Throughout my entire professional life, I’ve spent most of my waking hours with omnivorous coworkers. I’m used to being a wallflower at pot lucks, pizza parties, brown bag lunches, birthday celebrations and fancy executive dinners, fortunate to nibble on some fresh fruit or dry burger buns while my omni-workers fill up on stuff I won’t eat.
I’ve lost count of the number of times somebody has walked up to my desk and offered some “amazing left-over” food. Everything from caviar crackers to chicken wings to home made cookies, I’m always the one saying “Oh, that looks amazing, but I have to pass as I’m a vegetarian/vegan”.
Sometimes, I’ve been pleasantly surprised when somebody has prepared something specially for me, like the time the IT guy in Seattle made vegan cornish pasties on a whim: “I thought it would be a challenge, you know”. After I ate all three of them before I got home I can confirm that he met said challenge with aplomb.
What I’d never participated in, though, is the random: “I made too much of [insert non-vegan food] last night. Want some?”. Until, that is, last week when my only ever vegan coworker (the amazingly talented Benny Strange) popped in to my office and casually said “Hey, I made WAY too much vegan pesto last night. Want some?”. Did I EVER.
The timing could not have been better, frankly, as back home I had some amazing Gardein Chick’n Scallopini burning a hole in the freezer, and was already considering some Italian-style accompaniments: The thought of a meal based on vegan pesto (something rather difficult to find in the wild) immediately resonated with me, so I rushed home with pesto in hand and started to cook up a storm.
First, I need to take a moment to talk about the Gardein Chick’n, which is a seriously tasty and flexible alternative to fake meats and, of course, real meat. They arrive pre-cooked so all you have to do is heat them to your taste, season further if you like and cook ‘em. For this dish, I brushed them with a little olive oil, fresh garlic and dried Italian herbs then seared them over the grill for 5 minutes.
For the rest of the dish, I boiled some angel hair pasta in salted water for a few minutes, and then drained and added the vegan pesto, mixing throughly.
Adding some steamed broccoli was the icing on the cake, as this wonderful dish came together rather well. Spearheaded by the sublime smoothness of the absolutely amazing vegan pesto (better than the stuff you can buy in Whole Foods), some al dente pasta and the sumptuously juicy Gardein Scallopinis this really was an excellent meal.
I’m really grateful to Benny Strange for bringing in his leftover pesto as it ignited a meal idea I’d never have considered, and which turned out to be truly amazing. Let’s hope many more vegans show up in workplaces everywhere so we can bring our leftovers and trade them with each other. Who knows, our omni coworkers might even learn a thing or two about how wonderful cruelty-free food can be.Tags: gardein, pesto
in the mood for a huge, hearty, warm, melty, fake-meaty vegan sandwich for under $10? look no further than chango coffee house in echo park. the hipster cofee shop/art gallery is located at echo park avenue and delta street, a spot that locals have dubbed “chicken corner,” and has recently added two unbelievably tasty vegan sandwiches to their menu. i had the chance to try both over the weekend, steak & cheese as well as chicken pesto, and each one brought a kind of sandwich satisfaction that isn’t available anywhere else in town.
the vegan steak and cheese sandwich is basically a vegan version of your typical “philly cheesesteak,” with thick soy steak strips and dairy-free mozzarella, along with sauteed onions and mushrooms. chango toasted the sandwich when i ordered it, so the bread was warm and crispy and the soy cheese was perfectly melty. for the steak chango uses gardein, and for the cheese they use teese from chicago soy dairy…each being the best replacement out there for its animal-product counterpart. i can tell you, this steak and cheese sandwich was so amazing, even a meat-eater would fall in love with it. not since doomie’s or the vegan spot (both are closed down now) have i had such a great vegan sandwich.
the vegan chicken pesto sandwich was equally impressive, with thick chunks of gardein protein, creamy cheese-less pesto sauce, fresh basil, crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes. the pesto was really garlicky, just the way i like it, and the bread heated up to be perfectly toasty and crunchy. where else can you buy a big chunky chicken pesto sandwich that’s vegan in los angeles?!? …that’s right. nowhere.
the thing i love about chango’s new sandwiches, are they are unlike the normal “vegan” sandwich options you can get just about anywhere. rather than just some grilled vegetables and maybe tofu on a bread roll, chango take its vegan sandwiches to the next level with fake meats, soy cheeses, and incredible homemade pesto sauce. plus, they are really well prepared, perfectly assembled with just the right amount of ingredients, and toasted to absolute perfection. you aren’t gonna get any other sandwich this good for well under 10 dollars, i guarantee you.
the atmosphere is also great at chango, it reminds me of a hip seattle coffee shop with its bohemian customers, shelves full of books to peruse, and bright art adorning the wall. seriously, it’s the perfect place to sit back and relax with a cup of caffeine and a huge vegan sandwich. get your ass over to chango asap and see what this food is all about. the vegan items are listed right now on the “specials” chalkboard to the left of the counter, not on the main board.
chango coffee houseTags: chicken, coffee, echo park, gardein, pesto, philly cheesesteak, sandwich, steak
1559 Echo Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026
so the economy sucks and lots of people are out of work. that’s a fact. businesses are closing, personal savings are being depleted, and the unemployment rate is skyrocketing. we all know and love people who have been laid off…maybe we even are those people in some cases. but wtf mate, the tragedy has officially now come home for all los angeles herbivores and started to affect local vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants. within 2 short months we saw the shutting of the vegan spot and of doomie’s home cookin’, arguably the best 2 places to get a meat-free sandwich in la. both closures were untimely and undeserved…so vegans, please, let’s go throw our moneys at some of the local restaurants that need our help, starting with mani’s bakery on fairfax.
the long-standing los angeles institution is nearly as old as i am, and is still being threatened by the crappy economic climate. in a recent plea on their blog (which i saw via eater la), mani’s tells its customers,“Unfortunately, we face the very real possibility of not making it through 2009, unless we can modify our business to function more efficiently in today’s environment.” they go on to add, “December was the weakest sales Mäni’s has ever had. At this level we will not be able to continue.” ummm…i dunno what you make of that, but to me that sounds like some fatal-apocalyptic-scary shit meaning, buy our food if you want us to be here in the morning. well, it worked on me. i hit up mani’s as soon as i read this, and i gotta say, i will feel pretty bad and dead inside if they do go out of business. their vegan food is really, really, really good. i’ve posted before about mani’s ENORMOUS VEGAN SELECTION…and let’s just say on this return visit, i was even more impressed.
i’m gonna work in reverse on this post because the dessert is the best thing that mani’s offers. the menu is absolutely huge, and all the vegan/veganizable items are clearly marked. almost everything can be made animal-free, and this is extremely handy when it comes to the desserts. vegan truffles, breakfast bars, almond rocas, cakes and pies are just some of the decadent treats that mani’s has in store. my husband and i split a chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookie on our last visit, and we could barely finish it. it was so rich and tasty, i think any vegetarian would be fooled by it.
but not just the dessert items at mani’s are awesome…there are also tons of vegan-friendly appetizers and entrees. on our recent visit and attempt to save mani’s from bankruptcy and decline, i ordered the pesto sandwich.
of course i got the vegan version (with tofu instead of meat) and everything was divine. the pesto was thick, oily, and slightly greasy in a really good way. the tofu was grilled but still soft in the middle, and it was all stacked with fresh vegetables on really soft and spongy bread.
my husband got the california club, which was also excellent. the sandwich came in neatly chopped pieces, all stacked high with vegan cheese, vegetables, crispy tempeh bacon and crunchy breaded seitan. there was nothing to complain about. i mean seriously, with the vegan spot and doomie’s both totally gone, i don’t know where else to obtain such a hearty and satisfying vegan sandwich in this town.
yeah, yeah, yeah, mani’s is a bit expensive. but so fucking what?!?! where isn’t at this point? it’s as good a deal as pure luck or m cafe, plus the menu is like 90x bigger. they also have the best vegan bakery and pastry selection in town. if they do shut, i know i will feel the same way as if a beloved relative has died—totally wracked with guilt, torturing myself over every lunchtime or coffee break i could have spent in mani’s company.
in my opinion, the vegan scene will suck a lot more hardcore if mani’s goes away. let’s ensure that doesn’t happen. please go eat there as soon as possible…um, it may be your last chance.
mani’s bakeryTags: club, cookie, dessert, fairfax, lunch, pesto, sandwiches, seitan, tofu
519 S. fairfax avenue
los angeles, ca 90036
tofu pesto sandwich:
grilled tofu and fresh basil-spinach pesto on a rustic roll, with romaine and onions and vegan mayo.
pure luck is hands-down my favorite restaurant in los angeles. it’s great. they have a delicious 100% vegan menu and an impressive selection of quality tap-beer, none of which is over-priced. they truly are one-of-a-kind.
BUT…Tags: beer, caesar, pesto, pure luck (closed), service, tofu