Exporting Japan: A Live Episode with the ‘Gunma Vegan Project’

Episode 12 of the Vegan-Carne Alliance podcast is live (and is also our first live episode!).

For our twelfth episode, Brian Moeljadi joins C.W. Moss to experience new vegan ingredients from Japan. This experience is part of the ‘Gunma Vegan Project’, a food-focused Japanese-government initiative to expand veganism in and outside of the country. Two mini-courses are served, one by LA chef Kajsa Alger and another by Japanese chef Kazuki Arai (14:49). We discuss how ingredients spread, our experiences in Japan, and how a name can affect a product. Then, C.W. talks with chef Arai about experiences with veganism in Japan (53:46). After, C.W. is joined by chef Kajsa to discuss using Japanese ingredients to make other cuisines (1:03:09).

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‘CEO of Burger King owner: ‘We are all in’ on plant-based foods’

Brian Sozzi for Yahoo! Finance:

“I think it’s just the beginning. It’s a brand new category, it’s a category we are leading not just in the U.S. but globally,” Cil told Yahoo Finance fresh off the company’s fourth quarter earnings call Monday. “And we think there is a lot of work to do still in terms of raising awareness, what are the benefits of it and then being able to offer some different products as well as occasions so that the consumer could expand their knowledge of the product. We are all in.” […]

Meanwhile, Burger King’s fourth quarter same-store sales rose 2.8%. Same-store sales for the chain rose 0.6% in the U.S. and 4.7% in the rest of the world. Burger King’s same-store sales increased 4.8% in the third quarter.

If you have a fast food chain and aren’t copying this, you’re losing free money.

‘Burger King Says It Never Promised Impossible Whoppers Were Vegan’

Burger King, saying it never billed its “Impossible Whoppers” as vegan or promised to cook them a particular way, said a proposed class action by a vegan customer over the plant-based patties being cooked on the same grills as meat burgers should be thrown out.

In a court filing on Thursday, Burger King said plaintiff Phillip Williams should have asked how Impossible Whoppers were cooked before ordering one that he said was “coated in meat by-products” at an Atlanta drive-through.

Burger King said reasonable customers would ask about its cooking methods, and Williams would have known he could request an alternative method had he done even “the smallest amount of investigation” on its website or by reading media reports.

I wondered what BK’s angle would be, and I think this how most restaurants will handle vegan products moving forward. No one will call dishes that have vegan ingredients “vegan” anymore. They’ll either call items “plant-based” or they actually won’t say either. By not using both, they’re free to avoid this hub-bub — but it means it’ll be harder for all vegans to actually spot the vegan items. Bummer. I hope that’s not the case.

‘Tim Hortons Customers Didn’t Warm Up to Plant-Based Meat’

Rich Duprey for the Motley Fool:

Restaurant Brands International may be losing its appetite for plant-based meat, recently confirming it had pulled the last of Beyond Meat’s faux-meat products from its Tim Hortons chain.

Only months after rolling out the faux-meat breakfast sausage and then burger patties to the coffee shop’s 4,000 restaurants, it pulled the items from all of its restaurants except those in British Columbia and Ontario in September, and now says it’s yanking them from those locations as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where plant-based meat products work. I had assumed these would be welcomed wherever they went, but for certain markets maybe it doesn’t make sense. I wonder what went wrong here.

‘Why Cauliflower Wings Started Appearing on Every Bar Menu’

Alicia Kennedy for Tendlerly:

I’ve been trying to figure out the origin of the cauliflower wing as a bar food staple to no avail. In the early 2010s, vegan bloggers had begun to figure out that hunks of the vegetable could be breaded, fried, and dunked in hot sauce just like the tofu and tempeh wings of yore, with PETA putting out their recipe way back in 2012. The folks behind Brooklyn vegan restaurant Toad Style, who’ve recently brought their cauliflower wings back onto the menu, tell me they remember seeing them at a Super Bowl party in 2013 — it turned them from Buffalo tempeh lovers into cauliflower believers.

I’m almost positive the first I had them was at Mohawk Bend, which opened in 2011. The item was a staple on their menu from the get-go and always recommended by servers (because it’s delicious, duh). It was undoubtedly the first place I saw it in LA. Within a year or two, I saw it on the menu at Sage down the street — and now it’s everywhere.

I can’t think of a vegan dish that’s traveled further and faster. This was THE vegan evangelist before Impossible and Beyond burger came into our world. And it’s still doing work. It really is everywhere, and the universality has made for more variety and exploration — aka more joy. Tempura-style, beer-battered, new sauces, and more and more… and every single one has been a wonderful addition to a dish that is still in its infancy.

As we crest into a mildly healthier world, though still fried, this vegetable is giving everyone a crunchy, lighter option in our deep-fried existence.

Our Favorite Meals & Stories of 2019; Jesse’s Family-Altering Experience with The Game Changers

Episode 9 of the Vegan-Carne Alliance podcast is live.

For our ninth episode, C. W. Moss is joined by Jesse Mullenix and Alex Irit. Jesse talks about his gripping experience with the documentary Game Changers and how it effected him and his family. Next, they talk about their favorite stories (18:40) and meals (55:02) from 2019.

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‘Panera plans to slash meat from half of its menu as customers seek vegetarian options and fear of climate change heats up’

Kate Taylor for Insider:

CEO Niren Chaudhary told Business Insider that, over the next several years, Panera plans to have at least 50% of its menu be made up of plant-based offerings. Chaudhary said the company plans to have plant-based innovation in every category in 2021. 

I think this is a smart move by Panera. They always seemed like a place that would have lots of vegan options, and now they will. I love love love me some soup and bread bowl — so I’ll be knee-tapping with excitement for when these start to hit the menus.

‘The Most Important Restaurants of the Decade’

I’m a sucker for lists like this, and I love seeing such strong representation for places that love vegetables. And two especially stood out on Food & Wine’s list:

Vedge, Philadelphia, 2011

The expressions “plant-based” and “vegetable-focused” feel borderline cliché at this point, but that wasn’t always true, especially not in the elevated dining space, where patrons historically expect steep checks to include showy meats, or at the very least caviar. At Vedge, husband-wife chef team Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau made it dangerously easy to justify spending lots of money on vegetables—with surprising dishes like a giant wood-roasted carrot that easily rivals any steak, broccolini “carbonara” made with Israeli couscous, and a luxurious rutabaga fondue. Jacoby and Landau, who helped pioneer this new mode of plant-based dining back in the ‘90s with Horizons, cracked a new level of visibility with the critical success of Vedge. —Maria Yagoda, Digital Restaurant Editor

Vedge is the restaurant I want to eat at most. It’s a bright star in the vegan sky, and it may be *the* North Star for people looking to think about vegetables in a different way.

Superiority Burger, New York City, 2015

Brooks Headley had a laser-focused mission, succeeded wildly at it, and made the restaurant world a better place. Six years ago, he was an award-winning pastry chef who would make veggie burgers just for kicks. Then he did a veggie-burger pop-up, which eventually became a six-seat East Village institution with groups of people always eating outside. It’s not like Headley invented plant-based fast food, but he’s the best at it, and he’s influenced so many other concepts in the past few years. The Superiority staff never stops churning out experimental vegan hits, like their Italian hoagie, cold pizza salad, and tahini ranch romaine salad. Last year, Headley thought it’d be cool to get intensely into focaccia and sell it only on Fridays. May this place stay open for a thousand years. —R.G.

And Superiority is just special in every single way. I adore so many parts. Weekly-repeated specials, daily specials, small menu, and a constant focus on seasonal things. All those combine to make for a unique experience every time I’ve visited, and I’m grateful for it.

It makes sense that Sqirl and LocoL are on the list too. All are ambitious and interesting in their own ways.

I hope in the next few weeks we see more lists that help contextualize America’s invigorated interest in vegetables and fresh eating more.