Hail, Seitan!! And The Best "Made-To-Order" Mac & Cheese This Side of the Pearly Gates
For the better part of the past five years, chef Rosanne DiLeo worked the kitchen at The Libertine Bar on Lower Greenville. As she heard regular customers beginning to ask for more vegan dishes, DiLeo says she decided to incorporate more options on the menu and in the kitchen. And, for the past few months, the folks at The Libertine Bar continuously increased the amount of seitan (a wheat-based meat substitute) kept on hand as more vegetarians and vegans have caught on to the kitchen's various meatless dinner options. (If they serve it on the menu with meat, then just ask your server if there is a vegan off-the-menu option available.)
Two bartenders promised us the vegan seitan tacos and the ginger beef salad (with seitan subbed for the beef) were delicious. But the kitchen's real off-the-menu show-stealer happens to be a simple side dialed up to 11 - the "made-to-order" macaroni and cheese. "People have taken mac and cheese from just a side dish, and made it into dinner," DiLeo says on a busy Tuesday evening.
The kitchen staff plates the made-to-order mac and cheese in a larger dish than the usual side order. When served, the plate looks like a typical dinner portion of pasta, but this is not your run-of-the-mill pasta bowl. Imagine a steaming-hot pile of al dente penne basking in the smokiness of melted Gruyere cheese and cream that is then mixed with sautéed portobello mushrooms, fresh spinach, roasted garlic and your choice of carameled red, green or white onions. That choose-your-own-adventure dish makes for a seriously addictive mac mélange. And one bartender recommended trying bacon, tomato, and spinach, so we added jalapeño and green onions. It was amazing.
So, if it's on the menu or in the kitchen at The Libertine, then they can stir it into the mac and cheese. Customers have added everything from lamb to duck to veggieburger to steak, peppers and onions. One guy even added an order of hog wings. Can't wait to try that one.
"It's really whatever you can think of," DiLeo said. "It's so wide open, it's hard to even nail down all the possibilities."
Also, if you sit at the bar, ask for the hush-hush "This Charming Man" drink menu.