Monday, March 16, 2009
Baltimore Vegan Reubens: Liquid Earth
Get ready for the most realistic vegan reuben ever. And while I don't think I would give up other vegan reubens for this sandwich, that statement is closer to high praise than it is to condemnation.
Truthfully, there is something slightly pedestrian about this trueben. But that fact alone is what makes it so unique. Never have I tasted a vegan or vegetarian reuben that was so close to the real thing. The cheese, though mild and not overly applied (VeganRella, we were told), and the sauerkraut, in about the right proportion, the pale deli rye-- all were not memorable in their own right, but served as the appropriate backdrop for salty (but not too salty, thankfully), robustly-hued tofu "meat" that even B. thought tasted remarkably like the real thing.
This sandwich is a bit of a celebrity. It earned mention on Homicide, a cop show set in Baltimore. And with good reason. It seems exactly like the sort of thing a newly vegetarian cop would gravitate towards. We're more of the tempeh crowd, but still, this is a sandwich I would probably return for again and again, if I lived in Baltimore.
Located on Aliceanna near the Inner Harbor, Liquid Earth does feel a bit like the kind of coffee shop/juice bar/raw and vegan eatery you might find in Portland---reminiscent of places like Proper Eats and the Red and Black, but with a little East Coast edginess. The prices were sort of high, like Vita Cafe the sandwiches had no sides or even pickles, but were a buck or two higher than you'd expect in Portland. But man do they know their way around tofu-as-meat. The stuff was marinated, though appropriately dry, and thinly sliced to perfection, both in the Reuben and the Philly we had (the latter of which we ordered especially vegan, for a buck or so extra). Though there was a hummus sandwich and some nut meat raw tacos, I don't think I saw tempeh on the menu, tofu being the topping of choice. But if you do something right, by all means, keep doing it. In this case, simplicity was the ticket. As someone who obviously eats a lot of vegan reubens, I appreciate some innovation and play on the classic, with unique marinades, slaws instead of kraut, and stand-out sauces. But this sandwich reminds you of what it is all about: five relatively simple components that fit together just right.
Thanks to B. for catching the homicide reference (and having the friends in Maryland) that made this little spring break excursion to Liquid Earth possible.