VeggieMonster

Writing about writing and vegetables


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A Vegan Pizza Paradise in Allston

One of Peace o’ Pie’s daily custom creations. Called ‘The Royale,’ it features burger-style tempeh, vegan cheddar cheese, spinach and caramelized onions. Click through for more photos from the restaurant!

Walking around near the Harvard Ave. T stop in Allston, the first thing I noticed was the abundance of places to eat.

Some of them are big franchises — like the McDonald’s that serves as my personal landmark every time I’m in the area. Many of them are frozen yogurt or Asian food places. There are a few taverns.

And then, nestled in a neat little row at the intersection of Brighton Avenue and Cambridge Street, there is a small mecca for vegans.

Peace o’ Pie is located between like-minded eateries Grasshopper and FoMu, and the three restaurants offer vegan treats no matter what you feel like eating — ice cream, Asian food or (in this case) pizza.

Visitors may notice a sort of useful energy about Peace o’ Pie. General manager Scott Rawdon graduated this past spring from Boston University, and front-of-house employee Pat Navin, who helps to run the restaurant’s Facebook page, is a recent Suffolk graduate. The store’s several co-owners (one of whom is Eric Prescott, the founder of the Boston Vegan Association) are often on hand, but they also hand a lot of the responsibility of running and marketing the restaurant down to their staff.

Navin and Rawdon said Facebook is at the center of Peace o’ Pie’s marketing strategy, and Rawdon has contributed much to the store’s social media presence since he started at the restaurant in April. One reason it works so well, Rawdon said, is the particular demographic the restaurant serves in Allston. An increasing number of college students are going vegan, but vegan food tends to be on the expensive side, which presents a problem for a student with a wary eye on his or her expenses.

Fortunately, most of those students have the other eye on their Facebook pages.

“We really need to make sure we’re reaching everyone … social media is really exciting right now for all age groups,” Rawdon said.

Rawdon also pointed out that paying to promote a Facebook post is much cheaper than more traditional forms of advertising, which is especially helpful to a restaurant that must purchase the necessary ingredients to create tasty pizza for a vegan diet. Peace o’ Pie requires a constant stream of specialty ingredients such as vegan cheeses and tempeh “meat” products as well as run-of-the-mill ingredients like produce, herbs and spices.

Navin said one of the things he likes about Peace o’ Pie is the community atmosphere cultivated by the management. The owners recently revamped the menu based on customer input. When Navin does his daily Facebook and Twitter updates, he uses those platforms as another way to foster a culture of outreach and camaraderie.

“We use [social media] to offer promotions and to announce our slices of the day and our sandwich of the week, but it’s also really important to make sure you’re communicating,” he said.

Navin acknowledged the restaurant still has room to grow. At the moment, the Twitter feed contains all of the same posts as their Facebook page, something that Navin hopes to work on in the future. Peace o’ Pie also recently joined Instagram. Navin said reaching people through photography is easy and fun, because food is something that is most effectively marketed in a visual way.

In addition to their use of various social media outlets, Peace o’ Pie’s website offers a look at a different side of the business. Styled like a blog, it lets each visitor know right off the bat about the specific steps the staff takes to carry out Peace o’ Pie’s earth-friendly mission. Besides the restaurant’s use of all vegan ingredients, the homepage also highlights Peace o’ Pie’s biodegradable packaging and in-restaurant composting practices.

Alex White, a Northeastern University pharmacy student who was a vegetarian for several years and still rarely eats meat, found Peace o’ Pie on Facebook. He said he was glad for the restaurant’s page because he otherwise might not have found out about them.

“I never really make it over to Allston, but I thought for something different it would be worth the trip, and it’s really good,’ he said.

It’s so good that Peace o’ Pie cook Jonathan Quinones said he actually enjoys the nightly dinner rush, when he and the rest of the back-of-house staff are rushing around to put out pizzas. But his favorite part of the day is the morning, when he decides the specials that will be penned on a board in the restaurant’s small dining area.

Though Quinones is proud of his vegan creations and delights in sharing them with customers, he said he doesn’t have much of a feel for today’s culture of rapid sharing on the web.

“I’m not big on the Facebook,” he said. “I like to make something and then call, ‘Hey! Come take a picture!’”

Quinones once worked at a sandwich shop that predominantly sold roast beef, but left for Peace o’ Pie when he decided there was such a thing as too much red meat. Navin also said he doesn’t cook with meat in his own home. In either case, when they are at work, there is a strict no-tolerance policy toward eating animal products. There’s even a polite sign on the door to urge customers to respect the vegan space by leaving any edible animal products outside

“I think that even when we receive negative feedback, it’s often on something we’ve even been picky about ourselves,” Rawdon said, referring to the members of the staff that have adopted an alternative diet. “I think vegans are very specific about what they want to eat, and so we get feedback that is extreme.”

Rawdon said he views these interactions with customers, especially on the Internet, as an opportunity for growth.

“If someone is looking at our wall and sees how we handled that conflict positively, just that can be a good for us,” he said.

Peace o’ Pie is located at 487 Cambridge St. in Allston, close to the Harvard Ave. T stop on the B line or accessible via the 66 bus. While a slice can be pricy, the restaurant often offers deals to its Facebook fans, and all-you-can-eat vegan cheese pizza is available for $10 at certain times of day. Even without any discount, though, the pie is well worth it. The creative combinations of toppings and (in my opinion) completely perfect dough make it worth the splurge. Peace o’ Pie proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, that there’s no need to sacrifice flavor while sacrificing meat.

After visiting Peace o’ Pie, I became curious as to whether Northeastern students felt they had sufficient healthy eating options nearby. Particularly, I was curious if they felt they had healthy meal options available to them while staying up late studying for finals. If you’re curious, here’s what they said:


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Surviving the holidays as a vegetarian

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This could easily become the worst time of year for us. I mean, “Turkey Day” eschews us with its name alone. I am thankful for my mom, who loves to cook and has never once complained at me for giving up meat. But for the rest of us (those of us whose grandmothers shrug, smile, and apologetically offer us the yams) — how are we to cope?

Some might say grandma’s not wrong — that all anybody cares about is a heaping helping of side dishes, and the turkey is merely an obligation each Thanksgiving. The Well Blog fully supports us each year, offering a month’s worth of different, creative vegetarian recipes designed to allow you to skip the turkey altogether.

Because my family is pretty very Italian, we usually have a lasagna present at every holiday anyway. My mom has solved the problem of my meatlessness the past few years by making it a veggie lasagna. This year, she tells me she has found a dynamite recipe involving butternut squash, but refuses to elaborate any further.

If all else fails, make dessert!

Anyhow, if you find yourself getting down around this time of year, my prescription would be this pie. I actually replace the cranberries it calls for with raspberries, because when I first stumbled across this recipe, cranberries weren’t in season. I suppose cranberries would make it more of a Thanksgiving-y pie, but I have to tell you, it is REALLY good with raspberries instead. (Add some extra sugar so they don’t make it too sour!)

A close second favorite, my contribution to Thanksgiving this year will be these cupcakes.

What are some of your vegetarian holiday solutions?


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Two sides of web

Vegetarian Times is a website that I visit almost daily since I became a vegetarian. I have yet to encounter another site that has the same wealth of information when it comes to recipes, food preparation and preserving techniques, and other kinds of practically useful information. While I don’t get the magazine, I imagine that having the same kind of information available with the added benefit of glossy photos and more articles would be pretty great. I just don’t have the money lying around for a subscription right now.

On the totally opposite end of the spectrum, Little Farm. Growing. is a blog that I love because it is purely a personal diary. I would never have such an intimate understanding surrounding what daily life is like on an independent family farm struggling to make it in a world where big corporations are dominating the industry. I find it journalistic and compelling  in the same way that I often enjoy segments on NPR’s “This American Life.”

While these sites add something to my life and have at times contributed the spark of an idea to this blog, I am a journalism student. I often find I feel that I am facing a dearth of options when it comes to reading hard news related to vegetarianism. “Studies” done on subjects of interest to the vegetarian community and coverage of relevant stories are often done from the slanted perspective of that very community. If one tries to Google statistics or facts related to vegetarianism, one of the first few hits will be PETA. The organizations that are going in depth and covering issues like over medicated livestock in the factory farming industry are all advocacy groups. Aside from sites like New York Times’ Well blog, which touches on vegetarianism only tangentially, I don’t think there’s a very good place to go for news about vegetarian food.

I think both of the sites I highlighted above say something important about the kinds of sites that are out there on the web today — one purely information, one much more of a personal narrative. I think the sweet spot to shoot for is something like what BostInno is trying to accomplish, an interactive platform that combines news and personal contributions. But overall, if I had to pick something to be improved upon, I would say that there is no good site in general for me to refer to for straight news.


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Prospective final project

As a part of the class that inspired this blog, I will be working on a multimedia project about a multimedia project.

As a possibility, I have reached out to the Ole Restaurant Group, although I did so extremely recently and I have yet to hear back. Should they consent, I believe I would be able to tie together their ideas about social media (they update their Facebook more than once daily and often engage their clientele in fun and innovative ways) as well as their status as an expanding local restaurant group.

Also, their web page design is really clean, attractive and fun.

Hopefully I hear back from them soon!


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Francesca’s Cafe: Best Veggie Options, Best Dessert

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Since my internship with The South End News two years ago, I have been in love with Boston’s littlest, most charming neighborhood. I challenge you to name something you cannot find in the South End — from theater to exercise hot spots, night life to book shops, and (of course) good eats.

Francesca’s Cafe lives at 564 Tremont St. and was often a favorite pit stop of mine while waiting for the 43 bus to take me back to Northeastern’s campus, usually after I had been out on assignment. Though I don’t have an occasion to wander the South End as often, I still regularly make time to head to Francesca’s. Before I start gushing about their desserts — the topic of the class assignment that prompted my latest visit — it is worth noting that they have many vegetarian and vegan options. Their breakfast burrito and garden burger (served on whole grain bread with avocado and other yummy vegetables) are just a couple of my personal favorites. The price range is pretty low for the area — I managed a sandwich, a coffee and a dessert for $13, with tip.

Now on to the fun part: coffee and a dessert. One of my favorite things about Francesca’s is the selection of lavish, dessert-inspired coffees they boast. My personal favorite is the cafe cocoa, and though they are reluctant to give up their secret recipe, I suspect it is part espresso, part hot chocolate, and a healthy dose of steamed milk. There’s also the Milky Way, which is similar, but with caramel. Yum.

Next to the chalkboard detailing all the drinks, and the focal point of the front of the restaurant, is a case of freshly made desserts. My personal favorite is the chocolate chip whoopie pie sandwich — you can probably guess what’s going on there. However, they did not have it on my last visit, so I settled for a homemade rice krispie treat.

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Maybe it’s just me and my memories of eating these as a kid with my mom, but they are the best. The best part of the ones at Rebecca’s are not just their freshness, but the big chunks of whole marshmallow that glue the whole thing together. It is gummy, it sticks to your fingers, and most important, it’s delicious. I think we run across too few opportunities to be five years old again in our daily lives, so I fully endorse this one.

Lauren Murphy, a Northeastern student and part-time employee at the nearby Animal Rescue League of Boston, had good things to say about the brunch she had just enjoyed with a friend.

“[Francesca’s is] a small cozy place with really great food. Their desserts are definitely worth trying,” she said.

Francesca’s is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. PLEASE NOTE: They only take cash!! I routinely forget about this little stipulation. Fortunately, there’s an ATM right across the street. The 43 bus is the most convenient way to get there, but it is also a pretty short walk from Back Bay station. They do not have a website, but their phone number is (617) 482-9026.

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Oh, and the wait staff is really nice!


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The NU Farmers Market: A Unique Space on Campus

Last week, I hung out for awhile at the Farmers Market that sprung up on my school’s campus last year. The Northeastern University Farmers Market is the product of a combined effort by NU Student Affairs, Student Government Association, Progressive Student Alliance, and Slow Food NU. Slow Food’s president, Zack Hanrahan, who I interview in my piece, really took the lead on the project, and he is there very week to ensure the market operates smoothly.

I met a lot of interesting people there, and working on this project was a good time. I learned a lot about the offerings at each stand and I found myself very engaged in each conversation I took part in, From that, I learned that selecting what content best makes for a cohesive video can be harder than editing the video itself. But overall, I’m pretty proud of this project. I had the opportunity to shoot and upload a lot of raw video at my last internship, and it was a really rewarding change of pace to be able to actually spend a little bit of time working on something clean and (I hope) fun to watch.


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Flies and “saving the world”

Full disclosure: I am terrified of bugs. I hate them. I am not one of those vegetarians that is so animal-friendly, they will put a spider on a piece of paper and gently place it outside. I will kill it, as definitively and violently as possible.

So, while I’m all for a more sustainable way of revamping the food industry for omnivores and herbivores alike, I can’t help but find this NPR piece profoundly disturbing, in addition to fascinating.

This article points to the fly being more sustainable because it is cheaper to breed flies en masse for food than it is to manufacture fish meal. Still, it seems to me it should cause a PR catastrophe if people catch on to the fact that their wild Alaskan salmon steaks were reared on crushed up maggots. Some things are just gross, aren’t they?

I would also be interested in seeing some literature on what happens when fish, chickens, etc. derive their protein from insects. Lots of factory-farmed cows are brought up on corn feed, but because they really aren’t built to process that sort of food, the meat they produce is sub-par (to say the least about the problems with factory farmed cows).

And don’t flies carry diseases? Is that just my entomophobia talking?

In any case, I’ve met my gross out quota for today. If we’re over-fishing to the point that we have to feed animals smooshy flies, maybe we should eat less of them.