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We Asked Kyle Domer About The Fate Of Phoney Baloney’s, The Secret To Sandwich-Making, And His Recipe For Spinach Artichoke Dip

If you follow us on Twitter, you might recall a call to eation (eating action) in the order of getting to Phoney Baloney’s in Irvine, CA before they closed. We made it there just in the nick of time with our binge eating buddy The Insufferable Vegan, and not only were the sandwiches fantastic (the grown-up grilled cheese in particular) but so was the conversation with owner, sandwich guru, and Vegan Vagrant, Kyle Domer. After a little time to recuperate, we thought we’d check-in with Kyle, pick his brain, and his recipe box.

SuperVegan: How long have you been a vegan person?

Kyle: Since March of 2002, so about ten and a half years.

What were you doing before you opened Phoney Baloney’s? And how did you become a super vegan sammy maker?

My background is in marketing, with prior business ownership in the skateboard industry. I was just doing freelance marketing for a variety of clients before opening up PB’s. Having been vegan for over 10 years, I’ve made myself a lot of good food, and sandwiches have been some of my favorites. The only food that trumps sandwiches in my book is Mexican food, but that’s a little more complicated to start as a business than sandwiches.

What’s your best/funniest story about serving vegan food inside of a gym?

Honestly, there weren’t that many. The obvious, “Wait, this isn’t real chicken?” was standard fare, but nothing too crazy other than that.

Hmm … nothing amusing or interesting about being in a gym? I can’t believe that! Were people lured away from their physical fitness regiment by the smell of your grown-up grilled cheese? Were any diners turned-off by the smell of sweat?

A lot of people said they, “Can’t work out while smelling bacon the whole time!” whenever we were making our coconut bacon. We actually had two or three gym members complain to the owner about it! Some people would mention the musty aura in the place but always said the food quality was worth the awkward ambiance.

It’s terribly sad that Phoney Baloney’s closed, but also exciting that you’re planning something newer and better for LA proper. We can’t wait to taste what you do next! What lesson did you learn from the Phoney Baloney’s experience that you’ll take with you to the next incarnation?

Location, location, location. Although something within a niche like veganism demands less emphasis on location, it doesn’t mean it can be neglected completely. Also, food costs and correct pricing may be the most important part of keeping the business afloat.

So any hints as to what will be next for you and when? Is it going to be another PB’s or a new place altogether? A food truck? Sit-down? Still just sandwiches?

I’d like it to be another Phoney Baloney’s, just in a different form. Still a sandwich-centered menu, but with the increased diversity that could come from a full kitchen. There will also be local craft beer involved. My vision for the next project is getting clearer every day and there are some things I just won’t compromise on. When the time is right, everything will come together like it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, can people hire you for catering or special events? Or if they’re having a sandwich emergency?

We are just getting into catering and it’s so much more than sandwiches, which is really nice for my culinary creativity. We had some amazing customers (and all around stellar humans) named Jessica and Kenny who are about to welcome a new vegan baby into the world and we have the honor of catering their baby shower this weekend. I’m working on doing some vegan grilled cheese parties, although the first one is a private event for the PETA office in Echo Park next week. I’ve got some cool guest chef nights lined-up, but you’ll hear more about those when they’re set in stone.

Where’s your favorite place to eat in LA? And what’s your favorite thing to get there?

I’m kind of a beer snob geek, so good draft beer is kind of a requisite when I go out to eat. That being said, I like Mohawk Bend and The Pub at Golden Road. Mohawk Bend buffalo cauliflower is always outstanding. For fancy date nights, it’s gotta be Shojin. Real Food Daily is always good too.

Share a trade secret! Is there one thing a novice sandwich maker can do at home to take their sandwich to the next level?

I’ve always been adamant that the way the ingredients are layered makes a huge difference in the overall taste sensation of a sandwich. Also, it’s amazing how adding some herbs/spices/lemon juice to Vegenaise can elevate the flavor profile of the final product.

I love the idea of layering ingredients, can you elaborate on that? What’s the right way to do it? Provide an example?

Sure. First of all, you have to have some sort of spread on both sides of the bread. There’s nothing worse than a dry sandwich. Then, my typical way of stacking, from bottom to top, is protein, lettuce, tomato and onion. Avocado will usually be the top layer but that depends on the dish. In our Veggiepalooza, we did the avocado on the bottom because it was the “meat” of that particular sandwich.

Can you share a recipe with us?

Since it’s smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I figured I’d share one of my classic holiday party dishes. This is classic comfort food, sure to win over omnivores and vegans alike. Don’t get me wrong… this is vegan, but it’s no health food. You do get a nice share of spinach in it, but that’s about the healthiest part of this party favorite.

What’s great about this recipe is that it can be multiplied for large crowds or pared down for individuals or couples. You can also mix the ingredients and keep them covered in the fridge and use as needed for about a week. Oh yeah, here’s a secret from the sandwich master… smear some of this (baked or unbaked) between two slices of bread and throw it on a panini press or griddle for a seriously amazing grilled cheese.

Easy Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

1 tub vegan cream cheese
1 cup shredded vegan cheese that will melt (I use Daiya pepperjack because I like a little extra spice)
4 cups fresh baby spinach
1 can artichoke hearts
3-4 garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion
1 medium tomato
2 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Dried oregano to taste (optional)
Smoked paprika to taste (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Empty contents of vegan cream cheese tub into a bowl to give it time to soften.
3. Mince onion and garlic and put in a pan with oil, salt and pepper on the stove over medium-low heat.
4. Give spinach a rough chop and cut the stems off the artichoke hearts. Break up artichoke hearts with hands into bowl of cream cheese and add the spinach, shredded cheese, nutritional yeast and any other spices you care to use. Feel free to use whatever spices/herbs you desire. Everyone’s palate is different and those mentioned are just the spices that agree with mine.
5. Pull pan off of the heat and empty all its contents into the mixing bowl. You don’t want your onions totally cooked through, and never burn your garlic. They will continue to cook in the oven. Also, the heat from the onions/garlic/oil will start to cook down the spinach and soften the cream cheese even more.
6. Fold all the ingredients currently in the mixing bowl until well combined. The last thing you want is a big chunk of unseasoned cream cheese in the middle of your dish.
7. Lastly, dice the tomato into larger chunks, add to the mixing bowl and gently fold that into the mix as well. Save this for last because you don’t want the tomatoes squeezing juice all over the rest of the ingredients.
8. Use a rubber spatula to spoon the dip mix into oven-safe bakeware and place into oven.
9. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 425 until the top starts getting brown and bubbly.
10. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. The middle will be deathly hot when it first comes out.
11. Serve with tortilla chips, bread, crackers, crostini, veggies, or whatever else you think would be good with it. Throw it on pizza crust for all I care.
12. Prepare to be praised unceasingly by your guests. Don’t wear a hat because your head might swell and rip it from all the compliments you’ll be getting.

Thanks, Kyle!

5 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Maxx Kurt

    on #

    Thanks for this Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip. Now I have something that I can use for my vegan chips.

  2. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    I want to open a restaurant called Musty Aura.

  3. Comment by

    Martin Murray

    on #

    The Phoney Baloney’s location in that Irvine Blvd gym was a bitch to find the first time, but after that it was a breeze. I used to drive 12 miles round trip for a sandwich, but they were awesome so who cared. Looking forward to Phoney Baloney’s 2, wherever it may land, especially the coconut bacon.

  4. Comment by

    hh

    on #

    I brought PB sanwiches back to my omni office mates and they liked them a lot. We were planning a group excursion before we found out it was closed. It’s sad, because the Los Angeles area already has so many more good vegan places over OC. What’s that saying: don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened? I’m working on not being a little sad.

  5. Comment by

    Ashley Hunt

    on #

    I just found this article after making some of my own coconut bacon bits today (by accident really!). Upon searching Google I came upon your links. Thank you for the recipe for the dip! I never had the pleasure of eating at PB’s but I look forward to visiting at your next location. I wish you all the best on your journey. You rock.

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