vegansaurus!

10/16/2012

Interview: Meet Nicole Marquis, owner of HipCityVeg in Philadelphia!  »


Healthful vegan fast food maven Nicole Marquis dreamed of serving fast food to Philadelphians and visitors to the City of Brotherly/Sisterly/Gender-is-a-construct Love. And when she built HipCityVeg, we did come, in arugula taco salad-chomping droves. Now it’s silly to even think of eating anywhere else in Rittenhouse Square! I mean, I guess you could think about it, but it’d be better to save your precious brain space for finding the best spot in Rittenhouse Square to sit with your gourmet vegan take-out deliciousness from HipCityVeg!

Nicole brought me into her adorable restaurant to have me try the groothie, an organic green smoothie made of a rotating blend of fresh local greens and fruit (amazing!) and one of the most popular dishes, the Crispy HipCity Ranch. This overflowing faux chicken burger was battered fried amazingness. I rarely go for that stuff but wow, am I glad I tried it! So ridic!

I love the decor of the place: the whole pieces of organic fruit spilling onto the counter (in an artistic way), hardwood floors, and pretty potted plants. So lovely!

Nicole e-mailed me responses to my questions about how she envisioned and created HipCityVeg, her role in supporting the fast-growing vegan scene in Philly, and her life’s mission to spread the delicious veggie love.

Vegansaurus: Are you native to the Philly area? Where did you grow up?

Nicole Marquis: I’ve lived in the Philly area all my life except for a period living in L.A. during college. I grew up in Lower Gwynedd, but have been living in Rittenhouse Square for a few years.

V: When did you become interested in vegan food?

NM: I first became interested in nutrition by reading Andrew Weil. Then I read Mad Cowboy and realized what animal cultivation was doing to the earth. After reading Eat to Live and The China Study, I realized that a plant-based diet is essential to my health. I became vegan a few years ago after being vegetarian for several years, but the change in conciousness was actually developing for a while before that.

V: How did you get involved with now-closed Philly vegan fine-dining restaurant Horizons?

NM: I worked in the restaurant industry for years, mostly as a server before managing a local night club. While working on another project I met Rich Landau and he recruited me to help run Horizons.

V: What made you decide to open HipCityVeg?

NM: I felt a mission to popularize plant-based food. When something has great importance to you personally you want to see it grow and flourish. I also wanted a world where I didn’t have to peice together a couple of sides every time I ate in a restaurant.

V: What has most surprised you about operating a vegan restaurant in Philly?

NM: I was surprised by the pent-up demand. People said they were waiting for this for a long time. Who knew?

V: How many customers do you get on average per day? More during certain hours of the day?

NM: We serve about as many people as can fit in the restaurant (and onto the sidewalk), really. Our busiest time in this location is around lunch.

V: What is your most popular dish?

NM: Our best-selling sandwich is the Crispy Hip City Ranch, which is delicious. But our overall best-seller is our signature drink, the Groothie. It’s a smoothie made of bananas, apples, organic greens, and a seasonal fruit. There really is nothing better for your body.

V: How do you envision the growing veg scene in Philly? Do you think it’s greater now for any particular reason?

NM: Philly is becoming a great vegan city. It really is a hip city. People here love to challenge their tastes, to embrace the fringe. But they crave real, clean, fresh food. I love my hometown.

V: What are your hobbies, activities besides running the restaurant?

I love yoga. I love the arts. I love eating in great restaurants. I love my family and friends.

V: Anything else you’d like to add?

NM: I want everyone to feel at home in my restaurant. I hope we share the vibe of love. We’re all family!

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food.

[Groothie and Crispy HipCity Ranch photos via HipCityVeg

06/10/2011

Interview with Susan from The Breakroom Cafe! Plus, they’re serving VEGAN BRUNCH!!  »


Have you ever wondered how one of your favorite vegetarian restaurants got their start? Here’s the story of The Breakroom Cafe in downtown Oakland! Susan, a 10-year veteran of working in bars and restaurants (and a kick-ass, awesome girl), and her partner Jason, a former department store manager (and all-around really cool guy), dreamed about opening a vegetarian restaurant and went for it! Coming up on the fourth anniversary of The Breakroom, Susan and Jason reflect on starting their veg business.

Vegansaurus: What was your opening date?
Susan: July 14, 2007. You were there, Anne! I think you just happened to be walking by or something, and you saw we were finally open. I remember us forcing all these free pastries on you.

What made you want to start a vegetarian restaurant?
While living in Cleveland, I always fantasized about moving to another state and running a vegetarian restaurant. After moving to Oakland, I served at a vegan restaurant for a few years, where I learned that there was definitely a market for vegetarian food out here. While browsing Craigslist, Jason found a space available, and voila! To be honest though, I thought this place would be more of a coffee shop that sells veg sandwiches. It turned out to be a sandwich shop that sells coffee.


Where do you draw inspiration for your menu items?
I guess it’s different for each menu item. I remember loving Sloppy Joes as a kid. Remember that Manwich stuff? Loved it! And since becoming vegetarian at 16, I had a craving for it, so I knew we had to have a vegan Sloppy Joe on the menu.M ost of the menu items are veg versions of familiar standard American sandwiches that people may miss eating since becoming vegan/vegetarian.

What’s your most popular dish?
It’s a toss-up between the Meatball, Club and Turkey/Bacon.

If your Sloppy Joe sandwich was a song, what song would it be?
Maybe "Cool It Now," that New Edition song—for those that think it’s too spicy!

Tell us a funny story about an unwitting omnivore who ordered one of your veg sandwiches.
None specifically comes to mind, but there are those that just don’t understand the imitation meat concept. We’ve had people say, “So when it says bacon, it’s not really bacon?” We say “nope,” and the next question is, “But what about the Ham & Swiss sandwich? That’s real ham, right? We answer “No,” and then they move on to questioning the “turkey.”

I noticed that there’s a cock on the front of your building, what’s up with that?
I guess the owner of the previous business Zodiac Desserts put it there. I didn’t even notice it until a few months after we bought the business, a friend and I were walking by the shop and we both noticed it at the same time. I was like “Where the hell did that rooster come from?”

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to start a vegan business, what would it be?
Make food that NON-vegan/-vegetarians will like, and make them believe they could survive not eating meat.

This is Laura here and I just want to chime in because Breakroom just started doing Sunday brunch! It’s from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it’s the BOMB! A huge plate of potatoes, veggie ham, tofu scramble, fruit, AND french toast for like 10 bucks! You’ll be full for days! MORE VEGAN BRUNCH IN THE EAST BAY, Y’ALL!!! Oh, and here’s a shitty camera phone picture because I love you:

Uh, and you can check out their Facebook page for more updates and better photos!

Breakroom Cafe: 300 13th Street, Oakland. (510) 836-3864. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Anne Martin is an eater of free pastries and a lover of veg restaurants. She is a Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley’s City & Regional Planning department, and is a member of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy. When Anne is not researching or eating vegan Hearty Bagel sandwiches at The Breakroom, you will find her volunteering with Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary.

05/31/2011

Get inspired by this interview with Sarah Kramer  »


How It All Vegan
 was my first vegan cookbook, and its coauthor Sarah Kramer still has a special place in my heart. Kristin over at Cook Bake Nibble has a nice interview with Sarah up this week as part of her Inspirational Women Interviews 2011 series. I suggest you take a moment to go read. Some highlights:

  • "I try to broaden my horizons by sticking my fingers in as many pies as possible!"
  • I can’t watch movies anymore of animals being tortured. I know what’s happening. I’m informed. I’m supporting my community to help stop the exploitation of animals but I’ve seen enough.”
  • "My goal is to change the world—one tummy at a time."

Thanks to reader Jessica for the tip!

11/08/2010

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.

11/01/2010

Interview: Alexis Barrera!  »

Alexis Barrera is a photographer and cartoonist living in New York and he’s totally vegetarian! You can check out his comics at Oaktowncrack.com. He’s my new pal and was kind enough to do an interview for vegansaurus!

Where were you born?
I was born in Mexico City and lived there for 11 years before moving to America. I hear that’s like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 11 years.

When/why did you move to SF? How long did you live there?
My parents moved to San Francisco in ‘88, and I stayed with them until ‘94 when I moved away to college.

When did you move to Oakland?
I moved back to San Francisco in ‘99 and then over to Oakland in 2000. I stayed put there for 9 years.

When/why did you move to New York?
After 20 years in the Bay Area, I was starting to feel like a townie. I wasn’t ready to settle down, so it became time to make the obligatory pilgrimage to New York.
I moved to the Greenpoint YMCA on April Fool’s day of 2009 and moved to Manhattan 10 days later. The residents of the YMCA could really use some advice on nutrition, let me tell you.

How long have you been vegetarian?
I hated most meat as a kid, and would only eat hamburgers and hotdogs as a teenager. I stopped eating meat altogether in the fall of ‘96.

Are you vegetarian for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Initially I quit for health reason, but nowadays when I guilt-trip carnivores I also bring up animal cruelty and the environment.

Do you ever include a vegetarian message in your comics?
Definitely. Here’s an example [“Munchy” left; drawn after watching Super Size Me].

Do you have a day job, or do you draw comics full-time?
I’m a programmer by day; the rest of the time I think of myself as a sequential artist.
I’m better known for my photography than my drawings, but it’s all the same to me.

Who are some of your favorite cartoonists, vegan/vegetarian or not?
The best vegan cartoonist I can think of is Dan Piraro. I’m not sure what R. Crumb, Keiji Nakazawa, or Art Spiegelman eat…but it probably had a nervous system at some point.

Can you draw animals really well? Can you draw me as an animal? Will you do a portrait of Figaro for free? Yes?
Here’s a daguerreotype of Figaro on his way to the opera, circa 1877:


[Megan Rascal note: AWESOME!!! Exclamation point!!!]

Any pets?
My two tabbies live in California with their kitty mama. They were abducted from a feral colony when they were kittens, and are inseparable, as you can tell from this photograph:

What is your favorite animal?
Besides my tabbies, I’ve grown quite fond of French Bulldogs, the official pet of the city of New York.

Favorite vegan food to make?
I’m a terrible cook, but my housemate makes delicious ratatouille.We don’t eat it with cheese.

Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant/favorite vegan restaurant?
Millennium in San Francisco, and Dirt Candy in Manhattan.

How does New York compare to the Bay Area, in terms of vegan and vegetarian food?
I haven’t lived in New York long enough to make a fair comparison, restaurant-wise. So far I haven’t had trouble finding meatless meals.

Based on food options alone, which is your favorite comics show to travel to?
Wondercon in San Francisco is within walking distance of a trillion good eateries.

Any tips for traveling cartoonists?
Find a place to stay on couchsurfing.com…and don’t walk around with headphones at night, that’s always a terrible idea.

Do you have one drawing tip to share?
I put together a cross-hatching tutorial here.

What’s the deal with Oaktown Crack Comics?
Society marginalizes drug addicts while encouraging all other forms of over-consumption. Crackheads, tweakers, and junkies aren’t any more evil than investment bankers and obese couch potatoes [Ed.: That’s half of our writers. Watch your back, bro!], so we should all be more tolerant and focus on harm reduction instead of arbitrary law enforcement. Oaktown Crack Comics attempt to depict drug addicts more accurately and with a little compassion.

Life in SF seemed to play a big role in your comics, do you think New York will have a similar influence?
I like to think that my comics aren’t particularly SF-centric, but rather slum-centric. New York’s fringe scene is less overt and the authorities here are disgustingly oppressive, so I’m sure I’ll be drawing comics about that soon.

What exciting upcoming projects can we look forward to?
I’m writing an instructional booklet on using 3D software to create 2D comics and animations that look hand-drawn.

Further down the road, I’m trying to combine Naked Lunch and a modern physics textbook into some sort of sci-fi graphic novel. I’ve got a bunch of scripts about what happens in between Big Bangs.

Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
Know where I can get good vegan winter boots? I don’t want my toes to fall off.

A: Check Steve’s men’s winter boot round-up!

10/15/2010

Interview: Jessie Williams of Eat Pastry Cookie Dough!  »

We love Eat Pastry Cookie Dough. We fucking looooooove it. It’s amazing out of the tub, it’s amazing baked up, and it’s amaaaazing mixed into ice cream. It’s at Rainbow and Whole Foods and you need to buy it and eat it all the time DO IT. We also love Jessie and Alfredo, the two fabulous pastry chefs behind it. They are obviously both geniuses and one day will probably have a national holiday named after them. Enjoy Jessie’s answers below and look at their ADORABLE Pomeranian, Poe, and I triple dog dare you not to kiss all up on your computer screen. Good luck!

Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal-rights reasons, or a combination thereof? 
Combination. With all the news about the downgrade in people’s health, the environment’s health, and the health of animals, how could we NOT be vegan! Times are changing and so is the world we’re living in. Over time, I see more and more people choosing to eat vegan if the options are made available.

How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
I’d say about eight months into launching our business we became vegan. When we began the business we had already transitioned into vegetarianism, but were still holding a blind eye to the harmful effects dairy had both on us, the environment, and the animals that produce it. That’s when we decided to cut out animal products entirely. We immediately felt happier, healthier, and true to ourselves. 

Why did you start Eat Pastry? What’s your story? Talk to us!
It’s been such a journey for us. We met in pastry school at the French Culinary Institute in NYC. The first day the Chef paired us as partners. I wanted to call [Alfredo] “Alf.” He wasn’t down with the idea, saying, “I don’t eat cats.” After I finally remembered his name, we worked well together and were close friends all throughout school. But it wasn’t until the last month of Alfredo’s time in New York that we realized our feelings for one another were deeper then friendship. Alfredo had planned to go to Costa Rica to work on an organic farm, and I had planned to find some kind of job in NYC—we ended up flying out to California and renting a car out of LAX. We drove up and down the coast searching for jobs, and were offered a few, but nothing felt right. One day in Santa Barbara we sat on the beach and decided to start our own thing, together. That was scary, considering we were young, naïve, and in a relationship. Needless to say, we learned quite a bit about each other on our journey to cookie dough land, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was hard, and times were sometimes tough, but we finally landed on a stellar idea—vegan cookie dough! Pre-packaged and ready to eat, or bake! Things really began lining up from there. We moved to San Diego, began working with a great company called Moxie Sozo to create funky packaging, and started sampling our dough. Once our local Whole Foods in La Jolla took us on, we began gaining accounts throughout Southern California. Alfredo drove our product deliveries up and down the coast from here to L.A. It wasn’t until February of 2010, when we gained distribution, that he got to sleep in. At last, we were able to settle into our kitchen and do what we do best: crank out the dough! 

What’s your favorite flavor?
Jessie: Raw: Peanut Butter; Baked: Oatmeal Raisin ChocoChip! And Chocoholic mixed into mint coconut milk ice cream. It’s ridiculous. In a good way.
Alfredo: Raw: Peanut Butter; Baked: Chocolate Chip.

Any cute Eat Pastry stories to share?
It was quite difficult to find a commercial kitchen to make our cookie dough in. We looked at a few places, including the one we’re in now, but weren’t 100 percent sold on any one in particular. We thought this one was pretty good, so we went back for a second look. When we walked in we noticed everything had been taken out by the previous tenant, except a small magnet in the shape of a heart. It read “True Love.” It was at that point we knew this was our kitchen! We use the magnet today to hold up our orders.

Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?
Yes, our two-year-old dog Poe! He is a pomeranian weighing in at a whopping 16 lbs.—but he’s not overweight, he has long legs! We got him through a woman who owned two beautiful 11-week-old pom puppies but was not able to watch them because she was dealing with sickness. We agreed to help her out, taking care of them until she was able but that never happened. She ended up moving, and could not take care of the pups. Lucky for us, we ended up with our little guy. A friend of ours fell in love with his brother, and took him home with her. The brothers are living happily ever after. 

Do you have any super-cute photos of animals to share with us? Favorite animal videos on YouTube?
Oh yes! Alfredo edited this video of Poe greeting us when we get home. We’re a little biased because he’s our own dog, but it’s hilarious!

What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
Wow, that is a toughie. I really like piggies. They’re so cute! Horses probably take the cake though. I grew up with them, and being around them brings back good memories and feelings of love. Alfredo is a huge dog-lover. He has successfully potty-trained an Australian terrier, a miniature schnauzer, and two rough and tough pomeranian brothers. 

Favorite vegan cookbook?
We don’t really use cookbooks to often. If I want to try to veganize a dish, I’ll Google the original non-vegan recipe, and make it vegan using my own improvisation. But I do own Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. We love the onion ring recipe!

What’s your favorite vegan dish to make? 
Cookies! Just kidding. Biscuits and gravy, hands down. I finally perfected the gravy, so now I want to eat it every night.

Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant? 
Anything with mushrooms. 

Favorite vegan restaurant?
It may sound crazy, but we were recently at a trade show in Ontario, California and found this restaurant called Thai Vegan. It was amazing. We’re contemplating moving there just so we can get their takeout. I love Pure Food and Wine in NYC, too. That is where we had our first date. I recall drinking one too many Master Cleanse martinis

Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
Of course! Whoever is willing to fly down is more than welcome. I can make vegan lasagna!! Or my biscuits and gravy! OR Alfredo can make his vegan paella! How about all three? The date is negotiable.

Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
How many sexual partners have you all had combined. JUST KIDDING. Seriously, who came up with your awesome dinosaur logo? He looks hungry, and I want him to come to dinner too. [Ed.: Jonas created the dino! And between 1/2 and 500!]

Yay, thanks, Jessie! You da bomb!!! Check out our other Vegansaurus interviews and apply to be interviewed YOURSELF! And by apply, just email and we’ll totally interview your fascinating ass. 

[Cookie photos from quarrygirl; Poe & Alfredo photos from Jessie; martini photo from Yelp]

04/30/2010

Interview: Livia Stone!  »

Livia Stone is THE BEST for tons of reasons. I’ll name a few because that’s what this whole “Interview a Veg*n*” thing is about and if I’m anything, it’s somewhat competent at my non-paying blogging job. Livia is a vegan who works in animal welfare and thus, spreading the veg love in a community that loves animals but doesn’t always know that the best way to love them is not to eat them. She is the hospital manager at WildCare Bay Area, the only place to take injured and/or sick wild animals for good quality care in the SF Bay Area (they even take pigeons and mice and skunks!!). Seriously, if you ever find a wild animal in need of help, CALL THEM! She’s also just an awesome friend and the all-around bomb. We love her and you will too or else you are an idiot and shouldn’t be on this site anyway, idiot. Oh also, if she’ll be at the Farm Sanctuary California Hoe Down this Saturday so if you see her, HOLLA!

Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
Initially I went veg because I realized I didn’t need to kill or exploit animals to live, but as I learned more—especially about the environmental impact of animal agriculture—I can’t believe anyone who is interested in going “green” doesn’t give up or at least reduce the amount of animal products they consume.

How long have you been vegan? Why did you become vegan?
I’ve been vegan for 10 years. I had been vegetarian already for several years, but that impulse was based entirely on compassion. When I started learning about the issues, I knew I needed to do more.

You work in the hospital at Wildcare (one of the beneficiaries of the May 8 SF Vegan Bakesale!) with wounded and sick wildlife; got any amazing/crazy/inspiring stories?
Definitely some crazy stories, usually on a daily basis. Rescuing an animal is often a transformative experience for people—and that’s very inspiring. I see a lot of cruelty and apathy, and so whenever people do the right thing for animals it gives me a little more energy to continue on. I remember one case where a man found an opossum in his garage. He reached into a box without looking, and promptly got bitten by a startled opossum who had found himself a nice place to sleep. The bite wasn’t serious, but the health department is very strict about mammal bites because of the risk of rabies, which is fatal in humans without treatment. Usually, we are forced to euthanize the animal to test for rabies, which drives us nuts because rabies is actually very rare in most species around here. But, of course it’s understandable that the health department wants to keep tabs because we could have an outbreak at any time. This opossum was clearly healthy and acting in normally, so we offered to quarantine as an alternative (which we always do) but since a human was bitten we didn’t have much hope. Going that route means you have to get rabies shots, because you don’t know if you’ve been exposed or not. But the man who was bitten called everyone he could and said he would do whatever it took—he didn’t want the opossum killed for his mistake! We’ve never had anyone do that before. So the opossum got free room and board for a month and was released because he never showed any signs of illness. [Ed.: That’s one of the best stories we’ve ever heard about humans. Usually we are THE WORST! Side note: Was this man cute? Single??]

Any tips on what we should do if we find wounded or sick wildlife?
In the Bay Area, you can always call WildCare and we can help you determine if it is indeed an emergency and who the nearest rehabilitator is: 415-456-SAVE (7283). Many times babies are “kidnapped” by well-meaning people! We can also determine if a reunite is possible in the case of babies.
Often the first impulse is to take an injured animal to a veterinarian, but there’s usually a charge and more importantly, most have no special training for wildlife. At WildCare, we have technicians and wildlife veterinarians who care for our wild patients.
If you find an animal that is obviously injured and you can capture them safely, keep them in a secure box or kennel with air holes. The things to remember are to keep the 
animal WARM, DARK, and QUIET. Babies especially can get chilled easily; put a heating pad under half of the box. Don’t try to feed or give water—sometimes that can do more harm than good and many species have very specific needs.

Can just anyone foster wild animals? How do we go about doing that?
No. Rehabilitators have lots of permits and conditions that need to be met. It is illegal for members of the public to keep wildlife (you can rescue, though!). If you volunteer at a local wildlife center, you will be able to care for the animals under the center’s permit. Many centers offer training classes to prepare you for foster care.

Do you have any companion animals? Where are they from?

Yes! Roshi the Russian tortoise came into WildCare and needed a forever home, since he’s not from these parts. My cat Brewster is from a shelter in Los Angeles, and Pippie the cat was rescued by my veterinarian after being hit by a car. Pedro and Maggie are Rocket Dogs!

Do you have any super cute photos of animals to share with us? 
You can check out WildCare’s website for videos and photos!

What is your favorite animal? I know, this one is REALLY TOUGH.
 Every day I have a new favorite animal! But, I especially adore crows.

Favorite vegan cookbook?
I rarely cook from cookbooks, but one that I have made a ton from is Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!

I know you’ve been doing a lot of baking and cooking lately! What’s your favorite vegan dish to make? What about for a vegan bakesale?
Since I’ve discovered Daiya cheese I’ve been making a mean mac ‘n cheese casserole but generally I’m big on making soups from scratch, especially heirloom tomato soup. For bakesales, just about anything from my cupcake cookbook. The carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting recipe is amazing!

Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant? 
Cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms at Millennium!

Favorite vegan restaurant?

I love Native Foods in Southern California, Candle 79 in New York City, and in the Bay Area, Millennium. I think Candle 79 trumps them all, though. SEITAN PICCATA—fuggedaboutit!

You’re going to the Farm Sanctuary California Hoe Down THIS SATURDAY (EVERYONE GO!!!!), who are you most excited to pet/hang out with?? 
PIGS!!! Love me some pigs. Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web made me vegetarian.

Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
ANYTIME.

Our gift to Livia: A damned cute pig named Edgar from Pig Peace Sanctuary. Enjoy the cuteness!

*there are more awesome interviews on the site but our search is for shit and hopefully we can fix that soon but who knows, I’m only so good at my “job.”

01/11/2010

Interview: Daniel Clary of Alkemie Dairy-Free Ice Cream!  »

Daniel Clary is the 28-year-old mastermind behind the raw, delicious and dairy-free Alkemie Ice Cream. His story of how the ice cream begin as an idea a few years back and evolved into something tasty, edible and accessible is not only interesting, but totally inspiring.

How long have you been vegan?
Full-on about seven years now; mostly veggie all my life. My dad went to farmers market every weekend. It was always [a] local and sustainable mindset from a very young age. My mom fed us tofu very young. Carob was my first “chocolate.” I naturally gravitated toward the veggie foods early on.

Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
As much as the environmental aspect and animal rights movement are very important to me, my main reason is health. That’s my mission…to do my part in changing the health of the world. Once I went full vegan, my health improved dramatically. Not that I was ever sick or “unhealthy,” but when the full switch came, it was like my internal lightbulb went on. Huge difference. And now I try to maintain high raw foods, which only created a new level of health and clarity in my life.

How much of your diet is raw?
I would say about 65 to 70 percent on any given day; some days it’s 100 percent. I’m vegan before I’m raw for sure. But raw foods really changed my life.

What is your favorite animal?
Dogs! Just got a puppy! He’s 12 weeks old now. A springer spaniel named Winston. [Vegansaurus PSA (per usual, we always be judging you): Always rescue a dog! Even if it’s a purebred! All purebreds have rescues, including the ADORABLE springer spaniel!]

Favorite vegan food to make?
As a chef, my favorite foods/flavors to work with would have to be Thai. I spent two months last year in Southeast Asia—mostly in Thailand—and I fell in love with the food. My heritage is half-Latin, [and] my mom’s side is from Central America, so Latin/Spanish flavors would be second. Fusing the two together excites me as well.

And as a chef?
I was a personal vegan chef for four years before taking this project on full-time. I worked for families throughout the peninsula, weekly service, catering events, private dinner parties…

Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant/favorite vegan restaurant?
Favorite restaurant would be Millennium in SF, and Pure Food in NYC. Favorite dish—hmmm, so many! I would say a killer Thai curry, or my vegan paella.

How long ago did the idea for Alkemie begin, and what are its origins?
It all started when I began absorbing myself in raw foods, about 2006-07. I worked at a small raw vegan cafe part-time to really dive into the art of preparing it (versus spending an ungodly amount of money to go to a raw school). I was blown away by what I was creating: the textures, flavors, specifically the desserts. I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and these desserts were blowing my mind—better than any standard cooked vegan desserts. Initially my mission was to create a business model around that. I wanted to open my own raw vegan bakery. But the costs, overhead, labor, etc. just didn’t pan out to be a viable business.

Then I thought of just doing one thing, and doing that one thing well. I literally one day was eating some Coconut Bliss, and thought: ICE CREAM! Why not ice cream? Who doesn’t like ice cream? And at that point I had NEVER experimented or created a raw ice cream, but I have never been satisfied with ANY of the vegan ice creams out there. They just didn’t embody what classic dairy ice cream does, and I knew that with the raw foods, I could potentially come up with something stellar, so I started experimenting.

How long was it between the time you perfected the recipe to the time you were packaging and selling the product?
The formula was perfected in spring ‘08. Then I decided to take some time off, travel, do some soul searching, research…I came back from Thailand and then went straight into selling at farmers market in fall ‘08, and was doing that about a year. The response was amazing. People were floored by the ice cream. So without knowing exactly where to go next, I just kept on selling every week, until things started happening last summer.

I met my investor/business partner. I met the VP of Whole Foods. I was networking and meeting amazing connections. We then took this idea [and] started researching on how to take it to the next level. Found Boulder Ice Cream. Fell in love with the staff, did our tasting for NorCal, and got the green light a week later.

Honestly, it’s surreal. I’ve worked so hard my entire life, to finally have my dreams manifested—it’s, well, words can’t describe.

How did the name come about?
It all started in Thailand. I went there also to get inspired with a name for the company. I knew it was a beautiful land and people and surely I would come up with something. Halfway through the trip, after meeting so many people and telling them my story, vision, et cetera, I was coming up with nothing. When I was in Chiang Mai, I met a fellow traveler from London. We were talking one day about traveling, books, following your signs, et cetera. She said if I really wanted to read a book that will change [my] life, I should read The Alchemist.

So I bought the book when I was in Bangkok, [and] brought it down to the islands with me. One day, I had nothing to do; decided to pull the book out, head to the beach in the morning and start reading. I didn’t put the book down.

The message had such an impact on me. It was very simplistic in what it was saying: follow your dreams; trust your heart; follow the signs. But it was like that “a-ha!” moment for me.

So, after putting the book down, the name stuck in my head. I knew what alchemy meant literally: a transmutation of metal into gold. But I wanted to know more. So I went straight to the computer and looked the word up. The very first definition I found was: “any seemingly magical process of transforming ordinary ingredients into something of true merit.” The name of the company was born.

Do you see yourself dedicating yourself 100 percent to this, or do you still eventually want to open that bakery?
Good question! I do eventually want to venture out, and take on other projects, whether its the bakery, a small restaurant, an actual ice cream shop…still not sure yet. Once this business takes off and I can focus on other things, then I’ll decide.

Anything else you wanted to add or share?
We will be coming out with new flavors soon. Also, a little insider info: one of the flavors had a small error in production—the dark chocolate. The end product had too much free water added, which made it less creamy and more icy than the other two stellar flavors. It’s still good, just not perfect. It has since been corrected on the most recent production run and should be in the stock as the others are sold and rotated out. Just one of the inevitable growing pains small businesses go through.

If you want to stay in the loop about this product (because, let’s face it, ice cream is the best food ever), you can become a fan on Facebook, download the iPhone application, and even follow Alkemie on Twitter. Also, be sure to check out the blog for dates and information on in-store appearances.

Natalye just started graduate school studying creative writing, which means that she no longer has a social life, and her drinking has increased exponentially. She has a shiny but relatively useless college degree in journalism and music, and does freelance work, sometimes writing about indie music in Oakland. When she has down time, she’s usually sleeping, but rides her road bike when she can and makes both a killer vegan pizza and the most amazing mixtapes ever. Her updates are private, but you can follow her on Twitter and she’ll probably accept your request if you’re cute enough.

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