Monthly Archives: February 2011

SXSW Vegan Guide

Are you getting excited for South By Southwest, aka the greatest festival in Austin Texas?
This year I will be hosting a discussion with the extremely talented and wonderful Laura Beck of Vegansaurus about activism on the internet at the SXSW Interactive conference. It is the first year I will be speaking at SXSW although I have been attending for many years so I am fired up and ready do it right. Last year I made a SXSW guide that turned into a guide of the whole city because a lot of people found it really helpful. If you are looking for my (totally subjective) favorite things, they are over here.

If you are new to the fest it can be kind of overwhelming so welcome to my smaller but more focused guide to my favorite spots that are convenient to the fest so you can figure out where to eat.

Breakfast. They say the breakfast taco is the most important taco of the day and I couldn’t agree more. My favorite spots are Whole Foods, Bouldin Creek, Mr. Natural, Polvos, Wheatsville, Taco Deli, La Flor, and the Cherrywood Coffeehouse. Tacos are probably the most bang for your buck food item as well.

If you aren’t feeling tacos check out The Daily Juice, The Juicebox, the hideout, Food 4 Fitness or Austin Java for smoothies and other items.

Movies at The Alamo Drafthouse. If you are going to be at the film portion you are going to spend a lot of time at the different Alamo movie theaters. The vegan situation has gotten better over there than in years past. There is now even a healthy option of a spaghetti squash pomodoro. Otherwise, the Kick Ass Tofu sandwich, the falafel plate, the hummus plate, the french fries, and some of the vegetarian pizzas can all be made vegan if you ask. The black bean burger unfortunately has egg. If you need popcorn your only option is to sneak in some green chile popcorn from Cornucopia but be careful you don’t want to get busted by a waiter.

Quick Lunch within walking distance of Sixth Street. Hoboken Pizza, Kebabalicious, Chi’Lantro BBQ, El Chilito, Joe’s Coffee, Leaf, Conscious Cravings (will be on 6th & Waller for the fest),The Vegan Yacht, Iggi’s Texatarian, Hot Dog King will all hook you up with delicious food for a nominal fee but check their sites because they aren’t all open every day.

Best Spots to pick up food or drinks to stick in your bag Honestly in a lot of situations this is going to be your best bet because shit is so crowded. Speaking of crowded don’t miss the downtown Whole Foods, it is the flagship store and there are a million different things to eat besides it being the best place to get prepared food. Even better eating then WF is Wheatsville Co-op which has an array of wonderful things like popcorn tofu po’boys, frito pie, and vegan mac and cheese. They also have lots of take away. If you are south of the river check out Thom’s Market.

Best places for Tex-Mex and Mexican Gueros has really good margaritas (make sure you get the vegan queso and ask for the vegan menu). Curra’s has some good items and awesome avocado margaritas. Mr. Natural Healthy style mexican food with two locations and no margaritas. The Vegan Yacht has a seitan quesadilla and frito burrito. El Sol y La Luna has vegan stuff too and it is right on 6th street.

Late Night Options- Kerbey Lane is a 24 hour diner that has locations all over town but there is often a long wait. Bouldin Creek is one of my favorite spots in town and open until midnight. Iggi’s Texatarian– behind the vegan bar Cheer Up Charlies, will be open late and has great late night food like mac and cheese. I love The Vegan Yacht which is close by on the east side and also the East Side King. Another fantastic trailer G’raj Mahal, is open late and has all Indian food. It’s the only trailer I know with waiters. Other possibilites; Hoboken Pizza, Hot Dog King, The Jackalope, El Sol y La Luna, Chi’Lantro BBQ, Kebabalicious, One Love Kitchen, Bennu Coffee, Karibu

I will add more round-ups as people ask for them so let me know if you have any questions @veganLazySmurf or in the comments.

UPDATE 3/8/2011, reader John made a google map of all the spots in the guide! Hooray!


Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant

There is something about a buffet that is both thrilling and dangerous. As someone who loves to try food it can be overwhelming because I want to try every single thing. As a total cheapskate I then want to go back for more. I think a lot of people are this way so buffets usually have pretty low caliber food. My experience at Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant was just the opposite. Everything I sampled was either good, awesome, or omg.

Aster’s is a pretty tiny place directly off I-35 and Dean Keaton on what is probably one of Austin’s least visually stimulating strip of real estate where you can view both the lower deck and the upper deck of 35. The small restaurant has an Ethiopian theme with pictures and even some ingredients for sale. The staff is friendly and are happy to tell you what is in everything.

The Lunch buffet has meat and vegetarian items but everything is clearly labeled and separated so you won’t make any mistakes. There are a lot of vegan items. More than I could try.Ethiopian food is served with Injera which is kind of like a spongy crepe. They are delicious and at Aster’s you can help yourself with as many as you like. Everything I had was good and my Gatti’s pizza loving boss was happy too.

They serve dinner as well but instead of the buffet you can either get one item or a combination plate. I highly recommend Aster’s, especially if you are a fan of food with a lot of seasoning and spices although it isn’t hot. I wish they would start a delivery service.

Valentine’s Day

My man and I have been together for many years now but we have never been really into Valentine’s Day. Actually, on the first one we shared he went all out decorating and buying me The Bodyguard on DVD (some say it is the greatest love story of our time) but since then it has all been kind of meh. This year for whatever reason it hit me that I celebrate all sorts of holidays that I don’t care about like St. Patrick’s Day and Independence Day so why not Valentine’s day. Lucky for me my partner played along and got me flowers and fabulous cupcakes from Sugar Mama’s and I made the best meal ever and we watched a movie that was significantly worse than the Bodyguard.

Unfortunately with all the revelry I took really horrible pictures on my phone but I am going to post them anyway because it was so good. We started with the baked brie from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions which was may be my favorite part of the whole meal. Going to four stores to find roasted macadamia nuts for the recipe was totally worth it (whole foods got rid of their nut roasting counter! Central Market had them). Next time I will back off on the agave though because it was really sweet. After that we had a spinach salad with niçoise olives and blood oranges. Then the main course was gnocchi with a creamy mushroom sage sauce, topped with frizzled leeks and roasted asparagus. 

The only problem was this portion was way too filling. See all those gnocchi on my plate? I tried to eat them all. I made the sauce by caramelizing some onions, adding garlic, sage, white beans, earth balance, and a little bit of creamy mushroom soup. The leeks were roasted in the oven with lemon,a little bit of clove and ginger and the asparagus were roasted with salt and lemon because why mess with perfection.

Definitely better than typical Monday night fare.

Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

I had no idea how easy it is to make homemade peanut butter cups until I saw some pics on design sponge and then read more on Martha Stewart. All you do is melt some chocolate, brush some into a cupcake wrapper, chill, add a peanut butter mix, and top with more melted chocolate and chill again. Both recipes mixed a bunch of sugar with their peanut butter and they also had some crispy element to add more texture. I didn’t want any crispy texture though, I wanted something more like a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup so I omitted that. Then I then had the inspiration to use Peanut Butter & Co’s White Chocolate Wonderful because it is sweet and unique tasting and already has sugar added so I could omit the mixing in sugar step. The result was the simplest decadent dessert I have ever made: no mixing, only one bowl, and I didn’t even have to turn the oven on or measure anything. Next time I think I will use more peanut butter and less chocolate, just barely covering the peanut butter on top.

They are really so amazing. I brought some to work for Valentine’s day and my coworker immediately said I should be selling them which I think I will try with the rest of my coworkers, “happy valentines day, I made you a treat 40 dollars please”.

Valentine’s Day is coming it is practically here!

I think Valentine’s Day is probably the top day for couples to go out to eat which is probably why I like to stay home. There are other advantages to staying in as well and I do like to cook ridiculous over the top meals whenever possible. I’m not going to say what I am making this year because it is top secret.

If you do like to be wined and dined there are a couple of fabulous options. First, Sue Purr the fabulous chef behind the trailer Counter Culture is cooking a candlelit diner for two at the Spiderhouse Ballroom. The menu is all gluten free and it sounds fantastic! The 40 dollar charge includes a bottle of wine and they are going to have bands as well so it should be really fun. The 4 course menu sounds fantastic so if you want to go stop by Counter Culture and sign up stat because I bet it will sell out shortly.

If you prefer to dine with hippies and their ilk Casa de Luz is also having a Valentine’s day special meal although they are still working out the details. You can check their site , they assured me the menu will be posted soon. Casa de Luz is being threatened with closure from the city over parking issues so if you haven’t yet please join the cause on facebook and write some letters if you have time.

The Steeping Room at the Domain has lovely sounding prix fixe menu

If you are looking for sweet treats Sugar Mama’s is doing customizable cupcakes but you better get your order in quick! They will have also be serving walkins all day for those that haven’t exactly been planning.

Iggie’s Texitarian is selling chocolate covered strawberries that sound really perfect.

Finally, Toy Joy is doing a special chocolate covered strawberry shake that I can’t stop thinking about so I will certainly be trying that this weekend.

If you have any other tips let me know!


Sunny Day Farms

On Sunday d I traveled to San Antonio with some friends to volunteer at Sunny Day Farms Animal Sanctuary. It was a beautiful day to travel to the farm and we got to pet and be enamored by a lot of different animals. We also heard their heartbreaking stories of abuse and neglect that led to them ending up at the sanctuary. Sunny Day is the largest farm animal sanctuary in Texas. It certainly seems like a struggle to get the message across here in meat country where the laws in general are lax and animals can just get shipped to Mexico to avoid humane treatment laws.  In addition to taking care of so many sweet animals at the farm, they also do a lot of education and tours for children and adults. I highly recommend taking the tour, especially if you have a family with little kids or anyone that likes to rub some serious bellies. They are also in very serious need of donations and you can even sponsor an animal! They will send you a certification of adoption along with a biography of your animal and, of course, a picture. Every year, in my office, we sponsor farm animals and keep their pictures up and it is a great way to get conversationd started. In the past we have always sponsored at Farm Sanctuary but this year we will have to switch so I can tell everyone that they can go and see our animal.

I was really excited to meet Natalie the pig because I knew just where she would want to be scratched since I am convinced our beagle is part pig.

I found out my friend Wes is a goat whisperer.

And that Sue and Daniela can make friends with a burro

Just like our dogs, the goats liked to cuddle in the sun

And we saw a serious cock

It was great to be at the farm and help out, especially after being all cooped in from the snow day. I even did some work. If you are an Austinite and want to go with us on future trips check out Vegans Rock Austin where all the organizing happens. 

I also have a lot more pictures on flickr. After the trip to the farm we drove over to San Antonio to check out Greens, San Antonio’s only vegetarian cafe! I was so excited to try stuff from their dessert case that was all vegan that everyone raved about.

But after the Buffalo Tofu

and portabello steak with kale, mashed potatoes and gravy and stealing nearly all of my new friend Pete’s sweet potato fries. I couldn’t eat another thing

I just wanted to nap the whole way home.


One of my favorite parts about living in Austin is the outright fear of cold weather. It is something I can really relate to. When we heard that it might snow Thursday night we talked about it, anxiously, for a week ahead of time. My boss made me give him hourly updates from recent doplar radar. People started to panic and leave work early even though it wasn’t supposed to snow until the middle of the night. On Friday, all of our hopes and dreams were made reality when the city of Austin essentially shut down for the biggiest snow fall in recent memory.

Most of my family live around Chicago where they also got their first snow day in years.The dogs were super cute wandering around the backyard in their matching sweaters. Although my plants (covered in tarps) were not nearly so happy about the wintry turn of events. Especially since it was in the 80s last weekend. I made a fabulous and easy lasagna with roasted cauliflower riccotta from Appetite for Reduction to warm up the house and my bellyAnd then rewarded myself for doing such a good job not working with cinnamon rolls.(Check out my new fly potholders that my friends Amanda made for me in the background)

Then we all snuggled up and watched Return of the King, the extended edition, which was so long that I can now promise you I will never ever do that again.

This weekend I am hoping to get out of the house. Austin Pets Alive is having a live puppy bowl tomorrow outside of the Highball if you feel like it is time to adopt a dog this would be a good time to see one in action. Speaking of adopting dogs I know both Austin Pets Alive and the Town Lake animal shelter are still really in need of old blankets to keep all those babies warm so if you have any to spare head on down there.

Stay Warm!