Everything's coming up vegan at this pop-up

Working in the local restaurant industry, San Diegan Anna Keeve noticed a gaping hole in the average wine dinner experience. In particular, there was a list of events that practically ignored plant-based menus and courses for vegetarian and vegan foodies.

After years of studying and planning, in 2018 she debuted her PlantBasedPopUp concept to sold-out dinners, including at Jaynes Gastropub and the upcoming Herb & Wood dinner slated for July 14. As the plant-based lifestyle is enjoying a surge in popularity, Keeve’s upscale dinners seem to be coming at the perfect moment in the zeitgeist.

PACIFIC recently chatted with Keeve about her inspiration, her ideas on “inclusive dining,” the “V” on menus, and what to expect at her dinners.

PACIFIC: How did you get into planning dinner pop ups?

ANNA KEEVE: My first job was at the University Club, and I got exposed to a lot of different aspects of the restaurant business. A lot (at the University Club) is centered around food and wine. And I thought, “What if a vegan wanted to enjoy this type of dinner?” I learned about how they work and I started ruminating. That was 10 years ago, and now here we are started in 2018.

What was the inspiration for this series? Are you a vegan?

Yes I am, I was raised by my family as vegan. From a young age, I was exposed to plant-based food, and now it’s much more mainstream. I think when you eat outside the mainstream, it’s easy to feel alienated from food experiences. Food and wine dinners almost exclusively revolve around meat and dairy courses. So PlantBasedPopUp was formed out of inclusivity, particularly on high-end dining events.

What does “Inclusive dining” mean?

My simple definition is having dedicated items on restaurant menus to accommodate plant-based eaters. So you don’t have to start your order, “Is this possible?” and making five modifications to your meal. This is especially important in fine dining restaurants, and why we are partnering with particular venues.

Why is it important restaurants get on board with the “V” on their menus?

Plant-based eaters are a rapidly growing consumer segment, and it’s important to have availability for consumers. It’s a smart business decision for restaurants. I believe we are in the infancy of a plant-based revolution, and those restaurants that acclimate to the change and fuel plant based dining will find the most success. 

How do the PlantBasedPopUps work?

Dinner invites only go out to PlantBasedPopUp subscribers, so to receive these dinner invites, you must subscribe via plantbasedpopup.org. A text message goes out a few weeks before the dinner to subscribers, who are within the vicinity of the pop-up, with location and details. Dinners fill up quickly, and the first to RSVP are in!

How many courses?

It follows the traditional winemaker dinner with three to five courses. This one (at Herb & Wood) is four courses, all accompanied by wine pairings. I do ask that the restaurants make sure the wines are vegan. The dinner at Herb & Wood will feature biodynamic wines.

What should diners expect?

Diners coming to the dinner can expect a true 5-star dining experience. Herb & Wood is a great example — you get the level of creation and thoughtful curation that the team works to create. Overall, chefs are getting very creative with the plant-based menu, some are variations of something they already do, and others are brand new creations. Events are meant to be social and educational as we help to reframe how we pair wines with food.

Will there be a Fall Series, a Winter Series?

There will likely be more series, and we will try to make it thematic, and group the dinners together.

Fill in the blank: A carnivore walks into a Plant Based Pop up…

… and says, "nice to not meat all of you."

So, Herb & Wood is sold out. Can San Diegans look forward to another PlantBasedPopUp?

Absolutely. The next upcoming one features another top San Diego restaurant, this time in Del Mar to make it more accessible for North County subscribers, and yes there will be more to come in the future!

To get on PlantBasedPopUp’s list for the next San Diego dinner, visit plantbasedpopup.org.

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