In 2014, with the help of many food-loving Philadelphians, after 1000 votes, an online poll and a nail-biting blind tasting event, we named the Best Vegan Cheesesteak in Philly. It was Blackbird Pizzeria.
But is it still? Since that time, Blackbird has changed its recipe - and owner Mark Mebus claims this year's edition is even better. Meanwhile, we saw 23 venues nominated last year, but even that wasn't all the places that offer a meatless, cheeseless version of the iconic Philly sandwich. If you know of one, let them know, as we open the 2nd Annual Daily News / V for Veg Best Vegan Cheesesteak in Philly Contest - not just a fun event, it's a Philadelphia tradition!
This recipe is by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who helms the vegan restaurant Modern Love in Omaha. It first appeared at the Post Punk Kitchen blog. it's also included in Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week
This is for all you fishheads out there. A mix of mushrooms stand in for the clams to create a super satisfying chewiness, while some chopped up nori give this chowder a true taste of the sea. It’s thick and creamy and loaded with the finer things, like potatoes and carrots. Crumble some saltines over the top and you’ll be able to hear the Atlantic ocean lapping at your feet. For authenticity, make sure to serve this while talking like a character from a Stephen King movie.
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
2 cups vegetable broth
4 teaspoons organic cornstarch
Every January, more people, it seems, try vegan eating for at least the month. You know, a trial period: If you find that you don't like those ways, you can send 'em back in 30 days. The concept may be rooted in antiquity, or perhaps only in 1984, but either way it seems to be gathering steam over the past decade.
When I talked to Cory Booker at the beginning of December and asked what was to become of his end-of 2014 "vegan experiment," he said "One of the ideas I'm debating is going one more month, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1, and inviting people to do a one-month experiment with me. Maybe do a video and see if we can get a lot of folks."
If you're curious about trying this, there are several options whether or not you want to check in with Cory Booker. Really, the only hard thing about living vegan is the lack of support in our culture, but more and more institutions are springing up to fill in with that support, giving people time to get their bearings in a new pattern.
Let's face it: Many aspects of air travel are a total drag, and this holiday season may be draggier than ever as passenger volume will be exceedingly high. But one thing we all love to complain about, airport food, is steadily getting better, as illustrated by a new report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
For the 14th year in a row, the group's dietitians surveyed the top 30 busiest U.S. airports and found that 23 of them offer at least one healthful plant-based entrée. They ranked the airports by dividing the number of restaurants with such an entrée by the total number of restaurants at that airport. The 2014 results are awash in Kasem-esque patter about who's moved up or down how many slots since last year, but also with plenty of good info about what the cholesterol-free, fiber-rich options are at each of the contenders.
Philadelphia International Airport had been off the list since 2006 but came back strong, just missing the Top 10 by tying with JFK and O'Hare for the #11 spot. PHL got a score of 78 percent, based on 53 of its 68 restaurants making the grade for healthy plant-based fare. Such as? PCRM gets specific here:
Here are 10 vegan food books worth owning or giving as gifts, all of which were published this year - plus one that can't be counted as vegan but is still worth a look.
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page with photos by Andrew Dornenburg (Little, Brown)
Easily one of the most remarkable food-oriented books to come out this year, it's restricted from the list below on something of a technicality: While overwhelmingly vegan-friendly, this A-Z guide, true to its title, is vegetarian rather than vegan. It's not just semantics - with entries on buttermilk, eggs, cheese (12 pages of entries, plus listings within other entries throughout the book) and the like, it's analogous to a vegetarian cookbook that happens to contain a healthy number of vegan recipes - yes, vegans can skip over the nonvegan bits, but we can do that in an omnivore cookbook too.
That said, any vegans who are interested in better understanding flavors and/or improving their own cooking should check this out: With the help of Dornenburg's sharp-eyed photos, Page walks us through each ingredient's strengths and affinities, making clear why some foods work together better than others and how different foods might be balanced or substituted in different cases with positive results. Additionally, notes from vegan chefs are included, both within the ingredients' entries and in a well-composed, exhaustive introductory section that contextualizes the data to come. Rich Landau and/or Vedge are mentioned several times in specific reference to bringing out vegan flavors. The book succeeds as both educational reference and fascinating recreational reading. All in all, a near-vegan winner that's hard to improve on - yet it still might be, as The Vegan Flavor Bible.
If you're on the hook to go to a "traditional" family Thanksgiving, go right ahead and make of it what you will. But many people, especially oddballs such as vegans, make their own families of like-minded kindred spirits on holidays like Thanksgiving. Here are some places and times you can find good Thanksgiving food that's not dependent on animal exploitation. For any costs, food specifications and other info that may not be listed here, be sure to check with the organizers sooner than later. Some have reservation cutoffs today or tomorrow.* Miss Rachel's Pantry - Vegan Feast
1732 W. Passyunk Ave.
Full meal available for Thanksgiving delivery/pickup on Tuesday, November 25 and Wednesday, November 26.
Maple-glazed seitan roast filled with apple-cranberry bread stuffing
(GF alternate: Maple and sage glazed tempeh-lentil roast with rice stuffing)
Brussels sprouts roasted with carrots, caramelized leeks, kale and parsnips
Yukon gold mashed potatoes
Truffled mushroom-rosemary gravy
Please have order in by Friday, November 21.
Info/orders: 215-798-0053 or email@example.com
* Vegan Commissary - Thanksiving Dinner
1703 S 11th St.
Thurs. 11/20, 7:00 p.m.
VeganCommissary will be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner - 3 courses, $35.00 (tax and service additional). Chefs Matt and Damian have come up with some great side dishes like Sweet Potato Pave with Cherries, Cornbread stuffing with Chestnuts and Apples and Roasted Garlic Mashed potatoes - along with traditional favorites Green Bean Casserole with Mushroom Gravy & fried onions and Mac and Cheese. The meal will be topped off with Meagan's Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream and praline.
* VSSJ Annual Thanksgiving Potluck and Vegan Bake Sale
Sat. 11/22, 4:00 p.m.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
1308 Burlington-Mt Holly Rd (Rte 541)
Burlington, NJ 08016
Music by Robert Price, "Sitarbob", on electric sitar, with Lisa Melian on percussion.
Vegan bake sale benefits The Cow Sanctuary (http://thecowsanctuary.org), Bridgeton, NJ.
Raffle: Proceeds to sponsor turkeys at Farm Sanctuary in the spirit of a meatless Thanksgiving. Prizes include gift certificates donated by Bombay Local Pizza, Voorhees.
Info: firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-848-VEG1 (8341).
* Vegan Spirituality Group of Philadelphia: Annual Vegan Potluck Thanksgiving
Thurs. 11/27, 3:30 - 7:30pm
Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting
20 East Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia (off Germantown Ave.)
Share an evening with like-minded folks and meet some new friends and bring some old ones. RSVPs are required. Please bring a description card of ingredients for those who have food allergies. We are looking for main meals, salads, soups, breads, beverages, desserts --- all vegan, of course. Feel free to share a song, poem, sentiment, or community news. There will definitely be music! Also: Silent auction and raffle. $5 donation requested. Info: 267-847-6553 or 215-834-4140
Philly Vegan Day was two weeks ago, but only now have I had a chance to collect the responses and reports I wanted and put them out in the form of an update.
To recap, World Vegan Day is November 1st every year. This year it was also named Philly Vegan Day by the City of Philadelphia, in a proclamation signed by Mayor Michael Nutter. The proclamation was officially read at a noon ceremony at Essene Market & Cafe, followed by persepctives on vegan living and eating by Freya Dinshah, President of the American Vegan Society; Christina Pirello of "Christina Cooks" and many other vegan-cooking initiatives; and Juliene Featherman of Juju organics, a cruelty-free salon. The event packed Essene's cafe and was very well received, bringing the concept of an animal-free lifestyle down to earth in different ways.
But a large part of the point of Philly Vegan Day is that it could be celebrated by everyone, wherever they happened to be (either physically or on the "path" toward veganism), so there were many other projects and events, a small sample of which I will recap here.
Long story short, you send in your choice for Best Vegan Cheesesteak, plus, if you like, a reason you think it's the best. The first vote each place gets constitutes its nomination, and I will record those and their reasons in full here in updates to this blog post. The 2nd, 3rd, etc. votes just add up for that place, and at midnight on March 11 the top three vote-getters move on to the finals. I will keep the tally up to date as much as possible, but at least every 12 hours.
There are various ways to vote, as the rules specify. You can email me your choice for favorite Vegan Cheesesteak, or you can tweet it with the hashtag #vegancheesesteak, or you can send in the coupon that runs with my V for Veg column, OR you can simply indicate your choice right here, via a comment on this post. It's worth voting, not just because of your sense of civic responsibility, but because one person chosen randomly will win a delicious vegan dinner for two at Sprig & Vine in New Hope.