1 year ago


The Orland Park Prairie 021617

26 | February 16, 2017 |

26 | February 16, 2017 | The orland park prairie dining out The Dish Vegan Cafe freed its owner from corporate shackles Lockport spot keeps old favorites, adds to extensive menu Erin Redmond, Assistant Editor Roughly 10 years ago, Marguerite Baltages-Ruminski was staring death in the face. Her corporate job, she told her husband, was going to kill her emotionally, spiritually or physically. She knew she had to get out. So, she traded her cubicle for kitchenware and started her own catering business, Healthy Sins. Fast-forward five years to the night the Homer Glen resident and her husband dropped into the Vegan Cafe, 928 S. State St. in Lockport, for dinner. As she was dining on the surprisingly scrumptious cuisine, a light bulb went off in Baltages-Ruminski’s head. She found out the cafe offered classes and decided to take a few as a way to expand her catering business. But when she found out the cafe was volunteerbased, it was game over. “I love to volunteer,” Baltages-Ruminski said. “I started volunteering so much that [then owner] Laurie Sloan approached me and said, ‘Do you want to buy it?’ I looked at her and said, ‘Are you nuts?’ ... Next thing I knew, I was signing the [paperwork].” Baltages-Ruminski still had her doubts, though. As she waited for Sloan to arrive the morning on Sept. 1, 2013, she asked her late father, who also owned a restaurant when she was growing up, for a sign she was doing the right thing. And then she heard the train whistle. “It’s 9 o’clock in the The Salisbury “steak” ($17.95) at the Vegan Cafe in Lockport is made from walnuts, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and onions, with a cascading mushroom gravy on top. The lunch special ($13), seen here, also comes with a garden salad and brownie bites. Photos by Erin Redmond/22nd Century Media morning,” she said, looking skyward and noting her father’s old restaurant was a half-block from the train station. “The train never goes by at 9 o’clock in the morning. It blew its horn, and I went, ‘OK, I got it. I never looked back.” A new era Baltages-Ruminski loved the cafe so much when she bought it that she did not want to change much — but she had to put her spin on it. The artwork on the walls and some of the traditional recipes remain the same, but she has introduced items like the Salisbury “steak” ($17.95; or $13 as a lunch special), which is made from walnuts, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and onions, and topped with a creamy — yet creamless — mushroom gravy. The lunch special is served between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday-Friday and includes a half order of any entrée, a garden salad with choice of garlic ginger or ranch dressing, and brownie bite. The creamy Alfredo pasta dish ($14.95 for small, $19,95 for large) is hands down Baltages-Ruminski’s favorite, though. The pasta features spiral-cut zucchini noodles, and the sauce is simply cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, herbs and traditional yeast, which gives it the cheesy flavor. It is topped with marinated mushrooms. “This is my absolute favorite,” Baltages-Ruminski said. “When I tried this, I could not believe it didn’t have cream in it.” As the owner of a vegan restaurant, Baltages-Ruminski said she is often faced with apprehension. Because of that, she tries to have something for everyone. When carnivores stroll through her door and take a seat at the leaf-shaped tables, she recommends the nachos. The taco “meat” is three simple ingredients: almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and Mexican seasoning. It is piled high atop non-GMO, organic, raw, vegan and gluten-free corn chips made in house. Guacamole is made from organic avocados, with a nacho drizzle — made from sunflower seeds and turmeric — that gives a yellow hue. A cashew, lemon juice and olive oil blended sour “cream” sauce ties it all together. “This is the healthiest you will eat anywhere, any time,” Baltages-Ruminski said. “I tell people to be open-minded and try it. I’ve had people go, ‘I’m afraid,’ and I go, ‘It’s food; there’s nothing to be afraid of.’ It’s not for everybody, and I know that. That’s OK.” The Vegan Cafe also serves ravioli. The noodles are made from jimicca and topped with marina sauce, made from rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes. And Baltages-Ruminski will not let customers leave with trying dessert. Hearty but healthy, Baltages-Ruminski offers desserts such as brownies, macaroons and the cafe’s signature almond butter pie ($8 per slice), made from almond butter that is ground on site and mixed with bananas and cinnamon, stuffed into a date and pecan crust, and slathered with chocolate ganache. “I always say, ‘You have to try the desserts; that’s going to put you over the edge,’” she said. On a mission Baltages-Ruminski’s interest in healthy foods did not happen by accident, and her mission is twofold — get healthier and give back. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly 20 years ago, and when her doctor told her that her numbers were “off the charts,” she knew it was time to make a change. She admits that she is still a “transitioning” vegan. She also has a nut allergy. So, sticking to her new diet can be tricky at times. Her restrictive eating requirements have inspired new dressings — such as the pumpkin seed cheese, made from pumpkin seeds, cilantro, garlic and ginger — so that others like her can enjoy what the restaurant has to offer. “As soon as I decided to go into this wholeheartedly, I feel so much different and so much better,” she said. “I don’t need a nap after I eat now.” The Vegan Cafe was a Vegan Cafe 928 S. State Street in Lockport Hours • 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday • 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday- Saturday • Closed Sunday (available for private parties) For more information ... Web: www. hsvegancafelockport. com Phone: (815) 838-4626 nonprofit when she bought it, and while she tried to uphold its status, Baltages-Ruminski said she’s doing “the next best thing.” All employees went from volunteers to paid employees, but she does not collect a salary. Instead, everything goes back to charities such as MorningStar Mission to help the homeless and animal rescues like TLC Animal Shelter. “Honestly, that’s why I do it,” Baltages-Ruminski said. “I got to a point in my life where I’m like, ‘Let’s have some fun,’ and it is. I love this. ... I wake up in the morning with a purpose.” life & arts the orland park prairie | February 16, 2017 | 27 ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ offers unique story, chaotic action Bill Jones, Editor The violence of “Hacksaw Ridge” is astounding. Much like the beach scenes of “Saving Private Ryan” for the first time, Mel Gibson’s latest as director drops viewers into a sensory overload the first time they see action. The cameras move around the battlefield in Okinawa much like the American combatants, determined but frantic, on a mission while trying to avoid the chaos of whizzing bullets, watching friends dropping left and right, lucky the explosions littering the battlefield don’t engulf them. And all of this in a movie about a pacifist. Andrew Garfield plays the real-life Desmond Doss in his second of two fantastic roles in 2016 — the other being a priest in Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.” He is not as conscientious objector, as he readily points out himself in the film. Rather, he supports the United States’ involvement in World War II and wants to serve his country as much, if not more, than anyone else he knows. He just refuses to pick up a gun, because his family and his beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist have taught him killing is wrong, no matter what. Instead, he wants to simply serve as a medic, trying to save lives while everyone else is working to take them. And the real Doss ended up carrying out a series of heroic feats that led to him being the first American to win a Medal of Honor without firing a weapon. The story is fascinating, in large part because of Garfield’s commitment to the character. From the very early days of his upbringing, dealing with his oftenvolatile World War I veteran of a father played by a spellbinding Hugo Weaving, it is clear there is something different about the younger Doss. He doesn’t approach life quite like anyone else, but his perseverance and calm demeanor make him endearing. As Doss, he is relentlessly affecting, and it gets the audience rooting for someone who might otherwise be seen as doing something incredibly dumb. And, as he proves to his brothers in arms, he is a character worth sticking with. Some may find it an oddity that a film about pacifism is so caught up in the spectacle of battle. But it is a necessary element. Only in seeing just how horrific the battlefield can be, how merciless its appetite for death, can we understand just what it means to have accomplished what Doss did. And it is important, too, that we see the chaos is not lost on him. He understands the potentially suicidal nature of what he signed up to do. It is the idea that only in such a hellish landscape could his values so truly be challenged, and only in seeing him stick to his proverbial (lack of) guns under such fire can we understand the depth of his convictions. Doss is a man of unwavering faith. It guides him into a terrible situation, it allows him to carry out actions no other man out there could and it is what sees him through to the other side. All of this is easily understood thanks to a brilliant performance by Garfield and wonderful direction by Gibson. Their own convictions, as they relate to the material, help excuse some of the heavy-handedness of the presentation and make “Hacksaw Ridge” something more than the hackneyed war story it may have appeared to be in its trailers. At the end of “Hacksaw Ridge,” we’re left with something not so easily explained. Doss’ mental state is questioned plenty in the film. God is the obvious motivator for both the filmmaker and Doss, but the film is not so simple as to think we might not ask if it was dumb luck that saved Doss from being struck by a shell somewhere on that battlefield. Still, the feats he carries out are so unquestionably spectacular that it’s bound to leave even the most cynical of viewers to ponder whether or not there’s something more — to the movie, to the real-life Doss, to life in general. But what is ultimately at the heart of “Hacksaw Ridge” is a story about a ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is moving, but Blu-ray fails to cut deeper Bill Jones, Editor Another Oscar-nominated film coming to Bluray Tuesday, Feb. 21, is “Manchester by the Sea” — director Kenneth Lonergan’s look at Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), who is tasked with taking care of his nephew after the death of the youth’s father. And the rumors are true: As often as ‘Manchester’ is funny, its true weight lies in emotionally depressing the viewer with a tale of a man’s life that has unraveled. And Affleck is simply stunning in his portrayal of Chandler. The supporting cast does not leave him hanging, either. good person and how a good person can impact the people around him. And that’s important, no matter what else you believe. It also happens to have one of the better special features in any recent home video release. Instead of playing the short game with a series of featurettes, “Hacksaw Ridge” on Blu-ray offers a documentary that clocks in at over an hour. It is as enlightening about the film as it is about its real subject But as much as “Manchester by the Sea” has been lauded, Amazon Studios and Lionsgate do not offer much in the way of worthwhile special features on the Blu-ray release. The making-of featurette is fairly standard, the deleted scenes unnecessary for a reason. The only extra with true promise is “A Conversation with Kenneth Lonergan,” which plays as a commentary track over the film. But while the director offers some insight — most notably in terms of what Affleck brought to the table as an actor, tweaking script points, arguing accents and so forth — and tidbits on matter. And that it is all in one comprehensive package is all the better. Hacksaw Ridge is set to be released on Bluray Tuesday, Feb. 21. Have you seen a movie recently and want to let everyone know about it? The Orland Park Prairie is looking for residents to review the latest new releases for its Unscripted feature. The best reviews will things like the practicality of a discussion about burials in frozen grounds, those moments are rare. Most of what we are going to get comes from the film itself. Thankfully, “Manchester by the Sea” remains riveting. It is more than a case study of sadness but a call to recognize how little we know about the lives of the people we meet, about the possibility of working through even the worst of problems (no matter how subtle the progress) and finding the humor in the macabre. It is moving, and that Is more important than a few mundane special features. be published in The Prairie and online at, with the top critics also receiving two free movie passes to Marcus Theatres in Orland Park for their time. Keep reviews around 400 words or fewer and try not to give away the key moments of the movie. Submit your review to bill@ Please include your name and phone number in the email.