Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Supporting the Local Economy

Recently, we joined a few friends in trying some new establishments located in the next town over. We tried INC and Diesel, both in Roswell, GA. INC has been open a handful of months, but we understand it is owned and run by folks who used to have a hole-in-the wall joint called Little Alley, also in Roswell. This description is actually not entirely fair, since the only hole-in-the-wall part of the place was the location -- next to the bowling alley, behind a camera shop in a completely defunct strip mall.   Walking into Little Alley, we used to feel very sneaky, like we were in possession of a precious secret.  The food, all tapas, was amazing, and there was always live music and an unusual collection of characters for clientele. Only occasionally did we see someone we knew, which is uncharacteristic in this smallish town, and we liked it that way, guarding our "secret" jealously. I suspect others did the same, which probably contributed to the demise of Little Alley.

So we were eager to try the new spot, INC. We enjoyed a cocktail in the front sidewalk cafe area while we waited for our table -- it was pleasant on a lovely evening to watch a little part of the world go by while chatting with friends. Eventually seated indoors, the restaurant was dark and bustling, which I found energizing and fun (I've got to start remembering to bring my little ole' lady glasses -- couldn't read a word of the menu). The server immediately placed these little bowls of goodies along our table for us to nibble.  She explained what they were, but I didn't really hear, so I thought they were deep fried chick peas.

"These look vegan!" I pronounced, diving in (I know, I should have asked more questions at this point first, I wasn't being a very responsible vegan, but I was having fun and it all turns out okay).

They certainly tasted like chick peas and I really enjoyed them as an alternative to the ubiquitous corn chips and salsa. I found out much later they were actually deep fried hominy, still good, still vegan, though lacking slightly, nutritionally, compared to the chick peas. Still, I salute an inventive option I can eat!

Since I couldn't read the menu, I got to know our young server pretty well. She turned out to need no education about veganism whatsoever -- how refreshing! She suggested the vegetarian tacos for me, and said that this and most other entrees were served with black beans, but since they were made with meat, I should substitute an amazing potato salad instead, containing no meat or dairy. I placed myself part and parcel in her knowledgeable hands and was very pleased with the results. I regret my husband was deep in conversation with someone else when my entree arrived, so I got no cell phone photo of my pretty dish -- then I got hungry and began wolfing it down. I'm still hoping for a small digital camera for my birthday!!

I am not sure what was in my tacos, but they were delicious. I find I rely very much on the written word for comprehension of details, so I am eager to try this dish again wearing glasses. I know it was shredded veggies, saucy and mostly purple, so I am thinking beets figured prominently. The filling was covered in a lovely, messy, hot and smoky sauce (chipotle in adobo maybe?) It was very, very good. There were three tacos in fresh corn tortillas, with a few extra tortillas lying flat underneath across the plate, which was perfect since so much of the filling fell out with every bite. After finishing the first three, enough filling had fallen onto the lower tortillas that I could make myself two more! The potato salad was crisp and fresh in flavor -- tiny cubes in a vinegar based dressing, studded with sundried tomatoes. I ate so much delicious food, every crumb, and was grateful I did not feel overfilled and miserable the way my sweet friend across the table felt as she finished half of her chicken shish-ke-bab dish. I am against judging, and certainly am not feeling superior -- each journey is valid in its way. But I was happy for myself for being true to my own standards. My meal at INC was everything I could have wanted.

We finished the evening with one more drink at Diesel, a very interesting establishment which used to be a corner gas station. Located at a busy intersection, this restaurant is an interesting concept, retaining the look of an old service station -- concrete, metal, glass garage doors. I believe it is mostly a pizza place, so I will have to try the food at another time. The best part of this establishment for me was meeting the owner, a very colorful character, a guy my Dad's age who is loving life and loving his job. He explained that, having opened a year ago, his establishment was just starting to take off and make some money. Ebullient and positive, this man's enthusiasm was infectious. I am eager to try Diesel again -- hope he can make me something vegan!

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