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Flavors of Our Travels Brings Global Vegan Cuisine to Rutland County


Published November 15, 2022 at 2:18 p.m.
Updated November 16, 2022 at 10:23 a.m.

El General Steve's - JON OLENDER
  • Jon Olender
  • El General Steve's

Driving up Route 7 just north of Rutland, it's hard to miss the bright purple-and-orange sign on Flavors of Our Travels, a takeout-only vegan restaurant open Friday through Sunday.

The colors evoke the sunset that co-owners and partners Christian Cabrera, 31, and Katie Salomon, 30, see from their combination home and restaurant. They are "the colors of love," Cabrera said.

Like its building, Flavors of Our Travels stands out for the care and devotion the couple have invested in their food enterprise. It began with Cabrera and Salomon transitioning to a fully vegan diet in 2017, when family health issues encouraged them to be more mindful of what they were consuming. They started their business with small catering gigs and a farmers market stand.

Cabrera and Salomon began offering takeout in June 2021 to more widely share the food that nourished them. "We're healing through food in the best way we can," Salomon said. "We're trying to pass it on to the public."

The Flavors of Our Travels menu is vegan and also free of gluten, soy, peanuts, chemical additives, caffeine and alcohol. The couple cook without refined sugar and added salt, though customers can request a free packet of pink Himalayan salt with their order.

Most compelling about the food selection is not what it lacks but how vibrant and varied it is despite the omissions.

Katie Salomon and Christian Cabrera - JON OLENDER
  • Jon Olender
  • Katie Salomon and Christian Cabrera

From my first bite of El General Steve's ($16 lunch; $31 dinner), my taste buds were pleasantly surprised by the crispy, legume flour-battered cauliflower florets coated in a syrupy sauce that balanced sweet, sour and a little kick. I later learned that the best-selling dish was created by accident when Cabrera discovered that his best friend's hot sauce recipe made Flavors of Our Travels' cauliflower fritas taste like General Tso's. It did, in fact, hit every note of that Chinese American classic.

While neither Salomon nor Cabrera has formally studied cooking, Cabrera has worked in restaurants since he was 16. The pair, who have been together for 11 years, grew up in New Jersey, but Cabrera visited Vermont often as a child. In 2019, Salomon, Cabrera and his mother, Susan Kafka, fulfilled their dream of moving to the Green Mountain State and now run the restaurant together.

The menu takes inspiration from the couple's diverse backgrounds, which include Greek, Puerto Rican and Polish heritage. They joke that their two young children are "like the United Nations — so many flags."

The couple's multicultural experiences are reflected in dishes such as the Mercado de Englishtown taco ($7 each), featuring marinated portobello mushroom steak and onions. It resembles one Cabrera had at a New Jersey flea market when he was young. He credits this "most powerful food experience" with his realization that simple ingredients can taste delicious when put together the right way.

In addition to El General Steve's, I ordered the combo platter ($17 lunch; $33 dinner), which included more cauliflower and South Asian-style onion-and-leafy green fritters called tempura-pakora. The crisp shells of the latter yielded to a fluffy, richly flavored interior. Housemade maple hot sauce added a sweet-spicy touch.

The Kalamatianós vegan Greek Salad - JON OLENDER
  • Jon Olender
  • The Kalamatianós vegan Greek Salad

Ample portions came with a daily vegetable, such as creamed greens or sautéed kohlrabi, or a small Kalamatianós salad. I was impressed with the salad's creamy, cashew-based dressing, sweet with figs and tangy from cider vinegar.

The vinegar is among many locally sourced ingredients, and Cabrera and Salomon make nearly everything from scratch, including the freshly ground brown rice, black bean and mung bean flours used to batter fritters. They even sun-ferment and dry their own chile flakes using a Nepali method.

Jenny Davis-Boyd, a repeat customer who lives in Rutland, has been vegan for 16 years. "I love being able to try things that I've never tried before," she said by phone. Past favorites have included Polish-style pierogi and the Ague'zilla sushi roll made with spicy tahini "nayonnaise" and a mix of seasoned cashew and sunflower seeds substituted for spicy tuna. Flavors of Our Travels always nails compelling combinations of flavors and textures, she said.

I agree with Davis-Boyd. I tried being vegan during my first year of college but quickly grew bored of the options. I might have stuck with it if Cabrera and Salomon had been cooking nearby.

Flavors of Our Travels, 45 Sugarwood Hill Rd., Rutland, 908-675-6090, flavorsofourtravels.com

The original print version of this article was headlined "Nourishing Neighbors | Flavors of Our Travels brings global vegan cuisine to Rutland County"