Upon reflection my 2011 was a mixed bag. I wonder where that expression came from? The first half was super fantastic, I got to present with Laura Beck of Vegansaurus at SXSW . We had the most vegan events, I think ever, at South By. Even Moby hosted a day party, the whole fest was really fun! This year we also had more bakesales then ever before that raised a ton of money for various charities. I helped organize some of the vegan sales and two city wide bakesales with my fellow Austin food bloggers that we had for disaster relief. Actually with the droughts and the central Texas fires it seemed like life was all about raising money for a while and we put together the Sunny Days in Texas cook zine which, by the way, is still available!
The best part of my year was definitely my extended trip to Hawaii and I also was really excited to go to Vida Vegan Con in Portland to meet all tons of vegan food bloggers, see a bunch of my friends and eat at so many great restaurants. The second half of the year I am still recovering from. It was filled with family tragedies and I majorly injured my foot so I haven’t been able to walk since June so no fun there.
The vegan scene in Austin soldiered on, check out the Lonestar Plate’s Year in Review. All sorts of places, like Sweet Ritual and Arolo’s, opened up and a few favorites, like Iggie’s Texitarian, closed down. At Vegans Rock Austin they did a poll of the communities’ favorite eats which was a lot of fun to read….and disagree with! That is what I love about having a blog; sharing my biased opinion! I realized that my personal top ten was starting to look the same from year to year, and though I could keep telling you how much I love Counter Culture, Whole Foods Breakfast Tacos and Food For Lover’s Queso I decided this year the theme would be NO REPEATS! So the 2011 list is all new!
2011 TOP 10
The first time I went to Wasota it was all I could think about for days after. The vegan platter has one of my favorite foods in the world: deep fried plantains along with a new favorite akara which are black-eyed pea fritters. The beans, greens, and rice are all different from one another and combine into a wonderful plate. Then everything is topped with spicy Benin sauce which is totally the Sriracha for 2012. Plus it is all served up by the nicest guy ever so save your appetite for a couple days and get down to south first for a feast.
2. The Juicebox Green Monster Smoothie
I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed the juicebox yet! Probably, after the Fair Bean, the Juicebox is the place in Austin that I went the most in 2011. In many ways it is the opposite of Wasota because there isn’t anything deep fried and it is all super organic raw vegan. Green Smoothies have been all the rage for a few years now among the healthy vegan crowd but I had never had much success making them at home, probably because I don’t have a professional blender. I am not buying one any time soon, I would much rather make the juicebox maintain their machines and search out fresh produce so I can just pull up and grab one whenever I am feeling like I need something healthy. Plus you can compost their cups! The Green Monster has broccoli and all sorts of other things that don’t belong in a smoothie and yet it is so tasty and creamy that it blows my mind every time. Their other smoothies are good too, but that is the one that I get the most. Some of the Daily Juice’s split off this year too and became Juiceland and I highly recommend their new menus as well, I had a smoothie with Kale, Durian, and Pecan Butter!
3. Uchiko Fried Avocado Sushi
This year I discovered the Uchiko happy hour and it made me really really happy. Many of the vegan items are available at happy hour and they have the most amazing fried Brussels sprouts. And the staff is always quick to tell me what is vegan and modify anything on the menu for me. And their sorbets are usually vegan too and they have fun flavors like sweet corn or tobacco. The lightly fried and oh so amazing avocado sushi roll was definitely my favorite although everything you have there is guaranteed to be good. The pictures, however, are guaranteed to be terrible. Damn you restaurants and your mood lighting!
Our brunch options in Austin are getting better and better all the time. When the Brixton, a bar in East Austin, announced that it was going to start hosting a monthly all vegan brunch I was pretty excited. When I tried the first spread that included tempeh bennedicts and real maple syrup I was hooked for life. Then this last weekend I had migas and a cinnamon roll, now that is an Austin combination I have been waiting for. And the bar is so accommodating to vegans. It warmed my heart to see so many vegans drinking bloody marys without fear.
5. Red Rabbit Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts
Speaking of Cinnamon Rolls, Red Rabbit, the anarchist vegan co-op behind the best donuts in town has just started selling Cinnamon Rolls at the Hope Farmers Market in East Austin. I haven’t tried them yet but I have tried the doughnuts and they are fabulous! It was so wonderful to see Red Rabbit grown from selling their doughnuts at bakesales to half the coffee shops in town. Now they are all over the place. God I love them. The spicy Mexican chocolate is definitely my favorite but I will eat them all! I hope they open a store soon.
6. Hyden Park Tomato Tartare
Another exciting development this year was the advent of the Hyden Park Supper Club. These four-course dinner parties have been increasingly popular in Austin but I think the second one I went to might have been my favorite and it was all because of this tomato tartare. I really don’t know how Chef Elizabeth made this tomato taste so delectable and meaty. Maybe it was just peak of ripeness perfection but I loved the texture too.
I have wanted to try Sunflower, a Vietnamese restaurant in North Austin since I moved here but I never got around to it. Then, I finally got my act together after 9 years and made it up to North Austin to find out that it burned down. Thank goodness for everyone that they were able to reopen and I have been back a few times since I got to try their Vietnamese Crepe. If you haven’t tried it don’t wait 9 years to go. Restaurants close down before you know it in Austin and this is something you don’t want to miss.
Aster’s is another Austin institution, along with Wasota and Sunflower that closed down and then, after we all wished hard enough, seemed to magically reopen. I love this place but I always want to go for lunch because the only thing better then getting a platter of delicious Ethiopian food served on top of Injera is to make one yourself off their fabulous lunch buffet. I love trying a little bit of everything there although my eyes are always bigger than my belly.
9. Bananarchy frozen bananas
I love that the idea for the cart of frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and covered in delicious toppings was formed inspired by Arrested Development almost as much as I love eating here. All right, that is a total lie. I could never know the Arrested Development connection and still eat these bananas every day. They are delicious! I like to get one coated in chocolate and then dipped in oreos when I am seriously craving chocolate or going to the Alamo. It is the perfect thing to eat when it is 120 outside.
10. Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse- The Rennedict
Oh the elusive rennedict, how I love you. This year our most famous most delicious vegetarian restaurant moved across the street from it’s previous shack into a converted tire shop. Even though I have been to the new one probably 20 times I don’t think I will ever get used to the newer nicer Bouldin Creek. Lucky for us, the food is exactly the same. AND they added the rennedict to the menu. It is their world famous tofu scramble atop english muffins layered with spinach, the best tofu bacon you will ever have, and then covered in a noochy hollandaise sauce. If you finish it you won’t have to eat again that day and you won’t even want to because nothing will compare to the goodness that is the rennedict.
Best New Product- Celeste’s Best Cookie Dough
I adore Celeste’s chocolate chip cookies. I get them at the Fair Bean along with my morning coffee when I know I’ll need chocolate later. I was just thrilled when I learned Celeste was going to start packaging the dough and having it for sale at Wheatsville and other independent shops around town. The best part about vegan cookie dough is that since it doesn’t have any animal product you can eat it right out of the container. Probably the best thing to do is buy at least two so if you want to have cookies you will have plenty of dough for snacking.
So many places I loved closed up this year, Iggie’s Texitarian, Emerald City, Somnio’s Cafe, and even the screaming goat but nothing hits closer to home than Dog Almighty. Their vegetarian chili cookoff winning chili is my most favorite frito pie in town along with the best tater tots in the world. It was the best place to get fast food style vegetarian food and I will miss it every time I drive down south Lamar. Or settle for a less perfect tot.
So that’s it for 2011. I didn’t even get to try Arlo’s or go to Sweet Ritual before the new year but I have heard they are both great. This year I also want to get to Moaz Falafel, A Taste of Ethiopia, The Elizabeth Street Cafe, and of course the new Counter Culture.