Sunday, April 12, 2009

A great vegetarian event!... in New Orleans?

New Orleans is a city with a rich and deep rooted culture, much of which revolves around food. We've got po boy sandwiches - the classic is roast beef, followed closely by fried shrimp. And there is of course the muffuletta: an ENORMOUS deli meat sandwich on a round seed bun with a huge pile of olive salad and cheese on top. There's the crawfish etouffee, the shrimp remoulade, the andouille sausage. And then there are all the hodgepodge dishes, like seafood gumbo and jambalaya, which frequently feature shrimp, crawfish, chicken, sausage, or any combination thereof. Red beans and rice? Of course you've gotta cook it with sausage. (Don't you?) Dirty rice? Guess what makes it dirty? If you're not from the dirty dirty you'll never guess in a million years, so I'll just tell you that it's chicken liver.

Given this food environment, need I tell you that it's just a smidge difficult being vegetarian (or, god forbid, VEGAN) in the Crescent City? It can be done, to be sure, particularly with the plethora of Japanese, Middle Eastern, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants that have opened there in the past 10 years. But it definitely flies in the face of the local cuisine - or, at least, so it would seem. There are many who may not believe that you can make a damn fine vegan gumbo - but it's true! And it must be tasted to believed. But since historically there have been no vegetarian restaurants in the whole city, most people never get the chance to find it out.

Well, all that may be changing. I've just discovered that there is now an all vegetarian restaurant in New Orleans! As cruel cruel fate would have it, Cafe Bamboo opened its doors THE DAY I LEFT THE CITY from my last visit. Ironic, no? But I'll hold no grudges, given the caveat that it stays open long enough for me to go and try it out! I, of course, hope that it stays open forever and is ridiculously prosperous.

It's right there at the bottom of Esplanade where it hits the river and Decatur / St. Peters, at the far southeastern edge of the Quarter... yes, it's at the Dragon's Den! (I'm not too clear on whether or not the Dragon's Den itself, as an establishment, still exists, so if someone could clear me up on that one I'd appreciate it. That place for me goes back to my earliest days in that city. Last I checked it was there, and had a goth night, called "The Den". But I digress.) Cafe Bamboo's menu seems to be somewhat similar to the fare offered by New York's dynamic duo, Red Bamboo and Vegetarian Paradise 2 (VP2 for short), both on the same block of West 4th Street down in NYUville. The similarity of the names and menus does make me ever so slightly suspicious that the same owners may have a hand in it, but that would be just fine with me. The menu does get these brownie points: they notate what isn't vegan! And it looks delish.

So not only does this place exist and everything, which seriously is a major feat, but it will also be playing host to the first annual NOLA Veggie Fest! Yes, that's right. You read correctly. Not only does The City that Care Forgot now have it's very own vegetarian restaurant, but now it's going to have a major event to promote the veg way. On Sunday, May 17, the good people of New Orleans will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a vegetarian education extravaganza! When I heard about this event, I was at first elated and then immediately brokenhearted - there's no way I'll be able to attend. But I'll be there in spirit! And I'll also be nagging all of you about it until then! Woo!

Features of the event include:
*free food samples
*cooking demonstrations
*raffle prizes (a few of which will be donated by yours truly, and hopefully by some of the other members of the Vegan Etsy team)
*a free subscription to VegNews Magazine for the first 50 attendees!

Admission is a mere $5, and proceeds go to the Humane Society of Louisiana. See? Just by showing up you're already contributing to your community... and putting yourself in the way of prizes! It's really win-win. If you're in the N.O. area, I really hope you will make an appearance. What are you waiting for? Put it in your day planner (or slingshot) already! None of this pencil stuff neither - I want it in there in ink. Do or do not do, there is no try, dern it. Tell them I sent you - and then tell me all about it!


April Smith said...

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this on your blog. I am one of the helpers for the Nola Veggie Fest planning. I am really glad to see so many people really excited about this event! We will be taking pictures of the event, and more than likely videos as well. I hope next year you'd be able to make it down and enjoy this fabulous event!! :)

-April Smith

melissa bastian. said...

Hi April Smith! Yeah, I'm super excited about the event, in case you couldn't tell. Every night I whine to my partner Jonathan about how upset I am that I'm not going to be there. But at any rate, I'm doing whatever I can think of to support it long-distance!

I've been in touch with Leslie and just yesterday got my raffle donations together - I hope y'all like them. The cool part is that I still have some friends in the New Orleans area that read my blogs (hi everybody!), and I know at least one couple who is now planning to attend your event because they found out about it through me! That makes me super happy. Over the coming weeks I'll be putting up a few more posts about it.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for working to make the Nola Veggie Fest happen!

April Smith said...

Well that is just excellent! I hope this event will help some of the MANY veg*ns in New Orleans come together. I know for over three years I felt like I was the only vegan in the city. I feel like we've isolated ourselves probably from the lack of "vegan approved" things to do/eat in the city.
Maybe it is just me and I like having the support system. :p But I am sure some who are rocky with their veg*nism appreciate it too.

I will definitely be sure to post this blog around if you don't mind, of course.

melissa bastian. said...

Of course you're welcome to post my post in other places! I want to spread the word far and wide, and if you can use this post to do it, go for it. :)

leandra said...

Hey Melissa, thanks for writing about this event... I also know one of the performers, Winder Lyons, and although I can't attend I am very excited to hear about how everything went. Hopefully, there will be some video clips to share. :)