Thursday, April 15, 2010

Halfway Update Through Animal-Free April

Lunch Special @ Bean Sprout
Vegetarian lunch with "Dan Dan style" brown rice w mushroom & wheat meat, steamed veggies, rice sheet noodle rolls and kelp soup at Bean Sprouts in Arcadia

Halfway through my animal-free April and since I haven't posted much as of late (more due to me being crazy-busy this month than anything else) though I could at least muster one mid-month progress report on my temporary stab at vegetarianism. For the most part, so far so good -- asides from the occasional pang for sushi, I haven't really missed meat. Now if I was go all out vegan, that might be another story.

Though, in all honesty, I may have unintentionally fallen off the vegetarian wagon already ~ a japchae I ordered at a Korean restaurant was served with beef stir-fried right in (which I tried to pick out to the best of my ability but in hindsight, I'm sure the noodles and veggies probably soaked up some of the meat juices.) And with cheeses I am not particularly vigilant about whether they are made with animal vs. plant vs. artificially-derived rennet. But anything that's overtly meaty I've been able to avoid without a hitch.

And a few other observations I've had so far in my animal-free stint:

- While I'm appreciative of most restaurants efforts to put in at least a few vegetarian dishes in their menu, sometimes I'm puzzled as to whether the kitchen knows what the word means. Indeed, there's a bit of a slippery slope as to what's acceptable in a vegetarian diet (like my case with cheeses) but a barley soup that's "flavored with pancetta" is definitely not vegetarian by any stretch of the definition.

- On the other end of the stick, I've encountered quite a number of folks professing their vegetarianism only to discover they're OK with eating fish and/or fowl. And these are not folks saying they're mostly/semi-vegetarian or flexitarian/pescatarian either. Maybe that's why some kitchens think it's alright to throw in something meaty into a dish and still claim it's vegetarian.

- This sounds evil, but I like how being vegetarian (even if only temporarily) is a more socially acceptable excuse to decline invites to outings, events and such. At the same time, it also made me realize how meat-centric our dining culture has been and how I've probably been eating WAY beyond than most guideline recommendations.

- Just as I expected, I've taken vegetable & fruit appreciation to a whole new level; and what a great time to enjoy all the spring and early summer produce ~ I may go no to beef, but a definite yes to beets!

- Likewise, I've become more aware of the nuances of my cravings beyond just "I want [bacon/steak/sushi/etc.]" Is it the smoky-charry-umami flavor profile? the chewy texture? or even just the way it's seasoned and cooked? Or the inherent fat & protein-based structure? In all those cases, there's a meatless, and probably healthier, swap. Of course, while nothing ever truly subsitute animal flesh's unique combination of all the above, for occasions when I'm really jones-ing for one or two of its characteristics, I know I can make do and be just as satisfied with a plant-based option.

But in any case, 15 days down, 15 more to go-- though at this leisurely rate, I might not even mind extending my Animal-free April into a Meatless May . . .

Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Quickies #91: Easter Eggs (Not!) Edition

Top Chef Masters billboard
Good Luck, Ludo and Susan!

Thanks to all the encouraging comments to my Animal-Free April declaration yesterday, I'm feeling a lot less anxious about whether I can actually pull it off. That'll be put to the test this weekend, when I'm heading down to San Diego to spend some time with high school friends and have less control over my meals. In any case, looks like I'll missing out on some of the great going-ons for the week ahead, such as . . .

Tomorrow, 1 to 7 p.m., Glassell Park's beer mecca Verdugo Bar will be holding a mobile mashup, a six-hour party with live DJS and four mobile food vendors (Lomo Arigato, Frysmith, Mandoline Grill and Grill 'EM All) stationed outside to soak up the amazing 20+ unique craft beers they have on tap. I'll leave it to you guys to figure out which brew pairs best with the spicy kimchi pork fries or the lemongrass-tofu banh mi. Free admission, but you still gotta pay for your grub and beer.

Sunday, all day long, The Hungry Cat in Hollywood is celebrating Easter with 50% off specialty cocktails, draft beers and bottles of wine all day long. So hop to it!

Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m., Ammo Restaurant will be kicking off its Sunday Roasts, where a cool $32/person will get you a comforting-yet-contemporary three-course meal. In their debut event, the menu will consist of little gem lettuce w beets, avocado & feta // wood oven-roasted Spring lamb with braised garlic, peas and mint // strawberry fool with buttermilk sherbet.

Wednesday, April 7, 7 p.m., STREET and Angeleno magazine are organizing a Top Chef Masters Premiere viewing party (of which chef-owner Susan Feniger is a contender.) Taste her street bites, sip on specialty cocktails and mingle during the reception, then watch and cheer her on when the show starts at 8 p.m.! $25/person (half of which goes to the Scleroderma Research Foundation.)

And my favorite Web encounters of the week:

Rosso Wine Shop's continually updated list of corkage fees at restaurants around town
Definitely great idea, even if absent-minded me will often forget to bring a bottle. Oh well, I can always make a quick stop by favorite wine shops to pick up a bottle (or two.)

Slate argues for canned/frozen veggies and fruits over fresh
As much as I'm a fan of fresh food, I do keep a stockpile of frozen veggies--which is a lot more convenient when cooking for 1-2 meals. But while frozen/canned fruits and veggies are equal or even superior in nutritional value against their fresh variants, the taste comparison is still no contest. But I do agree with the author that it's an unrealistic expectation for all families across the board to cook with fresh produce all the time, and using canned/frozen versions is a convenient compromise that doesn't sacrifice too many nutrients.

Chef Ludovic Lefebvre interviews on Grub Street and Eater about his LA marathon run & 4.0 incarnation of Ludobites
As always, a charmer and lots of fun. Too bad I wasn't fast enough with making my reservations for the downtown Ludobites and am now languishing on the waitlist...

Seattle Weekly's list of 7 Cookbooks You Don't Want to Friends to Find in Your Kitchen (and vice versa)
Funny in that I've actually received PR pitches from some of those ridiculous books, but #1 on that list is really a stunner!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Going Animal-Free for April . . .

A beautiful and delicious vegan lunch served during Zenshuji Soto Mission's Japanese Tea Ceremony

No, not an April Fool's joke (except to my inner-carnivore) -- this whole month I'm going meatfree. Why? The short answer is as simple as "just because," the longer version:

1) Between all the meals out, meetup with bloggers and media events, I just felt I've been eating way too much meat for way too long, so wanted to balance things out a little by going on a carni-fast. But I'll still have dairy and eggs to keep me company.

2) Of course, with so much meat, there's less room for veggies and fruits - so vegetarianism is a great way for me to rekindle my love of all things plant-based.

3) I love the idea of Lenten fast to help me cherish and value what I do have (available to eat) by taking a temporary break, but I'm not really religious and the actual Lent itself falls on top of so many other things (include my folks' birthdays in early March) I decided to be flexible with the timing and duration of my "not-Lent" -- but hey, I'm open to stretching this to May 10 to make it an even 40 days. Let's just play that by ear . . .

I have no doubt this month will be just as every bit as tasty and fun as any other (already I'm setting up vegetarian and vegan meals with friends and even my meat-loving parents!) And maybe when I return to eating meat in May, I will have a better grasp of proper portions.

P.S. Before you think I fell off my wagon so early, I still have to catch up on some bloggy backlog so the omnivorous posts will still keep a-coming; just because I'm giving up animal for the month doesn't you'll have sacrifice on salivating over meaty dishes.


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