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.
It seems like lately Mr. Natural, one of our most time-honored vegetarian restaurants, has been going through some really positive changes. First, they added new vegan items to the menu. I wish I could express to you how happy I am that someone in town is making a vegan chile rellano! Now if restaurants would just start making their own cashew or nutritional yeast based sauces I’d be in heaven*. I’m telling you, it’s the answer to outstanding vegan food! Of course, that is my preference and I know tons of vegans are just wild about daiya cheese which is what Mr. Natural is using for their rellano AND the new quesadilla.
Mr. Natural is one of my favorite places for when I am really really hungry and don’t want to wait for some table and talk to some waiter and figure out what’s vegan. For the incredibly impatient they have a buffet with convenient signs pointing out exactly what is and isn’t vegan and you also get to pick out a salad, an entree and two sides. It’s the best thing ever if you have been working really hard one something all day and need to eat now. But maybe you have been working hard on doing absolutely nothing so here’s a little trick; if you can wait, oh, maybe five minutes before you eat you can chose items off the menu and get whatever you like made to order. It’s really the better way because food on the buffet can be a little uneven, especially if you get there closer to close. Which speaking of closing, they are now open until 9pm most days! They also started opening on Sunday 10am-3pm for a brunch buffet at the south lamar location.
I was pretty excited that your choice of fruit or green salad came with the buffet and that waffles were an option! My dream is that in the future they will do a savory fried tofu and waffles!
I also had the spicy tofu scramble and the brown rice. Brunch overall was good and very filling, I’m sure it’s just going to get better and better. As always I was disappointed that so many of the agua fesca’s contained honey but I was stoked that cantaloupe was ok because if there is one thing I love, it’s fresh cantaloupe. It was so bright and delicious.
What I’m the most excited about is that for reasons I can only guess at, Mr. Natural has decided to have a Serbian night tomorrow April 24th and I just can’t believe it! I didn’t even know there were other Serbs in the area and I hope to meet them as they are sure to swarm the restaurant with me tomorrow night!
Please join me! We’ll drink slivo in the parking lot to celebrate.
*Actually, homemade cashew cheese and nutritional yeast sauces will probably happen later this week when Counter Culture has their soft opening!!!!
On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the vegan brunch that the Brixton was having catered by Green Island Catering. It was my first time at this bar, because who could possibly keep up with all the bars opening in Austin, really. I was happy to see half the vegans I know in town already there or filtering in soon after we got there at noon on a balmy Sunday afternoon. I was even more happy to see my brunch plate (no disrespect fellow vegans but I do love brunch)
The menu included pumpkin french toast with real maple syrup, tempeh bennedicts, organic fruit, sausages, and roasted potatoes. I really liked the french toast, which I am usually not a big fan of, it was really nice and crisp with good flavors and not super pumpkiny. The fruit was the biggest surprise, it tasted ripe and fresh which is so unusual, especially since it isn’t summer, though it sure feels like it. The sausage was the opposite of the Kerbey Lane “soysage” meaning it was fantastic and I got to cover mine in maple syrup. My non vegan dining companion was especially impressed, though she liked everything. The tofu bennies probably would have been better if they had been made to order rather than just kept warm on the buffet so, though I loved the taste of the tempeh and the noochy hollindaise, they were a little cold and the bread was tough. Overall it was a huge success.
I was also thrilled by the service at the Brixton. As soon as we sauntered up to the bar (or hobbled in my case) the bartender told us exactly what was vegan. All the brunch specials including the bloody mary were vegan, and the only items that weren’t was a couple of the obvious beers. A few people I spoke with got to have their first ever bloody mary! It was probably my nine hundred and thirty-fifth but I enjoyed it just the same. I loved that there was a pickled okra for garnish even though I usually order mine with all olives and it was nice and spicy, without being overly so, which was great cause there was no hot sauce for the brunch. All in all I’d say it was an outstanding vegan brunch, perhaps the first one I’ve had in Austin that has had every element of a good brunch and a nice addition to the Austin brunch scene. Sadly they aren’t doing it every Sunday so follow them on Facebook to see when the next one is happening. And be sure to bring your non vegan friends, they won’t be disappointed! Unless, of course, they are the type that is disappointed by everything so don’t bring those people.
Latin American style brunch is probably my most favorite meal to eat. It all started, I think, with migas and then branched out to chilaquiles, polenta rancheros, gallo pinto, and of course the breakfast taco. I wanted something really simple for brunch this week and I had some sausage on hand so I thought of making Sausages & Greens. This is a recipe that I first discovered in Vegan Brunch but has now entered my regular rotation to the point where I improvise regularly. I had sausages and Kale and I wanted to make it but I had already had the same meal with grits earlier in the week and I was really craving a breakfast sandwich. That is when I realized arepas were, again, the only possible choice. The meal is like the bastard lovechild or Vegan Brunch and Viva Vegan my two favorite cookbooks. Arepas make so much sense as a breakfast sandwich, they are about the same size as English muffins and even made in a simiar way. I wonder if people in Venezuela eat them in the am. I think I am going to have to go on a fact finding mission to get to the bottom of it. I could even make a movie about “The Quest for the Breakfast Arepa” Just imagine me, cruising around Caracas, asking lots of strange questions about animal products, getting arrested as a spy, and then hopefully being extradited back to the US. It would probably be worth it.
I came up with a new scheme for cooking arepas this time too. Before they took forever (aka 20 minutes) grilling in my cast iron skillet but it dawned on me that I could use the George Forman grill which does both sides at the same time so it takes half as much time. All you have to do to make the arepas is mix 2 cups of masarepa with 2 cups of hot water, add a little salt, mix together and then grill for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile in cast iron skillet sauté an onion and a few cloves of garlic. Add sausage pieces when softened. When the sausage is browned add the greens, folding them in slowly so you can fit them all in the skillet. When the greens have cooked down a little add a half a cup of broth, some red pepper flakes, a little soy sauce, and a teaspoon of liquid smoke. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes. The steaming makes the greens nice and plump. I love it!
Overall the meal was a little dry so next time I am thinking I will add a spread onto the arepas as well or vegan cream cheese which would make it a little more breakfasty. Or maybe the salsa golf from Viva Vegan. It was still super tasty and involved greens so it was healthy in my book as well.
I bet you this won’t be the last time I make breakfast arepas.
I finally checked out the Vegan Yacht at Cheer Up Charlies on East 6th street today and I’ve got to say that I am so impressed! I really didn’t understand until recently that the yacht is a veritable eating establishment and I have been missing out! Cheer Up Charlies used to be a trailer that served mostly beverages but then a couple of months ago the opened up a brick and mortar bar that serves beer, kombucha, and delicious vegan chocolates. They have a lot of events and outdoor movies there. The Vegan Yacht is on the back patio surrounded by little tables and succulents.Although I have heard the menu changes quite a bit, I thought is was pretty great. This Wednesday it included several sandwiches, a TLT, a mock chick’n, and one with sprouts, tomato and avocados along with the latter in lettuce wrap form for the raw/healthy/carbaphobic types out there. They also have a quesadilla made with seitan, daiya cheese, avocado, and bell peppers. We had a hard time deciding! For drinks they have iced coffee & chai, and smoothies or you can go to the bar inside. They also had beet brownies and coconut bliss for dessert. As usual when confronted with an all vegan menu I panicked. There were so many options! I was at Counter Culture over the weekend and someone was raving about the frito pie, that they serve either in a bowl or in burrito form and I thought it was just crazy enough to work and ordered the frito burrito. He gave me the option of adding avocado or daiya and I went with the former. It was fabulous!They perfectly grilled the tortilla which made it have a really nice texture and made it easier to eat. The chili was great and had corn and big pieces of onion in it and it wasn’t spicy at all if that is a concern. I would definitely get it with avocado again. Mmm. My friend tried the TLT which was also on grilled bread and surprisingly tasty.The tempeh was especially reminiscent of bacon which I have never really picked up on before from other tempeh bacon. Or maybe it was just the familiarity because of the vegan mayo and tomato that made it so evocative of the BLTS of yesteryear. Whatever the reason it was a perfect sandwich. I don’t know why they don’t have sides though? Some fries or chips or brussels sprouts or broccoli rice casserole or something would have been a nice side dish. At night it would be perfect to grab a sandwich and then go to the Eastside King for Beet fries.
I loved that they were open for lunch because I thought it was just a late night spot, but they actually have really perfect hours; closing after lunch and reopening at 7 until the party is over so it can be one of the best spots to check out for late night vegan eating. And they have parking!They also have a Sunday Brunch that I can’t wait to try, especially since they are open until 4 pm for Brunch which, to my mind, is the only civilized thing to do.
I hope the Vegan Yacht sails for a long time. We both really liked it and they seem like really good people!
This weekend it was nice to start cooking non-Thanksgiving food! My house was practically wiped out of vegetables and staples but we managed to come up with enough to keep us happy and well fed.On Sunday I made Fennel Breakfast Risotto, a recipe from Vegan Brunch. I made a lot of little changes to pump up the flavors because it was a little lacking but with more seasoning, nooch, and vegeta it turned out wonderful, especially since I made the smokey mushrooms on top. I think the mushrooms were very important and should always be a part of the recipe not optional!
We also made crepes over the weekend, again from Vegan Brunch. I just adore this crepe recipe, they are the best one I have found since going vegan. We stuffed them for lunch with Kittie’s recipe for Atar Allecha
I was a little disappointed because the recipe said it would serve 6 to 8 but I should have realized that would only be true if you were making a traditional Ethiopian feast of many different dishes because it wouldn’t have served the two of us without the last minute addition of steamed broccoli. I am excited to try the other recipes she has for Ethiopian food now that we have the niter kebbeh made. Later that night I stuffed the crepes with bananas and white chocolate and the were amazing.
And speaking of Ethiopia, I won a cookbook called The New American Table by Marcus Samuelsson. The author was born in Ethiopia but grew up in Sweden and then moved to the US as a young man. He fell in love with all the different styles of food coming together here and became a chef. I love this book, it is really big, with tons of really interesting recipes and has the most beautiful pictures. Even though there is lots of meat and dairy he also has plenty of completely vegan recipes since he focuses on new twists of immigrant food. He even cooked a vegetarian feast for President Obama and the Prime Minister of India at the white house! I wonder what I would cook for Obama. Probably I would have a total panic attack trying to decide and then end up making something really stupid that was inspired by the White Sox. Like crepes that are shaped like socks stuffed with polish sauasges and sauerkraut.
Anyway, I have found the book very inspiring and am excited to try some of the ideas like tea-poached bok choi. Mr. Smurf made the vegetable soup last night and it was amazing, the flavors were kind of Asian but Italian too. I didn’t make it so I don’t remember everything that went in it though! It had amazing depth of flavor. We will make it again I am sure.
One of the reasons that I picked this recipe was because we had almost everything we needed on hand except for the avocado. On the way home from the gym I stopped by the store to pick one up and they gave it to me for free! So I didn’t spend one cent over the four day weekend. I am proud because I have to save up for Miami for New Years, Chicago for Serbian Christmas, and maybe London for a wedding in February! So expect a lot of cabbage, rice and potatoes in the weeks ahead.
One of my favorite bloggers is Jes from Cupcake Punk. We have a lot of things in common including our love of beer and tasty vegan food. The other day she created a recipe and I just had to try it because it involved tomatoes which are pretty much my favorite thing about summer and it looked so yummy. The sandwich is called the Trifecta which is a word that originates from the very non-vegan activity of horseracing. A trifecta is when you guess the three winners in the order that they win. It is hard to decide what order the winners come in here, there is a cornmeal crusted fried green tomato, sundried tomatoes , and a plump juicy red tomato. You may think that the tomato might be overwhelming but that was not the case at all, the flavors were all so different and worked magically together. It makes me feel like singing.I also made the avocado potato salad from Vegan Brunch. It was suprisingly more like a potato salad and less like guacamole than I thought it would be even though it had 2 avocados, lime, red onion, and cayenne. With the leftover potato salad, bread, and sundried tomatoes I made another sandwich for today and I can’t wait to eat it!
This is the part of the year where you see if you really have what it takes to live in Texas. It is so hot that you can fry tofu on the sidewalk. You can leave some batter in the car and come back to find muffins. Eating tomatoes off the vine is like a slow cooked marinara sauce. In these times when it is a hundred and five it is too hot to do anything but relax with a cool refreshing drink.
In Central and South America Batidos are very popular. I think Batido means “beaten” because you beat the hell out of your ingredients with a blender. It is a lot more violent than the north American smoothie but it is also a hell of a lot more fun. You can use whatever tropical fruit you like, if your fruit is very sweet you don’t need to use and sweetener and you can omit the milk and use water instead. Here is how I made mine
1/2 Cantaloupe, cut into big pieces
1 cup of milk or water (I used Oat milk)
1 Tablespoon of Agave Nectar
1 cup of ice
Then just beat It, beat it, beat it, beat it no one wants to be defeated showin’ how funky strong is your fight just beat it, with a blender.
I had my batido alongside another recipe from Vegan Brunch: Polenta Ranceros. This might be my favorite to boot. We added a little Black Salt to get the egg flavor and I topped it with a puree of yogurt, cilantro, and lime and then some cherry tomatoes & green onions it was fabulous.
Poor Dinger really hates the heat, he has allergies so I have to give him a lot of showers. Luckily, getting toweled off is one of his favorite things in the world. Whenever we get out the towel, even for us, he runs up saying “towel me”! My mom offered to take him for the summer which he would probably like. A beagle that summers in Illinois I can see it now.I plan to spend the weekend submerged in water so if you don’t hear from me know that I drowned happily! Have a fun weekend!
I have been cooking up a(heat) storm from Vegan Brunch so I thought I would share the wonder that is this books. First I made the Broccoli Quiche which was surprisingly creamy but somehow the Broccoli flavor wasn’t strong enough for me. I think next time I will saute it for longer with more liquid to bring out the flavor. It could have been a problem with my broccoli too. I love this picture I think it looks like some sort of a broccoli space ship.I also made the Italian Feast Sausages with Spinashed Potatoes and the Jalapeno corn gravy from the Veganomicon. I loved these sausages! It is so nice to have the recipe right there too, so I don’t have to come up with one on my own or look it up on my blog. We used these the next day for some Seitanic Jambalaya and they really elevated the whole dish. And the gravy was kind of magical despite its somewhat off putting yellow color. It uses only corn and cornstarch for thickening so it might be a good choice if you are trying to avoid flour or beans. Finally the real star of the show, the Swiss Chard Frittata. I don’t know why this was so yummy, I think the only spice was Thyme or Oregano but I just loved it! I also made the lemon pepper roasted potatoes and they were really easy and good. Homemade Iced coffee has become my new staple and I am really excited to have it always on hand, but that is another post!I do wish this book had come out in the winter when I had nothing do all night besides cook, now that it is a hundred degrees outside and about a thousand in my kitchen is getting really hard to cook but I want to make everything from Vegan Brunch. What a conundrum.
We have been day dreaming about opening a vegan brunch spot for forever. It is my favorite meal and probably what I make the most: breakfast tacos. Well now my concept of brunch has been greatly expanded since Isa Moskowitz finally put out the much anticipated Vegan Brunch book. I can’t wait to get a waffle maker and make some of the savory waffles! And here I thought I didn’t need any more kitchen appliances. Our first meal was in the top ten meals of all time according to Mr. Smurf who is a huge fan of Ms. Moskowitz’s work. We made Cherry Sage Sausages which were comparable with any vegan or non sausages we have eaten in out lifetime, smoked Almond gravy which was terrific, bagels with Kalamata olives that I raved about yesterday, and paprika spiced roasted potatoes which were (sadly) much better than my paprika roasted potatoes that I make all the time. Since it was breakfast for dinner we also had PBR.
The gravy was really terrific, it wasn’t as creamy as a normal gravy but the smokey taste added a lot to the whole meal. It is the kind of gravy you could eat with a spoon.
We had the cherry sage sausages in a dish called something like “Collard Greens and Sausages” but I used kale because that is what I had on hand. This is something that I make quite a bit but I followed the recipe for everything instead of just throwing stuff in and it really paid off. The potatoes, the greens, and the sausage were all great. I can’t wait to try more from the book! Hooray for Everything!