Vegan restaurants are dishing up an entirely new world of flavor for foodies, both good for our bodies and the planet.
Vegan chefs and their new restaurants are the talk in most any town, especially Los Angeles. They’re sexy, hip, and definitely full of foodies; creating some of the most innovative cuisine. Los Angeles-based Heather Goldberg of Spork Foods says, “Vegan is now a dining choice. People ask if they want Thai, Italian, Chinese, or Vegan tonight.”
I was getting vegan curious so I set out to adopt the lifestyle for two weeks. Although I failed after the third day – warm asigio bread broke me – it wasn’t for naught. Being vegan curious raised my awareness and introduced to me to a new foodie vegan world bursting with new interesting flavors and stunning dining options.
My first stop was Plant Food + Wine in Venice Beach, California spearheaded by French Culinary Institute trained Matthew Kenney. His restaurant was a Mediterranean oasis of fine dining. Not the white tablecloth kind but the garden variety. Fresh flowers picked from the garden garnished my drink. The cashew raclette, cacao pepe, sea bean caesar salad and parsnip cake with satsuma sorbet were palate pleasers. The clean plates proved it!
It was also a heart touching experience when our waitress shared her personal story. She lost over 130 pounds after being introduced to Matthew Kenney’s book “Everyday Raw Dexox.” Now, she commutes more than two hours to work at (or rather be inspired by) Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine and his desire to “bring together culinary art and ultimate nutrition.”
Vegans have more dining options now than ever. Kim Kessler, an Instagram vegan influencer @VeganTravelista, says, “I love being vegan in Los Angeles, which is full of nearly 60 plant-based restaurants. My favorites are Crossroads, Cafe Gratitude, Satdha Thai, Gracias Madre, and Shojin.”
The trend is that vegan and plant based dining choices are becoming more mainstream. Real Food Daily‘s founder Ann Gentry adds, “Vegetables are vogue….finally! This I attribute more to mainstream restaurants placing an emphasis on vegetable dishes as they move away from being so meat-centric…. (you) can find some great choices in the realm of vegetables on menus everywhere.” In fact, @VeganFatKid tipped me off to Blue Star Donuts who don’t separate or advertise their vegan donut as vegan. They are just excellent donuts that happen to be animal product free.
Sanae Suzuki, owner of Seed Kitchen, reminds us that we can’t eat vegan donuts all day or just remove meat from our diet to be healthy. She and her husband and partner Chef Eric Lechasseur have created exceptional macrobiotic vegan cuisine that celebrities the likes of Madonna and Leonardo Di Caprio have dined on.
So, are you vegan curious?
Here are 5 great tips to dive into a whole new culinary experience.
1. Get cooking. Vegan chef Leslie Durso says, “There are so many dishes that are already vegan or so easy to make vegan, you won’t feel deprived at all.”
2. Get a cookbook. “Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant” will have you thinking about nuts and vegetables in an entirely new way. Think using a truffle shaver for walnuts. And coconut whipped cream.
3. Drink up! You can be vegan and drink alcohol. There are amazing cocktail recipes in the Crossroads cookbook and Matthew Kinney’s restaurant Plant Food + Wine reminds us that we can pair vegan cuisine with wine and cocktails beautifully.
4. Be open. You’ll experience new textures and flavors. Think of it like dining in new exotic country. It won’t be what you’re used to, but it will be new, surprising, and most certainly delicious!
5. Be creative. Going vegan for few days, weeks, or if you adopt the full lifestyle, I believe it will actually make you a better cook focusing on bringing out the natural flavors of the food rather than covering it with a sauce.
Go ahead. Indulge in your vegan tendencies and discover what delicious surprises are waiting for you. As in-the-know foodies are excited to ask their waiter what mouthwatering haute vegan cuisine options are on the menu.
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Images courtesy of Plant Food + Wine and photo credits Anna Schwaber and Erica Rae Brown.