Flora Sans Fauna

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: To all my vegan/vegetarian friends and wannabes—or even the meat eaters who just enjoy great tasting food—here’s a quaint dining establishment worth your while.

In Jenkintown, PA, a neighborhood of the Philly suburbs (and where Russ was residing when we met), this 16-seat enterprise, Flora Vegan Restaurant, is apparently one of the area’s most sought-after vegan spots. Originating as the vision of four high-school friends who shared a passion for food, they wanted to create a place that was intimate and comfortable, located in a small urban neighborhood, used locally-sourced ingredients, and served healthy dishes. And they certainly succeeded!

Opened in Fall 2014, Flora is an award-winning culinary BYO treasure where seasonal, local produce takes front and center stage at this self-proclaimed “vegetable restaurant.” Their prix-fixed menu changes seasonally to reflect the freshest produce and ingredients available, with an aim to provide an exceptional meal and experience fit for all diners, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, omnivores or carnivores.

After several months of trying to connect for a dinner out with friends Lisa and David Greenspan, below right, we nailed down a date in early May. Knowing Lisa was a vegetarian, it provided a good excuse for Russ to make a res at Flora, a place we’ve both been wanting to try for quite some time. With so few seats, we were lucky they could accommodate us on our preferred date and time.

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David and Lisa Greenspan, right, were fun dinner companions. For those of you who haven’t seen me in a while, I’ve gone back to the dark side—my hair that is…

Arriving at practically the same moment, we were seated in a cozy corner nook at the only available table, by managing owner and one of the four founding members, Dan Brightcliffe, who played host and waiter to the fully packed room, albeit a small one. We were offered a choice of sparkling water or tap, charmingly served in mason jars, and were so busy chatting that Dan had to come back three times to get our order when we hadn’t even as much as glanced at the menu.

With no ala carte menu, the restaurant is a reasonably priced prix-fixe spot that offers three and four course options served on small plates, but while the dishes may be petite (a few absurdly so), we didn’t end up going home hungry. Our plan of attack was ordering two four-course meals, and two of the three-course options.

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Seasonal Vegetables: Tossed in Za’atar Vinaigrette & Herbs

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Iceberg Salad: Crispy Shallots, Pickled Cauliflower, Carrots, Croutons & Creamy Herb Dressing. Not shown, Brussels Sprouts Three Ways: Raw, Salt-Wilted, Charred with Spicy Sriracha Vinaigrette & Sesame Seeds.

With each category offering four options we decided to get three choices, shown above, from the first course (no one got the Garlic & Spinach Soup figuring it would be too awkward to split between four people.) From the second course menu we went for one of everything, shown below.

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Seared Tahini Carrots: Smoky Baba Ganoush with Lemon Zest and Toasted Sesame Seeds—the party favorite for taste

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Irish Potato Boxty: 
House-made Scallion Aioli & Caramelized Onions—also high on the list

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Cauliflower Salad: 
White Bean Puree, Crunchy Quinoa, Lemon Zest and Cilantro—my favorite as far as presentation

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Green Pea & Roasted Garlic Arancini: Mint Salsa Verde—while very good, probably the least popular

On to the third course where we selected three of the four options, omitting the Spaghetti with Asparagus, Breadcrumbs & Lemon, and doubling up on the Spicy Chickpea & Vegetable Vindaloo. Our hands-down favorite was the Ragout of White Beans & Artichokes with Carrots, Spinach & Crostini.

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Ragout of White Beans & Artichokes with Carrots, Spinach & Crostini—two thumbs up

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Lasagna
with Seasonal Ingredients—wish the portion was larger

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Spicy Chickpea & Vegetable Vindaloo—a bit too spicy for Lisa

Each course was a sensual assault to our tastebuds! As we savored every morsel, conversations ran the gamut from best-loved restaurants of different ethnicities, to cooking classes (they did one in Istanbul, us in Spain), to how Lisa and David met (she was the pursuer), and our mutual love of gardening.

Lisa was astounded that we actually like grocery shopping and do it together, enjoying the process instead of viewing it as a chore. In their relationship David is the food shopper, although they admitted that they have started using the Whole Foods home delivery system. She said the first time was a learning experience and realized she had to be more specific in her descriptions, while the second delivery was spot on. Hmmm, food for thought—literally…

Now Russ considers himself a bit of a crème brulée aficianado and therefore zeroed in on the Banana Crème Brulée with carmelized bananas as one of the desserts. David on the other hand loves carrot cake and chose the Carrot Pudding with carrot cake spices, vegan cream cheese icing and candied almonds.

Lisa adored the crème brulée, and while I had a tiny sample, it didn’t appeal to me at all, nor was Russ very fond of it. After all, it’s a daunting task to make a custard-based dessert without dairy. The pudding seemed to make points with David, and Russ really enjoyed it also, but while I didn’t try it, I found it was the more appealing of the two.

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Banana Crème Brulée
with Carmelized Bananas

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Carrot Pudding with Carrot Cake Spices, Vegan Cream Cheese Icing & Candied Almonds

The service and course pacing of the restaurant was right on target. Without feeling rushed, time just flew when three hours later we realized everyone else had left and Dan and crew were trying to close up, so we took that as a hint to vacate and say our goodbyes while planning our next rendezvous. My only regret was not having a “doggie bag” to bring home…

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