Archive | Food RSS feed for this section

Veggie Grill menu fiasco

27 Mar

Veggie Grill doesn’t get it. Or sadly and more precisely, they do get it but have no shame. They are a disgraceful, pathetic company, and here’s why.

I have had to fight a one-man fight to get them to stop misleading their customers. It has been ugly and they have refused to publicly acknowledge what they’ve done, but in a classic “actions speak louder than words” way they’ve — kicking and screaming — made the changes I demanded, EXCEPT for my demand that they explain to their customers what happened. Their latest stealth move — and they are all stealth moves because there has not been one public statement on the matter in the last two months — was to alter their regular menu yesterday in a way that will shock you.

Menu change

On top is what the menu used to say, the bottom is the new version

Did you spot the difference? Sneaky, right? Does this look like they’re moving in a positive direction to a more open form of communication between a company and its customers? I think not. Because instead of simply removing the misleading statement that “Our specially seasoned and marinated proteins, Chickin’ and Veggie-Steak, are made from organic and non-GMO soybeans, wheat and peas” they’re now saying they’re “made from organic or non-GMO soybeans, wheat and peas.” (Emphasis added emphatically.) So what the hell does that mean? It means nothing! Our specially seasoned and marinated proteins, Chickin’ and Veggie-Steak, are made from Academy Award winning or non-GMO soybeans, wheat and peas. That’s just as accurate as what their menu now says. Have you ever seen such disdain toward customers? Such cynicism?

And gardein, the company that makes the Chickin’ and Veggie-Steak for Veggie Grill, isn’t willing to say that these items are made with organic soybeans, wheat and peas. When I asked them earlier this week to confirm the accuracy of Veggie Grill’s February 4th tweet which stated “Gardein says that the soy, wheat and peas used in their product to us is organic & non-GMO” this is how gardein replied:

Tweets

“Wherever possible”?! Really?! What kind of phrasing is that? That seems like slippery, lawyered wiggle room if ever I heard it! Not only does gardein also use the “or” construction, which Veggie Grill finally adopted yesterday, but they further protect themselves by saying “wherever possible” — a phrase that Veggie Grill has not yet added to their slippery statement, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

So the question is: why does Veggie Grill insist on throwing around the word “organic”? Did Veggie Grill make a simple mistake here? Did they not understand that gardein very carefully chooses its words since not a single one of the 22 items on the gardein products page lists organic soybeans, organic wheat or organic peas in its ingredients? That’s right, I went through the ingredients lists of all 22 gardein items on their website and the only organic ingredients listed were “organic cane sugar,”  “organic ancient grain flour,” “organic beetroot fiber” and “organic rice flour.” That’s it.

But Veggie Grill has been saying on its menus for at least two years that its veggie proteins are “made with soy and wheat that are organic and non-GMO.” Meanwhile, anyone who wanted to could simply take a look at the “Veggie Proteins” page on Veggie Grill’s own website and see a list of ingredients for their Chickin’, Veggie-Steak, and Veggie-Steak burger, which listed no organic soy, wheat or peas, merely organic evaporated cane juice and organic beet root fiber. That is, anyone could take a look at that Veggie Proteins page on their website until yesterday, when it vanished. Now when you click that link, you get this:

wrong place

But don’t worry, I took a screen shot of the entire page for my original post because I knew Veggie Grill wouldn’t want anyone to see that ingredients page once I drew attention to it (though I have to admit it took them way longer that I thought it would to realize how bad it made them look and remove it).

In my experience, when a company makes a mistake, even a series of huge mistakes as Veggie Grill has done here, they cop to it, apologize to their customers, make things right with everyone, and move on. Not Veggie Grill. They have said nothing in two months. Not a word. Well, not a word unless you count favoriting and retweeting attacks on me and sending a private DM via twitter whenever a prominent critic comes along asking for an explanation.  I’m not kidding. Take a look at the response to these two food and public health experts. This is a company bathed in secrecy.

DM tweets

How come those people get an explanation but their loyal everyday customers get NOTHING? And how laughable for Veggie Grill to use the word “confusion” here. I think Veggie Grill is the only one who’s confused. And I’m curious, do you think a word like “confusion” could cover a situation where, let’s say, hypothetically, someone was trying to confuse people?

And for what? Why does Veggie Grill keep insisting on using the word “organic” when describing its chickin’ and steak and burgers? Is Veggie Grill desperate to attach a veneer of health to their enterprise in the same way that Coca-Cola sponsors the Olympics in the hope you will associate the company with fitness and athleticism? Is it all about throwing around the word “organic” in the hope that the customer won’t notice the items that are processed and fried?

Because at this point, it’s not clear why Veggie Grill is doing what it’s doing, since they flat out refuse to say, but one thing that’s clear is that it’s NOT a mistake. Not after changing the menu under pressure, and deciding to keep the word “organic” in there anyway, just in a new even more “confusing” usage. Call it what you want, but at this point in time it is anything but a mistake.

The only mistake Veggie Grill has made is in handling this matter like amateurs, and often like children. And by doing this, I fear they have damaged the prospects of vegan businesses in general. I have taken a lot of heat on this topic from vegans who say this has nothing to do with veganism, and that organic is not our fight so why am I criticizing a vegan business, but aside from the question that has been raised as to if they’ve been misleading people about their organic claims, what else might they have been misleading people about, there is the issue of showing the larger marketplace that a vegan business can conduct itself professionally, and can have what it takes to succeed.

Is this really how you want a vegan business to behave? Should they really get a pass for being vegan? I think just the opposite. And I’m not the only one:

Simon tweets

Come on, Veggie Grill, enough is enough. It’s time to give your customers an explanation. You owe them at least that. At least. Get your act together. Finally. Don’t you want to move on? I know that I do.

Veggie Grill can listen, but apparently they can’t speak

21 Mar

Hey, where'd the "mindful living" menus go?

Hey, where’d the “mindful living” menus go?

It’s been ten days now since my post asking,”Is Veggie Grill’s gardein organic, like Veggie Grill claims it is, or is it not?” and a lot has happened so I figured I’d update you.

The main thing that happened is that immediately after I published my post, Veggie Grill finally removed the claim on its website that “All of our veggie proteins and tempeh are organic and non-GMO.” And this past weekend, more than six weeks after I first brought the matter to Veggie Grill’s attention, all stores were told to pull all copies of the menu containing that claim, according to a manager I spoke to at one of their locations.

And yet despite these actions, there hasn’t been a single word from Veggie Grill about any of this. Given that they deleted the language from their website that I challenged, and ordered their store managers to remove all those menus, obviously they realized I was right. These actions seem to be a pretty clear admission that they had misled thousands of customers about the organic nature of their product.

But did Veggie Grill make any kind of public admission? Did they apologize for challenging me initially on this? More important, did they apologize to their customers about this? No, not a word.

But they weren’t *entirely* without response. They did favorite a mysterious tweet that attacked me. A tweet from @vegan, the same person who owns vegan.com, a person whom I can’t remember ever having a conversation with before, and who doesn’t even follow me on Twitter, and who out of nowhere tweeted one morning:

favorited tweet

And Veggie Grill favorited that tweet, a tweet from someone with 54,000 followers, a tweet that occurred not long after my blog post went up. And not only that, Veggie Grill later retweeted a tweet from, yup, that same person:

2nd tweet

I don’t know what the connection is between @vegan and VeggieGrill, but Veggie Grill sure must have appreciated the support because since then they’ve retweeted a number of random tweets from @vegan to their 74,000 followers, even though I went back months prior to my post and didn’t see a single retweet of @vegan by VeggieGrill. I guess one hand washes the other and all.

And that favorite of the attack on me, and the retweet above, have been the entirety of Veggie Grill’s response. Unbelievable, I know, and it’s both pathetic and shocking at the same time. Up until this, I thought Veggie Grill was a well-run company. I thought they had what it takes to grow the company. I thought the leadership was in place to actually turn this into a vegan giant that could divert people from meaty fast food all across America. But now my confidence in them is shattered.

It turns out that it’s amateur hour over there at Veggie Grill, which makes me sad. Any well-run company would have apologized to their customers, issued some type of statement about the matter, tried to make right with those who were misled, and begun to move on. But not Veggie Grill. Instead they have shown disdain for their customers, which is awful, considering how loyal their customers can be.

So loyal that many have attacked me on various social media platforms, and not just @vegan. The general opinion of the attackers seems to be: This is a vegan company spreading veganism so if the thing they’ve been misleading people about doesn’t pertain to the vegan nature of their products it’s okay. Then there have been some people on the other side who have basically said: If they misled customers about the organic nature of their products, what else might they be misleading people about?

Personally, I trust that they are indeed 100 percent vegan and committed to that. And I should add that I have never questioned their non-GMO claims, nor their claims that their tempeh, which is not from gardein, is organic.

But it’s important to note that Veggie Grill still has not addressed the claim on their regular menu, which is still online and in stores, that “Our specially seasoned and marinated proteins, Chickin’ and Veggie-Steak, are made from organic and non-GMO soybeans, wheat and peas. Produced by GARDEIN™, these hearty proteins are deliciously satisfying, easily digested and packed with nutrients and fiber.” This despite the fact that Veggie Grill’s own list of ingredients for these gardein items on Veggie Grill’s own website shows only the beet root fiber and the evaporated cane juice as being organic. On their own website! And Veggie Grill has been claiming on menus for at least two years that the wheat and soy in their gardein products are organic, even though the ingredients list that’s still up on their website today says otherwise!

Where are the answers from Veggie Grill? Is anyone in charge there? Is this what they think of their customers?

Oh, and I almost forgot that they also unfollowed me on Twitter. That’s the way the adults there decided to deal with this issue: they covered their eyes.

Vegan Girl Scout cookies and how to get ‘em!

18 Feb

OMG! Vegan Girl Scout cookies!

Girl Scout cookies

At this time of year I always see lots of online posts from vegans saying, “What?! Girl Scout cookies are vegan?!” or “Did you know that Girl Scout cookies are vegan?!” and there’s lots of misinformation going around so I thought I’d clear things up.

It’s pretty simple, actually. The Girl Scouts divide up geographically into “councils.” A council is roughly a county, though in more rural areas a council can consist of multiple counties. There are two and only two baking companies nationwide that make Girl Scout cookies and the councils decide to buy from one or the other. The two different bakeries are Little Brownie and ABC Bakers. NONE of the Little Brownie cookies are vegan (they all contain milk — BOOOOOOO!!!!!) , so if your local council buys from Little Brownie you are out of luck, unless you’re willing to take a drive to a nearby council/county that uses ABC. You can call or tweet your local council and they will be happy to tell you which baker they get their cookies from. Once you’ve determined if your local council uses ABC, or if you’re going to have to drive to a nearby county, then you can plug in a zip code in the Girl Scout Cookie Finder and it will tell you where they are selling them. But be warned, this zip code finder has ALL locations in it, not just ABC ones.

ABC makes eight different varieties of Girl Scout cookies and four of them are vegan: the Thin Mints, the Peanut Butter Patties, the Lemonades, and the Thanks-A-Lot ones. They are even marked vegan on their website!

I live in Los Angeles. They use Little Brownie. (BOOOOOO!!!!!!) So every year I will drive to Orange County and find a place where they are selling cookies, usually at a table in front of a supermarket. Booth sales this year began on February 14 and they will go until March 9. You can use this amazing Orange County only zip code finder to find the closest vegan Girl Scout cookies to LA. Just plug in a zip code for a town close to L.A. like Seal Beach (90740) or Westminster (92683) and you’ll be on your way.

UPDATE #1:

I have some good news! @nicolegp, a vegan instagrammer, spoke with ABC’s customer service department which informed her that the sugar in the vegan cookies “is from sugar beets and does not use bone char in the refining process”!

UPDATE #2:

The company says that the new Cranberry Citrus Crisps are not vegan because one of the natural flavors is not vegan. So disregard the side note below since we now have the answer.

One side note: there is a new cookie that ABC is offering for the first time this year called Cranberry Citrus Crisps. They are NOT marked vegan, but none of the ingredients seem non-vegan. The info page for this cookie says, “This product is manufactured on equipment that processes products containing milk,” but so does the info page for the Peanut Butter Patties, which are marked vegan. If I had stumbled across these cranberry cookies in a store, and saw this ingredient list, I’d probably buy them. But maybe there’s something I’m missing.

Happy Cookieing!

12 best things i 8 in ’13

5 Jan

Ten

Wait, did the year end? Crap, I gotta get this list out! Following a yearslong (two) tradition, here are the y-1 best things i 8 in y = past year – 2000.

Chardonnay cheese by Chef Dave Anderson

Chardonnay cheese by Chef Dave Anderson

12. I don’t want to start off on a sad note but I’m starting off on a sad note. Because my #12 best thing i 8 in ’13 was the Chardonnay cheese from Maddy’s in West LA which has closed. (Insert frowneyface emoticon.) Maddy’s was the creation of Chef Dave Anderson who comes up with some amazing vegan creations. Chef Dave is one of those rare chefs who is equally amazing as a pastry chef and a regala chef. PLUS HE MAKES GREAT CHEESE. When I bought a jar of his Chardonnay cheese on the very first day Maddy’s opened and took it home and eated it I was floored. It was the best vegan cheese I’d ever had. How he made cashews taste like this I have no idea but it was remarkable. But then two things happened veese-a-veese the cheese: as Chef Dave’s employees took over making it, the quality declined, to the point where after a few months it went from the best vegan cheese ever to not even worth buying anymore, and… Maddy’s went out of business. But there’s some good cheews (cheese news) ahead, so read on.

Chocolate Almond Midnight at Millennium in San Francisco

Chocolate Almond Midnight at Millennium in San Francisco

11. The Chocolate Almond Midnight Cake from Millennium in San Francisco. If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t oh my goodness now I like you a little bit less) then you know I recently made my first trip to San Francisco as a vegan. And I ate at Millennium, an elegant all-vegan restaurant that is 19 years old, which is about a Millennium in the all-vegan elegant restaurant business. And I enjoyed their two-billion-ingredients food very much but the thing I remember most was this cake. It was so good. And that’s real praise from me. It was so good! I want it now, and every day, but my world is otherwise so I’ll just have to accept it. But go eat that cake!

buffalo sub

Buffalo Sub at Sweet Hereafter, a vegan bar in Portland, Ore. Photo © Vegtastic Voyage. Used by permission.

10. The Buffalo Sub at the Sweet Hereafter vegan bar in Portland Oregon while I was in town to attend Vida Vegan Con 2013. You can read my giant Portland blogpost if you want to learn about the conference and vegan Portland and while I had lots of really good food that weekend I think the best thing I ate was this soy curls sandwich. I’d never had soy curls before and I knew it was kinda a Portland thing since it’s made by Butler Foods in Grand Ronde Oregon (63.2 miles from Portland via OR-99W S and OR-18 W) and this sub was almost as great as the concept of a vegan bar! The only problem is that I have no photo of it. Because my phone died. And because specialneedseater, who was sharing said sandwich with me, refused to take a photo of it with her living phone. So I had to grab this photo from VVC’s own Vegtastic Voyage, who was nice enough to let me use it. (Can’t wait for VVCIII!)  And speaking of vegan bars, I just want to say that the Charlie Brown chocolate peanut butter brownie bar from Sweetpea Baking Co. in Portland was the runner up from my Vida Vegan Con weekend veganing. Check out this beautiful bad boy!

Potato Harra (aka the best French fries you will ever eat) at Hayat's Kitchen

Potato Harra (aka the best French fries you will ever eat) at Hayat’s Kitchen in North Hollywood

9. Potato Harra (French fries with garlic and cilantro) at Hayat’s Kitchen in North Hollywood. Yes, I’m putting French fries on my list. And no, I’m not putting them on my list because they’re “loaded” or “discoed” or anything where a ton of delicious stuff is dumped on them. I’m putting them on because it’s all very delicate and maybe even art. Oh, and spicy. Sneak up on you kick the crap out of you spicy. (Though I suppose you could ask for no red pepper flakes.) I found out about Hayat’s Kitchen from an entry on Eater LA that was about the great, secret, and  yup, “Loaded” vegan burger at M Cafe (which I had and which, sorry, isn’t all that special). But the article also mentioned Hayat’s. And what a find. I’ve been there twice now and it’s not just French fries, it’s lots of great Lebanese food for people like us. Including stuff like vegetarian kibbie (which spellcheck wants to change to vegetarian cabbie) that was also really good.

Not sure what V-RV stands for but these vegan red velvet cookies are great!

Not sure what V-RV stands for but these vegan red velvet cookies are great!

8. The V-RV cookies from Isabella’s Cookie Company. V-RV stands for Vegan Red Velvet. And stop rolling your eyes, I don’t love Red Velvet either. (Though come to think of it, the vegan red velvet cake from Jamaica’s Cakes might be the best vegan cake I’ve ever had, but I put it on a previous year’s list, and I don’t like to repeat myself.) I found these vegan recreational vehicles at the Co-Opportunity in Santa Monica, but lately they haven’t had any. (Insert another frowneyface.) But you can order them directly from Isabella’s. And if you do, I’ll just share my point of view that the V-Coco ones are also terrific and that the V-Breakfast ones are some of the most disgusting cookies I’ve ever put in my mouth. (There’s also a V-Ginger that I want to try but haven’t found in any stores yet.)

Pure Luck Pop Up Pulled Pork

Can you say Pure Luck Pop Up Pulled Pork three times fast?

7. The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich from the Pure Luck pop-up. The beloved vegan restaurant Pure Luck closed not long after I went vegan, though I did get to eat there once before it shuttered. (I said “shuttered” because I didn’t want to say “closed” twice in the same sentence but I should have just said “closed” again because “shuttered” sounds so douchey.) But what I ate at the Pure Luck restaurant didn’t prepare me for how good this jackfruit Pulled Pork Sandwich from a hot plate outside a clothing store on Melrose was going to be. An incredible combination of flavors finished off with the perfect amount AND TYPE of pickles. I want one of these right now!

Mushroom Shu Mai at Street

Mushroom Shu Mai at Street

6. The Mushroom Shu Mai at the kinda gone Street. I say kinda gone because Street closed for a few weeks and emerged from its chrysalis as Mud Hen Tavern. Which I haven’t been to yet. Even though Chef Kajsa does some amazing vegan things. Like the Chinese New Year dim sum brunch last February  where I had these Mushroom Shu Mai and a lot of other amazing food. What am I waiting for?!

Punk Rawk Labs' delicious misnamed cheese

Punk Rawk Labs’ delicious yet poorly named cheese

5. The Smoked Cashew Cheese from Punk Rawk Labs. I know, I just told you how great that Chardonnay cheese from Maddy’s was. But that was before I had this. And after having this, I think this is the best vegan cheese I have ever had. And I don’t much like smoky things. And this isn’t really smoky at all. What it is is pepper coated, and that’s the dominant taste, and it’s an amazing dominant taste. And I’m content to let it dominate me. If it would only come back in stock at Viva La Vegan which is where I got it.

Peppermint Patty Brownie from Bramble Bake Shop

Peppermint Patty Brownie from Bramble Bake Shop

4. The Peppermint Patty Brownie from Bramble Bake Shop. According to the Bramble Bake Shop website they are opening on January 15th, but they did a holiday preview box and the peppermint patty brownie was one of the items in it, and item is a strange word to use for a piece of art, because that’s what this thing was. A creation that takes your brain in new directions. The complexity of a great wine. And not all that surprising, given that the owner of Bramble is Miel Bredouw, who was the sous chef at Mohawk Bend and also in charge of all their pastries, including the delicious horchata spice cake that Mohawk sold at the LA Vegan Beerfest, not to mention the amazing Cadbury eggs she made last Easter. If the preview box is a preview of what she’s going to be doing, I can’t wait for the actual view.

Vegan Drunken Noodles with gardein chick'n at Wazuzu in the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas

Noodles up the Wazuzu

3. Vegan Drunken Noodles at Wazuzu in the Encore at the Wynn in Las Vegas. I was vegan more than three years before I made it to Las Vegas. Before I made it to the Wynn. Which I ‘d heard for three years was a mecca of vegan fine dining. And I wasn’t disappointed. In four days I managed to eat a lot of their food and try a lot of their restaurants, though I need to go back soon and try all the rest. And though much of it was good, and some very good, I think my favorite thing was these Vegan Drunken Noodles, which were incredibly good. The serving was tremendous, enough for me to bring home three-quarters of it in a doggie bag and still be full, except that there was no doggie bag, and the bowl was empty when I was done, although there might have still been a drop of sauce. My bad.

California Cone at The Bazaar by José Andrés

California Cone at The Bazaar by José Andrés

2. The Bazaar by José Andrés. Okay, this is a place, not a dish. Because if I went by dishes then The Bazaar might have taken three or four spots on this list. I found out about this place from my partner in vegan crime, specialneedseater. Who told me this place had A SEPARATE VEGAN MENU. And it’s true. And she also told me I needed to go because the food on that svm is amazing. And it is. So if you have a special occasion to celebrate, go splurge here and try it. Oh, what were the things that would have taken up three or four spots on the list? The California Cones are pretty spectacular. The pisto is outrageous. (Is “outrageous” as douchey a word as “shuttered”?) The gazpacho is delicious. But I think my favorite might have been the jicama-wrapped guacamole. You get five to a serving. I could have eaten a hundred.

Blackened Tomatoes at the Plum Bistro pop up in Hollywood

Blackened Tomatoes at the Plum Bistro pop up in Hollywood

1. The Plum Bistro pop-up in Hollywood. Yup, I’m cheating again with a meal not a thing. Because this might be the best vegan meal I’ve ever had. Might be the best any meal I’ve ever had. Chef Makini Howell of Seattle’s Plum Bistro was the conductor of this symphony with contributions from Chef Shawain Jay of Cafe Blossom in New York and also from Chef Roberto Martin whose blackened tomatoes were one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. specialneedseater and I kept looking at each other in amazement over how good this food was. And after dinner we got a chance to chat with Chef Makini who said she was thinking about opening a permanent place in LA. I haven’t heard anything about that since but it would certainly be a lot easier than me moving to Seattle.

And that’s my list. Did you have some vegan food this year that was so good you had to shake your head in amazement? I’d love to hear about it, especially if it’s within driving distance of my driveway.

Livin’ La Pura Vida Loca

9 Dec

Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro
1236 Western Ave
Las Vegas NV 89102
702.722.0108

Pura Vida

Holy shit.

I have been to a lot of restaurants in my half a hundred years on Earth. I have seen a lot of weird things and experienced a lot of odd situations. But I have never walked into the middle of a Dali painting quite like this one.

I was in Vegas for business. If you look up Las Vegas on Happy Cow, there is only one all-vegan restaurant in the city (besides a few raw places) so I had to go. I also had to go because writing for the late great SuperVegan, my vegan pal specialneedseater raved about this place. I’ll settle that score separately.

So I drove my rental car into the near-the-railroad-tracks industrial wasteland a little north and west of the Strip and found Pura Vida. I was so excited.

The time: appx 11:30 on a Saturday. Are you ready? Let’s go.

I walked in and was greeted by a friendly server. He directed me to a nice two-top near the door. I sat down.

Before long, the owner, the famous (at least to Las Vegas vegans) Chef Mayra emerged from the kitchen and I saw her point at me and then have a conversation with the server. What did I do?!

The server came back to my table and told me that I had to move. Huh? Chef Mayra must have seen my look of puzzlement — you know, the look that any human would have in this situation — and said I couldn’t sit at the two-top because I was eating by myself and that I needed to move to a table in the back. I decided not to say anything and just comply.

But I have to say it was a bizarre request. The place wasn’t full. In fact, there was an entire section to the left of the entrance that wasn’t being used. And next to my two-top was another solo diner enjoying his lunch at a two-top. But I let it go and changed tables. To a table that not only left me facing the dirty spot where they threw table scraps into a bucket, BUT TO A TABLE THAT WAS ANOTHER TWO -TOP!

IMG_8255

Photo taken by me, sitting in my seat, of the other chair at my table, and beyond.

Why couldn’t the still-theoretical party of two get this crappy table instead of me? But again I didn’t say anything. I was there for the food and decided to go with the flow. So I sat down to look at my menu. Except I realized that when the server sat me there he never gave me a menu. That was odd. And now he was helping someone else. And not looking my way. And the other server wasn’t either. So I was left just sitting there. For quite a while. And then my server helped another party. And still I didn’t have a menu. And neither server was either within earshot of me nor in a position to catch my glance, so I sat there for quite a while menuless. Five minutes maybe? Wow, this was odd.

But then when my server finally grabbed a menu and came over to me, I realized why he hadn’t just given me a menu to start. It’s because the menus require a presentation. Or at least someone has decided they do. But first let me tell you that the very first thing the server said to me when he gave me the menu was: “Do you have a Groupon today?” And when I said no, he said, “Good.”

Now I’m not a big Yelper. I find it to be minimally helpful. So I didn’t check it before going to Pura Vida. But if you take a look at the Yelp reviews and search Groupon you will see a lot of stories. A LOT. And they are not good.

But I didn’t have a coupon, and so I was apparently allowed to order anything I wanted. So nice of them!

My server did his little presentation of the menu and I settled on the “WOW Pastry Puffs” that specialneedseater had raved about. The server then told me they would take about thirty minutes and that I should consider ordering an appetizer while I waited. Hmm, well, I do always like to try a few things at a place, especially when I won’t have the chance to get back for a while, so I said okay. He suggested the Chili Cheese Potatoes or the Salsa & Chips. I went with the potatoes. I then ordered a smoothie. “Sorry, we’re not doing smoothies right now.” Oh. Why, I asked. “Because Chef Mayra is the only one who can make the smoothies and she’s busy cooking right now.”

That seemed odd. Really? Nobody else is trained to make smoothies? No other human is capable of making one of their smoothies quite as well as Chef Mayra? But I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it and shrugged and asked for a glass of water instead.

Chile Cheese Potatoes. $9 worth of potatoes with a little vegan cheese and chili.

Chile Cheese Potatoes. $9 worth of potatoes with a little vegan cheese and chili.

Maybe ten minutes later my chili cheese potatoes came out and they looked terrific. Don’t they look amazing? Well, they weren’t amazing. They weren’t bad but they weren’t good either. They were mediocre. Solidly mediocre. I ate a little more than half of them, due to their mediocrity and to me not wanting to fill up on potatoes with my main course coming, and I settled in to wait. And I have to say, contrary to what other people on Yelp have endured, it wasn’t bad. I’d say that the puff pastries arrived maybe 25 minutes after I ordered them, which was fine. It wasn’t a problem to me.

WOW Puff Pastry. The only thing WOW about these was the $16 price tag.

And don’t they look terrific? I was pretty excited. And then they were mediocre. Not bad. Not good. Mediocre. Okay, I thought. I know what’s going on here. This is the only all-vegan restaurant in the city, and the Vegas Vegans defend it. They didn’t have any vegan restaurants for a long time and so they embraced this one. And maybe they find all the strange behavior to be charming, or at worst eccentric. Not annoying. The way someone like me, who lives in a city which has so many vegan options that I don’t have to tolerate let alone defend mediocre food and odd behavior, would see this place.

Dessert Menu

So I ate my puff pastry and then asked about dessert. There were three desserts on the dessert menu that day. Two contained banana and I don’t like banana. And they were sold out of the non-banana one. So I asked my server about the Peanut Butter & Banana Silk Pie since that one said it had “bananas on top” and I thought maybe they could be left off, but it turned out that one was also sold out. Two of the three desserts were sold out long before closing. And keep in mind, this is a place with the word “bakery” in its name, and which places the word “bakery” before the word “bystro” in its name. And yes, they spell “bistro” with a “y” — an affectation that should have tipped me off to to how byzarre thys joynt ys.

Anyway, I skipped dessert and asked for the check and was paying when Chef Mayra came out of the kitchen and asked how everything was. And although I wasn’t going to say anything, since she wanted to know, I said, “Well, I still don’t understand why you moved me.” And I’m not a mental health expert, so I won’t attempt to characterize the condition of the human who responded, but rather I’ll just share the response.

“I moved you because the server should never have sat you there. One person is supposed to be sat in the back and I have told them that repeatedly. I guess they need even more training.” Me: But I was already seated, and the gentleman next to me was by himself at a two-top, and there were other open tables in the restaurant, and the table that you moved me to was also a two-top. “But I can’t take a chance that I leave you sitting there, and then a party of two comes in and they have to be sat in the back and I’m not going to do this.” But why should they get priority over me for the better table? “Because this is a destination restaurant. I have people come from out of town and go out of their way to eat here. I have people who take cabs from the Strip to eat here!” I did not point out to her that she never asked me if I was from out of town, or if her restaurant was a destination for me. Because at that point I saw the look in the eyes. You know the look. The look that makes you say to yourself, “Whoa!” And like I said, I’m not a mental health expert, so I will not venture to characterize what was staring back at me from those eyes,  but if you my dear reader happen to be an expert in this field, or at least a trained professional, and have visited Pura Vida and spoken to Chef Mayra, I would love to get your official take on what we are dealing with here.

And by the way, I don’t blame you if you don’t want to trust my take on the situation. All you need to do is go to Yelp. Look up Pura Vida and then click “rating” and then click it again so it gives you all the one-star reviews first. Then read through all the one-star reviews and two-star reviews and even most of the three-star reviews and after reading dozens of these you’ll start to see that everyone felt the exact same way.

Another thing I should mention is that if you look on Yelp, there are a lot of complaints about people still waiting for their food long after the rest of their party had been served, and that when they asked their server about it they were told: your entrée was given to someone else by mistake. And this happened to a nearby table while I was there! I heard a gentleman ask where his food was – the woman he was with had her food for a while – and he was told it was given to someone else by mistake. What was strange was that looking around, there was no other table that seemed like it could have received his meal. The other tables were all finishing up, so I was confused. But now after reading Yelp, I know that this is just an excuse the servers are told to say to cover up for ridiculous wait times. And there are also people on Yelp complaining about being asked to change tables for no reason after having already been seated.

But I saved the best part for last. While I was eating, I heard one of the customers at another table tell a server that she heard Pura Vida was closing. And the server said it was true, but that they would be re-opening elsewhere and that she couldn’t say anything else about it. So after getting Chef Mayra’s “explanation” as to why she moved me to a table with a view of the dirtiest, most disgusting part of the restaurant, I told her I heard that Pura Vida was closing. Her eyes sprang from her head in pure Captain Queeg style and she said, or rather insisted,  in a loud voice, “Who told you that?!” I was vague and just said I’d heard it. She then said it was true, and that they had to move because the area was being taken for a freeway expansion project, but that she already found a new location which she couldn’t tell me about, but she proudly said that it was going to be a “148-seat location.”

Well, it’s a good thing my food was pretty far down in my belly by then or I’d have spit it out laughing. The current restaurant has 14 seats on the side that I was on, and another 12 to 16 seats on the other side of the restaurant, which was closed. So let’s take this in:  this woman can not run her already tiny restaurant effectively unless she further cuts the seating in half, and she’s planning on opening a space that’s ten times the size of what it was today? My prediction is that she’s going to go out of business pretty fast. And you know what? She deserves to. She’s a gigantic asshole serving mediocre food at ridiculously expensive prices and who seems to think she’s the vegan Alice Waters.

Maybe if you’re a vegan who lives in Las Vegas you don’t want to head down to the Strip for lunch any more than a New Yorker would have wanted to head to Times Square for lunch in 1985 but trust me, there is much better food to be had at the Wynn and elsewhere for similar or not much higher prices. Pura Vida is what vegan food USED TO BE. Mediocre, expensive and served by a weirdo. We don’t have to live like this any more, folks. We are everywhere now. But if you’re a defender, and I’m sure I will hear from many of them, then my suggestion is to go now and go often because with a 148-seat establishment, you’re going to have to wait about seven hours for your $9 pile of diced potatoes and that might be about as long as that spot will stay in business.

Part three: The Green Truck has egg on its face

21 Nov
So now it's a "Veggie Burger" with a "Veggie Patty." Yup.

So now it’s a “Veggie Burger” with a “Veggie Patty.” That other stuff they said? Never mind.

This is just a quick post because I realized that although I instagrammed the denouement I never posted it on the blog. So for completion’s sake here’s what happened, as told on Instagram earlier this month:

Not sure what to say about the Green Truck at this point. Almost decided to just let this go and not report back to y’all about what happened. As you probably remember, not that long ago I went to the Green Truck in LA when it was over on Wilshire near LACMA. I ordered their signature item: the “Mother Trucker Vegan Burger” and it was served to me on an obviously eggy bun. I asked and they said they thought the bun indeed had egg and they called the owner who instantly confirmed it had egg. So the owner knew the bun contained egg but was still presenting it to the public as a vegan burger. Went back the next day in a hat and dark glasses with a different name and ordered the “Mother Trucker Vegan Burger” and the same workers in the truck sold it to me again without tipping me to any non-vegan issues and again it was served to me on an eggy bun. When someone tweeted the owner to ask about my reporting, he said it was just a “rumor” and also someone named Sara from Green Truck left a comment on my blog claiming it’s usually served on a vegan bun (even though the workers in the truck told me it’s “always” served on the eggy bun) and also claiming that whenever they run out of these alleged-to-exist vegan buns they note that on their menu board (which the pix I posted that day last month showed not to be so).

After my tweets and blog posts set records for hits and retweets and were seen by over 100,000 people, the Green Truck changed its menu board the next week to say “Mother Trucker Veggie Burger. Go full vegan! Have Mother Trucker Vegan Patty on greens or kale.” So much for it being a “rumor.” But I did not trust the lowlifes who own the Green Truck to police themselves so I filed a number of complaints with local authorities about what happened and now this week when I paid another visit to the Green Truck the menu board, as you can see, had been changed yet again to read: “Mother Trucker Veggie Burger. Mixed greens, tomato, veggie patty, trucker sauce.” So I have to wonder if this is the result of the proper authorities coming down on them, and I have to wonder if the patty itself was ever vegan since they’re now saying it’s “veggie” not “vegan” and I have to wonder if the patties they were selling at the LA Vegan Beerfest were merely vegetarian and not vegan. It’s a sad state of affairs, really, and makes me wonder about all their other claims of greenness and sustainability and whether or not the “Green” in “Green Truck” is referring to an altogether different kind of green, which really makes me blue.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers

%d bloggers like this: