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CHOW HOUND: Just for the health of it

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Andrea Parros moved to Rochester from her native Boston to open The Owl House in 2010, and when she left that restaurant, Parros says that some people asked her whether she'd head back east. Those people can find the answer to that question at the corner of Park and Oxford, where Parros recently debuted her warm, charming new vegan place, The Red Fern. '"I love it here!" Parros says of Rochester. "I love the people, and I love the sense of community."

This service-industry veteran also loves a challenge, and creating vegan food in a restaurant setting will test even the most committed culinary professional. But having been diagnosed with allergies to both dairy and wheat several years ago, Parros has had plenty of time to tinker with recipes. "I'd like people to eat our food and not even notice that anything's missing. It's so exciting to make things that people don't realize are vegan," she says.

Vegan food, for the three or four of you who might not know, contains no animal-derived products whatsoever, so Parros makes up for their absence with proteins like tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based products, as well as dairy substitutes like coconut milk and cashew cheese. The Red Fern's gluten-free baked mac n' cheese ($10) is especially impressive: creamy, comforting, and with a cheddar-esque bite, while the ABLT ($8.75) — the A is for avocado — smacks of summer with hints of lemon, basil, and umami-rich roasted tomatoes.

The Red Fern also offers breakfast all day, along with salads, snacks, smoothies, and freshly squeezed juices, and it will soon be the only restaurant in town with kombucha on tap. The wines are biodynamic, and beerwise there's "a gluten-free bottle or two," Parros says, along with a couple of microbrews on tap. (Plus, of course, cans of Genny.)

But the first thing you see upon descending into The Red Fern is a display case full of baked goods, and after one lush bite of the mint-Oreo layer cake, or the salted-caramel cupcake, you will neither notice nor even care that butter, milk, and eggs are off the proverbial table. Says Parros, "I want to teach people that vegan food doesn't mean sawdust."

The Red Fern is located at 283 Oxford St. It is open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Food prices range from $2.50 to $10. For more information, including catering and wholesale prices, call 563-7633 or visit redfernrochester.com.

The paleo era

As she doled out samples of beef jerky, chatted with customers, and manned her food truck, Shaina Sidoti bounced around with all the energy of a Tigger. So when she pauses to mention that she lost 60 pounds and alleviated her arthritis symptoms by following a paleo diet, one that eschews such things as dairy, grains, and refined foods in favor of meats and vegetables, you can't help but pay attention.

Sidoti recently quit her day job to devote her time to Effortlessly Healthy, the paleo and gluten-free food truck that she co-owns with Scott Baker. Not only can you track down the truck for a tasty, wholesome bite to eat (or possibly some of that killer jerky), but Effortlessly Healthy can come to you. Sidoti and Baker offer nicely priced paleo meal packages for anyone interested in healthy, controlled-portion eating, delivering freshly prepared food two times a week.

Visit Effortlessly Healthy as part of the 24th Annual Family & Fitness Fair on Thursday, October 10, at the Dome Arena, and check out peaceloveeatpaleo.com, click over to Effortlessly Healthy's Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter at @eatpaleoroc. 

Quick bites

Over the next couple of months Cure, 50 Public Market, will partner with local wine aficionados to host a series of four-course pairing dinners focused on a particular varietal, appellation, or region. Topics include "California Dreaming" on October 17 and "Offbeat Appellations of France" on October 24. Tickets are $85 per person, including tax and gratuity, and with only around 14 seats available for each 6:30 p.m. dinner, reservations are a must. Get more information by calling 563-7941 or visiting curebar.net.

Treat yourself to a preview of the chefs of tomorrow when Monroe Community College's Hospitality Department kicks off its International Cuisine lunch series at Reflections, 1000 E. Henrietta Road, Building 3, Fridays through December 6. Among the upcoming themes are Spain and Portugal on October 11, Germany on October 18, and Southeast Asia on November 8. The price is $15 for a multi-course prix fixe, and seatings are at 11:30 a.m., noon, and 12:30 p.m. For further details, as well as reservations, call 292-FOOD.

On Thursday, October 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Tap & Table, 284 Exchange Blvd. in Corn Hill Landing, the Rochester Blogger Network will present Bloggers Offline: Beer & Artisan Cheese Pairing Social with Amy Ellsworth, a/k/a the Craft Beer Girl. The $15 price includes three pairings, and tickets can be purchased at the bar. Visit rochesterbloggernetwork.blogspot.com for more info.

The Genesee Brew House, 25 Cataract St., understands that October is an excellent time to gorge on beer and sausages. So that's why it's celebrating ROCtoberfest on Saturday, October 12, 3-8 p.m. Attendees (over 21, naturally) can expect a German-themed party featuring live music and dancing, beer, nibbles, and prizes. Visit geneseebeer.com/brew-house to learn more.

Openings

New to Corn Hill Landing (and in the old New Taj space) is Harvest Café, serving a full breakfast menu as well as soups, sandwiches, salads, and, of course, coffee. Visit harvest-cafe.com for more, or call 730-4604.

Sugar Mountain Bake Shoppe recently opened a spot in the Mall at Greece Ridge to serve all of your west-side cupcake needs. Check out sugarmountainbakeshoppe.com.

Closings

Acanthus Café, formerly at 337 East Avenue, has closed after a year and a half in business.

Warfield's High Point, found in the Constellation Brands building in Victor, is closed. The Clifton Springs location remains open (and delicious!).

Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to food@rochester-citynews.com.

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