November must be a difficult time of year for vegetarians and vegans. It seems like everywhere you look there’s a picture of a perfectly roasted Thanksgiving turkey sitting on a holiday table ready to be carved and divvied. As a meat eater, this is fine for me. It gets me thinking about all those holiday birds and dreaming of the smell of a turkey roasting. But for someone who doesn’t eat turkey or is morally opposed to eating animals, it’s a cruel taunt. It’s a difficult time of year to live peacefully with your dietary choices as our society turns roasted-bird crazy. Maybe this is a contributing factor to why November is World Vegan Month. This is certainly a great time to tell those who object to the culture of roasting birds that we see you and respect you.
World Vegan Month is a good time for all of us to learn about and celebrate vegan philosophy. This doesn’t mean we have to throw away our Thanksgiving bird or smear cranberry sauce on grandma’s door as a symbol of the cruel treatment of Tom Turkey. It just means we should be more aware of those practicing veganism in our community. It means taking time to understand more about how veganism opposes animal cruelty and has a positive impact on our community and environment. We can also take a minute to look at the health benefits of a vegan diet. No one is trying to recruit you to give up meat, but for World Vegan Month, we can at least take time to learn and show respect to that lifestyle.
And if we are so inclined, we can opt for some vegan fare throughout the month. Thankfully, we have a lot of great options on Aquidneck Island.
A good place to start is Sprout and Lentil on Aquidneck Avenue. You can find them at the Aquidneck Grower’s Markets too. If you are intimidated by a vegan menu, all you need to know is that great food is great food. And Chef Carmen Foy who founded Sprout and Lentil in 2019 certainly knows great food. Whether it’s the Pulled BBQ Jackfruit roasted with house-made Carolina-style BBQ sauce or their Krabby Cake sandwich (made with hearts of palm and all the classic spices found in a crab cake), you’ll be amazed by the taste and flavors she’s created. Chef Carmen puts her twist on familiar dishes and creates a truly unique menu that aligns with her passion for animal welfare, activism and the environment. Whatever you get there, you can be sure that it will be delicious and that it will be a socially responsible choice. She also has lots of plant-based options available for your Thanksgiving table. If you are interested in learning more about cooking vegan meals, Chef Carmen teaches classes on plant-based and vegan cooking where you can learn, among other things, how to modify your existing recipes and create plant-based alternatives. You’ll also learn how to use different proteins like Tempeh, Seitan and Tofu. Sprout and Lentil is truly a hidden gem and should be celebrated year round.
Root on Broadway in Newport is another exceptional plant-based eatery. If you want to start your day feeling good, head to Root for one of their fresh made juices or smoothies like the Yellow Mellow juice (made with yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, apple, pineapple and lime) or their Seaside smoothie (made with banana, blueberries, spinach, peanut butter and almond milk). You’ll be amazed at how these super-fresh ingredients give you more energy than a second cup of coffee. But their breakfast menu goes beyond the blender. They have breakfast bowls like the Frozen Cocoa which is made with blended bananas, avocado, almond milk, dates, maple syrup and cocoa and topped with strawberries, bananas, cacao nibs and coconut. They’ve also got great lunch and dinner offerings too like Avocado Toast topped with pickled onions, everything bagel seasonings and pea shoots and their Root Cobb Salad (made with Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, coconut bacon, corn, ranch dressing and scallions). It’s plant-based food at it’s finest. You’ll feel both satisfied and good about your choices.
Plant City X in Middletown is serving up plant-based food in fast-food style, complete with a drive-thru experience. A sister company of Plant City in Providence, the world’s first plant-based food hall, Plant City X is on a mission to make plant-based choices easy and convenient without sacrificing taste. Try their Breakfast Burrito made with refried beans, JUST Egg (plant-based eggs), avocado, lettuce, tomato and their special X sauce. Or start the day with their Açai Smoothie made with açai, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and oat milk. Superfoods are super delicious! If you are looking for a quick sandwich on the go, order the Truffle Burger made with a bean, vegetable and grain burger patty, arugula, wild mushrooms and truffle aioli. Add on a side of their Sweet Potato Fries and a Tractor Organic Soda and you’ve got yourself a meal that tastes a whole lot better than anything from the Arches. Don’t forget their plant-based “Chik” nuggets with over a dozen sauces to choose from like Cashew Herb Ranch or Cilantro Mayo. It’s plant-based food served fast and tasty so you can feel good about your next trip through the drive-thru.
More and more restaurants are offering plant-based offerings to meet the demands of vegan and socially conscious eaters. You can go to a steakhouse like 22 Bowen’s and get a Mushroom au Poivre entree made with peppercorn dusted maitake mushrooms, cognac-cauliflower puree and garlic spinach. You can go to Caleb & Broad and get their Beyond Curry made with Beyond Meat, roasted acorn squash, stir-fry veggies and coconut curry. You can even go to a chain like the 99 Restaurant and get plant-based Crispy Cauliflower Tacos. Plant-based options are here to stay and there are chefs out there making them as tasty as can be. That’s how you celebrate World Vegan Month – by enjoying the plant-based culinary creativity and creators in our community. That’s something for which we should all give thanks.
Dan Lederer is a Middletown resident with 30 years experience in the food service industry throughout New England. He continues to work locally behind the scenes within the industry and remains a devoted fan of all things restaurant and hospitality related. His column appears on newportri.com and Thursdays in The Daily News. Cheers!