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DINEinBoulder: Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

leaf1Before I dive into my story, I should explain: Leaf is a vegetarian restaurant here in Boulder that focuses on using fresh, local ingredients (and they even have their own farm, Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette, CO to supply the food). Three Leaf Farm provides food to not only Leaf, but also to other Boulder-area restaurants such as The Chautauqua Dining Hall, The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Aji Latin American Restaurant, and The Boulder Tea Company.

I should also explain that I have a horrible food allergy to eggplant.

On my first visit to Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, I went with my man and two of our closest friends, who are vegetarians. I made sure to inform our waitress of my allergy. I mean, I told her UP FRONT about this. Not sure how much more clear I could have been. After being served our food and three bites into my main course, I felt my throat swell as the hacking began. We called over the server, told her what was going on, and asked her to find out from the chef what was in the mushroom pocket that I was eating. Of course, there was eggplant. When we reminded the waitress that I was allergic, she looked at us and snarled, “It’s only 1/8 of a cup.” That was it. No comp, no apology, and no return call from a manager when I telephoned the following day.

So I boycotted Leaf. For four years.

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Image courtesy of Flickr

Recently, a longtime friend, Sarah Lauerman Felder, was in town. Sarah is a vegan blogger and yogi. I was excited to show her around Boulder and to show her and her husband that they could basically eat out anywhere. On their own, they went to Leaf and posted the most beautiful photos of their meals. After they had left town, I decided to give veganism a try for one week. This started my #weekofvegan on Instagram, where I found myself at Leaf once more.

The service was 500% better the second time around and the food is OUT OF THIS WORLD. The Zucchini Pad Thai was warm, delicious, and beautiful to look at. The Beet Perogis are a work of art. Then there is the Crispy Salt & Pepper Hominy; seasoned just right—a vegan junk food, for sure.

Rachel Best, the Executive Chef at Leaf, combines the fresh foods from Three Leaf Farm with her own personal simplicity to make simply stunning dishes. Prior to her position at Leaf, she took a break from the kitchen and worked for the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Africa. There she worked in agroforestry and taught classes on sustainable agriculture practices in her village.

The chef certainly demonstrated her creativity and knowledge of food each time that I was there. As I previously mentioned, I have an eggplant allergy. I also have food sensitivities to almonds and avocados as well as an allergy to strawberries. Chef Rachel was able to custom-tailor my meal with these sensitivities in mind, in one instance switching avocado mousse out with zucchini mousse instead, specifically for me.

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia

I ate at Leaf three times during my #weekofvegan and never left disappointed or hungry. When my Paleo-man and I went out to Aji for our date night, they let me order off the Leaf menu. How many restaurants will let you do that?

Not surprisingly, Leaf was recently named one of The 21 Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurants in America by Thrillist.com.

If you’d like more information on Three Leaf Farm, check out their website in the link above. They host a variety of workshops (like herbal medicine, pickling, and mead making just to name a few) and have lots of useful recipes on their site.

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