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Monday, April 28, 2014

Vegan Jerky Is a Thing That Exists, at Third Rail in the Dogpatch

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 11:04 AM

click to enlarge JULIE KRAMER
  • Julie Kramer

At Third Rail, the new bar on 20th and 3rd Streets in the Dogpatch, you can drink some mighty tasty cocktails crafted by Jeff Lyons, who was formerly the bar manager at Range. You can also eat several types of jerky, many so popular that people have been known to come in just to replenish their at-home supply. And if you're a vegetarian, there is -- no lie -- vegan jerky.

See Also: Week in Vegan: Veg Week, Beavers and Vegan Kids

Week in Vegan: Fake Chicken, Nut Milk, and How to Buy a Bakery

Phil West, Range's chef-owner, is a man who cares deeply about the source and quality of his ingredients. Fortunately for non-meat-eaters, he also cares about his vegetarian/vegan customers enough to think past the "fake meat" genre, and brought the familiar jerky texture to actual vegetables. Getting there was tricky, as you don't want the vegetables to be too dry or crunchy, like the kale chips you see everywhere. Using either trumpet mushrooms or carrots, West devised a system of blanching the veggies in salted water, tossing them with vadouvan (a spice with a bit of sweetness and a hit of curry), and dehydrating them for 12 to 14 hours, just to the point of chewiness. It took about 20 tries to perfect his method, but he nailed it: while the vadouvan can be a bit intense, the carrot jerky still tastes like sweet carrots, and the more leathery mushroom jerky retains an earthy quality.

click to enlarge JULIE KRAMER
  • Julie Kramer

A note on the carrot version: making this jerky is a true labor of love. West specifically asks his purveyors for "teenage carrots", fairly young and on the small side. The skins must be removed before spicing in order for the vadouvan to adhere, and the yield is extremely low: 10 pounds of carrots results in about two-and-a-half pounds of jerky. Vegans, take a moment to bow your heads in thanks for Phil West's dedication.

There may be other types of vegan jerky in the future. (West has been experimenting with beets recently.) And if you do eat meat, you might want to try the Red Eye Jerky, described by my neighbor at the bar as "one of the best things you will ever eat." It gets its name from the same place as Red Eye gravy, a Southern preparation in which leftover coffee is stirred into the frying juices of ham or other meat, creating a rich (and economical) pan sauce. Red Eye Jerky uses a coffee rub to achieve a similar type of flavor. Paired with one of Third Rail's Spiritous cocktails, West's jerky is the perfect way to start an evening -- and it beats the hell out of a bowl of peanuts and pretzels.

Third Rail, 628 20th St., (415) 252-7966.


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Julie Kramer

Julie Kramer

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