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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vegan Klutz



You know, when folks find out I’m vegan, there are typically two responses—“I couldn’t do it. I love meat”; or “I wish I could do that but I just can’t”. Since people aren’t alike, the path to plant-based eating can be just as varied. Many people just decide to go “whole-hog” (pardon the reference) and just dive right in. Others chose a less dramatic and restrictive path by going meatless (not necessarily vegan) one or more days during the week. Or choosing to go vegan
One of our favorite meals!!
one or more days a week. It’s up to what one feels they can do and maintain. It’s really not so much about what you HAVE TO GIVE UP as it is learning how to adjust your eating to be healthier. Gosh, I miss a lot of foods I no longer eat such as wings, egg omelets, cheese, prime rib, BACON to name a few. But it has also been a great pleasure to learn new foods to prepare and ways to ‘veganize’ recipes, such as these fabulous Tofu Scallops.



  
Eating Out and About—Date Night and Beyond

One of the most challenging components of being vegan, especially in the South (land of bacon, bar-b-que and fried everything), is finding restaurants who not only offer menu items that comply with being vegan but also work with you as a customer rather than look at you and smirk.

I live in Madison Mississippi…it’s a great small town just outside of the capital of Jackson. We have a number of chain restaurants, growing all the time as well as some fine ‘home-grown’ restaurants. Jackson has an abundance of fine restaurants also, so the opportunity abides. Later on in today’s blog, I'll mention some restaurants that we frequent and tell you why. This is just from my experience and the experience of several vegan friends.

First of all, the internet has been a blessing to folks who eat out because now you have a chance to look at menus online and see what foods are available or if a restaurant even has a vegetarian/vegan option.  In the ‘early days’ when I would ask for a vegan option, the response was “well, we can put some sides together for you”.  And yet, many of the sides were cooked with meat or in butter. Most restaurants in this area do not have vegetarian options on their menu but a few have stepped to the plate (no pun intended) to become very vegan friendly.

Big Solid and I LOVE Friday nights—even though we are retired; it just seems like the most liberating day of the week. It’s also ‘date night’ for us. And, wouldn’t you know, we go to one of our favorite places on date night (hold on to yourself) -- KATHRYN’S STEAK HOUSE!  Pre-veg days, we frequented there because it’s like our local Cheers. Everybody knows your name, there’s good music, good drinks and good food. When I became vegetarian and then vegan, they didn’t miss a beat by letting me bring my own food to supplement a gigantic salad chock full of mushrooms and tomatoes. They also adjusted their sautéed mushrooms from sautéed in butter to a small amount of olive oil. Big Solid will sometimes have their seared tuna. All I had to do was ask if I could bring my own ‘stuff’ and they were on board and supportive. http://www.kathrynssteaks.com/

I have found that calling a restaurant a day or so ahead and asking if they could prepare a vegan entrée is a nice way to establish contact with the restaurant, to challenge them in terms of a real entrée and not a selection of sides and to promote the growing appeal and validity of plant-based eating.

A Vegan Night delight at Bravo!
Two local restaurants have added a ‘Vegan Night’ which includes a three course vegan dinner.  Bravo! in Jackson (http://bravobuzz.com/) and Strawberry Café in Madison (http://www.strawberrycafemadison.com/index.php). Bravo! has a Vegan Night every Thursday and Strawberry Café’s Vegan Night is the first Thursday of each month. Bravo’s Matt Mabry challenges himself weekly to prepare entrees, salads/soups and desserts that are delicious, creative and fun.  Bravo! has also added special designations to items on their menu that are Vegetarian and can be easily ‘veganized’.

Anjou restaurant in Ridgeland (http://www.anjourestaurant.net/) is perhaps our favorite restaurant. They have never disappointed when preparing a special entrée for me as I always call ahead. They have now added a delicious vegetarian (which is easily veganized) entrée but will still honor a request to prepare something different. The ambience at Anjou is quite nice as it is quiet and people can carry on a conversation without having to scream across the table.

Chef Lance, middle, dwarfing me on his right
Chef Lance at Capitol Grill in Jackson (http://capitolgrillofjackson.com/) is also happy to prepare a vegan meal if given notice and was more than thrilled when I contacted him.  In this picture, Chef Lance had just prepared a lovely three course vegan dinner for Big Solid (on the far left), me and our good friends Gigi and Kevin Carter (on Chef Lance's left)

Scrooge's in Jackson has been around for YEARS and is another restaurant that will work with you for vegan options and let you bring a few items to supplement what they can prepare for you. You just have to be savvy about their cooked vegetables to make sure they are prepared without being cooked with meat. Scrooge's does not have a website but does have a FaceBook page as do all the restaurants mentioned today.
Of course, the most vegan friendly restaurant in town is the High Noon Café located in Fondren (http://www.rainbowcoop.org/cafe.htm). Totally vegetarian/vegan, Chef Troy is accessible, creative and works hard to bring good plant-based dishes to the table.  The drawback for High Noon Café is that it is not open on a regular basis in the evening.  Hopefully, someday soon, Jackson and surrounding areas will sustain a totally vegetarian restaurant.

And recently, Jackson became home to a Whole Foods Market (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/jkn) that has vegetarian/vegan options galore both in the produce/grocery store as well as prepared foods that can be eaten on site or take home. The Jerk Tofu is to die for.

I have found that MOST restaurants are very accommodating and willing to prepare a vegan alternative if called ahead of time and treated with respect. In the meantime, restaurants are gradually ‘getting’ that people are exploring the benefits of a plant-based eating regimen and savvy restaurants will capitalize on that. Comments about restaurants that I am not aware of in the Jackson area that will respond to a vegetarian/vegan request would be a welcomed addition. AS WELL AS comments from non-local folks who read this and can advise on possible great places elsewhere.

Y'all have a glorious Memorial Day weekend full of good friends, good food, and the freedom to enjoy them. Take a moment to remember those who have served to assure we have the freedoms that we do. 

2 comments:

  1. That's great advice to call ahead and see if the restaurant will accommodate you. I bet most would. Wonderful post!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rhea. This is a whole new world for me!

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