February 15, 2007

World-Famous Vegetarian Eatery a Delight

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So I know the title of this article might have freaked out all of you who swear by meat, but before you skip over this article in search of the latest news on Cornell hockey, let me describe to you one of the best restaurants Ithaca has to offer. I know I am not one who dishes out many bad reviews, but I also do not rave about undeserving restaurants, so trust me when I say, this restaurant is down-right fantastic. Figured it out yet? For all of you who have done your Ithaca trivia, you know that I can only be talking about Moosewood Restaurant, situated in the DeWitt Mall on the Commons. Famous for its vegetarian and vegan style cuisine as well as its best-selling cookbooks, Moosewood has been a frequented place for both native Ithacans and tourists for over thirty years. Having visited Moosewood with my parents a number of times (my mom is a big fan and owns a number of the cookbooks), I decided it was time to take some friends who had never been before. They were definitely in for a treat.
Because of Moosewood’s popularity, it is extremely difficult to go to dinner on a Friday or Saturday night without having to wait for an available table. However, when my friends and I arrived at about 6:45 p.m. on Friday night, we were pleased to find several available tables and were seated immediately in a cozy booth.

Now, most restaurants we visit nowadays have a standard menu with many different entrees to choose from. However, Moosewood does it differently. It creates a new menu for both lunch and dinner featuring different soups and entrees everyday. With this technique, it is safe to say that no two meals at Moosewood will ever be exactly the same.

After a brief glance over the menu, I knew I was in for some tough decision-making; all four entrees, which included Spinach-Portabella Lasagna, Moroccan Stew, Asian Filo Roll and Oven-Poached Salmon, sounded fantastic. Much discussion ensued and I finally decided on the Moroccan stew, while my friends ordered the Lasagna and the Salmon. I was pleased with our different choices, because it meant I could taste multiple dishes.
As we waited for our food, I took time to take in the surroundings. The inside of the restaurant is painted a bright shade of yellow, which definitely adds to the warm and friendly environment. Pieces of artwork for sale adorn the walls along with colorful chalkboards displaying information on daily specials and cuisine-themed nights. With so much cheer in the décor, it’s difficult not to be in a pleasant mood. And, of course, the happier you are, the more likely you will enjoy your meal.

First to arrive were our salads, which came with each entrée. Now, normally side salads are not something to praise, but when they come with interesting salad dressing choices, they are definitely worth mentioning. The dressings my friends and I sampled included Lemon-Tahini, Miso-Ginger, and Honey Dijon — all were extremely tasty.

A short while later, our entrees came out on the scene. All were plated very nicely, looked delicious, and, to no surprise, tasted great. My Moroccan Stew consisted of eggplant, butternut squash, peppers, tomatoes and chickpeas blended together with North African spices and served over couscous. The spices provided a unique taste to the dish, but did not overwhelm the flavors of the individual vegetables, and the couscous was a perfect texture balance to the creamy nature of the rest of the dish. My friends gave positive feedback on their dishes as well and were nice enough to let me sample. The Salmon was perfectly cooked and simply seasoned so that its natural flavor stood out, and the spinach and portabellas made the Lasagna wonderfully creamy and delicious. Lucky for us, Moosewood does not serve overwhelmingly large portions so we were able to save room for dessert.

Similar to the dinner menu, the dessert menu boasted so many wonderful choices that several minutes passed before we could make up our minds. The waitress returned, an orange layer cake and a cherry-blueberry pie were ordered, and the waiting began. Just five minutes later, two delectable desserts reached our table and were devoured in mere minutes. The cake was moist and not too sweet, with just a hint of spice in the background, and the pie had a perfect crust and a filling of real fruit, not overly-sugared canned fruit. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

Perhaps if you swear by a great steak or plate of ribs you would not enjoy Moosewood Restaurant, but I urge you to try something new; you might be surprised just how good vegetarian dishes can be.