Competition challenges Asheville restaurants to create vegan fare

HOLD THE MEAT: Mountain Madre's portobello tostada is one of the vegan dishes competing in this year's Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off. A total of 18 local restaurants are participating and vying for awards through the end of October.
HOLD THE MEAT: Mountain Madre's portobello tostada is one of the vegan dishes competing in this year's Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off. A total of 18 local restaurants are participating and vying for awards through the end of October. Photo by Sadrah Schadel

If you’re looking to add more plants to your plate, this month is a good time to start. Throughout October, diners will find some new and unique vegan creations on the menu at many Asheville-area restaurants as part of the second Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off.

Coordinated by local plant-meat maker No Evil FoodsBrother Wolf Animal Rescue and Asheville Vegan Outreach, the initiative invites local restaurants to create a special vegan dish using No Evil Foods products during October. Throughout the month, participating eateries compete for votes from the public to win the titles of Best Overall, Most Creative and Best Interpretation of a Traditional Dish.

SANS SEAFOOD: Sonora Cocina Mexicana chef Matt Jones is facing the Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off challenge with a riff on a classic ceviche that features citrus-marinated avocado, mango, red onion, jalapeño and tomato with muddled cilantro and mint. Photo by Sadrah Schadel
SANS SEAFOOD: Sonora Cocina Mexicana chef Matt Jones is facing the Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off challenge with a riff on a classic ceviche that features citrus-marinated avocado, mango, red onion, jalapeño and tomato with muddled cilantro and mint. Photo by Sadrah Schadel

Diners can also win prizes throughout the event by jumping into social media challenges posted on the Face-Off’s Instagram and Facebook pages. In early November, there will be an awards ceremony and after-party for the public announcing the winning eateries — complete with free food and drinks.

Although the restaurant showing was strong for last year’s inaugural event, this year’s effort has added several new eateries to its roster.  “Participation has expanded from 13 restaurants last year to 18 restaurants this year,” says Caitlin Campbell, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue’s Community Outreach Manager.

“We’re entering into October with a lot more momentum than last year, as people are already familiar with the PBFO, have been anticipating the event and are excited to try all of the new vegan offerings around town,” she continues. “And restaurants were really stoked to participate this year, which I believe speaks to the overall growth and awareness around the increasing demands for plant-based food.”

At the close of the 2016 competition, Green Sage Café won the award for Most Creative Dish, while Zia Taqueria took the prize for Best Interpretation of a Traditional Dish and also garnered top honors in the Best Overall category. This year’s lineup of restaurants includes West Village Market, Bonfire Barbecue, Strada Italiano, Sonora Cocina Mexicana, Mountain Madre, Zia Taqueria, Gan Shan Station, Green Sage Café, Ben’s Tune Up, Sub Grasso, Whole Foods Market, Root Down food truck, The Blackbird, Corner Kitchen, Chestnut, Native Kitchen and Social Pub, Mamacita’s Taqueria and Greenlife Grocery.

“What I really love about organizing this challenge is working with our participating chefs and encouraging them to take a fresh look at their vegan options,” says No Evil Foods co-founder Sadrah Schadel. “I really do want them to view this event as a challenge, and by that I mean I want them to push out of their comfort zone with plant-based foods, to create really innovative cuisine.”

As far as specific menu items, the full list is being updated regularly and can be viewed as a “Note” on the Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off Facebook page. But to get a taste of the offerings, Ben’s Tune Up is doing kung pao no-chicken, The Blackbird will feature a foraged wild mushroom risotto, Corner Kitchen has created a No Evil Foods “chicken” marsala, Sub Grasso has a balsamic beer-braised “chicken” sub for lunch and classic spaghetti bolognese for dinner, Green Sage is doing a spicy tempeh “nori bap” sushi sandwich and West Village Market & Deli is offering a vegan Indian kheema sandwich.

“The Plant-Based Face-Off ties in with our mission at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue because we are a vegan organization, and we celebrate delicious, creative food that leaves animals off the plate,” says Campbell. “The animals that wind up on so many of our plates really are no different from the animals that Brother Wolf Animal Rescue works to save. We believe they all deserve to live, and so we totally support community efforts to move toward a vegan lifestyle and its many perks.”

For a list of participating restaurants and their featured vegan dishes, visit the Notes section on the Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off Facebook page. Diners can use the hashtag #AVLFACEOFF2017 or tag AVLFaceOff on Facebook or Instagram throughout the challenge to share photos of competing dishes. To vote and comment on the dishes for consideration in the competition, visit this post-meal voting page.

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