Among the menu items at a vegan wine dinner earlier this month at Chaval: Beet pastrami with savoy cabbage, cashew-Dijon spread, crispy Yukon potatoes and roasted cashews. The restaurant has planned another vegan wine dinner for Jan. 24. Photo courtesy of Chaval

During the recent holiday season, 19 cinemas in Maine from Wells to Caribou were among 1,800 theaters across the U.S. where a 60 second pro-vegan PSA screened during select showings of Wonka. The PSA was created by Eat Differently and delivered a message about compassion for farmed animals, ending with the advice to “Eat Plants Not Animals.”

Also during the holidays, Lovebirds in Kittery partnered with Lindt Chocolate to produce a vegan buttercream brioche doughnut topped with one of the new Lindt oat milk truffles. On New Year’s Eve, Bandaloop in Arundel served a five-course, prix fixe dinner that offered diners a vegan option for each course.

In December, the Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck began selling takeout from the Fork Food Lab (97 Darling Ave.) near the Maine Mall in South Portland, where its prep kitchen is located. The take-out opportunities, for pickup and delivery, will continue on cold days when the truck can’t run. Check social media for more details, including photos of the new “Brawndo” – the truck’s black bean burger topped with mac and cheese.

Among the harvest dinner offerings at its Maine Maple Fall Fest celebration, Velvet Hollow Sugar Works at Dunham Farm in Greenwood served a plant-based pot pie with cranberry sauce and vegan cornbread. In October, the Viles Arboretum in Augusta held a Table Tour, where participants walked through the tree collection during peak foliage, enjoying a meal at a series of stops. Vegan choices were available at every table, including baked beans, vegetable soup, warm sweet potato–white bean salad, broccoli slaw and apple crisp.

Unfortunately, not all the recent veg news from Maine has been jolly. Long-running Westbrook-based veggie burger manufacturer Blue Mango, founded in 2007 in Portland, closed up shop late last year after limping along in the wake of the pandemic, which caused the company to lose more than 400 restaurant accounts. Then, just before the new year, Curbside Comforts in Gorham, a restaurant that serves vegan burgers and ice cream, announced it would close in March unless a new owner is found before then.

Chaval hosts vegan wine dinners


In December, Chaval in Portland’s West End organized its first-ever vegan wine dinner. Seats sold out so quickly that the restaurant added a second night and now is planning a third vegan wine dinner on Jan. 24.

“The first one was so well received we had a huge wait list, so we decided to do one the week after,” said chef Damian Sansonetti, who owns the restaurant with his wife and pastry chef Ilma Lopez. “We’re expecting a good turnout again in January. We might make this a monthly club.”

Sasonettti said he and his wife cook and eat a lot of vegan and vegetarian food at home. As a child, he spent a lot of time at his grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania, where they cultivated a huge vegetable garden and his grandmother often made simple, vegan dishes for supper.

The December dinners paired dishes such as beet pastrami and fried pickled oyster mushrooms with Rhône Valley wines; the January dinner will pair Southern Italian food with the wines of Sicily. The menu for the five-course dinner is still being developed.

“There’s definitely going to be a pasta dish,” Sansonetti said. “We’ve already started fermenting, curing and drying some vegetables to try and invoke some of the funkier flavors of Southern Italian cuisine.”

The five-course dinner costs $88. To reserve a spot, call 207-772-1110, email or visit


Vegan snacks with cats in Westbrook

Some of the vegan candy and snacks available for sale at the Meow Lounge in Westbrook. Photo courtesy of Meow Lounge

Locals wanting to adopt a cat or just get in some quality time with felines have been filling the vegan-friendly Meow Lounge at 630 Main St. in Westbrook since it opened last summer.  Patrons, who pay to enter, can sip free tea or vegan hot chocolate (with vegan marshmallows), while enjoying the Wi-Fi and the kitty companions. The Meow Lounge also sells a range of vegan candy bars and snacks, and the Totally Awesome Vegan Food truck sometimes parks outside.

“The lounge is set up like a large foster home for the cats,” said owner Anne Beal, who previously ran a pet boarding business. “I work with a variety of rescues and shelters around the state and provide space for free for their cats. All the adoptions are handled through the shelters.”

The lounge generally has about 14 cats. Since it opened, it has adopted out more than 100.

Regular events at the lounge – movie screenings, yoga classes, pottery sessions, open mic nights – are ticketed and can be booked online. There’s also plenty of non-event time on the schedule, allowing people to hang out with the cats or get some work done.

“We do get a lot of people who bring their laptops for the Wi-Fi,” Beal said. “We also get a lot of people who cannot adopt and come in to get a kitty fix. There’s no pressure to adopt. Having people come in helps to keep the cats social.”


Ticket prices for the lounge vary based on events, but are usually around $15 for adults. Call 358-0003 or visit for details.

Vegan tattoo artist opens Orono shop

Robert Lucchesi at Black Cat Tattoo in Orono inked this vegetable art on a client using vegan inks. Photo courtesy of Black Cat Tattoo

Since September, Black Cat Tattoo in the college town of Orono has been offering organic, vegan tattoos.

“Our transfer paper is vegan,” explained Black Cat Tattoo owner Robert Lucchesi, who has been working as a tattoo artist for 18 years. Many transfer papers contain animal-based ingredients.

“The inks we use are certified vegan and organic. I pay more money for the higher premium inks because lots of companies will use bone char to make black and some companies will use plastics to get certain colors.”

He and his wife, Alicia Randolph-Lucchesi, a plant-based chef, recently moved to Maine from New York. Randolph-Lucchesi crafts a line of tattoo aftercare that is all organic and one of her formulas is also vegan. Her products are sold at Black Cat Tattoo.


The parlor, located at 6 Mill St., Unit 4, is closed Sundays and Tuesdays but otherwise open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It accepts walk-ins. For more information, visit

“The Official Veganuary Cookbook.” Harper Collins. $32.

The creative team behind the annual Veganuary challenge has released its first-ever cookbook, timed with this year’s 10th anniversary event.

The cookbook provides sample plant-based meal plans; ingredient descriptions; and 100 recipes for hearty, winter-time comfort foods and the latest vegan meals. With a decidedly British slant (not surprising, since Veganuary was founded in Yorkshire, England), dishes include kedgeree with herby yogurt, gochujang roasted cauliflower, mushroom & walnut Wellington, beef & ale pie, Bloody Mary soup, coronation chickpea sandwiches and sticky toffee pudding.

More than 700,000 people participated in the 2023 challenge. Six months later, 80 percent of participants who were not vegan when they signed up reported continued dramatic reductions in the amount of animal-based meat, dairy and eggs they consume. Among the 28 percent of participants who continued eating vegan after the challenge ended, 62 percent reported health improvements including increased energy, improved mood and better skin.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. Reach her at

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