Foodie File: Vegan enthusiasts deliver big flavor at The Vegetable Butcher

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FIRE AND PASSION — The Vegetable Butcher adds some real heat to King Trumpet mushrooms before putting them on the plates at one of their Meatless Monday pop-up events. Vegetable Butcher Tyler Vaughn is in back, and his partner Joshua James is in front. The pair love to get their produce locally from markets and farms such as Tomazin Farms, Green Flamingo Organics in Oak Hill, Alvarez Farms, and Sun Splash of New Smyrna Beach.

FIRE AND PASSION — The Vegetable Butcher adds some real heat to King Trumpet mushrooms before putting them on the plates at one of their Meatless Monday pop-up events. Vegetable Butcher Tyler Vaughn is in back, and his partner Joshua James is in front. The pair love to get their produce locally from markets and farms such as Tomazin Farms, Green Flamingo Organics in Oak Hill, Alvarez Farms, and Sun Splash of New Smyrna Beach.

BEACON PHOTO/RYAN ROUGEUX

Piece by carefully placed piece — The Vegetable Butcher — Joshua James at left and Tyler Vaughn — carefully assemble dessert for the Meatless Monday event Feb. 26 in New Smyrna Beach. Their vegan artistry includes not only cooking skills, but breathtaking presentation, as well.

Piece by carefully placed piece — The Vegetable Butcher — Joshua James at left and Tyler Vaughn — carefully assemble dessert for the Meatless Monday event Feb. 26 in New Smyrna Beach. Their vegan artistry includes not only cooking skills, but breathtaking presentation, as well.

BEACON PHOTO/RYAN ROUGEUX

VEGAN ENTHUSIASTS AND FRIENDS — At left, in the Riverpark Terrace dining room, enthusiasts await dinner served by The Vegetable Butcher. The first Meatless Monday pop-up dinner was in November 2017, and The Vegetable Butcher already has a regular following and growing popularity. Recently featured on Fox 35 News, The Vegetable Butcher plans to keep spreading its message of healthful, socially conscious, plant-based eating, via the business’s pop-up and interactive dining experiences.

VEGAN ENTHUSIASTS AND FRIENDS — At left, in the Riverpark Terrace dining room, enthusiasts await dinner served by The Vegetable Butcher. The first Meatless Monday pop-up dinner was in November 2017, and The Vegetable Butcher already has a regular following and growing popularity. Recently featured on Fox 35 News, The Vegetable Butcher plans to keep spreading its message of healthful, socially conscious, plant-based eating, via the business’s pop-up and interactive dining experiences.

BEACON PHOTO/ RYAN ROUGEUX

EARTH SCALLOPS — The Vegetable Butcher takes plant-based foods such as this delicious King Trumpet mushroom and slices them into the shape of scallops. Paired with avocado, cilantro crema, roasted tomato aioli, and a pineapple cucumber salsa, the dish offers big flavors and an artistic presentation.

EARTH SCALLOPS — The Vegetable Butcher takes plant-based foods such as this delicious King Trumpet mushroom and slices them into the shape of scallops. Paired with avocado, cilantro crema, roasted tomato aioli, and a pineapple cucumber salsa, the dish offers big flavors and an artistic presentation.

BEACON PHOTO/RYAN ROUGEUX

As I pulled up to Riverpark Terrace restaurant in New Smyrna Beach for the Meatless Monday pop-up dinner event hosted by The Vegetable Butcher, the sun was setting in a beautiful display of vibrant colors, and the air was reaching a comfortable cool.

The farm-to-table-style restaurant at 302 S. Riverside Drive is closed on Mondays, but this evening it was being taken over by Joshua James and Tyler Vaughn, who call themselves The Vegetable Butcher. They were in the kitchen prepping for a five-course, plant-based, no-animal-products dinner.

I had never been to a vegan event, or eaten pure vegan food, so I had no idea what to expect.

The Riverpark Terrace dining room has a quaint, comfortable ambience, dark-wood tables and quiet lighting. There were place settings for 25 people, and the room began to fill up with vegan enthusiasts.

I began to realize the passion these patrons have for their conscious eating, which is as much a lifestyle as it is a menu.

Vaughn, who lives in Daytona Beach, and James, of Port Orange, were both raised in Florida. When they met in culinary school at Daytona State College, they had no idea that, a few years later, they would be running a passionate vegan pop-up and catering company together.

“We found out we both had named our sons Atlas, without knowing, and that’s just one of the universal synchronicities that led us to working with each other,” Vaughn said.

After some research, both men made the decision to go vegan, and they started focusing their cooking in that direction.

Vaughn has been vegan for a year-and-a-half, while James has been vegan for a year.

“I went on a vegan juice cleanse and lost 15 pounds in a week, and the way I felt was astounding,” James said.

They started cooking vegan dinners for their families, and were told they needed to branch out so others could enjoy their healthy, delicious culinary art and food.

Their first Meatless Monday event was in November 2017 at Riverpark Terrace. On Feb. 26, I attended their ninth event at that location.

“We have much more confidence now, as we have worked out the kinks, and the flow is much smoother,” Vaughn said.

Each event has a different theme, and the menu is never released until the day of the event, to create a vegan surprise. I was blessed with a Mexican night. Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines, but this time it would be vegan.

The Vegetable Butcher’s amuse-bouche, a one-bite appetizer served as a thanks and welcome from the chefs, was two dipping sauces, a cashew queso and a salsa verde served with tortilla chips.

I dipped into the cashew queso, took a bite, and couldn’t believe the flavors, knowing vegan cooking uses no dairy cheese. I really thought I was eating Mexican queso. The texture blew my mind, and I went back for another. Our hosts came out and greeted us, and were happy to answer any questions anyone had.

Our next course was a chickpea, sweet potato, tortilla soup. I could have sworn there was meat because of all the textures and flavor, but that’s the point. The soup was steaming hot with the aroma of Mexican spices, and I finished my bowl in record time.

Now I was hooked. Vegan food had grabbed my attention. After each course, Vaughn and James came out to educate us, and demonstrate vegan cooking — how to make a sauce, or some other element of each dish. It was dinner and a show.

The entrees were unbelievable, as well. The King Trumpet mushroom — which The Vegetable Butcher fashioned into a dish they call Earth Scallops — tricked me again, as if I were actually eating a scallop from the sea. It was paired with a pineapple cucumber salsa.

Then we ate a pineapple and jackfruit concoction that had the consistency of pulled pork, and also included guacamole, black beans, rice and cilantro crema. I was certain there must have been animal proteins in the dishes, but it was The Vegetable Butcher’s magic that made it so good.

“We want to dissolve any misinformation, stigma and myths about plant-based eating,” Vaughn said.

“We like the motto ‘Each one teach one,’ which represents how we want to spread the knowledge, invoke thought, and make people conscious of their eating with our events,” James said.

After the final course, the diners broke out in an ovation of clapping and gratitude for the passionate chefs.

The Vegetable Butcher is working on a vegan cheese line. They would like to see more vegan offerings in school cafeterias and area restaurants.

I was more than impressed with The Vegetable Butcher, and recommend their events to anyone who would like to grow and learn about this healthful way of life.

Visit https://www.vegetablebutchers.com/pop-up-dinners to learn about their upcoming dinners.

— Ryan Rougeux, info@beacononlinenews.com

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