Friday, December 26, 2008

Raw Food In St. Pete.

photo from the St. Petersburg Times

Leafy Greens Cafe is a raw food and vegan establishment in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.

My friend Gina alerted me several weeks before my annual sojourn to St. Petersburg, Florida that a raw food restaurant had opened its doors in the downtown area.

"I don't buy it," was my response. 

St. Petersburg, deep in the heart of Florida, is not known for its celebration of healthy living. We Southerners tend to like things dead, deep-fried, gutted, battered, glazed, hickory smoked, filleted, corpuscular, and bloody. 

"It's true!" she exclaimed. "And it's fucking good!" she added excitedly. She had been down to visit her father recently, and had eaten at the restaurant every day, at least once a day. 

Now, Gina, a friend I've had since the early '90s, is one of the few people I know who shares my absolute affinity for trying the most esoteric, bizarre, costly, time-consuming, or downright perverted forms of veganism. 

She was famous back in the day for her homemade rejuvelac and her multiple jars of sprouts and nut pastes and butters, all of which she would consume happily while emitting random "mmm-MMM!"s and "God DAMN, this shit is good!"s. 

At the time, I found her raw food penchant to be a bit too strange - I was relatively new to vegetarianism and had not yet teetered over into complete and utter veganism. 

Oh, I tried vegan foods, but back then - when something said "Vegan" on it - it was pretty much guaranteed to taste either like composted coffee grounds or unwiped ass. Things have improved markedly over the past decade-plus, and now a vegan can eat things that taste absolutely amazing without putting too much effort into it. 

Over the years, I realized that veganism was for me, not just to help animals (though that was the primary reason leading to my decision), but people and the environment as well. Finally, I decided to try raw food, first at Cru in Los Angeles, then at my old New York standby joints - Westerly and Lifethyme - and finally, at Jill's in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Gina had come to visit, and she wanted to try Jill's. We went there, and we tried each and every one of those God Damn desserts, sounding like hogs at a trough, yodeling out from time to time with joy - "Oh my god, this is so FUCKING GOOD!" and "Jesus, can you believe this shit is raw?!?"

But all of that is really beside the point. You expect to find weirdo shit like that in New York and Los Angeles. 

We're talking about St. Petersburg, the home of Ted Peters Smoked Fish House and more Bob Evans than you can count. We're talking about a town that prides itself on its many BBQ restaurants that use pigs in aprons and chef's hats as their mascots. 

She and I made plans in advance to go to Leafy Greens Cafe (at 409 Central Avenue) when I got home. Nestled in the downtown area next to the old Kress Department Store and in the space where the old McCrory's was (I got some Urkel-O's cereal in that McCrory's in 1994... gross), this place was about as unassuming as a place can possibly be. I was very excited. 

The owner, who came over and talked to us while we were waiting for our food, had an interesting story regarding her raw food choice:
As a Raw Foodist (that’s what we are called), I am living proof that eating a vegan diet does wondrous things to a person’s health. 

In early 2007, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus, which is a degenerative immune system disease. I was told that, without treatment, I could die in five years. 

This is a genuine wake-up call for anyone! I began a raw food diet the next day. I bought a small cookbook but found that the recipes were horrible—the food was pureed in a blender and had no flavor or texture. My husband, Doug, and I almost gave up but because of my health (and because I had purchased a week of food for the raw food venture), we decided to purchase another cookbook that was highly recommended online (“RAW the uncook book” by Juliano.

After one meal we were hooked! The food was wholesome and amazing! In four months, my blood was totally transformed and the doctor released me saying that he could find no sign of any illness! 

After my amazing experience, I decided that I had an obligation to introduce as many people as possible to the delicious vegan food we love and tell anyone who is willing to listen about my near-miraculous healing!
She was a lovely woman, clearly very passionate about her food and lifestyle choice. 

I ordered: 

  • mango soup - "This is my daughter Joanne's invention! Mango, coconut, lemon, and a bit of nut milk pureed and topped with chunks of mango and shredded coconut. Delish! Eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner!"

  • The Real Deal - "The first time I had this onion bread was at the Grass Root, a raw and vegan organic restaurant in Tampa. I was blown away! Our sandwich is served on our delicious homemade raw onion bread and stuffed with raw cashew hummus, chopped lettuce, guacamole, sprouts, and halved grape tomatoes."

  • I also had a raw chocolate, peanut butter and banana smoothie. 

    Now, to say that this food was delicious is not doing it justice. It was just plain amazing. That raw onion bread - however the hell she made it - will haunt my dreams until the day I die. It was oh so good.

    So good, in fact, that I went back the next day and ordered the same thing (I tend to do that - I know I'd be a better reviewer of hippie establishments if I'd sample their supply, but I can't help it. I loved that onion bread and I wanted it again, god damn it). 

    Gina and I took a confirmed non-vegan, meat-eating friend of ours there. He got the "Not-tuna sandwich" and he exclaimed that it was completely delicious. 

    Gina, on an "all-fruit" binge for the day, decided to have the "Banana Blast" - "This absolutely delectable dish is made from bananas, chopped nuts and pure vanilla bean and topped with berry sauce garnished with fresh fruits and homemade chocolate shavings! WOW!" Wow is right... I tried that motherfucker and wished I had ordered my own!

    Basically, what I'm trying to say is two things - 1) I am baffled, proud and amazed that my hometown has gotten progressive enough that raw food restaurants can thrive in it, and 2) I am glad that this particular raw food restaurant serves really good, dazzlingly delicious food. 

    Go there and try it! You'll be very happy you did.

    (Read a full review of Leafy Greens from the St. Petersburg Times here)

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Home for the Holidays.

    I'm not known for my patience, or for my tact. So how can it be possible for me to convey to my egregiously ignorant family the ins and outs of WHY I became vegan in the first place? Though they tolerate my behavior (and in some cases actually go out of their way to accommodate it) they in no way pretend to understand or care why I'm doing it. 

    Comments like, "I just wish you'd eat dairy and eggs. It would be so much easier," and "Vegetarian's fine - but why vegan?" come and go on a regular basis. 

    Now, I know my family. And I know that if I were to start to talk to them about crowded, inhumane conditions in factory farms, the fact that these farms are major contributors to Global Warming, the detrimental effects dairy and meat have on the human body, that we are the ONLY SPECIES on the face of the planet that steals other species' baby formula and consumes the nasty, foamy shit as adults, and that little tiny fact that the subjugation of species for our pleasure is just plain wrong - well, they would just tell me to shut up. 

    "I don't want to hear it," my mother has said. Or, "I don't care - when I want a hamburger, god damn it, I'm going to have a hamburger!" Another statement of wisdom. 

    This more baffling exchange happened just yesterday. I was telling my family that tuna are going to be extinct in five years due to gross overfishing and human greed (nice Holiday Talk, I know, but it came up somehow). "But tuna tastes good," my niece said. Now THAT I could handle, because she was just being sassy. But then - THEN - we went to lunch at a primarily vegetarian restaurant and what does my father order? A fucking tuna sandwich. 

    I know they're not doing this crap to be vindictive or horrible and that those who are active in progressive movements must be ready to face many roadblocks toward their goal of success, but shit. If I can't even talk to my family about this without being ridiculed, how the hell am I going to talk to anyone else? 

    People know that Global Warming is barreling down on us and is going to destroy our planet. They talk about it in dire terms. They carry their little post-consumer-waste bags and drag their groceries and other goods around in them. They wear their little green activism t-shirts and buttons and such. But they just won't give up meat and dairy - the single most meaningful and lasting act they could POSSIBLY do in order to save this planet from impending chaos, horror and doom. Saying it on a t-shirt doesn't do a DAMN thing if you don't follow it up with action.

    Then there's also the fact the grain we grow to feed our livestock in factory farms could solve the world hunger crisis many times over. But we don't care, damn it. We want those Steak-ums!

    Why is it so ingrained in our heads that eating meat is acceptable? I can guarantee that if 3/4 of the people who blithely cram hot dogs and ham and beef stick and hoagies and pepperoni down their throats were confronted with the gruesome reality of the meat industry, they would swear off meat immediately (just a little example - did you know that factory farm cows, vegetarians by nature, are forced to consume "enriched" grain that has been "enriched" with the guts of other animals, including cows?). 

    My resolution will be to gently, kindly figure a way to talk to people about why eating meat is destroying the earth. Will I be able to do it? History says "no." But I have to try.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    The True Face of Fur.

    Here is what people who wear fur REALLY look like:

    Animals' skins weren't meant for people to wear. It turns out most people - even those who defy logic and actually parade around in these garish shrouds of death, decay and suffering - know that.

    I have an anti-fur button on my backpack from a Friends of Animals anti-fur event at the Jivamukti Yoga School in Manhattan.

    Now, given the increasing number of shameless cunts who have decided that fur is okey-dokey, I've kept this button on my backpack as a less aggressive form of protest than, say, dumping paint on them (though I have to admit that would be much more satisfying). 

    Miraculously, I have seen many people, after peeking at my little button, attempt to obscure their fur coats, either behind their husbands, behind packages, by folding them inside out, or any other manner of ways that don't work. 

    What does this say to me? It tells me that these selfish twats are fully aware that their coats are ugly, inhumane, horrifying, and the ultimate article of greed. It says to me that they know right from wrong - they just don't care. At least not enough to actually separate themselves from their need to feel socially superior by wearing dead animals.

    Fur as fashion is dead, in more ways than one - making people who cling to this grotesque display of superficiality feel guilty is not only fun, it's just what they deserve.

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    Second Annual Douche Alert - Elizabeth Hurley.

    Should read, "What becomes a SOULLESS WHORE most?"

    I know this isn't news to those of you in The Compassionate Set.  

    But, I didn't know about Elizabeth Hurley's inability to separate monetary paychecks from karmic ones - that is, until I looked at the website for Blackglama.

    It saddens me to see such a seemingly attractive person doing such hideously unattractive things.  It really does. But... I'm going to have to go ahead issue the following statement:

    Elizabeth Hurley is the recipient of the Second Annual Douche Alert Award.  Congratulations, Elizabeth Hurley, for proving to the world that you care more about money than compassion, the environment, and a world free of suffering for ALL living beings.

    You look like an asshole draped in all those little dead animals. No, wait. You don't look like an asshole... you ARE an asshole.

    * * *

    Blackglama's logo is, "What Becomes a Legend Most?"

    Well, shit heads - I can tell you what becomes a heartless pig most, and that's wearing one of your "world's finest natural ranch-raised mink" coats.

    The only things that look good in minks are MINKS. People who feel that it is a-okay to strip these little animals of their fur so they can satiate some ASININE need to increase their status are downright deplorable human beings. They're proving they aren't worth the air they're stealing from the rest of us.

    Fur is an antiquated, barbaric, loathsome, and heinous fashion accessory. Those who continue and approve of its use are guilty not only of murdering countless thousands of animals but also of POLLUTING THE PLANET needlessly. All so some fat cunt can "look good" at the opera.

    Given fur's recent inexplicable and grotesque increase in popularity, it looks like I'm going to have to issue a LOT of these Douche Alerts.

    Get ready, y'all. When the fur comes out of storage, Ye Olde Pompous Vegan gets PISSED THE FUCK OFF.

    Fuck you, Elizabeth Hurley. Fuck you.

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Dirt Candy. Unless You Like Supporting Cretins, Stay Away.

    Dirt Candy. What is it, and why does it sound so thoroughly unappealing?

    Why, it's a vegetarian restaurant in the east village. Its egregiously stupid "trying too hard to be cool" name would be enough to turn anyone off, but there's more - it is owned by, from what I can gather, one of the most unpleasant and adversarial vegetarian chefs on the planet.

    Now, I like supporting vegetarian places, even if they're NOT vegan. They generally have at least one or two things on their menu that will accommodate "weirdoes." However, after reading this self-important and just downright rude shit, I am turned off.

    In several recent interviews, this woman, Amanda Cohen, has made it be known that she thinks most vegetarians are "weird" and that vegetarian restaurants are "terrible" (because, she claims, they don't have "real chefs" - they have people who are into "lifestyles").

    To top it all off, she isn't even a vegetarian. She eats fish. Why not stay true to yourself and open a restaurant that openly and honestly does what you are doing under the guise of "vegetarianism"? Instead of insulting the lifestyles and ideals of the people you're attempting to cater to, why not just serve steak and get it over with?

    Here are some questions and answers from her recent interview in The Feedbag:
    Amanda, what’s the deal with Dirt Candy? What’s the difference between it and other vegetarian restaurants? Is there one?

    Here’s the thing: these are real dishes in a real restaurant. I’m not trying to convince anybody not to eat meat. I want normal diners to come in say, you know what? I’m not missing the meat. I’m using plenty of butter, using plenty of cream. So maybe one night someone can eat without meat; it’s actually very traditional.

    The thing is, though, that vegetarian restaurants are always terrible.

    Always! They’re horrible. Horrible! And you know why? Because they don’t have real cooks. The people who cook there have no culinary background; with this kind of food, you really have to know how to cook. If you don’t, it’s going to be awful. And it is.

    They’re more ideologues than cooks, the same way the people who eat there have philosophical baggage instead of wholesome appetites. So what’s the point? Is it a health thing at Dirt Candy?

    No! Look, there are lots of vegetarians who don’t care about their health. Look at India. It’s partially religious, but mainly, it’s how they grew up. I’m not Indian, but it’s how I like to eat. I just enjoy eating it, and that’s how I cook.
    So if you go to this restaurant, you can learn to be a self-important asshole and get fat at the same time! Let's go!

    That doesn’t sound so bad! So it’s not only weirdos who come in to eat there?

    Unfortunately, I get a lot of weirdos. But we’re not a weird restaurant.

    And from another interview on Gothamist:
    So taking the premise that most vegetarian restaurants are say, making menu choices based on a lifestyle diet instead of being adventurous with food, what is it about Dirt Candy that sets it apart?

    I think there are two differences. One, we do use dairy. Cheese, dairy, eggs, all that. That’s a huge difference. And then, also, I think our food is much more focused. We have a focal point on vegetables. That’s what I’m celebrating here. Other vegetarian restaurants are much more international, all encompassing, all over the place. Their focus is vegetarian food, or I guess I would say vegan food. My focus is vegetables. I get to be a lot more eccentric because I only have this one thing I do; it gives me these parameters to work within. Whereas if I was at another vegetarian restaurant, I could be like, I’m doing some Chinese food, I’m doing Italian food and I can do anything I want with it, and it’s so much broader. It’s almost like the difference between a really good diner and a fish restaurant. The diner probably does do some fish but it’s not going to do it as well as the fish restaurant.
    I know in this time of global warming, when we've discovered that raising animals for meat, dairy and eggs contributes immensely to the destruction of our planet through climate change and grain production, it's whimsical and witty and charming to "make fun of the weirdoes" - but guess what, lady. Like it or not, you're adding to the problem with your fatty butter-and-cream-and-eggs menu. 

    Oh. And then there's that whole cute little issue of farm animals living in horrid conditions and being treated miserably for their entire lives while entitled creeps open quirky little bistros and insult those of us who are trying to do something about it...

    Dirt Candy: this is one weirdo you can count on never, ever showing up at your shame barn of a restaurant.

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Douche Alert...

    It's our first annual Douche Alert, y'all! (They'll probably come way more frequently than that, but "first annual" sounds so fantsy, we just couldn't resist).

    Douche Alert #1 goes to Kid Rock. He's a dipshit, he's ugly, he's stupid, he's a brawler, he's entered Pamela Anderson, and he loves to wear fur.

    How much does he love it?

    Well, to quote an article posted by our friends at Ecorazzi - the Green Gossip Site, "My biggest extravagance is fur coats - I’ve got every kind of animal in my wardrobe."

    What does that tell Ye Old Pompous Vegan about Kid Rock? It tells us that Kid Rock is bereft of moral value, a cum dumpster of selfishness and vanity.

    Kid Cock goes on to state that he wants a "war" with PeTA. Just try it, moron. If you think you'll be able to defeat an organization KNOWN for its psychotic, rabid devotion to animal rights, you're just plain wrong. I don't defend PeTA's often infantile ways, but I'm going to enjoy watching this shit unfold.

    How Pamela Anderson, PeTA spokesperson and vehement animal rights activist, let this braindead douchedrip into her velveteen netherfolds is beyond us here at Ye Olde Pompous Vegan. Perhaps she hadn't tapped into this particular tragic hobby of his at that point.

    Whatever the case, Kid Rock - and those like him who insist on wearing the skins of animals that were raised in horrible conditions, neglected, possibly actively tortured, and then put to a horrible death just so some materialistic, status-seeking assholes could "feel better" about themselves - just plain old needs to fuck off, like his career did years ago.