Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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.

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.

Part two: The Green Trucks give me the blues

4 Oct

I suppose I could feel angry, hurt, cheated, or any other number of feelings about what has transpired with the Green Trucks over the past couple of days, but the profound feeling that I have is sadness. I am sad that these people are such profound assholes.

This morning I received a comment on my blog post from someone named Sara at Green Truck. I’m going to re-post it here because it is one of the most astounding things you will ever read, and it confirms for me that the Green Truck people are vermin.

Green Truck comment

Rarely have I come across a piece of writing that reeked this badly. Let’s go through it. She starts by defending the patty. “Our Mother Trucker Vegan Patties have been made in house with locally sourced ingredients since 2007. ” Classic straw man maneuver, since I never questioned whether the patty was vegan. “We do offer our patty on vegan bread, a bed of kale”… let me stop right there. Um, no, you don’t. There was no vegan bread offered to me, nor was I offered the choice to have it on kale. I was not offered ANY choice. It was served to me on an eggy bun. And when I spoke with the two people in the truck, and they called the owner who immediately confirmed there was egg in the bun, the only thing I was offered as a result was a tortilla. But no choices were offered to me beforehand. “This is up to the customer”… um, no, it is not. And then she pathetically hides behind the non-sequitor of some people like their vegan patties on eggy buns with bacon and cheese! Well, good for them and, for the record, vegans DO NOT LIKE THEIR BURGERS ON EGGY BUNS WITH BACON AND CHEESE YOU SHITHEAD. And a burger called vegan that contains these items IS NOT VEGAN.

“Our menu supports vegans and non-vegans alike” — well, your vegan burger doesn’t support vegans because it contains egg, and your beef burger and chicken pesto sandwich kinda tipped me off that your truck supports non-vegans, even though “supports” is a terrible word choice that shows what a terrible writer you are. But I digress.

“Our Mother Trucker patty is 100% vegan” — here’s the straw man again “and it is the customer’s choice as to how they wish to accompany it.” This is the kind of sentence that really let’s the entire world know what lowlifes these people are. It was not the customer’s choice at all. There was no choice offered. The burger is called the Mother Trucker Vegan Burger, and as served it is not vegan. Nor is the customer notified that oh by the way, if you want your vegan burger to be vegan, you have to speak up and tell us that, even though of course how could you know that, since we tell you on our menu board and our website that it’s vegan, it just isn’t. But hey, it’s your choice. But if you don’t know, and thus don’t speak up, your “vegan” burger will be accompanied by animal products that by definition are not vegan.

And then comes the killer comment: “No deception here.” Are you old enough, or well-enough versed in history, to remember Nixon’s “I am not a crook”? Well, here’s the newest iteration: “No deception here.” Are you realizing at this point what kind of scum these people are? It’s truly shocking.

“On days where we have run out of the vegan bun it is served on an artisanal bun which is listed on printed menus on the truck and it is the customer’s choice if they wish to sans the bun and go with the bed of kale to ensure their meal is vegan.” First of all, sans is not a verb. I think she sansed an education. Second of all, why should I have to change anything to make an item called “vegan burger” vegan? And third, the menu board on the truck describes it only as “Mother Trucker Vegan Burger” and doesn’t say anything about the bun, and neither does the printed menu description from the website:

Green Truck menu

Your description doesn’t say a damn thing about the bun. But you call it a BURGER and you DO serve it on a bun and you say it’s a VEGAN BURGER so why would any customer ever think that they had to speak up and tell you they don’t want the bun? More to the point, nobody said to me: “We’re out of vegan buns, is a non-vegan bun okay or do you want it on a bed of kale.” Quite the opposite, THEY DIDN’T SAY A WORD.  As if I’m supposed to know to ask whether the bun on their vegan burger is vegan or not. And do you know why nobody working there said anything about the bun? Because as I said in my previous post, when I asked the woman working in the truck, she said the Mother Trucker Vegan Burger is ALWAYS served on that eggy bun.

It doesn’t matter if she’s only worked on your truck for a year, a month or a week, it tells me all I need to know about your claim that it’s usually served on a vegan bun and that your truck usually carries both vegan and non-vegan buns. This directly contradicts not only what I experienced but also contradicts what YOUR employee told me.

And then you go on to say, “Our apologies if your experience was confusing.” Well, Samuel Johnson was wrong. Patriotism is not the last refuge of the scoundrel. The last refuge of the scoundrel is claiming that the other side is confused. She does it here, and the douchebag who handles the Green Truck in San Diego did it to me last night when he said, “I can understand your confusion.” There is nothing confusing about the situation. You people are worthless and despicable. You are boils on the ass of humanity, wrapped up in a package of alleged greenness. You think you’re clever and can explain away the obvious but what’s obvious is that you don’t realize how transparent you are. I’m not confused at all. It’s pretty simple: you are poop.

She closes with, “We love our local vegan community and proudly provide delicious, organic fare.” I don’t care if the egg in your vegan burger is delicious egg or organic egg because I’M VEGAN AND I DON’T EAT EGG. As for whether you love the vegan community, I can’t speak to that. There’s all kinds of love. There are parents who love their kids yet burn them with cigarettes. Is that the kind of love you are talking about?

Okay everyone, are you ready for the big surprise? Oh wait, there’s something else I want to talk about before the surprise. It’s that fuckface tool down in San Diego. He whined to me like a baby last night that he was separately owned from Green Truck and that I was harming his business. He also didn’t apologize, for my confusion or otherwise. If he really gave a shit about vegans he would have expressed concern about my vegan burger containing egg, but he didn’t even have it in him to pretend he cared about that. But you know what I saw today? It turns out that Mr. I’m In San Diego And The Los Angeles Green Trucks Are Separate Separate Separate has his own Twitter account for the San Diego Green Truck (@GreenTruck_SD) and this morning he tweeted about the Green Truck Los Angeles being back on Wilshire today! And a few days ago he tweeted about the LA Green Truck being in Santa Monica! Now keep in mind, there is also another twitter account for the GreenTruck (@GreenTruck) but I’m talking about a Twitter that specifically describes itself as the San Diego Green Truck twitter yet promotes the appearances of the LA Green Truck in Los Angeles. And the fact that this San Diego account was tweeting this morning about the Green Truck being on Wilshire today after his email to me last night — without ever apologizing or explaining what happened on Wilshire yesterday — tells you plenty about Mr. San Diego Green Truck Fartlips. He’s a giant, giant asshole. And… not long after I received the comment from Green Truck’s Sara, the tweet on the San Diego twitter account promoting today’s Wilshire appearance was deleted! But fear not, because I screen-shot it before it disappeared and here it is:

@greentruck_SD tweet

So I do want to thank Mr. San Diego Green Truck Crybaby because without his tweet this morning I would have never thought to go back to Green Truck today. Which I did after receiving Sara’s comment, so thank you to Sara as well. And that’s the surprise! I went back to the Green Truck, ordered the Mother Trucker Vegan Burger from the same person who sold it to me yesterday, WHO DID NOT ASK IF I WANTED IT ON KALE OR IN A TORTILLA OR ON A NON-VEGAN BUN OR WHETHER I CARED IF IT WAS EVEN REALLY VEGAN OR ANY OTHER QUESTION WHATSOEVER. She just took my name and money, and then a few minutes later I was given a box marked “vegan” that contained my Mother Trucker Vegan Burger. And here it is, with today’s LA Times to show you that I really went back today and experienced the exact same thing despite the comments and remarks from representatives of both the Los Angeles and Green Trucks defending themselves to the hilt. THE SAME THING HAPPENED AGAIN.

Non-vegan vegan burger. Two days in a row. Sad and disgraceful. Shame on them!

Non-vegan vegan burger. Two days in a row. Sad and disgraceful. Shame on them!

Like I said, it makes me sad. Yesterday was bad enough. But after everyone at Green Truck was made well aware of what happened yesterday, they pulled the same thing again. I know. There’s really only one conclusion that can be drawn. They are knowingly selling a non-vegan burger as a vegan burger. The same woman who sold it to me yesterday didn’t say a word to me when I ordered it today, even though I wore a hat and big sunglasses today and used a different name so there was no way she knew it was me. I was wrong when I said in my post yesterday that she was nice. She’s yet another piece of Green Truck Trash. Is this job really so important to her that she would do this? Are the owners so terrible that she thinks they would fire her in a second if she didn’t stick to the party line and keep her mouth shut about the eggy buns? And speaking of these Dogshit Owners, after all that happened yesterday, and after Mr. San Diego Green Truck told me last night that he spoke to them about it, they send that truck out again today with none of their supposed- vegan buns (remember, the woman on the truck said the vegan burger ALWAYS comes on the eggy buns) and with no instructions to the staff to at least warn people that, as served, the vegan burger isn’t vegan at all. I can’t tell you when I’ve encountered such pathetic, despicable people.

But we’ll see what happens. My original tweets about the story yesterday were retweeted to tens of thousands of people today. And my blog post about the incident drove record traffic to my blog. The vegan community in LA is big but it’s not that big that word won’t get around to everyone. Ditto the Green community here. Word is spreading about the kind of people involved with the Green Trucks. The proper authorities in LA are being notified about the risks to those with egg allergens, among other things. And soon everyone will know what kind of green these people really care about.

(Did I mention that the dickwad in San Diego says the buns on his vegan burgers have always been vegan? And that I believe him? He’s a dickwad for other reasons, and not nearly as big a dickwad as the Los Angeles Green Truck dickwads, but a dickwad nonetheless. But don’t worry about his vegan burgers not being vegan. Because he assures me they are. So if you want an actual vegan Green Truck Mother Trucker Vegan Burger, all you have to do is drive to San Diego! Easy Peasy, right?)

This vegan burger isn’t vegan so they can Green Truck themselves

3 Oct

Green Truck
multiple trucks and locations
(310) 204-0477

Green Truck

UPDATE: 

I received an email this evening from David Holtze who claims to be the owner/operator of the Green Truck San Diego, which he says is a “separate business LLC” — this despite a shared website and a shared fax number on that website. He asks that I remove any reference to “San Diego” in my post because it is “causing harm to my business.” It seems to me that what is causing harm to his business is an association with a Green Truck in Los Angeles that is selling non-vegan vegan burgers. My post did not say that this happened in San Diego — it explicitly stated that this happened in Los Angeles.  In fact, my only reference to San Diego was in a general sentence that began “It’s hard to operate a food truck in LA (or San Diego)” and so I will remove the words “San Diego” from that sentence as a courtesy to Mr. Holtze and I will point out that he says he has served only local vegan focaccia buns since the day he has opened. I am happy to hear this since it means there is at least one Green Truck out there whose vegan burgers are actually vegan. So if you live in San Diego, go enjoy a vegan burger from his Green Truck and write him a positive review on Yelp if you like it, since he says he received a negative one tonight.

But obviously Mr. Holtze’s (vegan) beef is not with me but with the Green Truck in Los Angeles that is serving non-vegan vegan burgers. That is what is causing any perceived damage to his business. Does Mr. Holtze not realize that he shares a website with the Green Truck in Los Angeles? Does Mr. Holtze not realize that this website lists his weekly San Diego schedule alongside the weekly Los Angeles schedule? Does Mr. Holtze not realize that there is nothing to alert a visitor to this website that the Green Trucks are separately owned? And so clearly, his concern should not be directed toward this blog, but to the owner of the Green Truck in Los Angeles that is selling non-vegan vegan burgers. It seems that Mr. Holtze wants to have his vegan burger and eat it too, associating himself with Green Truck Los Angeles when it comes to a joint website, yet separating himself from Green Truck Los Angeles when there’s a problem.

Two final things to note in this update: Mr. Holtze’s buns in San Diego don’t even contain honey, and Mr. Holtze needs to stop slanderously using the word “slanderous.” Furthermore, he must immediately apologize to me at the top of the joint Green Truck website for his reckless and actionable comment that my post is causing harm to his business, and he should insist that SEPARATELY OWNED Green Truck Los Angeles apologize to the vegan community right under his apology to me, and then for heaven’s sake he should learn not to shoot the messenger!

My Original Post:

I haven’t posted in a while but this truck drove me to it. This isn’t a typical complaint about a vegan food item not being vegan. This is bigger than that. This is what appears to be an intentional fraud perpetrated on the vegan community. And it gets worse.

Back in May I went to the LA Vegan Beer Fest. It was great. Lots of vegan beer and food. Including the Green Truck. I’d heard about their Mother Trucker Vegan Burger and really wanted to try it. And I did. And it was good.

The Mother Trucker Vegan Burger is something that’s always on the menu at the Green Truck. Along with a number of meat items. But of course at the LAVBF they could only sell vegan items, so instead of their meat sandwiches they had a few different vegan offerings. But I got the Mother Trucker since I’d never had it before. And this is what it looked like:

Mother Trucker Vegan Burger at LA Vegan Beer Fest.

Mother Trucker Vegan Burger at LA Vegan Beer Fest.

It looks good, right? Well, here’s what it looked like when it was served to me today on Wilshire near LACMA:

Mother Trucker Vegan Burger. I mean "Vegan" Burger.

Mother Trucker Vegan Burger. I mean “Vegan” Burger.

If there’s one thing I can spot after 3+ years as a vegan, it’s an eggy bun. That bricohy shine gives it away every time. So I asked the two people working in the truck if the bun contained egg. The woman taking the orders said she thought so and looked at the man making the orders who said yes, he thought it did have egg. And let me say right now that both these people were extremely friendly and seemed like they wanted to do the right thing. So much so that the man making the food immediately volunteered to call the owner and ask. As I stood there, he called, he asked, and he was IMMEDIATELY told that yes, the buns contain egg. After he ended the phone call I politely said, “Okay, well then your vegan burger isn’t vegan.” And they agreed. And the man making the food offered to re-make it in a tortilla as a wrap, so I said okay, and he did, and it was tasty.

So a lot of credit goes to the people working the truck. There was no eye-rolling, they understood the problem, and they tried to rectify it. They didn’t act like they were well aware of the problem from other people asking. But maybe I’m a sucker and they knew they were selling non-vegan vegan burgers. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, because like I said, they only seemed like they wanted to help.

It’s the owner of the Green Truck who’s the piece of shit. Here is a guy who knew immediately that the buns contain egg, who knowingly markets the burger as a vegan burger to the point that the word “vegan” is in the name of the burger, and who was a vendor at LA Vegan Beer Fest, so I KNOW it was made clear to him at that time what were and weren’t permissible ingredients. Oh, and I should mention that when I asked the people working the truck if that’s the bun that the Mother Trucker Vegan Burger is always served on they both said yes.

This is unacceptable.

My first email was to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. What if people with an egg allergy are buying this burger because they think it’s vegan, but being served egg? That’s a real problem. My next email was to the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs. This seems to me to be a situation where we are knowingly being sold something that is not the thing we are told we are being sold. The third email was to the Los Angeles County Agricultural Department’s Weights & Measures Division. They are the ones who regulate consumer overcharges, farmers market fraud, etc.

As I said, it’s one thing for someone to incorrectly market a non-vegan item as vegan. It’s another for someone to knowingly pass off a non-vegan item as vegan. But it’s a whole other thing when someone participates in the LA Vegan Beer Fest, takes advantage of the publicity afforded that event to promote themselves as vegan-friendly and ingratiate themselves with the vegan community, and then turns around and does something like this.

Oh, and did I mention the emails going to the movie studios and production companies around town, since the Green Truck does a lot of their business on a catering basis at those facilities? Whoever might be thinking of hiring them or bringing them back needs to know what is going on and what their employees are being subjected to. Because if the vegan burger isn’t vegan, how do we know if the “organic” ingredients are really organic, or if the “local” ingredients are really local?

This business needs to be fully investigated by the proper authorities. And believe me, it will be now. And every single violation that is noted — such as no conspicuous litter receptacle as required by LAMC 80.73(b)2(D — will be reported. The truck extends into a red zone? It will now be photographed and reported. Oh and guess what, they were just in Santa Monica yesterday selling their non-vegan vegan burger. Were they 35 feet from the nearest truck as required by that permit? That’s another email.

It’s hard to operate a food truck in LA (<<courtesy redaction>>) even when you’re being honest with your customers. I can only imagine how hard it must be to retain your permits if there’s a steady stream of clear violations being properly documented and reported. Hmmm. Maybe it’s impossible?

Oh Whole Foods, it’s getting worse not better…

7 May
Whole Foods card

Prepared Foods case at the Westwood store in Los Angeles

Good ol’ Whole Foods. Will they ever get their vegan/vegetarian labeling act together? Will they ever hire staffers who understand what both words mean and the difference between them? How on Earth can they sell two Beyond Meat vegan chicken salads, yet label one of them “vegan” but the other one merely “vegetarian” even though the name of the item itself starts with “vegan”?! It’s really mind-boggling, isn’t it? Adding to the mystery, it appears that Whole Foods has decided to start removing the “Beyond Meat” name from the Beyond Meat items they are selling, even though up until recently they not only included the name Beyond Meat in both the name and ingredients list for these products, they even had secondary cards clipped to many of them touting the fact that they were made with Beyond Meat! But as you can see here, one item lists its main ingredient as “Beyond Meat Chicken” but the other just calls it “Chicken-Free Strips” without mentioning the company’s name. Has there been some kind of dispute or falling out? Very odd.

Either way, the labeling error here is part of a larger problem I’ve seen at Whole Foods for the past few years. Many of their prepared food items that, based on their ingredients lists, are obviously vegan, are instead labeled as vegetarian. And of course such carelessness makes you wonder what’s really in any of their products or how many of their other products are mislabeled. And further, it makes me wonder what Whole Foods’ definition of “vegan” is for purposes of labeling these cards. Does “vegan” extend to honey? Bone char in refined sugar? “Natural flavor” that might include animal products? If they’ve published their definition of what makes something “vegan” I can’t find it.

There really needs to be a soul-searching at Whole Foods and some respect paid to the desires and needs of their vegan customers, especially since John Mackey the head honcho there is himself vegan. John, do you follow my blog?

Natural Products ExpWHOA! (aka: Why I’m now even fatter than this blogpost)

15 Mar

Expo

I did it. I went!

And if you follow me on Instagram (which you can do by clicking my new awesome badge up there to your right, yeah, the blue one, click it) then you know that I saw a ton of new vegan products and ate two tons since I ate at least two of everything I saw.

Last year, when I first got to know Special Needs Eater, she had just returned from a trip to the Expo in her capacity as writer extraordinaire for SuperVegan. And I got to listen to her Wonkavilian description of a wonderland of vegan foods, many never before seen by human eyes!

Back then, I could hardly imagine that a humble vegan blogger (me) who had barely been vegan blogging for three months (me again) would one day roam the halls of a place (more like palace) that I have to tell you makes vegan dreams disappointing by making vegan reality superior.

But that is how far your insufferable servant has come! Because this year I accompanied SNE to the NPE and I’ve got the photos to prove it! So without further ado (to yeu and yeu and yeu) here’s my roundup of Paper Spoon Expo West 2013! I mean, Natural Products Expo West 2013!

DAY ONE!

Okay, here’s what I saw on day one keeping in mind that my day one was day two and my day two was day three. Oday? Great!

When Follow Your Heart says "mini sandwich" they don't kid around! I'm still looking for the sun-dried tomato.

When Follow Your Heart says “mini sandwich” they don’t kid around! I’m still looking for the sun-dried tomato.

The first exciting booth I saw was Follow Your Heart. We all know them, the creators of the most often misspelled product in the world: Vegenaise! And look, they were debuting a new roasted garlic flavor. I tried it, I liked it, I moved on.

Congressman/Mayor/Councilman/Presidential candidate Dennis Vegan Kucinich!!! (Most people are not this happy to see me.)

Congressman/Mayor/Councilman/Presidential candidate Dennis Vegan Kucinich!!! (Most people are not this happy to see me.)

And while moving on, I saw my first vegan celeb of the Expo, Dennis Kucinich, a man who very well might have been the first vegan president of the United States if way more people had voted for him and if you don’t count the first “almost vegan” ex-president of the United States, William Veganson Clinton.

Amy's got ice cream!

Amy’s got ice cream!

The next stop of note was the Amy’s booth. Amy’s keeps growing and they had a big ol’ booth. Now I’m not much for frozen food so I almost walked right past — until I noticed an ice cram cart! That’s right, Amy’s is getting into the ice cream business! I was skeptical, but their mint chocolate chip was good! It arrives in July.

No furkin' way! Pot Pie AND Quiche? Yes, it's true!

No furkin’ way! Pot Pie AND Quiche? Yes, it’s true!

The next stop is a big one so get ready: Tofurky! Well, I’m excited to report that the Tofolks at Tofurky have been Tofurking ’round the Furk to bring you a huge array of new items. They’ve got a Pot Pie and a Quiche, and they’ve also got some Pockets, which I’m disappointed they didn’t call Tofockets. All are due this summer.

Is that some tofu in your pocket or are you just glad to oh never mind.

Is that some tofu in your pocket or are you just glad to oh never mind.

Not only that, they’re going after Field Roast with a gourmet line of sausages! I also stopped by the Field Roast booth but I didn’t take any photos. Why? Because they didn’t have a single new product and not only that, some honcho I talked to wouldn’t even give me a hint of what’s coming down the pipeline. All he would say is, “Have you tried our frankfurters?” Dude, those have been out for like 40 years in vegan time. Get off your hammock and Tofurk!

UPDATE! So even though the honcho wouldn’t tell me about any new products, it turns out he gave a party the night before to debut his new Field Roast burgers! That’s him in the middle in the photo below. Did he really think he could keep his new burgers secret in an era of cellphone cameras and social media? Did he really think it was a good idea to tell some vegan bloggers about them but mislead others? What a gigantic doofus! No wonder I’m seeing less and less of his products at Whole Foods! And by the way, those frankfurters he asked me if I tried? They’re awful, with a nasty aftertaste.

That guy in the middle needs some lessons in how to run a business, not to mention a remedial class in social media. What a buffoon!

That guy in the middle needs some lessons in how to run a business, not to mention a remedial class in social media. What a buffoon!

I wonder if these new Tofurky artisan sausages, which they told me are coming to stores as early as April, will put Field Roast out of business since they’re way better than what Field Roast has been selling.

New Artisan Sausages from Tofurky. I didn't put quotes around the word Artisan but we all know they're there, k? Three flavors: Chick'n & Apple, Andouille Cajun Style, and Spinach Pesto.

New Artisan Sausages from Tofurky. I didn’t put quotes around the word Artisan but we all know they’re there, k? Three flavors: Chick’n & Apple, Andouille Cajun Style, and Spinach Pesto.

I was so overwhelmed by all the Tofurkkovation that I almost walked past a small booth but boy am I glad I didn’t, because this small product I’d never heard of, NutBurgers, was one of the best things I ate at the Expo. Like I said I’m not a big fan of frozen food, but I will definitely buy some of these the first time I see em.  Oh, and I did not post this photo on my Instagram because Special Needs Eater taught me a lesson which is that you can’t tip everything on your Instagram because then no one will check out your blog post. Speaking of which, be sure to check out Special Needs Eater’s very own Expo roundup blog post on SuperVegan.

I think this was a sample size because the box says each patty contains 290 calories and this looks like 288 tops.

I think this was a sample size because the box says each patty contains 290 calories and this looks like 288 tops.

But the Expo isn’t all NutBurgers and roses. Nope, there’s a few disasters too. And the biggest debacle of the Expo was the Lightlife booth. I didn’t even make the word Lightlife clickable because I’m not in the mood to support them at all. And I’m not going to bother wasting time on it here, since they’ve already apologized to me, but if you want to know what happened then you can read the world’s largest Instagram caption to find out.

And Lightlife wasn’t the only debacle. The Blue Diamond almonds booth was another fiasco. They were giving out samples of some new crackers and I asked if they were vegan. The woman said, “Yes, they are.” So I tried some. Then when I got home, I did some more research before including them here, because I always double check to make sure I’m not recommending something that’s not vegan, and it turned out they have butter in them! I mean seriously, it’s the Natural Products Expo and you’ve got people working there who either don’t know what “vegan” means or haven’t been trained about the products they’re promoting? Pathetic!

But back to fun. And one of the fun things about the Expo is seeing the weird products that people come up with. There was a breakfast cereal named Holy Crap. I’m not kidding. You can click that link and you’ll see it really exists. And they asked me to try it. And I would not. Nor would I have tried a breakfast cereal named Raw Sewage. Sorry, just can’t do it. But I did try something called Guacamame, which is guacamole made from mommies! Okay, it’s late, sorry. It’s guacamole from edamame, and their big selling point is that it doesn’t oxidize, which I thought was another word for rust, so I guess avocado rusts? I’m not saying it beats guacamole but guacamame is guacatasty.

My prediction is that the next dance crazy to sweep the country after the Harelm Shuffle will be the Guacamame!

My prediction is that the next dance craze to sweep the country after the Harlem Shuffle will be the Guacamame!

Another fun thing about the Expo is getting to voice your complaints to the top honchos of the companies that drive you crazy with the idiotic ways they handle their products. For example, the Boca sales rep was completely unaware that the chik’n nuggets they had on display have been completely unavailable in Southern California for months. “What makes you think they’re not available?” I was asked. To which I replied, “Because I’ve tried multiple stores of multiple supermarket chains and have had multiple conversations with multiple grocery managers who tell me they’ve been trying to get the product back on their shelves for months.” “Oh. I’ll look into it. Thanks for telling me!”

Next stop was the Earth Balance booth. Earth Balance recently introduced four new vegan products for your supermarket’s snack aisle: cheddar flavor puffs, buttery flavor popcorn, cheddar flavor popcorn, and P.B. Popps, which is some kind of Cracker Jacky peanut butter coated popcorn thing. I found the puffs and the cheddar popcorn at the Whole Foods near me a few weeks ago, and tried them both. I liked the puffs and ate the bag right away. I didn’t love the cheddar popcorn. And I was unable to find the other two anywhere in LA. So I was psyched to get to try them at the Expo.

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The buttery popcorn was only okay. But the P.B. Popps were crazy good! In fact, the only thing that would keep me from eating an entire bag at once is the scary lady on their webpage who’s gonna hit me with her wooden spoon if I overdo it.

I suggest you hop on these popps.

I suggest you hop on these popps.

Oh, and I figured out why the company is called Earth Balance — because it’s a balance of the joy of the Popps and the sadness of this little white bread sandwich they were serving to demonstrate their mayo:

Check out the name of this product. That is some in-the-moment mayo!

Check out the name of this product. That is some in-the-moment mayo!

After Earth Balance we hit the Go Veggie! booth, where I met their Glaswegian food master who claimed to have “a Ph.D in tofu”! Go Veggie!, for! those! not! in! the! know!, used to be called Galaxy. So now they’ve rebranded themselves and created a line of vegan cheeses that they’re marketing to people (vegans) who *never* refer to themselves as veggies. In fact, to tell a vegan to “Go Veggie!” is like telling us to go backwards. It’s even a different sound. Vegetarians get the “juh” sound and we get Hard G. Anyway, despite their misnamed company, the Go Veggie! people are all very nice. And they had the Spork Sisters there serving a delicious strawberry cream cheese mousse that was made with Go Veggie!’s strawberry vegan cream cheese. Hmm, I wonder if that Ph.D got his degree from Veggie U., because then I could understand the rah-rah name Go Veggie! But if that wasn’t the case, then Go Figure!

Sporkberry Mousse

Sporkberry Mousse

And do you know who else was at the Expo? The Justin’s peanut butter people, though I did not see Justin himself. Maybe he was stuck to the roof of the Expo! Hahahahahahaohsorry. I think all vegans know Justin’s. Justin’s sells a dark peanut butter cup that is crazy good. PROVIDED YOU EAT IT REAL FAST. That’s right — one time I bought a whole box of these and after about two weeks the remaining ones went bad. I guess that actually speaks well of the product — it’s not preserved up the wazoo (which was my favorite Edward Albee play) but trust me you don’t want to eat a faded brown decomposing peanut butter cup. I say this as a cautionary tale because Justin’s — which since releasing the dark chocolate peanut butter cup has released about three hundred delicious looking candies THAT ALL CONTAIN MILK — has finally gone back and done something for us vegans, by introducing a big ol’ bag of their DPBCs so we don’t have to keep buying them two at a time. (Or buying a box of two-at-a-times which costs the same as 2 multiplied by however many packs are in the box.) Now I didn’t ask how much of a discount the big bag will provide, but I hope it’s substantial. And I also hope they find another way to market these in March besides Halloween, because the only thing scary about these peanut butter cups is what my LDL is going to be after eating a whole bag.

Happy Halloween! Uhh... it's March.

Happy Halloween! Uhh… it’s March.

So by now you can only imagine how full I was, and the 6 p.m. closing time was approaching so it was probably time to just call it a day and OH MY GOD IT’S THE GARDEIN BOOTH!!! Okay, to be honest, that only goes a little way toward explaining my excitement upon seeing what @SpecialNeedsy called the Gardein of Eden. And it’s kind of interesting because, between you and me, their products aren’t that good. Hey, hold on, wait, hear me out. I love Gardein! It’s just not that good. I love their hamburger sliders. I eat them a lot. Even though they taste highly processed. And kinda don’t sit well. But that doesn’t stop me. Ditto my trips to Veggie Grill which is Gardein that someone else cooks for you! And I think my love for Gardein is rooted in its fast food replacementology. Because there was always something I liked about McDonald’s. And it wasn’t the food. Okay, it’s the food until you get to a certain age, maybe in your mid to late 20′s, when McDonald’s goes from tasty food to pore-extruded greasy film forcefield. But I still kept going back to McDonald’s, despite how ill it would make me feel, because I’d been brainwashed into seeing it as part of my happy childhood. But one of the things that veganism saved me from, besides myself obviously, was the end result of that apparent need to re-experience my perceived happy childhood. With Gardein, I get to re-live the vegan childhood that I never had! Oh wait, time’s up for this session? Let me quickly add that they debuted a crazy amount of new products, and allowed me to taste a few.

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I really liked the new Crispy Chick’n Sliders. Of course the ones in the box won’t come with lettuce, tomato and sauce like these ones did, and I doubt they’ll be crispy when I microwave them which is the way all sliders are meant to be slid, but even taking all that into conslideration, they were really good!

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I also tried the new Sizzling Szechuan Beefless Strips — which weren’t so much sizzling as sitting in a cold plastic sample cup — but they still tasted like they could be tasty.

And they also have a Teriyaki Beefless Jerky they’re coming out with, but since jerky might be the single most disgusting food product I can think of — and doubly-disgusting if you buy it at a 7-Eleven — I see no need for a vegan version. But if you like it, this is what the package looks like:

It's beefless AND meat-free!

It’s beefless AND meat-free!

Okay, seriously, Gardein introduced so many new items that it was getting silly already:

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I could keep posting photos of new Gardein products but instead I’m going to just give you a photo of all of it, courtesy of SuperVegan/SpecialNeedsEater who was smart enough to take a shot of the whole shebang:

Gardein of Eatin' -- as captioned and photographed by SuperVegan/SpecialNeedsEater

Gardein of Eatin’ — as captioned and photographed by SuperVegan/SpecialNeedsEater

And even though we were full from the Gardein booth, we forged on, and managed to make one more stop before wrapping up DAY ONE. Last but not least, the nice folks at Vege USA have two new vegan items from their Vegetarian Plus line headed your way. And I tried ‘em both and liked ‘em both.

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DAY TWO!

Day two was, for all intents and purposes, Ice Cream Day! First up was DF Mavens, from New York. Now before I tell you how good this was, I want to tell you there’s someone running around online trying to start a controversy about it. Apparently, their first run of containers listed honey as an ingredient, even though the company says there was never honey in the product. But instead of trashing the mislabelled containers and eating the cost of a reprint, they did something stupid and used these containers. Not a great way to make a first impression. However, they say the problem is behind them and swear there never was honey in there. I have no way of knowing if the person devoting a lot of time to kvetching about this online is a competitor or just someone with too much time on their hands, but I do have a way of knowing if their ice cream is good or not, because I put some into my body, and it was good indeed.

DF Mavens New Orleans Sweet Praline Vegan Ice Cream

DF Mavens New Orleans Sweet Praline Vegan Ice Cream

Next up was Maggie’s Conscious Vegan Cuisine. Maggie is from North Carolina but has more attitude than entire boroughs of New York. She seemed skeptical about giving me a taste of her food. But I skepticaled her right back and she caved. Maggie had three flavors she was sampling and one of them was really good. Her website calls it “Lentils with Curry & Lime” but I know she worked the word “Thai” into her description when she was telling me about it. Either way, it was good. And Maggie is quick to tell you it comes in microwavable BPA-free jars. One thing Maggie wasn’t quick to tell me was that she’s also got a Vegetable Korma flavor which she wasn’t sampling. Well that sucks because I used to love Vegetable Korma pre-vegan and haven’t found a single one since. Also, I’ll give Maggie the benefit of the doubt that she really means “conscious” not “conscientious” since I did kind of feel the lentils were looking at me (though not with as much attitude as Maggie).

Maggie's Conscious Vegan Cuisine. I heard that later in the afternoon, some of the cuisine hit its head and was rendered unconscious but I can not confirm that report.

Maggie’s Conscious Vegan Cuisine. I heard that later in the afternoon, some of the cuisine hit its head and was rendered unconscious, but I can not confirm that report.

The next stop  was hard to believe, even though SpecialNeedsEater had tried to prepare me for it: The Daiya Booth! Daiya’s space at the Expo was Mothership-sized, with what seemed like hundreds of nattily attired minions scurrying to and fro dishing out samples of brand new sliced cheeses, cream cheeses, and, are you ready, pizzas! While I stood stunned like a Daiya in the headlights, SpecialNeedsy was alert enough to snap a photo of the entire Daiya Displaiya:

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Behold the Daiya Displaiya, photo courtesy of specialneedseater.com

Being your humble vegan servant, I tried to sample as many of the new Daiyaties as I could. I had some Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Style Spread on a bagel, which was good, some Margherita Pizza, some Daiya Cheeze Lover’s Pizza, and some Mushroom & Roasted Garlic Pizza, all of which were good especially the mushroom and garlic one which was great. However, I am sorry to say that I cannot be so positive about the new Swiss cheese singles, nor the Provolone. These tasted nothing like Swiss or Provolone, and I mean not even a tiny amount. They were both pretty flavorless, with a chalky, powdery texture. No wonder they were serving them only in sandwiches, with bread and lettuce to hide the nastiness (though when I asked for a piece of each of them plain, they obliged me). I really have no idea why Daiya decided to release these when they’re clearly not good enough yet but oh well, at least the pizzas are killer. The pizzas, by the way, are coming in August, while the cream cheeses and new Swiss, Provolone, and Cheddar slices all arrive in April.

Coming in August

Coming in August

Coming in April

Coming in April

Coming in April

Coming in April

I know what you’re thinking: What happened to Ice Cream Day?!  Well settle down, because my next stop was Mr. Dewie’s! Mr Dewie’s is an almond milk ice cream from Oakland that is dewielicious. I think their mint chip was my favorite ice cream of the entire Expo and that’s saying something because there was lots and lots of ice cream. And let me just say that not only was the ice cream good, but Mr. Dewie’s proprietors, Ari and Andrew Cohen, might have been the nicest, most personable exhibitors at the Expo, right up there in a tie with the Chicago Vegan Foods folks. Plus, I discovered the top secret reason why the product is called Mr. Dewie’s. I’m not allowed to divulge my source, so let’s just say a little twitter birdie told me.

Ari Cohen, who with his brother Andrew just might one day be more famous than the Coen No H Brothers.

Ari Cohen, who with his brother Andrew just might one day be more famous than the Coen No H Brothers.

Next stop was the Beyond Meat booth. For those who might not know, Beyond Meat was one of the big stories of Vegan Year 2012. In fact, I think it’s the most hyped vegan product of all time. And unfortunately, it rarely lives up to the hype. From what I’ve learned, it’s very hard to prepare, although in skillful hands it can be great, and I’ve had a few preparations that were truly delicious. But most of the time, and especially when found in the prepared foods section of Whole Foods stores, it’s terrible. Sometimes it’s mushy, sometimes it’s hard. And if you read my blog regularly, you know I’ve often criticized Beyond Meat for their numerous shortcomings. Well, Beyond Meat had a giant booth at the Expo. And they were giving out lots of samples. But unfortunately, what I ate at their booth wasn’t good! It’s truly baffling, I have to tell you. One of the preparations they were offering at the Expo was some type of southwestern style concoction with corn and hot sauce. Did anyone really try this and think it was good? And while Beyond Meat has been exclusively known for their fake chicken so far, at the Expo they debuted their new fake ground beef crumbles in a chili they were serving, and sadly the chili just wasn’t good. Here’s my suggestion to the Beyond Meat people: hire a competent, perhaps well-known vegan chef to showcase your product, not the talentless dolt who you’ve currently got under contract.

Yuck. Seriously, did anyone enjoy this strange corn and hot sauce mixture?

Yuck. Seriously, did anyone enjoy this strange corn and hot sauce mixture?

Chili made with Beyond Meat's new fake ground beef crumbles. This did not taste good at all.

Chili made with Beyond Meat’s new fake ground beef crumbles. This did not taste good at all.

But one thing I will say about Beyond Meat is that the people who work on their management team could not have been friendlier. And it turns out they were familiar with my work, had read all the unflattering things I’ve written about their work-in-progress product, and were still pleasant as could be. They explained to me why things have gone so wrong for them, and their explanation went something like this: They never intended to debut their product via the Whole Foods prepared foods counters nationwide, but what happened was that after Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote about Beyond Meat while it was still in its developmental stage, a frenzy broke out, and they felt the need to rush the product onto the market to capitalize on all the excitement. They claimed that their intention all along has been for the vast majority of their sales to come from the packaged Beyond Meat strips that were only just announced TODAY and still will not be on your grocer’s shelves until next month at the earliest. They say they anticipate that the prepared foods will only be a small slice of their business.

Okay, but someone at the company, whether pushed by their investors or not, still made the decision to rush the product onto the market via the Whole Foods prepared foods departments. And that is where the real problem occurs, because as they explained to me, in that context, they are merely an ingredient. And the Whole Foods employees who use their product to make the prepared foods often misuse the product. For example, I was told that when the product is frozen, it needs to be thawed to room temperature, but that some of the Whole Foods staffers try to speed up the thawing by placing the Beyond Meat in the oven to defrost it, which badly damages the product. This was offered by way of explanation as to why the product is often mushy and sometimes rock hard.

Kim Fernandez, vice president of retail sales, and Mary Adams, vice president of marketing at Beyond Meat. These people could not have been friendlier or more professional to someone as insufferable as yours truly, and Beyond Meat is lucky to have them!

Kim Fernandez, vice president of retail sales, and Mary Adams, vice president of marketing at Beyond Meat. These people could not have been friendlier or more professional to someone as insufferable as yours truly, and Beyond Meat is lucky to have them!

Furthermore, I was told that the Beyond Meat “merchandisers” assigned to Whole Foods have very little say in how Beyond Meat is used, prepared, displayed and sold. Some Whole Foods stores allow these merchandisers to give advice to their staff, but some do not. This would go some of the way toward explaining why still, nearly a year later, I often see what is clearly Beyond Meat displayed in Whole Foods prepared foods cases with ingredient cards that falsely claim the product you’re buying is made with Gardein and not Beyond Meat, even though these items haven’t been made with Gardein for months.

But clearly much if not all of the blame for the fiasco that has been Beyond Meat falls on the company itself. It’s obvious that despite the rush of publicity they received, they should not have rushed the product to market, especially now that I have learned that their intention all along has been for the vast majority of their sales to come from the retail packs, which as I said, ARE STILL NOT AVAILABLE. Instead, they debuted their product to the public in a way that they had very little control over, and as a result, when the retail packages finally reach consumers, they will be trying to get people to buy a product that has been badly damaged and which the vast majority of vegan, vegetarian, and health-oriented consumers have already had a bad experience with.

And the fact that their product was displayed in untasty preparations at their own trade show exhibit really makes you wonder how much of the blame lies elsewhere, or if they’re simply in denial about the incompetence that surely must exist at the top levels of this company.

And as I always do, let me just say again that I have seen the product be exceptional, and that chefs have told me that in the right hands no other meat substitute can compare. And as always, I wish them well, because of course I want nothing more than to have Beyond Meat be a delicious alternative to meat that will lead millions of people around the world to swap it out for the millions of pounds of chicken they now consume. But they’re probably not going to get there without wholesale changes in the upper echelon of the company.

This is what the Beyond Meat retail packs will look like when they finally reach stores some day.

This is what the Beyond Meat retail packs will look like when they finally reach stores some day.

One final thought about Beyond Meat: When the retail packs are finally available, it should be sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond, doncha think? Okay, let’s move beyond Beyond Meat because there’s still a lot more to cover. The next stop was Upton’s Naturals, where I spoke with the super-friendly Nicole Sopko, a vice president, who was giving out little pieces of sandwich made with their new bacon seitan. But what I really wanted to find out about was their vegan pastrami. I never got to try it before Phoney Baloney’s closed its storefront location in Irvine, and so I wanted to find out if any restaurants were currently serving it in the Los Angeles area, since it’s a food-service-only product. Nicole told me that I might be able to find it at Locali and was trying to think if there was any other place I could find it when her boyfriend, Dan Staackmann, the owner of Upton’s came back to the booth. Perfect, I thought, the owner will know for sure! But as friendly as Nicole was, Dan was unfriendly! Dude, what’s your problem? I’m a fan of your food, I want to buy more of it, I want to publicize it to my followers, and this is how you act? Well, these two are clearly in love, so I guess it’s yet another case of opposites attract. UPDATE: Dan e-mailed me after reading this post to apologize and explain that it had been a long, stressful week for him. I thought it was big of him to reach out like that and so perhaps I misjudged him and the situation.

It was hard to taste the seitan the way it was presented. I mostly tasted bread and lettuce, and I should have removed the seitan from the sandwich to try it on its own.

It was hard to taste the seitan the way it was presented. I mostly tasted bread and lettuce, and I should have removed the seitan from the sandwich to try it on its own.

One thing about the Expo is that the time zooms on by, kind of like the opposite of writing a blog post about the Expo. So before long we realized that we only had an hour or so left! Luckily, we made it to the Chicago Vegan Foods booth, because as I said earlier, these were some of the nicest people at the show, and they were giving out all kinds of samples. Chicago Vegan Foods, for a company that basically sells three products, has to be one of the more diverse companies out there. What they’ve got is Teese, their tasty fake cheese, then Dandies, their tasty vegan marshmallows, and now, some darn tasty vegan soft serve ice cream!

Nachos made with Teese. These were decidedly ballpark style, with no guac, beans or salsa, but they were tasty nonetheless. And who can resist hot Teese from a pump?!

Nachos made with Teese. These were decidedly ballpark-style, with no guac, beans or salsa, but they were tasty nonetheless. And who can resist hot Teese from a pump?!

I was particularly excited about the Dandies because I’ve heard so much about them but had never tried them before. And they were really, really good. More than just the taste, the Dandies also recreated that telltale powdery texture and mouthfeel of a truly legit marshmallow. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a better marshmallow, vegan or non-vegan. And I’ve heard they even melt like a real marshmallow. In fact, the only thing they don’t contain is torture. I also learned the history of Dandies: There was the original size, then they came out with a larger size, and coming soon, a retail pack of mini-marshmallows, which up until now have only been available as a food service item.

I think Dandies are probably the best marshmallows I have ever had. In fact, they are simply... darn, I wish I could come up with an adjective!

I think Dandies are probably the best marshmallows I have ever had. In fact, they are simply… darn, I wish I could come up with an adjective!

But perhaps the most interesting thing I learned at the Chicago Vegan Foods booth is that Veggie Grill is trying out their soft serve at its new Laguna Niguel location. And, I hear, if things go well there the soft serve might become available at all Veggie Grill locations! I sure hope so, because the chocolate that I sampled was really good!

Coming soon to a Veggie Grill near you?

Coming soon to a Veggie Grill near you?

Like I said, time was running out so we quickly moved on and found the Hodo Soy booth. This, proclaimed @SpecialNeedsy, is the best tofu in the world! Wow, that’s quite a statement. So I did some sampling and you know what? It was pretty dang good! If Hodo Soy sounds familiar, maybe it’s because it’s the Oakland-based company that is providing the tofu for Chipotle‘s new sofritas burritos, which are currently being tested at seven Chipotle locations in San Francisco. And the owner of Hodo Soy told us that if things go well, the sofritas should be available in Los Angeles this summer!

I need this in a store near me!

I need this in a store near me!

One of the booths I was excited to see was The Real Deal chips people. I recently went looking for the new Lay’s Potato Chips sriracha flavor only to learn that they were made with cheese. Boooo! But someone left a comment on my Instagram letting me know that The Real Deal makes sriracha chips that are good. And then, lo and behold, there they were at the Expo! But then, no and behold, they were out of samples of the sriracha chips. However, even so and behold, the woman was nice enough to give me a full-size retail bag straight off their display since the Expo was drawing to a close anyway. And I am happy to report, these little scoop shaped chips are really tasty. They’re also gluten-free, and if you’re a gluten-free vegan, be sure to check out SuperVegan’s excellent roundup on all the GF goodies (gfoodies?) at the show.

IMG_3823

One of things I almost forgot to mention was that while grazing at the Chicago Vegan Foods both, I ran into Jackie of Vegan Yack Attack fame, who is one of the nicest vegan humans I have met. We chatted for a bit and she told me I should try the WayFare ice cream from Montana. Well, if I wasn’t going to miss any ice cream at the Expo, I certainly wasn’t going to miss any recommended ice cream, so off we went.

And on the way to Montana we passed another vegan ice cream that I’d heard about, NadaMoo. Unfortunately, the the women manning their booth were NadaFriendly. Even though there was still a good half hour to go in the Expo, they were already packing up and refused to give us a sample. Luckily, one of the men womaning the booth took pity on us and gave us some ice cream. And I am sorry to report that this was just not good. In fact, it was the worst ice cream of the Expo.

I will Nada be buying this.

I will Nada be buying this.

So despite eating bad ice cream, a hardship which brings to mind Lewis and Clark, like those determined explorers we persevered and headed for Montana. And finally, there it was, four unrelated companies sharing a giant Made in Montana booth. And you know what? Vegan Yack Attack was right, the WayFare ice cream turned out to be WayGood. And here’s the most interesting part: it’s oat-based! And oats in your ice cream beats horse in your burger any day.

Oh, it's just some delicious oat-based Vermont maple ice cream from Montana.

Oh, it’s just some delicious oat-based Vermont maple ice cream from Montana.

By now the Expo really was just about over. And we had almost seen it all. As we raced to finish up, and turned the corner for the last row of booths, we stumbled across a vendor who turned out to be one of my favorites of the entire show, The Elegant Vegan. Not only did The Elegant Vegan have some delicious brownies for us to try, but they gave us samples of their extraordinary pickled items. Ever had pickled kale before? Me neither, and it was GOOD!

IMG_3818

And that was it, the last booth of the Expo. As proud as I was of myself after Day One for not being so stuffed that I couldn’t eat on Day Two, I was proud after Day Two that while my stomach was stuffed, my brain still had enough space left to think about one more thing: Girl Scout Cookies! You see, the Girl Scout cookies sold in L.A. County are not vegan, because they come from Little Brownie Bakers, which puts milk in all their cookies, BOO! However, the Girl Scouts of Orange County get their cookies from the other bakery that makes cookies for the Girl Scouts, ABC Bakers. And a mere four blocks from the convention center, outside a supermarket in a non-descript shopping center, we made one final score.

Vegan I tells ya, VEGAN!!!

Vegan I tells ya, VEGAN!!!

THE END. (Until about an hour after I got home, when I ate some of the cookies.)

Vegan Girl Scout Cookies!!!!!!!!!

8 Feb

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Girl Scout Cookies

I wrote up most of what I know about how to get vegan Girl Scout cookies in this big blog post a year ago, but I just wanted to do a quick update to let you know that if you’re lucky enough to live near a Girl Scout council that buys their cookies from ABC Bakers instead of Little Brownie Bakers (because Little Brownie puts dairy in all their flavors, boooo!) then you have the opportunity to get your hands on some vegan Girl Scout Cookies! And whereas last year I declared certain ABC cookies to be vegan by simple deduction, this year,  for the first time ever, ABC Bakers has labeled some of their cookies as “vegan” right on their website!!!  (See the picture above.)

Progress, folks, real progress!

For those of you in the L.A. area like me, be aware that the Girl Scout Cookies sold in L.A. are NOT vegan because they come from Little Brownie. The closest place to get the vegan ones is Orange County. Here’s a link to the Girls Scouts of Orange County cookie finder, which will tell you the time and location of their booth sales which are running from now through March 10th. 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.

Oh, and if you can figure out why the new ABC “Mango Cremes with Nutrifusion” aren’t labeled vegan, please let me know, because I don’t see anything suspect in the ingredients list.

Happy Cookieing!

Chego’s attitude toward vegans: Why won’t Chego away

1 Dec

Chego
3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles CA 90034
310.287.0337

Chego

Sometimes it’s hard to have a conversation in 140 character segments. So rather than keep tweeting back and forth with Chef Roy Choi, founder of the Kogi food trucks that started a craze in, well, food trucks, I decided to write a longer post.

I’ve been vegan for over two years now, and my experience this week at Chego was one of if not my worst vegan restaurant experience. And it was particularly frustrating for a number of reasons. First off, back in May, Chef Choi tweeted that he quit eating meat. Oh, and by the way, that link I just provided about Chef Choi not eating meat anymore? It’s from The New Yorker. Seriously, this was deemed such a momentous event that the New Yorker covered it. Then a couple of weeks later he was saying that just because he might give up meat for a while doesn’t mean he’s a vegetarian or vegan, but that he feels for us.

So about a month ago I tweeted him asking if there was anything for vegans to eat at his restaurant Chego on Overland at Palms. My tweet: “Hi chef! Is anything @EatChego vegan or easily veganizable? Thnx!” His reply: “Many things for you to eat. We got you.”

Great, right? Sure, it was all great until I actually decided to try to go and eat there. Then it was a completely different story. I went in for lunch and the woman taking orders couldn’t have been more friendly. I told her about my exchange with Chef Roy and she seemed to want to help. However, she didn’t have a very good grasp of the ingredients that were in each item.

So she went in the back and brought out a gentleman who I presume to be the manager. He sure acted like a manager. And I explained to him about the tweets I exchanged with Chef Roy. And… he could not have cared less. Seriously, if I had an employee who didn’t seem to care about what I, the owner, had told a customer, that employee would not be around much longer.

But when I tweeted Chef Roy about his manager’s bizarre behavior, which pretty much included a refusal to speak to me directly even though he was standing right in front of me, instead choosing to relay all messages through the woman who was taking orders as if some scene from a sitcom where the parents or siblings are fighting, Chef Roy wrote back pretty quickly to tell me this manager “did what he could.” What?! Did Chef Roy really check with his manager that quickly and not only take the manager at his word but then just turn around and tell me his manager’s response? Or, as I suspect, did Chef Roy just automatically decide to stand by his manager’s completely unacceptable and customer-unfriendly behavior without even asking the manager about it.

And let me tell you, I could not have been more nice about the whole thing. I never go to a non-vegan restaurant and expect to be fed as if it’s my right. Sometimes if I’m in a pinch somewhere, or wind up at a place where a group of friends are meeting, I will explain myself to the server and ask if they’re able to help. And they’re often as nice as can be.

But this was the opposite situation. Here I was, going to a restaurant where the owner himself had told me “Many things for you to eat. We got you” and yet the manager couldn’t give a rat’s ass and was not in the least bit interested in making this work for me. And not only that, the menu has been updated at Chego recently as reflected on the website. However, the restaurant itself has made the decision not to print new menus, instead sticking with outdated laminated sheets and instead using white stickers to cover up and block out the items that are no longer on the menu like you’d see at some down-on-its-luck hardscrabble coffee shop. I kid you not, these are the menus that customers are left to use.

Making matters worse, I was told that some of the items contained things like fish sauce that weren’t in the ingredients listed for each item on the menu. So how am I supposed to know what to order without help from the people who work there? Again, after I was told by the owner “Many things for you to eat. We got you” and after I told the manager that the owner had told me this. I know I’m repeating myself but I still find it shocking.

None of the items on the menu are labeled vegetarian, yet alone vegan, so it wasn’t like I had that going for me to provide some assistance. I was completely at the mercy of the staff and they were of no help whatsoever.

So what finally wound up happening? Well, the manager deigned to tell the woman taking orders that I could get the “Sour Cream Hen House: marinated grilled chicken rice bowl w/fried egg, Chinese broccoli, sour cream sambal, Thai basil, sesame and red jalapeño” and hold the sour cream, chicken, and fried egg. So I said sure. Like a friend of mine always says, “I’m not picky, just vegan.”

Then the woman told me that if I ordered the “Beehive Brussels Sprouts: caramelized and deglazed w/ soy vinaigrette over yogurt curd and honeycomb, crowned w/ salsa ensalada, fried shallots and sesame” without the honeycomb I’d be fine, so I said great to this, too. Now I know you’re saying, “But it has yogurt.” However, this was apparently one of their new items and it is not on the old weatherbeaten menus they have at the restaurant, so I had no idea what the ingredients were other than the honeycomb, which I guessed at given the “Beehive” in the name. And even though I’d already explained a few times to the woman taking orders that vegan meant no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs — she still told me I’d be fine with an item that came on a bed of yogurt. So when the item arrived, yup, it was on a bed of yogurt. AND, the sour cream bowl hold the sour cream came with, you guessed it, a big dollop of sour cream on it.

Beehive Brussels sprouts hold the honeycomb but oops, they gave it to me on a bed of yogurt.

Beehive Brussels sprouts hold the honeycomb but oops, it’s on a bed of yogurt!

And yet when I tweeted to Chef Roy that my experience at Chego had been rough, he replied “Don’t know why it was rough.” Really?!

I have to wonder just how detached Chef Roy is at this point from his restaurants. Why would he tell me there were many things to eat there without getting specific, leaving me with the impression that, well, there’d be many things for me to eat there, when that couldn’t have been further from the situation, at least not with the help of his staff, which was either unable or, remarkably, UNWILLING to help me.

So after my lunch I asked him what were these “many things” he’d told me awaited me. And he replies: “Leafy T.” Okay, well, they did not tell me about this option at the restaurant. Perhaps because the item as listed on the menu contains a “fried egg” — though they did not offer me the option of getting the Leafy T and holding the egg. I then asked him whether the “Smashed Kabocha Cup: roasted kabocha and sweet potato puree w/ soy glaze, bread crumbs, herbs and seasonal veggies” or the “Fancy Guac Salad: w/ fresh orange slices, fennel, pickled red onion and a chipotle dressing” contained any egg or dairy, and he never answered my question. Instead he simply sent me another tweet saying “You live up to your name.”

Now granted, I CAN be insufferable, as any of you who are regular readers (love ya!) know. And that’s partly the whole point. BUT I can also be friendly, polite, understanding, and VERY appreciative of any non-vegan place that’s trying to accommodate me. AND I can totally get it when a clearly non-vegan place can’t or won’t accommodate me. But when the owner of a restaurant tells me “Many things for you to eat. We got you” and then acts like I’m the one who’s being unreasonable for complaining that they didn’t got me even a little, then I think it’s the other party who’s clearly insufferable. And if you say it sounds more like he’s being Too Cool for School than insufferable, then I’m standing here touching the tip of my nose with my finger. And did I mention that this owner’s manager didn’t want to help at all to the point of rudeness, and that this owner talked earlier this year about not eating meat himself?

So what did I do after my twitter exchange with THE GREAT CHEF ROY ‘PAPI’ CHOI? I went back to Chego that very same night for dinner. That’s right. I went back and ordered the Leafy T bowl hold the fried egg. And at night, the guy taking the orders was much more knowledgable about ingredients than the woman at lunch, and seemed very certain that the Fancy Guac Salad did not contain any egg or dairy, so I got that too.

"Fancy Guac Salad" This was very good.

“Fancy Guac Salad”
This was very good.

And? Well, the Fancy Guac Salad was very good, although one of the two big chips they gave me with it was soggy. But I did not like the Leafy T at all. Maybe the fried egg brings the whole thing together, I don’t know. But I can tell you that it wasn’t nearly as good as the parts of the Brussels sprouts or the Sour Cream, Chicken and Egg Bowl hold the Sour Cream, Chicken and Egg that I picked at where they seemed not to touch the dairy that I’d asked them unsuccessfully to leave out.

And there, that’s my Chego story. I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe you’ll have a better sense than I will. It sounds like an owner who really doesn’t have much of a clue what’s going on at his own restaurant, but maybe that’s not the case at all. Maybe he just wants to sound accommodating to everyone, or progressive, without really giving any thought to what that actually entails for someone who takes him at his word and shows up to eat the things he tells them they’ll be able to eat.

I hope THE GREAT CHEF ROY ‘PAPI’ CHOI will see that he’s the one who was being insufferable here, or at least that we both were, although I will only admit to being insufferable in this instance AFTER my visit, not before or during. And I hope this opens his eyes to the problem, and that when he finally decides to spend a little money and print new menus instead of covering up old items with white stickers (seriously, how much could some new menus cost, we’re not talking fancy menus here, we’re talking one 8.5″ X 11″ page) that maybe he’ll even think about putting some kind of symbol for vegetarian or vegan or can-be-made-vegan-on-request on the menu, like MANY restaurants in Los Angeles do these days. You know, the kind who really ARE trying to accommodate people who are doing the thing that Chef Roy mused to The New Yorker that he was thinking about doing.

I will end by saying one thing: Chef Roy is really talented. Some of the food I picked at around the edges was really, really good. If he would make more of an effort for us — and it would only take a little bit of effort — he could easily come up with a way for almost all diners to enjoy his talent. I really hope he will read this and do that, so that I’m not the only one in this back and forth who’s living up to their tweets.

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!

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.

Fatty’s & Whoa!

8 Jul

Fatty’s & Co
1627 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock CA 90041
323.254.8804

You can find full-on shots of Fatty’s on Google, or you can simply enjoy my I don’t feel like walking across the street shot.

I am very proud of this headline because it is one of my worst ones yet. The name of this establishment is Fatty’s & Co, but it’s up for sale and I fear might close one day so I thought of calling this Fatty’s & Woe, but it is actually still open for the time being and I ate there for the second time and it was still so impressive I  went with Whoa!

I didn’t write about Fatty’s the first time because I hadn’t started my blog yet (you should check out my blog sometime) but I did include Fatty’s in my 10 best things I 8 in 11 list. And I probably will again for this year if I decide to do another trite list and since I’m pretty trite (and trite pretty, too) I probably will.

Now I know I recently said I was moving most of my restauranting onto Instagram, and it’s true I have (I’m like the Mapplethorpe of vegan food, except mine are in color and not good: @insufferablevegan) but I thought Fatty’s deserved its own post. So here goes, in yes particular order:

“Flaps”

The first thing we ordered was the “Flaps,” which are described on the menu as “super thin fries shaped like dachshund puppy ears served with a parsley and scallion remoulade dip.”  The first thing you might notice is that these aren’t “fries” — they are chips. Now in England chips are fries but in Los Angeles fries are not chips. So no matter how good they were — they were okay — they weren’t fries. It’s crazy enough to spend seven dollars on fries but I certainly wouldn’t have spent it on chips, even though the dip was impressive in its dairylikeness.

“Far East Rolls”

Up next were the Far East Rolls, and from here on out the food was tough to beat, so I’ll take the seven bucks I spent on potato chips and add one dollar in my mind to the cost of each of the next seven items instead. Yup, I said seven items. The Far East Rolls are really good if a bit on the greasy side, but hey, spring rolls are like that. I don’t mean to suggest they were soggy, they weren’t, in fact they were crisperfect, but they left your fingertips with enough oil to fuel a Phish-following microbus. They’re filled with spicy ginger seitan (let’s start a pool to guess the year that seitan is welcomed into the world of spellchecks) cabbage and carrots, and are served with a mango dipping sauce. And they are equally good with the sauce or without.

“The Special”

The next item isn’t one that I ordered. At first. But as I saw it make its way to other tables I realized the error of my non-ways to mine and made it come this way. Good call by me, as people said in the previous century. Do you have the slightest idea what you are looking at in the photo above? Avocado, check. Tomatoes, check, and an extra half-point if you said heirloom tomatoes, which to be frank I’ll be very disappointed if that’s what my grandfather passes down to me, but WHAT’S IN THOSE AVOCADOS? Keep guessing. Okay, time’s up. The answer is: sorbet. Okay, resume guessing. Tomato sorbet. Tomato sorbet made from those same heirloom tomatoes. Tomato sorbet made from those same heirloom tomatoes with Campari! And it worked. The very cold tomatoey taste with the somewhat cold avocado with the aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil it sat on made for the kind of new taste you think you’re all out of in life. It might have been more interesting than good, but that’s only because of how interesting it was. (Interesting is not a very interesting word.)

“Corn Tortilla Soup”

Then came soup and salad. We ordered two entrées, which each come with either soup or salad, so we got one of each. The soup was good but I only had a spoonful before it was stolen away from me by someone at the table who pulled it close and disappeared it.

“House Salad”

The salad, described on the menu as “House Salad,” was anything but. I mean, anything but what you’d think of as a restaurant’s “house salad.” It was a Frank Lloyd Wright salad as far as I was concerned. “A slaw of raw beets and apples tossed in balsamic and red onion vinaigrette with endive and pistachio garnish.”  So. So. Good.

“Corn Risoles”

Entrée time! By now it was getting dark, which is the Kryptonite of the iPhone 3G-S cam, so just picture these last few pictures looking brighter. First was the Corn Risoles, which are kind of like empanadas to a Philistine mind like my own, and they were sitting on a bed of pesto, which I hear is rough on the back although delicious, and stuffed with a tomato and multi-colored pepper salpicon, which was the second word in one menu item that I had to look up, and which basically means stuffing, and not something you’d better not step on barefoot, which is what I was picturing when I first saw the word. (I didn’t feel all that bad about my ignorance, because my friend-blogger SuperVegan, who started me down the Veganbrick Road (73-year-old reference that was old 71 years ago), and who knows way more about food than I will ever know, and who even makes some of it by herself (!), didn’t know either of these words either.) And it was delicious!

“Tri-colored Lentils”

The other entrée we got was the Tri-colored Lentils. This was my favorite item the previous time I went to Fatty’s. This was the item that earned the number two spot on my 10 best things I 8 in 11 list. And how did it fare against the memory of itself? Not bad. Memories are hard to compete against — they’re almost as hard to compete against as things that are way better than you. And memory can be forgetful, and not very remembering at all. And this might have been one of those unremembery memories because I remembered this dish looking nothing like this. In my mind it was not stacked cake-like, but rather spread out. And the lentils earned the tri-color title much more the previous time, with a vast display of bright orange lentils spread across the bowl. But like I said I could be misremembering this memory because I didn’t remember to ask our server if it had changed. Either way, it was still very good. And still served with a delicious Meyer lemon sauce. I just don’t remember if it was the same Tri-Colored Lentil spectacular I ate last year.

“Cotton Candy”

Dessert! You didn’t think I was done, did you? The cotton candy at Fatty’s is a ten dollar sky high Matterhorn of spun-to-order pure Vermont maple sugar. I know so because it says this on the menu. And it was pretty good. And I don’t like cotton candy. Because it sticks to your fingers. But this cotton candy did not stick to the fingers!!! And so I learned that the sticking-to-the-fingers part is not the only thing I don’t like about cotton candy. But the person who disappeared the soup disappeared half the Matterhorn pretty darn fast and loved it pretty darn much.

“Top Crust Apple Pie with Soy Cream”

I have only been vegan for 22 months and I remember pie. Was pie my favoritest thing in the world? Nope, but I did enjoy it from time to time. This apple pie was good on the inside (organic Fuji apples) but the pie part just wasn’t up to snuff. It was kinda cakey. Not cakey like you’d describe a cake, but cakey like you’d describe something that caked up. But the soy ice cream was good. Really, really good. Which brings us to the final item of the night.

“Organic Peanut Butter Gelato”

This was the organic peanut butter gelato with chocolate brandy sauce, and it was my favorite item. It came with half a strawberry (as did the pie) and some fresh peanuts on top, and the chocolate brandy sauce. For my money (not yours) I could have done with some more of the chocolate brandy sauce. But either way, this was really good. Did it knock you onto the floor and make you have to stand back up and re-seat yourself? No. But it was pretty much perfect in and of itself. I can’t imagine how it could have been better. (Except for a bit more of the chocolate sauce.)

And there you have it, a meal at Fatty’s & Co, the best vegan fine-dining experience in the greater Los Angeles area. I should mention here that Fatty’s is not 100 percent vegan. Some items are vegetarian. But what’s nice is that all items are vegan unless marked vegetarian, and not the other way around. I also feel that calling it the best vegan fine-dining experience in L.A. will immediately make people think of Madeleine Bistro. And Madeleine Bistro is great. I just don’t think it’s quite this good. And you simply cannot compare Madeleine Bistro’s space, which I find to be dingy and shopworn, to the light airy wonderful space that is Fatty’s.

So if you’ve never been to Fatty’s — go! If you wait too long it might not be there anymore. But if we hope too long maybe it will stay around forever. Or at least until I die. Because then you’re on your own.

Settling In

30 May

I’m a couple of weeks away from 21 months vegan and I feel like I’ve hit an equilibrium. I’m used to it. I’m not saying it was hard at first and then I gradually got accustomed to the change. Nope, it was surprisingly, I’d even say shockingly, easy from the beginning. I quickly found enough stuff that I liked to eat and then it became a matter of just filling it in at the edges. In fact, when this former meat lover recently walked into a Mexican restaurant, he was talking about himself in the third person. I mean, he smelled a few dozen strips of steak on the grill and almost gagged. Weird. I guess my body has made some changes, had some pathways re-wired perhaps.

I started this blog because when I stopped eating animal stuff my head was full of thoughts on the matter. I think I’ve now written about most of them. As a result, unintentionally, I see that I’ve been mostly writing about restaurants lately. Maybe this is useful to people in the greater Los Angeles area but is it interesting to those of you in other parts of America or around the world? Should I go back to my pseudo-philosophical essays? Should I keep it a mix of the two?

I also started putting some photos up on Instagram @insufferablevegan — different products I use, meals I cook, lunches I grab here and there that don’t warrant a full “review” or are from places I imagine you already know of and don’t need to read about at length. But I do get a little worried about food-porning it. Yeah this is good for the animals (I think and hope) but to start posting photos of glorious food for worship seems to be rubbing something in the face of people who can’t afford glorious food, whose lives don’t include the possibility of glorious food, who can’t even imagine that there are idiots out there using terms like glorious food, or who have no food at all (and presumably then no Internet).

I’m curious if other people felt a settling in at some point, if you started to feel that this is what you do now, whose friends started to all finally get it that this is what you do now and that it’s not a lark or a diet. And if so, at least for the people who have started this in the last year or two or three, do you think it’s about people getting used to it, or more about the vegan slow train coming? When I started this almost two years ago, when I met a certain supervegan and wasn’t even sure what the word meant, there probably wasn’t too much that could have been more alien to me than changing one of the basic activities of life. When I asked this person who had obviously thought through their connection to the planet way more than I ever had if they were “New Agey” I did it with zero awareness of  how I was the exact idiot who crosses my path every few months and asks me if I’m doing it “for spiritual reasons.”

But what feels most significant is that 21 months ago nobody was using the V word and now everyone seems to be and I think it’s for more than the way that when you learn a new word you suddenly start seeing it everywhere. I think there really is an eruption if not an explosion of vegan awareness, at least in what passes for educated, informed and aware society. There seems to be an interest level in the population that far exceeds the number of people who are actually vegan or vegetarian. People sit across the table from me chewing their chickens and telling me how they admire it or need to try it or are “getting there.”

I think this is a good sign. It’s probably a great sign. I’m old enough to remember when I told people that gays should be allowed to marry and they thought I was institution-worthy nuts. But as the older generations return to the earth and the pushmower of life brings up new ones, the attitudes have changed, and so with this too. (I’m comparing, not equating. Please don’t go ape-shit Mr. Animal Eater when I mention slavery, Nazis, suffrage or gulags. Please don’t ask me why I like animals better than humans. Does it really mean it’s open season on animal torture until the last starving child is fed?)

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading, following, commenting and retweeting.

Hopefully we’ll get to the point where a consensus is reached on the barbarism. And hopefully eating this way will let me live long enough to see it.

The Vegan Pretzel Train

17 May

Golden Road Brewing
5410 West San Fernando Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90039
212.373.4677

Are you old enough to remember that show with the two sisters playing guitars and coaxing children to join them on the Vegan Pretzel Train? It’s somewhere there in the recesses of my memory. Maybe they weren’t sisters, just actresses. Maybe the train wasn’t vegan, just kind. Maybe it was all just a dream, about a dream.

And yet when I look at my smartphone there are photos. I see a big pretzel. I see vegan food. I see a veranda. I don’t see any girls barefootin along. I don’t see a train. But I know I saw a train. I still can hear the train. Where was I? What happened?

Best I can tell I went to a place that was in Los Angeles. It wasn’t exactly on San Fernando Road it was on West San Fernando Road, which ran parallel to San Fernando Road. And strange things can happen when we enter a parallel San Fernando Road. Like menus where almost half the selections are vegan. Like crowded places in the middle of nowheres that aren’t named Coachella and aren’t two hours away and aren’t muddy. Like restaurants that feel like Cancun if Cancun were 1978 and vegan was a world you could live in with a breeze blowing through. Like freshly brewed beer that tastes much much better than when those same beers come out of a can. And that train…

Someone, I don’t know who, must live walking distance from Golden Road Brewing. They might have to walk across the 5 to get there (I’m not advocating this) or they might have to live at the Gentlemen’s Club down the road (even worse) or they might be the night watchman with a company-provided apartment at the adjacent medical supply/ mechanical pencil/ granite countertop factory. And if they are able to walk there, and walk home, then I envy them, in my brain.

Golden Road is a brewery and brewpub and gastropub and other things that come from the ownership of Tony’s Darts Away and Mohawk Bend. I have been to Tony’s Darts Away. I have not been to Mohawk Bend yet. But neither is next to a train track yet alone a train track that is not trainless, so who cares?

Why do I feel like I am talking to myself because you’ve already heard as much as you needed to hear and are on your way to Golden Road?

If you are, get the pretzel. The pretzel. I never thought I would be advocating for a seven dollar pretzel. Not outside of hyperinflation and that’s a different hyperworld I hope to never be able to write about. Pretend it’s a car. Seven dollars is cheap for a car, right? You will like this pretzel as much. It’s big and warm. It comes with a mustard that to me is Chinese mustard. It’s got a small kick and it’s good with that pretzel. Since you’re already in seven dollars on a pretzel spend one more for the vegan pimento cheese to accompany it. A dollar to dip your pretzel into a goop that feels cheesey. A goop of an uncheesey color, a semi-cheesey texture, a who cares whether it’s cheesey taste. I’m dipping again, I’m eating the pretzel again, I’m watching the train go by…

There were so many choices. So many things for us to eat. I got the “Meatballs: Hold the Meat” “snack” “with tomato sauce served with spicy vegan cornbread.” That was tomato sauce? The cornbread was spicy? Those were vegan meatballs? They were round things. There was sauce. I ate cornbread. Good cornbread. I ate the round things that were firmer than any meatless meatballs I’m familiar with. I sopped them up in some kind of thick brown liquid heading toward solid.

I got the Fritter #2 too. “Wild Mushroom Risotto with Vegan Pimento Cheese” — the same vegan pimento cheese that comes with the pretzel, that I ate near the train. Maybe it’s a Southern thing. I did a little googling. I’d never heard of Pimento Cheese. I learned a bit about it. I ate a vegan version. I should have looked up “Fritter” too. I thought it was an omelette thing. But this is more a fishstick thing. Or a tater tot thing. A tater tot thumb stick thing. That I guess was made of mushrooms and risotto. That I dipped in the vegan pimento cheese. This all really happened. I’m looking back and thinking this all really happened.

I got the flight of beers. Four beers made on premises. Or at least next door. In the red building not the yellow one. They have bright buildings. They have five beers they make but one is not allowed on the flight. It is on the no-flight list. But you can have a sample. In a flight glass. It is close to flight size. It is pretty much a fifth for your flight. It is stout and good. As are the others. Two of which I’ve had in cans in words, but not in reality, not in reality with a pretzel next to a train.

Happy Family = Happy Me

28 Apr

Happy Family
500 N Atlantic Blvd
Ste 171
Monterey Park, CA 91754
626.282.8986

A week ago, the LA Weekly ran a piece about the “10 Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in L.A.” Number nine was “Happy Family Vegetarian Restaurant.” Good timing, since I had plans to go there two days later. The article says, “Eggs may pop up here and there, so it’s advisable to check with the staff before ordering.” Because of that I checked with the staff, who told me there is no egg in anything. So apparently it’s really “Happy Family Vegan Restaurant” — but why scare people even more, I suppose.

Happy Family is in a crazy mall called Atlantic Times Square that is kind of like The Grove on ginseng. It’s a mix of commercial and residential space and it’s got one of the crappier underground parking garages I’ve ever been in. Snap a pic to remember where you parked. Trust me. And I’m not a get lost in a parking garage person.

Then when you come upstairs from the parking lot you have to walk to Atlantic Boulevard because the entrance to Happy Family is on the street. I guess Atlantic Boulevard must be why they call the place Atlantic Times Square but isn’t Atlantic Times Square kind of redundant since the real Times Square IS on the Atlantic? Calling it Pacific Times Square would make more sense but not if it’s on Atlantic Blvd I guess.  But since it really isn’t anything like Times Square maybe the best thing to call it would be Westfield Times Square or China Grove.*

Happy Family offers an All You Can Eat menu. It’s $13.95 for adults and $8.95 for kids. You get one spring roll and one “Minced Squab in Lettuce” and then a crazy amount of food. The spring roll is tasty and the Minced Squab — which is pretty much a PF Changy lettuce cup — is very tasty. As for the rest of the food, I took a lot of pictures so I’ll just roll through them and tell you what I thought of these dishes.

“Vegetarian Sliced Pork with Broccoli”

The “Vegetarian Sliced Pork with Broccoli” was the best dish I had. I don’t know why this is considered pork with broccoli and not the more common beef with broccoli, especially since the soy in this dish seems more intended to mimic beef not pork, and does an impressive job of it. The fake beef, sorry pork, has a pretty similar texture to the real thing and perfectly takes on the taste of the sauce. I’m not saying I need my soy to act like it’s meat, but since that seems to be the goal of this restaurant, they succeed as far as this dish goes.

“Vegetarian Chicken with Cashew Nuts (Wheat Gluten)”

The fake chicken with cashew nuts was good, too, though not as good as the fake beef with broccoli. And now that I see the menu says the fake diced chicken here is wheat gluten, I suppose it’s possible the fake beef in the fake sliced pork with broccoli is also made of wheat gluten. But it didn’t say, so I don’t know. The fake chicken in this dish was a little bit rubbery but I liked it, and I don’t usually like rubbery food, at least not as far as I know. Maybe it’s fake rubber.

“Vegetarian Rib (Taro) with Sweet & Sour Sauce”

The “Vegetarian Rib (Taro) with Sweet & Sour Sauce” wasn’t so good. It was basically a soft, gushy mess that was more zeppole than rib.

“Vegetarian Deep Fried House Chicken with Sesame (Mushroom)”

The fake sesame chicken also suffered from zeppoleosis. In fact, I didn’t realize it was made of mushroom until I looked at the menu. It was soft and doughy inside, and when food is like that, it seems more like dessert to me than a main course.

Shredded pork with…

I’m not sure which dish this is. I asked the waitress what her favorite dish on the menu is and she said “shredded pork” and brought me this and it was good. But when I look at the menu I can’t figure out which one it is. Maybe shredded pork with bean curd? Whatever it is, it tastes better than it looks.

“House Tofu with Black Bean & Brown Sauce”

The “House Tofu with Black Bean & Brown Sauce” was one of my favorite items. Part of what I liked was that it wasn’t trying to be a fake meat, though don’t get me wrong I can enjoy fake meats with the best of ‘em. Sometimes tofu like this can be limp or soggy but this was just the right amount of softness without falling apart when you picked it up. Oh, and it was tasty.

“Stir Fry Spinach”

Not too much to say about the “Stir Fry Spinach” except that it was simple and very good.

“Fried Bread”

I saw some people at another table eating this and I asked the waitress what it was. She said, “I’ll bring you some.”

Fried Bread minus mouthful.

When it arrived, she said it was “fried bread.” Okay, those are two good words to put together, right? But when I took a bite, well, yup, it tasted like a zeppole. Which wasn’t so bad since I’m guessing it’s supposed to taste like a zeppole. In fact, zeppoles are definitely in the fried bread frylum. But there’s only so much fried bread someone needs. Especially in a Chinese restaurant.

Tiramisu cake

For dessert I had the tiramisu cake. There was a big problem with this. No, it didn’t taste like a zeppole. But when it was first served it was clear it had just come out of the freezer. It had the crystally texture that an old container of ice cream can get. Or an old container of Almond Dream. (One of the great things about going vegan is that you don’t have to give up that awful crystally freezer taste.) Once the tiramisu cake hit room temp it wasn’t bad but by then it was kinda ruined for me, like a movie after a cellphone ring. Oh well.

All in all I’d say that if you’re vegan or vegetarian and like Chinese food and ampersands,  this is the place for you. Just leave a trail of (fried) bread crumbs so you can find your car afterwards.

*Linking to a Doobie Brothers video does not imply approval.

Native Foods Westwood you try a little harder?

18 Apr

Papered-over front window in Westwood.

I love Native Foods.

Wait, I should clarify. I love their food. And the people who work in their stores. And the fact that they’ve caught on with a non-vegan and non-vegetarian crowd and are showing people that vegan food can not only taste good but great.

Now the part I don’t love: this company has perhaps the worst customer service I have ever encountered from a business. Not at the stores. There the people are, for the most part, super friendly and helpful.

But have you ever tried to email them a question or concern? Quite possibly you just answered yes. Did you ever get a response to your email? Quite likely you just answered no.

What is with a company that puts an email address for customer service questions on their website and then doesn’t reply? Bizarre.

One manager told me that the company is only willing to pay one person to handle all the emails and that it’s too much for one person. Another manager at a different store told me the owner is very controlling and all emails are routed straight to him. Who knows? All I know is that the second I mentioned the word “email” to both of these managers their eyes rolled up in a way that let me know they’re well aware of the company’s huge customer service problem and have to listen to complaints about it from customers all day long. They both told me the same thing, which was basically: If you ever have a problem at a Native Foods please don’t try to email just come into the store and ask for a manager and we’ll try to make it right for you. Good advice.

And what does all this have to do with their Westwood location? Well, first of all, I’ve found that location to be the best run, have the friendliest staff, and be super-well managed.  Wish I could say the same for Culver City. *sigh*

So yesterday, wanting a Chicago Dip sandwich because I fear it might be gone come next week when I believe the new menu is set to debut, I drove over to Westwood Village. I then did the mandatory 15 minutes of circling before finding a spot. But hey, it’s worth it, because I love that sandwich!

I get out of my car, put my coins in the meter, and then start walking down the block. Step + anticipation, step + anticipation, step + anticipation. I’m almost there. Step + salivating anticipation. I’m there! I put my hand on the door handle and pull.

The door does not move.

It’s 6pm. I look around. My brain tells me to admit it to myself: they are closed.

Now a normal business would have a sign up on the door or window telling you why they’re closed during normal business hours, right? Especially a business that has a signholder attached to the wall right next to its front door. But that’s empty. Empty as in, someone took the time to remove the large menu that’s usually in said signholder but did not replace it with a sign of explanation. This is a bad sign.

Note the empty signholder to the right. The lack of a sign is not a good sign.

I try calling. You know, since a normal business would have an outgoing message telling you what’s going on. Ring Ring Ring. Hope fades to acceptance. Ring Ring Ring ring ring…

While I’m standing out front, for about two minutes, six — that’s right — six separate parties come by, try the door, look at each other surprised, look at me, exchange shrugs, and walk off.

Now if you patronize that location, you know they’ve been going through some changes. They’ve been renovating the space next door to become their new restaurant, and during this renovation they’ve stayed open, but have forced any diners wanting to eat there to consume their meal straight from a cardboard box. You can’t imagine how awkward and unpleasant it is to eat a hot meal from a cardboard box until you try it. It basically interferes with every biological pleasure receptor designed to make you enjoy a meal. With most companies I’d assume they’re forced to do it this way because of some arcane zoning rule or something. But with Native Foods you never know. Might just be a clueless owner or something.

The last time I ate there  – a couple of weeks ago — it looked like renovations for the new location were getting toward done. I was psyched. But mind you, still no signs up announcing an opening date, and of course nothing letting you know they’re going to shut down the existing restaurant for a period of time before the new one next door opens.  Yesterday I peeked through a hole in the plastic sheeting covering the inside of the window and it looks really close to done. Signs are up and everything. I even took a photo. It looks nice. With an upstairs dining area and all. Can’t wait. Really.

Through the looking glass.

So when I got home I checked their Twitter to see if there was any information on the Westwood location closing or opening. You know, because any normal company with a Twitter would use it for exactly that purpose. To let their customers know what’s going on. I searched back a month. Nothing.

Then I went to their website’s blog. Again, searched back a month. Nothing.

Finally, I looked at their “locations” page and lo and behold there it was: Currently Closed for Expansion/Remodel Re-opening May 1st

Perfect! Because that’s exactly where customers who have been to that store a hundred times would look for information for that store: at the place that tells them where the place they’ve been to a hundred times is located.

This is also a company that, keep in mind, asks for your email address in order to give you one of their Rewards Cards. And then you use your email to log into their website and check your points and rewards totals. But does this company ever then use your address to send  you updates and information about the company, you know, the way every other company in America does? Nope. And by the way, there’s even a box on the website that says: “Sign up for the newsletter” — I’ve entered my email address into that box a number of different times, even though they already had my email address. Did I ever once get a newsletter  – or ANY piece of email from them? Nope. *sigh*

Native Foods owner: you’ve got lightning in your hands. Your chain is expanding, thriving. Loosen the reins a little bit. Delegate more. Hire additional people to help you out. Do whatever you need to do in order to keep your customer service problems from cutting against the good will generated by your food and your staffers. Because most people only put up with bad customer service for so long before they go elsewhere. And these days, there are a lot more elsewheres opening up.

Eat peace.

Native Foods Cafe: Preview or trainee view?

29 Mar

When I was at Native Foods recently I picked up a take-out menu, and when I looked at it later I saw some odd scribbling on it. At first I just thought someone had written down what they were going to order, and then dumped it back into the menu bin after their purchase. But then I started to realize that it was a little too formal for that. Someone had gone through every item making notes. And I soon began to think that I’d either found something used to train their new employees, or more likely I had stumbled onto a preview of the upcoming menu.

Take a look. Tandoor Kabobs, which were a new item in January, are crossed out. In their place at the bottom, with what looks like a “new item” symbol, are Crab Cakes. Hmm. Then under pizzas, both current pizzas are crossed out, and next to what looks like another new item symbol, is a Remo Caesar Pizza. And it also looks like the Meatball Veggie pizza is making a comeback.

Then under Entree Salads, the new Greek Goddess is gone, and replaced by a Caesar Salad.

I’m onto something here, right?

Now comes the bad news, at least for me, if I’m right about what I found and how I’m reading it. It looks like the Gandhi Bowl is gonedi! Can it be? It’s crossed out and replaced by what looks to be a Red Curry Bowl with Tofu Steak. Say it ain’t so. And under Chef’s Favorites the Chicago Dip is gone! That wasn’t just one of the Chef’s Favorites, it was one of Insufferable Vegan’s Favorites! Please tell me this was simply a menu someone gave their child to draw on and not the radical earth-changing Rosetta Stone I fear it to be!

But not all the news is bad, at least for the purists. It looks like those people who were so distraught by the banishment of the Baja Fish Tacos and the Native Deli Reuben that they set up a Facebook page in protest are about to get their way because it looks like both are coming back, at the expense of the recently added Very Veggie Wrap and Caribbean Queen Burger, neither of which I will be particularly sad to say goodbye to.

And while I didn’t even bother to take a photo of the Desserts section on the back since it wasn’t marked up, the drink section seems to be adding a Mango Salsa Fresca.

So what do you think? Am I mistaken about what I found? Or is this the Native Foods Wormhole writ large, allowing us to bend space and step a few weeks ahead with eerie precision? Or did I drop a frozen Spring Wellington on my head and imagine the whole thing, which might be the only way to explain that previous sentence.  If only I had photos. Oh wait. I do. It’s real! Isn’t it?

Bring back the Gandhi Bowl!!!  Bring back the Chicago Dip!!!

Or better yet, don’t take them away in the first place!

Love ya, NFC!

An open-faced letter to Jonathan Gold

24 Mar

Dear Mr. Gold,

I’m not sure what an open letter is but I think this counts as one.  As I’m sure you recall, I tweeted you a 2007 video showing abominable conditions at a Canadian foie gras producer and you replied back to me and said that this video was “outdated, irrelevant propaganda” and that “all 3 US producers are impeccable.”  Then I sent you a recent video of conditions at the three U.S. foie gras producers – with some of the footage being as recent as late 2011 – and you went silent. It wasn’t surprising in a way, given that there’s no definition of “impeccable” that would allow for the conditions seen in that footage.

But don’t you think you owe it your 30,000 followers on Twitter whom you told that the U.S. producers are “impeccable” to then either defend those producers or admit you were wrong? Don’t you think it’s cowardly to accuse me of sending you “outdated, irrelevant propaganda” and then when I send you a new video that’s current and couldn’t be more relevant, I’m met with radio silence?

I also found it surprising that you used the word “propaganda” – such a meaningless word thrown about by both sides in any argument. Propaganda is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? Even facts can count as propaganda. If your purpose was to be harsh by using such a word, then I don’t mind, since I was harsh in my first few tweets to you as well. But if that was a heartfelt use of the word then I find it very disingenuous.  Especially after the second video I sent you.

I was also troubled by what was implied in your tweets, which was that you DO have concern for the animals that become foie gras and that that’s why you were certifying the U.S. producers as “impeccable.” But DO you really care? Does this mean that you always check the provenance of foie gras before partaking? Does it mean you did not eat foie gras a few years ago when conditions were like those seen in the video you called “outdated”?

I took a look at the menu for Umamicatessen, where you enjoyed the foie gras donut featured in your adoring review in the Los Angeles Times (which didn’t even mention that foie gras is soon to be illegal in the state of California, though that’s even more your cowardly editors’ fault than your own). Well, it turns out the menu for Umamicatessen does not describe the provenance of the foie gras used in their donut. Did you ask them? I would guess you did not, even though your tweet to me suggested that you ARE concerned about such things. Did you make a reasonable effort to guarantee that the foie gras you were about to consume came from one of the three “impeccable” U.S. producers?

Aren’t you being a phony here, Mr. Gold? Trying to act like you indeed are concerned about the welfare of these animals and the conditions at the various production farms, and yet not really checking, and possibly never being concerned enough to check before partaking?

I also imagine that you roll your eyes at the upcoming ban on foie gras and see it as the work of pandering politicians and a misinformed and hysterical electorate, without stopping to think that this was not a measure to ban all meat, which would have gotten very little support, but a measure to ban a form of meat that is created in a way that is particularly cruel for the animals whose livers are taken.

As I said in one of my tweets to you, I wonder if you have a family cat or dog and if you’ve ever taken a moment to think about how you’d feel if someone shoved a long metal pipe down its throat the way that foie gras producers do to their animals.

Your writing is all about pleasure, about how food, well-prepared, can afford us one of the greatest delights that humanity has to offer. But do you ever take a moment to think about the lives of the animals that become this food? I know that’s tough to do, Mr. Gold, because I was a meat eater for close to half a hundred years. I was in denial, too. I occasionally heard about or saw the undercover videos revealing conditions at factory farms, but I chose to ignore them or to imagine them to be isolated incidents. Most likely I simply tuned it out before it was ever capable of gaining a toehold in the part of my brain that thinks about things.

But I was not a food writer for a major American newspaper, yet alone a Pulitzer Prize winner, so I did not have the professional obligation to consider the topic from multiple angles and in great detail.

What you are is an enabler. You enable people to view the mistreatment of these animals as something they needn’t ethically concern themselves with, to view it as something insignificant when compared to the end that justifies these means:  a sumptuous donut. After all, here is a prize-winning writer at a bastion of American journalism giving the continued consumption and treatment of these animals his imprimatur.

You spend your days seeking out new and mind-blowing tastes, which is fine, hey, it sounds like a great job, but think about what it rides on the back of. I stopped eating animal products after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” book. Perhaps you consider that to also be “outdated, irrelevant propaganda” never mind the fact that Safran Foer, one his generation’s leading literary figures, took two years out of his life to research and write this book.

And Mr. Safran Foer, to my knowledge, is not a vegan. He is a self-described vegetarian, and according to his book, an on and off one at that. Perhaps you have read his book, which would come as a pleasant surprise. If not, you should, unless you fear, as I think you may, that it would lead you to stop eating meat and perhaps all animal products.

While I don’t eat meat anymore I am not someone who actively advocates for others to stop. My family and friends still eat meat and I do not attempt to proselytize them. I only bothered tweeting you in the first place because I found your foie gras donut orgasm to be so brazen and defiant and, well, hard-hearted. It was, to my mind, a political statement: I will eat whatever I god damn please.

I have tried to refrain in this letter from making analogies. The atrocities carried out on factory farms on a regular basis can be compared to many things, but those who defend meat are quick to accuse those who compare things of equating things. I’m sure you and they might even take offense at the use of the word “atrocities” to describe such treatment, thinking that word should only be reserved for human mistreatment. But if you’re going to throw around the word “propaganda” like a political hack on a cable news show then I have no problem using a word like “atrocities.”

As I mentioned in my tweets, I’ve been a big fan of your writing for years. Not that you need me to tell you that; you’ve got thousands of fans and a Pulitzer Prize. But don’t you believe that such a prize, especially a journalistic prize, comes with obligations and responsibilities, especially concerning honesty? And not just being honest with me, I wouldn’t expect you to care about that, but I’m talking about being honest with those 30,000 followers you told about the “impeccable” U.S. foie gras production. I can’t imagine that any of those 30,000 followers who watched the second video I sent you would think those conditions were anything but appalling, yet alone “impeccable.”

One of the major changes underway at this time in America, Mr. Gold, is a reconsideration of how we treat the animals that become our food. I wouldn’t expect you to be as contemplative a meat-eater as someone like Mark Bittman, whose recent New York Times columns have been in the vanguard of this current reassessment, but to blast out a blowhard huff about “outdated, irrelevant propaganda” when you and your bloodied-apron friends are about the only ones left defending this fort seems like the behavior of a spoiled little child.

If you consider yourself an intelligent person, which you no doubt do, and which I no doubt consider you to be as well, then the problem here must not be intellectual but rather psychological. Beyond the fact that you make your living writing about food, the great proportion of which comes from animals, there seems to be an unhealthy refusal to reconsider your current positions.

Were you to begin to question the ethics of eating meat, or even the tiny fraction of meat consumption that is foie gras, perhaps you fear your whole world would unravel. Foodie friends would abandon you. The industry you embrace would brand you a traitor. You would have to, gasp, refrain from certain things you find to be delectable! But delectability at what cost?

It seems pretty clear what direction the world is moving in, and on what side of history you will be left on, and there were no doubt many Pulitzer Prize winners who won for columns that would now make our skin crawl in 2012.

Again, not that you care about that. But you should care about the obvious. You should be better than the typical American who eats meat out of habit, who doesn’t think much at all about their food or where it comes from or how it’s made, who isn’t one of the country’s leading food figures, and who spend most of their lives eating food you probably wouldn’t even want if trying to survive a plane crash.

Take some time, Mr. Gold. Re-think your positions. Then please get back to me. Thanks.

Won’t you take you to… Figueroa Produce

16 Mar

Figueroa Produce Market
6312 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042
323.255.3663

Such photography!

I don’t live on the Pasadena side of LA, but when I find myself that way I always head home via the 110 so I can hit Figueroa Produce. It’s a small market with an old-time neighborhood feel but they’ve also got a lot of stuff there and more importantly, a lot of great vegan stuff that I haven’t seen other places, especially their selection of Match Meats.

Although I love the store I wasn’t going to write about it because I thought most area vegans probably knew of it, but then I saw this tweet yesterday:

So I decided to tell you a bit about the place.

I got this from the frozen foods case.

The first time I went to FP I bought some Match Meats from the frozen foods case but I didn’t know what I now know, which is that there’s an even greater selection to be had in the fresh meat case. And yes, that’s as in real meat, but all the way to the left you will see, separated, a tray of Match Meats with a price list that I forgot to take a photo of. And there’s quite a variety: hamburgers, chicken breasts, chipotle chicken breasts, crab cakes and more.

While I was ogling this tray, Ruben — whose business card says “Owner” — came over and chatted me up. Ruben’s a real friendly guy and he’s glad to talk to you about all the vegan stuff he carries. When I settled on getting a couple of hamburgers and a couple of chipotle chicken breasts, he asked me if I was going to eat them that day, and when I said no he got some from the back for me, frozen, saying they would last longer and that I simply needed to thaw them in the fridge for a day before cooking. Ruben said he eats these a lot and that he fries them with a little bit of Earth Balance on top which then nicely melts over them while they’re being heated.

The Match Meats website says that Figueroa Produce is the only place you can buy these items in California, which should be reason enough to go if you’ve never been before. They also have some other products that I’ve never seen anywhere else, except maybe at the all-vegan grocery store Viva La Vegan in Rancho Cucamonga which is definitely a pilgrimage that all LA vegans should have to do at least once in their lifetime. But until then there’s FP, where I also bought the following item:

Won't you take me to... Tofutown

This was in the refrigerated case and is from a German company called Viana.  My favorite thing about Viana is that their packaging sends you to a website called Tofutown which even has, at least in my mind, its own song. There’s a few different varieties of their products and they were all pretty good though I wasn’t running back to buy more, but for a now and then thing, absolutely. The one thing that bothers me about these items is that they travel 6,000 miles to get to Los Angeles. “But hey, a guy can only have so many causes,” he said, typing on his computer that came from even farther.

So if you’ve never been to Figueroa Produce, go see what they have, and say hello to Ruben if he’s there, and make him show you a vegan product you didn’t know existed, because I bet he’s got one.

Not The End, I hope.

The OCV: Seabirds and Girl Scouts.

8 Mar

Sometimes I do the wrong thing and sometimes I do the right thing but I’m often not sure which and who’s to say?

A few weeks ago I gave the Seabirds Truck a hard time about their scheduled stop at Santa Anita Racetrack. They talk about cruelty-free on their website but horse racing is not cruelty-free for the horses.

But maybe I shouldn’t have done that. Maybe the Seabirds Truck is doing so much good by traveling around with their great food and showing everyone how tasty this kind of food can be that I shouldn’t have called them out over it. Turns out, at least according to how it looks on their website, that they even decided not to do the horse track event in the end.

So anyway, Seabirds has been on my mind. I’d always wanted to try them, especially after having some great vegan truck food as turned out by the amazing Cinnamon Snail truck in the New York/New Jersey area.

So, wanting to get some of those vegan Orange County Girl Scout cookies that I’ve sent way too much information out into the Internet about, I decided to try to combine the two goals and the Seabirds Truck obliged. They attended an event last week at a school in Whittier, which took me only 45 minutes to get to in weekend traffic.

And I’m glad I went. First of all, the people working the truck are as friendly as can be. Probably because I didn’t mention who I was. But anyway, what’s important is the food, and it was very good. In fact, it was so good that I went back for more. The first time I ordered two items: the Beer Battered Avocado Tacos and the Jack-ie Chan Tacos, which are jackfruit. The Seabirds Truck had a contest recently to name their jackfruit tacos and by the result we can see that contests are not the best way to name tacos.

Beer Battered Avocado Taco

The Beer Battered Avocado Tacos were great. Crunchy on the outside with warm gooey avocado inside. They were hot, fresh and ready incredibly fast. They were also gone incredibly fast. I didn’t like the jackfruit tacos as much but maybe that’s not the Seabirds Truck’s fault. The only other time I had jackfruit tacos was at Pure Luck before it closed (not after it closed) and I didn’t love them either despite the fact that the vegan world adored their tacos and cried a river of plant-based tears when they closed.

Jackie-ie Chan Tacos

I was mostly full after those three tacos (I decided to bring one of the jackfruit ones home for Ms. Insufferable — isn’t it nice of me to bring cold food I don’t want to the person I love?) but I was so impressed with the avocado tacos that I decided I needed to try some more things.

I’m a big tryer. My life is mostly trying. Trying things, I mean, not trying. I like to try everything once — every place, every item. So back I went to the truck and got some “Fried Rice W/ Tanaka Veggies” and a Kale and Pear Salad. I also got three cupcakes.

Again, it was ready fast. They seem to have really mastered their prep to the point that things can be both hot and quick. And the fried rice looked amazing. So amazing that as I walked away from the truck with it, not kidding, two Boy Scouts passed me and one said, “Whoa, where did you get that?” Then I saw him walk up to the truck, have a brief conversation, and then walk away. Maybe the Boy Scout was surprised by the $8 price tag but I thought it was well worth it.

Fried Rice W/ Tanaka Veggies

Sitting on top of the rice were some charred/seared/roasted cashews — some of the most appetizing-looking cashews I have ever seen. And mixed into the brown rice along with carrots, celery, broccoli and green pepper was just the right amount of moisture. It was an excellent dish.

The Kale and Pear Salad was also good but not as good as the fried rice or the avocado tacos. And unfortunately, the cupcakes were only so-so. They weren’t bad, but there was no wow-factor either.

Kale and Pear Salad

But the rest of the food was so good it made me wish the Seabirds Truck would clone itself or visit LA more often. Maybe (enter favorite celebrity vegan name here) can finance a second truck.

So after stuffing myself in Whittier I drove a few miles east to the Stater Bros supermarket in La Habra, which was the closet Girl Scout “booth sale” to Whittier according to the Orange County Girl Scout Cookie Finder.

Girl Scout Cookie Booth Sale. (You can see the Girl Scouts to the right of the entrance. I took the photo from far away because, well, it's creepy to put photos of kids on the Web.)

Now as you all know, the Girl Scouts of Orange County sell cruelty-free cookies whereas the Los Angeles council only sells ones made with milk. But five of the eight varieties in Orange County are vegan and I bought me all five types.

I’m not going to sit here and review the individual types of Girl Scout Cookies bu– oh what the hell, why not. The Thin Mints are great as you know. They also came in foil packs. Not sure if the milky L.A. ones also came in foil packs this year but last year they did not because certain family members of mine still have some left in the freezer. I have no idea whether the foil facilitates freezer-chillin’ but I like to believe that it does.

A case! A case I tells ya!

I also bought a box of Lemonades which are lemon cookies with a lemony icing bottom. They’re good. Then there were the “Thanks-A-Lots” which led to way too many puns from the Girl Scouts after I bought way too many boxes of cookies. I guess it’s not a pun. Is it a pun? Hmmm…   Anyway, the Thanks-A-L0ts are really good. They’re kind of a regular plain type cookie but with a fudge icing bottom. And the fridge made them even better.

Then there were the Peanut Butter Patties. These are good too, and also benefited from some fridging. The only ones I thought were dudly were the “Shout Outs” which are caramel-flavored cookies emblazoned with words like “Learn” and “Lead.” The Girl Scouts made a point of telling me that this is the last year of “Shout Outs” and that they will be replaced with a TBD flavor next year. I’m with the Girl Scout deciders on that one because as far as I’m concerned these cookies should have said “S0-So” on them.

So now I’m all stocked up on cookies and you can be, too: These Orange County cookie booth sales end on March 11th so you still have a few days to get your plant-based butts out to the OC and get some vegan cookies instead of whining for the next three months while the meat-based butts in your life feast on milky ones.

Just don’t take the 10 back.

800 Degrees got 99 Problems (but the food ain’t one)

9 Jan

800 Degrees Pizza
10889 Lindbrook Drive
Los Angeles CA 90024
424.239.5010
Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.!

The L.A. vegan webiverse has been buzzing about a new pizzeria in Westwood Village called 800 Degrees and the fact that they offer Daiya. So how could I not try it?

Do you want the good news (the food) or the bad news (everything else) first?

I think I’ll give you the good news first in order to cut them some slack, since they’ve only been open a week: the pizza is very good. And well-priced. And it’s ready super-fast.

Pizza Marinara plus arugula, pine nuts and mushrooms.

I got two pies. One was the Pizza Marinara, a cheeseless pie with crushed tomato, garlic, oregano and olive oil. To it I added arugula, pine nuts and mushrooms. It was good. The toppings were super fresh. The only problem was… okay, I’ll save the problem for later. While the cheeseless pie was good, the Daiya pie was better. This was their Pizza Margherita, which comes with crushed tomato, olive oil and basil, and I subbed Daiya for the mozzarella and “parmigiano reggiano.”

The Daiya pie looked so much like a real cheese pie that when the guy at the counter where you pick it up slid it over to me, I thought he’d made a mistake. He double-checked and said it was definitely the Daiya one. And when I looked at the real cheese pizzas which other people were getting, which looked nothing like what I had, I realized he must be right.

Pizza Margherita with Daiya.

I’ve had plenty of Daiya pizza in my 16 vegan months but none looked like this. The cheese was so… melted. I know Daiya melts, but usually you can see its shreddiness, or at least the fact that it was once shredded, but not here. Maybe that’s a testament to how much Daiya they give you for what I think was a $2 substitution charge  (receipts are vague) or maybe it’s a testament to the heat of their oven (though my buddy with a pizza oven says his is 800 also) but this thing not only looked like a regular cheese pizza, and had the consistency of regular cheese, I swear it tasted more like regular cheese than any other vegan pizza I’ve had. That feeling of when your teeth cut into the cheese on the first bite is one that I never thought I’d experience again, which is a treat in and of itself, and then the fact that the taste is there too really makes you (or at least me) feel like I’m eating “real” pizza again.

The Daiya was also nice and warm all the way through, in contrast to an early complaint I’d seen online about the Daiya pie being warm on the edges but cold in the middle. But that does bring up one thing I should mention, which is that, perhaps due to the thinness of the crust (which I really liked) the pies do cool down faster than a typical pizza. Maybe I’d have been better off getting one pizza, having some, and then going back up for another, but there seems to be no way to get any kind of pass to cut the line for second-timers (but I’ll get to the issues with the line later).

Next Big Coke

I also want to tell you about beverages because, to my surprise and delight, they have one of the space-age Coca-Cola Freestyle machines! Okay, the Space Age was 50 years ago, we don’t even have Space Shuttles anymore, so I guess I should say they have one of the Pinterest-age Coca-Cola Freestyle machines! I’m not a big soda drinker, but I first read about these from one of my favorite food bloggers a couple of years ago and I’ve really wanted to try one since since I like me new things. New music, new restaurants, new news, I’m always hoping to find the next big thing. And there it was. And drinks comes with refills so you can try a bunch of the different flavors this thing can create. Turns out most of them were meh, and the Fanta Raspberry was so grossly medicinal I’d rate it a feh, but I did find one winning combo: Raspberry Coke.

If there’s a problem with the machine (besides Fanta Pukeberry) it’s that people haven’t seen one before and don’t know how to use it. And while by the second or third time I had the hang of it, at first it’s a big “What do I do?” which means that after waiting in a long line for pizza you now have to stand there behind a machine that turns even gadget-savvy hipsters into grandmas using checks at the supermarket. And yes, the guy in front of me did have a fedora.

But a slow soda line is the least of the bad news. And although the good news about the bad news is that it’s early and hopefully these are kinks that will be ironed out (I haven’t ironed any kinks since the Space Age, have you?) it still put a damper on this being a great experience.

Bad News Thing number one: There is nobody busing tables. The way this place works is you order, it’s ready as soon as you’re done paying, and you sit down. There’s no waiters on the floor. THERE’S NO NO ONE ON THE FLOOR. When I got there, the place had a line going already, and was pretty crowded, with three or four unoccupied tables. But all the tables still had the previous eaters’ dirty plates, cups and napkins all over them. After ten minutes of waiting in line, paying, and getting my food, still nobody had come out to clean these tables. Seriously. It was disgusting. Finally, after this was pointed out to the man in chef’s whites, he went and told someone who came out.

An unbussed table here, and there, and over there...

But did that person go to the customer the chef pointed to as having asked? Nope, he went and cleaned the table closest to him instead. *sigh* And not to pick on the guy who busses tables, the bigger problem is that to the extent there’s any of the supposedly professional owners of this place around — and you’d think they’d be around during their first weekend in business — they didn’t seem to notice or care that their dining room was a pig sty. In fact, it was so crazy I decided to take some photos of it, because by the time I finished eating there were six, seriously, six tables sitting uncleaned in the dining room. I don’t think anyone had come out to clean tables the entire time I was eating. And they use real plates, which is nice, but since they’re not set up for you to bus your own table, they need to have someone out there full time.

And while I’m on the subject of plates, that reminds me about the forks. The first two forks I took from the bin next to the cash register had food on them, as in the food of the previous person who used that fork. That is bad, bad, bad. (Or gross, gross, gross — you can decide.)

But I’m still not at the worst kink in need of an iron. You see, the way this place works is via the assembly line system. In fact, this place is more defined by lines than the Diary of a Wimpy Kid empire. In fact, I had tried to have dinner here the previous day, but the line was so far out the door and down the street that I gave up. This time I was luckier and although there was a line, it wasn’t yet out the door.

“So that’s the worst part, I.V.? The line?” Nope. The worst part is the employees working the line. Now look, I don’t want to be too harsh. And so far I’ve been generous given the number of bugs that need to be kinked out. Or ironed out. Or worked out. Whatever. And I can be very forgiving of the first guy in the line that you talk to, the one who takes your order, the one who, when I asked, “Can you get a topping on just half your pie?” said, “Uh, I don’t know, I’m usually working in the back.” After all, he was being honest, which I appreciated, and he was friendly, which goes a long way with me. He said I should ask the guy further down the line.

So I moved down the line — which is basically cafeteria-style except you don’t have a tray and they’re the ones moving your food along on the other side of the counter — and when I got to the next stop on the local, which was Toppings, the guy looked at me and was like, “Where’s your pizza? What did you order?” And not friendly either. Hostile. Very hostile. Bizarrely hostile. So I said, “I couldn’t order one because the first guy couldn’t answer my question and he told me to ask you,” and Mr. Hostile Black T-shirt gave me a look like, “Are you expletive kidding me you lying sack of expletive?” And then he looked over at the first guy behind the counter who said, “Yeah, I told him to ask you because I didn’t know.” This should have been as much of an explanation as Mr. Black Shirt needed, and I thought we’d start from scratch at this point, but nope. The hostility did not abate. And keep in mind, I hadn’t even mentioned the words “vegan” “Daiya” “fake” or “I don’t eat X” yet.

I think the problem was that their system allows for zero margin of error. Zero. So by inexplicably having the first guy who starts their process not know what he was doing, it turned the 800 Degree pizza line into the Lucy candy factory line. And whatever Mr. Black Shirt’s MBTI profile was, it was clearly the least-suited one for standing behind a counter and interacting with a long line of people. So after answering my question (yes, you can get a topping on half the pie but you still pay the full topping price) I began to order my toppings. Now I’m not a dawdling type. I knew what I wanted and I ordered it quickly. But apparently not quickly enough to satisfy this guy who maybe is like this at home too or maybe was overtaxed by the sight of the line which was almost to the door at this point.

The good part of this was that the Daiya substitution request was met with no additional disdain and no look of puzzlement (as opposed to other experiences in the restaurant’s first few days that I’d read about online). He quickly reached down and pulled out a tub of shredded Daiya and put a good amount on my pie and then sent me on my way. The bright side? The cashier I dealt with at the end of the line couldn’t have been friendlier. And just so you don’t think this guy was only like that to me, which is exactly what I thought, I actually watched him while I was eating, and he was hostile and curt with everyone!

So there. That’s my 800 degree barn burner. (Wow, that’s an even worse sentence than my hacky Lucy candy reference.) I would say go there for the food, which is already good, and hope that everything else will work itself out shortly and rise above its current level of sucks.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the prices are very good for what this is. Five bucks for the cheeseless marinara pie (or fi dolla if you’re from Bayonne) and six bucks for the margherita pizza plus whatever toppings you want, which are all a buck apiece except for some of the carcass selections. And it’s open till 2 a.m.!

Green Peas pause

22 Dec

Green Peas
4437 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, 90230
310.397.9815

I never bothered to write about Green Peas, one of my favorite places, because I figured most LA vegans already knew about it and others had already written about it, and like I said when I started this blog, I think my time is better spent writing about restaurants that LAVs are less likely to be familiar with.  But while having dinner there last night the owner, Jose, was taping up a sign on the front window. When I finished eating I walked outside and took a look. It said they were closing for remodeling! I went back in and asked Jose when they were closing. He said immediately, for six to eight weeks (another exclamation point).

The idea, he said, is to keep the current menu but also add dinner items like vegan ravioli, vegan risotto and vegan meatloaf. Sounds good to me (insert yet one more). But he said to do this he needs to expand his kitchen which entails moving things around a bit. Hopefully it’ll really all be done in six to eight weeks and I can go back to my Gardein Steak Sandwich and the best split pea soup of all time. (And I don’t even like split pea soup, but trust me, theirs crushes.)

Confession: I’ve been eating at Green Peas since before my salad days, I mean, my vegan days, so I can vouch for their omni food too, and it’s a great place to know about when you’re trying to plan a good casual meal with an omni. And by the way, I think we should stop calling people who eat meat “omnis” and start calling them “carnies.” I think it might boost the conversion rate, because who wants to be called a carny? But that’s a post for another day.

An all-vegan grocery store! Near L.A.! (well, kinda near)

7 Dec

Viva La Vegan Grocery
9456 Roberds Street
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701
909.941.4495

I have seen the future and it’s behind a 7-Eleven. Well, kinda behind. Kinda off to the side. Kinda just over th– no, you drove right past it!

Okay, the place isn’t easy to find, but find it you must. Because it’s an amazing feeling. And I’d been vegan less than a year the first time I stepped into this non-descript paradise so I can’t imagine how blown away you longtime veganers will be by it.

Are you like me? (I hope not for your sake.) Is your life filled with flipping over containers to find the ingredients list? Well, I started reading the label on the first thing that caught my eye in Viva La Vegan — a can of some kind of fake meat patties — and then it hit me: I don’t have to read the labels in here? I don’t have to read the labels in here! Then my brain did a doubletake. Aha, I knew I’d find a reason for concern. “Excuse me,” I called to the gentleman at the register, “Does anything in here have honey in it?”  “Nope, no honey. We’re honey-free.”

Cans. Vegan cans.

And then it struck me. (I get struck a lot.) This is what it must feel like to that Kosher guy from Sioux Falls the first time he walks into a Kosher supermarket in Brooklyn. (I’m pretty sure there’s a charity that sends Kosher guys from South Dakota to Brooklyn for the summer. Or maybe that should be guy singular.)

And I have to tell you: it is a liberating feeling. An entire store where you can buy anything you want without having to think about it. And it’s not just food — they’ve also got clothing, handbags, shoes, sundries and more. ALL VEGAN.

Shoes. Vegan shoes.

But I’ve been holding out on you. Because the best part is, over in their refrigerated area, they’ve got… THESE.  Fresh from the vegan capital of the world, Salt Lake City, it’s DILLOS!!!  What are Dillos? They’re fake Chocodiles. And they kill. Especially cold. Especially the all-chocolate ones called DingDillos. They rule our vegan planet, and show mercy on us humble subjects. They are two bucks a piece and worth every two bucks of it.

Paradise. Vegan paradise.

There’s also a bunch of other great stuff. All kinds of frozen items and fake meats and the kind of stuff you probably haven’t seen anywhere else. And did I mention that the people who work there are nice? (I know I didn’t yet, but I am now.) They’re nice!

And they are showing us what the future looks like.

P.S. — Why not make a road trip out of it and hit up Vince’s Spaghetti for lunch or dinner. They’ve got a “vegetarian marinara” and the spaghetti has no egg; I asked. But maybe Vince’s should be its own post. Yeah, I think so.

Babycakes LA… rchmont

4 Dec

Babycakes NYC
130 East 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213.623.5555

At almost half a hundred years of age I should be better with change. Because it’s probably something you can learn to deal with over time, right? It’s not genetic, is it? Yet it often throws me.

Today I went to Babycakes downtown. What a nice drive I had, no traffic on the 5, over the 4th street bridge, okay I had to circle the block for a meter, and then okay the meter was $3.00 an hour (which doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the TWENTY-FIVE CENTS FOR FIVE MINUTES that it works out to) but still. Things were going well.

Then I opened the door to Babycakes. Was I in the wrong place? Did I step into something next door by mistake — you know, like the way I walked into the coffee house next to Scoops once and asked for some ice cream. (I’m scoopid like that.) But nope, I was in the right place, it was the world that had gone wrong.

Step through the door of Babycakes now and you are greeted by… another door. A drab, hastily erected in a hastily erected wall, door. And, it’s maybe ten feet from the front door. Huh?

See that sculpture on the wall of the birds or whatever? Now scroll to the first photo up top and you'll see those birds through the window.

A look to the left revealed a tiny counter, with a small display case of items. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

As the friendly person behind the counter explained to me, “I just came into work one day and this wall was there.”  Turns out, Babycakes is opening up in Larchmont Village, which they’ve already tweeted about, and as a result they have more or less turned their charming, inviting, makes-you-feel-good-to-be-a-vegan location downtown into what now has all the warmth of a check-cashing joint.

Oh, and they’ve also chopped the hours. It’s now only open to 7pm, and 9 on the weekends, whereas they used to be open till 11 some nights!

Look, it’s a business, I get it. They decided they’d probably do better in Larchmont and so they’re turning their downtown spot into a baking operation with a tiny space for some retail sales. Or at least that’s my guess about what they’ve decided. There’s still one table for two inside, but seriously, you feel like you’re sitting at a table in the lobby of an industrial printing plant.  Ugh. (There’s also one table outside.)

The food, I should mention, is still really good. Doughnuts, toasties, crumb cakes — I serve these things to non-vegans and they love it and have no clue. Then they realize I’m eating it too and say, “This is vegan? Really?”  Because, you know, all vegan food contains feces, right?

I actually didn’t like Babycakes the first time I tried it, which was at the old M Cafe in Culver City. And I gave it a chance, too. Tried a few different things. Then one time I was downtown and decided to stop by their charming (I’m starting to cry again) shop. Holy crap, was it good! Maybe I didn’t try the right things at M Cafe, maybe it wasn’t as fresh, maybe M Cafe didn’t carry some of the stuff I was trying downtown, but man, it was all very good and some of it great.

Anyway, the food is still just as good. And I guess it’ll be nice to have them in Larchmont (also known as the most inconvenient part of the city to get to from my home) but if the momma store had to (almost) die to birth this baby, I’m not sure the doctors made the right decision.

Anyway, I was told they plan to open in Larchmont in the second half of December or early January. And I wish them the best, I really do. In fact, maybe they’ll do so well in Larchmont they can open a third location, and then a fourth, and then need a bigger bakery in a commercial space and reconstitute the downtown shop!

Yeah, and I suppose journalism will return to the world, too.

Mr. Baguette

2 Dec

Mr. Baguette
8702 E. Valley Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 288-9166

How could I not try a place with a sign like that?

Okay, this is my first restaurant review. I am not looking to compete with people who are good at vegan restaurant reviews. Like this person. Nor am I looking to build a comprehensive resource. Like this person. I am simply trying to tell you about places you might not know about, even if you’re a vegan in LA. Like this person. So I’ll try to stick to out of the way places.

I went to Mr. Baguette today and had the “Veggie Ham” sandwich. It was $4.99 and pretty big. It comes on a plain baguette. And be sure to order it with no cheese and no mayo. (It comes with a “sweet soy sauce” that Jacques-blocks your “this baguette is too dry” complaints.) It also comes with tomatoes and lettuce (iceberg: leafy not shredded) and for something like 20 cents more you can get it on a sesame seed baguette.

I asked about the veggie ham and also the baguette and was told they didn’t contain any meat, dairy or eggs.

Who knew sesame seeds were so expensive?

As for the place, it’s non-descript.  I was there for over an hour and didn’t see them once bus a table. People either threw out their trash or the next customer threw it out when they needed a table. That’s not good, but otherwise the place was clean.

The sandwich was pretty good if not killer. The baguette itself was very good. Most of the time when you eat a sandwich, if you can remember eating meat like I can, you don’t even taste the meat, or at least not much. And the veggie ham tastes just fine. The most distinct taste is probably the sweet soy sauce, and of course the pretty great taste of that crunchy baguette.

Hamsome devil!

I also got a root beer. I usually don’t drink soda but they had Faygo root beer in cans. You don’t see that every day. Or just about any day. Actually, never before, for me, though I have seen it in bottles. Big thick bottles with seams. Or at least in my memory there were seams.

Oh, and maybe this goes without saying, but this is an omni joint. If you can call a place with one vegan choice an omni joint.

You know what I just did? I wrote about a sandwich. How odd.

Raison d’êatre (get it?)

23 Nov

Hello and welcome to the Insufferable Vegan.  (This presumes at least one future reader.)  I feel as though I should explain whom this blog is meant for. I suppose that, ideally, it is directed at people who eat animal products, in the hope they will stop doing that.  So four sentences into my blog and you can see that I’m not a realist. Well, I’m also addressing this to eaters of animal stuff who are considering trying the vegan thing and have somehow made it here. To you I say: if I can do it you can do it. That is, unless you can’t. But trust me you…

Why the title? Well, I once worked with a guy who was a total jerk. I mentioned to another colleague what a jerk this guy was, and the colleague said: Are you aware that his only child was killed by a drunk driver?  I didn’t know this and felt terrible.  The guy then added: But he was exactly the same way before it happened.

It’s actually not quite clear to me where the line is that prompts your non-vegan friends to think of you as insufferable. I believe it’s possible that if you never say a word about your veganism to them, beyond letting them know you’re now vegan, they will not find you insufferable.  This might also be true about one word. But if you say two or more words about it to them then for sure they will find you insufferable or worse.

And the reason for your decision seems key to the process.  To do it for health reasons is MUCH more acceptable than to tell them you’re doing it for the chickens. They do NOT want to hear that, understandably so. They have long made some kind of peace with it, to varying degrees no doubt depending on the individual, and they have become adept at quickly categorizing and dismissing you as a hippie/seeker/new-ager/midlife crisis sufferer.

As for that last one, well, that’s me. To them. I think. Because you see, I ate meat for almost half a hundred years. Which both gives me an inside perspective on the cognitive processes of long time meat eaters and also makes me even more insufferable. Who am I to judge them, me who couldn’t figure this out earlier.

What happened? Well, I hate to say this, but it was health reasons. Worse, it was simple vanity in the name of health: weight. I kept gaining back that 10 to 15 pounds I kept losing. I couldn’t keep it off!  I met a friend of a friend who was vegan and I thought maybe this would be the gimmick that would do it. At least it was worth a try.

Then, about two weeks in, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” book. After that, I didn’t see how I could go back.  Now Mr. JSF, at least at the time of the writing of the book, was not a vegan. He was a vegetarian, and according to him, an on and off one at that. But in his book he repeatedly tells you that the egg-laying chickens and the dairy-producing cows are the worst treated animals of all. So I guess he’s a non-vegan making a very convincing case for veganism.

Anyway, I think we all already know that most food animals are treated poorly. But after reading 300 pages of it, it’s hard to brush it aside. It made this whole thing a lot easier. In fact, it didn’t make it easier as much as it made it not hard at all. I never looked back.

It’s now been 14 months. Have I craved anything from an animal?  Once in a while. But not that much.  Now the bigger problem is trying to point out to others what I’m now aware of. Which is something I really don’t ever do. Unless they ask. But even if they asked, when I answer, I can see that they find me… Insufferable.

So what’s this blog gonna be? I don’t know. There’s stuff on the Internet about how to write a blog! I guess I should read it but, well, nope. I intend for this blog to be a mix of my pseudo-philosophical ruminations (of the one brain not four stomach variety) along with what will hopefully be a practical guide to vegan eating, both in general and specifically in the Los Angeles area.

I had the idea to begin this blog just a few days before my favorite vegan blogger, Quarrygirl, abandoned her blog and eloped with Twitter.  I don’t know that I could have kept the vegan thing going without Quarrygirl.  I don’t know her, but that resource she created showed me there was enough out there in this city to do this. I’m certainly not aiming to replace her. That’s for someone with more strength than I have. But maybe this can be one of dozens of blogs that people will find when they’re searching for information on Los Angeles restaurants, both for vegans and also for places that they can share with their non-vegan friends.

And finally, one of the reasons I’ve never started a blog before is that I find bloggers and the whole concept of blogging to be, more or less, insufferable. Hopefully, by the end of this entry, you agree.

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