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Famous Yelp Reviews

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Yelp is an amazing and unforgiving place, where the milk of human kindness sometimes curdles into the bile of molten hatred, and where you can find everything from reviews of restaurants that will make you cry, to paens of praise penned to your local Duane Reade. As I’ve picked my way through the Valley of the Yelp I’ve noticed that even events from the past are getting reviewed. This came to my attention when I found this Yelp review of the Last Supper:

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You can see it larger here.

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But that didn’t compare to this savage takedown of the 1789 March on Versailles:

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You can see a larger image here.

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Even tragic events in American history don’t escape the wrath of Yelpers:

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You can see a larger image here.

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Although I can understand that one. I mean, for the nation it was a tragic night, but for the 200 people there who weren’t the Lincolns it was just another night at the theater ruined. Sometimes Yelp really helps us remember the little people.

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Yelp has even erased the line between real and fictional events, allowing Goldilocks to warn away other children from the apparently underwhelming home of the three bears:

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You can see a larger image here.

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And, finally, in the spirit of the season, let’s hope that Scrooge didn’t check out his reviews the next day. This hate-filled screed from Bob Cratchit’s wife really showed him what’s what:

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You can see a larger image here.

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If I was Scrooge, a fellow small business owner, I’d be hanging myself from Jacob Marley’s chains after that one. I bet never once during his long employment did Bob Cratchit remind Scrooge that he was a Yelper. That might have made all the difference.

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Dirt Candy on Simply Ming

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I just learned that the Simply Ming episode I filmed this past summer is going to air tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 23. It’s on at different times in different markets and it bears the inspiring title, “AMANDA COHEN & SEASONING VEGETABLES” which pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

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It’s always a bit disorienting to be on these shows because I’ve watched most of them for a long time, formed lots of opinions about them and their hosts, and then I find myself on their sets having a two-way interaction with these people who I’ve had a one-way interaction with for years through my TV screen. I was, however, really happy to learn that Ming Tsai is as super-nice in person as he is on his show.

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Check your local listings!

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Wielding a Wusthof

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Well, it happened. I sold out.

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Like Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Network, like Mary J. Blige and Burger King’s crispy chicken wrap, or Claire Danes and the Latisse Eyelash Prescription Treatment System, I am endorsing a product. Which appeals deeply to my childhood self. I mean, I grew up seeing Bill Cosby eat Jell-o Pudding Pops and Michael J. Fox drink Pepsi, so joining their ranks (in some small way) kind of makes me want to jump through time and high-five my eleven-year-old self. The product?

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From now until infinity you will not be able to use a Wusthof knife without thinking of me.

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Do not attempt this at home unless you want to cut off your nose.

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You can see the entire campaign over on their Edge site.

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When they asked me to endorse them they sent me a nice chef’s knife in the mail, as well as a letter inviting me to be one of their spokespeople as well as a bunch of material outlining the campaign they were planning. I opened the package, took the knife (“Cool,” I remember thinking. “They sent me a knife because I’m a chef.”), glanced at the rest and thought, “Junk mail,” and tossed it in the trash. A week later someone from the agency putting the campaign together called.

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“Did you get the knife?” she asked.

Oh, great. Now she was going to try to sell me something. Well, ha, ha, sucker. I’ve got my knife and I don’t have to give it back.

“Yep, thanks. It’s nice.”

Now, just try to sell me more knives so I can refuse you.

“What did you think about it?”

What did I think about the knife? Well, it’s sharp and it cuts things? What does she mean? What is she talking about?

“Um…”

“You know, the proposal?”

The trash was long gone. What had I done? I tried to fake it.

“You know,” I said, “I thought it looked good, but why don’t you refresh me…”

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It’s amazing I’ve survived this long around so many sharp knives and so much fire, to be honest. But, ultimately the joke’s on Wusthof. What they don’t realize is that they didn’t need to pay me to endorse them. I was doing it a long time ago for free. Way back in 2004 I did my first ever interview as a chef. Ted Lee (of the Lee Bros. cookbook out now!) needed some chefs to talk about knives for a piece he was writing for the New York Times. He figured that I worked with vegetables so I’d have a different take on it. He’d talked to lots of chefs about their fancy Japanese knives, their hand forged custom steel, their ceramic knives built by robots. Me? I used a Wusthof.

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Amanda Cohen, a sous-chef at Pure Food and Wine in Manhattan, bought her less exalted Wüsthof chef’s knife at a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Manhattan. But she is every bit as sanguine as Mr. Heflin about its form and function.

“My knife fits my hand so perfectly,” Ms. Cohen said. “Every time I pick it up, it’s like, `Hello, old friend!’ “

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I’ve always used whatever knife I had lying around. I usually go for a Wusthof if I’m buying one, because I take my knives to hell and back and really beat the tar out of them so $900 knives that require constant maintenance are wasted on me. Later in the NY Times piece:

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“As long as you get the job done on time, a knife is a knife,” said Ms. Cohen, the sous-chef at Pure Food and Wine. “I see all these guys with their knives in fancy carrying cases, and I always want to ask them, `Does that make the food taste better?’”

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I’ve got a Wusthof tossed in my bag and that’s kind of all I need. Just the 6″ chef’s knife. From now until I go off a cliff, I’m Thelma and this is my Louise.

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2 gether 4 ever.

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So thanks, Wusthof, for putting a price tag on a relationship you didn’t even know already existed. And the campaign’s not just about me. Marc Vetri of Vetri in Philadelphia and Katherine Clapner the pastry chef who owns Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas are both part of their campaign as well this year, so I’m in good company.

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And I got a free knife!

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I’m distinguished?!?

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As you can probably tell by my earlier posts on How to Be a Chef and Should You Go to Cooking School? I really believe that other people should be exposed to my opinions on a regular basis. And who better to beat over the head with my club-like wisdom than a bunch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, soft-skinned, hopeful cooking school students? Which is why I’m really excited that Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, NC has chosen me to be their Distinguished Visiting Chef this year.

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I’ll be down there from Saturday through Monday, March 23 – 25, to warp young minds, crush their hopes, and kill their dreams. I’ll also be doing cooking demos. They use a lot more diplomatic language than I do, so here’s what they say:

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The Distinguished Visiting Chef Program was established in 1979 to honor outstanding culinarians and to provide an expanded learning experience for culinary and pastry arts students. Each year the College of Culinary Arts of Johnson & Wales University honors experts in the field of culinary arts by inviting internationally recognized chefs from the United States and abroad to visit the University and share their knowledge with the students. Drawing on their expertise, these individuals pass on valuable information acquired over the years as they lecture and demonstrate to Johnson & Wales University students.

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Which basically means: warp, crush, kill.

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Actually, I’m kind of excited. I feel like a lot of kids are coming out of cooking school the way I did: totally unprepared for the real world. I’m hoping that by vaccinating them with a little bit of reality poison now, they’ll be better able to resist its corrosive effects in the future. Also, they set up a scholarship in my name, which is kind of nice except that I can’t apply for it. Which is too bad, because with my name on it, I thought I’d be a shoo-in to win. Instead, someone named Brandon Lopez got the scholarship, to which I say: Congratulations, Brandon. And you owe me a 20% kickback.

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I had no idea Johnson & Wales looked like Mordor.

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So when you’re going about your day on March 24 and 25 just realize that I’ll be down in North Carolina, attending a fancy dress party in my own honor, killing the weak, and luring the strong into being my future employees. Thanks, Johnson & Wales!

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America’s Test Kitchen (with me!) now online

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I think by now I’ve talked about being on America’s Test Kitchen for longer than it took to actually film the episode. That’s okay! I can talk about being on my favorite cooking show until I turn blue in the face and fall over dead. The episode is called “Simple and Satisfying Vegetable Mains” and it’s airing all over the place depending on when ACT airs on your local PBS station, but if you’re like me and you want to put it on a loop and watch it over and over again in the comfort of your own home, you can find the entire episode online!

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Thank you, internets!

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We are going to fight a Piglet

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What is a piglet and what is Dirt Candy doing to it?

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“And lo, there came four piglets, and the the fourth was
a pale piglet and its name was Death.”

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Read the rest of this entry »


America’s Awesomest Test Kitchen!

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Do you know what reeks of authenticity? America’s Test Kitchen. Seriously, Chris Kimball‘s TV show and his magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, are my platonic ideals of what more food magazines and TV should be: scientific, informative, and straight-up focused on the facts, not catch phrases or flashy editing. So last year, when Chris Kimball made a reservation at Dirt Candy it was all I could do not to fling confetti at him every few minutes and blow a horn when he sat down.

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Even their logo is seriously not putting up with any nonsense.

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Even better was the fact that he tweeted about how much he liked his meal. Even way better was the fact that I got a call a couple of weeks later asking me to be on the show. There may be more popular food shows, there may be flashier food shows, there may be food shows where people ride around in more cars and stop at more Umbrian inns and dine on more local produce, but there are no shows that are smarter, more serious, or more committed to really looking at how cooking works. Except for maybe once when I was swarmed by baby pandas and hugged for an incredibly long time, taping an episode of America’s Test Kitchen was the highlight of my young life.

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That’s not me, but that’s what it felt like.

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Dirt Candy has already been on America’s Test Kitchen radio, but now the TV episode is coming up on Sunday, January 27th. It’s Season 13, episode 4, called “Simple and Satisfying Vegetable Mains” and you should check your local listings if you want to watch it and see what a girl who is trying very hard not to jump up and down and clap her hands looks like.

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They are so hardcore! I wanted them to like me so badly!

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The New York Times Likes us. It really likes us!

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After getting two stars in the New York Times and realizing that Dirt Candy is the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to get two stars from the Gray Lady, I feel like this:

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We got a very, very, very short review from the New York Times when Dirt Candy first opened, sandwiched in with their review of Jollibee, the Filipino fast food chain with the world’s most awesome mascot:

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I wasn’t thrilled with that first quick $25 and Under review because I wanted a critic to seriously engage with Dirt Candy’s food and give me feedback, and it didn’t do that. It didn’t help that the restaurant still didn’t have gas when I got that review, either. But looking back, I’m glad it went this way. I’m such a different chef now, and my food is so different, and Dirt Candy is so changed that I’m glad the Times waited this long.

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I couldn’t have asked for a critic to engage more seriously with my restaurant and I couldn’t have found a writer who got what I’m doing more. I want this place to be fun. I think of Dirt Candy as my house (mostly because I’m here more than I’m at my actual house) and I want people who visit to have a good time. I know that the size of Dirt Candy is a drawback and keeps me from doing some of the things I want to do (more tables, a bigger wine list) but I try to compensate by making the food and the experience as party-riffic as possible.

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Also, while everyone’s congratulating me and being super-nice, I want to say that no one does this alone, and I definitely didn’t. That review is a review of Dirt Candy which means it’s a review of my entire Dirt Candy family: Danielle, my prep queen, Nin & Kyle who are the prep army, numerous interns, Raoul (who’s moving on from the line), Mike (who’s taking over), Justyna (my server), and Maurillo who is the best dishwasher I’ve ever met.

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My one question about Pete Wells’s review is: how did he get in here? Three times?

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In a way, it’s kind of eerie. I have 18 seats. It’s an open kitchen. I know what he looks like. I’m here virtually every night. I had no idea he came here. Three times!!! The man is like some kind of Dinner Ninja, and if he can get in here without me noticing, where else can’t he go? New Yorkers! Be alert! Is Pete Wells in YOUR restaurant? In YOUR living room? Did you wonder whose jacket that was in your closet? It’s Pete Wells’s jacket and right now he’s eating your porridge, sleeping in your bed, and you DON’T EVEN KNOW!!!!

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So thank you, New York Times, and thanks, Pete Wells. I’d invite you back to Dirt Candy but you’ve probably already been here twice today.

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Bonus restaurant shots: here’s a slideshow the Times ran with the review. It’s got some of the best pictures of the Dirt Candy dining room I’ve ever seen.

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The New Dirt Candy…For Men!

Welcome to the Manliest Virtual Crossover Event Ever. Food writer, Charlotte Druckman, is getting ready to publish her book, Skirt Steak, which is all about women in professional kitchens, based on extensive interviews she did with folks like Gabrielle Hamilton, Anita Lo, me, and a whole lot of other people (out in October). She and I were recently baffled by Men’s Health’s inane competition where they ask readers to vote for the “Manliest Restaurant in America.” I didn’t know restaurants came with secondary sexual characteristics, but apparently I’m wrong. Charlotte has written a take-down of the competition itself, but I instantly panicked. Being competitive, I vowed that if someone, somewhere, was having a competition for “Manliest Restaurant” then Dirt Candy would win. So I’ve made a few changes to the place.

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Welcome to Man Candy, a restaurant for men. Reservations are made fast and our manner is brusque. A guy with no neck named Vito will show up 24 hours in advance of your table and punch you in the face to confirm your reservation. When you arrive at Man Candy there is always a wait. The maître d’ will tell you it’s a half-hour, but 20 minutes later he’ll apologize and tell you it’s another half hour. This will continue until you slip a folded $20 into his pocket, at which point his expression will light up, he’ll welcome you back, and lead you to “your usual table.” This will not fail to impress your dining companions.

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Making a rezzy at Man Candy…for men!

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Read the rest of this entry »


A Cookbook is Born!

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Dirt Candy: A Cookbook (to give it its official title) is out today! Seriously! People who want to read it don’t have to ask me to send them a copy anymore, they can just go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and buy it! Online! Right this minute! After two years of work, it hardly feels real that suddenly – boom! – it’s out in the world and toddling around on its little paper legs. This is pretty much how I feel right now:

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There’s been a ton of coverage too, and rather than link to it all piece by piece, I figured I’d put it in one place for anyone who’s interested. I’ll update this post as more press comes in (The Wall Street Journal is coming soon). And if you’re tired of hearing about the cookbook: congratulations! We’re getting close to the point where I stop talking about it.

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The New York Times did an interview with me about the cookbook.

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The Daily News had a two-page spread in their print edition on Sunday.

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Andrea Strong’s Strong Buzz has a really nice review of the cookbook.

 

USA Today says, “I love this book!”

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The Huffington Post has a great review by Rozanne Gold, which is kind of cool since Gold is the four-time James Beard award-winning chef who launched the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.

 

The Wall Street Journal ran a great feature on the cookbook!

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There’s a video on The Daily Meal and I hope it’s good but I’m not strong-stomached enough to watch a video of myself so I don’t know what it looks like.

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We all talk, maybe way too much, in an interview over at MTV Geek.

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Eater has a good interview, although I should never ask rhetorical questions in interviews. “Is someone lying or do I suck?” Because the obvious response is: I suck.

 

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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