The Best Vegan Thing I Ever Ate: An Interview With Josh Hooten Of Herbivore Clothing Company

Welcome to Month Three of “The Best Vegan Thing I Ever Ate”! For those of you who didn’t catch April’s Inaugural Edition, this Monthly feature on GirlieGirl Army is inspired by a show on the Food Network where “famous” chefs are interviewed about their favorite foods, including where to get it and in some cases, how to make it.   In this feature, Kathryn Hostettler will be interviewing awesome and influential vegans each month about their absolute favorite vegan dishes.

Apparently Herbivore Clothing Company’s Josh Hooten is some kind of vegan overlord. All this time, I thought he was just another one of my animal rights friends on Facebook who happened to have excellent taste in music. A sort of punk rock, vegan Jack Handy, his Facebook feeds are supremely entertaining so I recommend friending him immediately. Upon further investigation, however, I realized that saying his name in certain circles is like saying David Wolfe in a room full of raw foodists on a three-day cacao binge. Over on the Post Punk Kitchen forum, he’s been referred to as the vegan Fabio, and I predict he may become a euphemism any minute now. I just recently figured out that he’s the guy who designed one of my favorite t-shirts (It says “Wings are for flying…not for frying.” and sadly is no longer available. Not to worry, there are many designs to choose from here.). So, yeah, I am a a little slow but I think all of the worlds have now converged. So let’s find out a little more about Josh and his obsession with Portobello Vegan Trattoria’s handmade ravioli, shall we?

Josh Hooten
Josh Hooten

KH: I’d love to know how you became a vegan…what was the turning point?

JH: I credit my dog with opening my eyes. George came into my life as a 7-week-old and it took everything I had to raise him. He was a handful and I was probably 23 and not very responsible at the time. I was broke, drank too much, stayed out late, and worked too much. But when George came along I did whatever it took to make sure he was cared for. This did not always jive with my lifestyle, but I made it happen. At some point I was sitting on the couch eating a bird, petting George, and I thought how dumb it was that I put so much into caring for one animal but didn’t seem to give a shit about this other one. It nagged me for a bit and I went vegetarian shortly after. I didn’t think much about it after that until I moved to Chicago. Though I was a devoted vegetarian, I didn’t really know much about it so I bought Diet For A New America and about halfway through I knew I had to go vegan. This was about a year and a half after going vegetarian. The reasons were the same as the ones that made me go vegetarian and I couldn’t ignore them. I wanted to ignore them, I wasn’t happy about the thought of going vegan because it seemed like a huge burden and I didn’t know any other vegans who could help me figure out what to eat. But I knew what I had to do. You can’t stare truth in the face and not act, right? That was 11 years ago in May. George died last summer, he was 14. I have him to thank for getting me to veganism. I have him to thank for so many other things as well. R.I.P, Housebear.

KH: Please tell me there was a punk rock component in that timeline somewhere.

JH: Yes, there had been a lot of groundwork laid because I grew up in the punk rock scene. There would be kids handing out animal rights literature at shows, and bands writing songs about it and I had a lot of friends who were vegetarian or vegan at various times. It being a component of the community I was a part of, and being a rejection of the status quo certainly made it an attractive lifestyle for me, though it took me a while to get there myself.

KH: How did you start Herbivore?

JH:[Josh’s lovely and talented partner] Michelle and I started Herbivore in a spare bedroom with an ancient computer and a credit card. I wanted to buy an animal rights t-shirt and couldn’t find one I liked. I’m a graphic designer by trade and had a friend with a screen printing business so I decided to make my own. I figured if I needed something a bit more clever and stylish than what was on offer at the time, other folks might as well. Seven or eight years later here we are with 35 designs behind us and a list of ideas in front of me I haven’t gotten to yet.

KH: Tell me a little about the Herbivore family and why any self-respecting vegan who visits Portland should stop by.

JH: I think the only valid excuse I can think of for not coming to Herbivore when visiting Portland would be having fallen into a food coma because you ate your weight in vegan food upon arriving. Which happens. You need to pace yourself and not try and be a hero on the first day. When you come see us you’ll find all our current designs, as well as bags, belts, wallets, stickers, buttons, cards, candles, water bottles, art, and a huge collection of vegan cookbooks. But the biggest plus of visiting Herbivore is that you’ll be right in the heart of the vegan mini-mall. On our right is Sweetpea Baking Company and on our left is Food Fight! Vegan Grocery, and left of them is Scapegoat Tattoo, all vegan owned and operated. Around the corner is the Red & Black Cafe, which is worker owned and all vegan, and up the block is Hungry Tiger Too, which is now vegan owned. You can walk around and eat anything you want, shop a bit, get tattooed, and live in a little vegan bubble for an afternoon.

KH: What’s your single most favorite item that you sell in the store?

JH: My favorite thing we sell may also be the least popular thing we sell. It’s a two-button set I made that says “Somebody Give The Vegan Corndog A Handclap”on one button and has an illustration of a corndog on the other. People will sometimes look at it and ask me what it means. It means exactly what it says. I’m also really proud of a little book I wrote called “600 Miles To Goat” about a 600-mile bike ride I did to raise money for Farm Sanctuary. I rode down the Pacific Coast from Portland to Orland, California. a little over a year ago and raised almost $13,000 for the farm. I also love the next two designs we’re making, one will say “A Little Veganism Never Hurt Anybody” and the other is probably going to say “Only Kale Can Save Us Now.”


Merch from Herbivore Clothing Company

KH: So let’s talk food, shall we? I hear Portland’s own Portobello Vegan Trattoria’s handmade Smoked Tomato Sausage and Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil and Cashew Cream is the Best Vegan Thing you Ever Ate. They sound amazing! When eating these fabulous ravioli, do you have a method? Or do you just pound them as fast as possible?

JH: Portobello is a funny place. I’m not above just sticking my face into a plate of food and eating like a horse if I’m really excited about a dish. But Portobello is so awesome it makes you want to act civilized. The setting, the charm, all if it makes you kick your game up a notch and savor your food and time there. So when eating the ravioli, I tend to go slow and focus on the layers of flavor, enjoy the presentation, and try not to make sex noises.


Smoked Tomato Sausage and Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil and Cashew Cream

Needless to say, I just had to track down the brainchild behind these amazing ravioli and beg for the recipe for the GirlieGirl Army readers. Turns out the owner of Portobello, Aaron Adams is a pretty interesting cat himself. Aaron became an omni-chef in the early 90s in Seattle and after nearly a decade in many kitchens of note in the US, he decided that dishes like foie gras just weren’t for him. He arrived in Portland in the mid-2000s and went vegan. He met his partner, Dinae, while working at a local cafe and they decided to venture out on their own. They opened in January 2009 and a little over a year later, realized they needed a bigger place. So they closed this May and created a brand new space in only six weeks. In addition to a mouth-watering dinner menu, they also have an incredible dessert menu featuring a Dr. Cow cashew cheese plate and Josh’s favorite, a raw chocolate cannoli made by Pixie Retreat.


Pixie Retreat’s Raw Cannoli (center)

A new highlight is a cocktail menu that was created by bartender, Lauren Fitzgerald. Says Aaron, “She is amazing. She may have put together the best all vegan wine list in the known universe. She actually crafted an inquiry letter for vineyards, had it translated into German, Spanish, Italian, and French, and sent it around the world. She has been a professional bartender and worked in restaurants and kitchen for quite some time. Notably, she has worked at Millennium in San Francisco.   She makes all sorts of wonderful little treasures, like herbal tinctures, infused liqueurs, and her own bitters from things like Stinging Nettles. Everything she serves is vegan, of course.”

See Also

Now if this isn’t enough motivation to get your asparagus to Portland for a visit, I don’t know what is! I do hope as many of you as possible plan your vegan mini-mall sojourns and vegan food tours. But for those of you who can’t make it any time soon, place your orders for the coolest vegan t-shirts, belts, books, buttons and more online at Herbivore Clothing Company and they’ll mail them to you right away. And with many thanks to Chef Aaron, following is the ravioli recipe that you can try at home. To quote Harriet van Horne, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” So jump in, cook mightily, and listen to this while doing so!

Smoked Tomato Sausage and Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Basil and Cashew Cream

Ravioli Dough
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Semolina Flour
4T Ener-G Egg Replacer (dry mix w/o mixing with water)
1/2 C Olive Oil
3.75 C Water

Sift and mix the dry ingredients. Put on a wooden table or in a bowl. Make a well in the center, pour in the wet ingredients and start working it together carefully to mix.   Switch to kneading it together.   On a floured board, knead the dough for ten to fifteen minutes, until the dough is elastic and springs back when you push it in. Wrap with plastic wrap and put in the cooler to rest for twenty minutes. You can also make a few hours beforehand.

An Easy Filling
2 cups Field Roast Italian Sausage, crumbled
1/4 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese, non-hydrogenated
1/8 cup Nutritional Yeast
1/2 of a Sauteed then Pureed sliced yellow onions with a little minced garlic
3 T Chiffonade of Fresh Basil
2 T Chopped Oregano
1/8 cup Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup Daiya Cheese

Mix together well. Chill for a bit until totally chilled through. Make a slurry of cornstarch and water (to make a sort of lighter than glue paste).  Cut pasta dough into quarters. Roll out with a rolling pin into a rectangle and run through the widest setting of a pasta machine. Keep running through until you get to an appropriate thickness (usually setting number 5). Take a long piece, fold it in half, and cut into two equal sized pieces. Take one piece, brush on a bit of slurry, and place small, evenly spaced piles of ravioli filling (about 2T). Place the other piece of dough on top and press with your fingers to seal and push out air.   Now you should have two pieces of pasta dough glued together with some filling sandwiched between them. Take a knife, pastry cutter, or ring cutter and cut out your ravioli. Place them on a plate dusted with semolina flour and chill until ready to use.

To serve, drop in salted boiling water. Cook for three or four minutes, strain carefully (better with a mesh strainer than a colander), and serve with your favorite tomato sauce [I personally love Rao’s so much I could drink it!], cashew cream, chiffonade of basil, sea salt sprinkle, and a fine olive oil.

Cashew Cream

Puree some cashew and water to a thin cream in a blender. Pour into a heavy bottom pot and place on the stove at a moderate heat, whisking continually until thickened and hot. Season to taste with fresh grated nutmeg and sea salt. Strain through a fine sieve and keep hot until ready to serve (or chill and reheat carefully).  

Quickie Substitute: If you don’t want to make your own cashew cream, use Mimic Creme instead.

Kathryn Hostettler is full time social work graduate student, part time pet nanny, and vegan cook. She owes the better part of her life to a dog named Ray.

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