The Culinary Collective, New York

I attended one of The Culinary Collective’s events in Brooklyn and was wowed by a fifteen course, gourmet feast prepared by the much-extoled Chefs Jay Astafa and Angela Lowe. The epic meals are hosted in a lavish Brooklyn brownstone and guests mingle, making new friends and watching in excitement as the food is prepped within eyesight by an impressive staff. The white asparagus panna cotta, mushroom tart, nettle gnudi and cheese plate were exquisite standouts. Astafa even performed his liquid-nitrogen caramel popcorn alchemy while guests gathered around him with oohs and ahs. Wine was poured, laughs were had, and overall these pop-up events are not something to miss. You can book your reservation here .




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Stanford Inn Eco Resort


I recently had the pleasure of traveling up the California coastline to Mendocino and staying at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, a bucolic resort tucked into a wooded hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. James and I were warmly greeted by co-owner Jeff Stanford as well as Sid Garza-Hillman, author, certified nutritionist and head-of-kitchen at The Ravens, the hotel’s celebrated, haute cuisine restaurant.


From the balcony of our room we savored a platter of macaroons, raspberries and cappuccino ice cream, all hand-made at The Ravens, while gazing upon gardens where they grow food for the kitchen, which led into a pasture where rescued horses, llamas and donkeys grazed, overlooking the sun setting into the Pacific. It seemed surreal yet warmly nostalgic. We lit the fireplace and absorbed the incense of a crackling fire while getting ready for dinner.


The food was consistently fantastic, and they have one of the largest vegan brunch menus in the country, which is included if you stay at the inn. They have a canoe rental with vintage redwood canoes which you can take out for several hours on the bright-blue estuary, there’s an enclosed greenhouse pool, jacuzzi and sauna, and even a massage therapist who will get those knots out while you relax in the forest.


We ended our second evening with a Pinkus Hefeweizen from the bar while wandering the gardens taking macro shots with my Olloclip of the plants and pollinators. It had all gone by too fast and felt like a mix of my fondest camp memories with a luxury twist and set of handsome ethics. I can’t wait to go back!


Meatless in Seattle

I was in Seattle for the first time last month and had the chance to explore the city’s vegan side.  From what I had always heard about this vibrant capital of the Pacific Northwest was that it was as replete with coffee shops and rain as with delicious vegan dining.  Yet even as the city teems with cruelty-free options (possibly more per capita than New York) it is just as committed to its “free-range” chicken, “grass-fed” beef, and “open-water” fish—none of which I’m convinced actually are.  For a city so adamant about the separation of trash from compost from recyclables, I imagined more of this environmentalism shining through in day-to-day dietary choices as well.  For now, we’ll just focus on the positives.

Moo Shoes has a Left Coast sister—and she sells chocolate, too.  Vegan owner, Sadaf Hussain, opened The Chocolate Shoebox two years ago in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge.  It’s twenty minutes by bus north of downtown, and surrounded by other vegan options.  The store is small but offers a wide selection of men’s and women’s shoes, accessories from belts to wallets, and chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  Really good chocolate.  I brought back an assortment of these US-made treats for my non-vegan friends and they apparently fought over every flavor.

Highline Vegan Bar is an enormous second-floor space in Capitol Hill that caters to punk bands and the scull-and-crossbones-wearing vegans who listen to them.  It wasn’t my ideal night out, though not because of the music.  I got the Tempesto, a tempeh sandwich with pesto, avocado, and red onions, all swimming in grease.  The latter wasn’t listed on the menu, and my friends had to wade through the same soppy oil to reach their meals as well.  Eat at your own risk.

Seattle has a gem in Makini Howell.  When I ate at Plum Bistro I knew I had found the real deal.  Like many restaurants in the area, Plum’s architecture and décor is industrial-chic, with its steel and distressed wood and its massive garage-like door that slides up to the ceiling for fresh air.  Everything—and I ate a lot—was second to none.  From the spicy Cajun mac ‘n’ yease to the grilled polenta and orange fennel salad to the wild mushroom fettuccine, I was so impressed I thought I might write a letter to the restaurant.  Then I met the owner herself.

Ms. Howell, who insists she’s much older than she looks, was born and raised vegan in Tacoma, just south of Seattle.  In 1972 her parents opened the still-thriving vegan restaurant, Quickie Too, in her hometown, and went on to open Hillside Quickie, Sage Café, and Plum Bistro in Seattle.  On my last morning in town I ventured over to Sage, an itty-bitty joint with a Bob Marley vibe and by far the best sandwich I’ve ever had (the crazy Jamaican burger).  I implored the waitress to let me compliment the chef and moments later, warm and smiling, out stepped Ms. Howell.

Second from the left, Makini Howell, with her staff at Sage Bakery and Cafe

The incredible Crazy Jamaican Burger with a side of seasoned and stir-fried short grain brown rice

It’s not often the owner of four establishments also serves as one of its chefs, especially when preparing to open her fifth—a vegan kiosk at the Seattle Center—later this month.  Ms. Howell is clearly passionate about producing high-quality vegan fare and has set the standard very high.

A few other spots to note include In the Bowl, listed as vegetarian pan-Asian but entirely vegan and first-rate; Wayward Vegan Café for brunch, in the University District; and Cinnamon Works at Pike Place Market which offers a range of incredible vegan muffins and cookies.

How to Cater to Vegans at Your Non-Vegan Restaurant

On my most recent road trip (with no specific destination), I’ve found myself in lots of places that aren’t exactly in the “Best Vegan Cities in the World” handbook (if such a handbook existed). And while I’ve had a ton of amazing dining experiences at non-vegan restaurants, I have unfortunately had a lot of experiences that could have easily gone much better if restaurants knew a few key things about veganism. 

This is a photo from a Thai restaurant that didn’t have a single vegan item on their menu, but was happy to make us something. We asked in advance to being seated and were pleased to find out they made every dish from scratch – so leaving out non-vegan ingredients was easy.

Below was written to simply share some ideas should any restaurant want to feed vegans. I don’t believe restaurants have to as it’s their business, and their call. But should they, I guarantee word would spread to the vegan community.

Dear food establishment owners/staff,

I spend months of each year traveling. A lot of that time is spent discovering and eating at new restaurants. But here’s the thing — I’m vegan. That means I do not eat meat (including fish), dairy, butter, honey or any ingredient that is made or harvested from animals. What do I eat then? Whole fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, spices, etc — it’s a broad range of easy to find ingredients.

To start, let me clarify, you don’t have to cater to vegans. It’s your business so it’s completely your call. This is written to simply share some ideas and suggestions so that if you do want to cater to the vegan community, can you easily do so. I guarantee that if you do, and do it well, word will spread. Even if it’s a single, well-made dish.


Simple product knowledge goes a long way. I’d rather be told something is definitely not vegan than have a server have to go ask multiple times because they don’t have a clue what’s in any of the dishes on your menu. This happens more than you think (I can count on a single hand how many times a server has actually known their menu well). It’s a bonus if they know off-hand which dishes accommodate different diets.


I have been served meat, dairy and honey so many times at restaurants after being told something could be made vegan. That just gets my hopes up and disappoints. So if you are offering to make something vegan by modifying a dish or creating a new one, make sure it is actually vegan. And if you aren’t sure, just ask — vegans are more than happy to talk about what is vegan and what isn’t (getting vegans to stop talking about it is another matter altogether). If you do make a mistake with the dish and serve it with a non-vegan ingredient, offer to fix it and move on. If you aren’t comfortable making substitutions or modifying dishes — I’d rather be told you can’t do it than have it done begrudgingly or in a half-assed way.


“Pan Roasted Vegetables” on pasta is not creative. Being creative is easy though, just put as much effort into creating a vegan dish as you did into creating the rest of your menu. If you need ideas, ask someone (even ask me — I’d freely help you brainstorm) or experiment — if you and/or your staff like the vegan dish, that’s a good sign. Or flip through a vegan cookbook for ideas, there are hundreds (I even wrote one).


I can’t even count how many times I’ve been out for dinner with omnivores who’ve wished they’d ordered my vegan option instead of their meat dish. I also know a lot of people that aren’t vegan but eat vegan the majority of the time. Some people have rules about eating vegan too, like “I eat vegan 4 nights a week”. A vegan option will cater to far more people than just vegans.


Vegans love to talk about places they eat and the vegan options available. If you have a good vegan dish, word will travel quickly. Want to tempt in vegans to eat your vegan dish? Promote it on social media and on your online menu (note: have an online menu). I routinely drive hours out of the way if I’ve received word of a good restaurant with a vegan dish or two. If the food is good, I tell thousands of people online how good it was. Make sure there’s mention of your vegan option(s) online though, or else vegans might find your restaurant, see nothing they can eat there, and promptly look somewhere else.


Having items on-hand to help many more dishes become vegan is not a bad thing. Non-dairy creamer, for example, can go a long way if you serve coffee or tea. Same with items like vegan butter, vegan mayonnaise, vegan sour cream, etc. These all store well and can go a long way towards enticing vegans to frequent your business. A bonus would be to make your own of each of these (which is pretty easy to do). Make a killer, homemade vegan pesto mayonnaise to add to any sandwich, pizza, etc — and vegans will be climbing mountains to sing your praises.

The world (and restaurants found in it) by no means need to cater to vegans. I am not so self-entitled that I think every restaurant should have a vegan option. We’re a relatively small group of folks that eat out. But our numbers are growing. And past that, the number of people who know about food and care what goes into each dish is growing even faster. So knowing your menu inside and out and offering easy ways to accommodate different diets can make sense and more importantly, make you more money.

And don’t forget, a good vegan dessert is literally icing on the cake.