Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Native Foods' Cinco De Mayo Cooking Demo Report

It promised to be a bright, sunny day this past Saturday. Not only were the birds chirping and the sun was shining, but my mom happened to be visiting from NorCal! Yippee!! And what does a vegan do to impress her non-veg mom on a beautiful day? Why, take her to an outdoors Native Foods cooking demo, of course!

If you are a vegan living in SoCal then you are no doubt familiar with the delish Native Foods restaurants. With locations in Costa Mesa (the locale I like to haunt on a weekly basis), L.A., Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Tustin and Aliso Viejo (with new locations popping up all the time!), almost everyone in SoCal can enjoy the mouthwatering (and completely vegan) food Native Foods offers. The friendly founder of the phenomenal vegan chain, Chef Tanya, is a hoot in person and does each and every cooking demo herself. She isn’t shy about answering questions and it goes without saying that she is a great chef!

Chef Tanya answering questions while preparing fresh cactus salad

I signed up for the cooking demo (the second I’ve attended) to show my mom just how amazing vegan food can taste! This particular cooking demo was held Saturday, April 24th at the Tustin Native Foods location at The District. The restaurant is right next to the AMC Theaters (hmmmm…perfect for a dinner ‘n’ movie date!) and the cooking demo was held in the courtyard just outside the restaurant and theaters.

Chef Tanya has been hosting cooking demos for a while now, but they are getting so popular that on this particular day there were three scheduled! Now, I should mention that all cooking demos are free (you just have to RSVP beforehand to ensure a seat) AND you get free food! How can you say no?!

I decided to attend the first cooking demo of the day and was there bright and early (hey, 10 AM is early on a weekend, at least for me!) to get a good seat. We got seats in the second row and had a great view of Chef Tanya doing her thang. Each cooking demo usually has a theme, and for this one it was Cinco De Mayo (ole!). As Chef Tanya got started the staff served some delicious chai before serving a sample of an appetizer/starter of fresh cactus salad. I had never had cactus before, the salad had a tangy, salty taste that was delicious! Of course, Chef Tanya gave the audience helpful tips on how to prepare the cactus and all the steps to make the salad.

After the salad we were all served refreshing watermelon agua fresca or lavender lemonade (both AMAZING and personal faves of mine) before we were shown how to make some freakin’ amazing baked black bean zucchini chilaquiles. While Chef Tanya showed us how to prepare everything she also answered questions from the audience. And of course we all voraciously ate the samples of the, were they tasty!

Chef Tanya making chilaquiles...I was so busy eating I only
got a few pics!

And them came dessert...mmmmmm my favorite meal! To keep the fiesta going, Chef Tanya prepared an upside down coconut flan with mango papaya compote.Vegan flan! It's a miracle! The trick to making a vegan flan is the use of agar flakes and kuzu, both which help mimic the consistency of traditional flan. The addition of the mango papaya compote added extra zing and flavor to the dish as well as making it quite colorful! I like my food pretty!

After the demo, I even bought my mom the Native Foods cookbook and had Chef Tanya sign it for her as an early Mother’s Day gift. After trying the tasty food my mom couldn’t wait to try the recipes in the book!

I absolutely love that Native Foods offers these free cooking demos. I mean, how can you pass up eating delicious food while being entertained by the hilarious Chef Tanya and learning a bunch of new recipes/techniques for vegan food? And did I mention how amazing it is that Native Foods offers all this for FREE?!

Did I mention how much I love Native Foods yet? :)

If you are in the SoCal area and want to check out a Native Foods cooking demo, just check out their site and their page for upcoming events!

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