Chipotle’s Vegan Tofu Burrito Goes National

 

Over the years, we've written about a couple of articles about Chipolte offering vegan options (Chipotle to Offer Vegan Burrito in Pacific Northwest and Vegan Chicken at Chipotle). According to the article from Fast Company earlier this week, the vegan burritos (Sofritas) will now be offered nationwide at Chipotle. The company indicated that tofu burritos, tofu tacos, and tofu bowls accounts for 3% of sales.

Here's the article:

Chipotle does not often update its limited, but classic, menu. In fact, despite minor tweaks like adding brown rice and burrito bowls, in its 20-year history, the Mexican fast-food chain has never added an entirely new item. But today, after a year-long testing period in select locations, Chipotle is officially adding Sofritas--the official name for the shredded organic tofu braised with roasted poblanos, chipotle chiles, and spices--to its nationwide menu. So how did the humble bean curd win its slot on the Chipotle menu board?

"It was really ingredient driven," Chipotle culinary manager Nate Appleman explained to Fast Company. As Fast Company's Ariel Schwarz explained last fall, the burrito maker partnered with Hodo Soy for the main ingredient in the then-unofficial meatless taco filler. The Oakland-based company has amassed a hearty following for its tasty, organic, and GMO-free soy-based protein. Appleman, who worked in several Bay Area restaurants before coming to Chipotle in 2010, was one of those fans. Under his guidance, Hodo debuted at ShopHouse, Chipotle's Southeast Asian-style outpost, which opened in Washington, D.C. in 2011.

A little over a year later, Appleman started experimenting, mixing Mexican flavors with Hodo's tofu. Eventually, a chili-based recipe stuck.chipotle "We just fell in love with the product itself and came up with something that I think even if you're not a vegetarian or vegan, you could eat it and love it," he said.

That's one key reason Hodo's tofu appealed to Chipotle: It tastes better than "99% of the tofu products you'll find in the grocery store," as Schwartz put it, and it therefore may appeal even to carnivores. The chain restaurant had tested a vegan option,  the Garden Blend, once before, and it did not meet that taste standard.

The current tofu-based recipe started out as a chorizo substitute and took a year to perfect; one of the final recipes contained honey, which would have DQ'd it for vegans. But Appleman realized Chipotle would miss a huge opportunity to appeal to a group of eaters that not too many fast-food behemoths even consider. And meat eaters so far haven't been deterred: Appleman says he has even seen people mix the tofu with chicken, for example.

All in all, customer feedback has been positive and tofu burritos, tofu tacos, and tofu bowls make up 3% of sales in restaurants, and that's with "very little marketing," added Chipotle's communications director, Chris Arnold. I, a meat eater who appreciates tofu, went to taste it with a vegetarian companion. We both happily ate our entire sampling. My colleague, Jessica Leber, applauded the texture. Tofu dishes can be spongy; Sofritas comes chopped up so that it almost feels like eating chorizo. As for the taste, it has a chipotle chili flavoring, which isn't overpowering, but it's there. So you have to like a smokier taste.

Beyond its tastiness factor, the inclusion of soy also fits in neatly with Chipotle's branding strategy. The chain's last few marketing pushes have highlighted its commitment to sustainable farming. Which is great, despite the unfortunate reality that Chipotle can't always get the ingredients it wants and often serves commodity meat.

Adding tofu to the menu might reduce that problem. "It could cut into the sales of meat and also maybe help reduce meat consumption," argues Appleman. He adds: "Growing soy is less harmful on the environment than raising a cow just because the earth energy it takes to raise a 2,000-pound steer versus soybeans is completely different." (For every 100 calories of energy put into producing conventional beef, you get only six calories back to eat. For the same 100 calories, raw soy yields 415 calories, according to a 2010 Mother Jones article.)

Sure, offering tofu might shift some meat eaters away from steak. Or, it might just attract the already converted to Chipotle, which would be good for business, but has less of a humanitarian ring to it. That second point is also arguable: Soy isn't that great for the environment. Although, to Hodo's credit, its creation is organic and GMO-free, making it a better bet than factory-farmed meat.

Plus, unlike grass-fed organic beef, the tofu will never run out. Before making Sofritas official, Chipotle worked with Hodo to ensure that it could meet demand without compromising quality. "We didn't want to take shortcuts and get a product that was not as good at the one that we started with," says Appleman.

Chipotle's new menu item raises one other important question for hungry burrito lovers: Now that they've cracked the seal for new menu items, does that mean we can expect some of those "secret" menu options to start appearing as well? Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like it: "We don’t recognize whatever you’re speaking of--'off menu items,'" said Appleman.

Source: Fast Company

Chipotle to Offer Vegan Burrito in Pacific Northwest

Chipotle_Sofritas_Burrito_VeganUPDATE:

I spoke with Chipotle this morning.

They indicate that the vegan burrito is available throughout California - not just in Northern California. So if you are anywhere in California or parts of the Pacific Northwest and you need a vegan meal...

Here's what they stated. It includes all of the ingredients in the vegan burrito -- or Sofritas as they call it...

 

We are serving our vegan Sofritas™ option in all of our California restaurants. Following is a list of the ingredients in Sofritas™:

Organic Tofu
Onions
Green pepper
Tomato paste
Poblano peppers
Red wine vinegar
Water
Kosher salt
Minced garlic
Ground toasted cumin
Dried oregano
Roasted Tomatoes
Black Pepper
Chipotle Chile (Dry Ground)
Cumin
Garlic
Oregano
Rice Bran Oil
Water

==========================================================================================

According to an article in USA TODAY, it looks like Chipotle will begin offering a vegan burrito. The article indicates that they will begin rolling this out in the Pacific Northwest. They said that if it is successful, it might have a national rollout.

Until now, no major fast-food chain has nationally rolled out a hot, vegan entree besides veggie burgers.  (Vegan means the food contains no animal products — not even cheese, eggs or honey.)  On Monday, Chipotle Mexican Grill, known for its use of organic ingredients and naturally raised meat, will announce that it's making a major strides toward leading the fast-food industry into vegan territory.

Chipotle stores throughout the Pacific Northwest will begin selling Sofritas — shredded, organic tofu that's braised with chipotle chiles and roasted poblanos and served in burritos, tacos or bowls.  Price: about $6.50.

source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/28/chipotle-vegan-sofritas-burritos/2583869/

The article also mentioned that Chipotle is currently selling this product in California. A few years ago, back in 2010, Chipotle was selling a burrito with vegan meat but they eliminated that product. Here's a link to an article from our website discussing that: Chipotle vegan food. According to an article In the Sacramento Business Journal, the vegan version of their burrito has indeed been available in Northern California for the past few months.

Chipotle Mexican Grill expanded its vegan tofu burrito to all of Northern California, including a local launch at its Ikea Court store in West Sacramento on Wednesday.

The so-called “sofritas” tofu item was tested in seven Chipotle restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area. The chain has now rolled out the offering to all locations in Northern California, including 18 shops in the Sacramento area.

source: http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2013/04/09/chipotle-unveiling-vegan-tofu-burrito.html

Here's the information directly from Chipotle's website:

We start with organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices. The result is a delicious, spicy tofu that will give vegans and carnivores something they both will love.

source: http://www.chipotle.com/en-us/html/sofritas.html

The investing website, The Motley Fool, has written reports about this publicly traded company and how they are ahead of the curve as compared to other fast food restaurants by recognizing that veganism and vegetarianism is a growing movement. They also mentioned some of the health issues involved with red meat consumption:

Dining with consciousness Conscious dining is increasing, and this relates to other niches that could grow as well. Take vegetarianism and veganism. There's a growing trend of health awareness in America, and statistical evidence of the healthiness of a plant-based diet directly feeds into that trend and the rethinking of eating habits.

Nature Medicine recently published Cleveland Clinic research that pointed to a compound in red meat that promotes hardening or clogging of arteries. Last month, a major analysis, partially funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, cited data from Loma Linda University researchers. They compared mortality rates of those who practiced different types of diets, using a huge sample of 73,000 individuals, all of whom were Seventh Day Adventists, who as a rule eschew other unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking. As it turns out, over six years, adults consuming plant-based or largely plant-based diets showed a tendency to live longer than the carnivores.

Obviously, some companies see these trends and are already ahead of the curve. Chipotle is one of the significant chains that provides vegetarian and vegan customers with menu options. It's also launched new tofu Sofritas, which fit the bill, and its nascent Asian ShopHouse chain also offers tofu options.

source: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/07/23/where-companies-like-chipotle-are-way-ahead-of-the.aspx

Yes, there are those who will not support a restaurant that serves meat. Yes, there are those who feel that eating fast food is counter productive to trying to eat healthfully. From my point of view, I think it is good to hear that there are more options available for vegans enabling them to be able to grab a quick bite when they haven't made other plans and/or when they want to be able to go out to eat socially with friends and colleagues who eat animals.

I hope the vegan burrito is a success at Chipotle and they do roll it out nationally.

Top 10 Vegan Restaurants in London

I haven't been to London in twenty years. Jane and I have been considering a trip to Europe some time next year. It’s not easy being a vegan when traveling abroad. The excitement of discovering a new city can often be tempered by not knowing where to eat. Guide books provide a limited overview of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants and you can often get stuck eating at the same place every night because it’s the only one you know about! It certainly helps to get ideas and suggestions from people in the know. We have been asking some people for suggestions. Sarah Murray, a loyal Vegan Bits reader offered her suggestions as to the top 10 vegan restaurants in London.

So, if you’re planning a trip to London, below is a list of the top 10 vegan restaurants that locals like to keep for themselves (courtesy of Ms. Murray). 

If you are from the UK or if you have traveled there and have dined at any of these establishments, please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

1.       42° Raw

42 rawOriginally founded in Copenhagen, 42° Raw in London is fast becoming the go-to restaurant for those looking for healthy vegan fare that’s both tasty and unique. The restaurant ascribes to the raw food movement, often associated with vegans. As such, and as the name suggests, nothing is cooked above 42°C and every ingredient at 42° Raw is plant based, even the cakes! Glowing reviews in local publications and an enviable location just off Saville Row makes this one of the top vegan restaurants in London.

6 Burlington Gardens  City of Westminster, W1S 3EX, United Kingdom
20 7300 8059

2.       Vitao

vitaoA veritable celebrity hotspot, Vitao has seen famous faces including Keira Knightly, The Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chilli peppers walk through its vegan doors. Offering a choice between a set menu and a buffet as well as a wide selection of vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, gluten free and raw dishes, vegan diners are given more variety here than in most vegan restaurants. Coupled with an extensive juice and smoothie bar Vitao is definitely worth a visit to those who like their vegan meals with a bit of choice (and celebrity spotting)!

74 Wardour Street W1F 0TE, London
20 7734 8986

3.       Saf Restaurant

safLocated on the top of the Whole Foods Market in Kensington, Saf is luxury vegan food at its best. Meaning ‘pure’ in Turkish or standing for ‘Simply Authentic Food’ (both are applicable) Saf boasts an eclectic vegan menu featuring an assortment of world cuisines re-invented for the vegan palate. Their cocktail menu is as enviable as any of the top bars in London and even better because it’s vegan inclined. They also offer an all-natural wine list as well as organic tea. Voted the best vegetarian restaurant in 2012 by the London Evening Standard Saf is definitely worth a visit.

152-154 Shoreditch High St, London EC2A 3AT, United Kingdom

4.       InSpiral

inspiralWinner of the UK’s best vegan Café/Restaurant 2012 in the prestigious UK Vegan Awards, Inspiral is a London vegan institution. Located in the vibrant Camden high street, you’ll discover delicious local delicacies, such as mushroom pasties as well as world cuisine, including Thai bean patties.  Even better, the venue is known for its open mic nights and music events, showcasing some of the best artists around. The perfect accompaniment to an evening’s dining!

250 Camden High St, London, Greater London NW1 8QS, United Kingdom
20 7428 5875

 5.       Chutneys

ChutneysOne of London’s best vegetarian Indian restaurants, Chutney’s also caters for its vegan friends. Most of the food is applicable to vegans and they rarely use Ghee and never include eggs. Located two minutes from the Euston tube station Chutneys is widely recommended in guide books and praised for combining traditional Indian tastes with vegetarian dishes. They also boast ample space for parties and events.

124 Drummond St, Euston, London, Greater London NW1 2PA, United Kingdom
20 7388 0604

6.       Food for Thought

food for thoughtNestled in colourful Covent Garden, Food for Thought is the place to go for a vegan snack on the run. If you don’t have the time to relax over a long meal and want to keep sightseeing, pop into Food for Thought for mouth-watering choices, including African black bean stew and Italian fennel and courgette bake. The menu changes daily so there will always be something new if you’re thinking of visiting on a regular basis.

31 Neal St, London WC2H 9PR, United Kingdom
20 7836 9072

7.       Cookies and Scream

cookies_logoOK, so it’s not technically a restaurant but if you need a hit for your sugar fix in London, look no further than Cookies and Scream. Hidden in Camden Lock market, Cookies and Scream specialise in vegan and gluten free baking with every product dairy, egg, wheat and gluten free. Moist, delicious and oozing with chocolate you’ll be amazed at what can be created without the traditional baking components. A favourite among vegans and non-vegans alike, Cookies and Scream will have you screaming for more!

The Market Hall, Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AF
20 7778 691519

8.       Manna Restaurant

mannaOne of Europe’s oldest vegetarian restaurants, Manna has recently changed its focus and now views itself as a vegan restaurant. Must haves include the Caribbean platter, featuring jerk tofu and pot stew of coconut milk and seasonal vegetables, organic bangers and mash (sausages and mash potatoes to those outside the UK) and the ability to build your own meal where you can choose any 4 sides. The substantial menu means you’ll be sure to find something that appeals.

4 Erskine Road, Primrose Hill, London NW3 3AJ, United Kingdom
20 7722 8028

9.       Wild Food Café

wild food cafeJoining the raw food movement in London is Wild Food Café, a vibrant restaurant in the heart of Neal's Yard in Covent Garden. Featuring just the right amount of boho charm you’d expect from a vegan restaurant, Wild Food Café create tantalising salads and dips as well as living pizza and a mouth-watering olive and shitake burger. All items on the menu are clearly marked so you won’t have to worry about ordering anything non-vegan.

1st Floor 14, Neal's Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DP, United Kingdom
20 7419 2014

10.   Coach and Horses

coaches and horsesLondon’s first vegetarian pub also features a substantial vegan menu. Sample traditional pub fare including Welsh Rarebit and handmade veggie sausages with beans and mash. Some of the beers and ciders aren’t vegan friendly but check with staff beforehand. The ideal way to truly experience a taste of London!

29 Greek Street, London, Greater London W1D 5DH, United Kingdom
20 7437 5920

Next time you’re in London check out these local institutions for a truly local vegan experience. Don’t forget to let us know what you think if you visit any of these delicious restaurants!

So there you have it. The top 10 vegan restaurants in London as determined by one of our readers. Do you agree?

Thanks again to Vegan Bits fan Sarah Murray for providing this list. She also has a website that sells appliances online.

Vegan Restaurants in Austin

austinWe are always looking for good vegan restaurants. Below is an article that was published today which discusses vegan restaurants in Austin, TX. Personally, I've never been to Austin, but I have suspected that eating would not be a problem there as I've been under the impression that there are many vegan and vegetarian restaurants there.

Not surprising, there are vegan restaurants in Austin with a Tex-Mex sensibility and those that have an Eco-friendly feeling about them. But what is surprising is a 24-hour restaurant that caters to vegans! I guess I should have presumed that there would be such a place given the music scene in Austin (late night concerts an all....)

For those of you from Austin or who have been there, check out the restaurants and tell us what you think of them.

Here's the Huffington Post article by Carolyn Scott:

Since Austin has so many great places to find healthy, vegan, gluten free and other tasty special diet eats, I thought I'd come back for round two. Such a great Texas city that combines the hip and cool with great Southern charm, check out some other fantastic places to visit when in Austin!

I'll begin with an Austin staple, an eatery that serves breakfast 24 hours a day and caters to veg heads, gluten free foodies and more. With five locations across town, Kerbey Lane Cafe is the place to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or that oh so mandatory after-partying meal at 3 or 4 a.m. Normally, veggies opt for a lame salad or toast at an all night diner but not at Kerbey Lane. Feast on vegan queso, vegan pancake stacks for days or, my personal fave, the vegan breakfast platter. Sandwiches, salads, entrees and sweet treats also include us finicky foodies with dishes like the hippy burger, enchiladas and a daily vegan dessert (I had an insane strawberry lemonade cake). So no matter the time of day, Kerbey Lane Cafe is your safe haven for awesome veggie comfort food in a hip and cool establishment.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you will find the serene and spiritual Casa de Luz. Located at the center for integral studies and the former home of the Natural Epicurean Culinary School, Casa is a beautiful and peaceful destination for foodies looking for a super healthy, balanced, macrobiotic meal. Serving breakfast through dinner, Casa is like no other restaurant. For a flat rate, customers are served a square macrobiotic meal of soup, salad, tea and a nutritious vegan and gluten-free entree. The meal is the chef's choice, the restaurant tables are set up community style and the outdoor patio overlooks the playground for the on grounds Montessori. If you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of town and really enjoy a meal that heals and nourishes, this is the place for you!

A mega cool brewery with an even more mega cool concept is Black Star Co-Op. An eco-conscious and veg-friendly brewery, this hip watering hole is also a fully functioning cooperative, meaning that the employees all own a piece of the pie as opposed to being "employees." Additionally, customers can become members who can also own a piece of the pie, vote on policy changes and even be on the board. The co-op is fresh, the menu delicious and the beer variety vast. Who wouldn't want to be a part of the biz and keep it running in tip-top shape. But now, the food and drink: to drink, lots of gluten free beers, and to eat, tons of killer vegan fare like the portobello and chips, seasonal grilled veggie sandwich on gluten free bread and veggie chili. Big thumbs up for this forward thinking gastropub!

No trip is complete without finding a local vegan pizza option. Conan's Pizza, a legend in Austin, does deep dish vegan like nobody's business. With lots of vegan toppings to choose from, oozy Daiya cheese (vegan and gluten free) and a to-die-for crust, this pizza parlor will send you back to your childhood. I could imagine filing in their with my friends after a raging roller skating session, talking about Ricky Schroeder and downing slice after slice without a care in the world. The classic Conan The Barbarian artwork along with the fun rock and '80s memorabilia dishes up nostalgia along with their signature aromatic pizza pies. A must visit when hankerin' for classic deep dish pizza!

One of the many things that made me fall in love with Austin are the mixed commercial use neighborhoods. Meaning that a coffee shop could move in right next door to your house. Bouldin Creek Cafe is just one of those awesome places. With the feel of home and a keen awareness of the surrounding neighborhood, this coffeehouse is rife with local art, eco love and yummy vegetarian and vegan food for all. I was told to try their vegan breakfast tacos, and I'm so glad I listened. They rock, as did their fair trade organic coffee. I love the vibe, I love the menu and I dig its open arms feeling to the community it services.

Have you been to any of these? What do you think of them? Are there other vegan restaurants in Austin that you would recommend?

Upscale Vegan Restaurants in Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaI stumbled upon an article which is discussing vegan food in Philadelphia. The article is basically indicating that a large percentage of the people who are eating at several upscale vegan restaurants in an around Philadelphia are not vegan or vegetarian. Hmmmm...  Perhaps I need to plan a trip to Philadelphia next time I am back east...

One mil­lion Amer­icans now fol­low a veg­an life­style, according to the Veg­e­tar­i­an Re­search Group, making them a cer­ti­fi­able de­mo­graph­ic that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need the im­pri­ma­tur of carnivores. Still, the new gen­er­a­tion of Meat­less Mon­day-ers can only help the cause — more de­mand for veg­an cooking means more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants. And these more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants, at least in the Philadelphia re­gion, are evolving to­ward an al­to­geth­er new kind of cui­sine that all can en­joy.

Last time I checked, which was quite a while ago, I believe that 5% of the USA population was vegetarian, and of that only about 1% were vegan. Well, if there are 330 million people in America, then 1% of that number would be about 3.3 million people. Perhaps I am incorrect. Well, if the VRG is right, and there are only about 1 million vegans, then only about 0.3% of the USA population is vegan. But how can "they" determine how many people are vegan anyway?

Regardless, it's nice to see more and more vegan restaurants, especially upscale vegan restaurant popping up in various locations around the USA - not just in New York, Los Angeles, and Portland.

If you're interested, here's snippets from the article.

Upscale veg­an eateries in the Philadelphia area have a dirty lit­tle se­cret: “I’d say at least two-thirds of our cli­en­tele are not veg­e­tar­i­an,” says Ross Olchvary, chef-own­er at New Hope’s Sprig & Vine. “I think most of them are just looking for some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Rich Lan­dau, chef and co-own­er of Center City’s Vedge, with his wife, Kate Jacoby, has observed a sim­i­lar pat­tern. “With so many celebrities like Bill Clin­ton, Mike Ty­son, and El­len De­Gen­er­es talking about eating veg­an, peo­ple re­al­ize that it’s not just some cleanse, and it’s not some hip­pie-dip­py diet of steamed beans and len­til loaf. It’s a le­git­i­mate way of eating,” Lan­dau says.

One mil­lion Amer­icans now fol­low a veg­an life­style, according to the Veg­e­tar­i­an Re­search Group, making them a cer­ti­fi­able de­mo­graph­ic that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need the im­pri­ma­tur of carnivores. Still, the new gen­er­a­tion of Meat­less Mon­day-ers can only help the cause — more de­mand for veg­an cooking means more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants. And these more se­ri­ous veg­an res­tau­rants, at least in the Philadelphia re­gion, are evolving to­ward an al­to­geth­er new kind of cui­sine that all can en­joy.

One of the most im­por­tant hall­marks of the new veg­an food is the move away from big slabs of er­satz meat on the plate. A veg­an, even a Phil­ly one, cannot live on im­i­ta­tion cheese­steak alone. At Lan­dau and Ja­co­by’s former res­tau­rant, Horizons, customers came to ex­pect the sei­tan and tofu dishes they were used to seeing. “It became a kind of stig­ma, when peo­ple only focused on what I call the ‘fake steak,’ ” Lan­dau says. “When we opened Vedge, we wanted to move away from processed products. We wanted to fo­cus on what peo­ple grow and what you eat through the seasons.”

“I think in gen­er­al, veg­an cooking used to be more about mimicking existing dishes, but now we can say we’re striving to cre­ate some­thing new,” Olchvary says.

The veg­e­ta­ble-for­ward style exemplified by both Vedge and Sprig & Vine (Olchvary got his start in Horizons’ kitch­en be­fore striking out on his own), focuses in­stead on the par­tic­u­lar fla­vors and textures that can be teased out of pro­duce. The re­sults are dishes such as Vedge’s roasted maitake mush­room with cel­ery root frit­ter, or Sprig & Vine’s cur­ry-fried cau­li­flow­er with potato pave, co­co­nut-creamed chard, and gin­ger-on­ion braised collards.

“Some of our techniques in­clude mar­i­nat­ing vegetables be­fore roasting or smoking them, which tru­ly max­i­mizes the fla­vor,” Lan­dau says. A prime ex­am­ple is his “pas­tra­mi”-spiced carrots, served over a sau­er­kraut-bean pu­ree. The gar­licky, pep­pery, tangy notes play­ful­ly evoke a Reu­ben sand­wich, offering a gratifying in­ten­si­ty with­out the as­pi­ra­tion to “re­place” the deli orig­i­nal.

“I like to call our cooking in­gre­di­ent-inspired,” Olchvary says. “I will pick­le it, grill it, broil, poach, de­hy­drate — what­ever it takes to bring the veg­e­ta­ble’s es­sence to the fore­front and let it shine.” Late­ly, he’s been excited about his for­ag­er’s re­cent batch of Jap­a­nese knot­weed. “It has a tart fla­vor like rhu­barb, and when you sau­te it, it takes on a mild, al­most ar­ti­choke-like qual­i­ty.”

Olchvary’s fa­vor­ite sta­ple is cash­ew cream. Soaked over­night and whirred through the food pro­ces­sor, cashews make a mild­ly fla­vored, pro­tein-dense base for every­thing from cake frost­ing to a “cheese” spread. “We can usu­al­ly achieve the same mouthfeel, textures, and rich­ness you can get in non-veg­an food.”

The re­sult of all of this in­ven­tion and nov­el­ty is that diners, both meat-eating and non-, are coming away from their veg­an dining experiences satisfied. “Customers used to come in and say, ‘I’m here for my wife, but I’m going out for a cheese­steak af­ter­ward.’ Now we don’t hear it as much,” Lan­dau says.

Not every meal calls for mush­room car­pac­cio, how­ev­er, and for the rest of the time there is a growing list of more ca­su­al, everyday options. Black­bird Piz­ze­ria in Queen Village is a strict­ly meat- and cheese-less af­fair, while Pure Fare in the Rittenhouse Square area offers a host of veg­an options along­side its non-veg­an foods. HipCityVeg, which opened this week in the Rittenhouse Square area (from yet an­oth­er Horizons alum), is a fast-food con­cept slinging burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Falling square­ly in the mid­dle is Miss Ra­chel’s Pan­try, a soon-to-be-opened res­tau­rant on West Passyunk Avenue, serving prix-fixe meals at a farm­house ta­ble that seats 14.

“There are def­i­nite­ly junk-food vegans out there, but most of us start to crave some­thing more af­ter a while,” says chef-own­er Ra­chel Klein, daughter of “Table Talk” columnist Michael Klein. “I grew up veg­e­tar­i­an and I no­ticed that most of the offerings were greasy sandwiches or fan­cy places I couldn’t af­ford. I’m trying to give peo­ple those in-be­tween options.”

Klein, who first sold her wares at rock shows a few years back, has ex­pand­ed the busi­ness to of­fer in-home services to like-mind­ed eaters as a per­son­al chef and ca­ter­er.

While Klein’s cooking is de­cid­ed­ly hom­ey, focusing on the foods that re­cent veg­an and veg­e­tar­i­an converts might be miss­ing, she, too, has seen an evo­lu­tion in her kitch­en style. “I’ve moved away from processed fake meats, and while I still use tofu and tem­peh, I try to keep every­thing fresh and healthy and lo­cal.”

Her most pop­u­lar dishes in­clude a shiitake-gin­ger ri­sot­to topped with aga­ve-glazed beets and a sweet po­ta­to la­sa­gna with a tofu-based ri­cot­ta cheese.

Klein is pleased that the options are opening up for veg­an eaters in Philadelphia. “People be­come veg­an for dif­fer­ent reasons — some for health reasons, some for an­i­mal rights — but now most of us can say that we don’t have to feel like we’re sacrificing.”

It's really great to see more upscale vegan restaurants. If anybody reading this has eaten at any of these restaurants, you might want to leave a short review below for others to see.
Source: philly.com

Shojin and the Japanese Tsunami Relief Effort

Japan Earthquake and Pacific TsunamiHi everyone. If you've been a regular reader of this blog, then you'll already know that our favorite vegan restaurant in Los Angeles is Shojin. Shojin is a Japanese, vegan restaurant which focuses on organic and macrobiotic vegan foods.  We love this restaurant so much that we eat there about once a month.  We've also grown quite fond of the staff.  So it was with heavy heart that we went to the restaurant tonight.  We were very concerned that someone would have been negatively impacted by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor disasters which have recently struck Japan. Thankfully, no-one was directly impacted and everyone reported to us that their family and friends were all doing well.

Shojin is involved in fundraising efforts to help the Japanese relief effort.  They are selling their delicious Rosemary Cookies.  The cookies are made of rolled oats, whole wheat pastry flour, cashew nuts, olive oil, maple syrup, rosemary, vanilla extract, sea salt and baking powder.  They are delicious and unique.  They are more savory than sweet, but still perfect for dessert.  All proceeds from the sale of these cookies will be given to the Japanese relief effort.  Shojin is also working with Sarah Williams, their in-house artist, to create tote bags.  The graphic for the bags is to the left.  Proceeds from the sale of these tote bags will also be donated to the Japanese relief effort.  If you would like to donate to the Red Cross directly, click on the Red Cross image above.

And on a lighter note, if you're in the Los Angeles area, you must try Shojin.  We highly recommend the Dynamite Roll (vegan sushi) as a starter.  (If you're not into spicy foods, then try the Caterpillar Roll.)  It's got a wonderful smoky spicy taste to it.  Make sure to have something to cleanse your palate afterwards otherwise  you may not be able to taste the first few bites of your next course .  ;-)  For dinner, the Seitain Pepper Steak is our recommendation.  Or, the Bento Box, if it's your first visit.  This way you'll get a taste of many different items.  Whatever you choose, you'll leave there satisfied!

Visit Shojin's website for current hours and their menu.

Vegan Chicken at Chipotle

UPDATE: 08/18/12

Chipotle no longer offers vegan "meat" options. I contacted the company and received the following reply:

"...We did offer a "vegan meat" called the Garden Blend. Unfortunately, this offering was not nearly as popular as we had hoped, and originally anticipated, and because of this it was generating a great deal of food waste that was not sustainable in our restaurants. Due to this high level of waste we did decide to remove this test item. While I am unaware of any plans to introduce any other meat substitutes at this time, I will be happy to pass your vote of support on to the powers that be for further review and consideration..."

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can now order vegan chicken at Chipotle.

This option is not available at all LA area Chipotle restaurants. In fact, it's only available at two of their stores:

  • 244 South Beverly Dr. - Beverly Hills, CA 90212
  • 121 N. La Cienega Blvd., #114 - Los Angeles, CA 90048 (right by the Beverly Center)

For some vegans, the idea of eating in an omnivore-oriented restaurant is not palatable (pardon the pun) because, by eating at this type of establishment you could be said to be supporting the unnecessary slaughtering of animals for food.  But PeTA is urging you to try the vegan chicken at Chipotle, and we are too.  The more people who ask for vegan fare, the fewer animals who are ultimately slaughtered.  And, if we can get the fast food chains to start carrying vegan fare as part of their standard menu, then omnivores who don't have the slightest idea what "vegan" means might find themselves eating vegan.  Of course, it's "fast food" so there's the whole issue of whether or not it's healthy food, but that's fodder for another post.

If you live in the Beverly Hills area, or if you'll be visiting, I urge you to go to either of these two Chipotles  and order the vegan chicken burrito. This mock-meat burrito features Garden Blend: mock chicken strips marinated in chipotle adobo sauce and then grilled. The burrito also comes with black beans, rice, and toppings.  Bring your friends. Bring your carnivore friends and offer them a taste. Let them see that they can eat well without having to eat meat. The only way that vegan food will become accepted into the mainstream food establishments is if the restaurants feel that enough people are willing to order the product.

So if you live in Los Angeles, or happen to be visiting, make sure to go to either of these two Chipolte restaurants and order the vegan chicken burrito.

National Margarita Day?

I've been informed by Jane that Today is National Margarita Day.  I must admit, I've never heard of it before, and if I'd given it any thought, I would have tied that in with Cinco de Mayo.  However, any excuse is a good excuse so we will be going out for Mexican food and margarita's tonight.  Mexican is one of the easiest cuisines to veganize.  Simply start with Rice and Beans.  We usually get a fajita and split that as well.

Just a reminder...  there can be pitfalls.  Some restaurants prepare their rice using chicken stock, and some use lard in the preparation of their beans.   In order to be on the safe side, ask your server to check with the chef.  We've had good luck ordering black beans -- so far none have bee prepared with lard.

Last Vegan Food For 500 Miles

last gas

One of the reasons we enjoy Shojin so much is that they are constantly changing their menu.  They keep the core items, but add things as certain foods become seasonally available.  Our main course was the Seitan Pepper Steak, which is one of those new things.  It was delicious.  If you haven't tried Shojin, and can get to Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, go... you won't be sorry.

So we're sated, and hopefully our expectations of our food options in Montana will be exceeded.

Click here for Shojin's website.

Free Food At Veggie Grill

veggie_grill_logo_shadowIf you're in the Los Angeles / Orange County area, Veggie Grill is giving away free sweetheart (sweet potato) fries today, Wednesday, April 22nd,  in honor of earth day. Just mention you heard it on KTLA.  I heard about it on the news this morning and wanted to get the message out quickly.

We love the Veggie Grill.  We've been about four times since discovering it last year.  It's a little far from our home, so we don't go that often.  Also, it's "fast food" -- but when you're in the mood for that kind of meal, it rocks!  Even the omni's we've gone with have really enjoyed the food there.

Here's a link to the Veggie Grill Locations.  They have three stores at the moment, two in Irvine and one in El Segundo - close to LAX (with plans to open another store in West Hollywood soon).

And happy Earth Day everyone.