28 November, 2015
Vive Bistro and Bakery: A Review
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:
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.
- 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
- 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
King Trumpet Scallops
Croquettes de la Mer
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
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.
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.
Roasted Coconut Martini
|Counter-clockwise from the plaid shirt: Mike, Skyler, Alexandre, Keith, Justin, Me!|