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    Journal — vegan businesses

    Damn Good Food: Krimsey's Cajun Vegan Restaurant

    Damn Good Food: Krimsey's Cajun Vegan Restaurant

    As anyone who's been vegan for very long—and anyone who's been around vegans for very long—we tend to talk about vegan food a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. Too much, some might say, but what do those people know, right?

    One of our favorite more recent additions to the vegan restaurant scene here in Los Angeles is Krimsey's, an all-vegan cajun cafe in North Hollywood. They serve some of the best vegan cajun and creole fare we ever tasted and Baton Rouge native, owner, and the namesake of the restaurant is genuinely one of the nicest people we've ever been lucky enough to know.

    "I opened this restaurant to show people what it really means to be Cajun," Krimsey told us on a recent visit. "It's about treating everyone like family, taking the time to enjoy a meal and the company that comes with it, appreciating the bold and unique flavors of the south, and slowing down long enough to say 'DAMN this food is good!'

    For anyone not familiar with traditional cajun food, Krimsey's represents the culinary traditions of the bayou areas of southern Louisiana pretty thoroughly for such a modest + new restaurant, with a menu featuring an amazing fried heart of palm po boy (below), a hearty roux-based okra gumbo, veggie etouffee—a creamy, spicy stew of bell peppers, onions, garlic, and heart of palm on parboiled rice—and the traditional mainstay, jambalaya (above), in addition to a variety of mouth-watering house-made deserts. They also recently tested out house-made hushpuppies one weekend which—we're happy to report—have now found a permanent home on the Krimsey's menu.

    "We really wanted to get across the communal, welcoming aspect of Cajun culture," Krimsey told us, "putting this into practice by providing shared seating and cozy vibes, elevating it by leaving animals off the menu, and by pouring our souls into the creation of each dish so that it bursts with flavor and heart."

    In our minds (and mouths), they've succeeded and then some.

    LA local or planning to visit soon? See for yourself—Krimsey's is located at 12906 Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood, CA and is open every day except Monday (note that they open early Saturday so you can enjoy coffee and house-made vegan beignets). 

    Krimsey also recently published her first cookbook, which you can buy at MooShoes LA, where she'll also be holding a book party Saturday, July 29th with free tastes of some of the treats from her book.

    Photos of Krimsey by Jessica Ramsey; food and interior photos by raven + crow studio.

    Luxury + Ethics: Our Interview with Sydney Brown

    Luxury + Ethics:  Our Interview with Sydney Brown

    Sydney Brown is a recent addition for us at MooShoes. Over the years, at our shops in NYC + LA and here online, we've been making a conscious effort to carry fewer brands with opaque or unclear production practices. On the other side of that coin, we've also been working to carry more lines that tout transparency in their production and hold on high humane working conditions and eco-friendly manufacturing and materials.

    Luxury vegan shoe company Sydney Brown most definitely fits that bill. As they state on their web site: "Sydney Brown, an American-born designer, founded her eponymous label due to her conviction that luxury could be produced in an environmentally-friendly way. The brand aesthetic is pared down and understated with the focus on luxurious materials, sculptural lines and unusual detailing."

    Co-creative director + Los Angeles store-runner Troy Farmer took some time to talk with the company's namesake to talk about how her brand was born and why ethics beyond veganism are so important to her work.

    Feature photo by Joseph Cultice.

    Troy: So, for anyone not familiar with the brand, can you give us the mission or vision or elevator pitch or whatever you want to call it for Sydney Brown (the company...not you....)?

    Sydney: Sydney Brown is a design-driven, sustainable luxury brand. It’s ideals revolve around the concept of “reverence for life.” This respect for life is extended to three spheres: human, animal, environment. It celebrates the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence on other forms of life. The rights of one species is linked to the rights of others, meaning that recognition, acknowledgement and respect for the life of all things are essential to the brand.

    Most excellent. I read that you studied + worked in Japan for a number of years—we actually just got back from our first visit to Japan and absolutely loved it. Where were you there and what were you doing in terms of work and schooling?

    Yes, it has been 17 years I’ve now worked in Japan! I initially moved there to do a masters program in sound design. I barely began the program before I shifted gears and instead began an electronic music promotion company. I grew up in Detroit and knew many of the techno artists touring in Japan, so this was a natural fit and wonderful opportunity for me. Although I sold my half of the company in 2008, I had co-founded the Taico Club music festival, based in Nagano, Japan, which I still curate and host annually. It has become Japan’s largest charity festival, supporting local environmental NGOs. We just had our 14th edition a couple weeks ago!

    Japanese design and aesthetic is a major influence on me. The national religion of Japan is Shintoism, in which people believe—in extremely simplified terms—that objects have a soul. If you create something, part of your soul is embedded into the object. This concept is extremely important for me, which is why I work on the shoes myself. There is a small part of me in every pair! I love to have time with the shoes before they embark on their adventures all over the world!

    Wow, that festival looks excellent—I hope you caught Little Simz yourself. We love her live show. (IF YOU'RE IN THE HOUSE MAKE SOME NOISE!)

    How did the sound design + music lead you to the shoe biz then (note the total avoidance of any and all 'show biz' puns here)?

    After selling my music company, I moved to Los Angeles and contemplated my next steps. I enrolled in a Spiritual Psychology masters program in 2008 and as part of the program, I began to examine all aspects of my consciousness and my consumption as well—what I ate, what I wore, which companies I supported, etc. I had always been conflicted about wearing leather as I had been a vegetarian since the age of 16, so my New Year’s resolution of 2010 was to stop buying leather.

    After about two weeks into this, I had a big event in LA and needed shoes. I realized that there were no luxury vegan options on the market except for Stella McCartney. Her price point was too high for me and my aesthetic was quite different. I realized that there was a huge hole in the market for people like me, who wanted design-driven, sustainably-made, luxury vegan shoes. I then sought out a shoemaker in LA with whom I apprenticed for one year and learned the craft from pattern-making, through lasting and heel-development. I began making shoes for friends and weddings and the brand grew from there. I then moved to Europe and worked in shoe factories in the UK, Portugal, and Italy.


    Nice. Why was it important to you to create a company and product that was more holistically ethical, concerned not only with the lack of animal-derived materials but also made in fair working working conditions while minimizing environmental impact?

    The fashion industry is the second largest global polluter after big oil! The environmental and human ramifications of this are unconscionable. To create more “stuff” in the world in itself is so loaded. I would never embark on producing anything if it weren’t as environmentally and socially sound as possible.

    So glad to hear that from you and just see more demand for this kind of production and thinking in the marketplace too.

    One of the...challenges for us a MooShoes is explaining to some customers the added financial cost to them for accounting for responsible business practices. Have you hut many roadblocks along those lines as you built Sydney Brown the brand and how have you dealt with those?

    When I began, I had never worked in fashion and had to simply figure out everything myself. I never did and still don’t have any partners, so I am responsible for every aspect of the company. The learning curve has been overwhelming much of the time!

    Many people assume that if the shoes aren’t made of leather, then they are made with cheap, toxic alternatives. The truth is that the development of our materials takes years. I had to basically re-engineer the shoe! I had my own factory in Los Angeles for three years that was primarily dedicated to research and development. There are 15 components in a simple shoe, for example, so if I couldn’t find sustainable or organic options, I had to develop them myself. To trace the supply chain of every single component is incredibly challenging. From the beginnings of the cotton seed being planted, how it is grown, who harvests it—the whole life cycle before it is even developed into fabric—I was chasing this. For example, just imagine tracing the metals in snaps or buckles! Where is the original ore mined, what are the social and political conditions of the workers, etc.

    Sounds like it could be overwhelming at times, but, again, even the fact that there is this demand in the marketplace and that it can be met—understandably, with much more work involved—is a huge gain, I think. Can you go into your materials a little bit? I know you seek out the higher-end, more luxurious materials—how do some of them differ from your run-of-the-mill vegan (or non-vegan) shoe?

    The main material that we use is bonded cork. Every summer we harvest the cork in southern Portugal, then shave, press, dye it and then bond it to organic cotton. This is an incredibly labor-intensive process and takes time. We can only harvest the cork of one tree every nine years, as that is duration of the regrowth process. If we sustainably harvest the cork like this, it is a renewable resource that will last hundreds of years. 

    The wood for our heels and platforms comes from PEFC-certified German beech wood. Our soles are made from natural rubber, supporting indigenous tribes of the Amazon.

    90% of shoes generally are made with pig-fat glue. It took us over four years, working with adhesive chemists in Italy, the USA, and Portugal to finally develop a suitable alternative.

    How is the iridescent material constructed? It's so impressive visually.

    Like all of our materials, we developed our iridescent materials in-house over the years. This material is made from polymers derived from natural renewable sources and is an extremely high-tech, future fabric. To develop and produce this is incredibly involved and much more expensive to produce than leather. We are still working on improving this. We are far from perfect, but we try to refine it with every collection. The creation of 100% solvent-free, petroleum-free products, with zero environmental impact, is the near-future goal for our R&D.

    Was there a conscious decision to elevate ethical/sustainable fashion a bit from your end; battle the misconception that all vegan or ethical fashion is stunted in terms of fashion-forward-ness?

    Yes! Many people still think of vegan footwear as being granola, hippy, clown-shoes. We have aimed to be on the shelves next to luxury brands, so that if customers see two pairs of well-designed, beautiful shoes, ideally they will choose the consciously-constructed option!

    We were just discussing this at an event for EcoSessions recently. I feel like that's the ultimate goal; creating this product (be it shoes or whatever) that can stand next to its rival that uses animal leather and look just as stylish, be just as well-made in worker-friendly conditions, just as or more eco-friendly, and cost no more than the non-cruelty-free product; eliminating the barriers to shop cruelty-free in all aspects of life. Then what kind of asshole would actually chose the product that does hurt animals/people/the earth?

    Switching gears though, we love what you've got so far, but any plans to expand the men's offerings in the future?

    Yes! For SS18 we are adding a chukka style and we will slowly grow from there. This is a new market for me and I want to be as thoughtful and prudent in the development as possible.

    Personally, I have to say I'm very much looking forward to that. Anything else lined up for future release that you're excited about and can talk to now?

    For SS18, we are launching a new material made from the vegetable, fennel!

    WHAAAAAT‽

    We are constantly experimenting and after a couple years of development, this is finally ready for production. It almost looks like a psychedelic print, so we are very excited about this!

    That's absolutely rad. Also rad—I really dig your site design; love the video loops for the men's + women's collection. Who designed all of that for you, if you don't mind my asking?

    I designed the website myself and the video is a collaboration between myself and a wonderful filmmaker in Porto, Marcelo Graf Reis.

    Awesome again! Well, we can't wait to see what else is to come from you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk, Sydney.

     

     

     

    Brand Spotlight: Ahimsa

    Brand Spotlight: Ahimsa

    Today, we're highlighting a brand we carry in the store—Brazilian vegan shoe-maker, Ahimsa. Though the company's only been around a few years, they immediately became a favorite in both our New York store and our Los Angeles one.

    Ahimsa's truly a family affair, having been started in 2013 by Gabriel Silva and his father, Cisso Silva. Before he got in the vegan shoe biz, Gabriel was an airplane pilot. But, after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, he had to hang up his wings.

    The diagnosis also led to some bigger life changes for Gabriel, moving him to a vegetarian—and eventually vegan—lifestyle. As he began to make these lifestyle changes, he returned home to work with his father—a 30+ year veteran in Brazil's footwear industry. As he started to eliminate animals from his diet, Gabriel came to the realization that most vegan footwear available to him wasn't up to the standards of the traditional, hand-made, high-quality footwear .

    From there, the rest is history. The father-and-son duo started Ahimsa by outsourcing production for a small line-up of products in their first 6 months. But after that initial run and the positive reaction to the products, they decided to step up their game, starting their own, all-vegan shoe factory.

    Today, Ahimsa continues to produce high-quality, stylish shoes using durable, sustainable materials while employing old-world tradition. They family-run factory pays fair wages to their workers and has brought a thriving industry to the region, keeping cruelty to animals out of the mix at every step.

    If you're in the area, come by our New York or Los Angeles stores to see the shoes for yourself; or you can always check out their brand page her online.

    All photos: raven + crow studio.

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Interview with Aubry + Kale of the Herbivorous Butcher

    Interview with Aubry + Kale of the Herbivorous Butcher

    As promised, we intend to use this space for more than just highlighting vegan shoes; amongst other things, we also want to use this web journal to celebrate the work of some of our favorite vegan businesses and business owners. First up, an interview I did with brother + sister duo, Aubry + Kale, of Minneapolis' Herbivorous Butcher, the first all-vegan butcher shop, focusing on small batch, meat-free vegan meats and dairy-free vegan cheeses. We got a chance to meet both Aubry + Kale at last year's Vegan Beer Fest/EatDrinkVegan and thought both they and the products they were putting out were great. Coming on the heels of them announcing a campaign to open a 100-acre animal sanctuary in Minnesota, we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with the two of them to find out more about the story behind their shop, its inspiration, and plans they might have for the future. 

    Troy: Alright, first thing's first, ya'll—how do a Minnesotan brother + sister duo come up with the idea to start up a vegan butcher shop?

    Aubry: I was vegan for a long time, since I was 14, then Kale grew up and saw how I wasn't eating meat. We're in Minnesota and hail from the island of Guam, and both places are super meat-heavy. Since I decided I didn't want to eat animals, it was a pretty seamless transition. I was so driven by the fact that I didn't want to impose cruelty on other creatures but I still wanted to eat meat. So I was eating all these plant-based meat products which sucked and were like hockey pucks, so I started making it myself. Then Kale started making it for himself too, and it was natural to make what we were hungry for. That's how we came up with the idea. It's a weird thing because sometimes I forget that the entire world doesn't eat the same things I do, so when I look at a non-vegan menu, I'll see "chicken" whatever and then I have to remind myself that it's not vegan. Owning this butcher shop is like being in a weird fairy tale land that hopefully won't be such a fairy tale for much longer.

    Man, it really doesn't seem that fabled land of easy, quality, cruelty-free living is getting closer to becoming a reality every day, doesn't it? I feel like there are so many new and better options for those of us who choose not to eat animals, whether you live in a big city or not. Now, I assume you two get along pretty well given that you chose to go into business together, but is it still a little weird, working as sister + brother?

    Kale: It's pretty natural. We're two sides of the same coin. We finish each others'.... pretty well.

    So we shouldn't be concerned about that promo shot with the knives; good. I've only been to your fine city once—in the summertime—but did you all have any concern about the community supporting the concept? It's not the 90s or anything when you had to constantly explain what vegan meant, but it's still admittedly a pretty niche industry. Is there a big vegan community in the City of Lakes?

    Aubry + Kale

    Kale: We figured if we could make it here, we could make it work anywhere. And it is working here. When we started, we weren't planning on moving anywhere. We like it here, but we were still hungry so we were going to make it anyway. The vegan community is growing quickly. It's small but passionate. Every year you see more vegan-friendly businesses popping up, and the future is bright.

    That's awesome to hear. Any area vegan or vegan-friendly establishments you can give shout-outs to that you like?

    Aubry: Our one super awesome all vegan restaurant, Reverie, is wonderful. Their pictures of sweet treats on social media make me drool every morning. We don't have a lot of all vegan establishments, but I love Ethique Nouveau. They have the best products—from lipstick to t-shirts to purses and vegan snacks—that you can't get anywhere else in town. My third has yet to open, but I've been waiting for months and months and months for J. Selby's, which is an all vegan restaurant in St. Paul. It's not too far from my house so I can't wait to be a regular there.

    Those all look/sound great. So, what's the general reaction been from non-vegans to your products? Are they like 'There's no meat in this meat? WHAT‽"

    Kale: A lot of people are pretty skeptical to start, like Guy Fieri, but they try it because they have a vegan partner or relative. Then they find that they can actually do it, like my dad who's cut out meat a few times a week. It's been overwhelmingly positive so far.

    kale + aubry with guy fieri

    You totally just name-dropped Guy Fieri—I like it. I also like this photo of you three. So, I know you all fund-raised for the shop with KickStarter, right? How was that experience overall?

    Aubry: The Kickstarter experience was kind of like, 'Everybody loves us! Everybody loves us! Oh my gosh, everybody hates us, what are we doing wrong?' And then we'd lose our hair and cry and then they would love us again. It was a really crazy roller coaster. It's a great thing because of awareness, and even though we needed the money, it was vital in increasing our exposure. It's important for young entrepreneurs to have a way to 'kickstart' their businesses. Kale and I had terrible credit and no savings, so Kickstarter was an incredible opportunity. Even though we didn't sleep for a month, it was a good experience overall and it helped us reach more people than we would have otherwise.

    That's great to hear and, yeah, seems like it turned out really well for you two. I feel like I've seen a lot of crowd-funded projects go unrealized over the years—many of which I've personally given to—so it's great to see such a huge success story. Sorry about the sleepless month of hair-pulling though. What was the reason behind wanting a brick-and-mortor shop, though, over, say, doing pop-ups or something mobile?

    Kale: We started the shop because we couldn't make enough to keep our customers happy working out of a community kitchen. That's really the only reason. We needed a spot that would allow us to keep up with the demand, and we always wanted a spot to call home.

    Makes sense. You mention in your marketing that your products are protein-rich + full of B-vitamins that are often absent in non-animal meats/meat alternatives. Can you explain that for those of us not as versed in the nutrient world?

    Kale: The B vitamins come from nutritional yeast, and we use a high protein wheat flour so it's all nutrient-rich, low fat, and of course zero cholesterol since there are no animal products.

    As you've already mentioned, your family is from Guam and I know you've talked before about how deeply cooking is rooted in that culture—for those of us less familiar with Guam, can you tell us what kind of food's common or popular there? And how did that inform what you're doing with the HB?

    Aubry: Growing up on Guam, I was a cute, rolypoly child. I wanted to eat everything. A typical after school snack was something like a ham and cheese sandwich, a large Dr. Pepper, and 3 doughnuts plus chicken noodle soup. I'd eat that after school in 2nd grade and I've always loved food. On Guam, they don't import a lot of vegetables that you see in the US, so I grew up eating a lot of meat and a lot of starch. I still do that now, only it's all vegan. So things have really stayed the same but nothing has to die for anything that I consume now.

    Great way to think about it. You guys do a porterhouse steak, right? What's that like and how do you make it?

    Kale: The steak has the same wheat base as most of our products but gets some extra treatment. We roll them out and it's baked, then boiled, then seared. It gets a little more TLC than some of the other products, but it's worth it. It's savory and has that iron flavor that you look for in a steak. All the heft, but none of that weird gristle.

    Sounds and looks really great from what I've seen online. How do you make your cheeses though and what's your favorite?

    Kale: The cheeses have a soy milk and coconut oil base. From there, we add different combinations of nutritional yeast, salt, herbs, spices, etc. to really create any flavor and texture you want. Vinegar and lemon juice can make firm and soft cheese. My favorite is the Garlic Pepper Havarti (pictured below); it's just so good. We roast the garlic and when I want something to put on crackers, it's always the Garlic Pepper Havarti.

    vegan garlic pepper havarti

    Yeah, it was a terrible idea to do this interview before lunch. We absolutely loved your vegan Double Down at Vegan Beer Fest/EatDrinkVegan (below)—any plans to make that part of your permanent menu?

    Aubry: It unfortunately is not feasible at the shop since we operate like a traditional butcher shop where everything is taken to go, and making the double down is very time consuming. So for now, we'll keep making the Italian Cold Cut and Turkey & Dill Havarti that Guy Fieri ate on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

    vegan double down - raven + crow

    We get it—you guys know Guy Fieri. No, all kidding aside, that's awesome that they visited your shop on that show. Again, I feel like we're making a lot of headway in the mainstream. And sad news (for me) about the Double Down. But are there any other new products you're excited about possibly adding to your repertoire?

    Kale: We're more giving facelifts to existing recipes. Like we're looking into turning our Shredded Chicken into a Buffalo Chicken. There are some new things, though. We just discovered that we can make cheese in wheels so we can do pepper-crusted havarti or caraway-crusted cheddar, things like that. We're always trying to think of new things.

    Nice. So, you've touched on this a little bit, but can you both talk more to when and why you adopted a vegan lifestyle?

    Kale: I went vegan in 2012, and right now it's less about health, which is why I switched, and more about the environmental factors. Just look at the news—it's scary sometimes, and if I can do my small part to help, then there's no reason why I shouldn't.

    Aubry: I remember the moment I decided to go vegan when I was 14. I was working at a grocery store, saving money to buy a pair of leather shoes. I was bagging groceries, and the cashier had to put the meat in plastic bags because it was leaking blood. I remember putting it in the bag and thinking, 'Wow, that was alive once and this is disgusting. I don't know what I'm doing eating something that used to bleed because I bleed.' From that moment, I knew I needed to make a change and I knew that I didn't need animal products to be happy and healthy. I started reading Peter Singer books and learning about animal agriculture and that it wasn't cute cows standing in a pasture. I was really inquisitive and I think that's how a lot of other young people are these days.

    That's great. And I think it speaks to whole idea of there being so many different angles at which to arrive at an animal-free lifestyle, so many different, totally valid reasons to do so, and people like the two of you make it so much easier and more fun, there's really no reason not to go vegan.... HEAR THAT WORLD‽ Changing tracks and putting my design hat back on for a brief moment, who did your logo? We dig it.

    Kale: We had a woman just out of college design it, but we're actually in the process of working with a local branding company on a brand refinement. So THB will be getting a little facelift soon!

    Oh, that's exciting. We'll keep our eyes peeled. So, I totally want to come by your shop, but in the meantime and for those of us who don't live in the Twin Cities area, can we look forward to you all doing more fests or any pop-ups in the coming months? Or any plans to have anyone carry your stuff outside'a MN?

    Aubry: Events like EatDrinkVegan are a huge undertaking for our small staff, so we'll be sticking close to home this year. We are always open to new wholesale partners, and already wholesale to a couple places outside of the state. And of course, we have nationwide shipping options on our website.

    Awesome. Well, thanks to you both for taking the time to do this interview. And hope to see you in Los Angeles again soon!

    Editor's note: In the time between conducting this interview and posting it, it's been announced that MooShoes NYC's soon-to-be-opened sister shop, Orchard Grocer, will be carrying Herbivorous Butcher products right next-door to MooShoes on the lower east side. So stay tuned for opening announcements in the very near future.