I consider myself a hobbyist when it comes to creating organic, vegan food. But the owners of Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant are master artists. I haven’t been obsessed with sourdough since I lived in San Francisco— enticed by the city’s famous sourdough bread.
That changed one recent Sunday morning with light, apple-filled sourdough pancakes during brunch at Bloodroot, which is located in a working-class neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I also found sourdough in their scrumptious chocolate devastation cake that had icing like silk.
Other noteworthy items on the brunch menu: sourdough potato rye bread and sourdough biscuits; amazingly rich, fruity scones that melt in your mouth and vegan shiitake or Swiss chard quiches. Each item alone is worth a trip. For dessert, freshly baked Bloodroot Restaurant apple pie is irresistible and could also win a photo contest, and the bourbon vanilla ice cream sundae is unforgettable.
Even if you don’t live in Connecticut, owners Selma Miriam and Noel Furie share their culinary treasures in cookbooks available at www.bloodroot.com. A forthcoming vegan book, The Bloodroot Calendar Cookbook, is being released this spring, and a quick look at a preview included several favorites including Hungarian cauliflower soup, spicy Thai “chicken” with basmati rice, avocado and pineapple, and the bourbon vanilla ice cream sundae.
I met the owners in the early 1970s at Connecticut chapter meetings of the National Organization for Women. One of the upshots was experiencing fresh, organic, seasonal and local food and exploring made-from-scratch, gourmet vegetarian dining.
As NOW members, we decried the exploitation of females, and one-by-one, most could see the reason for a social justice cause that took animals off the menu.
As the authors write in the dedication of their 2007 book, The Best of Bloodroot, Volume Two Vegan Recipes, “Feminism is the politics that informed the creation and maintenance of Bloodroot and our lives.”
This unique 41-year-old feminist restaurant has a close-up view of Burr Creek, which empties into Long Island Sound, and from a table by a window one can savor New England. The restaurant’s friendly interior includes an overhead menu on chalkboard, vintage photographs and political inspirations, a bookstore, two gorgeous cats named Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug, and efficient self-service where diners pick up their food from the open kitchen, later returning their plates and silverware.
Bloodroot’s cuisine is unlike the vegan food offered in most restaurants, because the women not only make breads, pastries, soups, appetizers, salads, entrées and desserts from scratch, they challenge themselves to prepare West and East African, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Asian and European dishes that are stunningly delicious and healthful.
The staff members who work with Selma and Noel have immigrated from around the globe and each contributes to the menu’s international flavor. They offer heat to rice and bean dishes when the region’s custom calls for it, such as West African plantain and yam stew with rice and collard greens, or (my favorites) black bean tostadas with green rice, jicama-pineapple-mango salsa, and Jamaican Jerk “chicken,” tofu, Seitan with coconut rice and sweet potato.
They also dare to surprise you with a perfect mushroom-walnut pate’ that has layered flavors and has been a hit on their menu since 1984. Their homemade vegan cheese platter has the best flavored cheddar I’ve had anywhere. And, the restaurant’s mascarpone cheese was luxurious—not too sweet, with a slight tang and topped with quince. Organic salads at the restaurant standout for their variety and freshness—no packaged greens on your plate.
My favorite is shredded beets, carrots and turnip with avocado. Bloodroot also has a variety of sodas, bottled water, juices, coffee, tea, and beer and wine are also served. As the restaurant suggests, the menus listed online may shift slightly from a changing seasonal menu in the restaurant. As they advise, “Be prepared for pleasant surprises.” Also be prepared to expand your horizons with such elegant hospitality.
Since that unforgettable brunch, I now enjoy a sourdough starter in my home kitchen. With instruction from Noel, I feed the starter each week and make pancakes, breads and Bloodroot’s chocolate devastation cake whenever inclined! And just like that, I’ve created some masterpieces of my own!