Tag Archives: vegan austin

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. 

The Austin Vegan Riot to celebrate Austin’s Most Vegan Friendly Trailer Yard

austinveganriot

Last week the little trailer park next to Capital City Bakery closed up (probably to make way for condos) and Unity Vegan Kitchen, one of my favorite new spots in Austin, moved to North Loop to join forces with BBQ Revolution, Red Rabbit Bakery, and Taco ‘Bout It to form the most vegan friendly trailer park around at Northloop House & Yard. The only trailer that’s not vegan is the Taco Truck and even they have some vegan options so it’s, like, the opposite of all the other trailer parks in town. To celebrate they are going to have party down. Here are the details from the press release:

We are proud to announce the arrival of Austin’s first all vegan-friendly trailer space at the NorthLoop House and Yard, a trailer space and micro-business haus at 701 E. 53rd St in Austin’s NorthLoop neighborhood. To celebrate this momentous occasion the creative minds behind the NLHY are excited to kick off Austin Vegan Riot, a twice monthly party showcasing the unique offerings of this most-Austin locale. Currently at the NorthLoop trailer yard you’ll find Red Rabbit Co-operative Bakery, BBQ Revolution, Vegan Unity, and Taco ‘Bout It. Red Rabbit serves award winning donuts and other sweet things, produced by their worker owned co-op to organic standards. BBQ Revolution is the country’s only all vegan BBQ joint, creating a truly distinct take on Central Texas fare. Vegan Unity offers locally sourced favorites made from scratch. And Taco ‘Bout It brings tastes from south of the border serving several vegan and traditional options. With Austin recently named as PETA’s top vegan-friendly city it only makes sense that a trailer space would come about as the city’s first vegan-friendly destination. Be sure to stop by every 2nd and last Thursday for the Austin Vegan Riot, starting Thursday January 30th, 6-9pm at the NorthLoop House & Yard, 701 E. 53rd St, Austin, TX 78751.

Lasagna with cashew cream, vegan barbecue, and amazing doughnuts can all be had at once! And then you can dance it all off. In a Riot-like fashion. It’ll be great.

Austin Java Tarrytown, a vegan option on the west side

It’s about time that the west side of town got some more vegan options, right now it seems like the main spots are Beets Cafe and Juiceland which are both good healthy stops but not places to linger over a hot meal. From what I understand Tarrytown is almost completely lacking in local vegan food ever since the NuAge cafe and then the Cosmic Cafe closed years ago. The new Austin Java is in a strip mall next to Austin Pets Alive and a few other businesses. For years it has been a rather controversial strip mall (ha!) because the owner is pretty insistent on places catering to vegetarian values. When Austin Java finally leased the space they did it with the agreement that, unlike their other locations, they wouldn’t serve meat and they would have multiple vegan options.

I am a regular at the Austin Java on 12th and Lamar because it’s just a couple blocks from my office but I’m usually disappointed by their so-so breakfast tacos and their truly lackluster pasta dish. Still I somehow really like Austin Java. I want to love it. They are an Austin institution with locations all over the place and their coffee is pretty good and the service is always friendly. When I saw that the new location in Tarrytown was going to have vegan substitutions for everything from eggs Benedict to omelets I was jealous of those westsiders. We finally tried it over the weekend. The space is pretty cute, especially since it is in strip mall, but they do have two gigantic flat screen TVs. The service was super nice and the vegan options were plentiful, from a version of a Caesar Salad to Curried Tofu Wraps and Texas Pesto Pasta with roasted tofu. It’s the kind of stuff I would love to see at the 12th street location. I am a sucker for Benedict though so I tried the tree-hugger; vegan chorizo, tofu scramble, hollandaise  and avocado on English muffins with your choice of side. I got the potatoes. 

When it came to the table I was a little surprised. The hollandaise didn’t look very appetizing and both it and the tofu were bright almost neon yellow. I don’t know why it was a spread-like consistency rather than a sauce. Maybe it was made out of tofu as well and not blended? There was also too much tofu and sauce which kind of took away from the chorizo and avocado. It wasn’t very well balanced. But I was pleased to see the staff was asking everyone for critical feedback and I’m sure it’s going to get a lot better over time. So Austin vegans please check out the new location and let them know what you think. It will be great to have another place for brunch on the west side of town.

Austin Pets Alive Fundraiser at Counter Culture Saturday, September 22

As Dale Cooper once said, “when two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention”. In this case everyone’s favorite vegan restaurant Counter Culture is having a benefit for Austin Pets Alive, our amazing/large/inspiring no-kill animal shelter so pay attention! Sue has gotten together a bunch of local bands to perform 3 to 4 songs each about Cats & Dogs (she says “think Walkin the Dog, Leave My Kitten Alone, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Cool For Cats, Puppy Love, etc.”)

A portion of all the sales is going to be donated to Austins great animal shelter so come out! And don’t think you can use some sort of dietary excuse because Sue will feed you some delicious food whether you are gf-ing, E2-ing, soy free or whatever else you want to be. Even Paleo folks can come and eat a dang salad just like our ancestors did. And for everyone else there is going to be Tempeh BLT’s with Blue Sheese Dressing. I’m so there.

If you don’t come to the benefit this cat is going to be pissed off

Ice Cream Social Bus

 

Seriously. This is an avocado sorbet topped with sea salt, lime, and fried plantains. It’s like the people from Ice Cream Social Bus were sitting around saying, hmm I wonder what Lazy Smurf would really like. This little bus is in the Jessie St Food Trailer Park, which has kind of become one of the most vegan friendly trailer parks in South Austin between Bahn Bahn, Mister Fruit Cup, The Gypsy Kit (tacos with french fries!), and Chocosutra. I had to try the ice cream social bus because they were having Scoutmob deal for 50% off so you should totally go soon. Watch out, they don’t open until 6pm and they were out of quite a few things when we went. No need to worry too much though because there are plenty of other things to enjoy in the vicinity. They have rotating vegan flavors and the avocado sorbet is always on the menu along with popsicles and Italian sodas.

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And speaking of ice cream, there are only a couple of days left to join the Sweet Ritual Kickstarter. If you haven’t yet been this Friday night they are having a special meet up with make your own sundaes that can include Red Rabbit Doughnuts and Capital City Brownies!

An up to the minute account of learning Austin’s Frank is vegan friendly

9:47 am September 14th 2012 My coworker Alan comes into my office talking about a delicious cortado he heard about at Frank and tells me he is going to go over to get one. We discuss and then lament their policy about making espresso items “to-go”

9:49 AM I ponder if Frank, a hot dog place that I have passed a zillion times has any vegan items at all now that I am desperately craving some hot coffee. After a google search I learn that they have a whole veggie section with vegan items noted.

9:51 AM I tweet “I had no idea Frank’s @hotdogscoldbeer was so vegan friendly. I want to go asap” and update my Austin vegan guide.

9:52 AM I learn from my twitter feed that the university of Texas down the street has had bomb threats and immediately start to panic that we are all going to die.

10:10 AM (approx) I go to Alan’s office and tell him in light of the potential apocalypse I would definitely like to go with him to go get coffee.

10:51 AM I check in to Frank on foursquare and learn that it my first “Hot Dog Joint” since I last went to Dog Almighty in January 2011 and am reminded how much I miss it. I take a photo.

11:02 AM I take a picture of the veggie menu after looking it over for a while. It’s a tough decisions between hot dogs, vegan sausage, the pasta sausage special, and the frito pie. The only thing I know for sure is that I want waffle fries. 

11:10 AM My beautiful soy cortado comes and it is just as smooth as hoped. They even had hemp milk but I thought soy might foam up a little better. 11:11 AM I start to feel extremely caffeinated

11:25 AM My beanie weenies and waffle fries are delivered and I graciously accept. The beans are Boston-style with a little bit of spice and the field roast sausage taste succulent after mixing in with the sauce. The waffle fries are crisp and potato like. 

11:57 AM I return to the office with my belly full and ready to work.

Texas Veg Fest Countdown: An interview with Molly Frisinger Festival Outreach Director

I thought it would be fun to spotlight some of the different things going on at Texas VegFest, because I want you all to go! I want you to LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK and tell all your friends that this shit is happening. It is going to be so awesome and well worth a trip!

As you may know Molly is a friend of mine and the voice behind The Lonestar Plate, the vegan blog of Texas and Texas Chili cook-off champion. I want to call her a tireless advocate for veganism but I happen to know she is really quite tired from working around the clock on getting everything ready for Texas VegFest. She answered a few questions for us about the festival this weekend March 31

Why do you think Austin needs a Veg Fest?

People are constantly saying, “You can’t be vegan in Texas,” and yet here we are in Austin with a thriving vegetarian and vegan community and so much interest in plant-based cooking. We wanted to create an opportunity for everyone to get together and celebrate the great vegan food and resources that Texas has to offer. We especially wanted this to be an opportunity for people who, maybe they’ve heard about Meatless Monday or they have a cousin who’s vegan, and they’re interested in learning more but don’t know where to start. Texas VegFest is that place. Eat some tasty food, learn how to cook a few vegan meals, and just have fun with it.

What are you most excited about, personally, at festival?

I love to cook, so I’m really looking forward to seeing two of my favorite vegan chefs do their thing. Isa Chandra Moskowitz is making comfort food favorites like mac’n’cheese and BBQ seitan with her special twist, and Terry Hope Romero is making tamales, which have always intimidated me a bit. And really, if I’m honest, I’m looking forward to trying samples from all my favorite food companies like Upton’s Naturals, NadaMoo, Gardein, and Tofurky. Rumor is there will be some new products introduced at Texas VegFest!

I heard you are going to have some fun activities for children, which I have noticed many people seem to have. What kind of stuff are you going to have for them to do? (I want to tell my neighbors so maybe my street will be quiet for once)

Yes, surprisingly, a lot of people have kids! We’ll have a section of Fiesta Gardens set aside for kids’ activities. There will be a moonbounce, a gardening activity sponsored by Urban Patchwork, and games and activities to encourage healthy eating. There’s also lots of space to run around.

What do you think the foodies would be surprised about regarding TexVegFest or veganism generally?
A lot of people focus on what they’re giving up when they go vegan, but what I experienced, and what a lot of people experience, I think, is that it opens your cooking horizons. I’m not sure I’d be so comfortable cooking curries, making my own bread and pizza dough, or exploring grains like quinoa and millet if going vegan hadn’t nudged me out of my comfort zone.

I think Texas VegFest is a good example of this. If you look at the food our vendors will be serving, you’ll see samosas, chaat, empanadas, burgers, tamales, Ethiopian, Frito pie, Indian, hot dogs, TexMex, Mac’n’Cheese, and more ice cream and baked goods than you can imagine. It’s just a huge variety of foods.
It sure sounds like a lot of great food, what other adult entertainment is there going to be? I guess that kind of sounds like I’m expecting strippers….
That was a setup so I can talk about Purrfect Pineapples, wasn’t it? They’ll be there with their custom-made animal-friendly lingerie. In fact, bring your wallet, because Herbivore Clothing, Stay True Organics Tattoo Aftercare, Monkey Wrench Books, Back to the Roots, and Vitamix will all be there, too.

In between shopping and stuffing your face, we’ll have some great speakers and music as well. Dr. Michael Greger has an interactive presentation about health eating, and bodybuilder Robert Cheeke will be there to discuss fitness. If you haven’t ever seen Robert Cheeke talk, you’re in for a treat. I’ve never met anyone so extraverted and outgoing before. Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing has a really great speech about getting more veg options in restaurants, as well. And on the other stage, we’ll have music by Roxy Rocha, the Wheel Workers, and other great Texas bands.
Now everyone is going to think this whole damn interview is scripted so you have forced my to ask something totally off the wall. If you could wave a vegan wand on one Austin restaurant which would it be? And don’t give me some activisty answer and pick something just because it’s popular and more people would eat vegan just because of that. Where would YOU love to go if it was the same menu but all vegan versions.
Mandola’s Italian Grill, or really any pretty good neighborhood Italian restaurant. I can get a really nice Italian meal at Asti or Sagra, but I miss having a neighborhood pasta joint where I can get ravioli, eggplant parm, and a salad with that tomatoey house dressing that all Italian restaurants have.
Thanks Molly for your time and for all your hard work with the festival!

Elizabeth St. Cafe, a Vietnamese French cafe in South Austin

Traditionally, if you want quality Vietnamese food in Austin you have to be in the part of town where it’s hard to tell if you are in Pflugerville, Round Rock, or Austin. In South Austin we mostly have the standard Chinese-takeout-style Vietnamese places where you can get a ton of edible food for five dollars. When LuLu B’s trailer opened I loved that I could get a vegetarian bánh mì for 4 and I have long been obsessed with their 6 dollar bún. When the prices on each went up a while back, I stopped going so much. So at first I wasn’t so sure about how often I would go to the even more expensive Elizabeth St. Cafe which is even getting flack from foodies about the 22 dollar pho. But, unlike Lulu B’s it is open at night, has excellent service and has a super cute ambiance so I can see myself returning. It is kind of mind boggling that they could have made the old Bouldin Creek, certainly the cafe I have spent the most time in probably in my life, into such a elegant little place. Someone should make a “Where Have all the Hippies Gone” parody video. Or not.

The menu is definitely happy meat focused but I was gladdened to see that vegan options abound as well. We started with the Ginger Marinated Tofu Spring rolls. Since the peanut sauce wasn’t vegan we stuck with just the sweet chile vinegar and ginger jalapeno for dipping. Even with those sauces, I thought the spring rolls were a little dry, too heavy on the noodles and without enough herbs and vegetables. 

I think that the reason I was most excited to try the Elizabeth St. Cafe was in anticipation of their pho. I kind of became obsessed with pho when I lived in Washington and for years I was disappointed by every version in Austin that I tried. Recently I tried a recipe from Terry Hope Romero’s upcoming internationally themed cookbook and I it reawakened all the pho desire inside me. Elizabeth St has two different pho varieties and we went with the miso cauliflower version. It was delicious and I think would be perfect for someone that like the idea of pho but maybe not the Vietnamese version. We’ll call them fusion pho lovers. Next time I will try the tofu, mushroom, radish traditional version for sure. One thing I loved about this version was that it was completely packed with tofu and vegetables. A lot of times it seems like places skimp on all that stuff and just give you a ton of sprouts and herbs.

We skipped the bánh mì since they didn’t have vegan mayo and went onwards to the bún. The grilled tofu was a highlight for sure and there was plenty of vegetables in the bowl, in fact I think there were more vegetables than vermicelli. Everything was fresh and delicious and the vegan fish sauce was good enough, maybe a little tame. 

My favorite part of the meal was undoubtedly the bánh xèo (aka the Vietnamese crêpe) even thought it wasn’t on the menu and we had to special order it. Don’t you just love when restaurants are accommodating? The service, overall was great, our waitress was easily able to tell us what was vegan and what we could do special and when she wasn’t sure about the crêpe she checked with the kitchen staff. When the waitress returned to tell us they would make a special vegan version I was, in a word, stoked. This is the best bánh xèo I have ever had, although truthfully it was also only the second. It was coconutty, light and delicious and definitely what I will return for. 

We rounded out the meal with a delicious Lemongrass tea, although they do have a wide assortment of wine, saki, Vietnamese coffee, and drinks. 

It is a fantastic little spot, more expensive, no doubt then, a standard Vietnamese restaurant but with a charming atmosphere and excellent service.

Top Ten favorite vegan dishes in Austin for 2011

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 CultureWhole 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

1. Wasota Vegan Platter

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!

4. Brixton Vegan Brunch

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.

7. Sunflower Vegan Crepe

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.

8. Asters Ethiopian Platter

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

photo by @veganchai

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.

Most Missed Dog Almighty

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.

Hyden Park – “leaves-to-roots” cuisine

Last week I was really excited to learn that some local Austin chefs started a vegan supper club right here in our own fair city. I read about these places all the time in other places and have even heard of some meat centric ones in Austin. A lot of us have been hoping that a vegan one would pop up for some time. Some of us even thought about starting our own but not every body has the attitude and wherewithal to finish projects and do things so I’m super excited to report that professionally trained Chef Elizabeth & Kris have their act together and made us a fantastic seasonal meal last Saturday night. 

Their site describes their approach as: “A vegan supper club in Austin, Texas. Some folks are into “nose-to-tail” cuisine. We’re into “leaves-to-roots” cuisine and real sustainability.” My friend Kristen and I got there a little late (my bad!) and already there were about 10 people there talking and enjoying appetizers. The first course “cucumber, mint & ume boshi maki roll with saffron orange “roe” & shiso” was very fruity and minty and perfect for the temperature since it is about a thousand degrees out these days.I dug the faux roe especially, I don’t think I have ever had it before.

After the appetizer we moved right on to the main course which was also my favorite part “smoked tofu and japanese (white) sweet potato gnocchi with bok choy, napa cabbage,chrysanthemum leaves, shitake & beech mushrooms”This dish was so hearty that I really didn’t need anything else. I thought the plating was super cute, it kind of looked like those wee mushrooms were growing out of the center of dish which is just the kind of thing that I get ridiculously excited about. The gnocchi mixed with the other mushrooms and bok choy was so hearty and delicious, in fact, I probably didn’t even need the tofu because everything else was so filling. The pasta was perfect and I ate every last little bit on the dish.

Then we had the salad course “arugala with daikon spirals, watermelon radishes, green apple, strawberries, opal basil & strawberry ume dressing”. It was another beautiful presentation and I loved the fresh strawberries, apples and radishes.

Even though I had a lot to eat, at this point in the meal I really wanted ice cream because, like I mentioned it was a little warm and I just thought Chef Elizabeth would have made a terrific one. Instead we had lemon almond amasake custard with lavender blueberry sauce & sesame lace cookies, which by the way was gluten free. I loved the sesame cookie mixed with the blueberry sauce, it was a really unusual but delightful flavor combination. The custard was a little too heavy for me and I really wanted to lay down afterwords. They had a hammock in their backyard calling my name but I persevered and remained upright for the rest of the evening.

Overall it was a huge success. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!