Friday, July 13, 2007

Oddfellas Cantina, an unexpected treat

This past Saturday, a friend and I went to the Wine Down the Musical Trail wine festival along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Despite some subpar directions that had us backtracking to find the correct turn more than once, it was a great day. After the festival, we went to nearby Floyd, Va., for dinner. I had found a place online, Oddfellas Cantina, that boasted tamarind tofu on its menu. Alas, when we got there, the actual menu was very different from what was posted on their Web site. I hate that!

However, they did have a dish of tofu in an Oriental brown sauce, so I "settled" for that. It turned out to be absolutely divine, with an unusual, wonderful sauce whose flavors I couldn't quite pin down. Probably some soy sauce, possibly some plum sauce, something slightly spicy, maybe even some tamarind. It was sweet and savory at the same time, and I wished I could have the recipe to take home. I only just managed to avoid licking the plate. It was served with rice and the vegetable of the day, steamed broccoli with a hint of a tangy, vinegary marinade.

What made it extra-special was that it was so unexpected to find a restaurant serving tofu in a town with 432 people and directions that referred to "the" stoplight in town. The restaurant is small and packed with tables (you might feel as if you're dining with the people at the table next to yours), and seemed to be a popular spot in town. We were told that we had an hour and 15 minutes at our table -- I'd never been given a time limit at a restaurant before, so that was a bit odd, although we finished well within the time limit. There was a live band playing, including a harpist, which made for a pleasant dining accompaniment. We wanted to get some of the yummy-sounding desserts, but we were just too full.

Have you ever found a gem of a restaurant or a vegetarian dish where you least expected it?

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