Charlotte Vegfest 2014

The annual Charlotte Vegfest 2014 will be held on Saturday May 17, 2014 from 2-7 pm in Plaza Midwood. This years speakers include Gene Baur and Howard Jacobson. Baur is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary and Jacobson is a contributing author to Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition with T. Colin Campbell. There will also be plenty of vegan food and local vendors, so put it on your calendar now.

Beer is Vegan (for the most part)

“God made the majority of beers vegan because he loves us and wants us to be happy.” -me

I often wonder how long my vegan journey would have lasted if someone would have told me that beer was not vegan. Fortunately, the majority of beers are vegan. Water, yeast, malt and hops are the four main ingredients used to brew beer. The easy exceptions to spot are those beers made with milk or honey. It’s much harder to identify beers that use animal parts (isinglass, gelatin) in the filtering process. For example, Guiness and Oskar Blues Ten Fidy.  The only way to know for sure is to ask the brewery or check Barnivore is an excellent online resource to find out which alcohols (beer, wine, liquor) are vegan friendly. It is a collection of inquiries made to the companies directly by the site’s creators and sent in from users (like me).

After contacting all of the Charlotte breweries to verify their vegan-friendly status, we are good to go.

Four Friends, Olde Mecklenburg, Unknown, Birdsong, Triple C and Noda are all vegan-friendly as far as their regular offerings go with just two exceptions…Birdsong does currently have the Honey Pie Double IPA that obviously contains honey and both versions of Triple C’s Up All Night (bourbon barrel and regular) contain honey. Many of the breweries do small batch beers that may occasionally contain milk or honey, but they should be easy to spot. When in doubt, just ask.

The Charlotte Vegan and Vegetarian Social Club is having the first Vegan Drinks in Charlotte on February 20th, 2014 at Heist Brewery located in NoDa. (Ironically, Heist is the only brewery that I have not received confirmation that their beers are vegan.) Heist recently updated their dinner menu and has taken the guess work out of whether or not an item is vegan by clearly identifying vegetarian and vegan items on their menu. While it looks like there are only two vegan options, they both sound delicious. I’m looking forward to trying both the fire roasted tofu steak and “Faux”BQ tacos. I know that they know what their doing with tofu because I tried their marinated tofu steak on the lunch menu and it was probably the most well prepared tofu I’ve had in Charlotte. Sadly, I found out later that the marinade does indeed contain honey, so it is technically not vegan. If you’re okay with consuming honey, then have at it.


Central Coffee

vegan chocolate cake

Central Coffee is easily one of my favorite coffee spots in the Queen City. They offer both soy and almond milk for your coffee enjoyment as well as some delicious treats. Their best-selling zucchini bread, which just so happens to be vegan, is a must every time we go.

They also serve a vegan chocolate espresso cake and sell Espresso bites from Sweet B Unrefined using Central Coffee espresso beans. For the record, the seasonal Pumpkin Latte is made with a homemade vegan organic pumpkin syrup (an organic pumpkin puree, raw agave, ginger root and spices). With the colder temperatures creeping in, it’s a good time to check them out.


Restaurant Spotlight: 300 East

Having recently moved to the South End area, I’m attempting to locate all the vegan options at non-vegan restaurants just to expand our pool of restaurants we can eat at without having to worry if the server actually understood what we were trying to avoid when ordering. After an email correspondence with 300 East, then eating there twice in the last week, they are definitely going to be a part of our regular restaurant rotation. It turns out that 300 East is actually a delicious option for vegan food in South End. While they don’t have a ton of options, they do have a better-than-average selection and we left very satisfied after both trips. In a recent email to the restaurant, they responded by highlighting the menu items that can be made vegan.

For starters, both the hummus and guacamole appetizers are vegan. The Grilled Portobello Sandwich, Veggie Burger, Black Bean Tortilla, Black-Eyed-Pea Falafel Sandwich and Seasonal Farro Saute can all be made vegan simply by ordering them “no dairy.”  Many of their salads include cheese (clearly stated in the description) or a dairy-containing dressing, but can be made without either. Vegan salad dressings include Balsamic Vinaigrette, Sherry Vinaigrette, French Vinaigrette, and Sesame Dressing. Unfortunately, the cornbread muffin does contain dairy and eggs. The email also recommended checking for dairy and eggs in the daily soup, side or vegetable plate of the day.

Just a heads up, the lunch menu is a little more vegan-limited than the dinner menu, but you can still find a satisfying meal. They do have some outdoor seating and a nice little bar inside as well. Enjoy.

300 east

Fourth Ward Bread Company

Fourth Ward Bread Company, a new business opened Uptown the other week and although not a vegan restaurant, they did reach out to let us know that they were offering vegan soups at their opening. After a follow-up email, they provided a list of everything they have that is vegan or can be made vegan.

So here it goes….

  • They do have soy milk, but you have to ask for it (it is not kept out on the condiment table).
  • All of their soups use vegetable stock and all entree salads can be made vegan.
  • All biancas except the turkey can be made vegan.  However, since most of their bianca variations have mozzarella on top, if called ahead (336-946-2072) they can be made without cheese. They top them with veggies from a local farm on North Tryon (Opportunity Farms). According to the good folks at Fourth Ward (who have been really good at responding to my inquiries), a bianca is a soft Italian bread used as the base of various sandwiches and flatbread meals.
  • Unfortunately, their bagels are made with eggs, but all of their ciabattas, baguettes, and sourdough breads are vegan.
  • Their crostinis are vegan and can be served with both bruschetta and hummus.
  • Their coleslaw is vinegar based and vegan.

If you’re around uptown, stop in and check them out at 312 North Graham Street. Haven’t had a chance to get in there yet, but based on the pictures of the place and the food I’ve seen, it looks very promising.
Tuesday-Saturday 8 am – 7 pm or Sunday 8 am -3 pm.


Beyond Meat

“Would we continue to raise and eat animals in such staggering numbers if a delicious and perfect plant-based replication of meat existed?” 

Found this question on the website of the latest and quite possibly greatest chicken substitute now available, Beyond Meat. This product looks enough like chicken and overall has a good chewiness and mouth feel that make it a great alternative to chicken. Beyond Meat is intended to replace chicken in any recipe and goes great in wraps and salads. I’ve even eaten it just as snack dipping it into some spicy hummus. Beyond Meat is packed with 20 grams of protein per 3 oz serving and is cholesterol and gluten free. It is comprised of soy and pea protein isolates (non-GMO), flour, and fiber. For more information on their ingredients, visit the FAQ.

So where can you find it in Charlotte? The only place that currently sells retail packs for home use  is Whole Foods in Southpark. While other Whole Foods I’ve been to stock Beyond Meat near the Daiya and tofu refrigerated section, the Southpark Whole Foods hides it in the freezer section. They also supposedly offer Beyond Meat in their prepared foods department although I’ve never seen it when I’m there. The other place to find Beyond Meat is at all Tropical Smoothie locations. Unfortunately,  there are no Charlotte locations, but there is one just 20-25 minutes away in Tega Cay. It’s a great thing to see a chain restaurant offering a meat-free, vegan option. So, if you’re in the area or don’t mind a short drive, go check them out.

Here is a list of Tropical Smoothie’s vegan offerings according to a Compassion Over Killing articlevegan bread, sauces and toppings include: flour/garlic tortillas, flatbread, ciabatta, jerk sauce, Thai peanut dressing, buffalo sauce, guacamole, hummus, salsa, wontons/wonton strips, and southwestern rice.