Archive | October, 2012

30 on 20

31 Oct

Okay, I’m cheating. I needed one more post to meet my VeganMoFo twenty and I have fifteen minutes to do it. In journalism they used to, maybe still do, write 30 at the end of a piece to signify the end. This was especially helpful if a reporter was filing in takes. From overseas. Via telex.

Now it’s easier to file a story. And I don’t know if reporters still write 30. But this is the end of my 20. So thanks VeganMoFo creators whoever you are for getting me going again with my blog, and for sending new readers my way, and I hope some of you stick around, in case, by chance, one day I say something useful.

In the meantime I’ll keep trying to remember when I think something useful, so that I can write about it, if I don’t forget. It’s harder for me now, two years into my veganing, to think new thoughts about it. It’s part of me now! This is good. But I don’t have fresh eyes on it anymore. And that’s bad.

I’m not sure how to get new eyes on it. Probably eating animal stuff again would give me a fresh perspective but I don’t want to do that. I’m not going to do that! So I have to be extra vigilant to remember the rare fresh perspective when it flies through my brain.

One of the things I always tell people who are thinking of going vegan is that they should simply try it for a month. If only to give themselves that new perspective. Because who doesn’t want a new perspective. On anything. Isn’t that one of the things we look for in art? Or in conversation? Or in Walmart?

Okay I have seven minutes left. it’s 11:53 p.m. on October 31 and I’m not going to miss my mofo deadline. But I feel that in these seven minutes I should say something useful about veganing. Something I’ve thought that nobody else has. So that you (six minutes left!) my fellow vegan, or vegan wannabee, or vegan consideringbee, can gain something useful and fresh and perspectivful.

So here goes: it is the right thing to do.

Morality is subjective. At least to me. Which means for everyone if one person says so. And yet whenever a meat eater watches one of those undercover videos they say that’s wrong. They *never* say, Well, that looks okay to me.

They say it looks awful. And evil. And horrendous. And then they keep eating animal products.

So be proud you don’t. Realize that one day nobody will. Or at least most people won’t. And it’ll be a black market good. And everyone will look back and think how wrong it was. And it was you people who bent over and let others stand on your back.

Okay, I have three minutes left. Make that two. I’m not going to chance it. Keep veganing! I’m proud of you! Which is another way of congratulating myself since I’m one of you! So congratulations me! You’re so wonderful. Done!

Vegan Food Porn

31 Oct

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and Hurricane/Superstorm/Hybridcar Sandy is the perfect reason to do it now.

I signed up for VeganMoFo because I thought it would be a good kick in the ass. I’d slacked off on blogging and thought this commitment might reinvigorate me. But in order to make it to the required twenty posts this month, I did a lot of posts about food. And a lot of food posts about restaurants. And a lot of restaurant posts strafed with photos.

Being vegan isn’t silly. Not at all. I mean, anything can be silly, and probably should be silly, but I mean it’s a serious undertaking, for serious reasons, okay never mind! What I’m trying to say is that while being vegan isn’t silly, posting photos of vegan food *can* be.

Now there’s an upside for sure. I think that posting photos on a blog, or on Instagram, or however, can help encourage other vegans, both new and old. I know that when I first went vegan a little over two years ago, and I found Quarrygirl’s L.A. vegan food blog, it was a lifeline that kept me going and made veganing fun and, more importantly, showed me that vegan eating could have the same fun elements as regular eating, including that feeling of discovery that was my favorite part of restauranting.

And now, on Instagram, I see hundreds of photos a day of great meals that give me ideas for what and how to cook. And maybe one day I’ll actually do that!

But what these photos do, even more than all this, is provide a way for us all to support each other. To be a community. Not the kind where you can come over and borrow a cup of bone char free sugar. Please don’t. But to know that other people are doing this too. To let people just starting out see they’re not alone. And to feel like it makes sense to do this. In the face of continual, daily, hourly, resistance. Resistance and ridicule. And bafflement.

Not that people need this community. Sure they could do it alone. Sure they *should* be able to do it alone. But if talking with others makes it easier, then why not. Because that’s kind of what the Internet is, right? A connector of like-mindedness. And maybe it’s not a coincidence that veganism took off in an Internet world. Like so many other isms did. (Isms didn’t flag my spellcheck, btw.) (And neither did btw).

But it’s still pictures of food. Often expensive food. Often food prepared for the luxury of taste. And it’s great that we have this, and that non-vegans can see this, or try it, and be surprised that it exists, and see that the what we eat of What do you eat isn’t cardboard and twigs and sawdust and straw.

But ultimately it still feels sybaritic to me. Lots of people go hungry. Lots of people can’t eat expensive food. Lots of people can’t indulge their fancies. (Or fancy, if they only have one.) Lots of people think of food as something their bodies need, not something their minds need.

And that’s where the porn part comes in. Because what’s porn in the food porn sense? Gratuity? Well then what’s gratuity? Toomuchofitness? Inyourfaceness? Or is it a feeling of taking the receptors in the body and brain that provide pleasure and cramming them full till they can’t recept no more. Because food, like sex, is pretty primal. Eat to survive, sex to reproduce, two things the mind’s designed to make us feel good about so that we keep doing it. I see the relation. I get the idea of indulgence and overindulgence and golden calf and golden tofu and bacchanalia and baconalia and fakinbaconalia.

And so it feels really wrong, and even outrageous, to be posting photos of gourmet food while other people are having to sneak past police lines to see whether their home is a total loss or if they’re merely facing an expensive year-long renovation. Or they’re dead.

I know people go hungry all the time. And get killed or maimed in wars and car crashes and machinery. And have their children die. But I don’t think I can just throw up my hands and say that since bad things happen all the time I might as well go ahead and post my food porn.

Besides, if I throw up my hands, how can I hold my phone and take my picture?

The Bubble

26 Oct

Art credit: onegreenplanet.org

 

This might be a “just me” thing. I’m not sure. But at 25 months of veganism, I’m realizing that I live in a vegan bubble.

What I mean by that is, my family knows I’m vegan, my friends know I’m vegan, even many of my acquaintances know I’m vegan. I know where to eat, where to shop, what stuff I can buy at the grocery store.

I’m so deep into the bubble that when something comes up where I’m asked to meet some friends at a restaurant that has absolutely nothing for me to eat, it’s shocking. Oh yeah, the rest of the world eats animal stuff. They eat it without thinking about it. The world hasn’t really changed at all, just my one-sevenbillionth of it. Don’t they see? Don’t they get it? How can they keep going about their business and be so happy and miss this giant issue completely?

And they’re not bad people. Many of them are good people. Many of them consider themselves eco, or green, or kind, and yet…

That’s what I mean by the bubble. I forget that even though some days it feels like veganism has caught fire in the last year, it’s not even a brush fire, or even a kitchen fire. It’s a flare-up in a pot. Maybe.

Recently some relatives came to visit. They know I’m vegan. I see them once or twice a year. And I thought they’d have a typical non-vegan reaction. Like the way my mother-in-law will ask, “Are you still on that diet?”

But these relatives started treating me like I was clinically insane. Why would you do this? Why would anyone place restraints on themselves that they didn’t have to place? Nevermind that some of these relatives are religious, and place restraints on themselves that they don’t have to place, they don’t see it that way. It’s certainly not the same thing! That makes sense! And it’s part of their heritage!

So when we go to a restaurant with a million menu choices BUT NOT A SINGLE THING I CAN EAT, and I have to ask the server if the kitchen would be willing to make me an avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich on rye since I see that all those items are on the menu, these family members look at me like: Why would anyone do this?!?!?!

I live in a bubble. These relatives are the real Americans, not me. These relatives are the real humans, not me. I am an oddball. Living in a bubble.

So be it.

Aren’t you sick of vegans?

26 Oct

Aren’t you sick of them telling you that vegan food can actually taste quite good?

Aren’t you sick of them telling you about how animals are treated?

Aren’t you sick of them ruining your dinner party by expecting you’ll have something for them to eat simply because you invited them?

Aren’t you sick of them always wanting to go to a restaurant where they’ll be able to find something to eat?

Aren’t you sick of them being an ever constant reminder that what you’re doing is fundamentally wrong and immoral?

Aren’t you sick of them reminding you that something you get a lot of pleasure from comes at the price of a living thing?

Aren’t you sick of them politely declining meat that you’re only offering to them because you don’t want them to feel excluded?

Aren’t you sick of them not even telling you that they’re vegan and just sitting there quietly eating their vegetables or whatever other crap food they eat?

Aren’t you sick of them pointing out that egg-laying chickens and dairy cows are treated worse than cattle so you’re better off eating steak than a cheese omelette?

Aren’t you sick of that arrogant way they sit there eating the food they think makes them superior?

Aren’t you sick of them sitting there quietly while you tell them about that great new steak place you went to last night?

Aren’t you sick of their blogs?

My love-mildannoyance relationship with Native Foods

21 Oct


I have a fondness for Native Foods. When I first went vegan a little over two years ago, and I didn’t really know what to do or what to eat, it turned out that by chance (as opposed to intention) there was a Native Foods not far me. I must have walked past the Native Foods in Westwood Village eighty-three times without ever going in or realizing it was vegan. But back then I really kinda sorta didn’t know what vegan even was.

So when I entered for the first time as a NEW VEGAN and didn’t know what I was doing, I really appreciated how friendly and helpful everyone there was. And it didn’t hurt that the food was so good.

Over time, I became a regular there, and even when Native Foods opened a bigger, nicer space in Culver City, which wasn’t all that much further from my place, I continued to go to the one in Westwood. Now part of the reason, mind you, is that the Culver City location has always been very poorly run. It’s the highest-grossing Native Foods spot, and they have a constant stream of customers, especially at lunch when the line is often out the door and onto the street, and they simply can’t handle it.

Mistakes happen frequently when you eat there, but worse, much worse, is when you try to order something to go. Every time, and I’m not exaggerating, every single time I have called in a pickup order, and I have done this well over a dozen times, something was wrong. Every time! It could range from something as small as the dressing for the salad being left out of the bag to entire entrees that were paid for not being in the bag when I got home. And often, there was more than one screw up. To the point that I gave up and would only use the Westwood spot, where I can not recall them ever making a mistake.

And then.

Well, about six months ago Native Foods finally moved out of their odd, tight space into a brand new, much bigger location next door. Way more tables, way bigger kitchen, a much more pleasant space. And at first things were great. Bosses were around, lots of managers always working, things went smoothly for the most part.

But now, six months later, I’m sorry to say, the place has been Culverized. Almost every time I go there, something goes wrong. I should have realized there were problems when they left the “We Open to the Public May 1st” sign in the front window for more than two months. How did the managers walk past this sign every day and not realize what it said and not do anything about it? It was only after I tweeted about it on July 13th that it came down.

Bone Chilling Chili Cheeseburger

This weekend I went in for the Bone Chilling Chili Cheeseburger special. And things did not go well. For starters, there was a line to the door on a Saturday night and only one register open. They have two registers at the front of this location and a third around to the side. But not since they first opened months ago have I ever seen more than one register staffed at a time. Lunch rush, dinner rush, there always seems to be only one register open. And it’s not like the place isn’t staffed. Last night for example, with a line to the door, a bunch of staffers were hanging out behind the counter joking with Adam the manager while the woman at the register struggled with a giant line. It was like the manager didn’t even notice. Then the staffers he was joking with went off to do their jobs and he pulled out his smartphone and hung out checking his email or something. It was unbelievable.

Then I tried to order the chili cheese fries and was told it was no longer available. Now you might remember, a few weeks ago, when Native Foods introduced their new menu items, they took the chili cheese fries off the menu. I watched one evening as a woman tried to order them only to be told by both the cashier and the manager that it wasn’t possible to get them, even though they said that they still had all the ingredients in house. So I tweeted about this, which led to a nice email from Native Foods in which they told me that customers would still be allowed to order the chili cheese fries, and that a memo was being sent to all Native Foods locations letting them know this, so that such a problem would never happen again. Until last night when I was told they were no longer available.

Another thing that happened last night was that I ordered a soup, the Moroccan Lentil, which is very good. However, when I order a hot bowl of soup in a restaurant, I do not want to eat it with a plastic spoon. But I had to, because I was told there were no metal spoons available, even though they did have metal forks and knives.

And one other thing I will mention about last night’s meal is that, while I’m usually very lenient with what gets called a “burger” in the vegan world, this was not something I would ever even imagine could be seen as a burger substitute.  Have you ever had, or seen, an Arby’s regular roast beef sandwich? It’s made of thin shavings of roast beef. That’s what this was like, thin shavings of seitan on a bun. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t particularly good either, but it certainly wasn’t anything I’d ever call a burger. And the garlic fries weren’t as good as they have been in the past.

I really miss the days when this Native Foods ran smoothly. Now it’s vegan roulette. I think they are expanding faster than they can handle it, and yet their new locations are bringing in so many people interested in this kind of food that if the problems cause people to walk out or never return, it doesn’t matter to them because there’s new people streaming in the next day anyway. But at some point the slow and bad service will come back to haunt them. And just to be clear, by bad service I don’t mean unfriendly service, since almost everyone there is always friendly, it’s just long lines and mistakes that I’m talking about.

Someone from Chicago needs to show up here, preferably on the sly, and take a look at the lines to the door, only one register open, the manager busy playing with his phone, and potential customers getting frustrated and leaving. Before the loyal customers decide to take a break, too.

Why this keeps happening is Beyond Meat

20 Oct

Have you been following my Beyond Meat saga? And by saga I mean two boring blog posts. Plus this one. Three.

It started off on Wednesday when Beyond Meat sent out a not-even-quite-cryptic email asking us all to guess which region they were rolling out in that day. As one of my Instagram followers said: I wasn’t in the mood to guess.

Then after a similarly mysterious Tweet they sent a second Tweet revealing that it’s Southern California. Now keep in mind, Beyond Meat had already been available for a few weeks in the Madeleine Bistro bistro box, and in big bags at Viva La Vegan, and in sandwiches at Phoney Baloney’s. But I guess the fact that it was going into Whole Foods was supposed to be a big deal. The place they expected to find their core audience or something. Like match.com for fake meat and fake meat lovers.

Except they completely blew it. The email, tweets and website all directed people to the prepared foods cases at Whole Foods and listed a whole bunch of Whole Foods locations where you could find it in Los Angeles. So, because I’m pathetic, I jumped right in the car and burned rubber. (Hyperbole.)

Beyond Meat mislabeled as Gardein at the Westwood Whole Foods

But when I got to the Whole Foods in Westwood there wasn’t any in the prepared foods case. Only in a nasty steamed-vegetable-concoction at the hot bar. With a card saying, “Gardein Chicken.” So I headed over to the Whole Foods in West L.A. Where there wasn’t any in the prepared foods case either. Or the hot bar. And only after encountering a knowledgeable and helpful “team member” who wondered why so many people kept coming in that day asking for Beyond Meat, and learning from me that it was their big rollout day, wondered why nobody bothered to tell Whole Foods that or to make sure it was actually on hand.

You see it turned out that both stores DID have Beyond Meat. Only not the day of the rollout. They had it for the previous two weeks. But again, NOT on the day of the rollout. Finally, the helpful team member had an inkling where I might be able to find it — he thought there might be some left over from the previous day at the taco bar. And he was right! There under the tag “Vegan Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce” was some Beyond Meat, and it was as good as the steam table concoction was bad.

I was sold. Or so I thought.

The Beyond Meat in Tomatillo Sauce was so good that I wanted to try it some other ways. So the next day, after getting some very positive tweets from Beyond Meat saying that my blog post had led them to look into their distribution problems, I went off to some of the other Whole Foods listed on the Beyond Meat website to see what I could find.

Beyond Meat Summer Chicken Salad. Photograph taken on October 18th.

At the Whole Foods on 5th and Wilshire in Santa Monica, for the first time I encountered Beyond Meat in the prepared foods case, which is where customers were supposed to be able to find it all along. It was only available in one preparation: a “Summer Chicken Salad.”  Okay, I know, it was October 18th. But I have to tell you, this preparation would not have tasted any better on July 18th. It was nasty. It was in some purple-colored mayonnaise-like dressing that turned the whole salad purple. Who created this recipe, tasted it, and said “Yes, this tastes good!”?  But I bought some anyway because, well, it was still Beyond Meat and I had driven there!

Then I went to the Whole Foods at Wilshire and 23rd in Santa Monica. (Yes, there are two Whole Foods eighteen blocks apart — one was a smaller store from when Whole Foods acquired Wild Oats.) And there, in the giant prepared foods case, at the giant 23rd and Wilshire store, they had NO Beyond Meat. Did they even know what it was? Yes, they did! And they said they had some on Monday, in fact. But not since then. Which means not on Wednesday, the day of the company’s alleged giant rollout.

Vegan Curry Chicken Salad Pre-Pack

However, a few minutes later, nosing through the refrigerated shelving where the pre-packed foods are displayed, I found one (and only one) pre-packed Vegan Chicken Curry Salad. Now mind you, the Whole Foods vegan chicken curry salad is one of my staples and has been since I first went vegan a little over two years ago. Back then it was made with Gardein. I loved it, ate it at least twice a week for lunch. It was really good. Then, about a year ago, they stopped making it with Gardein and switched to Eco-Cuisine. I was devastated! I contacted Whole Foods and was told that Eco-Cuisine absorbed the sauce better and they were sticking with it. *Sigh*

Well, that happens in life. The things you like go away or get changed. You have to move on. And learn to accept online bill pay and eat Eco-Cuisine. So I did. And while it wasn’t as good, I got used to it. Maybe, just maybe, it was almost as good. Or at least as my Gardein Memories faded it was.

But now, in my hand, reading the label, I saw that my beloved vegan chicken curry salad was… drumstick roll please… made with Beyond Meat! Exciting! I guess. So I bought it.

Mislabeled card at Beverly Hills Whole Foods

And then… yesterday… aka Friday… I was in Beverly Hills, and wouldn’t you know it, they also have a Whole Foods that was on the Beyond Meat website list. So I went. And what kind of Beyond Meat did they have in the prepared foods case? Nothing, according to the first team member I spoke to. And nothing, according to the woman he asked after I asked him to ask someone else. However, the person she asked after I asked her to ask someone else, who was the head of the prepared foods section, told me that in fact there was an item in the prepared foods case made with Beyond Meat, and it was… the vegan chicken curry salad. “But look,” I said, “The card for it says it’s made with Eco-Cuisine.” “Yeah I know,” he said, “But the card is wrong.”  And so I bought some, even though I already had some in a pre-pack in my fridge. Because, well, like I said, I was excited about Beyond Meat, and I wanted to see if there was any difference between the fresh and the pre-pack.

And here’s the result of my scientific experiment, aka eating: the Whole Foods vegan curry chicken salad, when made with Beyond Meat, SUCKS. The pre-pack and the fresh sucked equally. They weren’t nearly as good as the Eco-Cuisine, which wasn’t as good as the Gardein. Now I’m a realist, and I don’t ever expect to see Eco-Cuisine at Whole Foods again. They have clearly thrown in their lot with Beyond Meat and whenever Whole Foods make a change like this there is no going back. And like I said, the Beyond Meat in the Tomatillo Sauce at the taco bar was fantastic. Really, really good. But somehow, the sauce from the vegan chicken curry salad, or some other food chemistry reaction from the ingredients, turned the Beyond Meat in the chicken curry salad into a hard rubberlike substance. Chewing it was like chewing taffy, only harder. It was like taking a rubber washer from your washing machine and trying to eat it. One piece was so hard and rubbery I literally could not chew it enough to swallow it. I had to take it out of my mouth and throw it into the trash. It refused to allow itself to be chewed.

THIS IS BAD.

How could someone at Whole Foods have tried this and thought it could be served to humans? I imagine they knew it could not, but were under orders to use Beyond Meat in this product from now on anyway. Period. There is nothing else I can imagine that would explain why Whole Foods would do this. If the BMB (Beyond Meat Boss) were to try a bite of this vegan curry chicken salad he would be horrified. Mortified. Because, like me and my tomatillo, he knows how good his product can be. And this was the opposite. The nadir. It was a showcase for how BAD his product can be. It was so bad you practically wondered if it was a competitor committing sabotage. It really was that gross.

So what’s next? Hopefully, since Beyond Meat seems to be aware and concerned about the fiasco they are enduring in their Whole Foods rollout, they will investigate, get the recipes fixed, and make sure their product is used in ways that make everyone realize how good it can be. Otherwise they will quickly begin to wonder why nobody is buying their product. And Whole Foods, if they have the kind of inventory system I imagine them to have, will wonder why sales of the once quick-moving vegan chicken curry salad have begun to dry up.

And it’s early. I know. And things can be fixed. And I hope they will be. But like I said, how any of this could have happened in the first place is Beyond Meat.

Craig’s Lust

20 Oct

Craig’s
8826 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood CA 90069
310.276.1900

You might think it’s VeganMoFo month but more importantly, it’s Bad Headline month. And this might be my worst one yet!

However, if you eat at Craig’s, or even look at these photos, I think you will understand the lust part.

Craig’s is a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles owned by Craig Susser, who used to be a GM at nearby Dan Tana’s. And like Dan Tana’s it features steaks and Italian food and serves them to a similar crowd. However, Craig’s now has a vegan section on its menu!

How did I learn about this development in the L.A. restaurant world? From The New York Times of course. In an article I’ve already written about. So the head of Supervegan’s L.A. office and I decided we needed to investigate.

The first things I noticed when we entered is that Craig’s is a hoppin’, even on a Tuesday night. A wide mix of people, not unlike the Dan Tana’s crowd. We were seated in a great booth and quickly got to work on our investigation.

Following some questioning of our very helpful server, including the important info that the vegan version of their “Meldman’s Honey Truffle Chicken” is made with agave not honey, we decided to do what we usually do and order way too much food. Which we then ate almost all of.

What did we get? We have photographs!

Vegan Sausage Pizza

Craig’s has a Vegan Pizza on the menu as well as a Vegan Sausage Pizza. Well, the Vegan Sausage Pizza has an extra word in its name so we got that one. Good choice, us! This pizza was really good, but it clearly didn’t have Daiya. It had a melty, reflective cheesy-looking cheese. Hmm, what was it? Can you believe this, one of the servers knew without even needing to go check: “Oh, it’s Follow Your Heart,” he said.

We ate the pizza as our appetizer and then dove into the main courses. “Dove” figuratively, unless you count moving forward at rapid speed and descending toward something as diving, in which case take away those quotes. Because this is what we got:

Vegan Meldman’s Honey Truffle Chicken

Like I mentioned above, even though the Vegan Meldman’s Honey Truffle Chicken says it’s “tossed with truffle-infused honey,” our server assured us that for the vegan version they use agave instead of honey, so we got it. And it was good. Two big pieces of Gardein that looked like they had been pounded flat and then battered and fried. It was crispy and tasty. Winner!

Stuffed Peppers

We also got the stuffed peppers and I liked this a lot. One red half and one green half, stuffed with stuff. What kind of stuff? Good stuff. Maybe the picture will help. I thought there were some tofu cubes in there but I could be wrong. I often am. But it was really tasty. I could eat this again. Now. Even though I’m not the least bit hungry.

Vegan Chicken Parmigiana

And you didn’t think we were going to pass up the Vegan Chicken Parmigiana, did you? Another big round Gardein patty that looked like it had been pounded flat. We didn’t ask if this was also Follow Your Heart cheese but I’m guessing it was. This dish was also very good and my only criticism would be that the Gardein patty was almost a bit too tender considering that my memory of real chicken parmigiana is that it had a thicker texture. But hey, small complaint.

And as we ate all this great food, I was sitting there thinking: we are in a nice restaurant, having dinner like adults, and this feast we are consuming is vegan. If you’re vegan, I don’t have to tell you how rare that opportunity is.

It is great to see Craig going out of his way to make you feel like the kind of food you eat is just as valid and normal as the kind of food that anybody else eats. That there is nothing weird about it and that there is nothing unwelcoming about having you come there to eat it. He and his staff were as gracious as could be.

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Crunch Ice Cream

Okay, time for dessert. We got the vegan chocolate cake and we were offered the choice of three vegan ice creams to go with it: mint chip, vanilla or coffee crunch. Now I don’t like coffee but THOSVLAO does, so I said let’s go for it and I made the right choice! It was not too coffee-ee and it was delicious, with some kind of toffee in there providing said crunch. However… I did not like the cake. It wasn’t a slice of cake like the menu made me think it would be, but more like a little Pillsbury biscuit of chocolateyness. Oh well, the ice cream was good!

So that’s it — two humans, four dishes, one dessert, and four pounds. Worth it!

Beyond Meat responds

18 Oct

Beyond Meat Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce taco

Yesterday I wrote about how excited I was to hear that Beyond Meat was finally launching in Southern California. But although the company tweeted that their product was now available here, at the two Whole Foods I went to there was much confusion. Some employees knew what it was and some did not. Both stores said it had been there for two weeks but that it wasn’t in the prepared foods case that day at either — which is where the company’s tweets and emails said it could be found. Even more troubling, at one store the identification card called it simply “Vegan Chicken” while at the other store it was labeled “Gardein Chicken”! From the point of view of Beyond Meat, could things have possibly gone worse?

Perhaps the problems lay with Whole Foods not Beyond Meat, but it seemed at a minimum that Beyond Meat had not coordinated with Whole Foods in the region to make sure that their stores were aware that yesterday was the big rollout day and to even make sure to have enough on hand and to have it be represented in the prepared foods case, which is where Beyond Meat was telling its enthusiastic customers to look for it. Not at the hot food bar  in sorry steam table preparations like this:

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Beyond Meat is billing itself as the best fake meat yet. And I have to say that the texture is better than Gardein, at least for some purposes. If it’s replacing diced or sliced chicken, then Beyond Meat has more of the “give” that real chicken does. Although in something like a chicken parmigiana that calls for a chicken breast, the Gardein might still be the better option. Regardless, it’s always good to have more options, especially if it’s an option that encourages carnivores to try substituting it for real animals.

Today Beyond Meat responded to my blog post and I appreciate how attentive they were. They are looking into it and hopefully that will mean that before long Beyond Meat will truly be available in various preparations at Whole Foods stores throughout Southern California. In the meantime, if your local Whole Foods has a taco bar and has the “Vegan Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce” and it has the more layery look that gives it away as Beyond Meat not Gardein, then by all means get yourself a taco or burrito of it. It was delicious!

Beyond Meat botches its Southern California rollout

17 Oct

I was all excited. After months of anticipation, and then jealousy as Beyond Meat went from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountain, Beyond Meat was finally coming to Southern California, or so said all their PR.

This morning I got a mass email from Beyond Meat’s founder and CEO Ethan Brown stating the following:

“I’m thrilled to announce that today, Beyond Meat makes its debut in delicious recipes in the prepared foods case of another Whole Foods region.”  Then I saw the following tweet: “Have you heard the news on our new regional rollout? Find Beyond Meat in recipes at SoCal @WholeFoods stores” with a link to their website.

On the website there’s a huge splash at the top stating “BEYOND MEAT LAUNCHES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA” with a link to where you can find it. The Whole Foods that I usually go to in West LA was not listed but the one in Westwood Village was so I went there to get me some. AND NOBODY KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT.

First I went to the prepared foods counter since that’s where the email/tweet/website says it will be. Nope. They didn’t know what I was talking about. So I went to the sandwich counter since I remember people saying that in the Bay Area they got it in sandwiches at Whole Foods. The woman didn’t know what Beyond Meat was. When I explained that it was a type of fake meat she said, “Oh yes” and went into the refrigerator. She came out with a boxed package of seitan. Strike two.

Then I happened to see the store manager walking around so I told him that I saw on Beyond Meat’s website that it’s launching today and that his store was one of the ones that was supposed to have it. He knew what Beyond Meat was! So I was getting closer. He took me over to one of the prepared foods employees to ask where the Beyond Meat items were. Of course the employee didn’t know what Beyond Meat was but when he explained that it was fake meat the employee took us over and pointed out a tray in the hot food bar. Yes, the manager said, this is it.

What was it? A very sad looking item, as you can see from the photo. It was some Beyond Meat chicken that was boiled and/or steamed with some zucchini slices. This is the way that Beyond Meat is showcasing how much its new product is like chicken? By featuring it in a recipe that would turn off just about anyone, from devout vegan to devout carnivore? And here’s the best part: the sign above the item said: “Gardein Chicken”!

Well, the manager assured me that this was not Gardein but was in fact Beyond Meat, and that it was currently the only Beyond Meat item in the store. HOWEVER, he said, it was featured in some tasty salads the other day because they have been selling Beyond Meat for two weeks already!

So I bought a small amount of the boiled/steamed Beyond Meat in zucchini and water and left the store very disappointed. I really wanted some Beyond Meat! If only the bigger Whole Foods in West LA had it, but alas, it wasn’t one of the ones on the list. But hey, if Beyond Meat botched things so bad in Westwood, I wondered if it’s possible that the West LA store would have it anyway, so off I went.

My first stop was the hot food bar and the woman working there said there were no fake meat items in the hot bar and she sent me to the prepared foods case at the other end of the store. Well, they didn’t have anything with Beyond Meat, even though the email/tweet/website directs customers to the prepared foods case.

So I went back to the other end of the store to the sandwich counter. There I asked the employee if he had any Beyond Meat items. He looked at me and said something like, “You’re about the twentieth person to ask me that today! What gives?” Keep in mind it was not even noon at this point. I told him that Beyond Meat was mounting a big launch today of their product at Whole Foods in Southern California. He seemed exasperated and said, “Well nobody told me. It would have been nice to know. We’ve had Beyond Meat items for the last two weeks here but today we don’t have any.” Then he suggested I try the prepared foods case where I told him I’d already been. But I was lucky in that this gentleman was the very helpful type and he did not give up so easily. He took me over to the pizza area because he said they have been using it on pizzas. But unfortunately, the pizza maker said they didn’t have any of it today. Then he got a look in his eye and told me to try the taco bar, where he said there still might be some Beyond Meat left over from yesterday. So I went to the taco bar and sure enough, there in one of the bins, with a card that merely read Vegan Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce, I found it.

Beyond Meat in Tomatillo Sauce

I got a sample and it was good, very good, so I got a pint and I also got a taco. And I have to tell you, it’s tasty. I only wish Beyond Meat were as good with logistics as they are in the kitchen, but I guess if they had to only be competent at one thing, it’s better that it’s at making a tasty product than rolling it out into stores.

Beyond Meat in tomatillo sauce taco. Good!

So if you’re reading this, Mr. Brown, I really think you need to fire your regional manager in charge of your Southern California rollout today, because it appears to be an unmitigated disaster.

Mac and Cheese for the win!

13 Oct

Doomie dishes out his mac and cheese that would fool any omni.

Before I was vegan I never much liked mac and cheese. I still don’t.

I don’t think it’s ‘cuz when we were po I ate it a lot, of the grimy then-25¢ a box Kraft kind. I think I just don’t like it.

Doomie’s Mac and Cheese

But what I DO like is a good old-fashioned vegan food bare-knuckled throwdown. And that’s what I got today.

Sun Cafe’s mac and cheese

Chicavegan, the manger of the M Cafe De Chaya on Melrose, was a judge at this summer’s Vegan Burger Smackdown at Mohawk Bend, and today she threw her own event: L.A.’s Best Vegan Mac & Cheese Showdown. And it was great. Five restaurants showed up at Space 15 Twenty on Cahuenga and offered up their take on vegan mac and cheese. The five battlers were Doomie’s, Hugo’s, Sun Cafe, M Cafe, and Southern Fried Vegan.

Southern Fried Vegan’s version

For five bucks you got five good-sized servings. Plus, Amanda’s Bakery & Cafe  was selling some good desserts to boot.

Treats from Amanda’s Bakery

I went with the head of Supervegan’s L.A. office and she liked Doomie’s the best. And I have to say, Doomie’s was good and it did taste the most like traditional mac and cheese. But my favorite was from Hugo’s, and the judges thought so too, since they crowned it the champ.

Hugo’s Winning Recipe

I forgot to take a photo of Hugo’s mac and cheese because I was too busy woofing it down, but If you’re curious, there’s a lot more photos on Supervegan’s instagram @wearesupervegan

Can you buy meat and be vegan?

12 Oct

This is not me.

There’s plenty of feuds on the Internet about who is vegan and who is not. It can get ugly. I’m vegan because I don’t eat honey and you do. You’re not vegan because you wear leather and I don’t. And on and on. To the point that it’s tedious. To the point that I start to feel it does more harm than good because you risk scaring off people who are just trying it out. Who maybe have started eating vegan but still wear leather. While I agree that people who call themselves vegan but then post pictures of fast food veggie burgers that are widely known to be non-vegan on their Instagrams are annoying, I also tend to think that anyone who calls themselves vegan IS, within reason.

But then there’s another issue, and it’s one that bothers me, and like most things that bother me, I’ve managed to successfully push it to the back of my mind and not think about it. Until today. Because this god damn Vegan MoFo commitment means I need to write twenty posts this month!

This is not me either.

So here goes. I’m vegan. I don’t eat honey. I don’t eat bug stuff. I don’t wear leather. Or silk. BUT… I still buy meat for my family. Okay, well not actually meat. I’ve had some effect on my family and they’ve pretty much stopped eating what is usually called meat — beef, chicken, etc. However, they still eat fish. And eggs. And ice cream. And worse, sometimes when I go to the supermarket, I buy it for them. So am I still vegan?

I will say that since I went vegan for myself, I now spend the extra couple of bucks a dozen to get the eggs that are “pasture-raised” in the hope (perhaps naive) that these animals, while still probably leading an awful existence, are at least leading a better awful existence than the ones laying cheaper eggs. Again, I realize that I very well might be kidding myself. But I also buy sushi. And milk. And cheese. And I buy it for my family at restaurants, too. So am I still vegan?

Still not me.

I certainly think of myself as vegan now. And other people think I am because of what I won’t eat. But I’m still buying it. I’m still supporting it by buying it. I’m still sending money that props up the animals-for-food industry.

But that leads to another discussion, one I’ll save for another post, if only because of that dreaded twenty. Which is: how far do I push the rest of my family to change their ways?

Like taking candy from an omni

12 Oct

Most vegans quickly find out which candy and cookies they can eat. Of course there’s stuff you can find that proudly promotes itself as vegan, like the GoMax candy bars for example, which are hard to resist. And then there’s the stuff that’s “accidentally vegan” — things which just happen to be vegan, through no intent of the manufacturer. Things like Sour Patch Kids and Oreos.

And then there’s a category that is kind of in-between. They’re not mass-market items that you can find in any supermarket or 7-Eleven, but accidental items that are either regional or throwbacks. And those are the things that get me excited.

Vegan!

They used to be hard to find. For example, it took me a while to learn that Rite-Aid drug stores sold Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, which are vegan  (the Original dark chocolate ones, of course). And they’re also available at places like Cracker Barrel. But then I found out about Rocket Fizz.

Vegan!

Rocket Fizz is a chain of candy and soda stores. You can find them in various parts of the country, and people keep opening new franchises all the time. And they stock a lot of non-mainstream products that happen to be vegan. Like the Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. Like Chick-O-Sticks. Not to mention many different flavors of Sour Patch Kids, and, my favorite, Zotz.

Vegan!

Zotz were a fond part of my childhood. Hard candies with some kind of chemical in the middle that fizzes up in your mouth. I hadn’t seen them in decades until I found them at Rocket Fizz. And I was psyched to see that they’re vegan. Now they’re kind of my go-to junkfood snack, and while they might eventually kill me, at least they’re not killing any animals. And that’s sweet.

Promoting veganism. What’s veganism?

12 Oct

The New York Times recently ran this article about how omni restaurants in Los Angeles are now catering to vegans. I was going to say yes and no, but really, it’s still more no, don’t you think? I can find something at most places but often — very often — I still feel I’m not wanted. That I’m a nuisance and they wish I’d go away. (As opposed to the people who get to know me before thinking that.) And being made to feel a nuisance seems pretty much the opposite of being catered to.

I was so excited when I first saw this article, but I think it’s overstated. I will admit that while I’d heard that a former Dan Tana’s fixture had opened a competing joint named Craig’s down the block, I was unaware they were offering a whole vegan section on their menu. Boo-ya! (or whatever the correct sound effect for excitement is.) But the rest of the article goes a little too far.

One of the high-end restaurants they mention as catering to vegans is Hatfield’s. I was surprised to read that Hatfield’s, one of the hot restaurants in the city, was doing this. And it turns out I had reason to be skeptical. I called Hatfield’s and spoke to a very nice woman there. She told me that the vegetarian prix fixe menu was not suitable for vegans but that there were some vegan options available. Great, I said, can you tell me about them? Well, she said, You can get the arugula and roasted fig salad with jamon (ham) and manchego (cheese) without the jamon and manchego. Or, she said, You can get the watermelon, avocado and burrata salad without the burrata. Or, you can get the wild mushroom and buckwheat crepe without the crepe. And that’s about it.

Really? It’s not her fault, or the fault of Hatfield’s, but why the hell is The New York Times choosing this as one of the high-end restaurants that cater to vegans when they don’t cater to vegans at all? When the only three choices for us are three things sans the main components of the things? Is The New York Times really writing an article about vegan dining when they don’t really understand the difference between vegans and vegetarians? Yup, it seems like they are.

Another place they mention is n/naka. This is a traditional kaiseki restaurant. They have a vegetarian prix fixe menu, which costs a steep $110 per person, but some of the courses looked like they contained dairy, so I called. Again, they were very nice, and they told me that when making your reservation you can request that the vegetarian prix fixe be made vegan and they will happily do it. I thought that was great, but I still found it odd that the article did not mention this, but rather left the reader with the impression that there was a vegan prix fixe available as part of their regular offerings.

I guess I kid myself that in 2012 people understand what veganism is, even people writing articles about it for prominent publications. It’s apparently still to much to ask. But I still think any seemingly positive coverage, even if ignorant and inaccurate, is better than none. I just wish that these publications would write these vegan articles with an eye toward vegans, rather than merely trying to let omnifolk know about the supposedly changing dining world.

Lemonade, very pretty

9 Oct

Lemonade
Multiple locations throughout L.A.

I tend to make lists. Lists of vegan restaurants to try. Lists of places that have vegan options for when I need to meet up with omnifolk. Lists of places in Orange County for when I’m down that way. Lists, lists, lists.

And Lemonade was on one of my lists because I once saw something online touting its vegan options. So I tried their Venice location on Abbot Kinney near Venice Blvd.

And there are plenty of vegan options. Lemonade is cafeteria style — you grab a tray and push your way along. And the first station is a display of probably twenty or more salads, and they all look pretty good, and even more impressive, there is a key code that tells you whether a given item is vegan or not. You can buy these salads in combos, and three of them cost $11.75. But even better, you are allowed to split an item, meaning I was able to try six different vegan salads for $11.75. But did they really have six different salads that were vegan? Yes, in fact they had eight!

So you can imagine how happy I was as I picked six of these eight and watched them fill up my tray with a rainbowotic assortment of foodbeauty. No bread though, because I was told that none of the four types of bread were vegan. Boo! But hey, who needs bread with this much salad, right? So that mitigates the boo a bit.

And here are my salads. I’ll try to run them down in clockwise order starting with those beets at the top left. Those are roasted beets with pickled red onion and toasted hazelnuts. To the right of that is roasted heirloom carrots with crushed basil and herbs. The next salad is white corn, jicama, cashews, radicchio and ginger. Then comes Chinese long beans with pluots and plums. The red mass is red quinoa with cherry tomatoes, basil and sun-dried tomato dressing. And then finally, sweet potato with white peach and ancho chili vinaigrette.

So I sat down to eat my Lemonade very pretty salads and… they weren’t very good. Rarely have I experienced this big a disconnect between the appearance of food and its taste. Whoever is designing these things has an eye but no mouth. They were just one failure after another. So much so that I would not even recommend this place to you, not even given the high number of choices for us veganers, and not even given their growing number of locations around the city. Find someplace else for lunch is what I’d say. Well, not what I’d say, what I AM saying. (Except for LAX, where they have a location, and where I can’t imagine you’d find better.)

Ginger snap cookie sans snap.

However, there was one silver lining. Or actually a ginger lining. Because the one vegan dessert they have out of what seems like a billion desserts is a ginger snap cookie and… it’s really tasty! In fact, it was by far the tastiest thing I ate there. Mind you, this ginger snap is a soft cookie, so the snap is non-existent, but it’s yums, as someone other than I would say.

So there, I managed to end on a positive note, because when life brings you Lemonade…

Kung Pao Feastro

8 Oct

Kung Pao Bistro 
7853 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood CA 90046
323.848.9888

Not only are you getting 20 posts from me this month but you’re getting 20 awful headlines. But we did have a feast at Kung Pao Bistro.

I had never been there before but have heard a lot about it for a while. It’s a meat-serving place but they have a whole vegan page on their menu. Overall, I’d say it was a mixed bag but I’d certainly be willing to go back and try more things.

Vegan Chicken and Spinach Wonton Soup

My favorite item by far was the vegan chicken and spinach wonton soup. The soup was delicious and so were the dumplings. And we got it at a happy hour discount price to boot. (4pm to 7pm).

Vegan Beef and Broccoli

The beef and broccoli had what tasted like VegeUSA fake beef. It was a little too sweet for me but the broccoli was very good.

Vegan Chicken Lo Mein

The vegan chicken lo mein wasn’t that great. The fake chicken was these weird crescent-shaped slices, and the noodles weren’t that great either.

Sauteed Garlic String Beans

The sauteed garlic string beans were very good. I will definitely be back to continue working my way through their vegan menu.

You’re giving me vegan food?

5 Oct

Okay, nobody ever really said that to me. But here’s what I was thinking: Let’s say you get invited over to somebody’s place. Maybe it’s their birthday. Maybe they’re having some friends over for dinner or a barbecue. Maybe it’s a party.

Now if you went to the supermarket and bought a dozen cheap cupcakes from the supermarket bakery in one of those clear plastic snap-cases and then scraped off the price with your fingernail, the recipient might think you were cheap or might be very happy with them but they probably would not think you were being selfish.

But what if you went to a vegan bakery or even a non-vegan bakery that has vegan options, and you bought a dozen cupcakes that are both vegan AND way better than the cupcakes from the supermarket. And what if you’ve only been vegan a couple of years so you remember quite well what supermarket cupcakes taste like and even what good non-vegan cupcakes taste like and you know with an amazing degree of certainty that the vegan cupcakes you are bringing are way better than either.

So you show up with your nice box of cupcakes and maybe they’re vegan cupcakes from the non-vegan fancy bakery and your host is happy to see them and thanks you sincerely and then everyone starts enjoying them until your host or another guest notices that you are eating one too.

Now what?

Something would happen like this: You’d see their brains trying to piece it all together and then someone would say: “So… these are vegan?” And you’d say “Yeah” or maybe even “Yeah, they’re good aren’t they?” and your host and their guests would probably say, “Uh, yeah, yeah they are.” AND THEN THEY WOULD ALL HATE YOU.

Am I wrong about this? Wouldn’t they think: How rude! This is really a gift for themselves, not for me! And why are they trying to force their agenda on me? After all, it’s not MY agenda. What kind of gift is it for me if they go and get something that THEY like and can eat?!

And are they right? Because what’s the comparison? Is it to the crappy supermarket cupcakes? Or is their attitude that if you went to a fancy bakery for vegan cupcakes you could have — and should have — gone to a fancy non-vegan bakery and brought me some fancy non-vegan cupcakes.

What I’m getting at is, it’s not really about the taste of the item, is it? It’s about people’s notions of agenda, and gift-giving, and defensiveness. And I can partly understand this. I can understand why the recipient would think the gift should be about them and not the giver. HOWEVER, if the giver was non-vegan and gave a box of fancy non-vegan cupcakes from a bakery they absolutely love and ate one or even two of them themselves, then I think the recipient would not have a problem with that whatsoever. And why?

Is it because they’re in the same club? They both identify as non-vegan. They’re on the same eating team. So it’s viewed as someone sharing something they like with someone they like. And again, for all of this, my premise is that the vegan cupcakes that were brought to the friend’s place are really, really good. The kind that would easily fool non-vegans.

These are the kind of things I spend my time thinking about. And I don’t even like cupcakes!

Mas Only Okay

4 Oct

Mas Malo
515 W. 7th Street
Los Angeles CA 90014
213.985.4332

Mas Malo is a downtown Los Angeles outpost of Malo in Silver Lake. I saw some photos on Instagram which led me to their website where I saw they had a number of vegan and veganizable dishes, and not the usual ones you might see at a Mexican place.

Vegan Menudo

They have a vegan menudo, and a mock ground beef and pickle taco! So when a vegan friend and I were trying to find a place to have lunch I suggested it and we went.

Mock Ground Beef & Pickle Taco (no cheese)

And we were both disappointed. Not by the space, which is an old jewelry store from the 1920s, located directly below the bar Seven Grand. And not by the free chips and salsa, which were very good. But the food just didn’t kill. I’m hesitant to say this since I think it’s great that they have a bunch of vegan options. I don’t want restaurateurs to think vegans are nothing but insufferable complainers (oops!) so what’s the point of trying to make them happy.

Zucchini Blossom Taco (hold the cheese)

But the thing we were most excited about, the vegan menduo, seemed more like a bowl of Thai tofu soup than a vegan version of a Mexican version of anything. And the zucchini blossom (hold the cheese) taco wasn’t nearly as exciting as its name.

Soyrizo, Spinach, and Corn Chimichanga

I did like the Soyrizo, spinach & corn chimichanga though my friend found it a bit too spicy, and we both liked the mock ground beef and pickle hard shell taco, but we both agreed that it wasn’t anywhere we needed to go back to, although if you’re looking for a place downtown to meet omnifolk within walking distance of Staples Center it’s not a bad choice.

So good even a meat-eater would hate it

3 Oct

In my review of Sage Vegan Bistro yesterday I mentioned that the food there is so delicious that even a meat-eater would love it. Then I quickly caught myself and realized who was I kidding? Because my experience has been that the only kind of meat-eaters who can like vegan food are the ones who already like it. In other words, I have learned after two years that I am not going to convince any meat eaters that this food is delicious, yet alone comparable to a meat meal or even merely “good.”

Unless a carny is already predisposed to work some vegan meals into their diet for health reasons, then their attitude is: Even if it’s good, why would I eat it when I could eat meat which I know would taste better.  Again, this isn’t all carnys. When I go to Native Foods or Veggie Grill, with their lines that are often out the door, I can see that most of their customers are not vegan or even vegetarian. Okay, I can’t really “see” that but I’ve asked muckety-mucks at both companies and have been told that something like 70 percent of their customers are not vegan nor vegetarian. I feel like once I was even told 90 percent. And that sounds right, especially because most of the people I see on line there are young. (Okay, young to me.) And by young I mean in their 20′s or early 30′s.

And I think this is a generational thing. People that age probably know someone who is vegan, and if not they certainly know what the word means. As opposed to people over 50 who mostly go “Huh? WHAT kind of diet are you on? Never heard of it.”

But I’m not talking about the meaters who are eating at Veggie Grill or Native Foods from time to time. I kind of put them in the “health reason” eaters I mentioned before. I’m talking about people who feel that vegan eating has nothing to offer them. Who feels it’s “all vegetables.” And who quite possibly are scared of vegetables, or who see them as something to eat on the side for nutritional reasons, but who never would see them as something capable of comprising a meal that would be fulfilling in the way a meat meal could be. Or as delicious.

Add to that group a subset who DON’T WANT a non-meat meal to be as good. Because then they’d really have to think about why they’re eating meat, when they know it’s not healthy for themselves nor good for the animals. And I guess at that point it’s back to what seems to be the basic purpose that vegans serve, which is to make people feel threatened. Okay, that’s not fair. They feel threatened AND guilty. Not that they’d ever admit that. They see it as we’re pushing an agenda on them.

If an animal-eater got invited to a pot luck and brought a fish dish, and a carny who hated fish saw the fish dish on the table, and asked what it was, and was told by the person who brought it that it’s a fish dish and the bringer went on and on about how much they love fish, the fish-hater would just be like: I don’t like fish and move on to something they liked. They wouldn’t feel threatened by it. They wouldn’t feel that the fish bringer was trying to push an agenda on them. Which makes me think that part of the problem is that people are afraid.

Afraid to confront what they’re doing, every day, a few times a day, and also afraid that if some vegan food was not only edible but even good or god forbid delicious, then they’d lose one of the main things they need to justify their behavior to themselves.

It’s kind of like the much-discussed “Yeah but I love cheese too much” crowd. How can vegetarians say that to vegans but then not understand the meaters who say “Yeah but I love meat too much.”

I have a friend who has been just fine about me becoming vegan. We still meet up at the places where we both can find something satisfying to eat. But at one point early in my veganism, before I knew how to deal with my carny friends now that I’d gone to the dark side, I suggested a vegetarian Mexican place near his house. This place is not vegan, mind you, it’s veg. You could still get cheese enchiladas, bean and cheese burritos, etc. Well, when I suggested it he got a pained look on his face and said, “I’ve been there before. There’s nothing for me to eat there.” Really? I go to your places all the time and find something I can eat. Can’t it work the other way around even once? What are you afraid of? I know you love pizza. I know you love Mexican food. Do you really need a piece of beef or pork or chicken in every single thing that you eat?

I think, though, that even more than being afraid they would find a vegan meal to be delicious is that they’re afraid it would be disgusting. They feel it would be so gross or so bland or so other that it would make them turn blue and puke. That it would be so vile as to not ever be worth taking a chance and uttering those words that I’m curious if other vegans ever hear from their carny friends: “Hey, let’s go to one of YOUR places! Take me to a vegan place that you love! Show me some vegan food that you think is great — I’m happy to give it a try!”

Now don’t get me wrong. I know some carnys who WILL happily go to a vegan place for a meal. And they are mostly women. The guy meaters I know, some of whom are VERY concerned with eating healthy, still want their plain piece of chicken, preferably grilled with the sauce on the side. It’s funny how many guys I know who, when I was a carny, would not want to go to certain restaurants with me because they’d given up red meat, only to be surprised that I leap-frogged past them into veganism, and now they don’t want to try a vegetarian place because it lacks their white-colored meat. They’ve gone from seeing themselves as a healthy eater and me as unhealthy, to seeing themselves as healthy and me as extreme.

Is this just MY sub-set of friends? Do people have very different experiences with the meaters in their lives? As Cafe Gratitude would say: I Am Curious.

It’s Sage Thyme

2 Oct

Sage Organic Vegan Bistro
1700 West Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90026
213.989.1718


It’s a lame headline. I know. And what’s worse is that a great restaurant like Sage deserves something better. Oh, well. They’ll have to settle for a rave review instead. I’ve been to Sage twice now. The first time was with the head of Supervegan’s L.A. office. We went crazy and ordered way too much food. Also known as just the right amount. And we loved almost all of it and wondered how neither of us had been there before. Then I went back this week with Ms. Insufferable and she loved it, too.

This place is crazy good. Is it the best vegan restaurant I’ve ever been to? Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve been anywhere better. I’d put it right up there with Fatty’s Cafe, the Cinnamon Snail truck, and Au Lac as my favorites. I like to think it’d be the kind of place that meat eaters would try and love, but by now I know better than that. Hey, that could be its own post! And in fact, it just might be tomorrow’s! I mean, hey, if I have to do this 20 times I’m gonna need things to write about.

What I do know is that before I went vegan, back when I was eating meat, if I had been brought here I would have loved it. And I love it that they are expanding to Culver City in the spring, complete with pizza and a beer garden, and they intend to stay open till 2 a.m.!

Classic Tempeh Burger

Okay, if you don’t live in SoCal you might not care about all that, but maybe you will care about the food. So let’s get to it! Ms. Insufferable and I split two burgers, and they were both good. One was their “Classic Tempeh Burger” which as you can see comes with a HUGE block of tempeh. This seems like maybe the equivalent of five or six of the tempeh patties they give you on a Native Foods Scorpion Burger! Just massive. And it had a bright, citrusy taste to it even though the menu description of lettuce, tomato, avocado, mayo, mustard and onion didn’t lead me to expect that type of taste.

Jamaican Jerk Burger

As good as this was, we both thought the “Jamaican Jerk Burger” was better. This was a soft-to-the-point-of-flimsy black bean and walnut burger, with “jerked portabella and leeks,” sliced mango, caramelized onions, and mango saffron aioli.

Buffalo Croquettes

We also got an appetizer, the “Buffalo Croquettes” — three falafel balls tossed in buffalo sauce atop sage polenta, crispy onions, arugula and creamy horseradish sauce. Of all the big ticket items I tried in my two visits to Sage, this might have been the item I liked least. Their falafel was a bit on the dry side and wasn’t nearly as good as Sunnin or Habayit, and I didn’t love the combination of the dry falafel with the dry polenta. But hey, at a place as good as Sage, I’m determined to eventually try everything.

And as good as the burgers were, I didn’t like them as much as some of the items I got on my first visit to sage, like the “Bistro Po’Boy Sandwich” or the “Pesto Croissant Club Sandwich” which were really terrific.

All in all, if you’re a SoCal vegan and have never been, I’d say it’s a must, and if you’re a non-SoCal vegan who ever swings through L.A., it should be high on the top of your hit list.

Insufferable MoFo

1 Oct

Vegan MoFo month has come along at just about the perfect time for me. As you can see, I haven’t done any blogging lately, so having to blog 20 times this month will surely get me back into the habit. And also, I recently celebrated my two year veganiversary, so veganing has been on my mind.

For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, it’s been mostly a mix of restaurant reviews and what I like to call my pseudo-philosophy, which is more or less my thoughts on being vegan. When I first started veganing, it changed my perspective on the world like few things have ever done. Lil ol’ meat-eating me didn’t realize how much the use of animals to provide things for humans was ingrained into the global society of peoples. You can meet someone from just about anywhere on the planet and you automatically have something in common: you both eat and use animal products. And I didn’t see this until I stepped outside it.

Even though I haven’t been blogging much lately, I’ve been posting a lot of vegan phoodographs on Instagram @insufferablevegan and I also tweet @InsufferableV

Part of the reason for my slowdown in blogging was that I Settled In and got used to being vegan. And people got used to me being vegan. So the culture clashes slowed down. Like most things, you get accustomed to it. One of the other things that’s happened in the last two years is that veganism seems to have caught fire. Do I only see it this way because I’m vegan, or do the NVA (Non-Vegans of America) also see it this way? I bet they do. It feels like it’s hard to avoid.

I wrote up a whole page when I started my blog about why I went vegan, and I also have an FAQ you can read, but I’ll give you the basics of vegan me if you care. I’m almost half a hundred years old and ate meat and plenty of it for my first 47 years. I didn’t love the way I ate and mostly thought about losing some weight rather than what I was eating. I could lose 10 to 15 pounds in a month or so with some effort, but over the next six months it would find its way back. This happened a few times. Then I met a friend of a friend who is vegan. She seemed so normal, and cool, so why the hell was she doing this weird vegan thing? To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even sure what the word meant, though I had a pretty good idea. “Are you new-agey?” I asked her, even though she didn’t seem it. “Uh, no” or so came the response. So it got me thinking. Why would a non new-agey person do this? What could possibly be the reason? As I said, I wanted to lose some weight anyway, so I figured I’d try it and see what it was like. I was curious to see the perspective.

And then after about two weeks of this, and eating weird foods, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” book and I knew that I couldn’t go back. And it really made me question myself for not figuring it out decades earlier. After all, my friend-of-a-friend-now-my-friend figured it out in college or so, so why was my head in the sand? Or wherever it was. It didn’t speak well of me. Oh, well.

So here I am two years later and, for those of you who might not be vegan but are considering it, let me tell you, it is easy. I mean it. At this point, I feel like I am not really lacking for anything. Plus, being vegan has one of the greatest fringe benefits you could possibly imagine: when you realize there’s something stuck in your teeth, you know it’s not a dead animal!

I’d like to thank a couple of people in addition to the friend who started it all. There are two people whose early support of my blog made me feel I wasn’t just typing to an empty room, and who encouraged me to keep going. They are myvegancookbook.com and @10ftdoll — thanks so much to both of you!

And thanks to those of you finding your way here via MoFo. I hope it’s a fun month!

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