Tag Archives: vegetarian

A review of the all vegan Golden Spike Rail Cart

I had a hard time coming up with how to phrase the cuisine at the Golden Spike Rail Cart until I read them use the phrase “elevated stoner food”. For me that nailed the all vegan east meets west menu that has everything from Asian BBQ to Sausage and Waffle eggrolls. Plus, it’s a very different looking cart in the Buzzmill porch set between giant jenga games and a campfire. 

I had a tough time getting a handle on the menu because it was different every time I went and it’s not posted on the website. Now I know to check Facebook ’cause they change the menu seasonally, have different weekly specials, have only brunch on the weekends (though sometimes they will make you items off the main menu if you they have it), and they sometimes run out of things. The good news is, that even though I never got whatever I planned to try I think I loved every single dish I did try. My favorite was their bahn mi sandwich special a few weeks ago. Not many places in Austin do a bahn mi with seitan and this one was just perfectly cooked with lemongrass and thinly sliced just like I like it. The vegetables were fresh and popping with flavor and the toasted baguette and vegan mayo perfected the combo.

See those sweet potato fries in the background? That’s one of the most awesome parts about the Golden Spike if you are a french fry lover (and really what vegan human isn’t). They have a fry bar with all kinds of toppings like their perfect homemade parmesan, garlic, and even the ultimate late night bar food, nacho fries.

I love the Car-Nay asada that they use in the fries, and I get to LOL at the vegan spelling. Veganizing words is one of the more fun parts of veganism, as in, “I love when foods are noochtastic” or “who stole my tofeggs?”. So I don’t know why they didn’t go with the obvious Phish Tacos for their Baja “fish” Tacos. They are probably a bunch of haters since the Buzzmill is a super hipster bar but if you are serving “elevated stoner food” you may as well cater to that demographic imo. REGARDLESS the “fish” taco was delicious. I believe they use the new Gardein fish filets which make my mouth so very happy.

I also tried brunch on another day, I couldn’t resist the breakfast burrito even though I am usually more of a breakfast taco kinda gal. It was so tasty, I loved their seasoned tofu scramble and they give you the option of smothering it in cheese, guacamole, pico, and sour cream.

I need to go back to try the waffle and sausage eggroll which is two eggrolls stuffed with breakfast sausage, house made waffles, and a maple dipper. It’s the perfect good weather brunch spot because the Buzzmill does a vegan bloody mary bar where you can add six thousand olives if you’re me. Speaking of the Buzzmill, it is a logger themed place so they have some serious animal taxidermy going on inside which some vegans find very disturbing. For some reason I don’t get upset by the big bear and yet if it was a bear skin run I would run far far away. To each his own, I guess, but I thought I’d give you fair warning. Maybe I don’t mind it because it looks like a place in Twin Peaks? They should totally run the marathon with vegan cherry pie. Mmm. Pie. The patio is dog friendly and it’s really close to the Norwood Dog Park on Riverside so it’s a perfect date* for you and your dog.

*I mean a nonromantic date obvs.

Cool Beans: A vegan Mexican food truck in East Austin

I’ve been buried working on a huge project which means I haven’t had the chance to stalk all the new trailers in town. It’s incredible the Austinites are pumping out so many different vegan food options and I can’t try them all! I was so excited to learn about Cool Beans, because if there is one thing I love in the world it’s vegan tacos. Cool Beans is run by a couple from Brownsville and everything we tried was legit. My friend Jessica (who is about to open the brick and mortar vegan grocery store Rabbit Food in a brick and mortar on South First and live oak) and I had a chance to try out some of the options. I went for the fresh corn tamales with cashew cream and Mexican rice. 

I loved that they were served on a recycled record, so cute! And the tamales might have been the best I’ve ever had! Co-owner Priscilla told me that she learned the technique on family trips to El Salvador. They are so soft and full of corn flavor. I could eat them every day.Then I also got to try the Native which is their version of an Al Pastor made out of local garbanzo tempeh and served with grilled pineapple, cilantro, and onion. I loved this taco, so much better than other vegan Al Pastors I’ve tried in town. Jessica also had the OutKast made of marinated baby bellas, caramelized onions, and cilantro. They make their homemade tortillas to order and they were very different from other tortillas I’ve tried. I think they were spelt and a bit crisp.

We had a bit of hard time finding the trucks, it’s wedged in a little park behind Takoba at 1403 E 7th St. You turn in on the ally on Navasota between 6th and 7th. But go out there and support them and tell them what you think! It’s supposed to be beautiful all week! TACOS!!!!!!!!!

Veggie Heaven to close Dec 22nd after 16 years serving Austinites

I’m crushed. And seeing the crazy scene at Veggie Heaven today, with only four days to go until the close down, it seemed like a lot of people were trying to get their last fix in. There was a line out the door when we got there and their T-shirts were selling like vegan corn dogs at a circus protest. Even the news was there.

My friend had to park 6 blocks away but I got lucky because someone was leaving. One thing so great about Veggie Heaven is that they have the only free parking on the drag.

Today I got the fried tangerine mushrooms which I adore, they remind me of the Chinese delivery I’d get as a kid in Chicago. 

I had to get a steamed bun too, because this could be the last time I ever eat one in Austin Texas.

Usually I get the tofu and noodle bowl while I read the new Chronicle on Thursdays. It’s $4.60 and, I believe, the cheapest vegan meal in town.

I can even walk there. Or I could. I know it’s not the plant-based-diet people’s favorite place what with their use of gluten, sugar, cornstarch, and questionable fake meat but I will yearn for the food, the incredibly fast service, the ridiculously long menu, the Falun Dafa instructional videos, and knowing that they feed homeless people for free all day long. 

Goodbye Veggie Heaven. I will miss you.

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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Mendocino California and it’s Vegan Bed & Breakfast: The Stanford Inn

I was so overwhelmed by wonder and beauty of my last trip that it’s almost hard to blog about. I have so many pictures to share and things to rave about that I don’t even know how to put it all out there without just gushing. Let me start by saying my Mom is the greatest person in the world. She knew I’ve been going through such a super rotten unbloggable time this summer that she really wanted to cheer me up with a trip to visit her in Sacramento. We had a lovely time day-tripping to San Francisco and eating in vegan hot spots in Sac but the highlight was to be our drive out to the Mendocino coast via Napa. We stayed the first night in a little town in the valley and drank wine by the pool and already I started feeling better. The next day, as we drove to the coast, the views just got more and more beautiful.

When we got to the coast we stopped to see the Pygmy forest in Van Damn state park where conditions make it so the usually giant trees only grow 12 feet high. We had a picnic lunch on the beach. The water was sparkling and so blue. My pictures don’t do it justice.

After this we arrived at the Stanford Inn which I was a little nervous about since it was really expensive and all vegan. I didn’t know how my mom would feel. I needn’t have worried. As we drove up to the Inn we were already falling in love. It’s surrounded by an incredibly well maintained organic garden and sitting beautifully up on a hill. As my mom checked in I wandered through the lobby that sells dog and cat themed greeting cards and pretty much every vegan cookbook in existence.

When we walked into our room soft music was playing as we gaped at the horse + ocean view from our balcony.

The rooms are wood paneled which reminded me of the vegan version of the Great Northern Hotel in Twin Peaks. The room was bigger than the picture shows, I didn’t have a wide angle lens! I loved that the bathroom was stocked with wonderful vegan spa products. All the accouterments were top notch. You can’t tell from my picture but our room had a potbellied stove that was all set up for a fire. 

Every room in the Inn has a fireplace and though it wasn’t too cold I saw most of the chimneys lit and so we did ours too. I was glad because it did get quite a bit cooler and it was just lovely having a crackling fire. Every night they set up the fireplace so all you have to do is drop in a match. It’s like having Hogwarts house elves. House elves that you tip.

There were so many other little touches that made me feel like I was in the perfect place. You know how sometimes you go to a hotel and they want to give you a fresh baked cookie and you have to say no, I’m vegan, I don’t get a cookie. Well at the Stanford you get to eat the damn cookie.

Or how your hotel will have a coffeemaker but usually it’s terrible coffee and dairy cream so you have to find a starbucks or something? Nope! Not here! There isn’t a Starbucks anywhere around but there is complimentary soy milk in your freaking room.Or what about when the included breakfast has tons of stuff but you are lucky to find a bagel with jam because that’s the only option? Nope, at the Stanford you get your choice of fresh squeezed juices to choose from and then there is an elaborate menu of any breakfast item you could ever want from waffles to crepes to chilaquiles to a bennedict florentine with your choice of marinated tempeh, roasted tofu, sausage, or grilled portobellos. And of course they even have raw and gf options. Of course. The Ravens Tempeh Bennedict

When we asked the waiter what time they started breakfast in the morning we realized we were going to miss it the next day. No matter, he said, just let us know what you want. We will box it up and you can take it with you, and what juice would you like tomorrow. The entire staff couldn’t have been more graceful.

You know how sometimes you are really looking forward to the pool but it’s an outside pool that’s too cold, and there are a million kids playing so they have to over chlorinate the water? Well at the Stanford Inn the pool in in a lovely solarium complete with hot tub and sauna. The pool is a giant saltwater pool and several times I was the only one in the whole room.

The solarium had banana trees growing and other tropicals but there were beautiful flowers and plants all over the grounds.

And you are allowed to wander anywhere on the property, they even have complementry bikes that you can take down the river road or you can rent a canoe and paddle the river or the ocean and tour caves. You can pet the animals and stroll the beautiful organic gardens. And you can see the team harvesting vegetables that they are serving for dinner at night. It takes a lot of kale to run a vegan restaurant.During the day we checked out the shops in Mendocino and went hiking at the Headlands state park (there are three state parks within ten minutes of each other)We also checked out the Russian Gulch State Park. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the coastline was, it truly reminded me of Hawaii (aka my favorite place on earth).We stopped at the botanical gardens too and I was amazed by all the different gardens. Of course the hotel also has complimentary tea time from 2-4 so that just when you are done digesting your breakfast you get a lovely pick me up. We had some delicious date nut brownies. Did I mention all the food is amazing? Even if you can’t stay at the Inn I highly recommend stopping at The Ravens, their attached restaurant if you are anywhere near the area. My mom and I LOVED the food. I thought it was better then Candle 79 and Millennium which are the two vegan restaurants always taking the top of any “best of” lists. The dinner menu was balanced with Japanese, Mexican, and Italian influences and all the local ingredients were marked. Here is most of what we had over the course of several meals. Each meal started with a nice amuse-bouche and they also had a different featured spread for breads each night that we couldn’t stop eating. Every night there was a different soup too. We loved the cauliflower with shitake bacon.One night for an app we tried the Tamari-Maple Glazed Tofu with wasabi emulsion, sesame seeds and scallions which was practically a meal in itself. 

For main courses we tried the Spinach ravioli filled with broccoli, shallot, and hemp ricotta, with vodka cashew cream marinara, braised greens and cherry tomato garnish

The Grilled Cauliflower Napoleon – Layered grilled cauliflower, tomato, zucchini, eggplant, hemp seed cheese, with Balsamic reduction and basil-spinach infusion drizzle. Served with roasted fingerling potatoesThe Wild Mushroom Crepe – Wild mushrooms in a chickpea crepe, Forbidden black rice, braised bok choy, port wine reductionand The Sea Palm & Root Vegetable Strudel* – Local sea palm, carrots, onions in sesame phyllo, accompanied by a stir-fry of broccoli, shiitake, bell pepper and cashews. Served with Umeboshi and wasabi sauces 

Everything was impeccable, you really can’t go wrong. I loved that the wine list had all the vegan options marked and I do recommend trying the ’12 Rivino, Viognier from Mendocino, it was my favorite of the week.  I only made it to dessert one one night and tried the Mint Chocolate Ganache Tart – Almond and hazelnut crust. It was so decadent I could have died right there.

Oh, and did I tell you that the whole place is dog friendly and you they even have seating for people with canine companions. Of course you can bring your dog cause it really is vegan heaven. By the end of the trip we were planning our next trip back. Scratch that, by the first hour of checking in to the Stanford Inn we were planning our next trip back. I hope this doesn’t sound like they paid me to write this. I promise I didn’t but I would, Standford Inn if you are reading this and you want to hire me to blog about how awesome you are I could do it every day. Just let me come back. Maybe we can do a taco cleanse retreat 🙂

 

A review of A-OK Chinese

I hate writing bad reviews. I try to give a new place every chance. I don’t check out a restaurant until it’s been open a couple weeks (unless I just can’t help myself!) and then I try to go a couple of times with different people both vegan and omnivore. Even then in my review I always try and focus on the positive because I know not everyone likes the same kind of food and running a restaurant can be a real struggle. I was a waitress for many years and I know restaurants have bad days. But I can’t recommend A-OK Chinese at all, and judging from their yelp reviews I don’t think they will stay open that long unless they really retool their food.

At first I was really, really excited to have a Chinese restaurant in South Austin that focused on fresh local food, had craft beer, and was right between work and home, my favorite place for any new restaurant in Austin! When they told me that most of the dishes (with the exception of the Broccoli and Garlic) would be vegan if ordered with tofu I was sure it would become a go-to favorite. Currently, the only really vegan friendly Chinese that I eat at with any regularity in South Austin is Hao Hao which hits the spot for cornstarch heavy American Chinese food but isn’t a place I would recommend for a great meal but hey, they deliver. I thought A-OK would be the opposite with fresh Asian vegetables, light sauces, and then thick crusty tofu like you get at the best Chinese restaurants. Alas it wasn’t to be.

First, the interior is really cute, although it’s the fast-casual style where you wouldn’t want to linger. They have really nice decorative touches like stacked up cans from China and a giant photo from Nixon’s trip to China. You wait in line and order from the register. Or, in my case you order, then the cashier takes off to help someone else. Then you try and order again, and she stops you to give a to-go order to someone that just came in. Then you try to order a third time and she says “what” and you order again and then she repeats the order back to you all wrong. That it took four times for me to place my extremely simple order when it wasn’t busy at all (there was maybe three tables, no one behind me, and another cashier) was a bit dispiriting. If I was George Costanza I would have been sure she hated me.

Sesame Tofu looks better than it tasted.

I ordered the Sesame Tofu and it quickly came out. It looked pretty good, but it was utterly tasteless. After a couple of bites I got up and grabbed every condiment they offer in an attempt to make it tasty but the food really couldn’t be saved. The rice was mushy. The tofu was completely bland, dried out, and pointless. I didn’t notice any spices, just an abundance of carrots which doesn’t work in this dish at all. Then when researching this post and looking at the menu again I see that on the menu online it’s titled Honey Sesame. So it’s not even vegan. URGH.

at least they knew to serve a hefeweizen with an orange

On another trip a few weeks later I tried the Orange Sweet & Sour which is usually my favorite dish and it was even worse than the Sesame, the orange sauce was just like straight up orange juice except it was also really bitter. I couldn’t finish my meal and saved the leftovers and then I couldn’t bring myself to eat those. Dan ordered the Kung Pao and was really disappointed too, he said it wasn’t spicy at all even though the menu would have you believe it’s very spicy.  I really don’t know what is going on at this restaurant. All four of my different dining companions were just as unsatisfied as me. Oh and the worst part was that it was considerably more expensive than your standard Chinese restaurant. I spent 20 dollars for a bowl the bowl above plus a beer and tip. Yikes! I’ll be sticking to Hao Hao for now. A-OK? No way.

GIVEAWAY and review for Vegan Finger Foods

Recently I was contacted by Tamasin Noyes and Celine Steen about receiving a review copy of their new book Vegan Finger Foods and doing a giveaway as well. I excitedly agreed. I love the recipes I’ve tried from their earlier Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day and Tami’s American Vegan Kitchen. With a bakesale and baby shower coming up I knew that I’d get a lot of opportunities to try out recipes.

Upon cracking the book open the first thing I noticed was all the lovely photos take by Celine and the very modern ideas. I had a hard time deciding what I would try because so many different recipes were appealing. I think the recipes in this book would appeal to all the different kinds of vegan diets out there. There are recipes that feature whole foods, are soy free, soy heavy, gluten free, bread based, raw, baked, complicated, easy, cupcake heavy, sugar free, comfort food, or chocolate based.

The first chapter is a short primer on finger foods and any types of special ingredients they use. Then it goes into “Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts” with recipes like “Kale Cucumber Cups” and “Snacking Chickpeas” these were all vegetable heavy and on the easier side. Next was “Stuffed and Dipped” with recipes like “Sauerkraut Stuffed Seitan Rounds” and “Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites” which I think most excited me. Then “Bread-Based Bites with recipes like “Pull Apart Pesto Bread” and “Spinach Swirls with Quicky Marinara” and finally “Sweet Little Somethings which includes recipes like “Creamsicle Ice Lollies” and “Goji Berry Cacao Bites”.

The first recipe I tried was the Tahini Caramel Popcorn. The first batch came together like magic. The second batch went awry when I dropped my fork into the caramel and then tried to retrieve it with my fingers. I learned that you NEVER put your fingers in hot caramel, it sticks right to your skin and burns burns burns. So, while I  was dealing with that, I wasn’t stirring and  the caramel cooked too long. Also, I think because of the humidity here I had trouble with the caramel really solidifying because the popcorn never became rock hard until I tried putting it in the fridge. So, I ended up selling them as Tahini Caramel Popcorn Balls at the bakesale. They were a hit! The tahini really added an interesting element. My friends that tried them loved them and they are GF so a perfect bakesale treat.

The one recipe that kept calling my name every time I flipped through the book was the Nacho Potato Skins. I found this recipe a bit overly complicated for me, like instead of calling for a small chopped onion they call for something like a half a cup of finely chopped onion. I know most folks prefer this kind of precision but for me, in something like a black bean salad, I just want it to be super simple. But then, I also thought the step of coating the potatoes with adobo and then crisping them again seemed like an unnecessary step but I am so glad I didn’t skip it. Just that little bit of flavor and crispness made the recipe for me. We used big russet potatoes and had one each for dinner. Dan couldn’t believe I ate mine with my hands but I told him it was a Vegan Finger Food! They were totally delicious and hit that junk food note even though they were, dare I say, healthy nacho potato skins using fresh vegetables, beans, and homemade vegan queso. They were very fresh tasting and had lots of flavor, I loved them.

Next, I had to decide which recipes to use for a taco themed baby shower. I wanted things I could mostly make ahead of time but that would go with the overall menu. I knew that my guest of honor is way into jalapeno poppers so these were definitely in from the start. Actually, this recipe probably turned out to be my favorite from the book and I would definitely make it again. I even used their tip of using gloves when dealing with the jalapenos (whenever I’m doing a cookbook review I try to actually follow all the directions). Somehow, I had never used gloves before. As an incredibly lazy person I always thought it was easier to be super careful when de-seeding hot peppers than to find some gloves. Boy, was I wrong. With gloves you can go a thousand times faster. And you are probably a lot less likely to touch your eyes (or other sensitive areas) with gloves on accidentally. For this recipe you hollow out the jalapenos, make a cashew cheese, plop a tablespoon of it in each jalapeno half, and then invert it onto a plate of panko and cornflakes, and bake them in the oven. They had all the crunchy cheesiness of traditional poppers without having to deep fry or use cheese. And they were super easy. A total win.

Finally, I decided to also make the Baked Lenteja Taquitos instead of the Pulled Jackfruit Mini Tacos because I figured that growing baby would need some extra protein. These seemed super easy; you cook up french lentils and then mix them with some mashed potatoes and spices, roll the filling in tortillas, and then bake them in the oven. When shopping at Fiesta I came across their homemade corn tortillas that were nopale flavored so I kind of had to try them. They did not work well at all in this recipe, however. I think fresh flour tortillas or even store-bought corn tortillas would have held up much better in the rolling process. They tasted good though! And they were crowd-pleasers as well.

There are still many recipes I want to try! The Brewpub Cauliflower Dip, Tiny Tomato Pies, and the Portobello BLTs are all going to be coming out of my kitchen sooner rather than later. And if you are worried about getting the book because you don’t entertain, never fear! Many of the recipes can easily be scaled up for dinner (like those BLTs) or used as side dishes like the Green Beans Jalfrezi. It also seems like a GREAT book for coming up with things to bring to a potluck, and God knows, if you’re vegan you have to go to potlucks all the time. They back section of the book has sample menus like “Hot Summer Nights” and “Extra Easy Entertaining”. You can check them all out on the Amazon Preivew. I really do think this book has something for everyone. I think some vegan millionaire should buy a ton of copies and send this book to every bar because bars here never have interesting vegan options. 

Giveaway Closed!

If you would like to win a copy please comment below and answer this question: If someone was throwing a party for you, what would you want on the menu? Make sure you add your email when you leave the comment in the form so that I can contact you if you are the winner!

Vegan Chicago – Puffs of Doom and a Trip to Green Zebra

On May 10th my family and I threw a beautiful bridal shower my one and only sister. When we were planning the food the one thing I was sure of was to have Puffs of Doom which are the most amazing vegan cream puffs ever. Really, if you are ever in Chicago go out of your way to find these, they are so light and delicious it doesn’t even seem possible. The ones pictured about were strawberry basil but the strawberry champagne ones were incredible too. Here’s another whole post about my Puffs of Doom obsession.

The shower was champagne themed and I was really excited about the favors that we made.

The next day was my birthday and my family took me out to the Green Zebra, an elegant vegetarian restaurant in Chicago that I have been dying to go to for years. They really focus on seasonal vegetables and when I first saw the menu I was a little disappointed. All the hearty protein heavy options had eggs or cheese and they don’t substitute tofu or anything for vegans, they just remove the cheese or eggs. In reality, it turned out to be a non issue and I was very well-fed. Even though the restaurant is small plates style the portions were ample and I ordered more than enough food.  I started with the “Chilled Somen Noodles, Hawaiian heart of palm, edamame, shiso, ginger-soy” which also had an avocado mouse. 

It actually reminded me quite a bit of soba noodle dish with seaweed and sesame oil that I make often at home. Obviously, it was a bit more refined and everyone at the table loved.

Next I had the  “Acorn Squash Potstickers, soy caramel, carrot sesame purée, shaved radish

I was a little less wiling to share these with anybody because they were amazing. The potsticker wrappers were more like fried raviloi than typical potstickers and just delightful. The squash inside kind of exploded with flavor when you bit into it and the caramelized soy was just delicious.

Next I had the “Salt Roasted Yukon Potato Hash, jalapeño relish, fried egg, pistachio chimichurri ” with no egg.

Although I loved the potatoes and the fresh green and chimichurri I did feel like this dish was lacking without a replacement for the creamy egg which would have balanced the salty potatoes. It ended up tasting like a damn good breakfast side.

We also tried the maitake mushroom dish that had lots of orange citrus and fresh scallions. They were delightful and perfectly prepared.

Finally, since it was my birthday, we shared the “Malted Banana Ice Cream, banana bread, salted caramel, macadamia nut tuile” for dessert. 

I loved the crispy wafers, what can I saw I’m a total wafer girl. The banana ice cream was so rich and banana-y I was wondering if it was just frozen bananas processed with a bit of cream. The whole thing was delicious.

I’m thrilled that I finally got to try the Green Zebra and would highly recommend it even if the vegan selections are a wee bit lacking for an all veg restaurant. Everything that I had was very well prepared, they had a great wine list, and it’s right down the street from my brother-in-law’s awesome wine store The Noble Grape. I’ll be back in Chicago for more wedding this summer and I am excited to go back to the Chicago Diner and other favorites next time.

Snapshots from Texas VegFest 2014

I got to attend another marvelous Texas Vegfest and I tried to take some pictures, I was so distracted by all the food and people it was hard to stay focused!

The line for BBQ revolution was so long I would have needed a wider lens to capture it. Or at least, you know, stood farther away.

I really wanted to try Red Rabbit’Yellowbird Sauce Donuts, but alas they were sold out before I got there. Red Rabbit is only for people that get their act together early and that means I never get to have it.

Follow Your Heart was sampling grilled cheese with their pesto mayo, and man oh man, I’m glad I waited for a batch to come up because it was one of my favorite things I tried. 

I was excited to see Aster’s Ethiopian Restaurant there, and so was Dan, he couldn’t resist their combo plate.

Counter Culture had a bunch of salads for sale, and they looked super fresh and tasty. 

I learned that Vegan Toonah is going to be available nationwide soon, in a little can just like fishy tuna. I tried it and thought it was very interesting. It didn’t really remind me of tuna but it wasn’t bad, just like seitan in a can.

I thought Tecolote Farm deserved the cutest booth award. I love their owl! I should have bought a shirt. I did get a Herbivore shirt that I love.

I waited in line FOREVER for Capital City’s Ham & Cheese Kolaches and then they sold out when I  was just about to the front. It was torture. I love those kolaches so much. 

I was stoked to try Hearty Vegan‘s fajitas and tuna salad. Dang, it was the best vegan tuna salad I’ve ever had! I loved it. The fajitas were good too! They were so popular that it looks like Hearty Vegan might start selling meal kits.

I was excited to see all my friends in booths, like the VRA gang!

I think I should have a booth next year called “Kiss the Puppy” and for a donation to charity you can kiss a puppy. I wonder if they would let me since it’s no dogs allowed. That’s even more reason there needs to be puppy love, though. Mostly during veg fest I missed our foster puppy.

I waited in another long line for Good Karma Kitchen, they are a food truck from Dallas and I loved their tacos last year so I knew it would be worth it. At the last minute I decided to get a deconstructed tamale with black-eyed pea relish and bloody mary salsa instead. It’s really a great idea for a home-cooked meal, maybe I’ll make my own version since god knows, I’m not going to Dallas.

I saw Teese selling vegan nachos and had to wonder why this isn’t a thing everywhere. Especially at the movie theater.

After that I saw the Happy Vegan Baker and I wanted to try her mac & cheese which everyone raves about and then decided to try the lentil shepherd’s pie too.

I loved the mac & cheese but that was when I definitely hit the upper limit of my stomach’s capacity, no Sweet Ritual for me! There were a million other food vendors, activist groups, charities, and businesses that I’m not even mentioning. If you haven’t been, you should definitive make it out next year. The music was really good too! Texas VegFest is just incredible, hats off to the organizers for pulling together another amazing fest. 

Vegan Hand Pulled Noodles at Xian Sushi & Noodle

Recently it was cold and raining and the only thing in the world that I could imagine eating was a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. I’d seen a delicious looking noodle bowl on Busy Veggie Mama so we headed off into the labyrinth of big box stores that is the Muller Redevelopment in search of the strip mall we were looking for that houses the newest vegan friendly hand pulled noodle restaurant. Actually, as far as I know it’s the only vegan one in town but hopefully someone can correct me. I spoke with the managers and they told me that the white noodles are vegan most of the time but the green ones are always vegan. They also said they’d be adding more to the menu as time goes on. The interior of the restaurant is kind of tiny, very bright and clean without a lot of adornment. You can see the chefs pulling the noodles and there were tons of front-of-the-house staff making sure everyone was happy.

We started with the edamame dumpling which were actually my favorite part. They were chock-full of edamame and the dumplings had a very nice smooth texture.

For the soups the only veggie choice has a seaweed broth that is rounded out with tofu, asparagus, bell peppers, bamboo, and spinach. You also choose whichever noodle type that you fancy and they will make them fresh, there were the standard vermicelli. fettuccine, spaghetti,  parpadelle, thick spagetti, and triangles. Of course when I saw the latter, I had to get triangle and my friends all laughed at me since I was disappointed when my noodles were not, in fact, little triangles. Laura said “what you think there is a guy back there with scissors cutting out every tiny triangle?” Yes. I did.

Speaking of scissors, the menu says that you can request scissors to cut the noodles if you like. They also recommend eating your whole bowl in less than 5 minutes for optimum texture. My whole table took this as a challenge but none of us were able to make it because these are gigantic bowls. We all found the soup a little bland. Like, so bland that it would be the perfect thing to eat after a bout with the stomach flu, but when we added soy sauce and asked for their homemade chile sauce it was much better. I think it can be tough for people that rely on meat to develop good flavor in all veg soups so hopefully the broth will improve over time because the noodles were delicious. And I love noodles. I even love the word: noodle. It’s good stuff.