Sometimes the coldest of nights become the warmest. Inspired by the play of opposites found in February – from winter’s darkness to inner light – our team dipped below the surface to find connection this Valentine’s Day with Frost & Bloom, an unlikely Valentine’s soiree in Philadelphia.
Held on Tuesday at the centuries-old Mask and Wig Club, the evening featured dishes from chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby of Vedge Restaurant and Greg Vernick of Vernick Food & Drink, along with cocktails by Vedge Beverage Director Ross Maloof. It was a Valentine’s Day celebration meant to be shared and savored, and to bring the local community together — celebrating a broader spirit of love.
“This is the opposite of hearts and roses,” Kate told us ahead of the event. “Valentine’s Day gets old year after year, so this will be something different. I’m excited about the space, too. It feels so historic in the city, and it really captures a good vibe in Philadelphia…It’s old and treasured and haunting. Plus, it’s off the beaten path. Cooking outside of the restaurant is always fun.”
We spoke to Rich and Kate all about their unlikely take on Valentine’s Day and what love — and hospitality and community — mean to them.
Kate was actually a customer at Vedge when she first met Rich. One summer she asked for a job, and by the end of the season she had fallen hard — for the restaurant, the work, and for Rich. She was in it for the long haul.
The two are co-owners of Vedge, but they deliberately keep their roles and responsibilities distinct. Rich heads up the savory kitchen, while Kate is the pastry chef and oversees front-of-house operations as the GM. Rich says that staying out of each other’s way is the secret to their success.
Like many couples in the industry, Kate and Rich don’t celebrate a traditional Valentine’s Day — they’re always working in the restaurant that night. Instead, Rich says, “We serve the people who are coming out for a special occasion.”
“Kate and I are very lucky. We’ve been together for 15 years, and we celebrate our relationship every day of our lives. On Valentine’s Day we show love for other people by cooking for them.”
Frost & Bloom
Living and running a business together, there is little separation between work and play — and Kate and Rich see no need for it. Their work at Vedge is truly their passion; not just the food, but the plant-based food mission, too. “I don’t think we ever tire of talking about it,” Rich says.
For Tuesday’s event, the Vedge team prepared a number of passed items: marinated beets with yuzu and mint; jerk spiced carrots with rutabaga fondue; and deviled turnips, to name a few. Larger dishes to share included sweet potato with tahini and charred onion, along with celery root “cacao e pepe.” The biggest crowd pleaser though were the mini mud pies with a chocolate-chicory crust topped with BBQ pecans. Building the beautifully unconventional menu has allowed them to turn the traditional Valentine’s Day celebration on its head in a thoughtful and creative way.
“You think about romantic food and Valentine’s Day, and people think of an old-school Italian restaurant — the spaghetti with the long strand where you meet in the middle and kiss. With this menu, you feel romantic and sexy when you’re done. It’s energizing, invigorating food designed to tantalize the senses and make you want more.”
Plus, Kate says, the Frost & Bloom theme captures the essence of winter, which is a perfect reflection of what they do at Vedge. As a vegetarian restaurant, their menu changes seasonally, with side dishes highlighting produce at its peak. “It’s amazing the range that we have, including humble things like rutabaga. If you work with them right, they are delicious.”
The menu is an elegant representation of the way Rich and Kate approach their work in the restaurant as a whole — it’s constantly changing, evolving, surprising, and reinventing itself.
“That’s part of the charm of this industry: it’s so diverse, and every day presents something different. Every day there’s something new and beautiful to share,” says Kate. “We’ve been fortunate that our journey along the way has been very complementary. We’ve both been able to grow as individuals and build the restaurant, and we never take that for granted.”
A Deeper Connection
Both Rich and Kate were born and raised in Philadelphia, and they are quick to call it one of the best dining cities in the Northeast. “We have eaten at every notable restaurant in New York and Washington, but Philly has something magical going on,” says Rich.
He credits the city’s unique culinary landscape to the many chef/owners who have opened restaurants in the area — small, BYOB concepts that don’t cost a fortune to visit. In the more intimate setting, Rich says, a deeper connection is forged between chefs and guests.
“Philadelphians have a proprietary attitude towards their chefs — the chefs are their friends and neighbors, and they’re in the restaurant. There’s a sense of community and family, and it’s made the food that much better.”