Sunday, July 26, 2015

Clearly Veg Website


I recently received an email from someone named Scott who lives in Seattle and is interested in spreading the word about a site that he started for vegans and vegetarians. 

It is called Clearly Veg, and as he explained to me, the hope is that it will become a sort of community site where people can add recipes, business listings, restaurant reviews, or participate in forums.  

I thanked Scott for reaching out to me and told him I would help him spread the word about this new resource, so the subject of today’s post is his site—check it out and let me know what you think! 

And, just a reminder, if you haven’t already submitted your preference for the date/time of the upcoming potluck, please do so. I plan on having the details for that event firmed up by next weekend. Looking forward to seeing you guys again soon! 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sophie's Kitchen Vegan Seafood is @Safeway!

Bellingham's vegan-friendly Safeway: 1275 E. Sunset
If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you may already be aware of how much I love Sophie's Kitchen vegan seafood, particularly  the shrimp and the crab cakes. I was really bummed when The Market on Lakeway closed for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons was because The Market was the only place in town where you could find Sophie's products.


I have made requests for other stores in town (including the Co op, Terra at the Public Market, and Fred Meyer) to start carrying Sophie's, but with no luck. And then suddenly it came to my attention (thanks Kymi!) that Safeway now has Sophie's!!! Which of course meant I had to stop by there soon after I heard this to stock up on my favorite Sophie's products.


While there, I took the opportunity to browse a bit more around the store and I have to say I was also impressed by their good-looking organic veggies section. I was hungry while I shopped and craving lots of veg, so I bought a few bunches of kale, a huge bag of carrots, a couple of artichokes, some avocados, some asparagus, and some yams, all of which I have enjoyed this past weekend. Sometimes I just crave veggies and plain and simple veggie bowls more than anything else!


After I picked out my produce, I wandered around Safeway a bit more and I came across a wealth  other  vegan plant-based meat products, including those made by the popular Gardein, Field Roast, and Beyond Meat companies. In fact, I think it might be safe to say that Safeway may have a larger selection of these kinds of items than other places in town. While its semi-early days and stores frequently change, I am for the time being optimistic about the apparent vegan-friendliness of Safeway, and I know for sure I will shop there now!


Again, it was thanks to a heads-up from another local vegan that I learned about what Safeway has to offer, so today's post is me sharing that update with you. Thanks to all of you who send me tips and updates about restaurants, food, and stores in and around Bellingham--I appreciate the heads-up more than you know!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Planning a Vegan Potluck for August 2015


This photo is of my new favorite T-shirt. I love it so much, I wanted to give the people who made it a shout-out online. If you want one of these, go to Bellingham Frameworks 1421 Cornwall Ave and tell them hi for me!  


Vegan Potluck Coming Soon  to a Bellingham Park Near You!


I can't believe how quickly the summer is flying by.  I am determined to help coordinate another vegan get together for all of us before the summer ends, but I am afraid if I don't get it on my calendar soon it won't happen!

So.. I picked a couple of Saturdays in August that work for me and I am hoping they work for you too. If you go to this link, there's another Doodle poll waiting for your input. Your responses will help me know which date and time works best, so thanks in advance for participating. And please feel free to share and spread the news!  More details on this coming soon...

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Being Vegan in Bellingham & Aslan Brewing Company

One of the questions most frequently asked of me is what made me decide to start this blog? I usually explain that when I began writing, I hoped to create the kind of resource that I was always looking for myself—something that could serve as a guide to help people discover vegan-friendly restaurants and businesses in Bellingham. Luckily for me, it has since turned into so much more, helping me connect with a community and network of amazing people I never would have known otherwise!

 I wrote my very first post in July 2008 in which I mentioned the difficulty vegans sometimes faced going out to eat in a predominantly non-vegan world.

 “Although we vegans are a minority, we all have families and friends who we socialize with, and going out to eat as a vegan in a non-vegan world can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. My experience has been, however, that most restaurants have employees/owners/chefs who are willing to help and will be very accommodating. Most people realize that although there may only be one vegan in a group, that vegan does come with a group of non-vegans, so we do bring business with us wherever we go. The more vegan-friendly a place is, the more business they will get from me and the people that come with me, which means by being vegan-friendly, they are also increasing their profits.” 

Vegan Surprises: Modified to be Vegan Cauliflower Wedge from Temple Bar with special cilantro sauce
 In many ways, highlighting a vegan-friendly restaurant is a win-win. If a restaurant starts getting more business because they are receiving recognition for being vegan-friendly, then hopefully they will continue to be vegan-friendly. Which then, in turn, gives us more choices of where we can go and what we can eat. So my endorsement of a vegan-friendly place is a way of thanking and recognizing the business for the positive results of their efforts, and my way of encouraging them to keep up the good work! And then once I share my experiences and thoughts with all of you, hopefully that helps you make informed decisions about where to go and what options are available to you. This in turn creates a system where you can share great tips with me that I wouldn’t otherwise know about, which I can explore and then share once again with all of you, etc. etc.

Surprise Vegan Option @The Local:  Pickled Veggies 
 When I go to a restaurant with friends with the expectation of having a drink and not necessarily finding anything to eat, I am pleasantly surprised when that restaurant agrees to modify a dish from the menu and make it vegan for me. I am always heartened when I stumble upon restaurants that don’t claim to be vegan-friendly but will actually make me something vegan when I ask.

However, when a restaurant markets, advertises, and promotes itself as being vegan-friendly, I do hold them to a somewhat higher standard. I am more likely to suggest to my friends and family that we patronize the openly-vegan-friendly business than the one where I may or may not be happily surprised.

 If a restaurant specifically highlights that it has vegan options, then it naturally attracts clientele based on that claim. Which means there is an expectation that they will have vegan options, and that their servers and waitstaff will be aware of those options. If on the restaurant’s website it states: “Nearly all of our vegetarian menu items  can be made vegan,” then there is an expectation that more than just one or two out of the eight vegetarian items listed on the menu can be modified to be vegan. Likewise, if a restaurant seeks me out, invites me to come and check out their vegan options, shares their aspirations and good intentions with me and impresses me so much that I publicly endorse that restaurant as being vegan-friendly, I feel like I have a certain responsibility to provide as much information as possible about that same restaurant if things change.


I am sharing all of this with you now to hopefully frame the context for this post, which is primarily about Aslan Brewing Company. Last summer I was invited to Aslan and had a really enjoyable visit with Paul Arsenault, who at that time was a head chef at Aslan. He really impressed me with both his food and his cooking philosophy. Paul was also the creator of that amazing curry that so many of us loved that is no longer on the menu.

Paul/Aslan's Vegan Curry - (no longer available & greatly missed!) 
As many of you already know, I recently heard from a number of people who were disappointed because it seemed like Aslan was becoming less vegan-friendly. Several of their favorite dishes were either gone or no longer available as vegan. You may have also seen the comments that owner Jack Lamb left on the post about my decision to move the meetup from Aslan to Soy House. I thought it was really great that in these comments Jack expressed his desire to have more vegan options at Aslan, and I know that so many of us are appreciative and supportive of that desire. I hope that Aslan does increase their vegan (or vegan-izeable) options and that some day we can have a meetup there. Since July seems to be the month where changes should be happening, we can definitely continue to check back and see how things progress.

The menu "key" from an earlier Aslan menu
One thing I also want to share with you, however, is that during the course of all of this, I heard from several readers who had questions about the poutine gravy (that Jack mentioned would be made vegan once again beginning in July). It seems that there is some confusion about whether or not this gravy (when ordered without cheese) was ever actually vegan to begin with, as some people have heard directly from servers and staff on different occasions that the gravy has always contained dairy and butter as its base, meaning it was never actually possible as a vegan option.

Given Jack’s comments on my blog post, I decided to ask him about the contradictory information in the hopes of getting clarification from him in an email. His response is below:

“When we first opened, the gravy was listed as vegetarian, because it was made with traditional roux. After about a couple months or so, I initiated the change to go vegan. Only recently did we revert back to vegetarian. We were receiving concerns about its consistency and overall quality--its appearance and taste seemed to change every day. Our kitchen shared their concerns with the way in which we were making gravy, since it was kind of a frankenstein `roux` that was hard to control compared to traditional methods. I then made the decision to try vegetarian again, which has solved our consistency problem, but now raises issues with vegans...it’s hard to please every one. When it comes down to it, I cannot justify offering a subpar tasting product for the good of having a vegan item. I hope you understand and value that kind of mindset. However, we are back at it, and are going to try another method to preserve its vegan status.”

According to this email from Jack, there is no question about this gravy having once been made vegan. In fact, it was he who initiated the change from the vegetarian recipe to a vegan version, and the only reason it ever went away is because of the inconsistent quality of the“frankenstein” roux. While I happen to think making a vegan roux is pretty simple, I do understand others might struggle with this. And as a vegan who enjoys delicious food, I also have no desire to eat a sub-par-tasting item--(we vegans have had our fair share of sub-par tasting items when dining out in a predominantly non-vegan world!).

In my response to Jack, I let him know I was concerned that there was still some conflicting communication about the ingredients in the gravy that he might want to look into. I also emphasized the importance of letting his customers know when/if the key ingredients in an item changes, especially if it can no longer be made to satisfy a certain dietary need or suddenly contains common allergens. His response was as follows:

“As for communication issues, I fully agree how key that is. Every server is given a ‘Food Bible’, which lays out every dish, ingredient by ingredient, and clearly identifies GF, Vegan, Veggie, nuts, other allergies, etc. They are quizzed and expected to know what goes into every dish. This shows yet again the difficulties of restaurant operations, because as a manager, you can do all you can to prepare your staff, but at the end of the day, it is up to that staff member to remember and respond correctly in the heat of a rush.”

I understand mistakes happen. Mistakes happen all the time, in restaurants, in my everyday life--I get that. Everyone makes mistakes, as the saying goes. But I am not talking about a mistake that may happen “in the heat of a rush.” The thing is, for those of us with food allergies or “special” diets (meaning diets that differ from the standard American omnivorous diet), we are not only dining on the food we order when we go out to eat, we are dining on the trust and integrity of the business we are patronizing.

And so to those of you who were told by representatives of Aslan on repeated occasions, (be they employees, waitstaff, chefs, or owners) that the gravy has always contained butter and dairy-based ingredients, even though you had also been told on repeated occasions that the gravy could be made vegan, I understand if you still have some confusion and concerns. And I wish I could completely and with assurance allay any doubts you may have. But I am afraid I can't. All I can do is share with you the information I have.

In closing, I know from recent conversations that despite this confusion, there are a considerable number of us who want to believe in a vegan-friendly world where honesty and integrity are incorporated into everyday business practices. We want to do whatever we can to support the cultivation of such a world in the hopes that our trust is not misplaced, and so we are really looking forward to Aslan’s new menu and to trying out new vegan options. (And Jack, if you happen to read this and have actually made it through to the end of this very long post, I hope you will continue to communicate with me and keep me updated on new developments.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Thanks for the Meetup @Soy House!


You can probably tell by my smiling face that this past Friday's vegan meetup at Soy House made me really happy! It was so enjoyable and fun and I wanted to be sure and say a special thank you to Tony who has always been so welcoming, kind, and vegan-friendly from the very first moment I ever walked through the Soy House doors out on Bakerview so many years ago. Also, thanks to our wonderful server and to everyone at the Soy House who hosted us so graciously. And of course, I need to thank the Soy House one more time for having so many fantastic and delicious vegan options!


I always get a kick out of watching vegans order at Soy House--while I consider Bellingham to be pretty vegan-friendly, having so many vegan options at one restaurant is a little unusual, so it can be a bit of a struggle to decide what to get. I should say, however, we are quite appreciative of this particular struggle!


My next thank you goes out to all of you who came to the meetup. I can't tell you how great it was to get to hang out with such awesome, wonderful, fun people. The evening flew by and I feel like we could have all talked for hours and hours!


Sharing delicious food over stimulating and entertaining conversation is definitely one of my most favorite things. Thanks also for inspiring me to plan a picnic potluck in the park this summer. I am excited about this idea and hope to have more details coming very soon.


And last but most certainly not least, a HUGE thank you also goes out to the very talented AJ Barse who captured the evening with his fantastic photos. Thank you  AJ for generously sharing your gifts with us and creating such lovely images for us to have as souvenirs of  this special and memorable evening.


Another thing this meetup did was remind me once again how very fortunate I am to be a vegan in Bellingham, and that is largely because of all of YOU. Thanks for all you share with me and the many ways you help create this wonderful community that we inhabit together.


For those of you who wanted to come but couldn't make it, never fear! Luckily, Soy House always has fabulous food for you to eat without having to make any special arrangements in advance. Just let them know you are vegan and they will take care of you! 


And, as far as missing out on a chance to meet up with some other local vegans and vegan-friendly people, I promise you will have another chance to get together with everyone very soon. I am looking forward to it!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reminder about Next Friday's Meetup @Soy House!


This week's post is essentially a reminder about the meetup this coming Friday, June 26th. We are also fortunate to be joined by the awesome AJ Barse and his beautiful wife, both of whom are huge Soy House fans. And while they are not vegan themselves, they are very vegan-friendly and also happen to love good food, so you can see we have much in common with them already!

In case you did not know, AJ is an incredibly talented photographer who lives here in Bellingham, and he and I have talked about collaborating on some sort of social media communication project for awhile now. This meetup presents us with the perfect opportunity for such a collaboration that also involves you guys, (if you are willing of course!). I can't tell you how much I love exploring the fluidity and intersections between connections made in the physical day-to-day world and the "virtual" online world. So many ways for all of us to connect now, both in person and online over shared interests, good food, artistic expression, and love of community.

Also, just as an aside, I plan on writing another follow-up post about Aslan in light of some things I have recently learned since my initial decision to cancel / postpone organizing a vegan meetup there--would love to share some insights with you guys in person and get your perspectives as well. I am sure we will find plenty to talk about as together we enjoy delicious food from the Soy House.  As always, please don't hesitate to email me (veganinbellingham@gmail.com) if you have any questions. Looking forward to seeing you Friday!