Vegan Resorts to Eating Garnishes at Iron Fork

Categories: Beet Reporter
Vegans are optimists. How else would you describe people who think they can change the world simply by eating sprouts and abstaining from gummy bears? As one of these people, I decided to go to the New Times Iron Fork chef competition with an empty stomach, despite warnings from my co-workers that I shouldn't expect many vegan food options from the 56 restaurants, food trucks, and beverage vendors at the eating extravaganza.

When I walked in the gate, the first food peddler I saw was the Ms. Cheezious truck. Of course, I didn't expect to find anything vegan-friendly at a cheese-themed food truck, but I was proven wrong. The little cups of tomato soup they were doling out (but obviously not the grilled cheese sandwiches) were totally herbivorous. My optimism soared to new heights, and I prepared to encounter dozens more veggie options at the tables yet to come.

Next in line? A meatball food truck. OK, one for two. Third? A beef taco truck. One for three. Well, I was sure to have better luck in the garden area.

This is the first thing I saw when I got there:

iron fork mango salad.jpg
Camille Lamb
The papaya salad at 2B Asian Bistro
A colorful papaya salad! My heart sung. That is until I asked the requisite question a vegan asks of any Thai restaurant. "Does it have fish sauce in it?" Turns out it did. Okay, one for four.

iron fork beet reporter.jpg
Ily Goyanes
The Beet Reporter tries to turn a garnish of fried leeks into an entree.
​After a string of further strikeouts, I found some guacamole and chips at Rosa Mexicano's stand.

Then I came to La Riviera's table, the French restaurant located inside the Sofitel hotel. They had these delectable looking mushroom and gourmet cheese-filled crepes, topped with a bourbon butter sauce and pan-fried leeks.

I could eat the fried leeks. Thrilling.

There was literally nothing else I could eat in the outdoor area, so, my optimism somewhat bruised, I headed inside.

>Misha's Cupcakes? No. RA Sushi? No veggie rolls in sight. Steak 954? Fat chance.

I saw some promising green stuff on attractive little plates at Hakkasan's table, but it turns out the alfalfa sprout organic micro greens were simply burying pieces of crispy duck. The vendors were kind enough to prepare me a plate of the greens sans the quacker. My stats were getting pretty dismal at this point, even if you count garnishes.

I was able to indulge in the Chinese cole slaw side dish at Wok Town, which was a tasty and sweet blend of carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, jasmine oil and vinegar. Still hungry, I then saw the Edible Arrangements booth, and I almost cried.

iron fork strawberry1.jpg
Will Cropsey
Edible Arrangements' display of strawberry sacrilege
Why did they have to go and ruin those beautiful strawberries with all that milk chocolate?

I was getting weak by the time I reached the back of the building and found an oasis among the animal product-riddled food offerings at the other tables: Alhambra, a Mediterranean restaurant, offered three, yes three, vegan-friendly options: gazpacho, hummus, and baba ganoush. I found myself desperately doing shots of stewed eggplant before I knew it.

Then, when I had all but given up hope of finding a vegan entree, I got a sign. Not from God, but from the Cafe at Books & Books. It read "Grilled Tofu Taquitos."

iron fork taco.jpg
Camille Lamb
The vegan-friendly tofu taquitos at Books and Books' table
I felt no shame in asking for seconds and thirds.

Even more thrilling were the butternut squash and chickpea-puree topped crisps at Bryan in the Kitchen. The sweet and savory treats win the award for the most unique vegan-friendly morsels of the night.

So what were my final stats at the end of the four-hour event? Not counting garnishes, I was able to eat stuff at five of the approximately 45 restaurant tables and food trucks. So for every nine vendors I visited, I found one that had something vegan-friendly.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Cafe Bustelo's espresso and Activate's electrolyte water for ensuring I didn't pass out while foraging. Better luck next year.

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I bet you'd do better visiting the restaurants themselves.  I would imagine they would have more flexibility in full kitchens then at a food event where they brought in selected items.

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