We Love Vegan: Part 3, Question and Answer Session

Photo courtesy of
‘mini peppers’
courtesy of ‘ekelly80′

So talk more about your decision to be vegan – aside from curiosity, why did you do this?
Katie: I recently read The Kind Diet and have been interested in veganism ever since. After The Kind Diet, I read Clean Food, a vegan cookbook that doesn’t make a big deal about being vegan, but focuses more on eating locally and seasonally. After those two, I was convinced I needed to try it, and thought eating this way was something easier done being held accountable by a) Ashley and b) you, our readers. I’d totally do it again, and if I wasn’t a food writer whose career depends on eating meat and dairy, I’d probably take Silverstone’s challenge of going for a month or two and seeing how it felt.
Ashley: I have always been interested in juice fasts, more specifically in the people who are willing to put themselves through that, but I knew that would never happen for me. I thought of trying veganism for a little bit as a way to see if the high of clean eating really exists, as a lot of juice fasters have explained it to me, without quitting solid food altogether.

How did you choose the restaurants?
Katie: Between the two of us, we have eaten our way through most of this city, I’d say. It’s becoming a much more friendly place for vegetarian, and I wanted to see how that translated into vegans. So much vegetarian cooking is based in butter and cheese! So I was ready to see chefs take it one step farther. Our first instinct was to go gangbusters on a classic DC places and just show up and demand vegan food, but we thought more about that, and felt like it was pretty unrealistic, since most vegans are more careful. It’s not only courteous to the restaurant to tell them ahead of time that you’re showing up as a vegan, but it also guarantees you a better quality meal when they’ve had some time to think about what to cook you. It’s not all Top Chef all the time. We decided it was best to eat like a typical vegan might.
Ashley: I did a lot of research on the Internet, and really would have been lost without VegDC. It was important to me to eat in restaurants that highlight veganism, instead of places where we would have to order a side salad and an extra large ice tea and nothing else as our dinner. We also wanted to make sure to eat in restaurants across the financial board since it’s important to have options when it’s a special occasion (The Source), or when you don’t feel like showering before dinner (Galaxy Hut).
Photo courtesy of
‘how ’bout THEM apples?’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

What was the best thing you ate?
Ashley: The Pad Thai at Nage. I never liked pad Thai or vegan food as much as I did in this dish. A close second was the Mock Chicken Szechuan at Sticky Rice, it was the only mock meat I ate all week that was moderately good, and this was actually quite delicious.
Katie: The Hot Pot at The Source. It was seriously delicious, I grabbed the big serving spoon and started eating it out of the pot as soon as Ashley said she was done with it. Drewno’s green beans were also fantastic, I was a totally happy camper that night. I also really liked Nage’s Pad Thai, but Ashley said it first.

What was the worst thing you ate?
Ashley
: The chocolate cheesecake at Cafe Green. I’m sorry vegans, but there are just some things you’ll have to live without. I actually don’t understand what ingredient made the cheesecake so grainy, but I’m sure I don’t want to know. Equally terrible was the BBQ seitan sandwich at Galaxy Hut, which to me tasted like chewed up gum covered in barbecue sauce. Yum!
Katie
: OMG the veggie chili dog at Galaxy Hut. It’s texture was terrible, and it was super blah. I didn’t so much like the cheesecake at Cafe Green either, but I’d take it over that hot dog any day.

What food did you miss the most?
Ashley: My standard breakfast is a turkey, egg and cheese sandwich, which is decidedly not vegan. I really missed that more than anything, and pretty much all foods with melted cheese on them.
Katie: It had to be cheese. I wanted cheese on top of my taco salad, I wanted it in my dressing, I wanted it on my pizza. I just really missed it!

Photo courtesy of
‘an organic presidency’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

What foods will you still eat even now that you’re not vegan?
Ashley: Falafel. I forgot how much I loved falafel until I ate it so much this week. And Amsterdam Falafel is cheap, healthy and really really delicious, and I appreciate it so much more during the day instead of in the wee hours when I end up wearing most of my meal instead of eating it.
Katie: Tofu is already a part of my regular diet, and this cemented it’s place there. I didn’t feel like I stretched myself out of my comfort zone of eating, particularly, since I already eat pretty veg-friendly, but I think I’ll make more of an effort to go vegan more often than just vegetarian.

Any physical effects from Vegan Week?
Ashley: Going vegan cold (mock) turkey was a real shock to my system, but I didn’t really notice it until the fourth and fifth day. I was tired, a little unsettled and had a terrible headache. Before that though, I felt great. It was a nice feeling to eat a big meal and not feel like I was going to explode at the end.
Katie: I felt much much lighter. Even after seven courses of vegan at The Source I was full, but not stuffed, which was a nice change. The night after my chickfila breakfast and the Galaxy Hut hot dog, I felt really gross to my stomach, and I have no idea what combination of things made me feel that way, but lying in bed that night I regretted it all.

Photo courtesy of
‘tomatoes & beans’
courtesy of ‘ekelly80′

What did you get tired of eating?
Ashley: If I ever see another tofu scramble, it’ll be too soon. Wrap it in a burrito, put it on a bagel, it’s all the same. And it is all not good.
Katie: We saw a lot of beets. I’d maybe go lighter on the beet dishes.

Did you have any slip-ups?
Ashley: I did eat a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios one morning before I realized that honey isn’t in a lot of vegans diets. The Internet is still debating whether I broke the vegan commandments on that one, but I still feel guilty about it.
Katie: See the a-forementioned Chick-fil-a slip up.

Would you do it again?
Katie: Yup, probably, for a while. I was thinking about doing a week per month, or something.
Ashley: Probably…not. It was great to see what veganism was like for a week, and I’m honestly proud of myself for getting it done without murdering my friends when they would eat grilled cheese in front of me, but I think it will probably just be a fond memory from now on.

Ashley Messick

Ashley is a born and bred Washingtonian who left for college but came running back to the District as fast as her little legs could carry her. By day she is a Capitol Hill brat, but by night she is a lean, mean, eating machine. It’s her goal in life to steal Anthony Bourdain’s job…by whatever means necessary. Contact her at Ashley (at) welovedc (dot) com or follow her on Twitter.

7 thoughts on “We Love Vegan: Part 3, Question and Answer Session

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention We Love Vegan: Part 3, Question and Answer Session » We Love DC -- Topsy.com

  2. I enjoyed reading of your vegan experiment and hope you continue to enjoy more cruelty-free eating. I have to agree that Cafe Green is a disappointment; Washington, DC, desperately needs a truly good upscale vegan restaurant.

    For excellent vegan desserts, try Sticky Fingers in Columbia Heights, or order dessert at Toscana Grill in Arlington. Their desserts are from Bethlehem, PA-based Vegan Treats, and they are unbelievably good.

  3. Wow. Prime example of vegan: doing it wrong. This seemed like a half-hearted attempt at trying something new, I only wish more people had the guts to make bigger changes and in more impactful ways, these posts really do no service to the vegan lifestyle. going vegan for 5 days, one of whom ate chickfila hardly sounds like a real attempt to get out of the comfort zone, and one really wont see all the amazing benefits from such a short, little exercise. Try doing more research, talking with more vegans and vegetarians about their experiences, cook your own food with new recipes or veganized favorites, and imbibe the experience with adventure, creativity, self-reflection, and excitement. And try for 3 weeks, not three days. And don’t look to Cafe Green for a vegan dessert.

  4. It’s not that I disagree that a more complete test of veganism would involve cooking one’s own meals, but surely there MUST be vegans who aren’t especially good cooks, or who have demanding jobs that keep them out of their kitchens most nights per week, or who just don’t want to be bothered with it because they live alone and cooking for one is less engaging.

    And I’m sure there ARE plenty of non-vegans who would otherwise consider making that choice except for the fact that they fit into one of those categories and think that being a vegan means you have to make everything yourself because vegan takeout is hard to come by and they just don’t want to spend a lot of time soaking beans or learning how to cook seitan or figuring out how to make tofu taste like something. (Not hatin’ on tofu, which I happily eat, just saying it requires a little technique.)

    In other words, I’m sure would-be vegans don’t cook at approximately the same rate as the rest of the population and might appreciate knowing that it’s actually not that hard to feed yourself even if you can’t boil water.

  5. There used to be a really great, nicer place called Vegetate, but it closed at the end of 2009. Supposedly, they were going to reopen when they found a more hospitable place (weird, complicated story of people in the neighborhood harassing them, as I recall) but I guess that has not worked out.

    I was living in San Francisco at the time, so I was spoiled by places like Millennium which is one of my favorite restaurants of the world now for being totally elegant, delicious, and giving me the rare chance to order anything, including the tasting menu, without hesitation or instructions to the server.

    I agree that DC is definitely over-due for something like that. Sigh.

    However, I personally find that most upscale “omnivore” restaurants I want to go to will feed my vegan companions and I. If they do not – or if it is just a bland steamed veggie plate, etc – it just is not a place worth anybody going.

  6. @Brittany: But even Vegetate had issues with food quality; when they were good, they were really, really good, but when they were off, it was just appalling. I will say they almost always did dessert right, something few places in the DC area do.

    And don’t get me started on the raw “tart” I once ordered at Cafe Green. I don’t know what it was, but I wouldn’t call it a tart.

  7. I enjoyed reading about your experiment– I had no idea there were so many vegan-friendly restaurants in DC! At first I was disappointed that you weren’t cooking your own food, but I quickly realized it was more interesting to see you scavenge up vegan fare at local eateries. Vegan cooking’s so easy that it would have made for a boring series, had you gone that route.