Monthly Archives: September 2010

Do you want an all vegan ice cream parlor in Austin?

Anytime someone asks me what they should try in Austin one of the first things out of my mouth is “the ice cream at toy joy”. Everybody who tries it quickly falls in love and it is easy for ANYONE to try it because it is gluten free and vegan! Amelia has been cranking out the magical flavors of her soy coconut soft serve for a couple of years now and has finally decided that she, with her buisness partner Valerie, are going to branch off and form an all vegan vintage inspired ice cream parlor next year. I have heard some of their plans and the place is going to be so fantastic!

The most exciting part, maybe, is that they are getting some of their start up money from the vegan community- not just in Austin- but from anyone that wants to help. They are almost to their goal so please head over there and donate some money. If you donate 25 dollars you get a Sweet Ritual t-shirt and an invitation to opening party, for 50 you get that plus a voucher for 5 shakes, if you donate 100 you get all that plus you get to create a shake or sundae and get it named after you! How exciting is that? Mine would have olives in it, except that the flavors are (smartly) subject to their approval so it probably wouldn’t fly. Things get even better as you climb up the donation ladder and if you donate RIGHT NOW, the ladies will even do a dance for you that you can watch on the site.

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Homemade Popcorn or how I hated popcorn and learned to love it

I never have been a fan of popcorn and when I ran a movie theater years ago I began to detest it. I hated the constant tending to the popcorn machine when we were super busy.  I hated people that wanted me to make a plain batch. I hated people that wanted a batch with extra extra extra extra butter– which was 1 out of 10 customers — because I would get butter all over myself. I hated the people that wanted “a fresh batch” even as the popcorn was still popping. But what I hated the most was the smell. It would cling to me no matter what and my whole place started to smell like popcorn. It was so disgusting. The truth is, I really hated that job and transferred it to the snack. I learned all about transference from my high school psych teacher Mr. McLaughlin and I think he would be pretty proud of how I have analyzed that situation today.

I finally quit that horrible job and moved to Texas. A few years ago a friend came to visit and bought some bulk popcorn and it languished in our pantry for years. When we moved to a new house I thought about throwing it out but thought someone someday might want it. Then one broke and hungry night we googled for instructions on how to make popcorn with no gear and found that it was quite easy.

All you do is add a bit of oil to a big pot (like a teaspoon) then add some kernels (probably less than a tablespoon) mix it up, coat the kernels with the oil and heat on high. Make sure you use a lid. Once the kernels start popping shake the pot ever 30 seconds or so so that it doesn’t burn. The who thing takes less than 5 minutes. The first time we made it with earth balance salt and nutritional yeast it was a revelation. Even better than getting to the popcorn level on Bubble Bobble. It is such a cheap and easy snack. I have no idea why people buy microwave popcorn and buy popcorn poppers when it is so simple to do on the stove and zero waste. I think it all must be an evil scheme by popcorn maker corporations. Damn you Orville Redenbacher!!! I am a total convert now which my best friend can not wrap her head around after hearing me complain about it for so many years. She eats popcorn by putting her face in the bowl because she doesn’t like her hands to get greasy. She is not embarrassed at all about doing this in front of other people and that is why I think she is great.

I’m glad I don’t live in Portland

because I would gain 900 pounds. I think maybe people stay so trim there by biking everywhere. In Austin you can easily enough eat fatty foods but a huge majority of places are pro vegetable like all the raw places, casa de luz, conscious cravings, and counter culture.  In Portland you can eat ridiculously decadent food with delicious beers every place you go. It is hard to resist. I have been on an official brown rice and greens diet since I got home. It was so fun though, I came up to the Northwest for my dear friends’ wedding  where I had maybe the best food of the entire trip. They had an entire Lebanese spread from Al Amir with the creamiest baba ganoush, the most delightful roasted cauliflowers, and the most flavorful tomato eggplant dish I have ever had. I couldn’t stop talking about it all week. No pictures but the whole thing is burned into my mind. Maybe the best part was that they make the baklava with orange blossom water instead of honey. My god. I have been eating baklava all my life made by real legitimate grandmas and this was the best.

After drinking and eating way to much at the wedding I ordered one of the silliest breakfasts ever at Gravy. First I had a delicious bloody mary and told everyone about the wonders of the bloody I had in Milwaukee at the comet cafe so maybe I was a bit under the influence when I decided instead of a tofu scramble I would get a hash brown scramble because I have never one before. I was entranced by the idea of a multiple olive and potato scramble since they had several different kinds. Then I added Spinach thinking that would turn the whole meal into practically I diet dish. What can I say it was a ridiculous move since I was hungry like an hour later since the only nutrition was in the cocktail. It was like something I would make at home after coming in the middle of the night.

Later we went to Sauvie Island to hang out on the beach for a while. The best part about this was that my friend had just rescued a chihuahua named Coco a few days earlier so we were able to bring her on her first outing to the beach.

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Now I really want a chihuahua, she was so freaking cute and an extreme cuddler like our beagles. But unlike the beagles she didn’t spend the entire time trying to check out every single thing on the beach.

I was so hungry by the time we went to Hungry Tiger Too that night that I was in a total hunger panic. This is something you never want to experience for yourself by the way. It really isn’t any fun for anybody and I apologize for yelling at my extremely slow moving friends. When we finally got there I first ordered the fried butternut squash wontons. They came topped with a decadent coconut sauce that was really good but very desserty for the beginning of the meal. They were so crispy though that I fell in love and finally started to calm down. Mmm. happy. I also ordered the BBQ sandwich with some tater tots. The tots were glorious, just what the doctor ordered. When the dish came out I considered removing some of the tots to make sure I didn’t eat the whole thing but I laughed to myself and thought “of course I won’t eat all those tots, that is more tots than I could possibly ever eat at one sitting. I’m sure you can guess what I am going to say next. I ate them all. It was like I had died and gone to tot heaven. The BBQ tempeh was pretty good but the sauce, like all the sauces I had in Portland, was too sweet. The menu at Hungry Tiger Too is what I wish the Alamo Drafthouse would do here. There were so many vegan options and even 1.25 corndogs.

The next day started with a trip to the vegan mini mall for breakfast, supplies, Soy Curls, and white chocolate chips. And I got a new wallet. This is why I don’t have money for my school books! I got a bagel at Sweet Pea and though it was good but it just brought back memories of the fantasticness that is the Bagelry in Santa Cruz. It is crazy to think I will probably will never have a bagel that perfect again. It is like something out of a dream. Honestly, I have had dreams about olives before and now that is how I remember the whole thing…fleeting and wonderful. I do love Sweet Pea. The best part is that some of my friends in Portland don’t do gluten so it is the perfect place to go to. I bought a peanut butter chocolate brownie for later from there as well and it was just amazing. After that we drove up to Mt. Hood National Forrest to go to Bagby hot springs. The northwest is just so magical.

When you walk into the forest there it is really easy to imagine that anything can happen maybe you will meet some Ents or Smurfs or find a giant wooden tub with endless hot water pouring into it. Afterwards we headed back home to Mississippi Pizza for some gluten-free vegan pizza and karaoke. The pizza was pretty good. I think we had artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and olives which is probably my all time favorite combination. The best part of the Portland dining scene is that every table has a nooch shaker. This is something that Austin totally lacks. Why does it always have to be bring your own Nutritional Yeast? Don’t places care about how wonderful it is? Even Dinger won’t eat his food without some yellow vegan pixie dust sprinkled on top. When I saw they were doing Karaoke I really wanted to sing but then I quickly learned that I was totally out of my league because nearly everyone who went up was awesome.

The next day we were headed to a Thai place but got confused and ended up going to the new rawish place Prasad, where Blossoming Lotus used to be. It was a very healthy and beautiful meal. I had the dragon bowl which had rice, a bunch of different seaweeds, pinto beans, steamed kale, avocado and lemon tahini sauce. If I ate like that every day I would probably finally develop my latent vegan superpowers. Later I went to a friend’s BBQ and totally brought my own food which in retrospect was kind of rude but I just had such a desire to try everything in Portland since the last summer I didn’t get to try everything I wanted to. Now I realize I can never try everything. It is hard enough to try everything here! I had a pretty uninspired combo from Papa G’s but I would definitely give it another shot because you gotta love a vegan cafeteria that has pictures of farm animals all over the place. Plus it is the most organic place in Portland! I think my problem was I kept getting barbecue everywhere and I have a taste for Texas barbecue and nothing else will do.

The next day we went to our Alama mater, the Evergreen State College for a visit and I was dying to go to Vic’s Pizza because they make both a vegan white sauce or yellow nooch sauce. It was fabulous! Have I mentioned my love of nutritional yeast and olives? It is kind of a theme. I think Vic’s was the first place I ever got black, green, and Kalamata olive on one pizza. Magic! I was reacquainted with my deep love for Olympia and considered moving there for most of the duration of my trip. I got to see some of my favorite people in the world  and talk a lot of shit about a great many topics. In the end I didn’t want to leave which is how it always was in Oly. Late nights, soft lighting, good conversation, and walking home. Although, I didn’t actually walk home since we went back to Portland that night.

The next day I still had tons of places that I wanted to go and it was my last day but we hit everything important. The day started with a trip to the Homegrown Smoker for, yes, more barbecue. This time tempeh and sausage. The sausage was really good. The mac and cheese was okay but the STFU puppies were out of the world! Fried dough! I wish I was eating some right now. Portland has an insane amount of food carts. Like hundreds and hundred of food carts. They are often all in a big line which reminds me of the state fair. A glorious vegan state fair. Although, truthfully, not everything is vegan. They have plenty of Thai food too! After eating way too much food (and I promise this time I did not eat it all) We headed to the Arboretum.

First we went through the slow meandering path of the garden of solace.

Then we went on, what turned out to be a grueling hike. Only because once I said “are we almost there yet” I learned we were not headed back in a loop but instead forward so there were still hours to go. I was so dehydrated from my week of drinking that I thought I would never make it back. In fact, when we later went to a bar called The Nest I got water instead of a Laura Palmer, and what other time am I going to have the option of drinking a Laura Palmer and play Ping Pong at the same place?  It was exhausting having so much fun. I think I also had a milkshake that day at Sip which was maybe the best milkshake I ever had because they were out of their regular ice cream and I was forced to substitute coconut bliss, something I would never normally do because their was a surcharge but ended up being totally worth it. I had the creamsicle and I watched her freshly squeeze the oranges for the shake and was in totally bliss drinking it. I also got a muffin from Back to Eden bakery that day which I loved.

For dinner I got to go to Portobello Vegan Trattoria which I had wanted to try the whole trip. It is such a nice place, definitely if you are going on a trip to PDX do not miss your chance to go here. It is a really cozy restaurant with reclaimed wood walls and soft light. We ordered a bunch of everything and shared family style which is my favorite way to go. We started with the Beet Tartare which I think was our favorite of the evening. Cashew cheese and beets and a crunchy baguette was just done delightfully.

We also tried to Polenta Cakes with sweet and sour eggplant and tomato topping. I loved this dish but I think it needed more eggplant because it was a little overwhelmed by the tomato sauce. I love polenta so much which was also under the big portabello mushroom we tried.

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It was seasoned with rosemary and served with braised greens and certainly could have been a meal on its own quite easily. I think the picture makes it kind of look like a space ship.

Next we had the gnocchi that also had peppers, squash, and more tomato sauce. I think it would have been better with some olives but that is probably because I love olives.

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We also got the pizza on the gluten free crust and it was definitely the best gluten free crust I have had! They just made it perfect. I asked for more cashew cheese instead of daiya and was very pleased with the result.

Without a doubt the best pizza of the trip. After all of that we tried the tirimisu for dessert and though it reminded us more of cheesecake than tiramisu it was still fantastic. Now I am starting to have a total food panic because it all looks so good.  I was totally overwhelmed with food as were my friends by the time it was all over.

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It was sad to go home but I’ll be back! And I was honestly stoked to be back in the heat. And to see the dogs. I would love to roadtrip up there some summer.

Conscious Cravings- Vegetarian sandwiches from around the world

One thing that always drives me crazy at vegetarian restaurants and trailers around town is the lack of french fries. I may be vegan but I am still an American goddammit and every now and then, especially if I am getting a sandwich, I want fries. Thankfully Conscious Cravings, the newest veg trailer on the scene, has heard our unhealthy call and was aware of my conscious craving and answered with an extremely large 2 dollar portion of rosemary fries.The truth is, the fries aren’t unhealthy at all because they are baked and not fried. The menu is overall pretty healthy at this new trailer at the Longhorn Food Court halfway between ACC and UT on MLK and Rio Grande and it is extremely vegan friendly. It is what I dream would be on every corner instead of mcdonalds and kfc. Anything on the menu can be transformed with actual vegan substitutions like vegan mayo instead of no mayo or vegan cheese instead of no cheese. It really is a brave new world we are entering here in Austin lately. Life is veganizing quicker than you can say “the preceding paradigm of a heteronormative patriarchal society ensconced in the continued exploitation and oppression of animals is coming to its prognosticated denouement”. What a world.

Conscious Cravings has a really great menu, especially for a trailer because they usually can only serve a couple things.  I knew I wanted to hot sandwich instead of a cold one or a salad but it was really tough to decide between the pan seared tofu, the seitan chimichurri, the black bean slider, or the BBQ seitan. In the end I went with the ‘Bella -“grilled portabella mushrooms, topped with onions and olives, and dressed in herbed vegan mayo with Daiya cheese” because I knew I was getting the fries and figured mushrooms would give me at least some nutrients. It was surprisingly good! I say surprising because I have had so many shitty portabella sandwiches in my life that it is always shocking to have a good one. The sandwich was served in a very crisped large tortilla that had a lot of texture. The mushrooms were neither soggy nor charred but juicy and flavorful. The cheese wasn’t overwhelming which I often have a problem with and the herbed mayo with the olives and onions was perfect for my palate. Perfect for my palate! I think that is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever wrote but it is true. I love olives. The sandwich was five dollars which, to me, is exactly what a good sandwich should cost. I also tried the strawberry banana smoothie which has added flax seeds and sorbet added for omega 3s and flavor respectively, it was delciously smooth and creamy, or shall we say…smoothie.

I can’t wait to try everything on the menu. Right now they are open Monday-Saturday 11-8. I hope that they have a lot of success!