Asking around before making assumptions is good business

To the editor:

Greetings from another voice in the local vegetarian community. Contrary to the claims of a letter dated Feb. 19, I, for one, have been contentedly eating in Lake Placid restaurants since 2010, when I moved to the North Country from such veggie-friendly cities as Minneapolis, Edinburgh and San Francisco. (Not coincidentally, all three were considerably more populated, yielding a much higher demand for tofu and seitan – which I never expected to find quite as readily available when I moved to the Adirondacks.) While there are a number of friendly and accommodating restaurants in Lake Placid, including Ashley’s Cafe for an award-winning breakfast and Lisa G’s for a renowned evening meal, the letter’s most grievous oversight was clearly Main Street’s entirely vegetarian Good Bite Kitchen, which opened last July. For those vegetarians (including vegans) who have not yet discovered this local treasure, let me give you a brief introduction to what you’re missing.

The Good Bite’s signature appetizer is a dish of home-roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds: tasty, tidy,= and immediately filling, enough to get you through that half-a-minute wait while your tangy mixed-green salad is being tossed and freshly dressed. This is only the beginning of your feast of vegan protein. Bite into those mixed greens, and your palate will be delighted by the delicate texture combination of avocados (an excellent vegan source of healthy fats), pine nuts (packed with protein and calcium), marinated red bell peppers (hello, vitamins) and the chef’s own dairy-free chipotle dressing. This is no ordinary, slap-some-mealy-tomatoes-on-top-of-a-pile-of-lettuce salad. This is a treat.

Nor is the house salad anywhere near the mainstay of Good Bite fare. Chef and proprietor Kate Billerman – who studied cooking at the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Colo., specializing in vegetarian cuisine – changes her menu daily to keep her loyal locals from getting bored or malnourished. Far from it. Having been cooking myself perfectly satisfactory vegetarian meals since 1993, I can honestly say I have never enjoyed vegetarianism quite as consistently as I have at the Good Bite. Billerman has a great imagination as well as a solid knowledge of cooking and nutrition. Her main dishes have ranged from falafel sandwiches and pot pies to spicy noodle salads and the best Cornish pasty (“hand pie”) I’ve ever tasted outside of Wales. This is a far cry from a thin slice of portabella on a piece of bread (though for me that dreaded ingredient would definitely be black olives). Vegan and gluten-free options abound. The focus is on fresh, seasonal, locally sourced foods – an ethic consistent with most of the veganism I’ve encountered. A compost-able spoon costs you nothing. Recent imports may also want to note that the Good Bite also offers Sunday brunch.

I would encourage local vegans to do a little more poking around on Main Street – and talking to folks, not just at the high-end hotels but on the actual sidewalk – before assuming there’s nothing good for a vegan to eat in Lake Placid. Maybe we’ll bump elbows over a reasonably priced Moroccan lentil soup sometime.

Trina-Maria Baird

Saranac Lake