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Spring 2013 - Act•ionLine

by VAL KAYE | Spring 2013

MOVEABLE FEASTS

VEGAN FOOD TRUCKS ARE ON A ROLL

The term “food truck” normally conjures up thoughts of a greasy-spoon diner with wheels: fast, cheap and oily burgers and fries, fat-laden doughnuts covered with sugar, unidentifiable slabs of meat on a dirty grill.

But as more healthful, sustainable and kind living takes hold in the U.S., food trucks are becoming sophisticated.

Vegans have so many diverse and tasty choices. Here, to give you the gist, we sample a few gems.

GMonkey: Fresh from Farm to Street

Chefs Ami Beach and Mark Shadle aren’t monkeying around when it comes to wholesome, delicious food. Their mobile kitchen, Gmonkey, offers vegan comfort food, raw delights and freshly pressed juices — prepared, in large part, from their 100% organic, solar-powered, sustainable farm.

“We were inspired to open a food truck for the simple mission of bringing vegan food into areas deprived of that option,” certified raw chef, nutritionist and cookbook author Ami (pronounced “Ah-Me”) told us.

“Gmonkey came first, and then we opened our restaurant, G-Zen [in Branford, Connecticut]. Never did we expect the impact we’d have on entire communities, farmer’s markets and schools.”

The project involves educating communities about veganism and sustainable living. The restaurant and truck are part of the same “G-Green” sustainable mission: “We have the same amount of garbage a regular house would have,” says Ami.

Both Ami and “G-fans” agree that the hand-cut sweet potato “G-Fries,” ($6.00) which Mark has been making for 20 years, is their most-loved dish. Served with smoked hickory ketchup, they’re described by one devotee as “a religious experience.”

“We are redefining what vegan food looks like and making it sexy and provocative. We make it a sensory experience,” says Ami.

The grilled “G”, ($8.00) made of tapioca cheese on organic hearth bread with caramelized onions and house-made Shadle Farm Pesto, is beyond your typical grilled cheese sandwich. Referring to it as such would be an injustice.

The Feisty Monkey ($7.00) — whole-wheat soba noodles over organic field greens with fresh cilantro and house dressing sprinkled with cashew parmesan — is a surprisingly refreshing combination. The “Award-Winning Raw Fudge Truffles,” made from raw Peruvian cacao and coconut oil and sweetened with blue agave nectar, are sinfully delicious and (almost) guilt-free.

Although closed during the winter, the truck is always open for catering and will return this spring with new items and additional locations. “We keep a set menu, but we have specials every day just like our restaurant,” Ami reassures us. “We‘ll add specials daily depending on what’s available at the farm, and our desserts will be focused more on gluten-free offerings like doughnuts and cupcakes.”

Sighed a long-time “G” devotee: “I wish I could eat there every day.”

To find them, and learn more about their plans to expand throughout Hartford, check Twitter for @gmonkeymobile                                                                                                                            

On Facebook: facebook.com/gmonkeymobile                                                                        

You can also call 860-759-8880 or send an e-mail to: holla@gmonkeymobile.com

The Squeeze: New York City’s Love Affair with Raw Vegan Food

Overworked and over-caffeinated New Yorkers take heed: The raw vegan revolution has arrived and it’s called The Squeeze.

The newest star on the New York City vegan food-truck scene was founded by NYC native Karliin Brooks. The Squeeze Truck — and its mini-me, The Squeeze Juice Cart — caters to a health-conscious crowd, both vegan and non-vegan. (The New York Post recently spotted Colin Farrell “downing juices from New York health-food truck The Squeeze while in town.")

No doughnuts or deep-fried seitan on this truck: only juices, salads, snacks (try the delicious sprouted buckwheat popcorn - $8.99) and desserts you can enjoy without the urge to run around the block 15 times.

The bustling business also offers juice cleanse plans ($59.00 to $79.00 per day) — not for the faint of heart or wallet; but then, it is the only 70% organic pressed juice truck in the country.

The most popular seller in the raw-foods category is the kale and quinoa salad with hazelnut parsley pesto and cranberry. Not a hint of bitterness in the kale; just the right amount of quinoa; a delicate sweetness brought by dried cranberries.

Also delicious is the feather-light strawberry coconut chia seed tapioca ($7.50); or try “The Jeans I Wore in High School” ($8.50): a concoction of orange, grapefruit and lemongrass tasting more like a pricey cocktail you’d have an at an upscale New York City lounge than a juice.

Karliin’s glowing energy and positive disposition — the kind you’d hope to find in someone who lives a healthful, cruelty-free life — shows through: “We are seriously committed to educating people and helping them transition to a pleasurable and sustainable lifestyle as well as saving the lives of animals,” says the founder, who plans to roll into the Hamptons this summer.

Further expansion is likely as word gets out that the vegan life is more than just a diet trend.

To find out more, visit thesqueezejuice.com. And check out their specials and news about current locations or catering on Twitter: @thesqueezetruck or via e-mail: info@thesqueezejuice.com . They also have a Facebook page.

The Vegan Yacht Sets Sail — Texas-Style

As purveyors of good ‘ol Tex-Mex plant-based cuisine, Mike and Danielle Wood are a vegan power couple, both inside and outside of the converted trailer known as The Vegan Yacht. Together, they paint murals and menus on the outside of their Airstream, gather produce by scooter, and prepare and serve the food in generous portions.  

Their vegan version of the Texas classic “Frito Pie” ($7.00) wins rave reviews from Austin visitors and Texas natives alike. And tempeh chili — with roasted corn, kidney beans, tortilla chips and avocado in a grilled tortilla — promises a delightfully crunchy taste explosion and does not disappoint.

The Vegan Yacht also sells beet brownies ($3.00) and organic smoothies ($6.00) such as “Jerome’s Chocolate Banana” (banana, soymilk, cacao and agave) and the “PB&J” (apple juice, peanut butter, peach and blueberry). They make their own seitan, cashew cheese, cashew sour “creem”, chorizos, and salsas to assure they’re organic. 

The Vegan Yacht is currently moored at 1110 East 12 th Street, Austin, Texas 78702 (2 blocks east of I-35). Catch up with them on Facebook page or their website: http://theveganyacht.com . Or call 512-619-7989, or e-mail: lettuceknow@theveganyacht.com

Rockin’ the Vegan Tacos at The Vegan Nom

If you’re in Austin, driving along East North Loop-B, and you spot a little royal-blue truck with “Rockin’ the Tacos” emblazoned across the top, you’ve found the Vegan Nom. Owner Chris Rios has been slinging the tofu scramble at the “Nom” since the truck’s debut last year: “I was born and raised in Austin and breakfast tacos are a big part of Austin's culture. I wanted to preserve that…When you taste my food you get a taste of the real Austin.”

The Vegan Nom won the 2012 winner Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off. And a ll of the Nom’s signature tacos ($3.00 - $4.00) — the Avocado Real, the Bean Diablo, the Vegan Jalisco with its handmade vegan chorizo and slice of lime , the Local Tex-Mex, and the Three Amigos — have their own fan base.

“ We buy as much organic and local ingredients as much as possible,” says Rios. “We avoid GMOs; and our tofu, tortillas and spices are fresh from Austin, Texas.”

Why open a food truck instead of a restaurant?

“A food trailer allows you to be a little more interactive with your customers, and you can serve more people without the high overhead of a restaurant. It also supports Austin’s unique and creative culture.”

The backyard garden is ideal for a cold (BYOB) beer and the Bomb Nachos ($5.00) — corn tortilla chips topped with refried black beans, vegan queso, creamy salsa verde, onions, jalape ños, alfalfa sprouts and cilantro.

Rios hopes to introduce the tacos and homemade sauces into farmers markets, coffeehouses, and food stores, to “change the perception of what vegan food taste like.”

Keep rockin’ the tacos, Chris. We’ll be watching the store shelves for those sauces!

Visit them at 120 East North Loop Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78751. Look them up on Facebook, or send a tweet to @ thevegannom. On the Web: thevegannom.blogspot.com/ . Or call 512-217-7257.

Smokin’ the Good Stuff: Homegrown Smoker Vegan Barbeque

Homegrown Smoker’s Jeff Ridabock, in Portland, Oregon, does not claim to be in the business of serving vegan health food:

“We like to think of ourselves as a comfort food spot more than anything else. I do believe we are the first all-vegan BBQ in the world. We call ourselves Homegrown Smoker Vegan Barbecue, which is true as we source locally as much as possible (Homegrown), smoke our proteins with apple wood (Smoker), and only use plant-based products…We try to keep foods familiar, comfortable and casual. Foods most of us grew up with. We just do so without animal products. It's fun, challenging and delicious!”

In short, the Homegrown Smoker is a genuine vegan counterpart to raunchy, wings-and-fries style dining. Customers hear about how everything is made as lunch is served with their preferred level of sauces and spices. The customer base is intergenerational.

“My kids were my influence on becoming vegan,” Ridabock notes. “I was an animal-protein specialist for a national restaurant supply company for many years. If it came from an animal I knew all about it, how to prepare, serve, cut, and store it…”

Ridabock has now been vegan for four years.

A Connecticut native who migrated west, Ridabock began with coolers, a canopy and folding tables. Today, the “pit boss” and crew (Ridabock’s son Jared helps on weekends, with catering support from daughters Kedall Elise and Clara Matami) have become a Portland legend. The names of the foods are spoofs on the “mock” names vegans use. Big sellers are the Macnocheeto ($7.00), a burrito loaded with their Mac-Nocheese, smoked soy curls and beans; the Loafaroni ($8.00), a smoked Field Roast loaf with maple-bourbon sauce; and Mac-Nocheese ($8.00) on a grilled bun.

Enjoy a filling lunch here and have a feisty conversation about animal rights all at once. Find them at Mississippi Marketplace, at the corner of North Skidmore and Mississippi streets in Portland, just behind the Prost pub. Look for the green cart in the “Vegan Corner” next to Native Bowl. You can also phone 503-277-3823, or find them on Facebook, Twitter (@homegrownsmoker) or their web page: homegrownsmoker.wordpress.com .

VAL KAYE

Act•ionLine Spring 2013

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