Friday, November 7, 2014

Where We Eat: The Corner Store

I have to admit that what initially drew me to The Corner Store, located in historic downtown Plant City, was their bold and memorable motto and their brand new brunch menu (only four weeks old) which has consistently included vegan biscuits and gravy.

The motto, EAT WELL OR DIE, represents a number of The Corner Store’s most important philosophies. First and foremost, it signifies the emphasis that The Corner Store places on healthy eating. The shop embraces a slow food philosophy that supports local agriculture and offers fresh alternatives for eating and living. This means that their menu is full of gluten free, vegan, fresh, sustainable, organic and eco-friendly food items. Another philosophy of the shop is their belief in environmentally friendly actions. The Corner Store uses recycled materials, practices composting, cleans with natural cleaners, and hosts guest speakers and events that are designed to promote a healthy earth. EAT WELL OR DIE, if you aren’t responsible in the way you eat, the chemicals you clean with and how you dispose of your waste, we all die. A third philosophy of the store is their belief in fair wages and safe working conditions. If you pay your employees appropriately, they have the opportunity to eat well. You pay them poorly, they eat poorly which can lead to a whole slew of health-related problems later in life.

J-Fur, Z-Bot and I visited The Corner Store last Saturday because that’s the day they serve brunch. Aside from being a small cafe/restaurant The Corner Store also serves as a coffee/tea shop, bakery, specialty grocery store, deli and caterer. We skipped all of that, as well as the paper menu at the register, when we entered. We just went straight to the ordering window in back. No offense, but we came for the brunch. This week’s brunch included biscuits and gravy, both vegan and regular, and mixed berry waffles. J-Fur ordered a waffle and I purchased the vegan biscuits and
gravy. From the kid's menu, we ordered Z-Bot a grilled cheese sandwich.

The first to arrive was the grilled cheese. Immediately I noticed the pride that the staff takes in their work as the sandwich was beautifully presented. The grill marks were perfectly arranged, the bread flattened in a way that only an expert bread flattener could manage and the cheese filled right up to the edge of the bread spilling just slightly over. The sandwich was served alongside fresh oranges and grapes.

Next to arrive were my biscuits and gravy with chunks of seitan sausage. I’ve had some really awesome experiences with seitan and some not so pleasant ones. On this day, I had neither. The seitan sausage didn’t make me oogle with delight nor did it make me cringe. That, to me, is the true sign of a nicely blended dish. If it doesn’t stand out, that is a good thing. The gravy and sausage was layered on thick atop a few biscuits. How was it? Pretty good. It was better than about 85 percent of the food that is specifically labeled vegan in the area. My only complaint, it could’ve been a bit warmer. The fresh fruit that was served alongside (watermelon, cantaloupe, orange) had a lot of flavor. It definitely didn’t seem like the kind of fruit I leave the grocery store with. It had too much taste for that.

              Biscuits, Seitan Sausage and Gravy

Our final number was the waffle. The waffle itself was vegan although it was to come with a homemade whipped cream which most likely was not vegan. J-Fur isn’t into the cream thing so we
didn’t even bother to inquire about it, just asked it off. I thought the waffle tasted fine and all but it wasn’t until I added the berry mixture that it really seemed to dazzle. A nice blend of sweet and tart, the berry mixture tickled quite a few of my various tastebuds. J-Fur detected a hint of lemon and she
isn’t that much of a fan of lemon and berries (although she detected lemon tonight in a loaf of sourdough bread so I’m beginning to wonder…).

All in all, I was quite pleased with what I ate at The Corner Store. I’m not sure that I would visit at
any time other than brunch considering a lot of their sandwiches have meat or just don’t inspire
me. But I will definitely be back for the brunch. I’m hoping that over time it continues to be a popular endeavor and maybe expands to a few other vegan items so I can leave feeling even more stuffed than I did this week. The nice thing, for those of us who live far away, The Corner Store has been posting their brunch menu on their Facebook page a few days in advance so you can make necessary
arrangements. This week’s vegan option is a breakfast enchilada with vegan cheese sauce. If it wasn’t for Tampa Veg Fest, I’d probably be making a return trip to give those little Mexican bad boys a whirl.

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If “River” by Bay Uno was a restaurant, it would definitely be something like The Corner Store. The track’s laid-back, swooning sound and folky lyricism make it seem perfect for nature hikes in the woods or strapping oneself to a humpback whale in order to protect it from the fishing industry. In short, it seems perfectly at home with matters of the Earth. “River” comes from Bay
Uno’s first album which is due out in 2015.