Tag Archives: Travel

Vegan guide to Oaxaca – Oaxaca de Juárez

VeganGuide toOAXACAOaxaca city is well known throughout the culinary world as the place to go in Mexico to get mole. That rich, decadent sauce, screams “Mexican Interior Cuisine” and Oaxaca supposedly has all seven versions, Mole Poblano (red), Mole Verde (green), Mole Negro (black), Mole Chichilo, Mole Amarillo (yellow), Mole Coloradito, and Mole Manchamantel but I think the most common around here is Mole Negro which is known for its chocolate although a few of them have chocolate. It isn’t sweet at all, the chocolate isn’t sweetened before it’s put in but the mole itself can be made sweeter with plantains or dried fruit. If you’ve never tried it before it doesn’t matter because even though there are supposedly seven versions there are actually seven thousand and every single one that you try will be different. I didn’t have too much trouble sourcing vegan mole, many of them start with lard or a pork or chicken stock and then some have meats simmered in them. But, other versions are plentiful and waiters had no trouble telling me if it was meat-free or vegetarian, they can barely ever tell me in Texas! I bought some vegan mole to take home from the little store by The Rayón Pochote Organic Market off Rayón, they had a couple varieties and I’m sure you could find some at Bambuu organic.

La Jicara / Calabacitas Tiernas 
It took me a while to figure out that these are the same restaurant! I think one is the name of the space which also holds a bookstore, an art shop, and a children’s shop. The menu only has a couple vegan things, the waitstaff didn’t speak much English but the chef noticed my dilemma and came over and spoke with me. She spoke terrific English and gave me the scoop. I was dying to try the seitan stuffed chile relleno and it sounded better than the menu of the day which was also all vegan, and I think it always is. The relleno wasn’t fried which was a nice change although I wished it would have had some rice and beans. We were stoked that they also had a little market section where we bought chocolate bars, vegan cookies for the airplane, and more mole. We also tried their dessert, a chocolate mousse which was maybe a bit too healthy tasting for me, probably date-sweetened. I would definitely give it another shot

Le Campane 
This spot was one of my favorites, it had a whole vegan section with multiple options including their housemade seitan. I wish I could have tried more but we were in a hurry because we were meeting someone later. I had the mole tamales and they were delicious. My friend got the soy al pastor tacos and they were even better. I really wanted to try the picadillo but it didn’t have olives so I couldn’t refuse the tamales which I had been craving all day. They also had tacos dorados with mole and mushrooms and a Mediterranean seitan which DID have olives but I wanted Mexican food. Travel is tough!

Cabuche 
This was my most favorite place after I saw the Vegetarian Posole at the very top of the menu there wasn’t any way I was getting anything else. This hominy soup is usually made with pigs but not at Cabuche! You could get the broth verde or rojo and then pick your vegetables and add additional toppings. I added avocado because I love it in a hot soup. This was an amazing meal. The verde was very much like the version I make at home but it had mushrooms instead of seitan which I am definitely going to try next time. They also had huitlacoche tacos so don’t miss this spot!

Hierba Dulce 
The only all-vegan spot that I know of in Oaxaca is Hierba Dulce and they are legit. We were so excited to be seated in their beautiful courtyard lined with fencepost cactus. No one spoke English but the menu was all in English which made it super easy. The service was so nice, they kept adjusting our umbrella to keep us out of the sun and were so friendly. They make their own vegan cheese, manteca (which usually means lard but there was coconut oil based, bread, and almond milks. I was overwhelmed, as I usually am with all vegan spots and I ended up getting the avocado toast and empanadas, which weren’t what I’m used to as empanadas, this was more like a taco, but they were really good. I was very excited to see vegan queso fresco on my empanada! A very rare treat! My friend tried the huitlacoche tacos and they were terrific. Note that they are only open for breakfast and lunch.

Boulenc 
This bakery is where it’s at, we had the best chocolate drinks and bread. I was jealous though, of everyone else’s pastries. I, again, had the avocado toast, I sure felt like a hipster in Oaxaca eating avocado toast everywhere but it was usually the best bet for breakfast that was all vegan. I loved the interior of this place, many places had these really cool textural lamps and the one at Boulenc was so neat. Definitely, a good place to hang out for awhile.

Chilhuacle Rojo
I couldn’t go here because you have to make reservations to have dinner, it’s only open until 1, so if you are planning a trip, make it happen. They also do cooking classes and you can learn how to make vegan mole. Zandunga 
Somewhere along the way, I listed this place as having a vegan mole, but when we got to this really adorable restaurant with a beautiful bar we found they didn’t have anything vegan on the menu and I thought I’d just get drinks. The waiter told me that he would happily get the chef to make me something vegan and they prepared me a delightful mushroom-packed Tlayuda which is a grilled tortilla filled with stuff and topped with beans. Since you only really see them in Oaxaca I was excited to get one. Sometimes cocktails come made with this special salt that has worms in it, which I did not think to look out for, but my waiter checked with me and gave me regular salt with my mezcal margarita. So nice!

Voces de Copal 
We stopped in here to see their incredible display of alebrijes but I never wanted to leave that colorful patio so we stayed for a little while and drank chocolate. Don’t miss it.

Los Danzantes 
This fine dining restaurant was recommended to have vegan-friendly mole which was the case, there just wasn’t much to put it on. My best bet was the huitlacoche rellano which I wasn’t too excited about because I had the same thing for lunch but I went for it. The portion was small and since it was so fancy they didn’t have rice and beans so I was not totally satisfied. But, the service was excellent, it started to rain and they immediately moved us to a better table and then brought us blankets. My friend went on an errand while I hung out for a little while and our waiter kept bringing me shots of mezcal, so that was lovely. The outdoor seating was dramatic and definitely worth a visit.
VeganGuide toOAXACA

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Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Asakusa

templeDogOn New Year’s Eve we found ourselves in the district of Asakusa the home of the Buddhist temple Sensō-ji. It turned out it was the perfect place to be. New Years is a big holiday in Japan, maybe the biggest and there are lots of traditions. The main one is that you go to a temple and put in your prayer for the new year. It’s important to do this as fast as possible once the new year starts so there are tons of people lined up waiting for midnight to approach the temple. Sensō-ji had an atmosphere of a huge festival with vendors selling snacks and charms for blocks and blocks on the way to the temple. Inside the grounds, you could also get your fortune scroll after making an offering and picking a lucky number. Mine said I’m going to lead a revolution.

We waited around but it was pretty cold and so we left for a little to warm up at a bar in a fancy hotel overlooking the sky tree where we were completely underdressed but still treated with kindness and respect. Japan is really great. In Asakusa you have a great view of Tokyo Sky Tree which is lit up at night. Also, it’s just one stop over from Uneo station which is home to another T’s Restaurant. On New Years you are supposed to eat Udon Noodles for luck and this was the spot to do it for sure.

We made it back over to Sensō-ji for midnight where we got to hang out by some VIPs who were ringing the toki-no-kane (bells of Time),  for New Years.  It rings 108 times and every single ring is made by a different person. It was a magical night as we ushered in the Year of the Dog!

Bells

Top 5 vegan options in Asakusa

    1. Toryanse

    2. Sekai Cafe

    3. Kaemon Asakusa

    4. Sumida River Kitchen

    5. Aasics Connection

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 Vegan Guide Japan

Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Harajuku

cupcakeSweets in Japan are a pretty big deal but vegan ones aren’t always easy to find. Unless you stroll into the tiny Brown Sugar 1st where you will be overwhelmed with things to buy like coconut popcorn and yuzu cookies and soft serve ice cream and cupcakes.

A district in Shibuya, Harajuku, is unlike anywhere I’ve been in my life. It became famous for the “Harajuku Girls” who come out to shop in the most fabulous clothes you’ve ever seen. And girl power is definitely the name of the came. Everything is kawaii (cute), in pastel colors, and looks like it was designed by the coolest committee of twelve-year-old girls anywhere. There are cat cafes, bakeries, crepe shops, animal costumes, and stuffed animals everywhere. And this is for sure the place to pick up that glitter filled cell phone case you’ve been dying for. I would want every girl in the world to have a neighborhood like this to wander around, there were so many small groups of unchaperoned girls just having the best time. It made our trips to the mall in the 80s seem pathetic by comparison. And yes, we did spend way too much money on this giant rainbow cotton candy! cottoncandy

Top 5 vegan options in or near Harajuku

    1. Harukucchii
    2. Sass-no-ha
    3. Hachinoki
    4. Kamakura 24sekki
    5. Kitotoki

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Vegan Guide Japan

Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Shibuya

HachikōMaybe you’ve heard the story of Hachikō, the dog that waited at Shibuya station for his human to get off work every single day. He was so famous for his ever-present to folks in the neighborhood for his unwavering attitude that when he passed they built a statue of Hachikō, waiting in his spot.

Shibuya is probably the area that you think of when you picture Tokyo in your mind. It’s like times square on some sort of intense Japanese drugs that they only have in anime movies. Everywhere you look there are giant ads, giant building, and millions of people everywhere. The day I was at the famous intersection across the station enjoying my matcha latte at Starbucks, I even saw a bunch of people driving go-carts dressed like all the characters from Mario Kart, Luigi, Toad and the Princess were all there. They say the intersection is the busiest in the world and it’s super interesting to watch the lights change and see it swarm with people.

Aside from the many stores and coffeshops, (one has a David Lynch theme!) there are plenty of vegan options. We tried Afuri which was very different than other bowls of ramen in Japan because it was positively swimming with bright, colorful vegetables. It was very tasty and I recommend it for sure. There are a ton of other options and many are open late so check Happy Cow and Yelp to see what’s what.

Vegan Guide Japan

Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Shimokitazawa

ShimoStreetWhen we found a David Bowie-themed Airbnb it soon seemed like Shimokitazawa was the neighborhood for us! We were so glad to find this spot which I can’t imagine will be around for very long. Unlike everywhere else in Tokyo in Shimokitazawa everything is human-sized. Through the main section they don’t even allow cars, it’s just narrow little streets with hip young Japanese people heading to and fro. It’s not at all overwhelming like the other neighborhoods but there are tons of cafes and vintage shops.

Our first stop was for, you guessed it, ramen and gyoza. We were very excited to get to order from a vending machine at Chabuton. It was pretty tasty but probably the least exciting of the bunch. We loved the gyoza though!

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We also got to try a couple of coffee shops. The weird part about Shimokitazawa is that most places don’t open until 11am, even coffee places! I later found out there was a spot with a ham and cheese crepe called blank but we couldn’t work it into our schedule. There was one Australian style coffee shop, Frankie Melbourne Espresso,  that I ordered a soy chai from and it was literally the best chai I’d ever had in my life. When it came out, it was still steeping so there was a little hourglass on the tray to let me know exactly when it was done. So adorable.

For late night I loved the bar Mother. It was also very close to our airbnb and was made out of cob painted gold so it resembled a super fancy tree house and had a super cool vibe. They had vegan options marked so I had to try the Okinawan noodles to go with my ume plum & shiso cocktail. It was delightful! mother

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Vegan Las Vegas

For Halloween I got to go to Las Vegas for the first time and it was surreal. From now on when people from other countries ask me where to visit in the US I think I will say Vegas because it’s the ultimate manifestation of the American experience. Doing research for the trip about where to eat it also seemed like Las Vegas was going to be the most vegan friendly destination ever. All anyone will really tell you is to stay at the Wynn because all of their restaurants are vegan friendly. The Wynn, however, was way out of my price range so we just had a meal there. It was difficult to figure out which of their 20 restaurants to go too because the vegan menus aren’t on their website but, after some searching, I found a pinterest board that has them all Wynn and Encore Vegan Restaurant Menus which was very helpful. I went to make a reservation for Sinatra but then found that they had a dress code and since Dan only had sneakers we had to find something else. Grr! As Austinites, we are just not used to dress codes. I finally settled on La Cave and it was a lovely experience, except for the ever present thumping music. I had the mushroom tortellini, arugula, and cashew cream sauce along with the Gardein chick’n, celery root puree, and lemon caper sauce. Everything was fantastic, it was supposed to be small plates but just one of them would have been quite filling. Luckily, I was able to walk it off since we were staying at the other end of the strip at the Luxor.

I was really glad that we stayed there, and not just because I got a hot deal. Everything is pyramid shaped and it’s connected to the Mandalay Bay shopping center. Along the walkway there are three very vegan friendly restaurants that I learned about on the eating vegan in vegas tumblr. We tried the over-hyped but still really good Slice of Vegas Pizza. It wasn’t the best vegan pizza I ever had but they did have a shockingly vegan friendly menu with sausage, chicken, cheese, meatballs, pasta fagoli, fried caluliflower, garlic bread, and several vegan desserts like cheesecake! Next door has Hussong’s Cantina which has many Mexican plant based options and Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar which has a vegan burger. Downstairs at the Luxor they also had vegan friendly tacos at T&T (Tacos & Tequila). So while the food at the Wynn was amazing if you can’t spend a hundred dollars at every meal the Luxor seemed like the best alternative. Plus you get to live in a pyramid. I walked through most of the other casinos which is fun and exhausting.

New York New York

Paris

And we got to see the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil which was so beautiful. Now I want to see all my favorite albums transformed cirque style!

On Halloween we dressed up as Axl and Slash which was really fun for the shows at the MGM.

The Vegas Strip made me feel really crazy and I learned that’s a common refrain. You endlessley walk through these casinos and there is loud, horrrible music being blasted every which way, and the noise from the slot machines, and people trying to get you to see naked girls, and people wanting you to buy their vacation packages, and people begging for money, and tons of indoor smoking. By day three I was desperate to get out of there so we took a cab to Komol restaurant, an incredibly vegan friendly Thai restaurant. We got tons of food, a appetizer platter with fried Tofu, spring rolls, fried eggplant, crispy spinach and fried sweet potato, Tom-Kha Soup, Gluten Sukiyaki-Thai Style, and orange tofu. They even had vegan Thai Iced tea. My favorite part was the orange tofu, it was super crispy and delicious. I’ve been craving it ever since. I realized after the ridiculously expensive cab ride that it was about a half mile walk to take the monorail back.

For our last big meal we went to Hakkasan inside the MGM. Even though getting into the restaurant was a maze like everywhere else in Vegas I loved that it was dark with soothing music. Dan had the most delicious cocktail ever, the Green Destiny with Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka, cucumber, kiwi and apple juice. It didn’t even sound that good to me and I ordered wine instead and then tried to steal his drink. Everyone I was with had a lot of trouble deciding what to get but as soon as I saw the Dim Sum plate, I knew there was no other choice. It had morel mushroom dumpling, a truffle beancurd rolla, edamame dumplings, and crystal vegetable dumplings. I think the mushroom was my favorite.

But honestly, even with all the amazing food, glorious shows, and so many of my favorite people I was never so happy to get back to Austin where everything is on a human scale. I think if I do Vegas again I will have to stay off the strip. And eat doughnuts because I was really sad to miss out on that.

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Sacramento – Bangkok@12

I had another amazing meal in Sacramento worth writing home about. This time was Thai food downtown, or maybe it was midtown I’m not 100% sure on the neighborhoods. We walked around the Capitol building first and, I would imagine, that would be the center of downtown. It’s a beautiful Capitol park with trees from all over the state. Some are bursting with oranges, and there are stately redwoods, and silvery olive trees, and towering palm trees.

Bangkok@12 was recommended to me on the PPK several trips ago but this was the first time we tried it. I was amazed by the vegetarian section of the menu and just when I decided what I wanted I saw something else I wanted more. They had all the standard apps but I had to try the potato curry puffs because they sounded so unusual “Thai style mashed potato and onion wrapped with tortilla, then fried to golden brown, served with cucumber salad.” They looked like quesadillas but they tasted very Thai. The cucumber salad served alongside was excellent too.

I ultimately decided on the Thai Orange Tofu which came out and looked incredible. The tofu appeared battered and fried, the vegetables were crunchy and fresh, and their were mandarin oranges and cilantro served up as well. Sadly, the menu didn’t say that the batter contained mustard which I don’t like but they were still quite, just not to my taste.

My mom absolutely loved her mango curry too. I think next time I will try the Bangkok noodles or the avocado curry. Or the pumpkin curry. It all sounded so good. Today we are headed through Napa on our way to the coast so I probably won’t blog again for a few days. But, rest assured, I will be doing all my favorite things, eating, drinking, hiking in the trees, and reading books by the pool.