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Boy Meets Vegan

“Once you get beyond eating food just for taste, it gets easier.”


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Ali Tripoli, a La Jolla paralegal who teaches Pilates, went vegan last year, and it’s been an education she didn’t expect.

“I ordered vegetarian couscous at Kous Kous up in Hillcrest and, afterwards, the waiter said it was cooked in lamb stock,” Tripoli gripes.

Tripoli’s solution: Date Whisknladle chef Ryan Johnston.

“We eat home a lot, but when we go out, we try to go where people know me or Ryan and are aware I’m vegan,” she says. “Jason Knibb at Nine-Ten has it down!”

Nathan Coulon, of True Food Kitchen in Fashion Valley, says vegan meals can challenge a chef working from a set menu.

“Many dishes are made with butter or braised in beef stock,” he says. “It helps to know in advance. But more restaurants are adapting by using mushroom stock or soy-based sauces.”

Even then, it doesn’t always work. Katsuya in the Gaslamp respected my wife’s vegan diet, but left out flavor. Luckily, their (vegan) cocktails made up for it.

Non-vegans face challenges as well. The vegan raspberry cheesecake with coconut milk at Casa De Luz in North Park is incredible, but the waiter refused my request for hot sauce for my enchilada. (It was Cinco de Mayo, people!)

Fine dining and veganism can go together, promises 12-year vegan Jill Macinko, who still savors a meal at the Marine Room.

“It was grilled vegetables with an amazing sauce,” she says. “Everyone else was having lobster and they were still jealous.”

Macinko’s husband, Jason Henry, isn’t vegan, but he is accommodating—to a point.

“We went to a raw food place once and, afterwards, he said, ‘Never again,’” she laughs.

Henry says his wife has changed his attitude towards food.

“Once you get beyond eating food just for taste, it becomes easier,” he says.

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