Category: Vegan


A vegan Tesla marks a redefining of luxury

By John Yunker,

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It was very happy to see today that Tesla is now offering a vegan-friendly model of its cars, primarily meaning no leather.

Not that I’m about to rush out and buy one anytime soon (you can get a leather-free Subaru for quite a bit less). But it’s gratifying to see people with means pressuring luxury automakers to rethink “luxury” automobiles. Kudos to Leilani Münter (pictured above) for using her sway as professional racecar driver to ask Elon Musk to offer this option. Before her, Mark and Elizabeth Peters, shareholders of Tesla, presented their request for a vegan model at a shareholders meeting. These voices made a difference. Not that leather-free Teslas are going to singlehandedly put an end to the horrific leather industry, but this positive action might get people thinking about how they view leather — something we don’t usually think about.

Leather has long been synonymous with luxury — whereas in reality, it is synonymous with cruelty. And the leather industry is notoriously rough on the environment. So while I’d love to see Tesla, as an environmentally friendly company, remove the leather option entirely, these things take time — and this is an important first step.

What will the world look like when leather is no longer viewed as a luxury material but as something tragic and sad? When environmentalists realize that wearing leather (or getting this option in your electric car) is anything but helpful to the environment?

That day will come. For more and more of us, it has already arrived — and the more we see positive actions like this, the more awareness will spread.

 

  Category: On animals, Vegan
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I Am Stuffed: Dining well at Café Gratitude

By Midge Raymond,

It’s been years since I’ve been to Café Gratitude, the last time in Berkeley, California, and so when visiting San Diego recently, I was thrilled to learn that this small, plant-based chain has opened a new restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy.

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This brand-new Café Gratitude opened just a couple of weeks before I visited, and it was packed. Yet already things were running smoothly; we were seated quickly, the service was great, and the food was delicious.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Café Gratitude, it’s a bit of a quirky experience. The menu items are affirmations (for example, if you want an eggplant parmesan panini, you order it by saying, “I Am Awesome”). This San Diego location is pretty mellow about this; in Berkeley, we were asked, “What are you grateful for today?” as soon as we were seated, and when I ordered a dish called “I Am Whole,” the server said to me with great joy, “You are whole.” Here in San Diego, the server just took our order and went on his way … so they’ve localized well for this customer base.

We began with “I Am Celebrating,” an order of two collard-wrapped spring rolls filled with daikon and wakame, carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado, pickled vegetables. The rolls were spectacularly flavorful and came with two sauces, sesame wasabi and Thai almond, which added even more flavor.

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We both had wraps as entrees … I was “Glorious” and enjoyed the caesar salad tempeh wrap, which featured blackened jerk tempeh, avocado, romaine, coconut bacon, tomato, capers, brazil nut parmesan, and cashew caesar dressing, all wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. On the side was  mixed greens with goji chipotle vinaigrette.

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My friend was “Extraordinary,” and said her meal was the same: a vegan BLT wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, with coconut bacon, romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and a lovely wild rice summer bean salad on the side.

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There is also a long list of beverages, from wines, beers, and cocktails to juices, elixirs, and smoothies. My friend tried the “I Am Immortal” coffee (a blend of three mushroom powders along with coffee, steamed almond milk, and cinnamon) — warm, earthy, and delicious. I had the vitamin-C shot otherwise known as “I Am Beaming,” a tangy and invigorating blend of orange juice, carrot juice, goji berry, camu camu, astragalus, acerola berry, and amla berry, served in a very tiny glass.

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We were too stuffed for dessert but didn’t want to miss out, so we picked a few items to go. Among them: “I Am Mighty,” a superfood energy bar made of hemp, flax, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds; almonds; goji berries; coconut butter; and cacao nibs. Half dipped in raw chocolate, it’s so decadent I’m glad it’s called a “superfood,” which makes me feel a little better about gobbling it.

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I also took home “I Am Kind,” a rice/quinoa crispy treat drizzled with raw chocolate.

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It’s equally decadent, and not at all fluffy like many crispy rice treats.

I’d highly recommend this light, airy cafe for its fresh, delicious food and abundant choices. Based on its early popularity — as well as our chat with fellow diners who work in the neighborhood and are on a mission to try everything on the menu — reservations might be a good idea. And while this location may not have quite the same vibe as Berkeley, you’ll still likely be grateful for having been here.

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Dining well at Veggie Grill

By Midge Raymond,

One of the best things about traveling is trying out new vegan places…or, in this case, returning to an old favorite.

We tend to get the same things every time we visit Veggie Grill, but these dishes are so delicious (and we don’t get there very often), so we had, again, the same wonderful dishes.

The Santa Fe Crispy Chickin‘ with Yukon Gold fries is nothing short of amazing. Veggie Grill’s chickin’ (a wonderful meat-free patty with 31 grams of vegan protein) is crisp and hearty … and it’s served on a wheat bun (you could also choose a wrap or bread-free kale version) with tomato, lettuce, onion, and a scoop of fresh and flavorful guacamole, as well as spicy mayo. (Healthier people might choose the coleslaw or soup as a side, but the Yukon fries are terrific — perfectly crisped and seasoned.)

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Onward to another favorite — I love the “Pick a Pair” option on the menu because I can never decide between Mac-n-Cheese and Savory Kale Caesar salad…so I get both.

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This lovely Caesar has savory dressing and vegan parmesan. In addition to the romaine, it also has marinated kale, bits of tempeh bacon, avocado, cucumber, and croutons. It’s everything you could want in a salad.

But let’s talk about the Mac-n-Cheese.

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This Mac-n-Cheese is one of the biggest treats, as it’s hard to find good vegan versions of this comfort-food dish. This one is rich, creamy, and covered with baked bread crumbs (and it’s made with organic, non-GMO pasta). On the menu, this dish appears in the “Shares & Sides” category, since it comes in a small dish (this is its only problem) — so be sure you don’t miss it.

If you haven’t been to a Veggie Grill, give this plant-based chain a try — and if you don’t yet have one nearby, keep an eye out for locations that may be opening near you.

Dining well at Native Foods

By Midge Raymond,

While in Southern California, we had the opportunity to visit Native Foods Cafe, a small, plant-based restaurant chain with locations in Southern California, Oregon, and Colorado, among others (including Palm Springs, where it was founded), and we hope it becomes a nationwide phenomenon as soon as possible. Because it’s delicious, and so good for both people and the planet.

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The Native Foods goal is “bringing into harmony our passion for fresh food and compassion for animals and the environment.” The dining style is “fast-casual,” meaning you order at the counter, and in addition to its “made-from-scratch, chef-crafted cuisine,” made fresh daily, the cafes also have beer and wine and a fantastic dessert menu.

Despite the healthy sounding aspect of plant based foods, there’s plenty of comfort food on this menu. We skipped over the entree salads and “earth bowls” (though they all looked great) and went straight for the foods it can be a challenge to find vegan versions of…starting with Native Nachos.

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The nachos arrived on a gigantic, overflowing plate, with light, crispy tortilla chips; black beans; a creamy chipotle sauce; two mounds of cashew cheese; and salsa fresca, sprinkled with roasted corn, green onions, cilantro and jalapeño peppers. In a word: fantastic.

The decadent Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger consists of sliced seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions, and tofu bacon, along with barbecue sauce and ranch dressing, and is topped with carrots, tomato, and romaine.
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Our favorite was the Chicken, Bacon & Avo Club.

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This sandwich, on a multi-grain ciabatta, features crispy, herb-crusted vegan “chicken”; tofu bacon; and avocado; along with romaine, tomato, and carrots slathered with the creamy chipotle sauce. It’s everything a good veg burger should be…rich and filling and delicious, with just enough healthy ingredients to allow you to feel somewhat virtuous. (Choosing a side salad instead of fries would’ve left us feeling far more virtuous…but that was not about to happen.)

We didn’t leave room for dessert, but with offerings like Chocolate Ganache Cupcake, Peanut Butter Parfait, and Oatmeal Creme Pie, we might have to start with dessert next time.

Check out Native Foods’ locations to find the nearest one to you. Even better than its sustainable, cruelty-free, delicious menu, the company also gives back, both nationally and in the communities where the cafes are located; click here to learn more.

  Category: Vegan
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Vegan shopping in Portland, Oregon

By Midge Raymond,

Tell any vegan you’re headed to Portland, and you’ll be asked, “Are you going to the vegan strip mall?”

But of course.

This little strip mall is home to Sweetpea Baking Co., a divine vegan bakery with a large seating area and a wonderful selection of pastries (you can also special-order cakes (including wedding cakes), pies, cupcakes, and cheesecakes).

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We got a chocolate chip cookie, which was nice though not outstanding (it was a bit dry), and a chocolate croissant, which was dry and had so little chocolate I thought we’d been given the wrong item.

The almond twist, however, was incredible beyond belief — it was gigantic, melt-in-your-mouth sugary, sweet, buttery, and smothered in icing and crunchy almonds.

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Just a couple doors down, is the vegan grocery Food Fight, which was wonderful to visit in person, since we usually order online.

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It’s a small, regular-looking grocery store, but the beautiful thing is that everything inside is cruelty-free.

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Food Fight has fresh foods and juices, as well as an abundance of dry and prepared foods — and an excellent selection of vegan junk food, from Earth Balance sour-cream-and-onion potato chips to rice-cereal crispy treats to caramel sauce. There’s also a good selection of eco-friendly and vegan household items.

And the vegan message is not just in the food and goods but everywhere in the store.

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There’s a wonderful selection of artisan vegan cheeses, and had we not been traveling we’d probably have purchased at least one of each. (Click here to see some of the options.) Since Food Fight doesn’t ship these perishables, next time we visit Portland, we’ll be sure to bring a cooler and head straight home.

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Don’t miss this vegan strip mall next time you’re in Portland!

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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