Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weekend Cooking: a birthday celebration of (and novel inspiration found at) eden-a vegan cafe

It is, mark my words, entirely possible to fall in love with a restaurant.  

I know this because I am completely smitten with this little cozy nook here, this paradise and home to all things vegan, this magical place where you can absolutely walk in as a stranger and walk out being Facebook friends with the college student ringing up your order.

This gem would be Scranton's first and only vegan restaurant, the adorably appropriately named eden-a vegan cafe, the dream of founder/owner/general manager/once-upon-a-time deer hunter/Old Forge, Pa native Christian Pilosi.  (You can read more here and here about Christian and how eden came to be... which, coincidentally enough, was exactly three years ago this weekend!)

Everything on the menu at eden is 100% vegetarian and vegan, which means no animal products whatsoever are used in the preparation of the food.  All items are meatless, dairy-free, and egg-free.

I discovered eden by way of the all-knowing Google, as I was planning a business trip to Scranton, Pennsylvania (yep, home of "The Office") and wondering if there might be a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the vicinity.  You see, my regular on-the-road fare consists of little more than fries and large coffees, and I wanted to treat myself to an honest-to-goodness sit down meal.

And Oh.


What a meal it was.

I stopped in for lunch, on my very last day in town.  (Next time I am in Scranton, every meal will be eaten at eden.) Immediately, I struck up a conversation with Amanda who was eternally pleasant and patient with me as I deliberated on the specials. This was no quick feat, for here was a treasure trove of all my old flames. BLTs. Hot Turkey and Cheese.  Burgers.  And? Philly Cheesesteak, people! (Do you know how long it has been since I've had a cheesesteak, be it authentic Philly or not?  Try 15 years, since becoming vegetarian.)

This Philly girl nearly wept in joy ... and indecision.

I selected this work of art known as The Fun and Green Burger.

This vegan burger was topped with melted mozzarella vegan cheese, a creamy avocado spread (and/or Vegenaise - I'm not sure, and despite not being a condiments kind of girl, I loved this), grilled mushrooms, the most perfectly red ripe tomato I have ever seen (in October, no less!)  and onions.

I'll tell you, I've had many a veggie and a vegan burger in my life, but this? Heaven. True love. The real deal. I'm not always that enamored with the veggie burgers in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket, truth be told, and I always intend to try and make my own.  If I do, and if they even come close to being like this burger, I will be a happy woman indeed.  This had the texture and the toppings of a hearty burger of years gone by.  (Again, it's been 15 years since I had a burger.)

(Nobody thought it was unusual that I was photographing my food.  In fact, this is kind of an acceptable practice, as one of the photo captions in eden-a vegan cafe's Facebook album mentions - tongue in cheek - that when dining at eden, you're giving permission for other diners to photograph your food.)

As my side dish, another patron strongly recommended that I try the Homemade Smashed Potatoes. I could have eaten an entire bowl of these -and apparently, I'm not alone in that thinking because these Smashed Potatoes are so popular that eden has created an ENTIRE MENU CATEGORY called Smashed Potato Bowls. Picture a bowl of these smashed potatoes (chunks of red potatoes), with grilled chicken (vegan, of course), peas, and gravy.  Comfort food at its best, no?  (Indeed, that's Christian Pilosi's philosophy behind eden: he strives to give people delicious vegan comfort food. And he succeeds. Bigtime.)

Lunch doesn't end with just lunch, however.  Here, you have a plethora of vegan desserts to choose from.  Again, my new friend Jasmine who I was chatting away with convinced me to try the Pumpkin Cheesecake, (as did Lindsay, the counter girl who I am now friends with on Facebook after just a brief but wide-ranging conversation about my 9 year old daughter's interest in being a vegetarian veterinarian, to Lindsay's studies at a nearby university, her major of philosophy, and Lindsay's interest in getting into nonprofit work).

I was so full from the burger and the smashed potatoes - but I couldn't resist the Pumpkin Cheesecake - so I bought a slice for my 6 hour drive back to Pittsburgh - a slice that came in handy as I sat in a construction-induced traffic jam for a half hour of that time, savoring forkfuls of cheesecake and a large coffee.

I've never been so blissfully happy in a traffic jam, I swear.

Even going to the restroom at eden is a fun experience.  Check out the decor once inside the bathroom door.

Obviouly, you don't have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to eat here. (Shhh ... don't tell my new eden-a vegan cafe friends, but I confess to a weakness for real, rotisserie chicken. I'll tell you this, though:  they've made me rethink my flexitarianism and renew my commitment to being a vegetarian.  OK, a pescetarian, but even that is up for negotiation.)

I'm in love with this place, if you can't tell.  (So much so that I'm making eden the inspiration for a restaurant setting that is part of my novel-in-progress.) The only downside for me is that this is a long-distance relationship.  Scranton is six hours from where I live, so the best thing I can do is view the active eden-a-vegan cafe Facebook page with much wistful longing (people, they trot out pictures of their food as part of their "Virtual Lunch" feature and show you some of their newest creations and culinary works-in-progress!).

See, here's the real essence of eden-a vegan cafe: this place makes you HAPPY.  (And full.)  You just FEEL BETTER having eaten their food because you know it is healthy, you know it is good for you and the animals we share our world with, and you know that it was made with the passion of people who love what they do and want to share that with others.

And that is a good and delicious thing, indeed.

Wishing you a very happy 3rd Birthday, eden-a vegan cafe!  May there be many, many, many more!

eden-a vegan cafe is located at:
344 Adams Avenue in downtown Scranton, PA.  
Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 - 8:00 p.m. 
Phone: 570.969.1606.

"I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement,
to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes left off eating each other
[when they came into contact with the more civilized]."
Henry David Thoreau

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend.

The first two photos in this post are borrowed from eden's Facebook page. The rest of the photos and this post are copyright 2011 bv Melissa, author of The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Beth F said...

Awesome, awesome post. Wow. We're in that Scranton area every once in a while. I'm keeping the name of this one in my files.

TheBookGirl said...

I am salivating as I write this -- that plate of food looks terrific to this vegetarian!

I agree with you about veggie burgers; most of the time I don't even bother ordering them when we are out because they are so disappointing.

Heather said...

husband and I have been trying out the various vegetarian restaurants around here even though neither of us are vegetarians. Great menu choices. Who needs meat all the time anyway. This place sounds great.

Ann Gries said...

great post I have been there a few times, I live 4 hours away but my family lives in that area, and everything I tried was just great! love the pizza! can't wait to go there again!

Margot said...

I love the way you fell in love with this place. Your enthusiasm is contagious. I'm quite a ways away from Scranton, but if I'm ever there I'll be sure to check out Eden-A-Vegan.