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Vine Dining

Aug 17, 2017 02:36PM ● Published by Randy Robinson

A cultural shift recently slid into southern Colorado: people are incorporating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes into their everyday eating habits, and this phenomenon has leapt from private kitchen counters to the carefully crafted menus of local fine dining establishments. In years past, “proteins,” a culinary term for “meats,” were the stars of each entreé. Now, nearly every eatery offers dishes where vegetables take center stage, or in this case, the center plate. At our half of the state, we have yet to see dedicated vegetarian or vegan restaurants like those found in Boulder and Denver. Yet demand for vegetarian options has spiked as tastes have veered veggie, and local chefs are challenging both themselves and their competition by creating innovative produce recipes to supplement their standard fare.

Treat Yourself
The recent rise in popularity of vegan, vegetarian, reducetarian, flexitarian, fruitarian, and other low-to-no-meat lifestyles is essentially rewriting Western bromography. According to Harris Interactive polls, in 2006, 4.7 million American adults identified as vegetarian. Ten years later, and that number almost doubled, with an estimated 8 million Americans identifying as vegetarian. What happened over that ten-year period? There are several reasons more people are making vegetables the staples of their diets, which include concerns for environmental sustainability, climate change, ethical treatment of animals, and religion. However, the top reason, from a Faunalytics 2017 survey, is health.

Over the past two decades, research from around the world suggests vegetarians live longer than folks who regularly eat meat. Longevity among vegetarians could be due to their lower rates of chronic illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Regarding that last item, “going veggie” is also one of the best ways to lose weight. A study published last month in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found vegetarian diets were twice as effective at reducing weight compared to standard calorie-restricted diets that included meat. The reason: vegetarians lose fat from their muscles, which accelerates the body’s metabolism, not only burning fat but keeping it off in the long run.

Veg Va Va Voom
Prioritizing plants on our plates may make us more sexually appealing, too.  A 2006 study in Chemical Senses discovered that women were more attracted to body odors from men on vegetarian diets than from men who ate red meat.  Sorry, ladies, this experiment has yet to be repeated with female aromas.

There’s more. Fair-skinned people who eat a lot of plants with pigments called carotenoids (think: carrots) appear more attractive due to slight yellowing of the skin. This yellowing effect is similar to tanning, except subjects were more enticed by faces with carotenoid coloring than by faces with sun-induced melanin. And unlike baking under UV-radiation, beet smoothies won’t—ahem—put a beating on the skin.

In terms of bedroom prowess, plant-based diets may help there as well. Vegetarians who chow down on high amounts of fruits possess more physical stamina than those who subside on meaty, carby, or other omnivorous diets. And if the brain is the most powerful sex organ, then a plant-based diet can certainly aid the libido. In 2012, Nutrition Journal
published research that discovered vegetarians reported being happier and more carefree than meat eaters—and happy lovers tend to be active lovers.

The Best Part: Everyone Can Win
Here’s the real kicker to all these research findings: although vegetarianism has a lot of advantages over meaty diets, you can still get many of the benefits of a plant-based diet without dropping steaks or chicken tenders altogether. A Harvard study from last month’s New England Journal of Medicine concluded that skipping a serving of meat just once a day, and replacing it with nuts or legumes, reduced the risk of an early death by 17 percent. That figure suggests eating a purely vegetarian meal, just one time every day, can significantly drop a person’s chances of developing a chronic illness.

That Harvard study parallels the mission at Meatless Monday, a non-profit founded by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Meatless Monday helps schools craft healthier, plant-laden menus for America’s students. For the general public, it advocates going vegetarian just one day a week—on Monday, obviously. Meat is permitted on any other day of the week, with similar results to the Harvard study’s suggestion.

Meatless Mondays and other approaches to boosting plant intake have made major inroads to American dietary habits. Polls from the Vegetarian Resource Group estimate anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of Americans regularly eat fully vegetarian meals “at least some of the time.” That means at least one-third of all adults are following plans like Meatless Monday and have been since 2000.

So What About SoCo?
Making vegetarian meals at home is easy. Finding perfectly prepared and seasoned vegetarian meals while dining out can be a bit trickier, especially in any Colorado township south of Castle Rock.

Where can diners in southern Colorado gratify their appetites, minus the meat? We may lack bona fide vegetarian and vegan eateries here, but several restaurants (and one brewery) in our area serve up enough plant-based options to sate the palate and the belly. The following list consists of just a few of our area’s favorite herbivorous hot spots.

Adam’s Mountain Café
Manitou Springs // 26 Manitou Avenue
adamsmountain.com

This eatery trains its cooks and servers with vegetarians in mind, to better direct diners to the tastiest dishes sans meat, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One of the biggest hits is the ramen noodles in coconut curry, although the Buddha bowl—a spicy medley of potatoes, braised greens, mushrooms, quinoa, chick peas, and avocado—can be incredibly filling. For vegans, there’s a special creamy pasta with pistachio pesto just for you.

Till Kitchen
Colorado Springs // 9633 Prominent Point
tillkitchen.com

Till Kitchen, a New American eatery, could best be described as Euro-American fusion food with a contemporary twist. Appetizers include aged goat cheese spread, roasted cauliflower served with toasted almonds and a romesco sauce, and a wood-grilled artichoke that may make you think twice about the possibilities of a plant most of us usually eat pickled and plain out of a jar. For a full stomach, check out the margarita pizza or wild mushroom risotto.

Caspian Café
Colorado Springs // 4375 Sinton Road
caspiancafe.com

Caspian Café serves two vegetarian dinner entreés. The first is the moussaka, a Greek pie filled with herbs, roasted bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and eggplant. The second is the bougetiere, a bouquet of fresh veggies presented in fine-dining fashion. Where Caspian truly excels is its appetizers, most of which are meat-free. Try their North African eggplant in spicy honey sauce or the spanakopita, a flaky pastry stuffed with feta cheese, red pepper coulis, and spinach.

Little Nepal
Colorado Springs // 1747 S. 8th Street or 4820 Flintridge Drive
lnepal.com

Indian food, the original vegetarian delicacy. Little Nepal has two locations, and both offer over a dozen vegetarian dishes. The veggie kormas, makhanis, masalas, and curries are just as rich—if not richer—than the lamb versions. If you’re new to Indian or Nepalese cuisine, do some sampling at the lunch buffets, open seven days a week, or the dinner buffets on Thursdays and Sundays.

Rooster’s House of Ramen
Colorado Springs // 323 N. Tejon Street
makeamericaslurpagain.com

Rooster’s whips up a lot more than just ramen. The teriyaki tofu bahn mi, a type of Vietnamese sandwich, contains wakame seaweed with tangy Bulldog Sauce.  But if you would just like a loaded bowl of ramen, try the coconut miso stewed with tofu, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts, all topped with a soft boiled egg.

Hanging Tree Café
Pueblo // 209 S. Union Avenue
thehangingtreecafe.com

Coffees and teas are typically vegan, but Hanging Tree’s most surprising delights are their breakfast items, which are served throughout the day. The restaurant offers vegetarian or vegan breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches packed with portabello mushrooms. For those hankering for Mesoamerican, their tamales come in a vegetarian style, covered in vegan green chile.

Rabbit Hole
Colorado Springs // 101 N. Tejon Street
rabbitholedinner.com

For late-night munchies, drop by the Rabbit Hole. The “Rabbit Food” menu contains some rather inventive salad mixes, such as the gold and purple beet salad or the arugula salad with apples, hazelnuts, and hay stack goat cheese.
 
Natural Epicurean at The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs // 1 Lake Avenue
broadmoor.com

The Broadmoor is one of the crown jewels of America’s luxury hotel dining. The Broadmoor’s Natural Epicurean restaurant complements the 5-star Penrose Room, where world-class chefs offer fine diners ecologically friendly dishes all made from locally sourced, organic farms. Many of the ingredients come straight from The Broadmoor’s very own garden. Try the mushroom ramen noodles containing wild shrooms and bok choy, slicked with a fiery jalapeño oil for extra kick. The grilled soya steamed buns are also made with mushrooms—the hearty shiitake variety—spiced with a pungent hoisin sauce.

Trinity Brewing Company
Colorado Springs
1466 W. Garden of the Gods Road
trinitybrew.com

Did you know that most booze is vegan? Trinity Brewing specializes in vegan beers (though they occasionally put non-vegan brews on tap). The menu of bar food is marked for vegetarian or vegan preferences, and some can be quite filling. Try the vegan pulled pork sammy or the veggie breakfast burrito to cushion those bubbly ales.
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