The Turkey Alternative

Help save the planet one meal at a time

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 Ask most people about their favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner and they will tell you, it’s the sides. So says Tanya Petrovna, chef and founder of the popular and expanding group of vegan restaurants under the umbrella of Native Foods. “It’s Aunt Ida’s stuffing or mom’s yams, but it’s always the sides,” she continues, adding that in the culinary world, turkey is widely considered the most boring meat. That’s why people pour so much gravy on it.

To offset boredom and introduce a meatless tradition, Petrovna created the Native Thanksgiving Wellington: a puff pastry containing all the stuff (and stuffing) people crave this time of the year, including a meaty texture that may fool even the most committed carnivore.

Native wellingtons contain seitan (prepared Native Foods style), kale, portobello mushrooms, orange glazed yams, fabulous stuffing, caramelized onions, and shallot mushroom gravy on the side. Bake one of these organic concoctions, which come frozen, for about an hour and you’re ready to serve a party of six, while possibly leaving a smaller food print on the planet. (According to a study by Cornell University, vegetarians need less than a half acre of land per year to produce the food they need compared to 2.11 acres annually for those with a diet high in meat.)

“The benefits of turkey-free holiday dining is that you can enjoy the delicious flavors and textures and feel great after you eat. Plus you’ll save some turkeys and make a difference by not supporting factory farming,” Petrovna says. “Being thankful can be cruelty-free, extravagant, full-flavored, filling, and healthy.”

However, Petrovna is hardly militant when it comes to meat eaters. Eighty percent of diners at Native Foods Café, which Palm Springs Life readers recently voted Best of the Best Vegetarian Restaurant , are not vegan or even vegetarians. Icons on her menu help guide “first timers” to meaty entrées, such as the Chicago Dip Au Jus and the Chicken Run Ranch Burger. Her vision is “to share the flavor and love with the world — both vegans and nonvegans alike.”

Native Foods Café locally is closed on Thanksgiving, but you can order Thanksgiving Wellingtons online at or at any Native Foods store, including the Palm Springs location in the Smoke Tree Village  shopping Center (1775 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Ste. 135; 1-760-416-0070).

Veggie Variety By Donna Curran

Here are the valley’s most popular eateries for vegetarians, vegans, and those willing to try a meat-free meal. Ask your favorite high-end restaurant to make substitutions to accommodate vegetarians and vegans.

Luscious Lorraine’s  Owner and Executive Chef Lorraine Ornelas’ mantra is “You were born organic and free,” and she strives to provide the freshest ingredients in her organic menu of juices, smoothies, shakes, coffee, herb teas, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and homemade soup of the day. Inside Harvest Health Foods, 73910 Hwy. 111, Palm Desert. 1-760-862-1911;

Nature’s Health Food and Café  Always busy, this one-stop shop offers organic groceries and a café with a 120-item menu. Many clients are not vegetarians but like the variety. Healthy eating is important to owner Jose Felix, and he ensures that every item is tasty as well as nutritious. The organic menu boasts breakfast all day, including a tofu scrambles with vegetables, brown rice, and toast. 555 S. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs. 1-760-323-9487;

Palms Greens Cafe  Owners Greg Schmitz and Jeff Huyett serve only organic foods with no additives, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup. Their distinctive menu uses flavors from around the world. Palm Greens Cafe also provides other restaurants with items such as vegan or vegetarian burgers and gluten-free foods. Desert Sun Center, 611 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 1-760-864-9900;

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