Vidi, Vici, Vegan

OK so maybe the title is a bit nonsensical, but it does make sense to try out this vegetarian restaurant. In an unassuming mini strip mall off of Second Street Pike in Southampton, PA, sits the Blue Sage Grille. Established about 14 years ago, this BYOB restaurant has become one of the most popular restaurants in Southampton and the “granddaddy” of vegetarian restaurants in Bucks County. It serves lunch and dinner 5 days a week (closed on Monday), and now also serves Sunday brunch.

“The quality of the food that comes into the kitchen is great,” explains executive Chef Mike Jackson. In fact, 98% of what comes into the restaurant is whole food, be it grains, vegetables, fruits or beans. But you won’t find a lot of meat substitutes like tofu or seitan here. There is balance between vegetable, grain, beans and dairy, and Jackson and his kitchen staff bring out the best in each. “The challenge is that we need lots of different vegetables,” says Jackson, “in fact, some of our entrees take four sauté pans to prepare.”

On the “con” side, the place itself is quite small, 15 tables in all, packed closely together. We were seated at a booth on one end of the restaurant, which our dinner companions, Barry and Eve—who have eaten here often—told us was actually spacious compared to other tables. Reservations are a good idea any night, but absolutely required on a Friday night, as the place has so few tables. The sound level was at times deafening, resulting in the waitress having to repeat herself, and made conversation a struggle.

But the “pros” certainly outweigh the cons. The atmosphere is casual, and the food is definitely top-notch. Even a die-hard carnivore would have difficulty not enjoying something off this eclectic menu, which includes numerous vegan entrees for those so inclined. Food service was leisurely / slow (which is actually refreshing when enjoying an evening out), and the wait staff is attentive. Beware, the portions are very large, and VERY filling. Also on the plus side is that it’s a BYOB, with no cork fee.

Being our first time at this establishment, we relied on our dining friends for advice. The only thing they told us to stay away from were the Empanadas, which they said were dry. With that tip in mind, we started the process of narrowing down our choices from the list of appetizers, salads, tacos, sandwiches, entrees and dessert. Finally, Russ and I settled on one of their “5-star” appetizers to share: Adobo Goat Cheese Nachos—Fresh‎ blue corn tortilla chips with smokey adobo black beans, roasted corn, grilled julienne red peppers, oven-dried cherry tomato halves, creamy roasted onion goat-manchego queso. When the large platter of nachos arrived at the table, it was all I could do to keep Russ from diving in before I could take a photo!

Barry and Eve chose the Arancini, a twist on the classic Italian rice ball—almond crusted green apple risotto fritters with gazpacho dipping sauce and dry aged goat cheese; the four pieces easily divided among the two couples.

Our second choices varied from different parts of the menu. I think the next table over influenced Russ’ decision with the arrival of their Falafel Wrap—Griddled whole wheat wrap encased crispy falafel fritters, cucumber-yogurt dressed jicama slaw, char grilled green curry barbecue red onions, roasted red peppers, served with baby greens in chile lime vinaigrette… it’s presentation solidifying the selection for Russ.

Lynn chose one of their delicious salads (name forgotten, mea culpa!), a bed of mixed greens and kale, with lots of crunchy almonds, sweet and mild cipollini onions, roasted baby beets, red grapes, black mission figs and shaved manchego cheese slices—unbelievably huge, and quite tasty. But WAY more than a days worth of fiber in this baby!

Barry ordered the Quesadilla Rustica cut into 4 pieces, filled with mozzarella, tomatoes, and other veggie ingredients with a side of black bean salsa and arugula;

and from the Taco menu Eve chose the Blue Corn Asparagus—Griddled with monterey jack, grilled asparagus and tomato-almond romesco, black bean salsa, ancho crema, field greens. Both dishes were pictures of perfection!

While we waited for our entrees, our “influential” friends at the neighboring table received theirs, and encouraged us to photograph them to add to the blog. One entree was the Carnivale, a stuffed squash in what looks like a beet juice reduction with baby roasted carrots and parsnips.


And a very artsy dessert, almost a modern sculpture in it’s own right, the Hazelnut Toffee Basket—Chocolate buttercream, bruleed bananas, Hazelnut toffee tuille, chopped hazelnut topping. (Thanks Russ for pinch-hitting on taking those pics!)

Needless to say, we took home quite a bit of leftovers (which of course made for great lunches the next day.)

While we did not order dessert, some of the other options were: Reconstructed Pie—Blackberry compote, meyer lemon mascarpone, buttermilk streusel, graham cracker crust, vanilla gelato; Thai Tea Semifreddo—Light lemon ganache, marcona almond crunch; Rose Verrine—Layers of passion fruit curd, ruby red grapefruit, mousseline, ritz cracker crunch; and Key Lime—Mini-tier vanilla cake with lime curd, dulce de leche, sprinkled with lime dusted milk crumbs with quenelles of pineapple and coconut sorbet.

About that aforementioned brunch, although we have not tried it yet, some appetizing offerings are:

Chorizo Empanadas a big favorite, with potato corn masa empanadas filled with chorizo spiced lentils, laid on top of pickled white lima beans (kind of crunchy and nutty) with a salad of avocado and cherry tomatoes on the side.
The Benedict is also a hit, consisting of poached fresh farm eggs on toasted sourdough with grilled asparagus, smoked chili hollandaise and Asiago frico with hollandaise.
Vanilla Custard French Toast, bread dipped in crème anglaise, then brulee’d to make it crispy, and served with strawberries and crushed pistachios.
Greek Yoghurt Parfait, creamy yogurt, layered over cherry compote with a generous dab of salted caramel and crushed Marcona almonds on top.
Dried Blueberry Blue Corn Johnnycakes, four crisp blue pancakes, with a dollop of maple mascarpone in the middle, sprinkled with blackberries.

Seems to me the Blue Sage Grille is a must-do for some Sunday this Fall! And while Russ and I don’t have any immediate plans of becoming vegetarian, this restaurant certainly makes it an appealing option, even if only on occasion.

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