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

Website: www.thetomatovine.com

Facebook: facebook.com/TheTomatoVine

New Series: Cookbook Reviews

Cookbook shelf | Kale and Ale

A selection of my cookbooks.

As much as I love recipe creation and experimenting in the kitchen, I also love trying recipes from established cookbook authors, as they are solid recipes of different flavor profiles than I might typically cook.

This is why I’m starting a new series focusing on cookbook reviews. Some will be new releases, some might be well-worn and loved cookbooks. Stay tuned, I have a cookbook giveaway planned soon and will share recipes in the cookbooks. Sign up for the Kale and Ale newsletter to stay updated.

Meantime, check out “11 New Vegetarian (and Veg-Friendly!) Cookbooks to Check Out Now” from Oh My Veggies.

Are you a cookbook/recipe loyalist or do you wing it in the kitchen? What is your favorite cookbook?

If you have any cookbooks you would like to see reviewed, post a comment below or email me at valerie@kaleandale.com about it. If you have review copies of cookbooks you would like me to review, please contact valerie@kaleandale.com.

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
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  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.
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Friday links

Hello, wonderful friends. Has this week been as much a struggle for you as it has for me? Living so far north, the time change means it’s dark when I wake up, making it much more difficult to get moving. Here’s hoping next week is easier!

via GIPHY

 

Beyond Vegetarian: More specific labels like “climatarian” and “reducetarian” can help people stick to their food choices by making them feel like part of a community. This is a really great article, as I am so often asked if I eat fish, chicken, etc. My answer (in my head) is always “no, I’m a vegetarain.” I believe the specific labels both explain ones diet and often the reason why they have that diet. What do you think of this often hot-button issue?

For my runner friends: 8 ridiculous things people say to runners. Question: How many of these have you heard? Answer: Too many!

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Are you thinking of planting a garden or joining a community supported agriculture program for the first time this year? If so, be sure to check out my guide on CSA and garden planning and steps.

No-bake peanut butter chocolate cookie | Kale and Ale

No-bake peanut butter chocolate cookie

If you are looking for an easy vegan and gluten free dessert, make this: No-bake peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. I made them for a work lunch yesterday and they were easy to  make and crazy tasty.

Have you signed up? I am starting a newsletter, sure to be the easiest way to stay updated on new Kale and Ale blog posts and happenings. With a few fun things planned for the spring, now is the time to get on the list and make sure you don’t miss anything! Sign up here.

5 Things Being Vegetarian Taught Me

5 things being vegetarian taught me | Kale and AleToday marks 20 years I’ve been a vegetarian, and there are five things I’ve learned from it. I was 15 when I became a vegetarian, so I couldn’t even think 20 years into the future. I started with a plan to be vegetarian for one week, and 1,040 weeks later I’m still hanging on, with no plans to ever stop.

I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons. Growing up in Iowa, I could see cows at the edge of my development from my kitchen. I was surrounded by cornfields and understood the process food takes to get to our plate, and it didn’t sit right that animals were sacrificed for us. I have always understood and respected that it’s a personal journey and decision as to what one eats, and for me that means keeping animal products off my plate.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum kale | KaleAndAle.com

Happy place: Within the kale at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

What has been a growing and learning experience goes beyond food, shaping me into who and how I am today. These are the five things being vegetarian has taught me.

Compassion

In a way this was already a trait, as it’s the reason I became vegetarian. But like I said, I was 15 at the time, so my world scope was pretty narrow. Being vegetarian and attuned to the needs and rights of animals has made me more aware of others suffering. There really is so much suffering, and I try to always look and think of others needs ahead of my own—not to be confused with at my own expense.

Do I need this extra fancy coffee or can I donate 5 or 10 more dollars to the charity I’m giving to now? I won’t enjoy that coffee as much as someone suffering. I love giving and receiving gifts that have a story behind them or the money goes to an artist or organization. I tend to think about things like this.

Creativity

Being vegetarian often means being the odd one out or minority. Going to restaurants or events, you have to request something and often get creative with the menu: Can you substitute/leave off this? Does this contain this hidden ingredient? How large are the sides so I can make a meal?

Even at home, I like to replicate dishes I’ve had or seen, vegetarian or otherwise. The entire reason for this blog was built on my creativity: I wanted to show others they too can lead a minimally processed life without sacrificing time or money. I enjoy recipe creation, thinking of new ways to make classic dishes and coming up with new flavor and texture combinations.

Adventure

Both in eating and life, I’ve learned to say yes more, in both food and life. I used to make sure I knew how things would turn out or what to expect, but now I jump in more. I don’t want to miss opportunities just because I don’t know the answer or outcome beforehand. This has always worked out in my favor, and related to food, I’ve gotten to try and love many foods that people who eat meat don’t seem to eat often, or go to vegetarian/vegan/raw food restaurants in neighborhoods I would otherwise not visit.

Education

Education is always needed when a vegetarian. Staying on top of what is in foods is never-ending: Prepared foods and restaurants can change recipes at any time and it’s important to know what is in your food. Views on a healthy diet have changed a lot in the 20 years I became a vegetarian; in 1996 people thought complete proteins needed to be eaten together for the most benefit and now we know that isn’t true and fad diets have come, went and sometimes come again. Keeping up and staying educated is important.

Patience

I’m not a patient person by nature, and it’s something I’m always trying to get better at, but being a vegetarian presents many opportunities to practice my patience. Many people ask a lot of questions that, to me, seem obvious or straightforward, but I put on a smile and use it as an opportunity to explain explain my stance and beliefs, and why I stand where I do regarding animals.

More information

It’s never been easier to be a vegetarian than it is now. It’s very common for people to not be vegetarian and eat less meat for health, there are so many resources, celebrity chefs are making meatless cool and menus in restaurants are often clearly marked as to what kind of diet can have that meal, among other things.

To learn more and get started, some good websites for more information include:

RECIPE: Get started with this simple chickpea patty recipe, the first recipe I made as a vegetarian and still one of my favorites.

RELATED: A real vegetarian’s view on fake meat