It’s ya girl Olivia back for another action-packed year of CT Eats but, this time, with a twist.

Last year, I was on a quest to try exotic foods and flavors, but this year my intestines hate me so the adventure is navigating this column around my new diet, which is mainly dairy-free and wheat-free. 

To kick it off, I ventured to South Wedge to scope out the Toasted Bear Tavern, which offers typical pub fare as well as a small but exciting vegan selection courtesy of local catering company, Kitchen Verde. The Kitchen Verde website touts “healthy, oil-free and plant based” alternatives as well as “delicious vegan meals.” 

Along with me on this outing was my friend Shagun, as well as her new man, Zach. Both ordering from the regular menu, Shagun decided on crispy fried wings with honey-lime sriracha sauce while Zach went for the veggie flatbread. Though I could not taste their dishes, I was able to do some judging of things like texture and cook by just visuals and left the flavor judging in the hands of my esteemed associates. 

The overall verdict seemed to be that textures were nice, but the flavors were a touch underwhelming. Both Shagun and Zach loved the crispy texture of the wings and the perfectly cooked inside, but the honey-lime sriracha sauce was lacking pizzazz. They both said that the sauce skewed more on the sweet side and rather than sriracha punch they were expecting to balance things out. But they did enjoy the sauce overall, so their final note was that they wanted more of it. The wings were fairly lightly-dressed, and lacking that ooey-gooey-messy-fingers situation we all know and love. 

Similarly, Zach’s flatbread pizza brought the crunch, but lacked the punch. The flatbread’s crust was nice and crispy, but a bit dry. It had that stiff, powdery appearance that you get from frozen pizza.

As for the toppings, Zach enjoyed the generous quantity and flavor of the tomato sauce, but wished for more flavor coming from elsewhere. So — like the wings — this pizza served some textural interest, but was one-note when it came to flavor. Both dishes needed something else to make for more well-rounded flavor experiences. 

To transition from one-notes to bright notes, I was definitely a fan of the Kitchen Verde buffalo chick’n mac ‘n’ cheese, which was both vegan and gluten free. The “chick’n” was spot-on; it passed very believably for chicken in texture and flavor. The cheese sauce, while a touch thick and dry for my preference, had a delectable creaminess and a lovely mild flavor.

I also enjoyed the brown rice pasta as a gluten-free alternative — my only criticism was that it could have been more al dente. And, as for flavor, the level of buffalo heat was just right. Overall, I was pleased with this dish and would love to discover more of what Kitchen Verde has to offer. 

I view my dietary restrictions as more of a blessing than a curse in the sense that they are making CT Eats more inclusive than before. This is the beginning of my third year in Rochester and, so far, I’ve found some wonderful options.

Now, I’m curious to discover what gluten-free options the city offers. Although the Toasted Bear Tavern did not blow us away, their meals were still enjoyable, and we were all huge fans of the Kitchen Verde vegan menu. If you’re looking for a good bar with vegan and/or gluten-free options, I would recommend trying out Toasted Bear Tavern. 

Tagged: gluten-free vegan


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