Lament No More! My 5 Meat-Free Faves

February 24, 2010

So on to my alternatives.  I don’t guarantee that these are easily accessible, but I hope they will inspire you to find your own.  Additionally, just as I wouldn’t advise a meat-eater to consume a reuben every day, I suggest you don’t eat a vegan reuben every day.  We are healthiest when we seek variance in our diets, and limiting your intake of even vegan thousand island dressing is probably a good idea.

Also, just to add to the suspense, I will offer this disclaimer.  Since I have given up some foods that i absolutely love, because they have meat, you might ask why I don’t just replace the meat in those with sustainably raised meat (since I am, after all, an “ethical omnivore”).  This is a good question.  But when I say I miss burnt ends, I know that I could get an ethical piece of beef brisket and make me some burnt ends, but what I miss is Jack’s Stack burnt ends, not a poor immitation of them that I could make at home.  Get the point?  But it’s true–if I must have burnt ends, that is the way to do it.  Plus, I have become pretty good at cooking meatless, I am far healthier for it, and there is no doubt that I live a more sustainable life, so I don’t plan to be a regular meat eater in the near future.

The Vegan Reuben.  I discovered this only recently, and I’ve had it only once, so I am excited about our new relationship.  The Chicago Diner serves only vegan fare, and I suspect their vegan meatloaf and their bbq “rib” sandwich are just as tasty.  But I am in love with their reuben.  From the looks of it–the melty cheese (dairy free for the vegans, regular cheese for those like me), the sloppy “corned beef,” the crunchy rye–you would swear it was an average meaty reuben, and you can taste nary a difference.  I can’t wait to return and enjoy my reuben with a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Veggie Burger.  Court and I eat so many veggie burgers that we have shortened it to v-burg–I know, we’re dorks.  But isn’t it exciting to eat a “burger” and still know you are getting some of your daily veggies?!  I have to mention two veggie burgers.  First, any self-respecting mid-towner knows McCoy’s serves the best veggie burger in the city.  With the avocado spread, those big ol’ sprouts, and some added spicy mustard, that “burger” is easily one of my favorite meals.  Second, we have discovered Organic Sunshine Burgers at Whole Foods.  These are soy free and gluten free.  They are as good as I’ve had, and I can have them any time I want.

Veggie Bratwurst.  I know this sounds strange, but you gotta stick with me.  I like to grill out, and besides burgers, everybody loves to grill a good brat.  Field Roast Grain Meat Co. makes a couple of excellent brat replacements.  They have an Italian “sausage” and a delicious smoked apple sage “brat.”  You might imagine that they don’t taste exactly like brats, which is true, but they are still very tasty.  And just as their meaty brethren, they are perfected by spicy mustard and sauerkraut (and beer).

Biscuits and Gravy.  This meal was a staple through college, and though I think it’s a good thing that I no longer eat it daily, it’s nice to have an alternative to satisfy my craving.  Handlebar in Chicago (I know, KC has some catching-up to do, but Bluebird has some good b&g too) serves big biscuits with seitan sausage gravy.  You also have the option of adding scrambled eggs or tofu.  To wash it all down, you have to order the Trifecta–it’s the perfect blend of Guinness, Jameson, and espresso.  You will begin your day (or afternoon) well-fed and perfectly buzzed.

Veggie Frittata.  My last favorite includes eggs, which I allow myself, so if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, this may not work for you, but I love eggs.  Love them.  A frittata is very filling, and once you get the timing down (I burned the edge the first couple of times), it’s a perfect meal–you can throw in any random veggies you have.  We’ve added sweet potatoes, kale, mushrooms, chard, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and probably more.  It keeps well, and it transports well, so you can have lunch too.

I may not have met your expectations (I hope I didn’t imply that I had the veggie burnt ends replacement–I’m still looking, and I would love for some tips).  And buffalo wings, they may just be part of my past.  Though I should give some merit to the earlier question I assumed you might ask: you know, the one about why I don’t just make my own burnt ends?  Well, there are some great sustainable meats in KC, and I ought to highlight a few, so the flesh-lovers among us can feel good about what they eat.

Vendors: KC Buffalo Company sells buffalo burgers, steaks, briskets (burnt ends, anyone?), brats, and tongue.

Restaurants: The Westside LocalBluebird BistroJulian.

Websites: Kansas City Food Circle is a wonderful resource for finding all kinds of organic and free-range foods.

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