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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Year in Food: Vegan Goes Mainstream

Posted By on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 4:42 PM

click to enlarge Lunch plate at Oakland's No Worries, featuring afritada (right) made from soy "chicken." - JUN BELEN
  • Jun Belen
  • Lunch plate at Oakland's No Worries, featuring afritada (right) made from soy "chicken."

Twelve months, ten storylines: It's SFoodie's annual look back at the year in food.

In 2010 vegan food exploded ― all over our faces, deliciously. Sorry, that image is gross, but really: It was a year veganism was on the rise. No longer satisfied with the kids' table, vegans burst onto the mainstream with a mission. Namely: To eat as much delicious vegan food as humanly possible. And it wasn't just vegans loving vegan food in 2010. Whether for health, the environment, or animals, lots of folks sought to consume fewer animal products. Luckily, there was no better time, since it was a year when the quality and quantity of vegan food grew in leaps and bounds, and shows no signs of slowing down now.

click to enlarge Cinnaholic's Old Skool roll, topped with pomegranate seeds. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • Cinnaholic's Old Skool roll, topped with pomegranate seeds.

Nationally, we saw everything from vegan baker Chloe Coscarelli winning Food Network's Cupcake Wars to Ellen DeGeneres featuring exclusively vegan food on her show. Locally, it was just as exciting. San Francisco's top vegan stories of 2010 are hard to narrow down, but I think the rise of veganism was best illustrated by the vegan pizza takeover, the new prominence of vegan fine dining, and the proliferation of vegan restaurants in the East Bay. If those things were any indication, 2011 is gonna be bananas. Preferably deep-fried and served with a side of vegan coconut ice cream.

Not that long ago, if you wanted a vegan pizza, you had to call up Serrano's and get one delivered sans cheese. Then you'd sit in the corner of your apartment and simultaneously eat the dry pizza and use it to wipe your tears. All that was fine and dandy, but Bay Area vegans wanted more, and in 2010 they got it. With the invention of exciting new vegan cheeses from Daiya and Teese, pizza makers finally had something to work with. The city now offers everything from fancy vegan pies with cocktails at Beretta to delivery via Amici's and Escape from New York. Honestly, we're now deluged with fantastic options. I'm not complaining. Oh, and the best part? The vegan deep-dish from Patxi's. Seriously, we're the gloriously fattest vegans in all the land.

click to enlarge Sweet pea ragout with baby carrots and radish-saffron nage at Cyrus in Healdsburg. - DAVID B./YELP
  • David B./Yelp
  • Sweet pea ragout with baby carrots and radish-saffron nage at Cyrus in Healdsburg.

Our neighbors to the east gave us a run for our vegan money in 2010, and those fools are fast. The year saw the addition of several veg eateries, the expansion of others, and a mind-blowing soul food/beer combo. Heaven. Santa Cruz-based Saturn Cafe opened up a branch in Berkeley and quickly doubled their vegan selections due to increased demand. Just down the street, Cinnaholic brought ooey-gooey vegan cinnamon roll perfection to the spotlight, making Cinnabon look like child's play. No Worries opened in Oakland and introduced us to the magnificence of vegan Filipino food, and Amba in Montclair brought falafel to Oakland's bourgeois. Plus, the incomparable crispy fried deliciousness of Souley Vegan got a new next-door neighbor, Beer Revolution. This just proved the fact that nothing goes better with red beans and rice than a microbrew. And for dessert? We were able to pick up treats from the wildly successful East Bay Vegan Bakesale, a spin-off of the SF Vegan Bakesale. Between the two of them, they raised over $10,000 for charity in 2010. Vegan cupcakes might really be taking over the world.

Vegans got fancy on your asses in 2010. In innovative fine dining establishments around the bay, the dreaded Grilled Vegetable Plate became a thing of the past. Let's have a parade on that bitch's grave! In 2010, we saw vegan tasting menus pop up everywhere from Cyrus to Coi. It's probably thanks in large part to pioneers like Millennium and Ubuntu, proving that vegan fine dining isn't only possible, but often preferable. So, vegans, put on your Sunday Best (or roll in wearing tattered orphan clothes, a la Johnny Depp) and sit your schmancy tookus at a table where the waiters actually refill water glasses and don't put their thumbs in your soup. It was a great year ― you deserve it.

Other 2010 trends:
- Filipino Finds Its Voice
- Local Media Explodes
- Big-Ticket Dining Surges

- Pizza Pizza Pizza Pizza

- Cocktails Get More Respect

- DIY Revolution

- Coffee Seeps Farther

- Street Food Gets Serious

Laura Beck is a founding editor of Vegansaurus and tweets at @mrpenguino. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie.

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Laura Beck

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