First things first. Chef Lenny Russo- what will it take to bring you to Philadelphia? As a born and bred Philly gal, I am of the firm believe Philly has the best restaurant scene, bar none. And Chef Lenny, the Executive Chef and proprietor of the Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St Paul, belongs with the best.
While traveling in St, Paul, a quick Internet search to look for a good vegan restaurant revealed that they don't really have one. And for once, I am thankful for that, as I might not have found the Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. After coming up short on the vegan restaurant search, I simply Googled "Best Restaurant in St. Paul" and up popped Heartland.
After a glance at the menu I figured I would give it a try. When I tell you this is the BEST vegan meal I have had in a restaurant (including both vegan and non vegan) I am not kidding! I have had some really great meals in some really great vegan places- and I have to say, this may be better than any of them.
The ingredients are all locally sourced, and other than the cheese, everything is made on site. The meal far surpassed any expectations I had. From the architecture of the building, the attentive and friendly nature of the staff and the culinary excellence I was totally blown away.
Everything was flavorfully complex and delicious. The pickled carrot and pepper with a creamy hummus to start was divine. The chilled summer squash soup was a delicious balance of sweet and spicy with the addition of chili oil. The cilantro and fried squash blossom were the perfect finishing touch. The gnocchi were little pillows of heaven on a silky smooth and smoky eggplant puree. And, the surrounding vegetables were cooked and seasoned to sheer perfection.
Tonight I am going to sleep with a belly full of some of the best food I have ever eaten.
If you find yourself in St. Paul, this is a MUST. It was good enough to plan an entire trip back around. Unless, Chef Lenny decides to come to Philly- (not so subtle) hint, hint.....