Planet V: 2020 comfort food and hope for 2021

Food from Bambi Vegan TacosThough the owners of Bambi Vegan Tacos have shifted their energy to Easy Diner, they're bringing Bambi Items back for a New Year's Day pop-up. (Photo courtesy of Bambi Vegan Tacos)

I complain about vegan food a lot. Loudly.

If you read Planet V, it’s very, very easy to believe I don’t think a plant-based diet is worth it. The opposite is true: I believe that vegan food can be delicious, and frequent exposure to compassionately-produced meals is likely the best conversion technique available.

Sacramento has more than just fake meat on offer. While my resolution for 2021 is to yell a little more loudly about the good stuff, here are three reminders (in no particular order) of how good Sacramento’s vegan dining scene actually is, with a little dash of good vegan news for the new year:

Love Child popped up in Block Butcher Bar’s old spot over the summer, offering a small but killer menu of casual vegan goodness. By the time I had the chance to try a few dishes, take photos and start writing about it, its tenure at Block ended. Love Child’s burger—the best-kind-of-sloppy mushroom-and-lentil patty, topped with a “cheese” that has actual, enjoyable flavor, not just a plasticine square of shrug—has been added to the Lowbrau menu, and the shake now lives at Milk Money. The bowls were also amazing; my notebook is a smudgy list of superlatives I’d hoped to have a chance to follow up.

Love Child was a bright spot for Sacramento vegan eating in 2020, and the good news is that it looks like it’ll return in 2021 as a DoorDash exclusive business.

I have a complicated ethical coexistence with food delivery apps during the pandemic: From the perspective of a diner, paying a hefty premium for food you love supports your favorite businesses while staying out of crowds that can increase risk of coronavirus exposure. For restaurants, they can keep their kitchens open and try to ride things out until indoor dining is safe again.

But accepting delivery apps means accepting their practices, which can be anything from surcharges to outdated menus—or, in the case of GrubHub, having a restaurant listed in the app without that restaurant’s permission, then working with Yelp to reroute contact information away from the business and directly to GrubHub.

And for drivers? The last two years have seen lawsuits and legislation meant to limit dubious practices by their employers–indeed, even to classify these apps as employers. It’s another layer to consider if one wants to be an ethical vegan consumer, both with your money and your mouth.

While delivery apps are clearly complicated territory for me personally, I’ll be glad to see that Love Child will be available again, if only through delivery apps, beginning Jan. 11.

I still have Kasbah’s Vegan Chef Challenge Tahini Rose Water Mousse on my mind two months later. I’ve talked about Kasbah constantly this year, and not just because of its excellent vegan menu. Kasbah has been my comfort food in this incredibly rocky year; I’m grateful for that. There’s more though: While they’ve rolled with the same punches as all businesses, they’ve also prepared and delivered food to unhoused neighbors. And while patio dining was still available, their blanket donation program (buy a blanket for the evening then donate it to someone in need) provided an extra level of compassion to the community. I mentioned the other layers of ethical eating above. We choose vegan diets because we believe in living compassionate lives. There are likely plenty of restaurants not on my radar, but in a rough year, I’ve thrown extra support to Kasbah when my takeout budget allows it.

Bambi Vegan Tacos won my heart long ago and I have taken every opportunity to evangelize their mobile offerings since my first bite. Just more than a year ago, they cemented my love for them further by adding breakfast to the menu. There is a photo of me in my “favorites” folder on my phone, tucking into that holy grail of vegetarian foods: the vegan breakfast sandwich. I daydream often about that January 2020 morning. This is not a joke.

While the Bambi Team has switched gears and opened the omni restaurant Easy Diner, they’re running their first Bambi event in months on New Year’s Day with three styles of vegan burritos. As you read this, they’re taking pre-orders only through Wednesday, but I can’t think of a better way for a vegan to greet 2021.

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