By Michelle Talsma Everson, March 2020 issue.
Photos provided by featured venues
One time, my very vegetarian sister-in-law asked my son if he planned on being vegetarian like his auntie. In his firm preschool voice he replied, “NO! I like bacon too much!” We all laughed and it’s one of our favorite stories to tell. But, the joke is on him, because I bet you if he tried some of the vegetarian and vegan dishes we’ve rounded up, he might change his tune.
The dish: Mushroom Barbacoa: grilled oyster mushrooms in house guajillo Chile broth, avocado, charred onion and micro beet greens.
Where to find it: Taco Guild (tacoguild.com)
The chef says: “It’s a great alternative to the classic barbacoa dish,” according to the Taco Guild culinary team. “The oyster mushrooms shred like meat and soak up all the broth. The best part about it is that it’s vegan. We want to show people that vegetables can be cooked in different ways and don’t have to always be a side item.”
The dish: Vegan Lasagna
Where to find it: Urban Beans Bar & 24 Hour Cafe (urbanbeans.com)
The chef says: “We use a high quality noodle, add our scratch made marinara, ricotta, sausage, and throw in some spinach,” says Virginia Senior, executive chef and founding partner.
“Top it off with scratch made mozzarella and bake it. The result is an Italian dish your mother wished she could make. All plant-based, of course. We choose to create healthy delicious food; it’s got to be both healthy and delicious. We have found that using vegan ingredients, we create foods that are lower in unhealthy fats, provide protein and ingredients that are good for everyone.”
The dish: Chilled Raw Pad Thai: spiraled zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts, Brussels sprouts, raw almonds, chili almond dressing and a tamarind glaze.
Where to find it: Farm & Craft (ilovefarmandcraft.com)
The chef says: “This dish is a play on a traditional Pad Thai,” says Chef Cameron Cortese. “It is super clean, high in nutritional benefits, packed with flavor and, to top it all off, it is vegan.”
The dish: Wood-Fired Caramelized Cauliflower with Tahini: cauliflower, evoo, garlic-cilantro tahini sauce, caramelized onions, and toasted pine nuts.
Where to find it: Pita Jungle (pitajungle.com)
The chef says: “Everyone is loving cauliflower these days and for good reason,” says Bassel Osmani. “Cauliflower is extremely healthful as is it low calorie and rich in folate, vitamin C, E and K and fiber. Tahini is a good source of protein and also high in fiber — as a plus the dish is very tasteful. This dish is one of our menu staples and top sellers for everyone, regardless of their diet.”
The dish: The Unbeetable Burger
Where to find it: True Food Kitchen (truefoodkitchen.com)
The chef says: “The concept of a burger combined with scratch cooking and whole foods is very appealing to everyone, not just someone eating a plant based diet,” says Chef Robert McCormick. “The fact that this is actually a vegan sandwich, that is loaded with nutrient dense, whole foods such as red beets, jicama, avocado, and butter lettuce, is a bonus.”
The dish: Avocado Hanabi-Pressed Sushi Rice tossed in a signature Hanabi Sauce, topped with a yuzu and avocado infused puree, finished with shaved parmesan.
Where to find it: Sushi Roku Scottsdale (sushiroku.com)
The chef says: “I really enjoy this dish due to the flavor profile of the avocado puree,” explains Executive Chef David Miles. “It has a very sharp acidic finish due to the use of the yuzu mixed with the avocado. The cheese gives it a nice salty finish that pairs very well with the crunch from the sushi rice. It is a vegetarian dish and it is unlike any I have ever tried. This dish screams umami flavor profile that leaves you wanting to eat more.”
The dish: Tacos Barbacoa
Where to find it: Casa Terra (casaterra.com)
The chef says: “This dish is packed full of flavor,” says Chef Jason Wyrick of Casa Terra. “It’s tangy, spicy, a little sweet, a little salty, a little bitter, and it’s served on beautiful handmade tortillas. The barbacoa also showcases smoked oyster mushrooms as a meat replacement, a technique I helped pioneer years ago. It’s not that vegans and vegetarians should try it, it’s that everybody should try it. Plant-based food is for everyone.”
The dish: Soil & Seed Beet & Radish Semi-Salad: This foraged salad features Detroit Beets two ways: marinated and as a purée stamp. Crisp Daikon radish and the essence of Preserved Buddha’s Hand top the earthy beets along with leafy Shungiku. Viola edible flowers bring the garden full circle, with a house-churned smokey butter to pair with the oversized Fried Brioche.
Where to find it: Quiessence at The Farm
The chef says: “This dish is a great representation of finding different ways to utilize the same vegetable,” says Chef Dustin Christofolo. “Quiessence always want to approach a vegetable with a unique way to be eaten and the layering of flavors, not the norm. This is a great dish for vegetarians to experience.”
The dish: Mediterranean Bowl: rosemary potatoes, roasted tomatoes and house marinated artichoke hearts, with organic arugula, shaved organic carrot ribbons, and red onions, topped with a vegan lemon-garlic aioli and dusted with rosemary.
Where to find it: Intentional Foods Cafe and Market (intentionalfoods.org)
The chef says: “Having a family with life threatening food allergies and dairy sensitivities, I had to get creative in the kitchen to satisfy my three daughters’ desires for delicious, flavorful food, free from the top eight most common food allergens,” says Chef Brendan Heath. “This dish quickly became a family favorite. The mix of potatoes, arugula and carrot ribbons give an awesome texture along with a very savory flavor profile.”
The dish: Green Machine: Tempura fried green bean and green onion, topped with avocado, and cilantro sweet chili aioli.
Where to find it: Bamboo Sushi (bamboosushi.com)
The chef says: “We’ve managed to create a roll that has become our #1 seller, companywide, year after year that just happens to be vegetarian; not really common for a sushi restaurant,” says culinary director Mike Theriot. “When the first Bamboo Sushi menu was created there was a need for just one more roll and we always set out to have a strong part of our menu be plant-based. The Green Machine sauce, a cilantro sweet chili aioli, is what makes this signature roll famous. The sweetness balanced with the flavor of the Oregon Coast Albacore, and the savory crunch of the tempura fried green bean, creates the perfect bite.”
Why create vegan or vegetarian dishes?
“In general, we believe that a clean plant forward diet is not just a trend, but an evolution forward to a healthier and more sustainable future,” says Chef Cameron Cortese. “We need to get away from processed foods and go back to our roots of eating whole foods again.”
“I make vegan food for three reasons, and it’s why I only make vegan food,” says Chef Jason Wyrick. “It’s a kinder way of living; treating other creatures as commodities is the exact opposite of that. When you use unprocessed plant-based ingredients, it’s a healthier way to live. In fact, I lost over 100 pounds and reversed Type II diabetes by going vegan. Finally, it’s a way to step out of the animal agriculture cycle, which is causing a vast amount of harm to our planet.”