Restaurant Review: The Tomato Vine

Note: I was provided the food in this review at no charge from the Tomato Vine restaurant. All opinions are my own.

salad The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

The peanut dressing on this tofu and grain salad is amazing.

When the restaurant/catering/take-and-heat business The Tomato Vine contacted me about reviewing its food, I jumped at the chance. Having spent last summer looking at healthy, local and fresh catering options for my wedding, this would have fallen into that category.

The Tomato Vine focuses on seasonally, from-scratch meals, and has a lot of options that are clearly marked for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals. All ingredients are labeled, so you know exactly what’s in the food. (See the menu here.) Where possible they source local food. In short, they reached out to me because they prepare food the way I prepare food. I really respect that, for as much as I love cooking, sometimes I just want a break from cooking but I don’t want to sacrifice quality or my beliefs.

Food Options

In addition to the Tomatoes Vine’s set menu, there are weekly specials, and it’s clearly marked what can be modified for dietary needs.

Eating options include delivery or pickup (with heating instructions for later, served in nice Pyrex or disposable containers), a lunch cafe and catering. They focus on catering for corporate and private events.

Lunch options are a few hot choices, salads, sandwiches, sides, snacks and desserts.

My Review

The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

I tried a variety of food, all clearly marked with ingredients and cooking instructions.

As I already mentioned, ingredients and heating instructions are on the label for each meal (which I love, easy to find and see what is in it or to do). I tried a variety of foods:

  • Tarragon grain cakes with apricot chutney
  • Spicy peanut tofu salad
  • Veggie fried rice
  • Red pepper hummus with veggies and chips
  • Maple apple cobbler
veggie cake The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

Tarragon cakes full of grains and tofu.

That night I ate the cakes, and my first impression really was that it is something I would make: Simple with good flavor from real food. I loved that the ingredients it included were easy to taste, and it didn’t include extra ingredients or flavors. The tofu and grain mix that is the base of the cakes was really good, it was also in the salad.

Speaking of the salad, the dressing was my favorite thing I had. I took the salad as a work lunch the day after getting the food, since it was on a plastic container. I tried to figure out (with no luck) how to recreate that dressing. Topped with fresh veggies, it was a hearty, filling and flavorful salad.

I make and eat a lot of hummus and the thing that can make or break it is texture. It had a nice consistancy, smooth yet it wasn’t overly processed, so I loved that the texture was a little chunky, the way I like guacamole or salsa. I’ll have to remember to leave it like that the next time I make hummus.

I’m not a big dessert person, as readers of this blog and anyone close to me knows, but this dessert hit the spot. The sweetness is derived from the maple syrup and cooked apples, and the topping was browned and crunchy, contrasting the soft cobbler underneath.

If I’m looking to cater, I would consider and recommend The Tomato Vine, as they are knowledgeable and accommodating on diet, while using seasonal, wholesome foods.

The Tomato Vine

7134 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344

Phone: 952-941-1699



Tips for Perfect Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese tips | Kale and Ale

I love cooking. It is very calming and relaxing to me, and I can make food to my preference (which usually means savory and heat level). But there are two things in our house that I had the reigns (if by reigns we mean skillet and spatula) over to Aaron for: Pancakes and grilled cheese. That’s because those are his specialties and he enjoys making those. And make them well he does!

His pancakes stay pretty traditional (maybe a little vanilla or chocolate chips here or there) but they are fluffy and moist, consistently good. While the pancakes are good, the grilled cheese is simply divine. I tried to be helpful and make the grilled cheese once, and it didn’t compare. Aaron’s grilled cheese game is on point, I leave it up to him.

Like stepping away from the stove on grilled cheese night,  I hand over my blog ahead of National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12. Aaron shares his tips and tricks to the perfect grilled cheese sandwich to Kale and Ale readers.

Aaron national grilled cheese | Kale and Ale

Aaron shares his tips for perfect grilled cheese.

Hi, Aaron here.

I love helping Val with her blog from the background or as a taste-tester, but melty cheese is my jam. It’s a food group in my diet, anchored by foods like mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza and, of course grilled cheese. I want to share some tips for the perfect sandwich on National Grilled Cheese Day or any other day, which have been honed and shared here.

Tips for the perfect grilled cheeseNational Grilled Cheese Day assembly | Kale and Ale

Low and slow cooking.

I set my stove on medium low to medium. This helps the sandwich achieve a nice crisp golden-brown outside and smooth inside. If your burner doesn’t cook evenly or you’re making two at once, you might need to rotate the sandwich during cooking to brown all sides evenly.

If it’s a basic grilled cheese, it’s ready to flip when the top butter starts to melt. If it’s a deluxe sandwich, pay attention to how the bottom is browning, flipping when it’s cooked and starting to get crisp but not overdone.

Cheese choice is crucial.

A combination of flavorful and melting cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar and Havarti or chedder and pepper jack) balances one another nicely. You end up with a mix of taste and flavor and gooey meltiness blended together in every bite.

Grilled cheese layers | Kale and AleExtras really elevate the sandwich.

Guacamole is my filling of choice because it adds a creamy, buttery richness and good flavor. Other add on ideas include sauteed mushrooms and onions or tomatoes, but really the sky is the limit.



Eggplant Parmesan Dip

Eggplant Parmesan dip logo | Kale and Ale

Eggplant Parmesan dip

I love to snack. A lot. Like, too often. I enjoy savory snacks, crunchy, spicy and creamy snacks. Hummus with crackers or carrots is my go-to, but all kinds work. A tapas-style dinner is always my favorite kind. Speaking of, dinner-inspired dips always win. Speaking of, my favorites right now are pizza dip and buffalo-cauliflower dip.

Inspired by these, I came up with this eggplant Parmesan dip. I love eggplant, but it’s often difficult to make at home, often coming out with mixed responses. But this dip is consistent with depth of texture and flavor, creamy and comforting, giving people with strong willpower no reason to stop!

This recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free (as long as you aren’t using crackers to dip) and has little hands-on time, only 15 minutes. It tastes exactly like eggplant Parmesan as a snack and treat.

Eggplant Parmesan dip 3 | Kale and Ale
Eggplant Parmesan Dip
Print Recipe
The perfect appetizer or party version of a classic Italian dish, this is vegetarian and gluten-free, warm and comforting.
Servings Prep Time
2 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 10 minutes
Eggplant Parmesan dip 3 | Kale and Ale
Eggplant Parmesan Dip
Print Recipe
The perfect appetizer or party version of a classic Italian dish, this is vegetarian and gluten-free, warm and comforting.
Servings Prep Time
2 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 people 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 10 minutes
Servings: people
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place eggplant in a colander and put salt on it to sweat out the liquid. After 10 minutes dry off the eggplant.
  3. Put the eggplant and garlic on a baking sheet, top with oil and salt and pepper. Place in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until roasted. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
  4. Once roasted and slightly cooled, place in a food processor and pulse until mostly smooth.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the eggplant and garlic with the marinara and cheese. Mix and put into an oven-safe bowl.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Once cooled somewhat or room temperature, serve with crackers or vegetables.
Share this Recipe
Powered byWP Ultimate Recipe

Milkjam Creamery, Minneapolis

Milkjam Creamery is an ice cream shop that recently opened in Minneapolis. What sets it apart is the unique flavors of ice cream and that vegan options are available. The shop is by Sameh Wadi, chef and owner of both World Street Kitchen—located next door—and Saffron, both great restaurants that I would highly recommend for meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike. The vegetable tagine from Saffron is one of the best, most flavorful meals I’ve had in the Twin Cities.

Milkjam was hopping on a Friday night until (after) close. It has been open a few weeks and I finally made it there. I wasn’t sure what I wanted because there are so many great options, and the website and what was available was a bit different. And with more than a third of the options being vegan, there were a lot to choose from. I talked to Sameh’s brother and co-owner Saed and he confirmed they are lactose intolerant, so they will always have a good selection of vegan options on the menu. A few options contain alcohol (when we went there was one with champagne and one with mezcal) and you will have to show your ID to get those scoops.

Milkjam Creamery | Kale and Ale

Indian Elvis and black vegan ice cream from Milkjam Creamery.

In the end I decided on the Indian Elvis (curry peanut butter banana) and black (the darkest coco) and they went together perfectly. The flavors and combos are endless. There are adult shakes, sorbets, baked goods and all kinds of other options. I love how they rotate the flavors. When asked the base of the vegan ice cream, Saed said they use different types based on the flavor profile and consistency with other ingredients. I guessed almond base for the black and coconut milk for the Indian Elvis, but that wasn’t confirmed.

If you’ve been to Milkjam, what did you think? What other vegan ice cream options do you like in the Twin Cities?

HelloFresh Food Delivery Review and Discount

This post contains an affiliate link for subscription food box HelloFresh. It’s your choice to use the link and new subscribers will get $40 off the first box.

HelloFresh box | Kale And AleSubscription boxes have been the rage for a while—I wrote about snack and beauty subscription boxes a few years ago—so I decided to give HelloFresh a try. I know there are other options, but I picked HelloFresh because I received a coupon and my coworker spoke highly of the service.

Have you used subscription meal boxes? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below for my readers.

HelloFresh Food Delivery

I picked what day I wanted to receive one week of vegetarian food at my door, which is three meals at two large portions each. You are able to see meals for the week a few weeks out, which makes it helpful for meal planning and deciding if you want the food that week. Options include a classic (with meat), vegetarian or family (serves four) box. Each recipe states a difficulty level and time to prepare.

HelloFresh boxes | Kale And AleThe food arrived sealed in silver bubble wrap (to keep out sun, perhaps?) And ice packs. Each meal was neatly organized in separate boxes, which was a relief since many meals had the same ingredient, and I’m used to food from my CSA being dumped together in one box.

HelloFresh Meals

HelloFresh assumes you have basic ingredients on hand (salt, pepper and oil, for example). I found meals contained similar ingredients that I commonly have around home, but the fact it was organized with pictures and instructions made the process go quicker, and I really loved that I didn’t need to think about and shop for these meals, something I miss about my CSA.

Jamie's Sicilian Spaghetti Alla Norma HelloFresh | Kale and Ale

Jamie’s Sicilian Spaghetti Alla Norma from HelloFresh

I probably ended up liking the most the meal I thought I would like the least, the eggplant pasta. The eggplant was some of the best I’ve prepared at home, and flavors tasted like they simmered for hours even though it was about 40 minutes. It tasted like something I would expect at a restaurant that I wouldn’t think I could replicate at home, so that was exciting. And we made this meal five days after receiving the food and everything (basil and eggplant included) stayed fresh.

HelloFresh prep | Kale and Ale

Preparing the shepard’s pie.

All three meals had very different variety and flavor. As I  mentioned, portions were large, there were leftovers for every meal even after having a healthy serving. The meals I received were:

Try HelloFresh-$40 Off

If you are a new user and want to try HelloFresh yourself, go to and enter code SHXPYF for $40 off your first shipment!

If you try or have tried HelloFresh or another subscription box, I would love to hear your thoughts and experience.