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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Reading

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we feature four vegetarian guidebooks that take our readers from coast to coast. The books focus on vegetarian restaurants, vegetarian lodgings, and natural food stores as well as information valuable to anyone following a vegetarian lifestyle.

Veg Out Vegetarian Guide to Southern California

By Kathy Siegel and Carey Ann Strelecki

Gibbs Smith, 2003

Paper, $12.95

You know vegetarianism is hot when a publisher creates a series of vegetarian guides to major cities in the United States. Beginning with VegOut Vegetarian Guide to Southern California, Gibbs Smith has published guides to New York City and San Francisco with subsequent books featuring Seattle and Portland and Washington, DC arriving later this year.

The volumes, almost pocket size except for the length, not only list restaurants by areas, but also include delivery services, juice bars, farmers' markets, green grocers, organizations, and web resources, even acknowledging Vegetarians in Paradise in the listings.

Veg Out Guidebook Also provided is a glossary including terms like miso, nori, and injera, words one encounters in visiting ethnic restaurants. Unfortunately, the list includes soy cheese with a definition that states, "made from soyfoods (using no dairy products), it resembles cheese." The definition does not recognize that many soy cheeses contain casein, a milk protein.

The guide is well indexed including an Alphabetical Index by restaurant name, an Atmosphere Index that indicates categories like family restaurant, juice bar, fast food, or chain, and a Cuisine Index telling the national origin of the cuisine.

Concluding the book is the Top Ten Index revealing the reviewers choices in Top Ten for Food, Top Ten for Atmosphere, and Top Ten Best Buys.

In the opening the authors present their rating scale with one star for fair, two for good, three for excellent, and four for outstanding. Cost for a meal in the restaurant is indicated by $ for inexpensive (under $10), $$ for moderate ($10 to $20), and $$$ for expensive ($21 and above). Meal cost includes the average price for the entrée, plus one drink and a tip.

At the beginning of the listings, they are careful to give the following warning to readers: "Note: Vegetarian and vegan can mean many things to many people. The stricter your diet, the more sense it makes to ask before you eat. Even in the most casual vegetarian cafes, the staff is accustomed to a variety of dietary concerns; make yours known. On occasion vegetarian meats contain small amounts of whey. If in doubt, or if language becomes a factor, opt for tofu, seitan, or vegetable substitutes (mushrooms instead of veggie shrimp, for instance); all are reliable whey-free alternatives."

If the authors chose to include restaurants that were totally vegetarian, the book would be significantly smaller. Instead they wisely list restaurants that have a significant number of vegetarian choices, even though they are not totally vegetarian. Each entry concludes with a bold face heading telling the main focus of the restaurant like VEGETARIAN WITH VEGAN CHOICES or VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN OPTIONS; MEAT, FISH, POULTRY AND SEAFOOD ALSO SERVED.

Inside the back cover is a colorful, handy pullout map showing the locations of the restaurants listed in the book.

Vegetarians living in or traveling to this area will want to have a copy of VegOut Vegetarian Guide to Southern California in the glove compartment of the car or tucked into the door pocket. This comprehensive guide will be extremely valuable in finding vegetarian food in communities as far north as the San Fernando Valley and as far south as San Diego. Even non-vegetarians who opt for a healthy lifestyle may be enticed to check this one out.

Vegetarian New York City:
The Essential Dining, Shopping, and Lodging Guide

By Suzanne Gerber

Forward by Paul McCartney

The Globe Pequot Press, 2004

Paper, $14.95

No Fear! If you're a vegetarian in New York City, you don't have to worry about where to eat, shop, or sleep. Suzanne Gerber, former editor of Vegetarian Times, with the assistance of more than two dozen contributors, has created Vegetarian New York City and it truly is "The Essential Dining, Shopping, and Lodging Guide."

Someone coming from a small town in Nebraska might find it difficult to comprehend that there are between twelve and thirteen thousand restaurants in New York City. If the person were vegetarian, this guide would prove quite handy because it reviews and evaluates restaurants, markets, and lodgings in the city.

For each restaurant the book features the type of cuisine, address and phone, the hours, website, reservations, the prices, and the number of vegan and ovo-lacto vegetarian choices. It contains information like "vegebility" and "kid friendly" as well as the type of service (e.g. table, takeout, delivery, catering).

Vegetarian New York In Places to Stay, Gerber provides address, phone, website, and a brief description of the lodging. Places to Shop gives data on health food stores where one could purchase everything from vitamins and supplements to organic produce, veggie snacks and deli items. A rating like good or excellent is part of each entry.

One of many special features in the book is How Green Is My Market offering a roster of farmers' markets in the city's Greenmarket program that takes place at more than 30 locations throughout the city. Twenty of those markets operate year-round. Approximately 175 farmers participate in the Greenmarket.

Don't "Mock" It Till You Try It is a section on faux meat products. After a brief discussion of the origins of the fake meats, chicken, and fish, the author lists the restaurants where diners can do their mocking.

Hidden Ingredients is one section covering an issue that plagues many vegetarian diners, such as animal ingredients lurking in their meals. Gerber points out the "bugbears" in Chinese, Cuban, French, Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, Southeast Asian, Mexican, and Spanish restaurants. In each cuisine she zeroes in on broths that may be animal-based, fish sauces in Asian foods, dairy or egg washes in or on some breads, and the high level of fat and sodium in some ethnic meals.

Sushi aficionados will enjoy Satisy Your Yen for Vegetarian Sushi that lists places around town where vegetarian sushi is available. Those who are content to stay home can flip a few pages to find organic home delivery. Editor's Picks: Best of the Best in NYC takes all of the restaurants surveyed and places a number of them in categories like Places We Rave About, Most Romantic, Best Bargains, Best Places to Blow Your Diet, Best Splurges, and Most Elegant. Not to be missed is the Top Ten Vegan Desserts.

Special sidebars pay tribute to some of the stars of the New York vegetarian restaurant scene. Singled out are Leslie McEachern of Angelica Kitchen, Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza of Candle Café, Louie Lanza of Josie's, and Chef Matteo Silverman who prepares a weekly four-course vegan meal in his Brooklyn loft.

The book incorporates neighborhood maps showing the locations of the restaurants in each community. It is well indexed with special listings by type of cuisine, vegebility, and price.

Before plunging into the book, the reader should take a few minutes to read the foreword by vegan celebrity Paul McCartney. McCartney urges readers," So if you haven't given vegetarianism a try, now is the time to do it: while you're on a trip and can look forward to really incredible meals prepared by some of the world's best chefs."

In perusing this 400-page exhaustive research, any reader will acknowledge that a vegan could not go hungry in the Big Apple, unless he or she was penniless. Susan Gerber and her associates have assembled a comprehensive guide that is extremely helpful for any vegetarian trying to navigate the New York scene. Not only is Vegetarian New York City highly informative, but it's also an enjoyable reading experience.

Veg-Feasting in the Pacific Northwest:
A Complete Guide for Vegetarians and the Curious

By Vegetarians of Washington

Book Publishing Company, 2004

Paperback, $12.95

Vegetarians of Washington have assembled all of their members and resources to develop Veg-Feasting in the Pacific Northwest: A Complete Guide for the Vegetarians and the Curious. This comprehensive guide, covering Washington and Oregon, focuses on dining, shopping, and living in this region.

In the Dining Out section the editors recognize that finding vegetarian options at Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants is quite simple, but caution about overlooking other ethnic cuisines. They cite Ethiopian and Middle Eastern restaurants as places offering "good vegetarian choices." Many steak and seafood restaurants are now including selections to satisfy vegetarian customers. When no vegetarian choice exists, the editors' advice is to ask if the chef would prepare a special meal from items on the menu.

The heart of this section consists of restaurant listings by cities in both states. For each restaurant, in addition to address and phone number, there is an indication of the type of food served, whether it is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the price range of meals. Also included is whether the restaurant is vegan, vegetarian, vegetarian friendly, or very vegetarian friendly. A paragraph describing the restaurant and its offerings is also featured.

Vegetarian Northwest For those more interested in preparing food at home, the book spotlights natural food stores, food co-ops, farmers' markets, and even mainstream supermarkets in a section called Shopping for the Vegetarian Kitchen. The advice is to buy organic produce whenever possible because it is grown without pesticides and herbicides. By shopping farmers' markets and buying directly from the people who grow the crops, the consumer will find fresher produce and many items not encountered in supermarkets.

Farmers' markets are presented in a chart showing location, hours, days, and months of operation. With a quick scan, readers can easily locate the nearest farmers' market.

Half of the volume is devoted to Living, a section divided into four parts: Getting Started, Staying Healthy, A Diet for All Ages, and Four Good Reasons Why. Each of these sections features essays by doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, and members of the group who have expertise on various subjects.

Anyone just becoming vegetarian and not sure about what to eat will find hints and clues in essays on vegetarian nutrition, what a vegetarian kitchen should stock, and an annotated list of cookbooks and other resources.

Staying Healthy emphasizes Food for a Healthy Heart, Avoiding Cancer, Diet and Diabetes, Nutrition for Healthy Bones, and Small Changes Make a Big Difference.

In Four Good Reasons Why contributors discuss non-health related reasons for being vegetarian. By taking this course, people are not only saving animals and the environment but also sparing themselves from animal and dairy products that have been contaminated with pathogens, hormones, antibiotics, and industrial chemicals. The concluding essay Food and Faith presents the spiritual case espoused by many religious groups in support of a vegetarian diet.

The book concludes with information about the contributors and the Vegetarians of Washington as well as a membership application for the organization and a feedback page for readers to make suggestions for entries for the next edition of the book. Maps of both states showing the locations of restaurants and natural food stores are included as well as Famous People, Famous Quotes.

The Vegetarians of Washington should be commended for producing this vegetarian compendium for citizens in the Northwest. Armed with this book, people in their community or visitors from other places have a ready-made guide to local resources to assist them in maintaining a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. The vegetarian community owes a debt of gratitude to the restaurant reviewers, the essay contributors, and the editors for a mammoth task that has been so capably executed. Hopefully, works like Veg-Feasting in the Pacific Northwest will be emulated in other areas of the country.

Vegetarian Restaurants and Natural Food Stores:
A Comprehensive Guide
to over 2,500 Vegetarian Eateries

By John Howley

Torchlight Publishing, 2002

Paperback, $19.95

Traveling around the United States, John Howley quickly recognized the need to find vegetarian restaurants and natural food stores in cities that he visited. Howley, a follower of Hare Krishna and a devoted vegetarian for more than 20 years, decided he would assist others in this same task by assembling a vegetarian restaurant and natural food store guide for the entire country.

After three years of diligent research, he produced Vegetarian Restaurants and Natural Food Stores, an almost 700-page work that truly is a comprehensive guide on the subject. He personally verified the information for each entry in his list.

The book is subdivided by states with each chapter opening with a map of the state showing the location of the principal cities covered in the section. For each restaurant the author provides the address, phone number, the type of restaurant and menu, comments about the restaurant, price classification, credit cards accepted, and directions to the facility.

Vegetarian USA For people who frequent fast food restaurants, Howley has assembled information on vegetarian options available at national chains. If a fast food outlet has nothing for vegans or vegetarians or if it has very little, he candidly indicates those facts. Even donuts are not above scrutiny. For Krispy Kreme he says, "Because of the chemicals in the dough, it is not possible to ascertain if any of the dough used in the doughnuts does not contain meat products."

In describing Olive Garden, he says, "If you don't eat eggs there is not much reason to come here, as almost all the dishes contain meat and eggs. The pastas are made with eggs and the breading for Eggplant Parmgiana contains eggs."

"There is not much of a reason to come here as all they have is corn-on-the-cob and apple pie (vegan)," he writes about Popeye's. He does indicate vegan and vegetarian offerings at McDonald's, Subway, Taco Bell and other restaurant chains.

In the section General Vegetarian Information, Howley discusses the health benefits of vegetarianism, types of vegetarian diets, vegetarian nutritional considerations, contaminants present in animal products, and apparent vegetarian foods that may contain meat.

Quite useful to vegetarians is his chart of Ingredients and Chemicals That May Contain Meat, Egg, or Dairy. Calcium stearate, used to keep dry ingredients from caking, is usually derived from cows or hogs, while enzymes like rennet, lipase, pepsin, and trypsin often come from various animal sources.

In an effort to make the book a comprehensive resource, Howley presents a list of Vegetarian and Alternative Web Sites, information on Organic Produce, Famous Vegetarians, Vegetarian and Vegan Organizations, Natural Food Store Major Chains, Orlando Area Parks, and even Hare Krishna Temples where Sunday vegetarian feasts are served.

The book concludes with a discussion of various ethnic cuisines and their vegetarian offerings as well as items that may not be vegetarian or vegan. This section also discusses information on airline and train vegetarian offerings. A glossary including items from foreign cuisines and a limited index complete the work.

Vegetarian Restaurants and Natural Food Stores is an essential guidebook for anyone doing extensive traveling around the country. What makes this project especially valuable is that Howley keeps the database current by updating the information on his website at http://www.vegetarian-restaurants.net Because of the supplementary information, the book is good resource for new vegetarians and provides facts that even well-seasoned vegetarians may not know.

Reviewed August 2004

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