Jennie Cooks Plant Based Parties (Los Angeles, CA)

There are few chefs I truly trust*—Jennie Cooks is one of them.

Beneath an angled mirror at Surfas, Jennie—my hometown culinary champion—poured a generous amount of olive oil into a pan and whipped up Sweet Potato Pistachio Fritters with Saba and Jaffna Potatoes. I sat there waiting for the non-vegan ingredient to get dumped in—a pat of butter, a drizzle of yogurt —but it never happened. As the Endive Avocado Potato Salad and Cape Verda Vegetable were passed around, I realized every dish she made was vegan—and that never happens on accident.

At that moment I knew I wanted her to cater an event for me. That event turned out to be my wedding reception.

In her Atwater Village kitchen vintage pitchers, cookbooks, and salt and pepper creatures stare down at us. Jennie dances in and out of the kitchen, filling the tables with food. Some dishes are by request, some are by surprise. Wedding meal planning—as I learned—is a strange balance of personal taste tempered with the attempt to please the sometimes irrational and sometimes dietary needs of guests.

First up, a fritter—the overlooked champions of cocktail hour. Jennie’s Sweet Potato Fritters with Pistachios and Crema are flecked with meaty bits of pistachios and pan kissed to a crisp. Spinning the globe, we toasted with Sweet Potato Samosas dripping with raven dark tamarind glaze. I loved them both, but sometimes the needs of others trumps love.  Translucent rice paper swaddling bean thread, red pepper, carrot, and cucumber as Fresh Rolls with Peanut Sauce (gluten free) were selected as our tray pass appetizer.

Not shown here are the Chicken and Waffles because there as no questions those would be served.

One of Jennie’s surprises turned out to be my favorite: Korean Dave’s Amazing Tempe with Campania. Caramelized onions, red peppers, and capers pucker with balsamic vinegar over panko crusted tempe—a distinctly Los Angeles ingredient. This chewy cutlet of fermented brown rice and black bean that is a local cult classic. Dave has no online or marketing presence yet almost everyone knows his Framer’s Market food. After sampling Jennie’s prep of this protein, there was no question my guests needed to taste it as well.

To balance the fried dish, we followed with the Spinach Salad with Crumbled Fettata, Apricots and Toasted Walnuts. While I had expected fresh apricots I realized such ideas were ridiculous for a March event. The soft fettata—seasoned tofu—clings to the leaves which we switched out for romaine to accommodate oxalate sensitive attendees.

Roasted Vegetables seemed boring option—one I’ve consumed ad nauseam in my vegetarian then vegan life. I had every intention of nixing this side until suckling on sweetly charred yet still juice carrots, onions, peppers, and zucchini caramelized kissed with balsamic vinegar.

Through the experience of wedding planning I learned that I basically love Thanksgiving food. I fell quickly for legumes melting into the Red Lentil and Apple Load of Love—the flavors blooming in a pool of thyme spiked creamy dijon gravy. Paired with rolling hills of Sourdough Stuffing cradling crescents of celery, carrot, and tart cubes of granny smith apples.

Just to prove that I’m not simply gushing, the soft mash layered inside the Sweet Potato Lasagna became too monolithic for my taste. But when these dishes made their way home as leftovers, my soon to be husband loved the lasagna more than the loaf. So we ordered a half pan of each because compromise and making each other happy is what marriage is all about.

Jennie Cooks
3048 Fletcher Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Facebook: Jennie Cooks Catering & Plant Based Parties
Instagram: @jenniecooks

*They are: Pancho Castellón, Jennie CooksGenet Agonafer, my mom

 

Vegan Friendly: PlantBasedPopUp Offers Fine Dining Vegan Wine Pairing Dinners in San Diego County

The Short and Skinny

“Historically, food and wine events and prix fixe menus with wine pairings have centered around meat,” says PlantBasedPopUp founder Anna Keeve. “Because of this, plant-based eaters miss out on these tyes of experiences. It’s time to reframe the way we look at this concept of pairing food and wine.”

PlantBasedPopUp is here to change that, partnering with top-tiered restaurants to host monthly plant-based wine pairing dinners in San Diego County.

Read more: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-plantbasedpopup-offers-fine-dining-vegan-wine-pairing-dinners-san-diego-county

Shangri-La Vegetarian (San Francisco, CA)

A pot of herbal Alternifolia Tea and plate of pickles arrive without notice—a fading hospitality in today’s nickle and dime culture. In the traditional Chinese-style, cabbage and carrots are quick-pickled in salt and then bathed in a sweet vinegar brine. The portion is just enough to wash away the muck of morning and rouse salivation.

This starts every meal at Shangri-La Vegetarian.  A throw back to an era only moments ago in San Francisco’s history. The 1978 Chinese vegetarian outpost sits towards the Pacific edge of the city among bustle of lives of everyday San Francisco families. Here food is served without the surcharge of post-Silicon Valley “progress.”

Thick skins encase the 6. Fried Dumplings ($4.95). The Guo Tie style crescents—popular in Taipei, Taiwan where owner William Sung hails from—offers golden fried butts supporting pleated walls of steamed dough. Pierce the skin and a confetti of minced glass noodles and vegetables spills out.

Bulbs of bok choy scallop the edge of the 51. Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs ($8.50). The center pools with soy chunks glistening in a sweet, corn starch thick, gravy. Served with a bowl of multigrain rice over a glass top table littered with awards and kosher certifications.

Shangri-La Vegetarian
2026 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122

shangrilavegetarian.com

Facebook: @Shangri-La-Chinese-Vegetarian-Restaurant 

Vegan Friendly: Comfort Food and Sustainability at Donna Jean in Banker’s Hill

The Short and Skinny

Donna Jean offers a vegetable forward menu with midwestern charm and California sensibilities.

 

The Vibe

Under the dappling of the summer sun, pink radish bulbs push through the dirt under the kale leaves and carrot tops surrounding Donna Jean’s patio. Between the magenta shocks of bougainvilleas, tables fill with dukkah-dusted turnips and pizzas dotted with smoked dates and pickled shallots.

Vegetables drive the menu—but all dishes are quietly supported by the spice and experience.

A midwestern boy at heart, Chef Roy Elam carries the lessons learned there—use everything, force nothing.

 

Read more at: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-comfort-food-and-sustainability-donna-jean-bankers-hill

Vegan Night 5: The Kamayan Experience

The scent of banana leaves filled the dining room of Trade Winds Tavern. We waited, sipping on wine and kombucha, for the orchestrated meal to begin. A parade moved through the dining room laying serpentine fistfuls of rice between each group as Coconut Mushroom Sisig—a chopped stew spiked with chilies and acid—and Vegan Adobo “Chicken”—proteins traditionally slow cooked in vinegar and spices—were ladled before us. Chopsticks gently tipped the display with shaved chilies (which I ate all of) while a large mound of Bicol Express—a coconut chili “pork” —reached for me as I reached for it.

A plump Pulled Jackfruit Siopao—a tender steamed bun—arrived and we dug in, fingers first, with marked caution that quickly turns into confidence.

The kamayan experience was new to me. A communal feast rooted in Filipino culture which was tolerated under Spanish colonization but then nearly erased when American brought their pearl clenching etiquette* to the island at the end of the Spanish-American War (1898 Treaty of Paris). Through these outside forces weaponized the spoon and fork, the rural family tradition of shared food eaten with the hands persists—which Michael and Noelle, aka @vegainzcouple, shared with the San Diego vegan and vegan-curious community on Saturday July 21, 2018.

Digging into the stews with unprotected digits proved easier—and frankly, funner—then expected. It assumes a level of trust between diners, a forced intimacy that is rare within American’s Protestant tendencies. Kamayan also forces the attention up, between people, as diners don’t dare risk getting Sisig covered fingerprints all over their smart phones.

At the end, small cups of fluffy Halo Halo—Filipino-style shaved ice—appeared floating with bits of sweet bean, jellies, and puffed rice, finishing off a highlight meal of this pop-up series and bringing a communal civility to the states.

Trade Winds Tavern
7767 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92111
instagram.com/tradewindstavern

Monthly Vegan Night Pop-Up Series:
vegannightsd.com

*This is ridiculous example of the American kettle calling the Filipino pot black. So many classic American dishes, of this and future eras, are eaten by hand. In the late 1800’s Americans where finger fooding toast, corn cob, BBQ, hush puppies, cookies…

Vegan Friendly: Harvest By The Patio in Downtown San Diego

The Short and Skinny

In the shadow of the hot dogs and beer of Petco Park sits stylish, vegetable-forward Harvest by The Patio.

The Vibe

Tucked into the former Carnation Dairy Building, the walls of the first floor are lined with cold cases stacked with grab-and-go meals. The plastic clamshells beckon to game goers (you can bring your own food into the ballpark), while wooden stairs lead dine-in customers to the restaurant’s full-service bar and lounge.

Floor to ceiling images of rolling fields of wind swept wheat face the white subways tiles of the beer tap wall. The airy bar anchors the room with open wire shelving twinkling with an array of bottles.

Read more: http://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-harvest-patio-downtown-san-diego

Vegan Friendly: Blissful Gatherings Monthly Vegan Pop-Up

The Short and Skinny

Each month, plant-based diners gather in the hills of southern San Diego for a stylish, intimate backyard dinner party.

The Vibe

Guests slowly meander along a path winding between Chula Vista homes in order to find the affair, taking in the falling light of dusk.

They know they have arrived when they spot the artfully set table and are approached by staff offering Sol-ti juice and Kombucha, often including Boochcraft, a high alcohol kombucha brewed just a few miles west.

A spray of eucalyptus leaves run along the center of the communal table, while floral vignettes from local growers rise from small globe vases, set mindfully so as to not block plate space or lines of sight.

Read morehttp://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-blissful-gatherings-monthly-vegan-pop

Vegan Friendly: Bar Snacks at Madison on Park

The Short and Skinny

This hip space, which undulates between indoor and out, is known for creative cocktails, but they also have some seriously great vegan options.

The Vibe

The soft blue paint of the simple façade blends into the clear skies above. Window frames popped up like visors offer glimpses of the wood-rich interior. Cedar planked walls are accented by geometric pops of blue, mustard yellow, and soft pink and modern fixtures resemble drops of white glass clenched in brass. Unseen from the street is the modern basilica of a dining room—a breezy semi-outdoor space enveloped by a 20-foot high arch.

Read more athttp://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-bar-snacks-madison-park

Vegan Friendly: BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar in San Diego’s East Village

The Short and Skinny

Quivering curls of springy ramen noodles bathed in a creamy vegan both and inventive vegan buns await under the hospitable gaze of the East Village’s BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar.

The Vibe

Sunlight streams through the floor to ceiling glass walls into the modern interior of BESHOCK Ramen & Sake Bar. Stamped tin tiles and Gaslamp-style pendants line the far wall, reflecting the historic core of the city. Above a matte black counter, large windows provide an open view into the kitchen where steaming curls of noodles slip into deep bath of carefully crafted broths. Rustic wood tables and steel-backed chairs are set under an industrial steel rack neatly lined with sake bottles.

Owner Ayaka Ito, a certified sake master, opened BESHOCK in 2016, but the journey to get into this space was a long and winding one.

Ito spent nearly three years traveling thought over 100 ramen houses in Japan to learn the craft. Though her eyes were always focused on San Diego, she built her first ramen house—Three Little Pigs—in her hometown of Nagoya, Japan, a sister ramen shop—or “ramen lab” as Ito calls it—where she developed the recipes that would become the cornerstones of her East Village restaurant.

Read more athttp://ediblesandiego.ediblecommunities.com/eat/vegan-friendly-beshock-ramen-sake-bar-san-diegos-east-village

Loving Hut Mira Mesa (San Diego, CA)

 

Delving into new-to-me dishes at Loving Hut Mira Mesa, I was sure to order a known ally: Amazing Chow ($10). Toothsome wheat noodles, echoing the Chinese egg version, twist around charred soy protein and vegetables. The sauce, sweet and one dimensional, caramelized like soy-candy on the seared edges of everything. Overflowing from the plate, this ample dish makes a meal for days to come. 

A wreath of rice paper wrapped around thin rice vermicelli noodles with mint, fried tofu, soy ham, and lettuce fill the plate of the Loving Hut Fresh Roll ($6). Offered with a fragrant pineapple peanut sauce tying together these mild elements at the start of the meal.

Tight buds of brown rice glazed in their own starch, spiked with curry powder, build the base of the Guru Fried Rice ($10).  Strewn with carrot cubes, petite peas, slivered green onion, and haphazardly cut fried tofu, this dishes holds all the notes of a typical Thai style fried rice.

Although I think the portion runs small, the BBQ Noodles ($10) hits all my wants: Cool knots of rice noodles, crispy spring roll, crisp cucumber, herbaceous mint, sharp green onion, mild and sweet soy beef, and dusting of roasted peanuts. Doused in a sweetly diluted soy sauce, this Vietnamese bun-style dish is a little kitchen sampler.

“Amazing Sauce” perseveres through the menu. The sticky sweet brown sauce pours over the Amazing Saute ($12). Similar to the chow but with rice instead of noodles and larger cuts of soy protein.

But, apparently the dish to get here are the Texas Fries ($8.50). According to the internet, Texas Fries are a thing that people who eat at places like Chili’s know and love. Traditionally, sour cream *could* be an ingredient—but more often it’s a cheese slick punctuated with bacon. At Loving Hut Mira Mesa the fries are tossed with raw white onions, scallions, a scant offering of jalapenos, spice powder, and a minuscule sprinkling of vegan cheddar under a huge glob of what the kitchen calls “sour cream.”

It’s a looming—and sometimes legal—question about how we apply words heavily associated with animal products to their vegan alternatives. So while I personally cannot tell anyone what is or isn’t vegan sour creme—to my taste, this is mayo. I’ll do the glob the service of calling it aioli… and aioli and fries…. do you see where I’m going here? These are really pommes frites. Modeled after a beloved world dish, it’s no surprise this is THE menu favorite… despite it’s mistitlement.

Loving Hut Mira Mesa
9928 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92131

lovinghut.us/sandiego2