DC Vegan’s Leah Curran Moon and Michael Jantz Moon’s Perfect Day in DC
“Plant-based products come first because everyone is curious and excited about it,” says Leah.
“They were guinea pigs the whole time,” says Michael. “We know if they like it then we’re in good shape.”
The husband and wife duo started DC Vegan as a catering business in 2015, dipped their toes in brick and mortar with the Pianta sandwich stand at Brookland’s Tastemakers food hall, then operated out of the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt before opening DC Vegan in Dupont just over a year ago. Their latest venture, an expansion of the DC Vegan space, is Botanical Bar, Washington’s first plant-dedicated bar offering vegan-certified wines and mocktails (they call it zero proof). “It’s been busier than we ever imagined,” says Leah.
Neither of the Moons had any formal cooking training before opening DC Vegan, but they’re both creative, so it wasn’t that hard. Michael, 49, was a touring singer-songwriter who opened for Brian Wilson, Paul Simon and BB King; Leah, 45, is a dancer, artist and gender studies teacher (who was also in one of Michael’s groups). They met at one of Michael’s shows in Cleveland (where he’s from) and moved to DC in 2003 – bouncing between Mount Pleasant, H Street, Mount Rainier and Brookland, where they currently live with their dog. 10 years old, Lentil. When they got married, it was a full moon, so they adopted “Moon” as their common surname.
Leah has been vegan for 20 years, Michael for almost 10 years. Both cite animals, factory farming and the integrity of the food system as reasons for the change. “Being plant-based made me feel a lot better about the food I was eating,” says Michael.
“We grew up eating Italian-American food, like every day of our lives,” adds Leah. “We wanted to stop eating animals, but we didn’t want to give up those cultures and traditions that we loved so much. So we worked very hard to vegetate the Italian-American cuisine that we grew up with.
Finding vegan options in the district is getting easier, as the Moons demonstrate on their dream day in DC, which includes forays into their artistic sides and plenty of time outdoors with Lentil.
Horrible: I am an early riser. I wake up with Lentil around 6:30 a.m. and we do about an hour of yoga and meditation in the garden. It’s really charming. We have a really wooded backyard with lots of birds and bird feeders, so we hang out in the backyard together and then I’ll make French press coffee. We have La Colombe here now, but we also do a lot of Vigilante Coffee. Then Michael will stumble down the stairs.
Michael: We start to get hungry, then the best treat we can get is Bullfrog bagels. They do the bialy bagels, which are vegan and so good [the regular bagels contain milk powder]. We’re going to have a veggie sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers – Leah takes extra capers, I omit them – and vegan cream cheese.
Horrible: I am going to a modern dance class in dance place, preferably Deborah Riley’s dance class. She’s my favorite professor. I go to Dance Place a lot; it’s been a dance base for me for years. Dancers like class. So you’re going to class just for fun, for exercise and all that. That’s what I prefer to do.
Then we go hiking on the Billy Goat Trail with Lentil for a few kilometres. Lentil is a rambling little dog and she’s the strongest, most athletic and cutest little girl you’ve ever seen. She loves hiking so much. The landscape is so beautiful. And we are both nature lovers. So it really transports us, you know?
Michael: Lentil is so happy to walk around there. We get some fresh air and head out of town for a minute. We are now heading to Takoma Park. Our friend has Roscoe’s Pizza.
Horrible: And they have an amazing vegan menu. I’ll get the vegan pepperoni pizza and chocolate ice cream. This is definitely my favorite vegan pizza in the area.
Michael: There’s a version for meat lovers with vegan sausages, and I’ll take that one. I’m going to finish it off with some kind of gelato mix – you can do a few flavors.
Horrible: It’s summer, and it’s almost Fringe time, so we’re going to see a show at Fringe of the capital. We are big fans of the Fringe Festival and have hosted shows there. My favorite show I did was when I had a feminist punk rock dance band named Tia Nina, and we did a show called “Pitching the Tent.” It was in a circus tent, almost. It was a pretty iconic show, and it was really fun.
Michael: Part of the fun with Fringe is just participating in random shows. And, you know, sometimes you end up seeing something really amazing that you had no idea. It’s a funny thing.
Horrible: We will go home, clean up and get dressed, and now we will Elizabeth went raw for a good long and luxurious meal at a fixed price. As vegans, we are constantly looking for vegan food. We are quite obsessed with food.
Michael: The dining room is amazing. And then there are just these beautiful little raw vegan creations.
Horrible: The creations are so unique that it’s like you’re eating something really special and different every time.
Michael: Not unlike the Fringe Festival – you just show up and see what happens.
Horrible: I’m going to love their food and wine pairings; they will have vegan wines that accompany each dish. But Michael is not a drinker.
Michael: I’ll probably explore their mocktail menu. Usually there is something really nice and fancy.
We want to stop by and attend a vernissage at our favorite art gallery in Mount Pleasant called Lost Origins. There’s usually something going on inside, or they have vernissages or art exhibits down the alley. We’ll go around. We usually meet some of our friends and hang out. They just wrapped up with a really amazing punk rock portrait show featuring all the people from the DC hardcore scene and everyone who came to DC at that time: Bad Brains, Henry Rollins. They do really cool shows.
Horrible: Then we will end the night at our Botanical Bar have a good nightcap. I’m going to take our Flower of Life cocktail, which is a cocktail made with hibiscus liqueur and aquafaba with B12 droplets and flower petals.
Michael: I’m going to opt for the foolproof Peach Sunset. It’s made with mashed peaches and orange jalapeño seltzer water and garnished with a fresh orange. Super fresh and pleasant. The jalapeño gives you a nice tingle in your throat.