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Food & Drink

It’s Only Natural: A Culinary Passport

July 13, 2011 8:00 AM

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(credit: Susan Hayes)

(credit: Susan Hayes)

By Susan Hayes

itsonlynatural diningroom It’s Only Natural: A Culinary Passport

(credit: Susan Hayes)

Creative, ethnically diverse dishes encompass the menu at It’s Only Natural in Middletown. This vegetarian enclave attracts me, time and time again, not only for the food, which is always interesting and delicious, but the artistic atmosphere.  You rub elbows with professors and students, as it is a few blocks away from ultra-liberal Wesleyan university in Middletown. Local artist’s work covers the already colorful walls, kitschy vintage salt and pepper shakers decorate the eclectic dining room tables, along with a bottle of hot sauce and hand knit items, jewelry and their own baked good are available for purchase by the entrance.

I love the eccentricity of the place, part fifties kitchen, part art gallery and part sixties commune pretty much sums it up. Recently my daughter and I popped in for lunch and started with their home baked whole grain bread with carrot spread, their answer to butter.  It used to be complimentary, but, while a bit pricy, we considered the splurge worthwhile. The creamy carrot spread surprises even the skeptic with a flavor you crave, but can’t quite pinpoint.  Other starters included decent vegetarian chili, not too spicy, layered with flavor, as well as seasonal soups. The list goes on, but I always favor the Asian dumplings with their delicate dipping sauce.

Main course choices take you on an international journey from Mexico, through regions of the United States, especially the Deep South, hopping across the pond to Poland and forging across the continent to Asia.  Order the sweet potato burrito and you are given the option of adorning it with vegan cheese and sour cream.

My personal favorite is the tender potato piorogies served with apple butter, but the fried samosas are addictive as well.  A macrobiotic plate in always on this ultra-varied menu along with a daily list of enticing specials. On this visit, I ordered the special on the day, barbecued seitan with red cabbage slaw, sweet potato wedges and braised greens. This southern comfort food achieved perfect balance with the tangy slaw, sweet but vinegary barbecue sauce and tender spiced sweet potatoes. My daughter ordered their veggie burger, a perennial favorite. No frozen store bought veggie burger here. This was served on their toasted whole grain bread with a side of extra crispy sweet potato fries.

itsonlynatural dish It’s Only Natural: A Culinary Passport

(credit: Susan Hayes)

Desserts include old favorites and ample selections for vegans.  We split a slice of carrot cake atop a plate swirled with strawberry sauce.  The cake was moist and satisfying without being cloyingly sweet.  Our sweet tooth had been satiated.

It’s Only Natural may be a jump out of your comfort zone but well worth it!  Your taste buds will dance, your artistic spirit will be nourished and you will want to come back and see what’s new. ION, as those in the know call it, also offers an intriguing wine and beer selection, some organic, as well as wonderful teas, hot or iced, and a plethora of other outside of the ho hum beverage choices.  Service is friendly and dining is available on an outside deck, weather permitting.  They are open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.  Visit with an open mind and escape the mundane for a while.

It’s Only Natural
386 Main Street, # 106
Middletown, Connecticut, 06457-3362
Open Daily 11am-9pm
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Susan Hayes works at a local High School in her spare time, but her true passion lies in culinary pursuits, cooking gardening, blogging and discovering new dining spots.  Her work can be found at www.blackcatcookingchronicles.blogspot.com
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