vegansaurus!

09/22/2010

Wait what? Ike’s Place is already back in SF?  »

It seems like only just yesterday that I was walking down 16th, wondering what THE HELL I was going to get for lunch today now that the local sandwich-hating Brownshirts have run Ike’s out of town. And if it seems like it was yesterday, it’s because it was. Literally yesterday.

So this morning (and by morning I mean noon, and waking up at noon doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it just means you work all night, so don’t judge) I woke up to news that Ike’s found a new temporary home, on Market Street in the Castro, inside Lime, as if the invisible hand of the free market teamed up with The Secret to give me exactly what I wanted for lunch (read: breakfast) today. There’s no Ike’s signage at the moment, and they’re taking phone orders only, but there’s also no line so sandwiches are coming out in 10 to 20 minutes. Get on that before everyone finds out. (And what I am doing blogging this? Part of the problem, right here.)

Ike is expecting to stay as Lime’s roommate for at least three months. He also said that there’s a second location in the works (no details yet) and that SF can and will support two locations. Truth. Also in the works: online ordering, iPhone and Android apps, and improved in-person ordering to cut down the wait times.

Everyone wins! Except for Ike’s old neighbors, who have to live out the remainder of their lives hating city life yet hating themselves too much to move. They don’t win. Still, part of me wishes I could cheer them up somehow. I was going to send flowers with a “Hey, let’s be friends” note, but now I’m thinking sexy fireman kissogram?? I don’t know, etiquette is exhausting.

02/17/2010

Le Cordon Bleu student chefs get schooled by Tal Ronnen!  »

Whether he knows it or not, Chef Tal Ronnen is starting a vegan revolution in the commercial kitchens of tomorrow, and he’s starting it at the grassroots that matter: student chefs.

Last Wednesday, we at Vegansaurus were lucky enough to sit in on a workshop led by Tal Ronnen at the California Culinary Academy, where he demonstrated gourmet vegan cooking to Le Cordon Bleu student chefs. Tal is known to most of us as Oprah’s personal chef during her 21-day vegan cleanse and author of The Conscious Cook, while Le Cordon Bleu is all about heavy cream, foie gras, bacon, ducks, rabbits, and whatever else didn’t escape the French cuisine zoo in time.

But if you’re thinking this is some kind of a wacky two-worlds-colliding contradiction, it’s not. As a classically trained chef, Tal praised the Le Cordon Bleu program and even encouraged vegetarian students to stick with it and learn the basics of gourmet food. And here’s where the “revolutionary” part comes in: by focusing on the classic ideal of what makes food rich and pleasurable to eat, vegan food can be for everyone, not just vegans.

It’s something we battle with often around here. With so few vegans in the world, how can a restaurant owner ever justify catering to us? Tal started by addressing this head on. With more food writers like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan encouraging omnivores to eat mostly plants (and we’d say, skip the “mostly” and go with “all” but, baby steps), the message is starting to sink in. Chef Tal did his market research homework and estimated that 40 to 50 percent of Americans are looking to eat meatless meals, at least part-time. Okay, so how do we get people doing it?

The short answer is, vegan food has to appeal to the general population. This may sound obvious, but restaurants get it wrong all the time, like fake meat that doesn’t appeal to meat-eaters, or “the vegan plate” that’s all sides and no protein. According to Tal, a good vegan meal should feel substantial and satisfying to whomever is eating it. (One of his secrets? Cook with saturated fat.) And if more chefs learn how and plan more menus with meatless meals, then maybe people will finally stop thinking of meat as something you “need.”

So what about the food? Tal’s menu for the cooking demo: creamy celery root soup with granny smith apples; artichoke ricotta tortellini with saffron cashew cream sauce; and Gardein “chick’n” scaloppini with shiitake sake sauce, braised pea shoots, and crispy udon noodle cakes. (DAMN. Oprah gave that up after 21 days? What were you thinking?!) Gardein was the surprise hit; feedback from the student chefs included “I’m sold” and “the texture was fabulous.” And it’s available wholesale through Sysco, so how about it, hotels and restaurants?

We only were able to try small samples of the final dishes, so note to self, don’t show up with an empty stomach to a cooking demo put on by one of the world’s top vegan chefs. Unless you enjoy torture. Seriously, just kill me next time.

02/15/2010

Another day, another great vegan bakesale!  »

Saturday morning, the day of the SF Vegan Bakesale, I ended up sleeping late because my new thing is not being awake, so I didn’t get over to the sale until the early afternoon. Boy, were things popping! There was of course a HUGE line outside the famous Ike’s Place but there was also quite a buzz around the bakesale tables. There was such a spread! I saw treats as exotic as peanut butter and jelly cinnamon rolls and red velvet whoopie pies, and as classic as chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. Being a true journalist, I took a wide sampling. It’s all in the name of science! The cinnamon rolls (from Cinnaholic!) were AMAZING. I also scored some nice and salty focaccia bread which was totally what I needed between sweets.

This vegan bakesale, I actually got off my lazy ass and contributed so there was also, ahem, some SUPERAWESOME coffee cake courtesy of moi (recipe to follow!). I can attest that it was good because I accidentally ate several pieces before I got to the bakesale. Pro tip!: make your goodies the day of if you want the maximum amount of product to actually make it to the sale. I made the coffee cake the night before. Silly me!

Of course, your Vegansaurus represented—Laura, Jonas, and Megan Allison! We did our Megan-power handshake! There was also some help from Doris, the first chicken I ever pet in my whole life! And some fine young folks from Cycles of Change APC even pitched in—special thanks to Jerrard and William!

All and all, I’d say it was quite successful. But I’ll let the numbers do the talking: this SF Vegan Bakesale profited $2,800! Holler!

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