Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sweetness, meatless

The Monterey County Herald
Article Last Updated: 05/10/2007 03:55:48 PM PDT

From left: Eefje Theeuws, David Leroy and Michael Bliss order lunch from Rebecca Pieken, co-owner of Central Avenue Bakery in Pacific Grove. (ORVILLE MYERS/The Herald)You never know what can happen when two neighbors, each disenchanted with her job and searching for something new, get together to commiserate over coffee.
They might just try to change the world — one vegan nutburger at a time.

Two years ago, next-door neighbors Tina Thompson and Rebecca Pieken put their heads together and discovered shared passions — cooking and the environment. The result is Central Avenue Bakery in Pacific Grove, a multipurpose vegetarian and vegan deli/restaurant/ coffeehouse/hangout, serving food that is — according to their business card — "mostly organic and always delicious."

In April 2005, the friends opened their bread-based business in the same space that, ironically, previously housed Carb Busters Deli, which died along with the Atkins Diet.

The Bakery evolved slowly, first serving sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, along with deli fare, before expanding to full breakfasts (served all day), salads, soups, pizzas, quiche, lasagna, pirozhkis and much more.

And no meat. Ever.

"Our philosophy was always healthful, wholesome and delicious," said Pieken, who's not even a vegetarian but admires the lifestyle. "I think we've proven you can serve great food without meat."

Choices among breads include the bakery's popular seven-grain, four-seed farmer's bread, as well as a few gluten-free and vegan varieties. The cheeses are made without rennet (derived from the stomach of a calf) and dairy-free vegan cheeses are made in-house.

As for the nutburger, it's a housemade, ground concoction of nuts (including macadamia, cashew, almond and pecan) and vegetables formed into a patty and grilled.

Being "green" is important to Pieken and Thompson, who grind their own flour from organic grains; compost their green waste; use dishes, silver and linens to avoid paper products; and shop at local farmers markets, buying organic whenever it's fiscally feasible.

The front of the house features a sitting/reading area, complete with comfy couch and a mini library and game table. Fresh flowers abound, completing the picture as a welcoming respite.

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