Last week I wrote about my first meal at Cafe of Love. Yesterday I was a guest on The Starter Vegan podcast and stated in the interview that there is “no such thing as a perfect vegan.” These two things come together today.
I had to make a correction to last week’s Cafe of Love review. The Wild Mushroom Burger is not vegan; it is made with egg and Parmesan cheese. The avocado mousse on the gazpacho? Not vegan.
Where did I go wrong? I know brioche is made with egg so I specifically asked for a vegan alternative for the bun. But I assumed the burger was vegan. Avocado mousse sounds oh-so-vegan that I assumed it to be so. That’s where I went wrong. I assumed. I broke the vegan dining-out cardinal rule and didn’t ask how the avocado mousse was made. A friend told me to try the veggie burger at Cafe of Love; she knows I am vegan. I made an assumption that she knows what vegan means.
No more assumptions!
But, to clarify, here’s what eating vegan means for me – no animal products, at all. That includes eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk (any dairy); I even try to avoid honey. Some vegans believe that vegan food isn’t just about what you put in your mouth. For instance, though palm oil is vegan, the production of palm oil is displacing orangutans, which can lead to their demise. Many vegans would therefore say that palm oil is decidedly not vegan. There are also vegans who take it beyond the plate and choose not to wear animal by-products – leather, wool, silk, etc. – and refuse to use beauty or household products that contain animal by-products or were tested on animals.
Back to my plate at Cafe of Love. Did the world come to an end when I discovered that I had eaten eggs and Parmesan cheese? No. Did I feel disappointed in myself when I learned that the avocado mousse contained cream? Absolutely. Do I have a strategy in place for the next time? Yes. (Ask, ask, ask!) Do I think I’ll make a mistake again? Yep. I work with clients transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and I constantly remind them that no one is perfect and simply encourage them to do the best they can and learn along the way. I am proof that even after ten years vegetarian and two and a half years vegan, there are still mistakes to be made and I am learning along the way.
In the meantime, Leslie Lampert, owner of Cafe of Love, graciously agreed to talk me through her menu to determine which items are viable plant-based options for vegans. On the current summer menu these options include
- Corn Chowder with Poblano Pesto (Yes, the pesto is vegan!)
- Gazpacho (Hold the avocado mousse.)
- Butter Lettuce and Raspberry Salad
- Heirloom Beet Salad (Hold the goat cheese.)
- Sides for the table: Sautéed Beet Greens, Ratatouille, and these incredible Truffled Chickpeas
Most salads can be made vegan by request (and be sure to inquire as to which dressings are vegan, as well). Leslie suggested that plant-based diners ask about any of the sides dishes served with entrees on the menu because the chef is happy to accommodate special requests and make a special plate. As we were talking through those options she described this possible plate:
A fresh baked potato topped with ratatouille and served with sautéed beet greens and white bean compote.
I told Leslie to expect me back soon, for that exact meal! Because all you have to do is ask.
I Eat Plants columnist JL Fields is a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator. She shares plant-based education, recipes and cooking techniques, as well as animal rights information and resources, on the popular blog JL goes Vegan. Her original recipes have been featured on Foodbuzz, BlogHer and Meatless Monday. She is the editor of the community blog Stop Chasing Skinny. JL is the founder and lead consultant for JL Fields Consulting and serves on the board of directors of Our Hen House. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.