If you're hungry and living in or just passing through the NOLA area, New Orleans in Green is your resource for excellent vegan options.You can thank writer and NO resident, Melissa Bastian - her blog will guide you to everything from summery drinks to delicious desserts.
1.When people think of New Orleans cuisine, vegan dishes are not usually the first to come to mind. What prompted you to start NOiG?
I became interested in veganism in my mid-twenties. It felt like a good thing to do for health, and for some nebulous ethical reasons that I hadn't quite pinned down yet. But I had no idea where to start! I didn't know any vegans, and despite the fact that I wrote a personal blog I wasn't terribly internet-savvy yet. The whole thing just felt impossible.
And then the storm came; it picked me up out of the bubble I'd built in Nola and plopped me down in the middle of New York City. Suddenly I was SURROUNDED by vegan options! I went vegan within six months of arriving there. I hooked up with some awesome vegans there through the Post Punk Kitchen forums and thought I'd found my niche.
But life is always changing isn't it? After a few years I felt really done with NYC, and each day I longed a little more for home. I'd been blogging my vegan experiences there on New York in Green - a name intended to be a play on "New York in June." So it wasn't even really a question for me whether I'd continue blogging about my vegan life. I started up NOiG before I even moved back!
I figured out how to be vegan when I moved to NYC after Katrina. Once you live vegan for a while, you realize how easy it truly is. With Nola's incredible local produce and plethora of restaurants, I was confident that Nola vegans could eat as well as anyone else. But everyone kept saying what I used to - "It's impossible!" I, of course, knew better, and I'm not one to turn down a challenge.
2. What have been some of the highlights of your "365 Days of New Orleans Vegan Treats" project? Any favorites?
This year I'm blogging a picture every day of a vegan treat found a) in or around New Orleans, and b) that I personally have sampled. Now, collecting 365 pictures of different vegan foods is a challenge! But it has also been plenty of fun. The project has gotten me out of the "favorite places, favorite dishes" rut that I tend to fall into. And lucky for me, we've had so many great new restaurants pop up recently -Seed and Milkfish come to mind. Meanwhile, existing restaurants are getting hep to the jive and adding vegan options. Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, HiVolt, and Juan's Flying Burrito lead the pack there. So really the best part is that I get to eat amazing food all over town! Another enjoyable aspect is that I've gotten to know many of the restaurant and food truck owners around the city.
Favorites are hard for me, but my favorite thing I've tried recently is a Cambodian curry at Carmo. It was coconut based without being cloying, more herbal than spicy, and all-around magnificent!
3. I'm not vegan, but I'm willing to try it out. Where should I start?
That all depends on what you're looking for. If you dread that going vegan means losing your fave comfort foods, try a vegan "pothole" dog at Dreamy Weenies, the Garden Slammer with tofu at Slim Goodies, or some classic waffle fries with mayo dipping sauce (and an ice cream cone to finish!) at 3 Potato 4. If you want something more "exotic," sample the vegan pho at Magasin or a veggie combo at Nile. Want to go super healthy? Check out the shiitake wrap at Superfood Bar, or the enchilada plate at Seed.
If you'd really rather just cook at home, stop by Hollygrove Market for "The Box" of fresh local produce. Pick up some locally made seasoned tofu from VEGGI Coop while you're there, and you've got a meal!
4. What's one vegan dish you absolutely cannot live without?
Just one? That IS impossible! I love so many foods - tofu, tempeh, noodles, mushrooms, fresh seasonal fruits, almond-based ice cream, fair trade dark chocolate... But if I must choose, I'd have to say tofu bun (Vietnamese noodle dish) with peanut sauce. It always satisfies!
Ms. Bastian recently published a paper guide to New Orleans' vegan offerings, available through New Orleans in Green and at area restaurants. Visit her blog at neworleansingreen.blogspot.com or find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NewOrleansinGreen.