I first met Rich Landau backstage on NBC’s 10! Show a year ago. He told me he was closing Horizons, one of Philadelphia’s most popular and nationally recognized vegan restaurants (Horizons was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City). While Horizons was popular, Rich and his wife and business partner Kate Jacoby were ready for a new creative challenge.
The second time we met four months ago, back at NBC, he was dealing with contractors at 1211 Locust Street to build the space that will become Vedge, the new vegan restaurant that he and Kate are opening within weeks.
While being vegan or vegetarian doesn’t work for me, I could relate to Rich’s contractor experience and his zest for vegetables. When I overheard Rich say to an NBC crew member on set, “Vegetables are the new trend,” my curiosity was peaked.
I recently sat down with Rich in Vedge’s- soon-to-be-open space featuring a dedicated cocktail room complete with a cozy fireplace.
After learning about what’s in store for restaurant goers— from a gluten-free and everything in between menu to made from scratch drinks with ingredients from local farms—I’m even more excited to pull up a seat at Vedge this fall.
In this interview, Rich talks about the rumored vegetable bar, the secret to cooking vegetables properly, and how you can recreate some of that same richness in flavor showcased at Vedge in your own kitchen.
Q. Horizons, your previous restaurant, changed the way people understood vegan food. You invited it from the outskirts and into a classy and tasteful atmosphere. Will Vedge take the same approach with vegetables?
A. Our food won’t change that much from Horizons. However, we are backing off the protein and showcasing vegetables. We are smoking, braising, grilling, and roasting vegetables to access their full deep flavor. There will be no cover up. A vegetable will taste how it’s supposed to taste, not drenched in cheese and sauces. If you know how to cook vegetables properly, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be front and center.
Q. Talk about front and center; I’ve heard rumors of a vegetable bar. What will that look like?
A. It will look like Martha Stewart smoked quality crack and decorated. The vegetable bar will take the concept of a sushi bar and translate that into classy vegetable offerings. It will be an exclusively cold bar with small vegetable plates, salads, pickles, and olives. As far as we know, it’s never been done before.
Q. Why do you think vegetables are so en vogue these days?
A. The seasons bring so many vegetable varieties. With so many choices, there’s always a unique experience to be had. Then based on the weather, you can mix it up. The rain makes you want roasted veggies. The summer heat makes raw or lightly cooked vegetables appetizing. The possibilities are endless. And vegetables are win-win. When you cook them properly, they are immediately delicious and they benefit you in the long run. There’s no buyer’s/eater’s remorse.
Q. What is the secret to cooking vegetables properly?
A. It all starts with selecting the freshest vegetables you can find. If you have a recipe for brocollini but you get to the store and see yellow spots on the brocollini, move on to the fresh vegetables. Everything flows from there.
Also, if you are new to vegetables, it’s important to incorporate a familiar texture. For example, if you are used to cooked green beans, start with them cooked, not raw. After that, it’s important to realize vegetables have a small window of cooking time until they are done.
Q. Any tips for the at home cook trying to recreate the same richness in flavor you plan on having at Vedge?
A. The easiest and best thing to do is blanch your vegetables first. Dip the vegetables in salted boiling water until they change color. Spinach will be right away; root vegetables will take one to two minutes. After they change color, put your vegetables in ice water to stop them from cooking. Then roast or sauté. I love the simplicity of garlic and olive oil. That’s all you need if you start with the freshest vegetables you can find.
Q. How do you stay inspired to cook day in and day out?
A. I view it as a creative outlet. I love the process and eating with the seasons keeps me inspired to always be learning and experimenting.
Q. So you have a new muse, veggies! What is your favorite gluten-free dish on the menu?
A. We have a salt-roasted golden beet terrine. It’s ground up beets, layered with smoked tofu, avocado, capers and red onion. It comes with cucumber dill sauce and house made pumpernickel. Just ask for it without the pumpernickel.
Q. Vedge is delightfully placing vegetables front and center into vegan food. What is the top lesson you will bring from your success at Horizons to Vedge?
A. Horizons had a reputation that we worked very hard to achieve and I won’t mess with that. While the size of plates will change and the proteins will take more of a back seat, the same “bones” of our flavors will remain. Running a restaurant isn’t easy and so we’ll bring the proven success of Horizons to a new, updated ambiance in this beautiful space.
Vedge, located at 1211 Locust Street, is scheduled to open in late October.