You already know this part: Vegan fine-dining favorite Casa Terra in Glendale has been temporarily closed for almost a year thanks to the pandemic.
What you might not know? Phoenix vegans can still get meals from chef Jason Wyrick through his delivery business, The Vegan Taste.
The Vegan Taste actually predates Casa Terra (which opened in 2019) by 14 years. Its genesis in 2005 was a newsletter Wyrick wrote for several friends and fellow vegans that included ingredient lists, recipes, the history of the dishes, and food photos. People started asking where they could get the actual food. The Vegan Taste was born.
Wyrick’s delivery business is now booming. The Vegan Taste currently delivers “several thousand meals” every week, Wyrick says, to most points of the Valley.
The weekly menu plans are “a little bit of art and a little bit of data science,” Wyrick says. “We track what our customers like and what gets the most responses. And then some of it’s a sense of what I want for the customers. It’s always through a lens of keeping people eating healthy food throughout the week.”
The menu varies every week but has included mushroom Swiss burgers, green curry, Korean barbecue meatball subs, French dip sandwiches (with Urban Beans “beef”), tandoori chick’n and veggies, Southwestern cheesesteaks, and kung pao cauliflower.
“We have several different types of enchiladas, so we do enchiladas many days. We have a red enchilada stuffed with potatoes and carrots and some stuff like that,” he says. “Our tacos are always popular. My favorite is our oyster mushroom barbacoa tacos. We make our own barbacoa sauce in-house and we simmer it with lime leaves to give a little bit of an Asian twist. And then we sear and smoke oyster mushrooms and then we have a bunch of different toppings on it.”
Gluten-free and extra-spicy versions of dishes are available, as well as iterations without added oils. Almost everything is made in-house, from scratch, including all the vegan cheeses.
“If we have something that’s not made from scratch, we’ll deconstruct it and then repurpose it in a different way,” Wyrick says. “So, if we use Beyond Meat for something, we’ll take it apart and add our own ingredients to it and put our own spin on that, and then remake it into our own special burger patty or meatballs or something like that.”
The half order of six meals costs $84.50, while the full order of 12 meals is $141.50. Subscribers save 10 percent off those costs, bringing their per-meal price to around $10 to $12 each. And portions are generous, Wyrick says.
“I like to call them Jason-sized portions because I’m 6-foot-3 and weigh well over 200 pounds. It’s a real meal,” he says. “We try to shoot for about a pound of food in each bucket, give or take. And our target is 450 to 500 calories per meal. Some of them have a little bit more than that.”
People familiar with Casa Terra’s offerings will occasionally see a similar dish on the weekly menu for The Vegan Taste (like the barbacoa tacos).
For now, Wyrick has no hard reopening date for the restaurant, so fans of his plant-based cuisine, served fine-dining style, will have to wait. In the meantime, those fans have been signing up for the delivery service in droves — so much so that Wyrick’s hiring several experienced cooks to help produce the meals.
“I think what we’re doing is really special because there are plenty of delivery services out there, but if they’re doing prepared meals, they’re often frozen or if they’re constructed first, they’re constructed in a way so the business minimizes its labor costs,” Wyrick says.
People sign up on the website for a weekly order of six or 12 meals. Orders placed by noon every Friday will be delivered to doorsteps between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. the following Monday in a cooler.
“What we do is restaurant-quality food that’s delivered fresh every Monday, lasts throughout the week, is nutritionally balanced, and we do it at a very reasonable price point," Wyrick says. "I haven’t seen anyone else be able to match us like that.”
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