Earlier this year, Del Taco became the first major fast food chain to serve Beyond Meat on their menus with a test launch in Los Angeles. It seems like those tests have been going well, as the Beyond Meat menu is expanding to the rest of SoCal.
Photo courtesy of Del Taco
In total, 16 locations in San Diego, plus another three in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, will now have the option to put the plant-based protein into their meal. You can swap out any meat for the vegan option in burritos, tacos, or bowls, or get one of the two Beyond Tacos crafted specifically for the protein. There’s a vegetarian Beyond Meat Taco with cheddar cheese and a vegan Beyond Avocado Taco as well.
This brings the total number of Del Taco locations selling Beyond Meat to 21, which is still a small number compared to the chain’s 570-plus total. Nonetheless, the fact that the test market effectively tripled after just three months is promising, and there’s always a chance that one day, that plant-based option will be available at all locations.
As fast food giants look at their own menus for potential plant-based additions, Del Taco’s partnership with Beyond Meat is definitely one to keep an eye on, especially given on the favorable feedback and success.
As much as I love coffee there are times when home brew just isn’t good enough, but the trip to the café isn’t worth the time. There are other days when I wish coffee could constitute a meal (and at times it has to). Well, now’s the time to rejoice coffee lovers, for Nescafé plans to deliver with something new! Starting January 2019 Nescafé is bringing Coffee Protein Smoothies and Whipped Shakeable Lattes to the market.
These protein smoothies are plant-based with 15 grams of protein per bottle, non-dairy, and no artificial sweeteners. It’s a combination of 100% Columbian Arabica coffee, oats, and almond butter and will be available in Banana or Mocha flavors. It’s delicious and filling, perfect for the coffee enthusiast on the go and easy on your wallet for $3.49. Plus, it is a vegan friendly option for our plant-based friends.
Lattes are not typically available outside of the café, but Nescafé has really shaken things up with this new invention — literally. All you have to do is give the bottle a good shake for a few seconds and you get the frothy and creamy experience of a latte on the go. These are available in delicious Coffee and Vanilla flavors. It’s also cheaper than your typical latte, priced at $2.49.
Be sure to keep an eye out at your local markets in the New Year, because Nescafé is looking to switch up your morning routine.
Ever since the plant-based, “bleeding” Impossible Burger debuted a few years ago, customers have been clamoring for the chance to play with it themselves, at home. We finally have a solid timetable on when that will be possible.
Photo: Isai Rocha // Foodbeast
Impossible Foods has confirmed that in 2019, they will be launching their plant-based meat in grocery stores.
The company isn’t providing any other details at this time, so we’re not sure how it will be sold.
Currently, vegan burger purveyor Beyond Beef sells their meat in two-patty packages for grocery, but it’s unknown if Impossible Foods will take a similar approach.
The burgers have exploded on the scene since their debut, with availability currently expanded to about 5,000 restaurants globally with over 13 million consumed to date. That puts the company’s product on reach with that of some major fast food chains.
With the release to grocery next year, Impossible Foods believes that it can eliminate the need for animals in food production by 2035. It’s a bold claim, but considering that estimates say meat production will be unsustainable by 2050, that’s good news for the future of food, and the planet.
An Impossible Foods representative has said that more news will be coming in the next few months, so a concrete final launch date could be announced within that time span.
Intricate seafood towers are the first portrait my mind paints when thinking of foods served in the lap of luxury. The grandiose culinary spectacle has long been the territory of high-end steakhouses and raw bars. Thus, as many living the high life have moved towards vegan lifestyles, this extravaganza has traveled with them.
At Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood, a limited edition plant-based Seafood Tower has been quietly gracing the menu. The brainchild of owner Tal Ronnen and executive chef Scot Jones, the two culinary geniuses have tinkered with plants and fungi to get them to taste just like seafood.
To be honest, you wouldn’t expect anything less from a restaurant as gifted in vegan transformations as Crossroads. Since its opening in 2013, Ronnen and Jones’s establishment has been the talk of the town because of how they make plants taste like seafood. They are famous for signature dishes like their hearts of palm “Crab Cakes” and “Artichoke Oysters.”
For the plant-based Seafood Tower, Jones and Ronnen have produced a plethora of vegetables that mimic seafood on taste and aroma. On the top “hot food” layer you’ll find calamari, Clams Casino, Oysters Rockefeller, and shrimp cocktail. Underneath that is a “cold dishes” platter of smoked salmon mousse on bread, ceviche, and tequila oyster shooters.
On some of these items, the secret to their flavor is what they’re cooked in. Chef Jones explained that kombu (a type of Japanese seaweed) is a key component, as it provides the briny, salty aroma you associate with the sea. Chef Ronnen added on that because a lot of sea creatures eat seaweed, the flavor association between the animal and what they eat is pretty strong.
As for the plants, each one contributes something different in terms of texture and flavor. For the “calamari,” cooked hearts of palm separates into rings that emulate a perfectly cooked squid’s supple bite. The slight crunchy resistance of lychee can easily be mistaken for raw fish in Crossroad’s take on ceviche. When it comes to the “oysters,” the shiitake mushroom makes for a great slippery substitute.
The shrimp cocktail uses one of the most exciting natural seafood replicas out there: the lobster mushroom. A hyper-seasonal fungi that grows in forests, it’s actually a parasitic relationship between a mushroom and a mold that results in this characteristic oceanic aroma and vibrant pink hue. Chef Jones brought a couple of whole ones out for us to experience, and the mimicry was truly mind-blowing.
Of course, the biggest challenge is getting everything to 100 percent resemble what seafood is. Since Crossroads relies on vegetables and fungi, the texture isn’t always quite there, but the flavor is spot on. For Foodbeast’s own Oscar Gonzalez, a pescatarian, he saw it as a great introduction to the world of vegetarian cuisine. “The flavors were there,” he explained, “and even though the texture was slightly off, I could live with that.”
According to Chef Jones, this is Crossroads’ primary goal in creating these plant-based replicas. By showing omnivorous and carnivorous eaters that getting a similar sensory experience to their meaty favorites is possible with plants, it makes them more willing to eat foods that are more sustainable for the planet.
The Seafood Tower will be on Crossroads’ menu as long as the lobster mushrooms are in season. This is typically through late October to early November, but could be longer based on availability. You can find it as a limited special during dinner services on Fridays and Saturdays through that time period.
Before you even get a chance to take a bite, the aroma of a salty effervescence hits your nostrils. You’re instantly transported to the Maine coast, ready to dig into a generous helping. The first taste comes, and the familiar briny sweetness of lobster resonates inside of your mouth.
It’s only when you come back to reality and see what’s in front of you that you realize you’re not eating freshly cooked lobster. You instead just bit into a lobster mushroom, an equally pricey fungus that gives you the same aromatic experience that the beloved crustacean does.
Photo: Constantine Spyrou
Native to the forests of North America (particularly the Pacific Northwest), the lobster mushroom is actually unique in that it’s not entirely a mushroom. It comes about as the result of a parasitic fungus that attacks certain mushroom species, contorting their shapes and giving them a reddish-pink hue, similar to that of a cooked crustacean.
The parasite also changes the flavor and aroma of the mushroom, becoming similar to that of seafood. As such, it can be used as a natural substitute for lobster or shrimp in several dishes. You may find it, for example, serving as the “shrimp cocktail” in an epic plant-based seafood tower in Hollywood, or used to add a punch of briny flavor to a wild mushroom ragu.
In a world where food scientists are using technology to make plants taste like meat, it’s interesting to find the rare times that nature itself had something that does just that all along. The lobster mushroom is a perfect example of that.
For those interested in getting these yourselves, they do require foraging (or purchasing from a forager that specializes in gathering them). They are hyper seasonal, and can go for as much as regular lobster by the pound.
Most people need a hot cup of coffee to power themselves up before they can even think about getting through the day. While the effects of coffee are quite powerful, I’ve never really considered the potential they have beyond keeping me from dozing off in the shower.
Harnessing said potential, Dunkin’ Donuts took it upon themselves to build a Home That Runs on Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee. More specifically, used coffee grinds.
The idea was to take wasted resources and figure out a way to convert them into fuel, as part of an initiative towards a cleaner planet. The coffee brand partnered with Blue Marble Energy to create a biofuel made from the oil extracted from the used coffee grounds from Dunkin’ Donuts.
The biofuel is an 80% blend of coffee oil and 20% blend of alcohol that’s added to a generator which, in turn, powers every facet of the home.
The design of the house itself is also inspired by Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, with the textures and colors resembling the the richness of coffee grinds.
Anyone wishing to check out this tiny coffee-powered house will find it at Madison Square Park from Oct. 4 through Oct. 6.
To me, the most exciting plant-based restaurants are those that go beyond the kale and black bean burgers and let the creative juices flow. Big names like Tal Ronnen know how to create indulgent and delicious meat-free eats that often mimic some of our favorite carnivorous creations.
Such is the case at Jewel, a Los Angeles restaurant that offers up a fresh take on the plant-based food scene. Foodbeast’s own Marc Kharrat and Elie Ayrouth went with YouTube star and actress Anna Akana to Jewel to check out their entire menu, and were impressed at the restaurant’s signature dishes.
One of Jewel’s most famous items is their Carrot Lox Toast, where the “rabbit food” is transformed into luxurious, smoky slivers that could fool anyone into thinking it was actual salmon. Kharrat, a first-time vegan eater, was impressed by the orchestra of flavor in this toast.
There was also the Cococalamari Tacos, which utilize young coconut as a substitute for squid. To Ayrouth, the texture of them compared to calamari was similar, but “less stringy,” as he put it. They went well with the fresh flavors the accoutrements to the taco provided.
The most eye-opening of Jewel’s dishes had to be the Sol Box, their take on ribs that featured barbecued yuba. “Yuba is a byproduct of making tofu,” chef Jasmine Shimoda explained, adding on that the yuba is dehydrated to get a “crepe-like texture” similar to pulled rib meat. Akana, an experienced vegan, could not believe how close to the real deal it got, saying that “my mouth likes it but my brain is like ‘NO!'”
Jewel’s ability to transform vegetables into meat-like foods is incredible, and merits a journey to see just how close to the dishes mirror their carnivorous counterparts.
You can see the full menu and all of the enticing creations Jewel has to offer in Foodbeast’s new episode of Going In, featured in the above video.
Fast food is really starting to get into the meat alternatives game. You have the Impossible Sliders available nationwide at White Castle, McVegans in Europe from McDonald’s, and Impossible Burgers at Fatburger. Now, Del Taco is adding their name to the vegan “beef” game, teaming up with Beyond Meat to bring a plant-based option to their menu.
Photo courtesy of Beyond Meat
While other chains, like Veggie Grill, have Beyond Meat in their stores already, Del Taco is the first major drive-thru restaurant to carry the product in-house. They’re also the first Southwest/Mexican fast food restaurant to carry a plant-based meat on their menu.
The two brands worked together to create a unique vegan “beef” crumble that has all of the same seasonings as Del Taco’s standard ground beef. Customers can use it as a protein replacement in the chain’s lineup of loaded fries, nachos, burritos, and other items.
Del Taco also created two new tacos exclusive to the new Beyond Meat crumble. They both consist of the plant-based meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and your choice of soft flour or crunchy corn taco shell. The differences between the two are that the Beyond Meat Taco contains cheddar cheese, while the 100% vegan Beyond Avocado Taco replaces that with avocado.
For now, the Beyond Meat/Del Taco partnership remains a test that is limited to two locations in Santa Monica and Culver City, CA. Del Taco CMO Barry Westrum said in a statement that the test has “no scheduled end date as of now, as we want to gauge acceptance prior to making further decisions on product availability.”
It is possible, therefore, that the Beyond Meat tacos will eventually spread to all of its locations. Though it is all a matter of whether they are successful in this trial run or not.