Muchas Gracias! Gracias Madre is opening in West Hollywood this Friday! »
Thanks, LA Times, for this photo.
When I saw this article posted on FaceBook yesterday, I thought, “THANK MAUDE, THIS IS FINALLY HAPPENING!” This Friday, January 18, all your vegan Mexican dreams come true in West Hollywood.* Rumors about their opening date have been flying for awhile now, so this confirmation comes as a great relief!
Being new to LA has its definite perks (remember when I ate fried green tomatoes at Crossroads?!), but there were a few things I was sad to leave behind in San Francisco. Gracias Madre was at the top of that list! (So was Rainbow Grocery, but then I found Viva la Vegan here.)
If you’ve never had the mole from Gracias Madre, well, I pity the fool. There are countless ways I could count what’s great about this place (cashew cheese on errthang), and it sounds like they’re kicking it up a notch with this new location. Executive chef, Chandra Gilbert, has some tasty ideas up her chef’s coat sleeve. And the beverage director, Jason Eisner, seems to as well. They posted a few photos on their Instagram showing the process of how the organic tequilas and mezcal they’ll be serving are made. Since I don’t drink, I expect all my lush friends to pick up the slack. I’ll make up for it by eating ALL THE VEGAN FLAN.
The only info on their website is a link for people interested in working there (please get a job there and give me free food!). I expect they’ll update it soon with the full menu and any upcoming events.
Spoiler alert: both Gracias Madre locations are part of the same family as Cafe Gratitude (which VS has done several pieces on in the past). I’m pleading the 5th and staying out of that discussion (whilst stuffing my face with controversial, yet delicious, Mexican vittles).
Los Angeles, “GRACIAS” for giving me another reason to love living here!!!! (Sorry, not sorry for that.)
*Unless you have some crazy dream of being a vegan luchador, Sorry, I can’t help you on that one.
Product review: Larrupin Mustard! »
If you have ever tried Larrupin Swedish-style Mustard-Dill Sauce, you know that it is the best condiment known to humankind. Unfortunately Larrupin is most conveniently available only within the realm of Humboldt County! Which is why every time I have a friend going on a road trip up there, I have them bring me back a jar! There are quite a few of us who went to college at Humboldt State now living in the Bay Area, and we know the power of the Larrupin.
If you have never been to Arcata, I suggest you think about a trip up there ASAP. It’s beautiful, and the vegan eats are abundant. If a trip to Humboldt is not in the cards, never fear! You can buy Larrupin Mustard online! I did this when I moved to Chicago, as I was homesick for my college town/former home/California in general.
Ilsa Hess, the creator and chef of Nacheez, got me this particular jar pictured above. We met up at Gracias Madre one night, and it turns out that we both went to Humboldt State, and actually know a few of the same people! Small world. Ilsa obtained some Larrupin for me, and now I am ETERNALLY GRATEFUL. She likes to eat her Larrupin with Gouda Sheese on lightly toasted sourdough, while I like mine with raw crackers and Tofutti cream cheese. However, if you lived in Humboldt, you know it is best with a Los Bagels slug and “cream” cheese. Nothing beats that!
"Great! But what does it taste like?" you ask. Larrupin is sweet, yet pairs beautifully with savory foods, like a Chik’n burger, sandwich, or bagel—basically, anywhere you would normally add mustard. The dill, vinegar, and turmeric keep it from being overly sweet, yet the dill is understated. Which is good for me, because I am not the hugest fan of dill.
Watch Humboldt County while eating your Larrupin to get a better idea of the place it comes from and also how I spent seven years of my life. Actually, Rural Rock’n’Roll is a better showcase of my past, but I quite enjoyed Humboldt County. The clothing in that movie is so bad, but SO SPOT-ON.
Café Gratitude legal issues “resolved,” but no word on restaurant closures »
The Bay Citizen reported yesterday that the legal issues stemming from the lawsuits filed against the company late last year have been “resolved.” Unfortunately, according to the terms of the settlement, none of the parties can discuss those terms, so we don’t know what’s going on. The law! It’s so frustrating when it’s not working in your favor!
Even more frustratingly, all the Engelharts will say about the previously announced sales of every Northern California Café Gratitude location — including our beloved Gracias Madre and the commercial kitchen — is “some will close and some will stay open.” DANG IT, ENGELHARTS! Why do you torture us like this! Looks like we might still need Rachel’s bereavement plan. Or you could pack it in and join Sarah E. Brown’s raw vegan paradise settlement in Patagonia, Ariz. First we recommend eating at Gracias Madre as much as possible; a thriving restaurant is less likely to be closed, right? RIGHT?
Dude, all Northern California Café Gratitude locations are CLOSING?! »
SFist has the word and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it! Café Gratitude, why you have to be so crazy? Can’t you just serve up your delicious kale bowls and key lime cheesecake and STOP BEING A CULT? So annoyed at them. SO ANNOYED! Where will I get my delicious coffee shakes?? THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE, GODDAMMIT, GRATITUDE! My question of the day is: “WTF YOU GUYS!?”
More TK because we’re hella going New Tales of Sherlock Holmes on this shit.
UPDATE: SFist talked to Shandra Gilbert, Gratitude’s Director of Operations, who explained to us that, yes, Gracias Madre is also up for sale. Alas.
Et tu, Gracias Madre!??!!?
UPDATE 2: We now know for a fact that many employees (like, higher-up employees) had NO CLUE this was happening. They found out via SFist. Really nice, Café Gratitude.
UPDATE 3: We talked to Steve Sommers of Kumin Sommers LLC, who filed the two current lawsuits against Café Gratitude. He told us some interesting things! They mainly concern their tip-pooling practice, which goes like this: Every penny generated in tips and sales goes into same pool of money. At end of the day, they tabulate how much they should have earned from food sales, and they remove that amount from the pool— this, says Sommers, is called “breakage,” and it “shoulders the risk of the business onto the employees,” and is illegal. Next, they take 20 percent from the remaining money and send it to the central kitchen. Finally, they divide the remaining money among all the employees, from the managers to the janitors. Sommers says that one of his clients, Sara Stevens, would collect $200 in tips per night and only pocket $40. She is suing for between $80,000 and $85,000 in lost tips, and missed fuel and rest breaks.
The second lawsuit comes from their CURRENT—as in, he was still an employee as of 2:30 p.m. today, when we spoke with Sommers—bookkeeper, Ravi Shankar. He was being paid a salary as an exempt employee, which is illegal, and is suing for about $60,000 in overtime pay.
Sommers says that they have offered to let the Engelharts—Gratitude’s owners—“pay over time, if it’s a matter of money,” but by closing all their Northern California restaurants “they are scapegoating these two people.” Sommers also notes that once he filed these suits, Gratitude purchased three industrial shredders. “What are they hiding?” he asks.
It’s a legitimate question!
Also of note: These suits are entirely unconnected with Landmark and all that weirdness the East Bay Express wrote about in 2009.
UPDATE 4: Just heard from another (current) employee who said that they’re for sure being sold and that so is Gracias Madre, and it looks like there might already be a buyer for Gracias Madre, and it’s a big corporation. They didn’t tell the employees who the big corporation is (we’re thinking of starting the rumor that it’s McDonald’s! You in!?), but all Café Gratitude employees and central kitchen employees are getting fired. Super sad and shitty.
UPDATE 5: We just got news from a tipster (thank you!) that the Gratitude’s commercial kitchen and offices building on 14th Street is for sale. Asking price is $1.895 million, agent is Rob Maccarone at TRI Commercial. Check out the brochure here.
Celebrities invade SF, eat at vegan restaurants!* »
Josh Radner of How I Met Your Mother eats at Cafe Gratitude when he’s in San Francisco! He’s friends with the owners, Matthew and Terces Engelhart. Of the restaurants (SF, Berkeley, Cupertino, Oakland, Healdsburg and now L.A.) he says, “They’re fantastic. They’re vegan. You just feel a vibe of love and goodness when you walk in.” OMG Josh Radner is a hippie! Who knew?
In other news, Cafe Gratitude has lowered their prices! And added new menu items! Plus, you always know you are drinking organic, vegan beer and wine there—no checking Barnivore required. Although, one aspect I’ve noticed about the new menu I’m not pleased about is that they have taken off the cocktails. WHAT?! I loved their greyhound—sake and fresh grapefruit juice? YESPLEASETHANKS. I have a pretty high tolerance and after two I started hitting on the bartenders/servers. Which means two things: their drinks were strong and I am a flirty/sleazy drunk.
Bring back the greyhound, Cafe Gratitude! Tell me my eyes are deceiving me! Yeah, and the raw deep dish pizza looks amazing.
*Celebrities sell papers, people!!
Vegansaurus Diet: Tamara Palmer! »
We welcome food writer extraordinaire Tamara Palmer who approached me about doing a Vegansaurus Diet (inspired by Grubstreet’s New York Diet, of course!) and I was beyond stoked. Not only is she one of my favorite food writers, she’s also just a totally rad lady. Oh, she also writes about Too $hort on the regular, so she’s basically living my dream life.
Anyway, I’m thrilled with her addition to our archives, and hope to fill it with more non-vegan food writers, or even writers and bloggers who don’t write about food! Interested? Let me know! Oh plus, if you’re a reader who wants to do one even if you’re already vegan (yay you!), email me with yours! It’s fun! And informative! Yay vegan eating! Now, please enjoy Teemoney’s Week of Living Veganly because this girl eats WELL; I just discovered about 15 new foods I MUST try! Enjoy!
As a freelancer who has written close to 2,000 stories about food just over the past three years, I have chosen to be an editorial omnivore, eating broadly with far more adventure and curiosity than I ever had up until that point. And while my eating habits at home still tend toward the vegetarian, the cumulative toll of many months of decidedly not-vegetarian dinners and food battles was getting increasingly harder to ignore.
It took me more than a month of longing to try the Vegansaurus Diet before I actually did it; one reasonable excuse I’d like to offer was that I had many assignments I did not want to forgo for the experiment. Truthfully, though, a smaller reason is that I also wanted to get my fill of some of my favorite foods first. I realized quickly that those all fell in the dairy category.
I’ve never been a vegan, but I have been a vegetarian, so I thought that would help make it a lot easier. I was wrong! I wouldn’t come to truly appreciate the vast difference between being vegan and being vegetarian until late in the week. My cravings for meat were minimal and pretty much limited to when a few particularly stellar temptations were directly under my nose. But I’d learn mid-week how much my brain thinks it desperately needs dairy; definitely something to address. [Ed.: Casein is no joke! That shit is addictive!]
As I shopped for rations at Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues, it was nice to be reminded that many of my favorite snacks are vegan. I also had the good fortune to receive a few samples of new and locally made products being carried at Whole Foods’ new Haight Street location in San Francisco and noticed that some of the ones I was most excited about from Love & Hummus and Rocket Ship Ice Cream were vegan.
I decided early on that I would be extravagant about this “diet,” surrounded by amazing snacks at all times so I wouldn’t feel deprived or accidentally screw up. I also wasn’t going to try to reduce my typically mammoth sugar intake, wanting to avoid some sort of heroin-like physical withdrawal. I did want to do well and show how delicious it is for an omnivore to go vegan for a week. Being careful was clearly weighing heavily on my mind: I fell asleep on Saturday night and had a dream that I absentmindedly ate all the wrong things.
Sunday, Apr. 10
I woke up with the assistance of an Amazake Tiger Chai rice shake, an occasional purchase when I think I can handle the caffeine (I drink very little). Lunch was a salad of pea shoots and microgreens topped with Ginger People pickled ginger, carrots, pineapple mint from my back stairs, and crumbled five-spice tofu nuggets from Oakland’s Hodo Soy Beanery. I’m not into tofu at all in general, but after I visited Hodo Soy’s factory to shoot this tour, I learned that I really like the company’s artisan products. I think these nuggets would be good in a morning stir-fry with some peppers, onions, and potatoes. I got some needed crunch with my salad via a handful of Edward & Sons’ rice toasts, the Thai red rice and flax variety. For dessert, I broke off four squares of Mast Brothers 70 percent dark chocolate spiked with Serrano peppers, a treat I smuggled back from my last visit to Brooklyn. [Ed.: Megan Rascal loves their stuff, too!]
A few hours later, I snacked on a Pepple’s blueberry donut, a frequent purchase at Other Avenues. I’m still not buying the story that there wasn’t any drama behind the name change of People’s to Pepple’s, but I do love that blueberry glaze.
For dinner, I heated up two slices of wild mushroom Field Roast, tentatively drizzling some Daiya “mozzarella cheese” on one of them, and fried up some slices of sweet potato for a side dish. I had a bad Tofu-Rella trauma back in the day and have turned a blind eye to fake cheeses ever since, but I’ve read on Vegansaurus and elsewhere how much Daiya is beloved, so I gave it a shot. Not bad. The Field Roast on the other hand—not so good.
Melodi Donahue from OCD Sweets in Napa kindly sent me a big box of her vegan agave nectar caramels to sample after I had fallen in love with her “Vegan Rosalia” tangerine rose caramel a couple months ago. Despite its large size, I polished off an Irish ale caramel stuffed with a big sourdough pretzel in just a few minutes.
The Field Roast wasn’t very satisfying, so I ate a Lundberg rice and popcorn cake and drank a mug of So Delicious coconut milk a bit later.
Monday, Apr. 11
Started the morning with a shot of Tonix coconut water kefir, which is like downing kombucha concentrate. It’ll make you shudder and might put hair on your chest, but it also can add pep to the step. I got in the bad Monday habit of blogging and skipping breakfast, but I felt good after the Tonix.
I escaped for a few minutes to run down to Shangri-La Chinese Vegetarian, which is not only vegetarian and largely vegan, but is also Buddhist and Kosher. I knew that their mu shu vegetables and pancakes were vegan, but I asked just to be sure.
“Vegan? Yes. You want egg or no egg?”
“Um, no egg, please.”
These were just as satisfying as I remembered them to be. Shangri-La’s got very convincing styles of mock meat, if you’re into that sort of thing (I’m not, but I do like the vinegar-y, cabbage-y flavor of the “vegetal goose”).
An afternoon snack blended the savory and the sweet: A handful of wild rosemary almonds from Oren’s Kitchen of El Cerrito and half of a tiny bar of Sweetriot 65 percent dark chocolate with cacao nibs.
I made a hearty dinner with Canaan Organic Fair Trade Maftoul, a Palestinian couscous made with sun-dried wheat, roasted Purple Haze carrots and onions, cilantro, and purple kale and chives from the back stairs, with a squeeze of Meyer lemon and a side of one of my favorite snacks, Kettle Chips in Spicy Thai flavor. Canaan donates a portion of proceeds to a San Mateo-based non-profit for Palestinian women called Rebuilding Alliance.
I got some Vegan Booty for dessert. Not the super-fun and sexy kind, but some lovely coconut toffee with dark chocolate and orange peel from OCD Sweets.
Tuesday, Apr. 12
I remembered to eat breakfast, a hunk of carrot spice teacake from Aunt Nettie’s Bakery of Santa Cruz, and even had a midmorning snack: An Oskri sesame bar with date syrup. I met my friend Jeannie Choe, organizer of the SF Food Wars competitions that I judge, for lunch at Gracias Madre. It was our first time there so we were unaware that the portions (like the prices) are large. A tiny glass of horchata was $5, which I thought was crazy until I tasted and loved it. Still expensive. We made up for it by splitting two appetizers (guacamole con tortillas and gorditas, the latter a fried masa and potato cake) and an entrée (enchiladas con mole with mushrooms and cashew “cheese”). Jeannie was suspicious about the “cheese” until remembering that we awarded second place to a vegan macaroni and cheese entry in the first SF Food Wars, the “Battle Royale With Cheese.” [Ed.: Here’s the recipe for the award-winning Fat Bottom Bakery’s vegan mac & cheese!] We both ate until we were full and I took home a huge box of leftovers.
That epic lunch didn’t stop me from having a decently-sized afternoon snack a couple hours later: A Fuji apple, the last two squares of the Sweetriot chocolate bar, and half of a large peanut butter “creamie” sandwich cookie from Sugar Plum Vegan of Sacramento. The filling was almost too rich, and I had to scrape some of it out, but it was a good treat. Dinner: more Madre.
Wednesday, Apr. 13
Today, I felt cranky for the first time. Not for meat but for cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. I skipped breakfast accidentally and later tried to bat down the cravings with leftover mu shu, a rice cake with crunchy peanut butter, and some handfuls of cardamom-infused granola from Nana’s Natural of Sonoma. Didn’t help much. My afternoon snack was a bowl of pita chips with some spicy harissa-flavored hummus from Love & Hummus and some spicy red velvet chocolate almonds from Lillie Belle Farms.
I was angry when I made an accidental slip-up, taking a swig of Prince Neville’s ginger beer without looking at the ingredients. Once I figured out that it has honey, I put it back in the fridge.
I met Vegansaurus’ HBiC Laura Beck for a dinner at Encuentro in Oakland. We had to push two tables together to fit our chickpea socca, red quinoa salad, “cheese” plate, taquitos (pictured), and Reuben sandwich, which is my kind of dinner. I hate raisins but somehow loved the taquitos, which were stuffed with some form of them. I later learned that this meal is her sort of sexy initiation ritual for omnivores, and I really dug it. We didn’t get to the Reuben so we took it home, and I had a late-night date with it.
Thursday, Apr. 14
Double shot of Tonix coconut kefir water for breakfast. Believe it or not, I still had a little bit of Gracias Madre leftovers so I polished them off along a bottle of Bruce Cost pomegranate hibiscus ginger ale. There wasn’t quite enough for a proper meal, so I kept snacking, first on a rice cake with Justin’s chocolate almond butter on top [Ed.: Try it on matzo!], and then by popping some popcorn and dumping a whole container of Suzanne’s Ricemellow Crème on top like a crack addict. I way overdid the proportions and even encased the kernels in ‘mellow in the race to put this in my face, but it’s a good combo that should be experimented with by people more patient than myself.
I drove back to Oakland to photograph the pre-opening party for Berlyn’s Eatery, where there will often be salads and other vegan options on the small menu. That night featured some rich-looking tofu and black bean soup, but the wait was long and I felt cranky again after taking pictures of some of the omnivorous options. I sped back across the bridge and back to Rainbow Grocery to re-up on the vegan snack rations, grabbing a container of Mari’s veggie gyoza and a package of Just Apples dehydrated apples. Don’t ask me why I didn’t just have a live apple. Still craving cheese, I made a late-night snack of tortilla chips, Daiya, and chopped up a quick pico de gallo.
Friday, Apr. 15
I had a video shoot at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland for The Feast so I got there a little bit early and sat in my car feeling sorry for myself while I ate a few Shakti cashew diamonds with saffron and popped a couple of Yummy Earth hard candies (why on Earth is alfalfa one of the ingredients?).
Chef/proprietor Tanya Holland made us an omnivorous Creole special, the details of which I’ll politely skip, but I will admit that the smells had me wanting to dive into the bowl and swim around. It didn’t help that her busy cooking line meant that my nose would be no more than a foot away from the dish at all times.
Afterwards, I told my video producer Mike Anderson about my diet and how, despite those moments of crankiness and deep cravings, I think I was experiencing a little bit more energy in general. He suggested I continue for longer than seven days, that perhaps this was just a hint of the stellar energy in store. A great idea, but I could already feel myself looking forward to lifting the restrictions, even if it would mean sacrificing some of this energy.
Mike shot a gorgeous video of the vegan “charcuterie” platter at Berkeley’s Gather restaurant for us last month, and I had fantasies about going there for lunch after our shoot for a leisurely meal, but was overcome by guilt and had to get back to the day’s bloggery.
Back in front of the computer, I settled for a pair of Shi Gourmet’s fresh rice paper Vietnamese spring rolls (a frequent Rainbow purchase), a banana (Fair Trade, Peruvian, to be exact), and a Nature’s Path “peanut buddy” granola bar (dry but satisfactory), followed by a hefty snack a few hours later: A “mini” loaf of Sugar Plum Vegan’s pumpkin pecan quickbread, which is packed with a ton of pureed pumpkin. Like SPV’s peanut butter creamie, it was tasty and almost too indulgent.
After finishing enough work for no one to be mad at me for the weekend, I picked up some friends and rushed down to “Street Food Fridays” at Fabric8. The hope was for some tofu and veggie curry from the Magic Curry Kart, but it had sold out in less than an hour. I hung out for a while and then dropped my friends off so they could go eat whatever they wanted. Bitches.
Back at home and too tired to make a proper meal, I settled on a slightly more elaborate version of the previous night’s nachos, adding some fresh diced pineapple to the pico de gallo.
Saturday, Apr. 16
Began the day with an Amazake Vanilla Pecan Pie rice shake, which is a better choice for me than the Tiger Chai because it doesn’t have any caffeine. I perused my inbox and was lured in by an invitation to check out the private warehouse sale of a gourmet food distributor in San Leandro; soon, my friend Missy Buchanan and I were headed to the East Bay, with plans to hit up the Japanese vegetarian restaurant Cha-Ya back in San Francisco afterward.
Here’s where I admit the big transgression of my heart that happened while on the Vegansaurus Diet: This sale touted a wide variety of French cheeses, offered at wholesale prices, and I hovered around the table for a long time before snapping up two specimens. I also bought two kinds of truffle butter. I don’t know when I became such a cheese or butter enthusiast, but the fact that I couldn’t eat them then sparked a powerful longing.
We arrived at Cha-Ya to the disappointing sight of a “closed for renovations” sign. Although I loved my lunch at Gracias Madre, I had hoped not to return this week just for the sake of variety, but it was just a block away and seemed like the best option for that meat-saturated corridor. It turned out to be a great choice. This time I forked over the unreasonable $8 for the large version of that delicious horchata, and saved by ordering the “ensalada de mango” (pictured) with some side orders of black beans and mushrooms. The “queso fresco” slathered on the Acme baguette that accompanied the salad didn’t taste cheesy, but still helped to carve away at my gnawing craving.
Later that evening, I sliced up a zucchini and a white potato, filled a wok with a generous amount of French black truffle oil I had purchased at the warehouse sale (which made me realize I didn’t need to buy that stupid butter), and fried them up until they were no longer nutritious (perfect). I washed it down with a bottle of pomegranate kombucha from Kombucha Botanica of Santa Cruz.
Inspired by this recipe from Peaceful Table, I had wanted to try to make a vegan tapioca pudding all week and finally made the time to do it on Saturday evening. I followed the measurements of the recipe but used coconut milk instead of soy milk, added some chopped Fuji apple, and the last four squares of my spicy Mast Brothers dark chocolate. This dessert was the revelation of my week, hands down. Not only is it ready slightly quicker than the conventional method, it is vastly easier with, to me, negligibly similar results since you can skip all the steps of separating the egg whites from the yolks and adding different amounts of each at different times. I’m thrilled to know I can avoid that tedium and have delicious, healthy results.
I almost forgot that I had been saving my Rocket Ship chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream that I had gotten at Whole Foods for last, so I sampled some even after I downed a big bowl of tapioca. Supplier of ice cream to San Francisco’s fine vegan restaurant Millennium, I was instantly hooked on the flavor and consistency of the ice crystals. I buy a lot of non-dairy frozen desserts and will be adding this to the rotation.
I deliberately did not set my Vegansaurus Diet up like a “cleanse,” but I did emerge from it all with a noticeably lighter feeling. The lack of dairy was what my brain told me was the biggest deprivation, even as I realized I don’t need it for actual survival. Yesterday, I told my father (who I actually love a whole lot) that I would throw him under the bus for an early shot at a double-cheese pizza; later, the thought of having a midnight pizza party got me through the rest of today. My cravings for/loyalties to dairy are alarming me, so I am going to go drown them in more coconut milk tapioca pudding now.
Tamara Palmer is the food editor for The Feast SF Bay Area and a contributor to SFoodie and Bay Area Bites. We dig her a lot. All photos from Tamara, except the Rocket Ship ice cream and Pepple’s Donut from Yelp!
Interview with a vegan: Lisa Congdon! »
Lisa Congdon is a talent to be reckoned with. And by reckoned with, we mean PURCHASE EVERY PIECE OF ART SHE’S EVER MADE. Seriously, this lady is crazy-talented. My favorite pieces change moment to moment, but I’m currently lusting after this finch and "Brave Bear" (OMG I LOVE YOU BRAVE BEAR). Actually, I’ll just take one of each, please!
Lisa has lived in SF for 20 years. She is a woman entrepreneur (love) and co-owner of Rare Device, an art gallery and store that sells everything awesome and good (if you haven’t been, you are a fool who is missing out!). We love crafty vegans because they make the world a prettier place and can also design and paint stuff for the rest of us when we need it. You never know when you’re going to want a watercolor of yourself hugging a baby hippo in outer space. Actually, you probably want that right now, huh? Anyway, follow Lisa on twitter and buy everything in her Etsy store and visit Rare Device and be really happy that such a rad chick is vegan!
Vegansaurus: Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Lisa Congdon: All three.
V: How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
LC: I have been a vegan for about two years. I had been thinking a lot about becoming a vegan for a long time, but when I did it, I did it pretty much “cold turkey,” as opposed to weaning myself off stuff over time. It’s sort of funny how it finally happened. My partner and I were visiting my family in Portland. We all love to eat, and we had this really gluttonous weekend of gorging on food, which included a lot of rich cheese. That Sunday we were at the airport for our return flight and we felt horrible and gross from eating so much crap. We went into the bookstore in the airport and we saw Skinny Bitch on the table. A friend had told me about it, so we bought it. We dove into it right away right there in the airport and read it together. We finished it before we got back to San Francisco (love the book, but it’s the Reader’s Digest version of “why be a vegan”). That same week I went a little heavier and read the The China Study and, we also went to see Food, Inc. That movie sealed the deal, and we both became vegan that same week. We’ve continued to educate ourselves as much as we can about the benefits—health, humane, environmental—of eating a plant-based diet, and feel like it was one of the most important choices I have ever made in my life.
V: What’s the best part of being vegan?
LC: There are so many amazing things. I’ve never felt so good in my life, both physically and mentally. I have far more energy than I’ve ever had, which is scary because I have always been pretty energetic. I sleep better, I never feel sick after eating—except maybe after I have the potatoes at Gracias Madre, which are completely naughty. I also feel good about causing less harm to other living creatures and the environment. I revere animals, and now I feel like I walk the talk. I can be more like Ellen DeGeneres, who is my personal hero. Oh, and I have become a mean vegan chef.
V: Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?
LC: I sure do. First off, I have Barry and Margaret, my cats. I got them about five years ago at the SPCA. Margaret is secretary of the house. She makes sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to and if you aren’t, she lets you know. Barry lives a less stressful existence, mostly staring out the window onto the action on Capp Street from our apartment. [Ed. SO CUTE! Also, Vegansaurus HQ used to be on Capp! Perhaps Hazel barked at Barry and Margaret in your window at some point!}
Then there is Wilfredo. Wilfredo is a chihuahua I rescued from Wonder Dog Rescue about three years ago. He’s three and a half, and he’s a very good, sweet, gentle, loving boy. He’s just the kindest dog you’ve ever met, and very cuddly and amazingly loving. He’s got a really wonderful, distinct personality and beautiful green eyes. Unlike many chihuahuas, he loves people, even strangers. And he doesn’t bark, which is also pretty ridiculously amazing. Wilfredo and I will be featured on the The Bold Italic’s upcoming Pet Week [Ed.: It’s THIS WEEK and culminates in an awesome party on Saturday night at The Women’s Building in SF! The party will benefit Rocket Dog Rescue and there will be all sorts of vegan food there, including cupcakes from Fat Bottom Bakery and Sugar Beat Sweets, cookies from Eat Pastry, and VEGAN SANDWICHES FROM IKE’S PLACE! Plus, vegan chili and cornbread and BINGO and a pet fair and awesomeness! COME!]!
V: What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
LC: Oh geez, I HATE this question. It’s a toss-up between dogs, horses, goats, and sheep. Although this summer I visited the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and I really must say I have a thing for pigs. And cows. Someday I want to have a barn.
V: Does being vegan affect your art? If so, how?
LC: Not really; my subject matter hasn’t changed too much since I became vegan. That said, I make the bulk of my living doing illustration work, and I did turn down a high-profile illustration job recently—it was for a cookbook—because they wanted me to draw diagrams of animals about to go to slaughter, with the cuts of meat and the like. I said I wouldn’t do it and told them why—as professionally as possible, of course. I lost the job and I have no regrets.
V: You have lots of art with animals in it; do you have a favorite?
LC: I think my favorite animal painting I’ve ever made is the "Mountain Goat".
V: What’s your favorite vegan cookbook?
LC: That’s another hard question! It’s a toss up between Veganomicon for basics, The Conscious Cook for fancier recipes—such amazing concoctions in there and I do like Gardein a lot—and Vegan Table for awesome seasonal recipes.
V: Favorite vegan restaurant? Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant?
LC: Gracias Madre. I am not sure what I ever did without it. It’s also rad—and dangerous—that it’s around the corner from where I live. And my favorite dish is their naughty Papas al Horno, potatoes with cashew nacho cheese sauce!!!
V: Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
LC: All 11 of you? ;) [Ed.: YES! God!]
Thanks, Lisa! You’re the most amazing and we are officially in love with you. Check out our other Vegansaurus interviews and apply to be interviewed YOURSELF! Just email and we’ll totally interview your fascinating ass.
[Lisa’s amazing portrait of Wilfredo is above; all photos and art in this post by Lisa!]
Annals of self-promotion: Laura interviews Carmen Vazquez of Gracias Madre! »
Remember Brassica Supper Club? Oh, we loved it so much! Did you know that it is now considered defunct? DEFUNCT. Such a sadness. However, you can still eat food made by one-third of Brassica, creative genius Carmen Vasquez, who makes desserts at Gracias Madre! Yes, she makes that flan you can’t stop eating! Our Laura interviewed her for SFoodie blog, and because we love Carmen (and also self-promotion), we’re reposting most of that interview right here!
photo of cashew-milk flan by Gil Riego, Jr. for SF Weekly
Laura Beck: What inspired you to make the flan?
Carmen Vazquez: I can’t really say what inspired the creation of the flan. Ever since I found out about this new organic vegan Mexican restaurant, I knew I wanted to be part of it. I originally wanted to help with the development of the savory menu, but when I realized that was already done, desserts it was. I asked my Latino coworkers for ideas on traditional Mexican desserts and flan was the clear winner. It was a challenge, but I like challenging myself—maybe it’s the reason why I enjoy veganizing dishes no matter how “traditional” or difficult they may seem.
LB: Favorite veg food in the city?
CV: I LOVE our house-made corn tortillas! Wow, I’m a sucker for those things: fresh off the griddle with a couple slices of avocado, a sprinkle of salt, and some fresh ground pepper…it’s the best thing ever! But other than Gracias Madre, I really enjoy Millennium. They’ve really been an inspiration in my culinary career.
Ultimate cooking goals?
I’d like to eventually open up my own place. I’d also like to learn more about ingredients and food I’ve yet to experience. To veganize other traditional dishes. To influence other restaurants to choose organic, local, and sustainable produce. And to inspire non-vegans to make healthy and compassionate choices through food.
Vodka party at Gracias Madre with fat ducks and fashion kitties in this week’s link-o-rama! »
Ms. Unterman of the SF Examiner fell in love with Gracias Madre, and Jun Belen thought No Worries is doing a good job, so far. In the Sacramento Valley, a man shot a duck, and discovered she had eaten herself an extremely engorged liver—foie gras-style, in fact. Real live naturally occurring foie gras, in pintail ducks eating oodles of rice! Neat! Unfortunately it’s just not as delicious as “real” foie gras, so they’ll just have to keep gavaging those geese (until all of those selfish creeps die). Shucks.
Feeling blue? How about some vodka? Barnivore will help you choose the brand, and this magnificent guide will teach you how to drink it properly. Once it gets cold (ha ha global warming, it’ll never dip below 50, right?), let’s have vodka and spicy + salty hors d’œuvres parties. I am particularly looking forward to the part where you “[b]reathe out loudly through your mouth emitting an animal noise.” I mean. Perhaps someone could try this hummus recipe by Nick Kindelsperger of The Paupered Chef? He does make it sound amazing, and not too terribly difficult.
Peta strikes again! Ingrid Newkirk herself has offered to put $10,000 toward Lindsay Lohan’s rehab bill if LiLo will go vegan for the remainder of her rehab, and if she maintains her vegan diet for an entire year, Peta will give her another $10,000. Who feels good about donating to Peta? LiLo hasn’t taken Peta up on Ms. Newkirk’s offer yet, but YOU NEVER KNOW. But it’s not like Peta has any standards for their celebrity spokesmodels, so why not another wearer of fur and leather?
Best part of Friday: The Week in Vegan, by our Laura for SF Weekly!