Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mixed reviews

Several of my friends from school were in town this week, and we all went out for a bite to eat. The restaurant selected is called R. Thomas, yet another veg-friendly place in Atlanta.

You can see from this picture that the decor was exotic--all the seating was on an outdoor patio, and despite the fact that it looked out on Peachtree Street (the main traffic vessel through downtown), it managed to conjure up the feeling of being on some tropical island. Perhaps the coolest thing was that all the light fixtures were decked out with red, blue, and green CFL bulbs!

I could not make up my mind about this place on a number of levels. One thing I really liked was their commitment to fresh, organic ingredients. They have an entire juice menu, for example, and they juice the fruits to order--straight from organic fruits, local whenever possible. They also had extensive vegan and even raw vegan selections on the menu--I ordered raw hummus with grilled vegetables and found it very satisfying.

Here's what bothered me: They touted their beef and chicken as being clean, humane, "happy" meat. Our waiter even said that since all their meat is free range and grass-fed, the restaurant shows great concern for animal welfare even in their omnivorous selections. Maybe I am too intolerant, but it really makes me angry when people say things like that. To me, it would almost be better if restaurants didn't claim that their meat was "cruelty-free" because then they are not misleading people into believing that animals would be well off if we all just started eating organic meat. It's ridiculous. Every time I have the opportunity, I explain to people that terms like "organic" and "free range" are more or less meaningless in the context of large-scale agriculture, and I find it to be such a setback when someone else comes along and claims differently. Which one do you think people are going to believe--the crazy, "extremist" vegan, or the guy who assures them that they can still enjoy their beef?

To the restaurant's credit, they do have an entire wall devoted to pamphlets promoting veganism and Farm Sanctuaries and other organizations that really do concern themselves with the welfare of animals. I don't understand why a place like that would even think it necessary to serve meat; there are about 1,001 steakhouses in Atlanta for people who just absolutely have to have their meat, so why does a restaurant that is obviously concerned with the ethics of eating feel like it should concede and serve meat, when they apparently know enough about the meat industry to promote veganism? It all just seems very deceptive to me.

Sorry, guys--I had to get that out. Please, tell me what you think. Am I just being crazy and touchy?

Anyway... here's what I've been cooking.

After thinking about this dish for quite awhile, I finally decided to make the broiled Japanese eggplant from Fatfree Vegan. It made a very elegant presentation, but it tasted... well, like eggplant. I like eggplant, but not this way--it didn't cook through very well and tasted spongy and bitter. The miso sauce was very good, though; I would make this again, but I would substitute zucchini next time--maybe some of the monster zucchini that some bloggers have been showcasing?

This next meal, however, does not receive a mixed review. I had some portabello caps waiting to be put to good use. I found some Follow Your Heart mozzarella cheese in the freezer. Put them together, and you get the Portabello Bagel Melt from Vive! I used a whole wheat bun in place of the bagel and steamed kale in place of the spinach, both making fine substitutions. The portabellos came out juicy and full of flavor, and the cheese got very satisfyingly melty. This sandwich needed nothing but a small dab of dijon mustard--perfect! Next time, I would love to try this with some roasted red peppers.

That's pretty much it for today. Peace!


Kati said...

Yes, I agree with you 100% about the restaurant - you're not crazy (at least according to a fellow "crazy" vegan!). There is no such thing as humanely raised meat. Period. Hopefully this incident didn't confuse your friends, whom I assume are omnivores, too much - it can be hard enough for people to get used to your personal ethics of eating without others throwing around conflicting arguments. Bummer.

Veg-a-Nut said...

HI Laura,
I have to agree with you 100%. Do they really think that because the animals are fed organic feed and sometimes allowed outside make killing them humane? I mean those two words humane and steak don't even belong together. Besides the "confusing" statements made by the restaurant I am glad that your meal was good. I hope that the owners of the restaurant will read some of the great vegan literature and change their ways.

I am sorry your eggplant was not what you were hoping for. It looks really good! That portabella burger looks wonderful too! The roasted red pepper idea sound like it will be a hit!

Courtney said...

I have to voice my agreement as well. People are always telling me that they only buy/eat "free-range organic meat" as if I am supposed to then give them my blessing for eating meat or something. It is so strange...when people find out I am a vegan that is one of the first things they tell me--I would never actually ask someone about the meat they eat!

Anyway, I am glad you are (semi)enjoying exploring your new city!


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with you 100% about the restaurant. too bad the eggplant dont taste as pretty as they look!

Kate said...

I totally agree with you. It is still killing no matter if it is "humane" or whatever they want to call it. Also, I love your food.

Don't Get Mad Get Vegan! said...

i feel your pain on this one and have so much to say...but i need time to collect my thoughts.

i see an email exchange in our future ;)

bazu said...

well, you are no crazier than I was when I got royally ticked off at that letter in VT! Lately, I have gotten increasingly upset about the idea of 'clean' and 'happy' meat, especially when used as an excuse by ex-vegetarians to now eat meat. (mollie katzen, I'm looking at you!) please, someone, describe to me what a happy slaughter looks like. UGH.

VeggieGirl said...

This is why I wish that terms like "free-range" and "grass-fed" would not be allowed somehow - they are so misleading and full of irony; as if people are trying to justify slaughter and factory farming! on a happier note, I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed your meal (despite the mixed review).

wow, those eggplants came out perfectly - I'm sure zucchini would come out just as delicious!

oOo that portobello bagel melt looks scrumptious as well - I just bought a package of FYH 'cheese' the other day, and I plan on trying it very soon (never had it before! bought the cheddar flavor). glad to see that it does indeed melt properly.

KleoPatra said...

i'm right there with you, Laura, and Bazu took the words out of my fingers here: yes, we are looking at YOU, Ms. Mollie Katzen! (Oh, don't get me started. i am quite disappointed in her) And as well it frustrates me to no end, the hypocrisy of those who think that "free-range" and all that "happy talk" can take away from reality - the slaughter of living beings, which is absolutely unacceptable. (Preaching to the choir here, i know, but still! Grrrrrrrrr!)

i do appreciate the fact that this exotic-looking, beautifully decorated restaurant (with the gorgeous tablecloths, i might add) that seems to have some Green elements i can appreciate, is wonderful to offer vegan choices, it's still confusing and confounding to me that they would even go down that road of trying to downplay the fact that animals are being cooked up in their restaurant...

ANYway, your bello shroom & steamed kale sammy with the cheez... woah, Laura. i would dig it big time... for sure the addition w/roasted red peppers would make this even more incredible. The photo is drool-worthy!!

Freedom said...

I totally agree. Given that the restaurant is obviously already so aware of animal suffering in meat production, if I were you I would be writing to their manager repeatedly, doing everything you can to convince them that eating animals is wrong even if they are raised 'humanely.'
Glad you liked the raw hummus!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with ya Laura. The problem is that people like eating meat. It's the same with any other nasty habit or addiction. They'll find many different (and ridiculous) ways to try to justify their actions to themselves and others. Unfortunately they probably feel the same way about us. You know, that we make up crazy stuff to justify veganism.

Judith MacCaellich-Young said...

Whilst I do believe that animals can be raised humanely, using old fashioned farming methods, I do not believe that they can be killed humanely...NOT AT ALL!

Mollie Katzen has gone back to eating meat? Eeeek!

Perhaps being fair the restaurant is aimed at families, and not all family members are always veggies. My husband certainly isn't, and yes he does eat 'organic' meat (we have visited the farm, and can happily say that the livestock is treated in a good manner).

I do sympathise though, I would rather they were just honest about carcass crunching than trying to make it seem justified.

maybepigscanfly said...

I definitely understand your frustration and I do agree with you about the "free range" and "humane" stuff. Unfortunately these words and phrases don't have very strict guidelines and can be used pretty freely by different companies, which is misleading to the public. I definitely don't think that you're crazy. I also think that it's important to praise the restaurant for the positive things that they are doing- dedicated to organics and health, as well as offering many vegetarian and vegan options. I feel that it we continue to support these places they will appreciate us more and be more willing to listen to our concerns and possibly make some changes. You also have to consider that they are a business, and that they know many of their customers want meat. At least they are not supporting factory farms (I don't think). Personally I just don't like to push or force my food and dietary choices on other people, just like I don't want them to push theirs on me. I have a family who is not very open to veganism and often criticizes my diet. I would hate to do the same to them and instead I am open to their diet and I hope that they will see this and recognize how unfair it is they are not open to my diet, whereas I'm open to theirs. I know they'll come around as long as I don't get pushy or forceful. Obviously this is all my opinion and I'm not saying that I am right at all. I guess I just tend to stay neutral- which could of course be a bad thing. Basically, I totally agree with and understand your concerns, and I also can try to understand why the restaurant has made these choices. Ok that was way too long- I hope it doesn't sound preachy.

On a happier note- that portabella melt definitely looks like a perfect sandwich. And you made a good choice on the kale- that stuff is awesome!

Glad to hear that you are so far enjoying the new home and neighborhood!

aTxVegn said...

We're all with you, Laura. For some reason, eating well treated animals makes omnis feel better about eating meat, or at least seems to give them justification.

You seem to be settling into life in Atlanta nicely. It will be fun discovering new places for vegan fare. Your portobello sammie looks yum!

springsandwells said...

Hi Laura!
It's so nice to finally catch up on your blog again.

I think that if people will eat meat, selecting free range and organic & grass-fed are all helpful consumer choices. If nothing else, it sends a message to the industry that some people care a little bit about the source & treatment of their meats.

That said, some one just recently said to me "oh I bought some of that grass-fed, happy meat" & it really irritated me. You just don't have happy dead animals. Sorry. It was clear to me that this person was desperately deceiving themselves in an attempt to justify their meat eating, and they wanted me to support them. Which I declined to do.

so, no you are not crazy! it's these "happy meat" eaters who are delusional!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I certainly don't think you're crazy for disagreeing with "happy" meat. I also find this quite annoying, especially when I'm at whole foods and I have to walk by the meat section (as much as I try to avoid it) and see all the "humane" labels for free range, cage free, etc. It's enough to drive any vegan crazy. As you mentioned though, it is important to inform as many people as possible about the lies and deception involved in so-called humane meat/dairy/eggs/any animal product.
Your portabello bagel melt looks fabulous!

Carrie™ said...

Someone posted this article on their blog (I'm really sorry I forget who, so I can't give credit) but it really ticked me off. There is no way "happy meat" exists or, if it did, could feed the entire meat-eating population. And Mollie Katzen is a huge disappointment. I could never again in my life let meat touch my lips. Anyhow, great that you got to spend some time with friends and have some good food. BTW, your new kitchen looks fab! And I am on a serious hunt for Temptation ice "cream".

Carrie™ said...

The link I posted didn't work. Sorry.
It's here

vko said...

If happy meat were one word, it would be an oxymoron and the person who termed it is an absolute moron, though actually not that moronic because people are willing to pay extra for something that softens their guilt about the animals that are tortured & slaughtered so they can stuff their faces with burgers & steaks.

It makes me so mad because we all know that those cows & lambs were not happy at all about being killed for their meat. It seriously offends me and that restaurant- trying to cater to guilty omnivores (by serving "humane" meat) when they should just stand firm and be a full vegan restaurant- shame on them.

your portabello melt on the otherhand takes the anger out of me- yummy vegan food- yay!

Neva Vegan said...

Catching up a little. All the food looks gorgeous! I never even thought about a kale sandwich even though I have had spinach that way--it looks so good and so healthy.

I think that part of the problem with the humane meat thing is that some of the larger animal organization announce "VICTORY" any time they get a cage made bigger or that kind of thing. It makes people who care about animals somehow think that minor improvements to the conditions the animals are kept in makes eating them ok. People are not getting the message that animals aren't ours to eat!

I kind of hate it when the restaurants that serve lots of good vegan food add "humane" meat to the menu, not just because it promotes the myth that meat can be "humane." It's also that I know lots of people who won't eat a vegan meal to save their lives, so if I take them somewhere and there is meat available they will eat it. But when I've forced these people, friends and family, to go somewhere all vegan, they've always loved the food that they at first didn't want to try. But if they can get a steak, they won't even try a bite of mine, and I really want to show them that vegan food can be very good.