Dishes like those two put the Barbary Fig on many vegetarians' and vegans' lists of favorite restaurants, something I don't entirely understand: While a preparation like the tajine of lentils (a bowl of white beans and chickpeas tossed with parsley, dressed with a mint-dill-yogurt sauce and served on a bed of cracked wheat, $6.95) is good and healthful, I'd have been happier with a vegetarian dish using those wonderful chunks of stewed sun-dried apples. But what do I know? My instincts would also have suggested that most metro diners by now would have figured out couscous--after all, it's essentially just tiny pasta.

But progress, albeit slow, is coming. "When I made the dessert with the honey and lavender--people did not want to touch the lavender for years and years," Hadj recalls. "They said: 'We wash with that!' I said: 'You can eat it, it's okay--nothing's going to happen to you.' It took years and years, but it became a signature of the Barbary Fig, and if I stopped serving it, those same people who didn't want to eat it would be very upset."

 

Kristine Heykants

Location Info

Map

Barbary Fig

720 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

Category: Restaurant > Health

Region: Macalester/Groveland

TABLEHOPPING

STOP THE PRESSES! Vegetarians are always asking me where they should eat, and I always recommend the downtown Minneapolis Table of Contents--and then they look at me dubiously because it's not a vegetarian restaurant. As though I'm hiding the real vegetarian restaurants from them! I mean, hey, don't look over there--it's Chez Magnifique, the restaurant that spins flax into foie gras! I said don't look!

In fact, Table of Contents (1310 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., (612) 339-1133) features a vegetarian appetizer and a vegetarian entrée every single night, and the dishes get the same attention as the rest of chef Philip Dorwart's carefully executed menu. Recent selections have included pink-peppercorn blintzes filled with goat cheese and spinach, served with a grilled red-onion vinaigrette; a three-polenta napoleon with portobello mushrooms, Gorgonzola, and oven-dried tomatoes topped with parsley juice and curry oil; and a lime-leaf-scented couscous with grilled vegetables, pink-peppercorn mozzarella, and a tomato-saffron coulis. (Most vegetarian entrées tend to cost around $12.) You might have noticed the recurring pink-peppercorn theme--Dorwart says he likes those in vegetarian dishes because "They're really fruity with no real heat to them, they go well with wines and bring out that spicy fruit flavor. We try to hit all our marks with our vegetarian food--presentation, quality, compatibility with other foods and especially with wine. We're trying to disprove that vegetarian food has to be bland." Vegans, Dorwart says, are accommodated with a smorgasbord of various vegetable items on the menu: "We actually love to do it," he says. "It gives you something different to think about."

Dorwart and I chatted about various other things--like those omnipresent ToC billboards featuring his laughing face: "I've gotten more shit from that billboard than I could shake a stick at," groans Dorwart. "All of a sudden I'm driving into Uptown and there's an 8-by-12-foot picture of me staring down, and then all my friends are like: Jesus Christ, I can't get away from you, it's disgusting!" Then he offered a scoop. "What is it?" I screeched. Look for a new Table of Contents venture somewhere on the Minneapolis side of the Minneapolis-Edina border opening this October! And no, it won't be called Table 3. "We're going to name it something different, it will have more of a brasserie feel, and be a little more accessible. Think of it as melding Table 1 and 2 and throwing in some Lucia's." Watch this space for further info.

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