Seed: vegan po’boys and beignets, N’awlins style

Waiting for the streetcar

Waiting for the streetcar

“Garden based, Nola taste.” The tagline of Seed in New Orleans suggested that this restaurant was exactly what I was after: I craved vegan food, but I wanted to sample the true flavours of the south too. In short, I wanted a po’boy.

Although I turned up at Seed knowing exactly what I wanted to order (Tofu po’boy), I’d just been to Mothers with Sam so he could get his very own New Orleans traditional po’boy too. I’ve never eaten meat in my life, but watching him demolish his “Ferdi Special” with roast ham, beef, and jus to dunk, made me think nothing could be a match for that sandwich.

I toyed with getting a salad, or tofu “fried chicken” bites, or even a soup. But I knew I would cave, and order the po’boy; something my gluten sensitive insides would hate me for heretoafter. Our servers were both young and “hip” looking, and I saw next to a lady who lived and worked in New Orleans but who had never visited before. She order a two small starters, and then took half of each to go. Not sure why she bothered.

Pineapple ginger burst

Pineapple ginger burst

The clientele was a mix of (young) ladies who lunch, business people, and one cheerful family with two young kids who were demolishing the plates of vegan beignets (wise).

I ordered the pineapple, almond butter, ginger and almond milk smoothie which tasted decadent and like having a pudding for start. Usually I’d opt for something healthier like a green goddess or something the colour of indigo, but I’m glad I had a “cake” drink because it was totally delicious, if a little bland.

The po’boy was hands down the largest sandwich I have ever seen in my entire life. Seriously. It was the length and breadth of my forearm, and crammed full of deep fried tofu pieces that tasted a little like cake. The sandwich came with lettuce, vegan mayo, and tomato, but I asked for extra avocado. There was a cauliflower pickle salad side which I upended into the sandwich.

I couldn’t fit it in my mouth, so I basically gnawed on the bread for a little while, hoping to make an inroad somewhere. Inevitably the entire contents of the sandwich spilled out over plate/table/leg/cleavage, so I covered my face in a napkin and just went for it.

IMG_4449The lady from New Orleans next to me was laughing, but she only finished half a starter so I don’t care.

Although I’d never eaten tofu like this, and I was having an enormous po’boy sandwich, it was ever so slightly bland. I feel as the restaurant held back with seasoning – both the ginger in the smoothie, and the mayo on the sandwich. It needed something else, like a sharp mustard, or a heavier garlic mayo. I added siracha which made it taste delicious, but turned it into a banh mi rather than a po’boy.

We ordered beignets to go, and several hours later (I am still stuffed from the po’boy), have polished them off, licking icing sugar off our fingers and chewing happily upon having found this excellent vegan beignet: my first doughnut in three years.

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The heart of New Orleans: origins

 

 I don’t want to gripe, but Lonely Planet’s walking tours can sometimes really suck. Take the French Quarter in New Orleans. LP promises us an hour and a half of walking, but instead we get a 20 minute spin throught the French Quarter with sparse description of the things we’re passing. So like all visitors to a new city should, we (metaphorically) throw the guidebook into the bin and potter around by ourselves.

The French Quarter was built by -no surprises – the French, and it looks like the sort of idealised place that Americans would draw when asked to depict Paris. Think wrought iron railings, bougainvillea, and balconies. The neighbourhood immediately East of the quarter is even called Faubourg. 

  

It’s pretty, there’s no doubt about it. It’s the sort of place that’s delicious to wander around and drink coffee/beer depending of the time of day and then pop in to galleries and buy artworks and antiques (depending on your luggage allowance Obvs).

There are some odd shifty characters who’ve probably enjoyed far too much of the towns excesses and overstayed their welcome by thirty years or too. Drinking on the street is allowed – it’s not uncommon to see somebody cycling down the tramlines with a pint in their hand or a beer in their basket, but except on Bourbon Street, where there’s the odd fight, this liberal attitude to drinking doesn’t seem to cause many issues.

Louisiana has the second highest poverty rate out of all American States at 20%, coming just after Mississippi, it’s neighbour.

  

 The centre of Orleans bucks this trend, with cute coffee shops and expensive cocktail bars, but just a few miles out of downtown, grasping poverty is on full view. The excesses and decadence of the Frenchman district are enjoyable for a long weekend, but the galleries and freshly hosed hanging flower baskets make it too easier to forget the State’s other side.

The food of the Deep South is what it is for a number of reasons – creole and French influences and copious amounts of fresh seafood. But it is also a food that has evolved from poverty: the need for starchy, filling items with hundreds of calories to feed multiple kids and family members as cheaply as possible.

  

And while we’re stuffing our faces with po’boys (poor boys), it’ll do us good to remember that.

The smell of the South

London in March fits the stereotype most people have of England. It’s cold in the morning, hot at lunch, and possiy snowing by the afternoon. Let me tell you, choosing what to wear is damn annoying.

Coming to New Orleans just reminds me how much I love the heat, especially in cooler times of the year like March and April. I love the smell of the hot ground after a rain fall, the smell of Cyprus trees and pine, the warm, dusty scent of the roads and grass verges that have been sprayed with a sprinkler. 

These are smells you never get in London. I love my city, the cool climate, the people (yes, even the people!), the food, the art, the Thames, the bars. But I love waking up and stepping out onto a wooden porch in the morning, usually before 6am because of jetlag, and watching the star-clad sky roll back, to be replaced with a grapefruit coloured sunrise. 

Bare feet on splintered, dusty wood, sticky warmth, smell of sweet leaves and fresh air; it’s not London, that’s for sure. 

  

After prosecco and salad for dinner, our plan for the morning was a hearty breakfast. We’d watched Man V Food the night before, in preparation for a New Orleans eating odyssey. Sam had crawfish boils, catfish, po’boys and jambalaya on his list. I had grits. No matter.

We were on our way to Mothers to pick up a breakfast po’boy, when we passed Betsy’s pancake house. Not on our list whatsoever, but I’m a huge fan of unpretentious food done well, and one that’s heaving at 7am surely gets my vote.

  

Sam ordered pancakes and bacon, I ordered a side of grits, and we both had steaming mugs of black filter, served by a beaming middle aged lady with ribbons in her hair.

Not traditional southern food (really), and terrible for vegans (no soy milk) but we got the cheerful, happy, feeling of finding a great breakfast spot where we could ponder over our day plans and drink lots of coffee. It was fantastically cheap too- ten bucks for everything. But then, after London, everything is. 

  

My first vegan hot dog: Dreamy Weenies, New Orleans

I’ve wanted to come to New Orleans for a long time for three reasons. The bourbon, the Ogden Museum of Art, and the eating.

  

And now, after a hairy Delta touch down from JFK where we almost took off again, I’m sat opposite Louis Armstrong Park, where jazz supposedly became a “thing”. There are water fountains, grass, and lots of statues of people playing trumpets, but I had my eye on Dreamy Weenies, a hot dog institution on the other side of Rampart Street. Given that we’d been travelling for over 30 hours, I figured it was only fair that we went someplace Sam could eat meat too. 

We’re spoilt for vegetarian food in London, but I’ve never had a vegan hot dog. Dreamy Weenies was voted by PETA as one of the top five places selling vegan hot dogs in the US, so it made perfect sense to head on in.

Located on the edge of the French Quarter, Dreamy’s is housed in a bright and airy building with huge windows and a cheerful ambience. The menu is extensive, and it’s one of those places you can go with your meat eating friends without much convincing.

There are four vegan sausage options, andouille, italian herb, falafel, and kielbasa: you can ask for a vegan bun too. Some of the toppings come free, like onions, relish, and mustard. Others you must pay for – I added chopped tomatoes and avocado, but it was tempted by the vegan chilli or thre creole curried vegetables. Always tempted by anything with creole flavouring – I’m a huge fan of paprika.

I decided I wanted to really try the sausage so kept it simple, and I’m glad I did.

  

Smothered in mustard, ketchup, with the sour tang of pickles and the herby sausage, my first hot dog was a success. My only quibble, and this is just personal taste, is that I just can’t get over the texture of quorn. It’s absolutely not my favourite. 

But for a sausage made of quorn, with great toppings, it was pretty tasty.