Vegan offerings at Souplantation (5/1/08 – 5/23/08)

Souplantation - Valencia

Souplantation-Valencia will have a lot of great vegan dishes available from now till possibly the end of May. Coming up on Thursday, May 1st we will get a vegan tossed salad; the Strawberry Fields w/ Carmelized Walnuts. Three (vegan) prepared salads will also be available; Tabouli, the Baja Bean & Cilantro, and the Roasted Potato w/ Chipotle Chile Vinaigrette. In soups, the Classical Minestrone is vegan and sounds really good. These offerings will be available until May 10th.

Beginning on May 12th, the ‘Plantation will still have the Strawberry Fields salad available. Two prepared salads; the Dijon Potato w/ Garlic Dill Vinaigrette and the Spicy Southwestern Pasta. For soups they will be having one of my favorites, the Santa Fe Black Bean Chili.

Because it is still April, lemon-themed items will be on the menu until the end on the month. If you go to Soup’ right now you can still get the Lemon Cashew Rice along with the other May 1st menu items sans the Baja Bean Cilantro and Strawberry Fields salad. Vegan Minestrone is being served now. Also, in case anyone was wondering why there is a two-day gap in the menu I posted; S-ation doesn’t list their menu on the website during the weekends between menu changes (every two weeks). During these days you will see a mixture of both last week’s menu and the upcoming menu. Maybe more vegan items, maybe none. I believe it all depends on whatever they have the most of during this time, so you can call ahead and check what’s being served if you want to dine on transition weekends. Finally, I am trying to find a hip nickname for Souplantation so comment back with your suggestions.

Souplantation-Valencia is located in the Valencia Town Center @
24303 Town Center Drive, Suite 150
Valencia, CA 91351
Phone: (661) 286-1260

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Zpizza – Valencia

Zpizza - Valencia

Much controversy surrounds Zpizza within the vegan community. Before I go on, I want to make it clear that this is going to be a positive review. I recommend Zpizza to all my Vegan Claritans, but first I want to explain why there has been so much confusion and to make the truth official about this quickly growing pizza franchise

*** Since publishing this review, someone from Fransmart commented on this post (see comment #3 on the bottom of this post) saying that the name of the menu item was called the “Killer Veggie” pizza, and not the “Killer Vegan” pizza. I have not been able to find this menu item with Google searches (Archive.org has past versions of the zpizza website stored on their servers, and I found that the “Killer Veggie” first appeared on the menu archives in March of 2000, and the “Killer Vegan” in December of 2001 [highlight text to view]. The names seemed to interchange with eachother, and even be used at the same time; VEGAN on the menu page and VEGGIE on the nutritional page. The Berkley pizza first appears in the archives in December of 2004. I saw the first media report mentioning the “Killer Vegan” as a NEW pizza dated 2003 which is where I got the date in my original publishing.) except for a couple mentions on web forums. I provided sources for the pizza being called the “Killer Vegan”, and whether this was the real name or not, the fact that it was published as such on the internet by independent sources certainly added to the confusion. Why it was mistakenly called a VEGAN pizza by more than one source is beyond me. Neither the “Killer Vegan” nor the “Killer Veggie” currently exist on the menu and appear to have been replaced by the “Berkley Soy Cheese Veggie”. Why the name was changed if not labeled VEGAN was not mentioned. If someone from Fransmart or Zpizza could also respond to quarrygirl.com’s experience at a Zpizza in West Hollywood I’m sure it would be appreciated.

I’m not sure if this review and news about Zpizza’s soy cheese comes off as negative or not, and I appologise if it puts any kind of negative light on the Valencia store because I have nothing but positive things to say about that place. However, we vegans only want to know exactly what’s in the food we’re eating. I keep seeing, reading and hearing so many different answers to the question of Zpizza’s soy cheese. There are vegan customers that Zpizza will never get back because correct answers were not available, or products were misrepresented. I prefer to focus on vegan issues relating to just the Santa Clarita Valley, but someone needed to post the exact information and it just so happens that it was this vegan blog in Santa Clarita that decided to keep calling people until those definate answers were found.

Again, VEGANS can feel safe and enjoy Zpizza, especially the one in Valencia which told me on my first inquiry that the soy cheese was not vegan. Certainly I would rather eat at Zpizza than Pizza Hut, Papa John’s or most other places in Santa Clarita. Just remember to order the organic tomato sauce and no soy cheese. ***

From what I have been able to gather, the confusion began in late 2003 when Zpizza introduced a new menu item called “The Killer Vegan Pizza”. I have been unable to find a picture of a Zpizza menu board displaying this title, but it has been quoted in several different media reports and restaurant reviews. The pizza featured veggie burger crumbles, soy cheese and a pesto sauce (possibly containing Parmesan cheese, not sure on that). The soy cheese contains casein, a milk protein and very non-vegan. I was unable to find a press release but it appears the “Killer Vegan Pizza” was re-named “The Berkley Soy Cheese Veggie”. Customers of various Zpizza locations have gotten mixed information on whether or not the soy cheese was vegan. I don’t believe Zpizza was purposely trying to deceive people, I think they just honestly did not know that labeling something VEGAN was akin to saying it’s Kosher. Probably thinking vegan was a hip buzzword used among vegetarians who ate soy foods, not realizing that there are certain rules that must be followed when labeling something as vegan.

I asked my local Zpizza and they told me the soy cheese contained casein, but I knew that a definitive answer was in order. I first called Zpizza headquarters in Newport Beach, CA but the phone number on their website is actually for their franchise partner, Fransmart. The operator told me that she thinks the soy cheese contains casein but did not know for sure. I asked if she knew which brand of soy cheese Zpizza uses, and she told me it was purchased from a company called Schreiber Foods. She gave me a phone number for Schreiber Foods and a name of their contact over there. Turns out the phone number was for Sara Lee Food Services in Illinois, and they have never heard of Schreiber Foods nor this contact person.

I used Google to find the number for Schreiber Foods, who are located in Wisconsin. They were really nice but apparently could not tell me about their soy cheese because they make several different products and weren’t sure which one Zpizza uses. I asked the Schreiber rep’ if she had a sales record for Zpizza to see which they were purchasing but no record was found. I was told Zpizza probably purchases through a distributor, so I would need to call a Zpizza and get the product code from their box of soy cheese to find out exactly which one they use. So, I called our local Zpizza in Valencia, CA who were very helpful and gave me the product number as well as the name of their supplier; Sysco Foods inc.

I called Schreiber Foods back and gave them the product code, but was told that this code was for real cheese, specifically a pizza cheese blend. I thought this was strange since the person from my local Zpizza clearly read to me that the package said “Imitation Mozzarella”. Realizing this was not going to give me the answers I needed, I asked for the number for Sysco Foods who are located in Texas. I called Sysco and asked which soy cheese they sell to Zpizza. The operator kept searching and called other Sysco employees to try and find the answer. Finally I was given the number of Sysco’s Los Angeles office and their Account Executive of Program Sales. This person knows exactly what Zpizza buys and uses in their restaurants. She was extremely helpful, confirmed that the soy cheese Zpizza uses does indeed come from Schreiber Foods and contains casein. She also e-mailed me the ingredients which I will post here:

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Casein, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Aluminum, Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Artificial Color, Vitamin A, Palmitate, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Ferric Orthophosphate, Folic Acid, Pyridioxne, HCL (Vitamin B6), Niacinamide, Thiamin, Mononotrate.

Now that it’s official, I want to add that Zpizza has a lot to offer vegans looking for a good pizza. While there was definitely some confusion and misinformation among most every level of Zpizza in regards to the ingredients of their soy cheese, keep in mind that this is a franchise and each store is essentially a small business. Some bad experiences at one store does not mean you will get the same treatment at another. Based on what I have heard, the owner of our Valencia Zpizza is a nice guy and I have no issues supporting them with my business.

Now, on to the food!

One thing I like about Zpizza is that they have lots of toppings normally not found at other pizza restaurants in Santa Clarita. Artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, Morning Star pizza crumbles, cremini mushrooms, avocado and kalamata olives to name a few. You can build you own pizza; SMALL (Z10): $6.95 plus $1.25 per ingredient, Medium (Z14): $12.95 plus $1.75 per ingredient, Large (Z18): $15.95 plus $2.00 per ingredient. Calzones are also offered for $6.95

I ordered a medium Berkley veggie with organic tomato sauce instead of the pesto and NO soy cheese. I also got a calzone with organic tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms and eggplant.

If you look closely, you’ll see steam coming off my freshly baked no-cheese pizza.

Zpizza - Vegan Berkley

Zpizza - Vegan calzone

The crust is very good, I think I will try the whole wheat next time as I forgot about it while I was checking the place out. The organic tomato sauce is also good and the ingredients are fresh with enough variety to make an excellent cheese-less vegan pizza that won’t get tired so quickly. The prices are more on the expensive side, but it’s worth it for superior ingredients.

Zpizza is located in Valencia at the Promenade Town Center:
27015 McBean Pkwy
Valencia, CA 91355

Earth Day in the SCV

Earth Day in the SCV

Tomorrow, April 22nd is Earth Day. While I’m waiting patiently for WorldFest to officially kickoff the real celebration in May, College of the Canyons will be hosting their own Earth Day event on campus. The event is sponsored by the Sustainable Development Committee and will feature vendor booths, student presentations, panel discussions on air quality and “green careers” and a special presentation by former L.A. district attorney Gil Garcetti.

Also, Earth Day is when Whole Foods will officially stop offering plastic shopping bags to their customers. As part of Whole Food’s celebration and to help people get into the habit of bringing their own shopping bags, the first 100 customers spending $50 or more will receive a “specially designed Earth Day bag for Free!”

Part 2: Vegan Breakfast in the SCV

GCC Breakfast Sign

I know I probably didn’t post this in time for my SCVegan readers but that was all the more reason for me to attend the Gibbon Conservation Center’s vegan breakfast-fundraiser. For those of you whom did not make it, you really missed out. The food was a continental-style buffet with stations all over the grounds. Organic cereals with a variety of rice and almond milks, fresh fruits like berries and melons, bagels with Tofutti cream cheese, oatmeal, potatoes O’brian with beans, soy yogurt (woot!), Izze sparkling juice (double woot!) and plenty of other goodies.

GCC Breakfast

Lots of people were there, much more then I thought would attend such an event in the Santa Clarita Valley. (Makes the Newhall Farmer Market look even that much more sad). Pulling up to the center I saw about 70 cars and a group volunteers doing their best to organize the parking situation. When I finally walked through the gate I was greeted to a packed house. People of all ages were present enjoying a great time under the shady trees with good food and watching the Gibbons play and have fun in their enclosures.

GCC People

Sure, originally I went there because of the vegan breakfast but after I arrived I realized that I was really there for the Gibbons. These animals are cute, intelligent, fascinating, entertaining and endangered. The Gibbon Conservation Center is the only facility of its kind in the western hemisphere and it’s right here in the SCV. Not only that, but it has been here for 23 years and I never even knew it existed. Now the GCC needs to leave Santa Clarita and it saddens me that I didn’t get to visit the Gibbons when I was younger.

Gibbons at the GCC

I had great fun this Saturday morning and it would have been worth it even without the food. I urge everyone in the SCV to visit the Gibbon Conservation Center while it’s still in our neighborhood.

Vegan Breakfast in the SCV

Alan Mootnick at the Gibbon Conversation Center
Alan Mootnick @ the Gibbon Conservation Center. Photo from GCC website

I’m really late on this, but I just found out that the Gibbon Conservation Center in Santa Clarita is having a Vegan Breakfast to help raise money to move their facility away from the SCV’s construction, encroaching developments and hot summer temperatures. The fundraising event will include a silent auction and lecture by the center’s founder, Alan Mootnick. The event will be Saturday, April 12 from 8:30am to noon.

The prices for the event have a pre-pay price of; $30 (Adults 18+), $15 (ages 13-17), $10 (ages 3-12), free for children under three years old. Prices at the gate go up $5.

DIrections to the Gibbon Conservation Center can be found on their website.

SCVegan Stickers

SCVegan Stickers

I had some stickers made to help promote this blog. You can grab some at Whole Foods-Valencia on the community bulletin board. When you enter through front doors, go to your right towards the restrooms and the bulletin board is on the wall; take as many as you like. If you can’t make it there just send me an e-mail (SCVegan at gmail dot com) or leave a comment on this posting saying you need stickers and we can figure out a way to get them to you.

SCVegan swag is something I plan to have from time to time, I’ll post when I have new stuff made up and how to obtain it.

For Takeout: Grand Panda – Saugus

Grand Panda - Saugus

I wanted to do a review from the dining-in perspective but I think being able to order takeout is important too. Grand Panda is a Chinese restaurant with two locations in the Santa Clarita Valley; one in Newhall and this one in Saugus. The restaurants are family owned and operated, though I have never been to the Newhall location I know the owners do move between stores so both locations should be fairly the same. The Saugus restaurant has a family atmosphere and a good size dining area split on both sides of the restaurant.

Grand Panda String beans, Sizzling tofu and sauteed broccoli

Grand Panda sets itself apart from other Chinese restaurants in the SCV with one item that is not even on the menu, but enjoyed by myself and the restaurant staff. The Black-Pepper Sizzling Tofu, if ordered at the restaurant is not just impressive in taste but also in presentation. Arriving to the table in a separate dish, then transferred to a sizzling plate in a burst of steam and the sound of deliciousness. Everyone seated at the surrounding tables will be watching and some may ask you the name of the menu item. This is a MUST TRY dish, one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten. When ordering takeout you miss the presentation, but the taste is still extraordinary.

Another MUST TRY is the Dry Sauteed String Beans. Along with the Sizzling Tofu, these are the two items I always order no matter what. String beans are one of my favorite vegetables anyway, but so far I have not found a restaurant that has them as good as found at Grand Panda. If you’re an eggplant fan you may also like the Eggplant with Hot Garlic Sauce. Typical vegetable dishes can be had here like sauteed broccoli, snow peas and mixed vegetables. They will also make you a vegetable fried rice, no egg.

I always ask that my food be completely vegetarian, no fish sauce, no oyster sauce, no egg, no chicken stock, no beef stock, etc. I don’t know if they normally use these things but in Chinese restaurants those are the ingredients to watch out for. They are happy to prepare food this way and you will be happy eating there.

Grand Panda is located in Saugus at:
27924 Seco Canyon Rd. (corner of Seco and Copper Hill)
Saugus, CA 91350

Grand Panda-Newhall:
23802 Lyons Ave.
Newhall, CA 91321