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Culture Fruits & Vegetables Health Nightlife Plant-Based Restaurants

This Creative Eight Course Plant-Based Meal Is Attracting Vegans and Non-Vegans Alike

As a vegan, I know about all the new products, restaurants and Netflix documentaries. I have vegan friends and share some of the same vegan views. At times, in this vegan bubble of mine, I even begin to believe everyone’s becoming vegan. A simple conversation with a relative quickly dispels that notion. The reality is that within the United States, vegans only make up an estimated 3% of the entire population. That’s like comparing an edamame, to an, I don’t know, elephant. 

A recent study reveals the silver lining, as veganism has increased around 300% in the last 15 years. That’s an incredible explosion within a short space of time. You can credit the internet with this “mushroom” cloud of a diet shift. Whereas the initial conversation siloed around animal rights, over the years it’s expanded to include climate change and personal health and wellness. More specifically, two important factors for any new way of approaching things; advances in technology and just plain ol’ hands-on human ingenuity. 

One person forging her own brand of human ingenuity is Executive Chef Mimi Williams of Counterpart Vegan in Echo Park, California. Using 100% market fresh ingredients and plant-based processes, she creates familiar staples that are nearly indistinguishable from their original meat-based iterations. This is in stark contrast to many vegan spots that feature alternative protein-heavy menus, which are great advances as well, yet different. 

Raised in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, Williams was one of only a handful of Black families in the community. She shared a household with her parents and six brothers of Sicilian/Creole descent. Although she didn’t resemble most of her neighbors, Williams had a strong family support system. One could say she grew up with a traditional family in a non-traditional setting.

While her mother seemingly loved cooking and wanted Williams to learn, she recalls initially being resistant, feeling forced into doing a thing based on her gender expectations. Learning how to cook felt more like work than fun. Noticing that, her father encouraged her to cook things that interested her. That encouragement was the magic needed to open the floodgates of the world of food.

Williams’ was pushed to explore alternative diets during a period in which her father experienced health complications. With his doctor citing less meat consumption as a course of action, her family subsequently became early adopters of a mostly plant-based diet. By this time, Williams had become the de facto cook for her family, with her siblings frequently requesting her food.

At first, it took awhile to adjust to a mostly plant-based lifestyle, but after witnessing her father’s health improve firsthand, she was convinced the diet change was the right decision. These experiences helped Williams develop a perspective on food many Black people don’t have. She discovered veganism some years later during pregnancy after realizing she could no longer consume meat.

Honing her craft at restaurants across America, Williams’ still carries the same spirit of fearlessness and creativity her father encouraged as the current Executive Chef of Counterpart Vegan. Joining the team in 2019, she set about revitalizing Counterpart’s array of offerings. She credits a period of stagnant creativity as the stimuli behind her latest eight course tasting menu.

Consisting of familiar foods inspired by her upbringing, the flavors feel authentic. Some of the offerings include heirloom tomato carpaccio with a tasty and tangy vegan feta, pappardelle made from beets, seasoned squash ravioli and an unforgettable tiramisu as the finale. Williams’ new menu is a fine dining experience vegans and non-vegans alike can enjoy. She says she wants people to walk away feeling a sense of hope, and that when they share, “I didn’t know you could do that with this type of food,” that’s how she knows she’s on the right track.

If you’re looking for some momentary respite from quarantine, while supporting small businesses during the pause of outdoor dining, Chef Mimi will be offering a condensed version of the tasting menu as take-out for two. The dinner package will include a salad, appetizer, pasta, dessert, and likely, two non-alcoholic drinks.

There will be 25 of these dinner plates available to all guests and can be pre-ordered on Tock. The dinner package will be available every Friday and Saturday for pick-up, from 6PM-8PM.

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Cravings Culture

Apparently Deep-Dish Pizza Is Only One Of 10 Different Pizza Styles In Chicago

Just from reputation alone, I’ve always believed that New York City offered the best pizza in the United States. Biting into those phenomenal pies, I’ve often wondered if there was anywhere else in the US that could square up against those massive New York slices.

One man decided to put in the delicious work and settle the debate on which city really does offer the best pizza.

Steve Dolinsky is a 13-time James Beard Award winning TV and radio personality based in Chicago. Dolinsky hosts a segment for ABC 7 called “The Hungry Hound” where he seeks out and reviews the best restaurants in the city.

Photo: Huge Galdones

Dolinsky is also the author of the upcoming book Pizza City, U.S.A: 101 Reasons Why Chicago is America’s Greatest Pizza Town. In it, he sets out to prove that Chicago is irrefutably the best place to get pizza in the country.

During his experience, he explains that there are actually ten different types of pizzas the city is known for. Over the course of six months, Dolinsky went to 185 different pizzerias in Chicago and 56 in New York to be able to properly judge between the two cities.

He came to the conclusion that Chicago’s pizza was the superior of the two metropolises for two reasons: variety and depth.

“Not everyone likes stuffed, but some do. Not everyone likes deep, but many do. We also have tavern style and more Detroit places per capita than New York City. Quite simply, diversity wins.”

Dolinsky’s process was methodic. He wanted a baseline as to what to expect from the pizzas, so he would go in asking the style they were known for and then just order two common toppings: pepperoni and sausage.

“That was always the order when I was doing the initial assessing,” he explained. “I wanted to compare apples to apples. I didn’t think it was fair that some guy could have, even if it was a longer fermented dough, broccoli rabe and porchetta versus something that’s just pepperoni.”

In doing so, Dolinsky was able to experience the many different styles of pizza Chicago had to offer. So what else was there other than what we know as Deep Dish?

Check out the ten different styles of Chicago pizzas below.


Artisan

Photo: Huge Galdones
  • Much longer dough fermentation time, a minimum of two days.
  • A relatively more moist dough that allows for a better chew.
  • Gourmet toppings.
  • Typically everything is made in-house, which includes sauces, dough, meatballs.

Detroit

Photo: Huge Galdones
  • A pan pizza.
  • Uses brick cheese instead of mozzarella.
  • Cheese pushes to the edge of the pan and caramelizes.
  • Two racing stripes of tomato sauce only.

Tavern

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  • Also known as Chicago style thin.
  • Always square cut.
  • Cheese and sauce are pushed to the edge.
  • Thin and crispy, in some cases it’s almost saltine cracker thin.

Thin

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  • Wedge cut.
  • Crust is thicker than Tavern style, but not crispy.
  • Similar to New York style in terms of chewiness.
  • Not a pronounced heel (rise in the crust), an even height.

Neapolitan

Photo: Huge Galdones
  • Lots of cheese and tomato sauce.
  • Three ingredients.
  • The dough resembles leopard spotting.
  • Wood burning oven with 850-900 degrees F.

New York

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  • Giant wedge.
  • Foldable with three fingers.
  • A little crispy underneath.
  • In Chicago, if you ask for sausage, it comes crumbled rather than in slices like New York.
  • There’s a lot more fennel and oregano in the sausages offered in Chicago.

Stuffed

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  • Has a thin, extra top layer of dough.
  • A lake of tomato sauce on top of that.
  • Great for cheese pulls.

Deep-Dish

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  • Two-inch height.
  • There’s a layer of mozzarella cheese on the bottom to protect the slice from getting soggy.
  • Chunky, strained tomatoes in the sauce.
  • Baked for 45 minutes.

Roman

Photo: Huge Galdones
  • Essentially “Pizza Tapas”.
  • Cooked in long rectangular pans.
  • Two day fermentation of the dough.
  • Baked in a special handmade oven at 580 degrees.
  • Topped with fresh, seasonal ingredients — up to 60 flavors.

Sicilian

Photo: Huge Galdones
  • Made in a shallow pan
  • Crunchy base.
  • The cheese and toppings cook for hours first before adding the sauce.
  • Served in squares.

Pizza City, U.S.A: 101 Reasons Why Chicago is America’s Greatest Pizza Town releases this upcoming September.