Written by Amanda
Building on the success of the 2010 Bull City Vegan Challenge and the popularity of the Triangle’s Fiction Kitchen vegan brunch series, where 100+ people lined up rain or shine for veganized biscuits/gravy, eggs benedict, and more, the Bull City Vegan Challenge (BC/VC) is back: for brunch. As with the 2010 challenge, local Durham c hefs will compete this October to create the best brunch, the public dines then votes. At the moment we're lining up some excellent restaurants to participate -- follow news and updates about participating restaurants here: www.facebook.com/bullcityveganchallenge and globalveganchefchallenge.com.
photo by Jennifer Vroom
Triangle Meatless Monday is proud to be co-sponsoring this event along with the Durham Farmer's Market.
Written by Leeanne
Triangle Meatless Monday Restaurant Profile:
Food: Fun and Family
Earlier this month we had the opportunity to sit down with Wendy, the owner of Nosh in Durham, and Sara, a staff member and manager of social media for Nosh. But first, a little history. In the Fall of 2010, Nosh participated in the Bull City Vegan Challenge, a contest in Durham where 10 local chefs competed to come up with creative vegetarian and vegan selections - something that had been noticeably missing in Durham. Nosh really stepped up to the plate - or you could stay to the stove - and was a runner up as a favorite for their delicious vegan pumpkin pancakes with a side of tempeh fakin' bacon.
Ever since, the local meatless community has been urging them to continue carrying vegan dishes - and Triangle Meatless Monday has been in discussions with them as well. We are so pleased that they are now a participating Triangle Meatless Monday restaurant offering a vegan dinner special every night, as well as vegan pancakes every weekend for brunch! Nosh has also generously donated a vegan dinner for 2 for the winner of our Anniversary/Earth Day contest. And without further delay, we bring you Wendy and Sara!
Interview by Rob Beloved, written & condensed by Eleni
TMM: What’s your philosophy around food?
Wendy: I love food…it’s a way for people to have a family outside the family.
TMM: Yes, that’s how it feels at Nosh.
Wendy: Food is a unifier of people and great times. When you think back, some of the best times of your life are memories of meals. I have my best memories of being out with my grandmother. She baked cakes for a living, and I think that’s why I’m in the restaurant business. That was the center of our universe: her house – constant cooking, meals, family, fun. That’s what we do here at Nosh – I try to keep a nice atmosphere, and good food at a good price point, so people can come back every day if they want to. Our staff, we try to treat them well.
Sara: She feeds us good. [Laughter]
Wendy: Yes, they will never starve. They are like an extension of our family. That’s what I think about food – fun and family.
TMM: Explain more how you have applied this philosophy, the intersection of food and family, at Nosh.
Sara: That good frosting, tell them about the carrot cake.
Wendy: It’s my mom’s recipe. Every birthday I’d get a carrot cake. It was her recipe which came from my grandmother. We try to do as much as we can from scratch.
Sara: One of my favorite ways is you include your family and community in the names of sandwiches.
TMM: I notice that you have pictures of animals instead of numbers to match orders to tables…how did that come about?
Wendy: In my grandma’s house we had lots of animals. They lived on a farm. We always had dogs, cats. When you go into business you have to decide what things you are going to support. When we did Nosh we decided to work with the Animal Protection Society (APS). They give you pictures of animals up for adoption. It really works.
Sara: We have actually had customers who have adopted animals, like Westin. They tell us about the animals they adopted.
TMM: Where do you see Nosh in the future?
Wendy: We’re not planning on going anywhere. We’re hopefully going to be here for 20-30 years. We’re working with Duke and going to put a small café in the Cancer Center in December. Duke is part of our big family.
TMM: We feel like, at Nosh, you go out of your way to accommodate all types of food choices and diets.
Wendy: Sara has really been helping us evolve our menu items for vegans. I have been enjoying communicating with more people in the community. I enjoy helping to connect Nosh with that part of our community.
TMM: What has been the response?
Wendy: Great feedback.
TMM: Meat-free diners and vegans are really passionate about food.
Wendy: Yes! I have to say, when we did the [Bull City Vegan Challenge] we met a lot of new people and people who supported us through that competition. That was really a lot of fun. It broadened our horizons in the food world and what people want – we didn’t even know what people wanted, those dietary needs.
Sara: I’ve been trying to expand my own awareness about what people want in vegan cuisine, and I’ve began eating vegan cuisine for 25% of my meals to really understand. It’s just fun. I’m already feeling a big difference.
TMM: Wow, that’s great. Nosh really does listen to their customers!
Sara: I love how important our customers are to us. People are asking about Wendy when she’s not here…it’s a great feeling that the owner is by the stove.
Wendy: People come and say how nice our staff is – Sara is in culinary school, and so welcoming with our customers. That’s the best compliment you can get as owner/manager. Your folks are being taken care of even when you’re not there. We try to attract people I’d like to be waited on in my dining experience.
Sara: We like them to come back.
TMM: I had your vegan blueberry pancakes. They were delicious – I’ll be back.
Written by Leeanne
Triangle Meatless Monday Restaurant Profile:
The Remedy Diner
Interview by Julie, TMM Volunteer
The Remedy Diner is a gem that is located in downtown Raleigh. They have too many meatless and vegan options to list (although I’ll try!) – they include Vegan Buffalo Wings, Tempeh Tantrum, Tempeh Reuben, Tofu Breakfast Burrito, Biscuits and Gravy, BLT, Philly Fake Steak and a “Meat”ball sub. Oh – and did I forget to mention Vegan Chocolate cake, Key Lime pie, Coconut cream pie and Sopapilla cheesecake!?! The Remedy Diner has generously donated a gift certificate for a meatless dinner for 2 and is helping us celebrate our one year anniversary during our Earth Day giveaway! I recently had the opportunity to talk to the General Manager, Carrie Holder.
TMM: What made Remedy decide to offer so many vegan options?
Carrie: I’m a vegetarian and saw a unique opportunity to offer some great vegetarian and vegan options to this area!
TMM: I see that you also offer gluten free options. How did that start?
Carrie: We didn’t start out offering gluten-free options. People kept requesting them, so we saw another opportunity. Both the vegan and gluten free options are clearly marked on our menu, and our staff is very knowledgeable regarding which ingredients are appropriate.
TMM: How has the customer response been to the vegan options?
Carrie: People really love them! They are very excited to see so many options in one place! People often ask for special requests and we listen. We’ve tried several blue plate special dinners in addition to sandwiches.
TMM: Are meat-eating customers typically open to trying the vegan options?
Carrie: Actually, they are! It’s usually a vegetarian or vegan bringing the meat-eater in, so they are open to trying the meatless options. Lots of people come in for lunch and try the vegan options and they usually love them!
TMM: The tempeh tantrum (my personal favorite) made PETA's Top Five Vegan Sandwiches list (http://www.peta.org/features/petas-top-five-vegan-sandwiches.aspx ). That's huge! Has that made the tempeh tantrum your most popular dish? If not, then which one(s) are?
Carrie: It is definitely one of the most popular! The vegan Reuben is also very popular.
TMM: Where do you see your menu going in the future? Do you have any new menu item ideas?
Carrie: We do have new ideas! We’re planning on a new menu very soon. We’re going to be adding some new vegetarian/vegan sandwiches. We’re not planning on eliminating any of the current options because they all seem to be selling really well!
TMM: Looking at your website, it seems that you go to great lengths to source local ingredients. Is that easier to do with so many meatless options?
Carrie: Yes, it is. We get most of our meat substitute products from Delight soy which is made is Morrisville, NC. We also get a lot of ingredients from famers markets.
TMM: Is there anything else that you’d like people to know about?
Carrie: We have vegan alcohol! All of our beer is vegan, with 2 exceptions (Guinness and Stella). We also offer potato based vodka and we’re researching gluten free beer and plan to offer some soon.
After our chat, I stayed for dinner. I hope everyone enjoys the mouthwatering photos of our fried broccoli appetizer, Tempeh Reuben, and Out of Your Gourd dinner! They were scrumptious!
Special thanks to The Remedy Diner for being a TMM participating restaurant that offers so many amazing vegan options, and for donating to our give-away and anniversary celebration! Let’s continue to support this great restaurant! We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the new menu!
Written by Leeanne
Triangle Meatless Monday Restaurant Profile:
Vimala’s Curryblossom Café
Interview by Amanda Newman
Vimala’s Curryblossom Café is located in a quaint courtyard in the heart of Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. It can be hard to find from the street, which makes it feel like a hidden treasure. I have been a patron since the café opened in 2010 and have shared many meals with friends and family and have always wanted to know more about the owner, Vimala Rajendran. She is known in Chapel Hill as a peace activist and for many years before opening the café she provided donation-based meals out of her home. When entering the restaurant the warmth and love can be felt as you are greeted with bright colors, a smiling staff, and the delicious smell of homemade Indian food. Vimala’s offers a wide range of vegan fare including vegetable samosas, pakoras, chole, thali, dal, breads, and several desserts. They also have daily specials.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Vimala after she generously offered to donate a gift certificate for our Triangle Meatless Monday one-year anniversary celebration giveaway. They currently are not open on Mondays, but are an ally to Triangle Meatless Monday. I was lucky enough to catch Vimala for a half hour during a busy lunch day.
TMM: In visiting your restaurant and reading your website, it is obvious that you care a great deal for the community and social justice issues. How did this play into your decision to open a restaurant?
Vimala: We had a hard decision because we wanted to implement our “everybody eats policy”. We needed to price our food reasonably so that paying customers could have easy access. We follow the triple bottom line business. Do you know what that is?
Vimala: In no particular order the principles are: people, planet, and profit. People are those who involved in the growing, selling, and preparing of the food. They need to be fairly compensated and valued. Planet is the thought that we are stewards of this one planet that we have to be to take of it by minimizing solid waste, being sustainable in growing practices, as well as using finite resources carefully, like water and fuel. Profit is that we have to make a profit, which can seem contrary to being fair to the farmers and workers. We are doing well though. It is incredible how well we are doing. We have ongoing business. It proves that the triple bottom line is not a utopian leap. It can be done.
TMM: I have heard that before opening the restaurant you used to cook out of your home for donations. Now that you have a restaurant, how has the response in the community been and do you still have a donation based system?
Vimala: We do. As often as possible, I say to people that if the product is available, it is theirs to have. I make it clear that they can pay what they want and eat. The majority of the people pay full price. This is not just for homeless, for anyone in the community that feels that the cost of the food is beyond their budget. It is for anyone. We are doing this because we live by the basic notion of human rights for all. Wholesome, culturally appropriate food is a right, not a privilege.
TMM: You seem go to great lengths to source local ingredients. Specifically, how does offering meatless options fit into that “local” philosophy?
Vimala: We have had a good year for produce. This past winter, there was produce locally harvested on the menu at all times. We have locally grown lettuce, greens, sweet potatoes, pumpkins. We have a very high percentage of local food in the summer, about 80-85 percent.
TMM: What made you want to be become a Triangle Meatless Monday ally?
Vimala: I grew up in a family with a vegetarian father and this was unusual for an Indian Christian family. Meat was so expensive in India, and we ate it only rarely. We only had it a couple of times a year. Otherwise, we ate vegetarian. The constant presence of vegetarian food became a subject to talk about. Meatless meals are more affordable, are safer sanitation wise, and have a universal acceptability. Like a common language. Along with my families’ principle of moderation, I realized that so many people don’t eat meat for religious reasons. Meatless Monday is a great way to control yourself a bit and apply moderation.
Recently I had an opportunity to cook for a class and I decided to cook only vegan foods. I chose this because of my father. When we had company, he never allowed us to speak a language that everyone didn’t understand. I used the same principle here, I didn’t want to provide food unless everyone could eat it and everyone can eat vegan food.
TMM: You have so many meatless options, were these family recipes?
Vimala: They are family recipes along with my own creative ways of making something. I like to take ingredients that aren’t even in India and make it into an Indian dish. I like to steer clear of fusion though. I just take ingredients that are readily available and use them in Indian cooking.
TMM: How has the customer response been to the meatless options?
Vimala: There has been a great response. We have contemplated opening on Mondays and if we do, it is going to be all meatless. I have gone meatless on Mondays and want to carry that through to the customers. When we cater on Mondays, it is always meatless. We have plans to open on Mondays and want to make it a family style, and ask people to give what they can in a donation. The concept to me is like a community dinner. We need to work out some details, but we are thinking it will be a one plate meal. We are trying it out now with events and the first one will be on Monday, May 9 for a fundraiser.
TMM: What meatless dish would you recommend to someone who is not familiar with Indian cuisine?
Vimala: Dosas. They have has a richness and the flavor of butter, without butter. They contain complete proteins as the batter is made with rice and beans. The same batter is used for the uttapam. I would also recommend those.
TMM: I am vegan and gluten free and I find it refreshing that you have so many options for me on your menu. What made you decide to offer allergen-friendly options?
Vimala: This came from a discovery that I made when I realized that so many people are allergic to gluten. When I thought about it there are so many options in Indian food that are gluten free. I know how to make vegan taste good and it was easy to make that same food gluten free. More and more people come in with Celiac Disease and I see a need to provide for them too.
TMM: Do you have any feedback for Triangle Meatless Monday?
Vimala: I would say that if people in general would explore meatless options, it would minimize the ravages on the planet. It would help the resources, such as the time, money, and resources it takes to raise a cow. I personally cannot take a strong stance not to ever eat meat, because of freedom of choice, but I wish more people would opt for eating vegetarian options. The world would be much better for it.
Being that this is one of my favorite restaurants, I had to stay for lunch. On this particular afternoon I ordered the masala dosa. The only way I know how to describe it is an Indian crepe made from a lentil and rice batter. It was served with a potato mixture on the inside and came with a coconut chutney and a sambar- a lentil-based tomato soup. While I have enjoyed many items on their menu, this is the first time I have had dosas at Vimala’s. The dosa was enormous and appropriately priced at $7. This would have been enough for two people to share and I was able to get two meals out of it. The flavors were rich and “buttery” as Vimala described. Along with my meal, I also enjoyed a glass of freshly brewed hibiscus tea. I left that afternoon feeling good, full, and satisfied!
Thank you so much, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café, for being a Triangle Meatless Monday ally restaurant, for offering veg options (and for thinking that that is important), for caring about others and the planet, for donating to our giveaway, and for taking the time to talk to me. We will definitely continue to support you!