Who: VN Staff
What: Kick-off dinner at Natural Products Expo West
Where: Native Foods in Costa Mesa
When: March 13, 2008
Why: Pass up an opportunity to hit Native Foods? We think not.
The Scoop: Every March, the VN clan hits Anaheim in full force for the world’s largest natural products show—three jam-packed days of schmoozing, product testing, and giving out copies of the magazine. To kick-off the weekend, we always hit one of our favorite vegan restaurants: Native Foods. With four locations (and a fifth coming soon), there's nothing quite like a meal at Native. It was a balmy March evening in Orange County, and our party dined al fresco around a large table complete with a fire pit in the middle. We started with Native’s signature appetizers: “Save the Chicken” Wings (housemade seitan deep-fried in a coconut batter with a side of Ranch dressing), Native Seasoned Fries, and Native Nachos (tortilla chips smothered with black beans, soy taco meat, salsa, guacamole, corn, and soy cheese). For the record, we could eat Native’s (un)chicken wings all day, every day. Having spent all afternoon traveling, we were absolutely famished and inhaled the appetizers. We then ordered individual entrées; everything from Katie’s Philly Peppersteak Sandwich (seasoned seitan with sautéed onions and peppers on an organic French roll) to Jenny’s Gandhi Bowl (Jasmine and brown rice loaded with steamed veggies, blackened tempeh, and a curry sauce) to Colleen’s Mad Cowboy (baked potato topped with barbecue tempeh, grilled vegetables, and Native’s famous Ranch dressing—affectionately named after former cattle-rancher-turned-vegan-activist Howard Lyman). We were all in veggie heaven eating this flavorful, innovative, delicious food. We couldn’t leave without dabbling in a few desserts: the Elephant Chocolate Cake (with cinnamon peanut butter icing), the Key Lime Parfait, and the Native Cheesecake. We were especially fortunate that Ms. Tanya Petrovna, founder of Native Foods, joined us for a while. She even had us taste-test her new coconut-battered oyster mushrooms (which were amazing). And VN has some exclusive scoop! One of our favorite veg boutiques, Humanitaire (located in a very stylish space next to Native Foods in Costa Mesa), is opening up location #2 in the rear of Native Food’s Westwood location. Nothing makes us happier than when veg businesses expand and multiply. Yeah!