[Image: courtesy of The Vegan Newyorker]
NEW YORK CITY – The iconic Italian restaurant Pomodoro Rosso on Manhattan’s Upper West Side recently launched a collaboration with Meatless Farm, a U.K. producer of plant-based meat alternatives who debuted their vegan products in 450 Whole Foods stores across the U.S. just a few months ago. With this collaboration, the restaurant, known from the famous Kramer and George “Break Up” scene in an episode of the 90s cult sitcom “Seinfeld”, is responding to an increasing demand for meatless options.
Pomodoro Rosso Embraces Meatless Monday
As of October, Pomodoro Rosso is now offering a completely vegetarian menu in addition to their regular dishes, including two fully vegan options: a vegan Bolognese and vegan “Meat Balls”. This initiative follows a decision of all New York City public schools to go meatless on Mondays two months ago and is part of a global movement of campaigns motivating people to go meat-free one day a week.
“Meatless Monday was founded in 2003 by Sid Lerner in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In May, 2009, Ghent, Belgium, became the first non-U.S. city to go meatless. Shortly thereafter, Paul McCartney introduced the U.K. to Meat-Free Mondays. Now, the Meatless Monday movement is active in over 40 countries and continues to grow as more and more people are finding innovative ways to make meatless dishes part of their everyday culture, customs and cuisine.” (via meatlessmonday.com)
Imitating Meat: Why, How and… Does it Work?
Veganism is a rapidly growing movement and the importance of catering to all preferences and tastebuds can’t and shouldn’t be underestimated. While there will always be those who criticize the trend of recreating vegan versions of traditionally non vegan dishes, the practice of “veganizing” meals is essential in helping plant-based options become more mainstream.
Those who don’t understand it perhaps don’t realize that veganism is, at its core, an ethical movement and not a dietary trend. Culinary traditions across the globe have perfected the art of seasoning and cooking meat dishes making them an intrinsic part of cultural identities. The decision to remove meat from one’s diet is therefore much more complicated and personal than one might think. By offering products that mimic meat in taste, texture and even look, companies have recognized an opportunity to minimize any perceived sacrifice by helping consumers (and restaurants) recreate the dishes they grew up eating and loving.
In addition, more and more people who may not be ready to go vegan yet are becoming open to at least including more plant-based meals for environmental and/or health reasons. These products are therefore targeted at both vegans and non vegans, further explaining the need for and importance of alternatives that resemble meat so closely.
This trend of veganizing animal products complements another culinary trend in the plant-based world that doesn’t rely on any meat, egg or dairy replacements at all. Restaurants like Avant Garden in New York City’s East Village, use their chefs’ creativity to turn vegetables into never before seen culinary chef d’oeuvres. And while this works perfectly and some even prefer it, it may not always appeal to meat lovers. These two are among many other emerging trends within the vegan movement and all of them are equally important when it comes to responding to consumers’ demands.
[Image: courtesy of The Vegan Newyorker]
So, What’s Inside The Meatless Meat?
Even when people do understand the importance of plant-based meat alternatives, that doesn’t make the unknown any less scary and some might wonder how you can recreate the taste, look and texture of meat using just plants and/or how these alternatives compare to meat from a nutritional standpoint.
As versatile and delicious as they may be, long gone are the days when tofu, legumes and seitan (a protein made from wheat gluten) were the only options. Since Pomodoro’s Meatless Monday initiative is a collaboration with Meatless Farm, their meatless menu items include the U.K. producer’s meat free ground made from ingredients like soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, pea protein, rice protein, shea oil, caramelized carrot concentrate, beetroot, radish and tomato extracts, carrot fiber and added vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and vitamin B12 (matching the vitamin profile of meat). 100g/3.5oz of their meat free ground contains 21.1 grams of protein, which is actually more than ground beef, which includes about 14g per 100g/3/5oz. You can find the full list of their ingredients by clicking here.
One of Best of Vegan’s NYC-based editors, Matt Marshall, recently visited Pomodoro to try their vegan dishes and his overall impression was very positive. In his words:
“I loved the classic Italian restaurant feel at Pomodoro. It’s the kind of place where the owner still greets you and wants to make sure you’re taken care of, which I really appreciated. The food was great. They’re excellent chefs who just happen to now also be cooking with vegan ingredients and the quality of the dishes really came through. I’d recommend this to anyone with a love for Italian cuisine, veg-curious skeptics and vegans and vegetarians eating out with non-vegan friends and family.”
Pomodoro Rosso is located on 229 Columbus Avenue on NYC’s Upper West Side and you can try their meatless menu every Monday.