A LOVING THANKSGIVING
By Ashley Bennett
By this time you’ve probably already busted out the mashed potatoes, roasted turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. It’s all tradition holiday fare—but it gets old after a while. At least in my family, we’ve always done a potluck-style feast with the same food every year. The same potato salad, the same mashed potatoes and the same ol’ turkey (all expertly made of course, to avoid anyone in my family reading this from getting the wrong idea). Few restaurants (among those actually open on the holiday) offer anything better. If only there was a place open on Thanksgiving that offered something new—oh wait, there is. The Loving Hut is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Claremont that is not only open on the holiday, but it’s got a number of delicious alternatives. While you won’t find any boring old turkey here, there are plenty of unique flavors to explore.
First of all, it’s important to note that I’m not vegetarian or vegan. I still enjoy a bite of a juicy burger, rack of ribs and delicious cheese. And I have nothing against turkey, but this year I wondered how those who choose to become a vegan or vegetarian, or who have special dietary restrictions, enjoy the holiday at all. I took a step back and wondered how Thanksgiving works for people with those special dietary restrictions (lactose intolerant, gluten-free ectc.), and wandered into The Loving Hut.
First, I tried the Crystal Rolls with Mixed Herbs. It was a great start, illustrating that typical “vegetarian” look of bright colors and plenty of veggies. Slices of apple, carrot, cabbage, zucchini and herbs were all stuffed together, wrapped in a single sheet of rice paper. While the rice paper is sticky to the touch, the real goal is to eat it all without it falling apart. One dip into the provided sweet and spicy Miso dipping sauce though and I was hooked. It wasn’t until my second roll did I even remember that there was tofu in there, an untraceable presence where flavors of the sweet light-orange sauce and all of those crunchy veggies take over. It may have been the most veggies I’ve eaten for weeks.
My dining partner was even less experienced with vegetarian food than I was, but chose to order a semi-familiar looking dish called the Penne Pasta with cashew cheese sauce. In the mix was some healthy pasta and a few pieces of broccoli and imitation shrimp. Unlike the real thing, it was much firmer but still vaguely resembled the crustaceans in cooked form, with a distinctive shrimpy taste. Together the dish worked well, covering every inch of the dish with a thin layer of cheesy deliciousness.
I was very impressed with The Loving Hut’s Veggie Lasagna. It’s a medium-sized dish with multiple layers of unique flavor. One bite, passing through the Daiya Cheese (a magically special, dairy-free cheese), into the pasta and through a variety of cooked veggies, yielded a surprisingly tasty concoction. Sliced zucchini, crunchy onion, tender mushrooms, spinach, tomato and basil sauce, and cashew ricotta added some major flavor. A huge kudos to whoever came up with that one. Currently the serving size is small but my mind whirled at the thought that it might be translated into a family-sized portion one day.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. The restaurant offers an extended list of healthy smoothies as well as dishes that range from re-worked fajitas, sandwiches and delicious pizzas. Could this be my new Thanksgiving tradition? The Loving Hut flips the world of hearty meats and mashed potatoes upside down, reinventing meals for those whose choices or dietary restrictions limit their Thanksgiving feast choices. It might not be close to what most define as “Thanksgiving food” but it’s a feast worth trying. If I am what I eat, I’d rather be a veggie wrap than a comatose turkey this year anyway.
The Loving Hut, 175 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Ste 102A, Claremont, (909) 621-1668; www.lovinghut.us/claremont. Thanksgiving hours: 11:30am-7:30pm. AE, D, MC, V.