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Vegan Blogger Quarrygirl On Living a Meat-Free L.A. Lifestyle

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In honor of National Vegetarian Awareness Week, LAist is running a series of features and Q & As with our city's most prominent meat-free personalities. Stay tuned throughout the week for more.

Angelenos looking for advice on where to go for great meat-free eats around town have long turned to blogger Quarrygirl, who has her finger on the pulse of this city's dynamic vegan dining and drinking scene.

Though her blog has evolved over time, and she's expanded her reach to put on popular events like the annual L.A. Vegan Beer & Food Festival and Vegan Pizza Day, when it comes to living an "animal-free" life in L.A., she is definitely an expert.

We got in touch with this anonymous writer, photographer, and consumer of great vegan eats to learn more about where she likes to eat in L.A., what one food item is this close to being made right vegan-style, and what advice she has for anyone thinking about going meat-free.

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LAist: What do you see as the most compelling reasons for someone to go vegetarian, or, in your case, vegan?

For me, the most compelling reason to give up animal products is purely ethical: The abuse that animals suffer to become meat products we consume is heartbreaking. Of course, there are many proven health benefits to a meat-free lifestyle, but that's just icing on the cake.

What tips or recommendations do you have for vegans/veggies for navigating dining out and food shopping in L.A.?

Being a vegan in L.A. is so easy - I feel very fortunate to live in a city with so many options. For diners, I'd definitely recommend the happycow website for a breakdown on vegan-friendly restaurants in various parts of town---or even a quick search with the term "vegan" on Yelp.com will yield great results. As far as shopping goes, I'd encourage meat-free buyers to be value-conscious. You don't have to buy a $9 ready-meal from Whole Foods when it's extremely easy to cook meat-free at home for a fraction of that. LA has some wonderful places to shop for vegetarian food from inexpensive markets like Figueroa Produce in Highland Park to pricier spots with a huge range of specialty products like Erewhon in Hollywood. In any case, I buy most of my groceries (vegetables, beans, tofu etc.) from Ralphs!

Can you share with us your favorite restaurants?

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Oh man, my favorites are constantly changing. This is my current top 5: Pizzanista!, Doomie's, Flore, M Cafe, and Mohawk Bend. Madeleine Bistro would top this list if they were open, but they're currently on hiatus.

You do a lot of traveling, and, of course, eating, around the world. How does L.A. stack up as a veggie/vegan-friendly city?

L.A. is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but it does lack the variety of, say New York or London. We compete well with our northern bay-area neighbors, but Portland, Oregon is by far the most vegan-friendly city I've ever visited.

As one of the co-founders and co-sponsors of the L.A. Vegan Beer & Food fest, can you explain to us what makes beer vegan? How about wine or other alcoholic beverages?

We created the LA Vegan Beer & Food Fest to showcase the very best in food, music and (of course!) beer. All of it completely cruelty-free. Brewmasters, winemakers and distillers sometimes include animal products in their recipes, or use them in the filtering process. A vegan alcoholic beverage (be it beer, wine, or spirits!) contains no animal products (meat, dairy, honey), and uses no animal products in the filtering process (isinglass/fish bladders and gelatin are somewhat common).

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A few years ago you tested some L.A. restaurants to see if their "vegan" items contained any animal products. Any update on that project or particular restaurants?

I've kept an eye on L.A.-area restaurants since my exposé. I'm not aware of any substantial changes, but I did notice one of the restaurants we criticized (Green Leaves) apparently faking a "vegan" certificate from the LA Dept. of Food. I reported them to the city and I'm assured they were penalized. Beware of the vegan meats at LA vegan Thai places.

Is there one non-vegan food that you've yet to discover re-created with vegan ingredients that really holds up and satisfies?

We vegans have recreated many non-vegan foods in a cruelty-free way---cupcakes, buffalo wings, even meatloaf!! The one thing we haven't mastered is straight up cheese---stretchy, gooey dairy. Although vegan cheese isn't quite there yet, it's REALLY damn close.

I know you've chimed in on the comments section in our story on the subject, but can you tell us what your thoughts are on the petition being circulated to urge In-N-Out to have a veggie option?

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As a vegan, I think that any meat-free option at a restaurant is a good thing! However, I think it'd be a lot more wise to focus effort on chains that are already sympathetic to the vegan cause (i.e. Subway and Chipotle). In-N-Out has been known for their unchanging and simple menu since the 1940s, plus they have a bad history of buying meat from shady and abnormally cruel suppliers---I believe a petition to add a veggie burger there is a waste of valuable time and energy.

How has your blog changed over the years? What's the latest for Quarrygirl.com?

Quarrygirl.com started out as a hobby. I thought it would be fun to review vegan restaurants in LA, and within a few years, I became some kind of authority on vegan food in general. The restaurant reviews and news updates became too time-consuming though, and now I just maintain the blog as a personal and random Tumblr project. The LA Vegan Beer Fest and Vegan Pizza Day are here to stay though, and I'll always promote them tirelessly through quarrygirl.com.

What advice would you give for someone transitioning from omnivore to veggie/vegan, or veggie to vegan?

If you're even thinking about reducing your consumption of animal products you're doing great in my book. Like any life change, it can take a while to get used to, but living an animal-free lifestyle is totally worth it. Give veganism a try for the animals; you'll never be short of amazing food. Oh, and don't be discouraged if you accidentally eat something non-vegan.