Pad Thai from Seed
By the time the Barre 3 studio where I work out starts its annual month-long Barre 3 Challenge in early January, I’m ready to leave the habits I indulged in for the holidays. The challenge: kick booze and caffeine, eat vegan foods only and attend five Barre 3 classes weekly.
I probably won’t make it to fighting weight before Carnival season kicks into high gear (the first major street parade, Krewe du Vieux, rolls out on January 27) but a bit of clean living should imbue in me enough confidence and energy to compete with teenagers for beads. I used to say my annual January health kick was motivated purely by vanity and immaturity – and it still is to a great degree – but these days I also just feel poisoned by January 2 and look forward to my post-holiday cleanup as much as the Bacchanal that necessitated it.
My annual cleanup used to find me subsisting on steamed vegetables and tofu. It was a boring way to live, if even just for a month, but New Orleans restaurateurs have caught on to the benefits of offering more diverse selections to the clean living crowd.
Ben Tabor, the chef/owner of Sneaky Pickle in Bywater used to say “This is where vegetarians go to die because traditional Louisiana food is so compelling.”
He theorizes that today the inundation of news of antibiotics, pesticides and genetic alterations in the food chain have finally started to have enough of an impact on consumer demand here that chefs are compelled to cater to these diets beyond the menu afterthoughts of a mixed vegetable plate or a fruit bowl
“I offer one meat option on a menu that’s otherwise 100 percent vegan. It’s not that I think meat is evil, though some do, but for health I think less than 20 percent of our diets should come from meat.”
It was guilt that drove Edgar Cooper to open Seed, his popular upscale vegan eatery in the Lower Garden District. A vegan for over 20 years, the New Orleans native travels the globe as a software industry consultant and it was a trip to Borneo that pushed him over the edge when he witnessed the destruction of the Borneo jungle, one of the last habitats for orangutans, due to palm oil production to serve the U.S. market.
Seed serves only organic foodstuffs that are often raw, soy free and/or gluten free. The chili-cheese fries feel like an indulgence but they are topped with bean-based chili and cashew queso. The Pad Thai is a delicious, entirely raw affair made with spiralized cucumber and carrot noodles, mung bean sprouts, jicama, peanuts, cilantro, greens and a Thai lime peanut dressing. The Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad is deceptively hearty with rich umami notes imparted by agave and balsamic-roasted carrots, avocado, hemp, pumpkin and sesame seeds and raw spinach.
While not entirely vegan, Tal’s Hummus offers a number of vegan and otherwise healthy choices. The finely minced Israeli Salad of cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and lemon and the creamy Hummus swirled around a pile of flavorful grilled vegetables are personal favorites.
The menu at the fun, festive Red Dog Diner is diverse enough to please any palate. Though vegan isn’t a goal here, several selections that fit the bill are more than mere afterthoughts. The Rat-A-Tat-Tat sandwich combines roasted eggplant, zucchini, tomato and mushrooms, (skip the mozzarella and roasted garlic aioli). The Mediterranean Nosh Plate is enough for two to share with hummus, roasted eggplant spread, tomato bruschetta, feta, olives and grilled pita.
869 Magazine St., 577-2202
Red Dog Diner
3122 Magazine St., 934-3333
1330 Prytania St., 302-2599
4017 St. Claude Ave., 218-5651
4800 Magazine St., 267-7357
Creole Cuisine Concepts just unveiled Flamingo A-Go-Go in the Warehouse District. Intended to be a throwback to the “Rat-Pack” era with bright lights, vibrant colors and dazzling artwork from local artists, the hotspots here are the oversized courtyard and a lively bar. Foods are inventive and often meant for sharing.