Lovin’ Oven ***

Saag Paneer – Creamy Pureed Spinach with Cheese and Indian Spices

908.996.7714
62 Trenton Ave
Frenchtown, NJ 08825

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I don’t know how many of you got into the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” craze, but I swear for the two weeks after I read that book I really thought I was Elizabeth Gilbert. Of course I’m not a recently divorced 40-something year old writer traveling the world in hopes of finding myself, but I so readily identified with her emotions, frustrations, and passions that I felt as if her book could have been my own personal memoir. We both love to eat, travel, write, and stare at beautiful Italian men who speak the beautiful Italian language—and, I too wouldn’t think twice about packing my bags and going to an unfamiliar country such as Bali to meet with some elderly medicine man! But I am not Elizabeth Gilbert. This reality sank in abruptly after my first yoga class and was then confirmed after my attempt at guided meditation (yes, I really signed up for yoga and meditation after reading the book—a sparkler moment—just humor me).

Although I am back to my non-yoga doing life as Kendall Bajek, I was none-the-less excited to hear that Elizabeth Gilbert had opened a store near my house In Philadelphia called Two Buttons. I was less excited when I actually went and saw just how much these rare items cost, but thankfully, there was a restaurant in front of her store to help lift my spirits! The restaurant is called the Lovin’ Oven and the menu is just about as eclectic as Gilbert’s store.

They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and have inspired flavors coming from all over the world. I went for lunch with my mom and ordered the Quinoa and Tempeh Burger Wrap with avocado, kales, and roasted red pepper aioli. The server told me that this was one of the best items on the menu and it was in fact delicious, but not the greatest lunch I’ve ever had. I expected cut up strips of the quinoa and tempeh burger within the wrap, and it was more ground in with the kale so its texture was indistinct. I like the uniformity that it gave every bite, but I would have preferred to distinguish the burger from the burger from the rest of the wrap. Also, the kale was very oily and rather tough in texture, which made the wrap a bit challenging and sloppy to eat (glad I wasn’t on a date!). The overall flavor was nice, with the bitterness of the kale contrasting the sweetness of the roasted red pepper aioli, and the portion was huge. But my favorite aspect of the dish was actually the small quinoa salad that was served on the side of the wrap. It had a strong balsamic flavor with red onions and halved grapes. It was light and delicious…I wish I could have ordered that only!

My mom ordered the Saag Paneer, which is creamy pureed spinach and fresh cheese with Indian spices served with warm pita over organic brown rice. We were both very unimpressed by this dish because we are familiar with the flavors of good Indian food, but the average person would probably have been pleased. I thought it was lacking in spice and heat, and so it tasted very one-dimensional after just a few bites. The pita bread on the other hand, was incredible! It crispy on the outside but soft and warm on the inside…it was a perfect pita!

On other occasions, my mom has also had the Ginger Teriyaki Tofu Bowl with sautéed fresh vegetables, organic brown rice, sliced avocado, and grilled pita. She said that this dish was so good that it will keep her going back despite our recent disappointing lunch. I want more of that pita bread, so I would probably order this the next time I go as well. I would also save room for the Almond Croissant Bread Pudding next time because it sounds outrageously delicious! In fact, all of their baked goods sound great and I might go just for dessert later this week!

I would recommend the Lovin’ Oven for dessert or breakfast, which is what majority of diners were eating while I was there…now I know why! Just make sure that you bring cash when you go, because it is cash only!

Quinoa Tempeh Burger Wrap with Avocado, Kale, and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

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