Becoming vegan seems to be in the air.

In the past month, I’ve had a host of people – old and young, men and women, professional chefs and novice cooks – ask for advice on how to eat a totally plant-based diet.

So it must be time to provide a basic starter kit on eating vegan in Maine.

The first thing people new to the plant-based eating world need to know is how to cook. If you’re already comfortable sauteing vegetables, baking tofu, soaking beans, pureeing smoothies and cooking rice, you’re on your way. If not, a lesson or two in basic cooking techniques will make your new dietary style a long-term success rather than a short-term fad.

The second thing you need to know is that it’s really easy to be a junk food vegan. Cupcakes, whoopie pies, cookies, cake, truffles – you can find vegan versions of them all. Add in potato chips, processed vegan fake meats, white pasta and non-dairy “butter,” and you have a recipe for bloating, mood swings and nutritional deficiences rather than good health.

Instead, the smart route is to focus on whole foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh, tofu, fermented foods and cold-pressed vegetable oils – and build the majority of your meals around them. An occasional slice of vegan chocolate cake or a fake turkey sandwich is fine; just don’t make them the mainstays of your diet.

Now that those basics are out of the way, it’s time to talk food. Here are my recommendations for restaurants, recipes, cooking schools and cookbooks to get you started toward plant-based bliss.

EATING OUT IN PORTLAND

VEGAN RESTAURANTS:

Portland is home to three restaurants that serve only food made without meat or dairy.

Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro, 608 Congress St., 347-3111, greenelephantmaine.com

Open for lunch and dinner, this popular restaurant serves Asian-inspired cuisine in an upscale atmosphere. It doesn’t take reservations, so show up early, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, or expect to wait for a table.

Little Lad’s, 482 Congress St., 871-1636, littlelads.com

This casual, cheap-eats spot is open for lunch and serves sandwiches and a vegan buffet of classic American comfort food. It also carries the famous Little Lad’s popcorn.

Roost House of Juice, 11 Free St., 899-4275, roosthouseofjuice.com

In addition to being vegan, Roost is all organic, gluten-free and raw. The menu offers fresh juices, smoothies, breakfast, snacks, light meals and wine.

VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS:

Each of these eateries always has vegan menu items.

Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., 791-2695, baysidebowl.com

Flatbread Company, 72 Commercial St., 772-8777, flatbreadcompany.com

Grace, 15 Chestnut St., 828-4422, restaurantgrace.com

Granny’s Buritos, Public Market House, 28 Monumnet Square, 749-0951

Kamasouptra, Public Market House, 28 Monument Square & Maine Mall, 364 Maine Mall Road, 415-6692, kamasouptra.com

Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe, 649 Congress St., 899-3529, localsproutscooperative.com

Pepperclub/Good Egg Cafe, 78 Middle St., 772-0531, pepperclubrestaurant.com

Pom’s Thai Taste & Noodle Bar, 571 Congress St., 772-7999, thaitastemaine.com

Silly’s, 40 Washington Ave., 772-0360, sillys.com

EATING OUT BEYOND PORTLAND – TOP PICKS FROM THE MAINE VEGAN MEETUP

The Maine Vegan Meetup has more than 440 members and hosts monthly dining events at vegan-friendly restaurants around the state. On Sept. 15, the group will dine at Eden Vegetarian Cafe in Bar Harbor. Join the group by going to meetup.com/meatless-mainers. The organization also maintains a resource directory at vegme.org.

Cafe de Bangkok, 232 Water St., Hallowell, 622-2638, cafedebangkokme.com

Chopsticks, 167 Center St., Bangor, 262-2170

Eden Vegetarian Cafe, 321 Main St., Bar Harbor, 288-4422, barharborvegetarian.com

Fishbones American Grill, 70 Lincoln St., Lewiston, 333-3663, fishbonesag.com

Jasmine Cafe, 730 Center St., Auburn, 376-4855, jasminecafemaine.com

Little Tokyo, 72 Maine St., Brunswick, 798-6888, littletokyomaine.com

Longfellows, Main Street, Kingfield, 265-4394, longfellowsme.com

Naral’s, 34 Court St., Auburn, 344-3201, narals.com

Riverside Cafe, 151 Main St., Ellsworth, 667-7220, insideriversidecafe.com

Salt Bay Cafe, 88 Main St., Damariscotta, 563-3302, saltbaycafe.com

Taste of Eden Vegan Cafe, 238 Main St., Norway, 739-6090, tasteofedencafe.com

The Chef and the Gardener, 345 North St., Saco, 282-9035, chefandgardener.com

LEARN TO COOK

Five Seasons Cooking School, 87 St. Lawrence St., Portland, 780-0738, fiveseasonscookingschool.net

Macrobiotic school with a plant-based focus hosts cooking classes in Portland and at other locations.

Girl Gone Raw, 81 Congress St., Portland, 650-3437, girlgoneraw.com

A raw vegan school with a regular schedule of classes, talks and potlucks at various locations.

Sea Change Cooking School, 370-4880, seachangecooking.com

Without a permanent home base, this school hosts many of its classes at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. It occasionally offers vegan classes, including one on Sept. 22.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: akamila@pressherald.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila