Home / cheese / Vive Bistro and Bakery: A Review
28 November, 2015

Vive Bistro and Bakery: A Review

Posted in : cheese, college, restaurant, review, Uncategorized, vegan, Vive on by : Jeanette Schramm

Quaint, comfy, intimate -- Vive.


My friends and I have been doing a silly thing called Fancy Friday since freshman year of college. Basically, what it means is that we dress up really nicely and go somewhere to eat (usually a cafeteria or an otherwise casual restaurant). Around the holidays, when the group is smaller, sometimes we take the opportunity to go out on the town and eat at a restaurant. This past Friday, a friend of mine drove up from Philadelphia for a visit; his name is Skyler. Skye is a vegan, so since the group was so small, it being the day after Thanksgiving, we decided to check out a little French-inspired vegan bistro one of my professors told me about, last semester.

Once we had determined the time and place, I made an event on Facebook to let others know. A day or so later, I noticed a comment on the event from someone I didn’t recognize. Turns out, it was the co-owner of Vive, Keith Savino:

Message from Keith


Keith was great to us, so, as my way of saying thank you, I’ve decided to do a little write-up about Vive to spread the word and hopefully get this little bistro some business!



Vive


How it Began:

Vive Bistro and Bakery started out as a college student’s dream. Keith started out studying chemical engineering at Clarkson before moving on to the University of Rochester, where he obtained his PhD in chemical engineering. Toward the end of his five-year stint at the U of R, Keith decided to make the transition to a vegan diet. After hearing his dietary choices called “rabbit food” by friends and acquaintances, Keith decided he wanted to show people that vegan food didn’t have to mean just peas, carrots, and barley.

Initially, he considered opening a food truck, but other than a vague idea, he really wasn’t sure how to make his dream a reality. That’s where Pam Hathaway and Nick Lemesis come in. Pam came up with the initial concept, menu, and name for Vive, and Nick helped fill in the blanks. The next eight months were spent scouting for locations and promoting their idea to local clubs and meeting groups. Finally, they found it. Their little restaurant space was tucked into a building with a handful of other restaurants in the space that was previously Henry B’s, and most recently, Fraiche Bistro (another French-inspired restaurant). Due to the space having a bar and abundant seating, Vive went from being a conceptual take-out vegan restaurant to a dine-in eatery — complete with equipment! It was the perfect setup for Pam, Nick, and Keith to get their dream restaurant started.

Vive opened for lunch only in mid-February, and a month later, around mid-March, Vive opened for brunch, lunch, and dinner. At the start, Pam and Keith worked hard to make sure everything ran smoothly while they found their staff. Keith told me that he did everything from marketing and accounting to washing dishes and baking bread. Now, the restaurant is running smoothly, and business is great!

Now that you know a brief history of the restaurant, let me pass on some cool facts that you as a (hopefully) future diner should know:

  • Everything is made in-house, except for the booze. That means everything you order, from the cheeses to the chocolate sauce is homemade, and the difference is profound.
  • Every day, Vive features a new infused water that is served alongside regular water. When we went, the water of the day was lemon and thyme, which made for a fresh, cleansing accompaniment to the meal.
  • In spite of what you may typically think of when you consider vegan food, everything they serve tastes like its non-vegan counterpart (if it exists, so their homemade bleu cheese tastes like bleu cheese, and their “scallops” taste like scallops), and everything is filling.
  • The restaurant was built on the concept of showing people that a vegan diet does not mean a boring diet, and since everything is made in-house, they can let you know what’s in any menu item and they will work with your dietary needs and allergies, as well as they can.
  • If you’re not sure you’ll find something you’ll like, trust me, you will, but if you want to look for yourself, you can find their menu online, here.
Let’s take a look at what we enjoyed:

Keith wanted to make sure we got to try as much as we could, but he also understood that we were a bunch of college students, and therefore, not made of money. He generously provided us with a full course of appetizers.

Appetizers:

Cheese Plate

Cheese plate

The cheese plate included (from back left to front to back right) soy-based brie, candied nuts, cashew-based bleu cheese, (more nuts), balsamic and port figs, and soy-based boursin. I’ll go through them one-by one after I say that each cheese was almost a dead ringer for its dairy counterpart.
  • Brie — mild and soft; accurate texture and flavor
  • Bleu — slightly less tang than dairy bleu (the balsamic and port drizzle from the figs added it back); creamy; as someone who loves bleu cheese but has an allergy to it in large amounts, I could eat this by the forkful and be just as happy and much less itchy
  • Boursin — very herby; easy to spread; creamy and tastes like its dairy counterpart, exactly


Tartines

Tartine plate

Tartines are small, open-faced sandwiches. Keith insisted we get the complete set of four. Counter-clockwise from the top left, we have bleu cheese and candied pecan, smoked cashew with pomegranate, white bean pâté with broccoli rabe, and avocado and grapefruit.
  • Bleu Cheese and Candied Pecan — all the great flavor of bleu cheese without the overwhelming bite or flavor (milder); smooth with a bit of crunch; again, I can’t rave enough about the bleu cheese
  • Smoked Cashew with Pomegranate — smoky and sweet; pâté was very creamy; great combination of flavors
  • White Bean Pâté  with Broccoli Rabe — hands-down my favorite of the four tartines; so savory and salty, slight broccoli taste; I would take home a whole jar of this, if I could
  • Avocado and Grapefruit — amazing mix of tart, sweet, and salty; creamy texture; unique flavor profile

Poutine

Poutine

Though it may surprise you (given my proximity to Canada), I’d never had poutine before. This gravy-covered hockey game staple made it to our dinner table, and if nobody told you it was vegan, you probably would never have known. Their mushroom gravy was deliciously rich and tantalizingly salty, but what really stuck out in this appetizer was the smoked mozzarella. That smoky flavor was what I missed the most when I followed a strict vegetarian/borderline vegan diet, back in high school. Had I known about the cheeses Vive makes, I may have been able to keep with it!

Dinner:

After our appetizers had settled and we had chatted with Keith for a while, we decided to order our entrées. Since we were already in a sharing mood, we all passed around bits of our dinner to each other, so everyone who wanted to could sample other plates. I’ll go around the table.

King Trumpet Scallops

"Scallops"

I am a borderline fan of scallops. I love the flavor and the texture, but I’m not a fan of the occasional wayward grain of sand that can find its way into the meat. Knowing I wouldn’t be getting any sand in these “scallops,” I figured I would give them a go.

My first note was that the texture was a dead ringer for scallops. They had managed to perfectly mimic the smooth, pillowy texture of a scallop and the flavor. These were sweet, with a salty crust on top, perfectly matched with the braised red cabbage and roasted turnips. The polenta upon which everything rested was comfortingly reminiscent of Thanksgiving stuffing.

Croquettes de la Mer

Crab cakes

Skyler decided to go with Vive’s version of crab cakes. Again, we had a dead ringer in terms of flavor and texture. The crab cakes were nicely seasoned with herbs and citrus, and the “crab” was not far off from imitation crab meat. The crust gave each bite a nice crunch, and, given the choice between this and a version with actual crab meat in it, I would probably choose this one, since the flavors are so similar and the vegan version is healthier!

Portobello au Poivre

Portobello au poivre

Justin, who hates mushrooms with a passion, decided to go with portabello au poivre, which was just about as close as he could come to a steak at a vegan restaurant. the flavor was sweet, citrusy, and fresh, like it had just come from the garden. This dish is a masterpiece, not only in flavor, but because it was thoroughly enjoyed by someone who adamantly dislikes mushrooms, and that’s saying something.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


Mike ordered sweet potato gnocchi. As someone who enjoys traditional gnocchi, I thought these were really spectacular. The smoked mozzarella flavor mixed really well with the sweet potatoes, and the overall texture of the dish was very soft and pleasant. Sweet, smoky, and smooth on the tongue, these gnocchi were an absolute delight.

Tomato Rabe

Tomato rabe


Alex decided to get one of the most filling dishes on the menu, in spite of our full round of appetizers (he later regretted the decision, only because he couldn’t finish his dinner). The rabe was a lot like a pizza, but lighter on the palate and had the sweetness of homemade tomato sauce (a personal favorite flavor of mine). Their focaccia was superb and made a great base for this pizza.

Dessert:

Roasted Coconut Martini

Roasted coconut martiniWe were all extremely full by the time we finished our main courses, but I insisted on dessert. A few people shared ice cream, but I decided to try a cocktail that I had noticed at the beginning of dinner — a roasted coconut martini.

I asked Pam, who was taking care of us, how she liked that martini. She said it was like a liquid Almond Joy, and boy was she right!

Everything about this drink but the alcohol itself was home-made, including the simple syrup, the chocolate sauce, and the roasted coconut. It was one of those cocktails that would be all too easy to have too many of, if someone kept them coming.

The best thing about this drink, aside from the flavor profile itself, was how little you tasted the alcohol, which makes me wonder how doable a kid-friendly version of this beverage would be to make.

Final Thoughts:

Though I don’t currently have a car, as soon as I have one, I’m going to have to add this to the jar of nice restaurants to have a date night at or even a casual dinner with friends. We had a huge sampling of the menu, but I’m still curious about some items (like the pear and fig socca pissa or the croquette).

The wait staff was warm and very fun, making the whole experience absolutely wonderful. Whoever was playing DJ for the night had a fantastic taste in music that added to the quaint, lively atmosphere of the place. Out the front windows, there was plenty to watch as people walked to and from the pubs that lined the street. Since we’ve officially entered the holiday season, one of the skyscrapers across the way had a big Christmas Tree lit up on the side of it. I feel like this would be a great place to lounge and relax, especially on a rainy night like the one we had. I’m going to have to get the boyfriend to take me here on a date sometime.

Oh, and I couldn’t possibly leave out the photo we got with Keith (photo cred goes to Pam)!

Group photo
Counter-clockwise from the plaid shirt: Mike, Skyler, Alexandre, Keith, Justin, Me!

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