Liquid Earth: an oasis for vegetarians

October 03, 2002|By Robin Tunnicliff | Robin Tunnicliff,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When artist Mike Lippy moved to Baltimore from Brooklyn, N.Y., in the mid-1990s, he was dismayed by the dearth of vegetarian restaurants here. In the view of this avowed vegetarian, "There was no place to eat."

Necessity thus became the mother of invention, and Lippy found himself on a new career path. He and his wife, Antonette, bought a brick building in Fells Point and gave the first floor over to a restaurant for other underserved, overlooked vegetarians.

There aren't that many of them. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, the number of vegetarian adults in the United States is 4.8 million, about 2.5 percent of the population.

"You're not going to get rich being in a vegetarian restaurant in Baltimore," Lippy acknowledged with a slight sigh in a phone conversation.

Whether this is true or not, Liquid Earth has managed to stay alive for six years. And for good reason. In the midst of the bar-hopping madness that is Fells Point, the Lippys have created a peaceful, pretty oasis with good, fresh food and a wide range of fresh-squeezed juices that can be fortified with extras such as lecithin ("soy derivative that works as brain food") and bee pollen ("great for quick burst of energy").

For a more decadent burst of energy, Antonette Lippy's homemade vegan triple-layer chocolate cake is tough to surpass. The velvety, deep-brown cake is chocolate to the core, and so are each of the layers of grainy fudge frosting. Lippy understands the importance of balance, evidenced by her thinly spreading the frosting so the taste of the cake sings through. It was one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever had.

Against less imposing competition, the blueberry lemon cake would have been outstanding. It was quite good - a moist, citrusy pound cake laced with bits of blueberries for texture.

After more than a year of being dragged to places where animal products rule, Cathy the vegetarian was thrilled to be among kindred spirits. She did not have to go into her usual litany of questions about whether anything contained meat or poultry or fish, or endure the blank stares that often follow.

So, it was only fair that her choices were the best. First up was a fruit tomato bean soup, served with a warm slab of crusty bread. Next, she wolfed down an excellent casserole of rigatoni drenched with a spicy, rich tomato sauce, accompanied by a small, sprout-dusted garden salad. To chase it all down, she ordered a brain teaser, a tart swirl of Granny Smith apple juice, ginger, red cabbage and lecithin.

My meal kicked off on a high note. A hearty, mildly spiced lentil soup offered an unusual and appealing combination of lentils, spinach and carrots. But things slipped when a portobello sandwich arrived. The ingredients were in place: a marinated mushroom, sprouts, tomato, avocado, lentil tapenade and provolone cheese. Nothing had much taste, though. Nor did the side salad have enough dressing.

A fruit salad was a letdown, also. The melon wedges, apples, bananas, orange slices and pears were certainly ripe enough. But a small dollop of plain yogurt was not strong enough to tie everything together.

Given the ways a restaurant can fail, Liquid Earth's flaws seem easy to fix. To its credit, it does more things well than not; it's one of Baltimore's few totally vegetarian restaurants, and service is genuinely solicitous.

Liquid Earth

Where: 1626 Aliceanna St., Baltimore

Open: For breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday; breakfast and lunch on Sunday

Prices: Appetizers $3 to $4; entrees $5.50 to $7.95

Credit cards: Cash only

Call: 410-276-6606

Food: * * *

Service: * * * 1/2

Atmosphere: * * * 1/2

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