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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hartford Good Guy: Fire N Spice

The Hartford Food Guy reviews Fire N Spice

I had Friday off, but because Mrs. HFG had to work I was again on my own. Just because my wife is working, however, doesn’t mean she doesn’t provide me with a delicious meal. While that usually means her leaving something good in the refrigerator, yesterday it meant taking her advice and checking out Fire -n- Spice on Sisson Avenue in Hartford (a couple of doors south of the relatively well known Half Door pub).

FNS is a very different type of place, especially for the HFG, because it is one of the very few vegan restaurants in the area. The HFG is a carnivore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate at least some of what vegan cooking is about. As I wrote while Mrs. HFG and I were London, you don’t have to be a tree-hugger to appreciate fresh food that isn’t loaded with preservatives and other chemicals.

FNS is also probably different than most vegan restaurants because it specializes in Jamaican and other Caribbean dishes. In fact, when you walk into FNS you seen an eclectic mix of pictures, paintings, and wall-hangings that are about half the earthy crunchy stuff you’d expect in a vegan place and about half what you’d expect to see in a place that serves food from the West Indies (including several portraits of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia and the person whom Rastafarians believe is the Messiah).

One of the interesting things about FNS is that there are menu items you have to pre-order well in advance because they take so long to prepare. My visit was definitely impromptu, so I was limited to the buffet items they have ready if you walk in off the street.

I had the 5 dish special ($10.95), which allowed me to choose 5 items from the buffet. After some deliberation, I picked the jerked tofu; yellow curried potatoes; red beans and rice; a stew based around beans, peas, and sweet potatoes; and mixed veggies with carrots and red and green peppers; and what seemed to be shallots or leeks. Like all good organic food, all five dishes were fresh, with very strong and clean flavor profiles.

Jerked tofu was a very different experience, but a very good one. I’ve had jerked chicken, pork, and even goat, but jerked tofu is different because of the big difference in texture. That said, the jerked seasoning was powerful and had tons of flavor – exactly as it ought to be.

The yellow curried potatoes also packed a pretty good punch. I don’t know that it was up to the standards you’d find in a good Indian restaurant, but it was delicious nonetheless.

The stew was outstanding. Most stews are based around some sort of flesh and bone, which gives it so much of its flavor (and which it is why it takes so long to stew). This stew, of course, didn’t have any meat but it still had a good rich flavor that was offset quite nicely by the sweet potatoes. (Here’s a hint, the red beans and rice were on my plate to soak up the stew :>).

The mixed veggies were also very good, with plenty of fresh crunch, as well as a good flavor from some sort of marinade.

For desert I had sweet potato pudding, which was the consistency of a thick flan. The taste was pretty subtle, but very nice and a good way to end a delicious meal. I also had a whole foods ginger ale, for a total tab of $15.95. It wasn’t cheap, but it was delicious.

FNS also offers vegan cooking classes, as well as a catering service. The HFG isn’t going to give up eating meat, but he will go back to Fire -n- Spice. Here’s the link to the website - http://www.firenspiceveganrestaurant.com/

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