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Food that will satisfy Indian vegetarians and American meat-eaters?

I am hosting a 'rehearsal dinner' for 35-40 people the night before my son's wedding (in three weeks -- yes, I've been putting this off). He is marrying an Indian woman and she and her family--who will be coming to the U.S. from India for the first time ever--are vegetarian (although not vegan), while our own relatives will be wanting non-veggie options.

Trying to keep it personal and keep the costs down, my plan has been to bring in food to my home and have a buffet. My daughter-in-law-to be has nixed the idea of catered Indian ("they can have that any time at home -- why would they want it here?"). I then thought of Lemonade, but honestly I like their braises better than their salads, so my latest thought is to get a medley of pastas, salads and antipasti from an Italian place. I'm hoping Chowhounders have other suggestions. There was a post not long ago where someone who asked for something similar ended up choosing Komodo, which looks like a great menu except that I don't see much for vegetarians. I'd like my vegetarian options to not include soy things that try to emulate meat.

So that's been my main worry -- what food to have. But now it's just hit me that the cost of renting heaters for my back yard (can't seat everyone inside) is really going to knock my costs up. So I'm suddenly wondering if I should move this event to a private room somewhere -- in which case, my second question is, do you have a recommendation for an INEXPENSIVE restaurant with a private room? We're in Santa Monica and would like to stay on the Westside.

Thank you for your thoughts.

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  1. i'd enquire about what take-out party trays are offered at

    1) Shamshiri Grill
    they will have PLENTY of options both for vegetarians and for omnivores at very nice prices (persian food/skewered meats/vegan mezze and stews)

    2) Cafe Gratutude for vegan food

    3) C&O Cucina for both italian vegetarian and omnivore food

    4) Ayara Thai Cuisine for Thai food

    for INEXPENSIVE restaurant with a private room, i'd check out C&O cucina. not only do they have inexpensive food (both vegetarian and for omnivores), and a private room, they also have a parking lot.

    12 Replies
    1. re: westsidegal

      +1 for Shamshiri grill and Thai food.

      1. re: westsidegal

        The more I think about this, the more I feel wsg's recommendation of Shamshiri Grill is the best one..... It has the most variety of vegetarian dishes to make a nice meal that will be guaranteed meatless, unlike Thai food, which uses prodigious amount of fish sauce in all of their tasty sauces, marinades, etc....

        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          Good thing WSG isn't an I-told-you-so type. ;)

          Is there really a lot of fish sauce in the seemingly veg dishes? I don't know much about the "construction" of Thai food, but presumably you would be only marinating... a piece of meat, no?

          1. re: ilysla

            Not sure why she'd have to say that to me, I didn't even recommend any specific restaurant, but yes, she's gracious that way!

            Well, I know, for instance, Thai curries, even the vegetarian ones have fish sauce in them..... I don't know about any other specifically vegetarian dishes, as I eat the meat, fish & shellfish when having Thai food, but I do know it is in the majority of their condiment sauces as well.

            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

              Didn't mean to imply she'd have to say it to you, specifically. Was just trying to crack a joke. ::shrug::

          2. re: Dirtywextraolives

            Usually, Thai places are willing to make dishes without fish sauce. Most of the ones near me ask about fish sauce the moment I ask for vegetarian.

            But, I love Shamshiri Grill and it caters well.

            Good luck!

            1. re: Kalivs

              Ah, that's smart on their part. I would think it alters the flavor a bit with Thai curry dishes though.

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                I don't miss the fish sauce so much. I can definitely taste the difference. But, no egg in my pad Thai? Now, that makes me cry! OTOH, it means we can food, other than Indian, as a family.

                As for weddings, in my family they are vegetarian & there is no meat in the house (even eggs) while anyone is staying with us. There might have been various In'n'Out runs & eating on the side of the house with the smokers. But, for the most part, we were pretty compliant.

                Having something vegetarian for the bride's family is an incredibly thoughtful and respectful idea.

                  1. re: suvro

                    no, since I don't usually cook Thai food & can add fish sauce to my own portion. But, thanks! I will try this.

                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                  A lot of places add the fish sauce when making the curry paste. It's worth asking about shrimp paste and other fish ingredients, as a lot of types of Thai curry use no fish sauce, but do use shrimp paste.

          3. I'd do Mexican food - the flavors are similar to indian food (cumin, cilantro, chilies, etc) so it won't be completely foreign.

            1. Your future daughter-in-law is right about her family likely not wanting Indian food. Years ago we hosted a couple of Lebanese co-workers. My housemates decided to take them to a Lebanese restaurant and the guys were unenthusiastically picking at the food. I asked them if they wanted to try something different and one of the guys perked up and sheepishly asked if we could go to In N Out burger.

              7 Replies
              1. re: granadafan

                If the DIL's family are vegetarian, I don't think that they will appreciate In n Out. Thai food works because it is a similar format to Indian food, Rice plus entrees. It can be served family style. Just make sure there is no egg or fish sauce. And opt for tofu rather than fake meat. Mexican food is great, too. You will have to check that the beans and rice don't have any chicken stock or other meat products. While cucumbers, green chiles and onions are often served with meals in India, salads are not that common.

                Good luck and congratulations!

                1. re: Kalivs

                  <<You will have to check that the beans and rice don't have any chicken stock or other meat products. >>

                  in mexican food the beans and rice are often infused with LARD. be sure to double check on this.

                  also, it is my understanding that many of the sauces (i.e. moles) are also infused with lard and/or stock

                  even many of the americanized mexican chains use lard or bacon in their beans, rice, sauces.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Yes, lard is prevalent in traditional Mexican cooking. Perhaps a place like Kay n Dave's, which does not use lard, may work for this situation.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I've never heard of Lard in rice before and Lard is used for refried beans, but you'd be surprised at how few Mexican restaurants use it. If you get the soupy beans (frijoles de la Olla) they will more likely be vegetarian like those tasty ones at Tacomiendo.

                    2. re: Kalivs

                      I wasn't implying that they would enjoy going to In N Out. The point being, people who come here sometimes want different foods. Sometimes not.

                      1. re: granadafan

                        I understand. I come from a vegetarian Indian family myself and there are many issues that come with choosing a restaurant. I get that you want to serve both the non veg people and the veg people. But, when being vegetarian is not a lifestyle choice button religious reasons, it's better to be a little cautious. They may not feel comfortable eating at an event where meat is being served (so someplace like FdeC would be difficult. I believe the right word is "honor." this is the first time the family is coming to your house. You want to show your respect for them. Most of the veg Indians I know don't get fake meat. If you grow up in a society where meat is not central, then you don't need a replacement. Every family member is going to have a different comfort level. I have no problem eating meat around my aunts and uncles, but I would never do so around my grandfather. Ask your DIL, what her family would be most comfortable with. After all, this is only one meal during a very happy time.

                        1. re: Kalivs

                          Pssst.... granadafan isn't the OP....

                          Calla99, perhaps a Mendocino Farms or Tender Greens has a private room?

                  2. Take everyone to Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills.

                    Kickass salad bar, so your guest can choose what they want for themselves.

                    Kickass churrasco meats, to satisfy the omnivores.

                    Maybe if you do lunch at FdC it might be cheaper than dinner. How about a Rehearsal Lunch instead of dinner?

                    25 Replies
                    1. re: J.L.

                      respectfully disagree.
                      imho, when a sizable percentage of the party is vegetarian, going to a restaurant which lacks hot vegetarian protein sources is not ideal.
                      cold commercial cheese and tinned legumes, iirc, are what they offer

                      sort of like insulting the importance of the bride's family and their religion

                      also, keep in mind that the bride's family will have invested a lot just to get here for the wedding.
                      a salad bar meal with commercial cheese and tinned beans would not go far to acknowledge their efforts.

                      1. re: J.L.

                        FDC is not the first place I would take an Indian vegetarian to.

                        I'm Indian, and even though I'm not veg, I have a lot of family and friends who are. Keep in mind that Indian vegetarians are vegetarians for religious reasons, not for health/lifestyle reasons. I know if I took some of my veg family to FDC, they would be completely grossed out by the meat being carved tableside right in front of them. Not to mention, I could also imagine some of them complaining about the salad bar being their main meal -- "what is this grass and leaves you're feeding us?" Salad is not a typical Indian meal -- it's an accompaniment, so feeding them a salad bar meal is not going to be a good experience.

                        1. re: boogiebaby

                          << Keep in mind that Indian vegetarians are vegetarians for religious reasons, not for health/lifestyle reasons>>

                          even if they were vegetarians for health/lifestyle reasons, your points would STILL be valid.
                          truly, their reasons should not be on trial here.
                          1) they are important people to the bride
                          2) they will have invested plenty just to show up.
                          3) finding a workable vegetarian option in a city as diverse as LA is not really a hardship to the host

                          all of these, imho, are adequate reasons to honor and to accomodate their food preferences.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            i agree with wsg.
                            to me, it's largely a question of manners.

                            however, one thing i disagree with is the phrase "honor...their food preferences."
                            accommodate, respect, happily indulge, etc. yes.
                            honor is...not the right word here.

                            but, i'm just picking nits.

                            1. re: linus

                              i hereby edit my post to delete the word "honor" and, instead, substitute:

                              <accommodate, respect, happily indulge>>

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                now i feel guilty in a way that's very familiar.

                        2. re: J.L.

                          As a vegetarian myself, I REALLY do not like it when at many Thanksgiving dinners, everyone has sumptuous HOT food and they throw me a salad and hope to be done with me.
                          This is rude folks.

                          1. re: VenusCafe

                            Can't you partake in the hot side dishes on almost every T-giving table like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, et al?

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              Mashed potatoes often has cream and/or butter, which depending on the type of vegetarian is verboten.

                              Same with something like green bean casserole or even sweet potatoes.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Calla99 said the bride's family are not vegans; they are vegetarians and dairy, cheese, milk/cream are not a problem.

                                1. re: VenusCafe

                                  Some vegetarians won't eat anything with eggs (pastry, ice cream, noodles) or rennet (cheese)

                              2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                I went to a friend's thanksgiving dinner once and EVERYTHING had bacon in it including all the sides. Heck, there were even bacon bits on the pumpkin pie. I mistakenly took a date who was vegetarian who gamely picked the bacon parts out and pretended the dishes were meatless. She was a trooper.

                                1. re: granadafan

                                  the ubiquitous use of bacon in EVERYTHING is trendy now.
                                  my personal pet peeve is that it is getting almost impossible to find brussels sprouts served in a restaurant without some sort of pork being involved.
                                  (i get my brussels sprout fix at cafe gratitude.)

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Correction, the ubiquitous use of bacon in everything is trendy two years ago. I think people are already realizing it's played out, at least on the coasts. It may be *common* still, but given that McDonalds and Burger King have had bacon milkshakes / sundaes for over a year, I think it's clear that the trend has run its course.

                                    1. re: will47

                                      i'm waiting to concede the point until most of the "small plates" places make their brussels sprouts sans bacon.

                                      this dish is really my sticking point.
                                      maybe next season.

                                  2. re: granadafan

                                    Wow. Well, that's certainly NOT the norm. But yes, your date was definitely a trooper.

                                    And yes, many vegetarians don't have any problem with eggs and dairy, others do. I even know a couple who swear they are vegan, yet are okay with eggs and dairy, go figure. I'm not gonna argue with them, I believe people should eat what they want.

                                    But I've got to say, to be a guest at my home, I would bend over backward to accommodate anyone who has any dietary issue.... But don't expect me to alter my way of cooking or serving a traditional thanksgiving meal, just so you can feel smug & morally superior about your choice of what to eat..and yes, unless it's for health or religious reasons, it IS a choice. I will make sure there is something for you to eat, but yea, it might just be the salad....maybe you should eat at your own home before coming to a non vegan thanksgiving dinner, just sayin.

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        How hard could it be to supply more than just a salad for your friends that don't eat meat? Couldn't you just make sure the broccoli and cauliflower dishes don't have animal products, and how about a decent spot of wild rice or a mushroom side???

                                        For me, even when I ate meat many decades ago, the veggie dishes above were ALWAYS the heart of good Thanksgiving eating.

                                        1. re: VenusCafe

                                          Re read this sentence I wrote : But I've got to say, to be a guest at my home, I would bend over backward to accommodate anyone who has any dietary issue.... But don't expect me to alter my way of cooking or serving a traditional thanksgiving meal, just so you can feel smug & morally superior about your choice of what to eat..and yes, unless it's for health or religious reasons, it IS a choice.

                                          1. re: VenusCafe

                                            I think it's great when people are accommodating (and of course, with family, it's maybe a slightly different story), but I don't think it's realistic to be a guest in someone's home for Thanksgiving and expect that they'll accommodate your specific dietary preferences. You can always bring a dish or two to share.

                                            1. re: will47

                                              HA! See my experience with this. it is right below.

                                        2. re: granadafan

                                          That's ridiculous. I'm all for meat, but this bacon trend has got to stop. I love me some bacon for breakfast or in a BLT, but it is such a distict and sometimes overpowering taste that I feel it ruins food. "Everything is better with bacon" is just not true.

                                        3. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                          Its thanksgiving again a year later; time to add a thought:
                                          When I used to bring MY OWN Thanksgiving food (hot dishes like Mushroom pie, wild rice, etc), those ridicule slinging carnivores managed to hog my food and it disappeared way before their own turkey/etc and worse, before I even got any!

                                      2. re: J.L.

                                        um...no. My East Indian relatives are Hindu, as are undoubtably the OPs soon-to-be inlaws. And most if not all Hindus will be uncomfortable with how the meats at Fogo de Chao are served. It is one thing to have someone else eating beef in your presence, it is another thing altogether to watch it being carved at table, possibly for someone sitting next to you, and dripping juices...maybe even onto your plate. My husband tolerates me eating beef when we go out, but will not go to Fogo de Chao. He considers it too "in your face"....

                                        Besides, it definitely does NOT fit the OPS request for "inexpensive."

                                        1. re: J.L.

                                          Fogo De Chao is exactly what I was recommending--they have a private room, AMAZING salad bar, and lots of meat. But then I erased it whan I read that the OP is looking for inexpensive. I seem to remember Fogo being on the pricier side? But yeah, I agree. Perfect place.

                                        2. It's hard to find stellar vegetarian and meat at the same restaurant on the Westside (Indian excluded). Often regular restaurants will have just a few veg options, and you never really know if there's animal fat in the veg dishes.

                                          Is it crucial that your side of the family gets meat? I can think of a couple of vegetarian restaurants that I, as an omnivore, enjoy very much. (Rahel probably tops the list. Thai Vegan is good too, for take-out.) Or, if you're ordering take-out, you could order from both an excellent veg place, and an excellent meat place.

                                          1. Thank you all for these good suggestions of restaurants and of points to pay attention to. It hadn't occurred to me that preparation of nominally vegetarian food might inject unacceptable elements like chicken broth or lard.

                                            Shamshiri Grill is appealing because they do seem to segregate their cooking so that crossover is avoided. I called them and their chef was very helpful with menu suggestions.

                                            Bjartmarr's suggestion that we just all go veggie is also interesting. Rahul's menu has lots of spicy options which will I think would appeal to my Indian guests. Or maybe I should just take them there another time during their visit.

                                            I called C&O and realized that even going there is still significantly more expensive than doing the whole thing at home. So probably I'll just go ahead with the heater rental and pray there's no rain that night.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: calla99

                                              A word of caution regarding Ethiopian. My (US-born, if it makes a difference) Indian friend doesn't like Ethiopian b/c the food and manner of eating is *similar* to Indian but just different enough that she feels something is "off" and doesn't enjoy the food.

                                              Agree w/ the others who posted that you shouldn't go to place that is "in-your-face" w/ the meat. Even if my veg friends weren't insulted, they'd be too grossed out w/ the sights and smells to enjoy their meal.

                                              My Indian friends (again, US-born and raised) do by and large enjoy Mexican and Thai b/c the food is/can be highly spiced and highly spiced in a *very* different than is indian food....

                                              Is very casual okay? If so, you might want to consider Veggie Grill (to-go and serve it at your house)? Food is definitely veg safe, it's pretty affordable, and they have things like portobello mushroom sandwiches which should provide the necessary umami to keep meat eaters reasonably satisfied....

                                              1. re: ilysla

                                                respectfully disagree with Veggie Grill.

                                                would not be happy if i flew here from india and then was served phoney meat or a sandwich or a smallish salad for dinner.

                                                not saying that their rendition of a phoney-meat veggie burger isn't a good phoney-meat veggie burger, but i wouldn't deem it or anything else on their menu to be an adequate/appropriate meal in this case.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  Only listed it b/c the OP mentioned C&O. IMHO, C&O is no more inappropriate than Veggie Grill and still too expensive. If I were planning a rehearsal dinner, I wouldn't go w/ either, but that's just me.

                                                  My only question about Shamshiri Grill is if the OP is planning to get to-go. At the risk of being politically incorrect, I don't know if eating the restaurant itself could be a religious issue?

                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                    respectfully disagree with your point of view that C&O Cucina is no more inadequate/inapproriate than Veggie Grill.

                                                    there is not one menu item at Veggie Grill that i would consider a satisfactory dinner.
                                                    there are MANY MANY menu items at C&O Cucina that i consider to be a satisfactory dinner.

                                              2. re: calla99

                                                Shamshiri Grill is a very good choice.

                                              3. I would look into catering from Tender Greens and bringing it to your home. I think that could meet everyone's needs and not be insanely expensive. You could supplement with cheese and crackers or something along those lines if you'd like.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: milklady

                                                  to reiterate a portion of boogiebaby's post:

                                                  << "what is this grass and leaves you're feeding us?" Salad is not a typical Indian meal -- it's an accompaniment, so feeding them a salad bar meal is not going to be a good experience.>>

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    Oh, Tender Greens does a lot more vegetarian stuff than just salads. Grains, grilled veggies, cassoulet, etc.

                                                    1. re: Papuli

                                                      i've only looked at the Marina del Rey Tender Greens menu.
                                                      truly inadequate for this purpose, imho.

                                                      soup (2 out of 3 of them contain dead animal), mostly salads (not workable for the reasons described upthread), grilled dead animals, etc.

                                                      cassoulet is normally a dish that centers around dead animals--often two to three dead animals all stewed together.

                                                      maybe your Tender Greens serves more/different stuff.

                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        They always have a ton of stuff on the boards that's not on the online menus, and for catering they'll do anything. The cassoulet in question is vegan.

                                                        1. re: Papuli

                                                          maybe i'll go in and try them, then.
                                                          the pickings that they show online look pretty sparse to me.

                                                          although i did eat at the culver city tender greens, i don't remember any vegetarian entrees that seemed at all special.

                                                          when i passed the marina del rey outpost on my way to settebello last night, i didn't see anything from the doorway that would suggest any vegetarian offerings other than what was being shown online. maybe i have to physically enter the place. . . .

                                                      2. re: Papuli

                                                        I like their vegan plate, and I like that they usually have at least one vegan dessert. I know the Hollywood one at least used to have extra vegetarian dishes on Mondays.

                                                        Overall, I like Tender Greens, and I'm glad to have one near my work, but I wish they did have a few more vegetarian options.

                                                        Would not be my choice for this particular group, though.

                                                      3. re: westsidegal

                                                        I am mostly vegetarian and am incredibly satisfied with their "hot plates" of amazing grilled veggies, mashed potatoes and salads. They also have additional items on their catering menus and lots of grains they can provide. I thought it would work well (and it has for my family when doing takeout for both vegetarians and meat eaters) to get giant trays of mashed potatoes, salads, grilled veggies, a vegetarian side and one or two trays of their grilled steak or chicken.

                                                        1. re: milklady

                                                          Have to say, I like Tender Greens, but always find their grilled vegetables extremely disappointing.

                                                      4. re: milklady

                                                        on your recommendation, i went to Tender Greens today.
                                                        the only vegetarian dishes that were not "leaves and grass" were two soups and the roasted vegetables ($5/side dish).

                                                        i tried an assortment of the roasted vegetables.
                                                        the best of them was the brussels sprouts.
                                                        nice, but unremarkable

                                                        the worst were the potatoes. completely white (not a bit of char at all) and they had absorbed plenty of oil. all in all, they might as well have steamed them.

                                                        to my palate, this place is way low on the list as a good place to procure vegetarian food.

                                                      5. I would have to recommend something traditionally American.....but with a buffet. A personal menu like succotash, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy and maybe a cookie table. Or whatever your roots are; Mine are Midwestern plus smorgasbord. Maybe even a vegetarian meatloaf or whatever equals fake chicken hot wings. I would keep the fake meats low key. Maybe something Californian like dips and nuts with a persian or middle eastern edge......plus guacamole....I'm sure they will love that. I'm not sure I would go Asian with the fishy flavors. On the other hand my Asian friends loved my cheesecake....something they could not imagine, and did not think they would like.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: chewbacca

                                                          dunno about any fake meat.
                                                          let's say you were in hawaii.
                                                          if you were serving a kosher group, would you set up a luau with a big realistic fake pig oozing fat so that they could imagine that they were eating pork the way hawaiians eat pork?
                                                          the centerpiece of your meal would be phoney treif?
                                                          would it include the characteristic hooves too?

                                                        2. I was going to recommend Chinese banquet style food which has a nice selection of meat and vegetarian dishes, but I'm not sure there are large enough (or decent enough) restaurants on the Westside.

                                                          29 Replies
                                                          1. re: granadafan

                                                            Sometimes, Chinese vegetable dishes have oyster sauce

                                                            1. re: Kalivs

                                                              And sometimes those "oyster sauces" are oyster in name only.

                                                            2. re: granadafan

                                                              Would absolutely *not* go w/ Chinese or Vietnamese (which can have "hidden" connection to meat) unless you're getting it from a vegan Chinese place.

                                                              BTW, to Kalivs, I would agree w/ WSG that the reason for being veg-only is not important. Some people who are veg-only for non-religious reasons might be insulted by your characterization of it being a "lifestyle choice." IMO, their decision should be honored as much as any other reason to be veg-only.

                                                              1. re: ilysla

                                                                I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to insult any vegetarians. I respect people who are vegetarians for any reason. My experience. Has been that people who are vegetarians for religious reasons may feel less comfortable with other people eating meat around them.

                                                                1. re: Kalivs

                                                                  The reason I bring it up is b/c some of the people I know who are veg for non-religious reasons choose to be veg b/c they feel very strongly about animal life and aren't really okay w/ being surrounded by a ton of meat (and definitely aren't okay w/ people trying to serve them fake meat), even if there are veg options.

                                                                  1. re: ilysla

                                                                    You are right & I feel that my post was a little dismissive. I did not mean for it to be. I have gone through many meals that consisted of the same dish minus the meat or being told I can just take the meat out, so I should have expressed myself better.

                                                                    1. re: Kalivs

                                                                      No need to apologize. But my veg friends who are that way for non-religious reasons would also not accept picking out the meat, either. And nor should they.

                                                                      WSG, my comment that C&O is not great for take out is b/c I just don't find the food that good, perhaps. When eating there, there's a certain fun, possibly celebratory aspect (at least there was when I last went there 5+ yrs ago). That aspect disappears, IMO, when you're getting take out.

                                                                      And I love AYCE BBQ and meats. But I understand why many people would find that a turn off.

                                                                      For me, Thai would be my first choice. =) Easy to do take out, veg and non-veg options can be virtually the same, easy to set up as a buffet.

                                                                      OP, I agree sweets from both cultures sounds lovely! Will your future daughter-in-law local? If so, you could actually take her to a "tasting" of what you're considering serving for dinner to see if she likes it?

                                                                      As for the OP's son, I doubt he'll have to wait until his own kid gets married b/f learning cultural nuances. I say this coming from an immigrant family; most of them aren't too shy about expressing what they do and don't like when they're around family. I imagine that holds true for all. ;)

                                                                      And as for him not being an adventurous eater, he knows that the wedding isn't about him at all, right??? ;)

                                                                      1. re: ilysla

                                                                        Our palates differ.
                                                                        If you put the two restaurants next to each other and told me to choose which one i would prefer for dinner, it would be C&O Cucina every time.
                                                                        i've lost my taste for processed wheat gluten (sometimes deep-fried processed wheat gluten) that is a food-scientist's creation.
                                                                        Phony meat is not as alluring as it used to be.

                                                                        Also when i had to arrange a meal for a party that included
                                                                        1) one pescatarian low-cal dieter
                                                                        2) a couple of omnivores
                                                                        3) two "heart-healthy" dieters
                                                                        4) a vegetarian
                                                                        5) two vegans
                                                                        6) a beef eater that has beef three meals a day--(MUST have beef to consider it a meal)

                                                                        C&O was a godsend.

                                                                        their offerings EASILY accommodated the whole group
                                                                        they took reservations
                                                                        they had a parking lot
                                                                        they had a liquor license
                                                                        service was friendly and good

                                                                        also, when my daughter worked at a non-profit health clinic, C&O was the only place around that provided party trays at a price-per-person that was low enough to work.
                                                                        the price-per-person from C&O was far less than than the veggie grill offerings, and, the food lent itself to being served from a buffet much more than the Veggie Grill offerings.

                                                                    2. re: ilysla

                                                                      i'm with them even though i'm not even a vegetarian.

                                                                      there's something ghoulish, boorish, and unnerving to me about a room of people trying to stuff themselves with as much animal flesh as possible in that one sitting in order to turn the meal into a "good deal." the visuals of slabs of cooked animal carcasses being paraded around the room top off the whole experience.

                                                                      1. re: ilysla

                                                                        i think, when working on a budget and/or trying to accommodate a large group, vegetarians of whatever stripe should realize they're guests and cannot always be reasonably accommodated.
                                                                        thus, sometimes, they might have to be surrounded by people eating things that make them uncomfortable.
                                                                        if they cannot deal with this, and have been informed due to whatever restrictions, meat will be served, they should not go in the first place.

                                                                        it is up to the individual host to decide what is most important, and what they can afford.

                                                                        i guess what i'm trying to say is both guest and host have responsibilities.
                                                                        yes, this is chowhound, and it's about food. however, for me, the presence of loved ones is much more important than the food being served or anyone's reaction to it.

                                                                          1. re: linus

                                                                            That 'food is love' should factor in there somewhere.

                                                                            1. re: linus

                                                                              "vegetarians of whatever stripe should realize they're guests and cannot always be reasonably accommodated."

                                                                              And please, although you neglected to do so,
                                                                              do take that idea of guests not always being accommodated and apply it to your fellow beef eaters. As one chowhound suggested, maybe the carnivores could go without that dratted beef
                                                                              for one meal.

                                                                        1. re: ilysla

                                                                          "Some people who are veg-only for non-religious reasons might be insulted by your characterization of it being a "lifestyle choice." IMO, their decision should be honored as much as any other reason to be veg-only."

                                                                          um, any vegetarian who is insulted by me referring to their dietary decisions as a "lifestyle choice" should probably stay away from me, as it IS a "lifestyle choice."

                                                                          and, me, i'll save my "honor" for folks who jump on a grenade, run into a burning building, perform a life saving transplant, or score a goal against arsenal.
                                                                          the only food decision i'll honor is the one not to eat me on the lifeboat.

                                                                          1. re: linus

                                                                            Then you and I have very different feeling about inclusion/exclusion.

                                                                            And, for me, I think it's perhaps best to leave it at that. ::shrug::

                                                                            1. re: ilysla

                                                                              i'll bet we don't have such a different feeling about inclusion and exclusion.
                                                                              perhaps our views differ when it comes to respect vs. indulgence.

                                                                              1. re: linus

                                                                                No, I'm pretty sure we differ very much on this point, actually. One of my Indian classmates told me how the British used to force Indians to eat things were against their religion to humiliate and shame them (not an uncommon occurrence in the age of imperialism, I assume).

                                                                                For you, it is "respect vs. indulgence." For me, it is an understanding that, for some people, it is not a choice in their minds, and it is not my place to judge what someone else's mindset is when they are coming from a place that has had continuous culture for millenia.

                                                                                I do agree that there needs to be give and take on both sides.... It sounds like the OP is willing to accommodate, so I provided my $0.02 on what I thought might be useful.

                                                                                1. re: ilysla

                                                                                  Growing up in India, this debate seems a little out-of-place to me. I was born in free India so I do not have any personal experiences of Brits forcing food, but it is conceivable that did happen.
                                                                                  I come from a coastal state where fish and rice are the staples, and occasional chicken and goat meat are luxuries. However, there are a number of vegetarians, and I have never seen any of them object to being served from the same meal that had non-vegetarian items. Some of the widows were strict vegetarians, and they would not even eat any onions or garlic, as these are considered "excitable" ingredients. Some Jains are strict in not eating any root vegetables. But in general I have never seen people object to being close to non-veg food.

                                                                                  My uncle became a vegetarian when his older brother died from a choking incident involving bones in a non-vegetarian dish. But he even cooked non-vegetarian meals for the rest of us, and he was a great cook (how is a mystery because he would never taste the food).

                                                                                  My wife comes from a mostly vegetarian state - Uttar Pradesh - and they rarely ate fish or meat. When I travel to that state, I also have never encountered people refusing to be served when meat is served. Most of the large buffets have both sections, and vegetarians simply just pick their own food from that section.

                                                                                  1. re: suvro

                                                                                    What an excellent example of the different mind sets between a country like India, with it's multitude of cultural & religious diversity, and here, where we have that diversity with a huge helping of "entitlement" mentality......

                                                                                    1. re: suvro

                                                                                      My last off-topic "contribution." I wasn't necessary just referring to Indian people or even vegetarians, necessarily. Most of Indian friends actually eat meat, and even my 2 Indian friends who are veg are trying to gradually move toward eating meat b/c "it looks fun" and they like food. And my friend's Jain husband does eat root vegetables. So, yes, I think most people who have dietary restrictions (regardless of reason) can be somewhat flexible and *don't* want to make people who don't have the same restrictions feel uncomfortable.

                                                                                      Especially w/ things like a wedding, though, you want to get things off on "the right foot," and to me that means making the veg-only folks feeling totally included, not just tolerated. DIL's family might be totally fine eating around lots of meat. I don't know. But I would really want them to feel that a strong effort was made to make them feel "part of the family."

                                                                                      I think my last comment was more about how I don't think it's my place to judge someone else's mindset regarding religion/culture/etc, unless their viewpoint seems just *totally* ridiculous. Not really about food. ;)

                                                                                      1. re: ilysla

                                                                                        i bet we all agree a lot of the OP's fears could be lessened by a phone call or two.
                                                                                        if both parties are frank and honest in their questions and answers, i'll bet a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere will be the result.

                                                                                        "i can't wait for your visit. however, i have some questions..."

                                                                                        1. re: linus

                                                                                          Oh, absolutely. I think both sides would benefit from this. Takes a lot of guess work out, shows respect on both sides, yadda, yadda, yadda. ;)

                                                                                          To WSG, yes, I think the wedding/family aspect complicates this a lot. To me, it would be a *huge* sign of disrespect to *not* try to accommodate them, even if they were exceptionally easy-going. I would feel mortified as the host for not trying to make them feel included.

                                                                                          The OP will of course not be to satisfy *everyone*, but the genuine act of trying to do so is important in this case, I think (maybe even more important than the actual result).

                                                                                        2. re: ilysla

                                                                                          concur with you ilysia:
                                                                                          when my daughter became bat mitzvah, three dozen or so of my NYC relatives came out for the ceremony.
                                                                                          the group contained many who had idiosyncratic dietary preferences.

                                                                                          i was so happy that they chose to make a "show of force" at my daughter's ceremony instead of going to europe/taking a cruise/ buying themselves a gift/getting their eyes done/taking their kid to disneyland/saving the money for retirement etc.

                                                                                          OF COURSE i was sure to cater to their dietary desires.
                                                                                          they catered to MY desires that they fly across the country and rent a hotel room and forgo other, more selfish, pursuits that may well have actually given them more pleasure.
                                                                                          they put MY kid's needs first and i saw it as a very small thing to accommodate them.
                                                                                          the "reasons" behind their dietary desires, were, to me, a completely unimportant issue.

                                                                                          traveling across the country in order to support my kid and make a show of family solidarity was, imho, not an inconsequential sacrifice.
                                                                                          tweeking the menu for a couple of meals, is by comparison, is such a minor thing.

                                                                                        3. re: suvro

                                                                                          Thanks for your input, everyone. I learned a lot, and still learning:

                                                                                          suvro, having been raised in India with an Indian spouse, how do you feel about my rec to the OP in taking them to Fogo de Chao? I know there is no hot vegetable dishes for the vegetarians at FdG, but do you suspect they will be offended with the meat offerings (and the ways in which the meat is presented)?

                                                                                          1. re: J.L.

                                                                                            We are both carnivores, including beef - which many of our carnivorous friends avoid. So FdG would not offend us.

                                                                                            But it is the temple of meat, is it not? I have not been to FdG, but what I have seen of their ads makes me believe so. If I was a vegetarian, I would be disappointed if my host took me to a place which is so in-your-face non-vegetarian. Unless there were no other reasonable choices. Which is not the case.

                                                                                            A close vegetarian friend did his PhD at Caltech, and comes to visit from India at least once a year. On his first visit he wanted to go to Burger Continental in Pasadena. On his next visit, I refused to go there - so I took him to Little Sheep (which now is Hot Pot, Hot Pot). And we had all vegetarian items - and he was happy and it was one of the best vegetarian meals I have had. (Not sure whether their broth has animal products - but if it has, my friend could not tell and it did not bother him) That would be my choice for taking a vegetarian friend now (aside from Indian). But of course that is not a solution for the OP.

                                                                                      2. re: linus

                                                                                        You can't even agree what you're disagreeing about, but you're willing to lay a bet. Bold.

                                                                                  2. re: ilysla

                                                                                    Folks, we know the debate about how much to accommodate different dietary requirements (and whether those are actually requirements or just preferences) is one many people have passionate opinions about. But it's also a huge issue, one that's been the subject of many threads with hundreds and hundreds of replies here on Chowhound. Rehashing it here in the middle of this thread isn't necessarily helpful to the original poster who already knows that she wishes to accommodate all of her guests' diets.

                                                                                    We'd ask that people let this part of the discussion go and focus on providing specific suggestions for where the original poster can go to find a menu that meets her needs. Thanks.

                                                                                  3. re: granadafan

                                                                                    a LOT of chinese food has stealth pork incorporated one way or another.
                                                                                    pork is a very common ingredient in many chinese stocks/broths.
                                                                                    those stocks/broths are then used to impart flavor to many dishes that don't necessarily contain addtional animal flesh.
                                                                                    still the dish would not qualify as vegetarian because of the stock/broth.

                                                                                  4. If I were you, I'd get some more input and approval from the DIL to be about what you're thinking and may decide on. Obviously you don't want to insult her family, and she knows them and their traditions best. If they don't want to do Indian, which I can understand, and the DIL feels that salad type entrees would offend them, perhaps the best way to go is homemade, or with a caterer..... Not cheap, I know, but worth it in terms of earning their respect..... Just a thought.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                      I second your suggestion, as far as consulting with DIL. I have worked with Indians for the past 5 years, and it is an extreme challenge to feed the vegetarians. Forget about salads, don't equate our vegetarian options to theirs, they are totally different. I have to ask one Chinese restaurant in our area, to improvise or tweak their dishes to sometimes accommodate them. For example, sauteed cauliflower with curry, mifun (thin rice noodles) with curry. Since the restaurant serves Singapore rice noodle, so curry powder is readily available. A good quality vegetable biryani will always be happily accepted. Good luck.

                                                                                    2. What is an "American meat-eater?"

                                                                                      A little more guidance please. Opacity is perhaps desirable for lingerie designs, but not so much for Chowhound queries.

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        "....our own relatives will be wanting non-veggie options."

                                                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                          Not knowing anything about the OP, knowing that itty-bitty more about the OP's relatives is equally, if not more, confounding.

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            What more do you need to know?! They are Americans, they are going to a dinner, and they're not vegetarians..... The rest of us were able to come up with suggestions based on that itty-bitty amount of info.

                                                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                                              Indeed, the "rest of us" did come up with suggestions.

                                                                                              But a surfeit of suggestions does not translate to a surfeit of appropriate suggestions.

                                                                                              I consider myself "American" rightly or wrongly as probably in the same vein you consider yourself "American" and yet I'd bet our notions of acceptable "non-veggie" options will not be the same.

                                                                                              And the OP has been conspicuously silent thus far.

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                I'm the OP, and I haven't been conspicuously silent -- I replied further up the chain thanking people for their suggestions and advice.

                                                                                                "American meat-eaters" was maybe not the best phrasing. Personally, I eat very little meat. My meals are often vegetarian just because that's what appeals to me.

                                                                                                Some of my in-laws are from more of a meat-and-potatoes culture, although no one is the kind of guest who would complain if they were served a fully vegetarian meal. However, my daughter-in-law would not feel comfortable doing that. She doesn't want to feel like people are bending or being inconvenienced because of her or her family.

                                                                                                And, honestly, her fiancee, my son, is not a very adventurous eater. My other kids are adventuresome eaters, but he's a stick in the mud on this. I can't think of one vegetable that he eats, he doesn't like spicy food, and he's automatically biased against anything labeled 'vegan'. (When I told them tonight about how the Shamshiri Grill seemed to be a great solution, he asked if we could instead just get "American" food with a vegetarian option.) I can wish he was more open to new things, but I'm not the decider. The two of them have found a balance wherein when they go out they go to American or Mexican places and she eats the vegetarian option. She says she is perfectly happy with that.

                                                                                                So as far as sensitivity goes, I'm the person who's agonizing over all the cultural nuances and striving to be respectful of the new in-laws. My son and his wife just want to have a party and be together.

                                                                                                P.S. I did have one good idea that they both liked: For dessert I'm going to have something "American" like brownies and ice cream, and also bring in Indian sweets.

                                                                                                1. re: calla99

                                                                                                  I hope they have talked about how they are going to handle meals at home once they are married......

                                                                                                  1. re: calla99

                                                                                                    I think you are being very respectful. If you are still thinking about catering, just make sure your warm vegetarian dishes are truly vegetarian and on a different side of the table. While your DIL may be used to eating in California, some members of the family may not be. Using labels (and putting a little v on them) would be a great idea. It's so nice to approach a meal where things are labeled and you don't have to keep asking what's in a dish.

                                                                                                    1. re: calla99

                                                                                                      <<So as far as sensitivity goes, I'm the person who's agonizing over all the cultural nuances and striving to be respectful of the new in-laws. My son and his wife just want to have a party and be together.>>

                                                                                                      your son will understand the importance of cultural nuances when his kid gets married.. . .

                                                                                          2. I'm late chiming in but at least it's still two weeks prior to the rehearsal dinner! I'd like to offer an idea, if not an absolute solution. Since it is a rehearsal dinner, there is some possibility that the guests will be equally divided into parents of the bride, bride's best friend/maid of honor, maybe even some of the bridesmaids being from India as well. And then there is you, your son, and whatever family or friends of yours will be part of gthe wedding party.

                                                                                            My idea is to make it a fun vegetarian-of-all-persuasions meal that EVERYONE will enjoy. Yes, the bride's family might not make vegetarian Indian food their first choice for a night on the town, but you can include such a menu under the guise of letting the non-Indian guests esperience the "home cooking" of the bride's family.

                                                                                            And yes, I would include things such as Morningside Farms Vegetarian burgers simply so your soon to be family from India has a chance for a simulated experience of America's most famous food, the hamburger! I'd even include a generous sampling of America's #1 favorite vegetarian meal: The PB&J...!

                                                                                            My guess is that there will be enough "formal food" at the wedding reception for everyone, including your soon to be family members. Weddings produce tensions! And a relaxed fun way to share each others food experiences just might be a fun way to end the evening the night before the wedding?

                                                                                            And now, I'll share with you the thing that made me think of this idea. Waaaaaaaay back in the 1950s, I was a student at San Diego State. For one wonderful semester, my best friend was an exchange student from New Delhi. She was a graduate student brought to this country for one semester by the Rotary Club, or some such organization, and she ended up basically as a "mantelpiece trophy." (Her description of how she felt.) Every two weeks she and her large suitcase that held ONE HUNDRED DROP DEAD GORGEOUS saris made the switch from one Rotary Club member's home to another to take up yet another round of trophy guest. I was her key to some escape from that tension.

                                                                                            We were both of a mischievous nature, and had lots of fun doing things together, which included lunch three times a week in the snack bar near the main quad on campus. And EVERY week, she would have a ham SANDWICH with French fries and a strawberry milk shake while I would have a hamBURGER, French fries, and a Coke. She regularly remarked how absolutely delicious hamburgers smelled. No, she was not vegetarian, but cows in her family's cast were considered sacred and could not be eaten. On her last day at school prior to returning to India, and a marriage that had been arranged when she was 5, we went to the snack bar to share our last campus meal. She got in line in front of me. When it was our turn to order, SHE ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a strawberry malt. I was stressed! "Amteshwar, you CANNOT eat beef. It's sacred!" She pulled herself up to her full height, which wasn't much, and replied, "MY undergraduate degree is in philosophy, and I've given the matter much thought.... AMERICAN cows are NOT sacred!" I can attest that she thoroughly enjoyed her first hamburger.

                                                                                            My point is that it is human nature to always be curious about another culture's food. Anyway, it's something for you to think about... And good luck with the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and bonding with the new extended family!
                                                                                            Also my apologies to anyone who may have read the unfinished version of this.... Computer glitch! Sorry.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              Thank you, Caroline, and thank you to all the other posters. You've given me so much advice and so much to think about, and also you've reminded me to have a sense of humor here. My Indian in-laws-to-be are actually going to be in town for a whole week, so your comments are coming in handy as I think about the rest of their visit as well as the rehearsal dinner.

                                                                                              As far as the rehearsal dinner goes, I'm still figuring things out, but I will post a follow-up report later in case anyone wants to know what we did in the end and how it turned out.

                                                                                              1. re: calla99

                                                                                                I, for one, would love to learn about how the rehearsal dinner comes together and what food adventures you have with your new family members, too!

                                                                                            2. OP here, with an update on the rehearsal dinner. In the end I decided not to do it at home in my backyard. It seemed too risky weather-wise.

                                                                                              Instead, we had it in the private room at Il Forno on Ocean Park. A particularly nice feature there is that you get the room for the whole night, unlike C&O Cucina which gives you two hours. We did it at their lowest prix fixe: $40/person, which included everything but wine, tax and tip. It was a little more costly than having it in my back yard, but not that much so, since we would have needed to rent multiple patio heaters at substantial expense.

                                                                                              I cannot say enough good things about Il Forno's manager, Sorin Costache, who worked out the menu with me. He went the extra mile, for example calling the place that makes his fruit tarts and asking them to make him some tarts without egg in the custard, so that he could taste them and determine whether they met his standards. As I got to know my Indian guests, however, I learned that they were not purists in this department. If they were going to eat 'foreign' food, eggs were acceptable as ingredients, for example in pasta. So in the end, of five entrees that we offered at the Il Forno dinner, three were vegetarian: risotto primavera and two pastas. Most of the Indian guests ordered the risotto and seemed satisfied with it.

                                                                                              By that point, though, I had also realized that this whole exercise of trying to come up with a meal that would please them was in a way pointless except as an honorific. They are from a really different world, one that is not at all Westernized. The mom speaks no English. Their world is one where the mom dries her own rice, grinds her own flour, and arranges with local farmers what vegetables she wants them to grow for her. They were not at all interested in trying new food, despite what their daughter had told me. We made multiple trips to the Kavita grocery on Venice Blvd., and every day the mom cooked lunch, and sometimes also dinner, for her family in their little hotel suite. She liked the Farmer's Market when we went there -- that plus the visit to the Hindu temple in Calabasas were high points.

                                                                                              The main thing, though, is that their daughter and my son are happy and in love, and in that way the whole thing was magical. Right before we left my house for the rehearsal dinner, her parents performed a tikka ceremony, which was very moving. Even though we couldn't communicate very well, there was an emotional connection, which is good because we'll be getting together again fairly soon for the marriage ceremony in India, at which point the tables will be turned and the Americans will be the guests challenged to absorb new traditions and new flavors.

                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: calla99

                                                                                                Sounds like you had the best possible time! Congratulations to you and the happy couple

                                                                                                1. re: calla99

                                                                                                  Sounds like it was a successful event. =) Congratulations!

                                                                                                  1. re: calla99

                                                                                                    Thanks for reporting back! Glad it worked out for you all.

                                                                                                    1. re: calla99

                                                                                                      What a joy to read your post! And what great good fortune that both your son and his fiancé have parents so loving and giving that both families go this extra distance to ensure their children's happiness. May good fortune and happiness dog every last one of you for the rest of your days!

                                                                                                      And happy wedding day!!!

                                                                                                      1. re: calla99

                                                                                                        I just came back from India where we had gone to attend our nephew's wedding ceremony.
                                                                                                        Sounds like you had the perfect time.

                                                                                                        Her arrangement with local farmers seems unusual, since I know of no Indian families that has that, EXCEPT one friend from high school who is from one of the most well connected political families, and they have an estate outside Vizag where they grow their own vegetables.
                                                                                                        Many Indian households in the south do grind their own rice flour to make idlis and dosas - so that is not unusual.
                                                                                                        When my sister-in-law or my father visits, they will try all sorts of other cuisines, though they are happiest eating home cooked Indian meals.

                                                                                                        1. re: suvro

                                                                                                          Also just came back from India. There was a nice long discussion about how traditional indian families do not enjoy the food from US, as much of it has gone through copius refrigeration/freezing. They like their product SUPER fresh (IMO due to the lack of quality refrigeration for the poor, but the point remains...).

                                                                                                          Probably why the mom enjoyed the farmer's market so much.