Recently I read an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about vegetarian Lauren Urbschat who noticed a lack of something one Sunday night: vegetarian food at restaurants. While she cooks a great deal herself, she wanted to go out. So, she went to a neighborhood place that holds concerts and does serve food (but not on Sunday night I guess?) and asked if they could open the kitchen for her. The owner of Brillobox complied and something called “Sunday Night Suppers” was born. She buys ingredients from a Co-op, charges a certain amount per plate, and uses the kitchen to cook each meal. With what the restaurant takes in monetarily, they pay her an hourly wage. She writes on her Yinzhungry blog and often posts the recipes.

I like this for many reasons. One, it’s about vegetarian food, and when I go back to Pittsburgh, I notice through the City Paper and restaurants guides that there is a severe lack of veg. spots. Luckily, I love to cook and prefer to do so when I’m at home. Two, it shows how businesses can be flexible and welcoming to patrons in a really different manner. I think it also illustrates the success of the “Just ask” advice when you want something. Three, it’s about bringing people together, which is what I love to do as well, via parties, Crafts and Crumbs, barbecues at our old place. Where would all those people be on Sunday nights otherwise? Not enjoying “home-cooked” vegetarian meals at a place called Brillobox. When I have get-togethers, I often think how none of these people would be hanging out and talking at this moment, or eating the food I probably spent 24+ hours preparing. Everyone goes home well-fed, and they potentially met some new people and had good conversation. For me, that is meaningful, satisfying, priceless.

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Switching gears a little, while Lauren brought home-cooked vegetarian meals to a restaurant, Ian and I (tonight) brought a restaurant meal to our home. And no, I don’t mean take-out. I’m talking Chili’s! Yes, the chain restaurant. This afternoon, Ian was talking about salad and I reminisced about a salad I had at Chili’s last summer. We were visiting his brother and fiance at the time, and the neighborhood they live in has many of the usual chain restaurant offerings. After you live in New York for a while, you get used to NEVER eating at those places, even though they do exist. (For the record, the only Chili’s here are at the airports) When you do dine at them, it’s a whole new experience, and sometimes you find yourself laughing at a lot of it. Pieces of flair, brightly colored drinks, big flashy menus, strange decor, funny waitress uniforms, etc. At Chili’s, I ordered a salad called the “Quesadilla Explosion.” The main reason I ordered it was so that I could say, “I’ll have the Quesadilla Explooooooosion.” I loved the sound of it and couldn’t resist. Try saying it like that! I mean, why would you order the Caesar Salad or Southwestern Cobb, when you can order the Quesadilla Exploooooosion! Exactly. We were going to order Electric Lemonades and Calypso Coolers, but were already too giggly. I couldn’t stop saying Quesadilla Exploooooosion!!!!

The salad was amazing, and with 2410 mg of sodium and 48 grams of fat (BEFORE the vinagrette), it had better be. Anyway, while discussing it tonight, I said, “Let’s make it. Let’s buy all the ingredients and make it.” So, that’s what we did. Ingredients: lettuce, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese, chipotle ranch, orange balsamic vinagrette, tortilla chips, cheese quesadillas, breaded chicken, cilantro. Instead of chicken, we bought fake chicken that I breaded and fried, and used regular ranch dressing. In addition, I made the vinagrette from scratch after finding a recipe online. Then we bought some Mike’s Hard Lemonade to add some class to the Chili’s derived dinner.

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Suffice it to say, our Quesadilla Explooooooosion was amazingly good, and I’m really proud of our vegetarian-adapted version. Ian was skeptical about mixing ranch dressing and the orange vinagrette, but that was one of my favorite parts about the original salad. We each had two big bowls of it, and are now happily having some stomach explooooooooosions. 🙂