Dish 93: Jamaican BBQ Seitan at Horizons, 7th between South and Bainbridge, http://www.horizonsphiladelphia.com
Dani, Gustav, and I had dinner last night on the skylit second floor of Horizons. Lifelong vegetarian, recent dietary vegetarian, and conflicted omnivore, respectively, we were all eager to broaden our Horizons.
Seitan is a chewy, semi-fibrous wheat product that comes about as close to meat in taste and texture as any vegan product can. But we were left asking ourselves why? Dietary vegetarians and vegans may disregard this postulate, but to those who feel that eating animals is immoral- then is it not also immoral to attempt to mimic the flavor and texture? On a less fundamentalist note, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of wheat products tastier than seitan. (Same goes for tofu and tofurkey.) Why not just use a tasty wheat or tofu product? I would eat grilled tofu slathered in Horizons BBQ sauce. I would probably also eat pasta slathered in BBQ sauce. Or eggplant.
We all agreed that –whether Dani’s Vietnamese tacos made with tempeh or the grilled seitan Gustav tried—the protein aspect of the dishes tended to be sauce- and spice- centric, instead of food-centric; whereas the outstanding sides—the jicama slaw with the BBQ seitan, the garlicky spinach with the grilled seitan, or the robust yet fresh corn chowder—all allowed the vegetables to take center stage. The kitchen still seemed to think in a traditionally American omnivoric way, that a dish is meat with sauce, carbohydrate, vegetable; rather than in a holistic way, taking the best available protein, carbohydrate, and veggie options and putting them together in harmony with spice.
While the food was good and the conversation was easy, there was a sense that the meal was trying too hard. And maybe it should just relax, stop worrying so much about what Philly may think, and cook more like vegans cook.