County restaurants. We brought a bottle of wine, ordered from the regular menu and had a marvelous time. Sounds like a pretty standard scenario, right? Not exactly, because both of my friends eat meat, and I don’t. I haven’t for years, and that sometimes makes it difficult to find food that is both delicious and aligned with my values when I eat out. And I eat out a lot.
I’m a freelance food writer; I’ve written about the Bucks County food scene for various publications for almost 30 years, and I’ve been moving towards a vegetarian lifestyle for the past decade.
I’ve adopted my meatless diet primarily out of compassion for animals, but foregoing meat has obvious health and environmental benefits, as well. I don’t claim to be a strict vegetarian because when I dine out on assignment, I still occasionally eat fish or shellfish.
However, when I find a quality “mainstream” restaurant with a chef creative enough to think beyond pasta primavera (the traditional fallback when someone requests a vegetarian meal) to offer satisfying and delicious vegetarian dishes, I am happy to sing its praises.
Today, my first official shout-out goes to Caleb’s American Kitchen in Lahaska.
I’ve been a fan of Chef Caleb Lentchner since his stint as executive chef and general manager at Marsha Brown Creole Kitchen in New Hope where he served up lavish food to match the lavish setting.
In 2013, he struck out on his own with the American Kitchen, which features a more casual—yet very sophisticated—approach to regional American cooking.
Caleb himself is a bundle of energy, buzzing in and out of the kitchen to greet his guests. His enthusiasm for good food and his profession is infectious. He’s not afraid to experiment with different combinations and seasonings, and takes pride in putting together a menu that can accommodate diverse tastes and dietary restrictions, including gluten-free diets.
In addition, Caleb merits two thumbs up for his willingness to modify dishes per diners’ requests. And as if that weren’t enough, the restaurant is open 7 days a week, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The eatery’s breakfast menu probably offers the widest range of choices for vegetarians and vegans. In addition to various egg dishes, there are pancakes and homemade granola with yogurt and fruit. The menu features a daily frittata with a potato crust (so it’s gluten-free) and a daily quiche. Both dishes are often made vegetarian, but sometimes do contain meat, so be sure to ask.
Even vegans (who don’t eat eggs) will find a dish to smile about: Tofu and Corn Tortilla Scramble, made with firm tofu scrambled with onion, pepper and spices and served with a corn tortilla, fresh salsa and fresh fruit. The other outstanding a.m. vegetarian option is “Corned Beef” Hash and Eggs, featuring Caleb’s popular pickled seitan, two eggs any style, potatoes, onions and peppers, and choice of toast.
The restaurant’s lunch menu is the lightest in terms of vegetarian fare, offering primarily salads, (including the popular and satisfying Kale Caesar) but with one totally delicious and unique sandwich: a Vegetarian Reuben made with Caleb’s own corned beef-style seitan, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and pickle pepper sauce on grilled rye bread. For vegetarians who are wistful for the deli sandwiches they used to enjoy, this is an outstanding substitute: all the flavor, none of the guilt. The daily quiche and frittata are also served at lunch, and on many days one or more soups are vegetarian.
Monday nights are “Locals Night,” when Caleb’s serves up a 3-course, prix fixe menu for $22, and vegetarians are not left out. One of the four available entrées is Miso Glazed Tofu served with coconut sticky rice, and succotash of edamame, daikon and Swiss chard.
The sweet-spicy glazed tofu is also available Tuesday through Sunday on the regular dinner menu, where it is joined by Caleb’s most popular meatless dish: Vegetarian Corned Beef & Quinoa. Once again the chef uses chunks of his special seitan, pickled in beet juice and caraway seeds, and combines it with a light, flavorful quinoa pilaf to create a dish that is visually appealing, and simply delicious. And although I haven’t asked for it (yet) I strongly suspect Caleb would be willing to swap out the grilled tilapia in the Santa Cruz Fish Tacos with grilled tofu (“I always have tofu in the kitchen…”) which would add a third meatless entrée to the menu.
In 1971 when Frances Moore Lappe published Diet for a Small Planet, only one percent of U.S. citizens describe themselves as vegetarian. A 2012 Gallup poll found 5% of Americans identify as vegetarian and 2% as vegan; today an even larger group (up to 10%) say they follow a primarily plant-based diet. And whether they have changed their dining preferences for health or conscience, vegetarians—like their omnivorous friends and family members—still love to eat out.
Look for my coming articles on non-vegetarian restaurants that offer great choices for vegetarians and vegans. Occasionally I’ll add some food for thought, health tips, and even info on how to transform your favorite meat dishes into scrumptious meat-free fare.