Artisanal meat alternatives?

Aubrey Walch

Until recently, meat alternatives were mostly shunned by foodies, because many of the products were highly-processed, bland, had weird textures, or a combination of the three. That’s changing, accordng to an article posted on Civil Eats. Kristina Johnson reports that as demand for meatless protein grows, it has spurred the creation of companies devoted to foodie-worthy meat alternatives.

One of these companies is called No-Evil Foods, started earlier this year in Asheville, North Carolina. No-Evil produces seitan-based Italian sausage, roast, and chorizo. Inspired to find something better than what was commercially available, co-owners Mike Woliansky and Sadra Schadel, both vegetarians, sought a way to make vegetarian alternatives that were not heavily processed. They also wanted to appeal to meat-eaters, so they recruited friends to taste test their products. Apparently they have succeeded, because Schadel notes that people “come up to us at the farmers’ market and say they haven’t had chorizo as good as ours since their grandmother made it.”

Another success story comes from the opposite side of the North American continent, where San Francisco chef James Corwell creats a sushi alternative made with tomatoes cooked sous-vide with select herbs, tamari, rice wine vinegar, and a touch of sugar. And in the middle of the U.S., siblings Aubrey and Kale Walch recently started The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, taking the city’s farmers’ market by storm with products that have the look, taste, and feel of meat. Their ultimate goal is to create “a vegan butcher shop with cheeses and meats and sauces and meat rubs… anything you’d find in a butcher shop.” 

To more fully fund their ventures, Chef Corwell of Tomato Sushi has a Kickstarter in the works and the Walch duo are planning one next month. What is your take on these “meatless meats” – tofurkey all over again, or do you find them promising?

Photo of Aubry Walch courtesy The Herbivorous Butcher 

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  • FuzzyChef  on  October 20, 2014

    Oh, hey, I didn't know about Tomato Sushi! Thanks! My sweetie hates tuna …

  • robm  on  October 22, 2014

    Like most things, faux meats have improved over the years as the makers have experimented with them and gone through the usual process of trial and error. I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan, but I do find myself eating less meat protein and gravitating towards a diet that's more vegetarian in nature. I've tried some of the more widely available meat substitutes out of curiosity and some of them really are quite good. Others are still in the "meh" category. The faux chicken by Beyond Meat is really quite good, in my opinion. Not perfect, but quite close to the real thing and perfectly usable in many applications. Some of Gardein's products, like their "beefless tips" are also pretty convincing. Quorn's "chicken" cutlets also are surprisingly like the original. "Soyrizo" is a good substitute for the original — I've just learned that it cooks even more quickly than the original so if you're frying it to make eggs or to add to another dish as seasoning it will be ready very quickly! I've also liked some of the commercially available veggie burgers. Fake bacon hasn't convinced me as much, and I haven't been wildly impressed with the sausages and cold cuts. I experimented by making a vegan Reuben sandwich with the peppered pastrami-ish cold cuts and Daiya's new "Swiss cheese" slices. The peppered slices are extremely thin and not exactly like pastrami but close enough in this sandwich to be usable. The cheese didn't taste at all like Swiss, though. In fact, I thought it was pretty awful. So we're not there yet, at least not with some of these products. But I'm confident that they'll continue to get better and become viable products, even for those for whom vegetarianism or veganism isn't a "religion" or "cause." People will just buy them because they taste good and are less expensive than animal-sourced products.

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