Discover Kansas City’s hidden nooks and crannies as food, wine, beer and spirits lover Dave Eckert shares their wares with a healthy twist.
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Story by Dave Eckert | Intro Photo: Vegan Hash by The Farmhouse
I recently penned an article for Healthy KC’s sister publication, Kansas City Homes and Style, on eating better entering the new year. I highlighted some terrific, healthier options available at metro restaurants. That, and an extended visit from my pescatarian daughter, got me thinking more and digging deeper into Kansas City’s vegan and vegetarian scene, which for a town known for barbecue and steak, is surprisingly vibrant.
I’m not sure I could personally make the vegetarian transition, but I know many who have and many chefs who enjoy crafting vegetarian items for their customers. While the reasons people choose the vegetarian or vegan route are myriad, there are some definite health benefits, including the following:
- Good for heart health. Vegetarians may be up to one-third less likely to die or be hospitalized for heart disease.
- Reduces cancer risk.
- Prevents type 2 diabetes.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Decreases asthma symptoms.
- Promotes bone health.
Victoria Cherrie, the Director of Development for the terrific food-based local charity, After the Harvest, says her path to a vegetarian diet started with a basic premise. “I didn’t want to eat animals,” Cherrie told me. “I was in the middle of a lifestyle transition, and I read an article about what was in a hot dog. I went camping with my friends and I told them I no longer ate meat. I haven’t ever since.”
That was ten years ago, and while Cherrie says there are challenges like getting enough protein and Vitamin D in her diet, the overall benefits far outweigh the hurdles. To deal with the proteins and vitamins, Cherrie says she’s started adding seafood, mainly tuna and salmon. Cherrie says she feels better and her bloodwork bares those feelings out. “It’s not always easy to get the right balance, but for me, especially in the past year or so, there are plenty of meatless options that are both healthier and respectful of animals,” Cherrie stated.
Cherrie shared some of her personal favorites vegetarian offerings around town. “True Food Kitchen is completely fresh year-round, and they source local whenever possible. Ruby Jean’s serves the best avocado toast. Brewer’s Kitchen has a marinated portobello burger that is like nothing I’ve tasted. And, I absolutely love the fresh and healthy offerings at Cultivare in Overland Park,” Cherrie said.
You’ll find some terrific vegan and vegetarian options at The Farmhouse in The River Market where Vince Paredes, the restaurant’s Executive Chef and Culinary Director plies his trade. “We do a vegan hash that is also vegetarian, of course, but taken a step further. We sautee a bunch of vegetables that are in season in a roasted tomato chipotle sauce and top it all with some fried mushrooms and a spicy salsa,” Paredes shared. “We get smoked peppers from one of our local farmers that have lovely flavors and aromas, which lend themselves well to the dish.”
Paredes says creating vegetarian and vegan dishes has always been a bit of a block for him but working with all the local farmers at The Farmhouse has opened his eyes, honed his skills, and raised the bar for what to do with their great produce. “Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes kind of guy. But working with these farmers has been terrific. It’s great to get out of my comfort zone and do things a little differently,” Paredes told me.
I haven’t had the occasion to dine at his restaurant yet, but I’ve been Facebook friends with Christopher Paszkiewicz, Executive Chef of the Ivory Grille in the Historic Hotel Bothwell in Sedalia, Missouri, for awhile now. I reached out to Paszkiewicz for his thoughts on vegetarian options. Not surprisingly, Missouri Magazine’s 2020-2021 Best Chef had plenty.
“I like Asian vegetarian options. I marinate and grill extra firm tofu, it gives the grilled meat flavor and texture. I use olive oil, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt & smoked pepper! I believe you can pick up every bit of these spices at Planters in The City Market,” Paszkiewicz shared.
Like Cherrie, Paszkiewicz has personal favorites. “Taj Mahal on Wornall is great, the green curry sauce from Trader Joe’s is pretty darned good! Sautéed vegetables jasmine rice topped with green curry is great!” Paszkiewicz exclaimed.
Perfect. Now I’ve got a whole list of places and dishes to try and so do you!