Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Native Foods: Eating things that never had a heart beat tastes good

We’ve walked by Native Foods at least a half dozen times on our way to Old Vine Cafe at the Camp in Costa Mesa. Ruled by our carnivorous, non-vegan ways, my mom and I would attack cheesy quiches and roast beef paninis at Old Vine without batting so much as an eyelash at the veg-friendly restaurant across the way.

Who wants seitan and faux chicken when there’s cow and brie and things that once had eyes and heartbeats available next door?

At least that’s what I thought until I realized that Native Foods serves my stomach’s constant companion -- quinoa.

And tempeh, which in my humble opinion that is not always so humble at all, is the least offensive form of soy protein. So inoffensive that I actually find the nutty texture/taste to be preferable to animal flesh on occasions when my body does not desire to feel as though it has been rammed down by a herd of buffaloes. (Pun not intended since I don’t actually eat buffaloes.)

So we tried it. My mom and me. Because I wanted to “be healthy” before I spent the next two weeks masticating fudge nut bars, twice baked potatoes and my dad’s chicken enchiladas, and my mom would do anything to please her youngest child.

Even eat things without eyes and heartbeats.

As we walked up to the casual cafe founded by Chef Tanya Petrovna in 1994, I told mom that if she didn’t see anything she wanted on the menu, we could proceed directly to Old Vine for the Chili Verde Quiche she’s so crazy about. I’m a nice daughter like that – always thinking outside myself when I’m not too busy thinking about what I want and why the world doesn’t revolve around me.

My mom nodded her appreciation, but was ultimately nonplused by the vegan and vegetarian offerings – she even contemplated ordering the Twister Wrap which contains crispy or grilled Native “chicken.” I, of course, made sure to point out that Native’s “chicken” doesn’t come from a feathered fowl, but, again, she was nonplused by my clarification.

We both finally settled on the Ensalada Azteca with fresh avocado, cucumber and jicama salsa, quinoa, romaine, currants, toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro, and mango lime vinaigrette ($9.95). I opted to add blackened tempeh to mine because, as I mentioned, it is not offensive at all. And, as it turns out, neither was the salad. (Though I did have to ask for a plate due to the overwhelming construction of the salad in bowl form.)

The freshly prepared dish tantalized our taste buds with the varying textures and bright flavors – prompting both my mom and I to descend into silence as we tore through our respective bowls.

“We’re going to come back for this.” My mom said, after she’d finally laid her fork to rest.

As we exited the restaurant, our bellies groaning with satisfaction, neither one of us batted an eyelash in the direction of Old Vine Cafe. Gone were our lusty thoughts about cheese and beef paninis. Gone were our visions of brie-infused quiches. And gone were our carnivorous impulses.

We now lusted for something else entirely – tempeh and fake proteins that not only have never had a heart beat, but will, ideally, help keep our hearts beating just a little bit longer.

Native Foods
2937 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 751-2151


Ashley said...


Gastronomer said...

because of you i am obsessed with trying quinoa. must get my buns to whole foods' bulk bins ;-)

Anna A. said...

Yay!! Significant Mother approved for Native Foods! I'll go back with you any day and oh yeah, love that Aztec salad. All hail chef Tanya!

Jin said...

some native food items are hella good. some, not so much. thanks for the post!

Bianca said...

The meal looks so appetizing. I would forget that it's a completely meat free dish. If only it was closer to home.

Diana said...

Ashley - They have one in Westwood! We should definitely go check it out soon! :)

Cathy - Yes, you must! I highly recommend using it to make risotto.

Anna - Yes! Let's set up a Native Foods date for when I'm down in OC.

Jin - Good to know - I'll have to order carefully! Though I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to stray from that salad...

Bianca - There's one in Westwood - you should check it out!