Two weeks ago I wrote that dealing with a complicated diet while traveling is not difficult. I suppose that depends on where and how you're traveling, because I found this past weekend's trip to Birmingham, Alabama much trickier.
I suppose one of the issues was the difference between train travel and air travel. When I took the train to Toronto, I brought most of my meals for the day along with me - I only had to rely on the train's offerings for one meal. Flying is different - since we had limited room in our carry-on bags, and the possession of liquids and pastes is a serious threat to national security, we had less leeway in what foods we could bring with us (though we did stash a supply of the pumpkin-apple granola bars!). Add to that the fact that we were traveling in the South, where no dish is served without a generous amount of meat and butter, and things got tricky. A few times over the weekend, I violated my Lenten vegetarianism in order to stick with my medically necessary low-cholesterol diet (especially since I knew I'd be violating that with a slice of wedding cake). The most annoying moment was when I laboriously picked through the lunch offerings at the Atlanta airport, chose a nice salad that fit my dietary requirements, and opened it to discover a pile of chicken which was not on the ingredient list. Clearly, the stars were aligned against me. It's a good thing that I'm not a real vegetarian (in the sense of being morally opposed to eating meat).
It was comforting to know that this food stress would cease Monday evening, when we landed in Philly and drove into the city for dinner. Before our trip, I had scoured the internet for a good restaurant with vegetarian offerings, ideally serving local and seasonal food. I was surprised to find exactly what I was looking for at the Triumph Brewing Company. I had been to Triumph in Princeton several years ago, but I thought of it as an upscale college burger-and-beer joint. At least, I remember having a burger and Jeff had a beer. Triumph's culinary offerings are actually far more extensive and delicious than I had recalled, and I was delighted to learn that the Philly location offers a whole menu of locally-sourced, seasonal eats, in addition to their regular menu (which also seemed appropriately seasonal, although the veggies it featured are not yet ready to harvest locally).
I loved the transparency of the menu, listing the source for nearly every ingredient in the local offerings. I ordered the Phillip's Farm curried sweet potato soup with Solebury Orchards keepsake apple crème fraiche and Tog Farms onions.
The soup was as delicious as it sounds. It had an amazing velvety texture (which I sincerely hope was not achieved with copious amounts of butter - the crème fraiche was already violating my diet!). The crème fraiche was delightfully tart and creamy and fresh all at once, with hearty chunks of apple and onion throughout. The curry was muted enough that it did not conflict with the other flavors. It was truly a soup to savor.
I also ordered the spring vegetable quesadilla off of the normal menu, which included spring onions, peas, mushrooms, smoked mozzarella and a poblano cream. This was probably the lightest, most flavorful quesadilla I've ever had at a restaurant. Usually the tortillas end up greasy and soggy, oozing cheese all over the plate. This one was delightfully un-greasy with exactly enough cheese to hold things together without overwhelming the other ingredients. I am not a huge mushroom fan, but since they were sliced nice and thin, I got all the savory mushroom flavor without the rubbery texture that I don't like - perfection, in my book. The peas were a fresh, springy touch and the poblano cream offered just a hint of heat. The whole combination was great and really got me looking forward to the day these spring ingredients start popping up at my local farmers market!
Jeff ordered the lengthily-titled Oak Grove cornmeal crusted Captain Rodrick Murry scallops with Phillip's Farm sweet potato and collard greens with Tog Farms onions, tasso and buttermilk beurre blanc. The scallops were perfectly cooked - tender, but firm enough to hold together - and nicely seasoned. The simplicity of roasting allowed the inherent flavors of the sweet potato to shine. The collards were also beautifully cooked - tender enough to eat but still had a bit of a bite to them. The little bits of tasso ham provided bursts of saltiness and smokiness throughout. Triumph definitely gets some points for plating here, too - the food looked fantastic!
All in all, a delicious meal on a gorgeous early spring day in Old City, Philadelphia. Since the Home Grown menu changes frequently to take advantage of seasonal offerings, I plan on returning soon to see what tasty new dishes Triumph has cooked up!