Monthly Archives: January 2013

Mexico Part II: Snorkeling at Akumal

If you read about my trip to Hawaii you already know that I am obsessed with sea turtles so when I found out that one of the most beautiful beaches in on the Yucatan peninsula was also a turtle haven I coerced my family to head out there with me. It was only 40 minutes or so from Playa del Carmen. The beach was stunning.

We snorkeled all over the bay and saw so many sea turtles, including the largest one I have ever seen, it was muy grande! I don’t have an underwater camera but sometimes I wish I did!

from flickr user nosha

It was the first time Dan ever saw a sea turtle and he was stoked!

There was a huge cabana restaurant that I was worried wouldn’t have any vegan options but it turned out there were tons! From homemade veggie burgers to tostadas, and panuchos. I was craving a burger and fries and it was surprisingly delicious. You don’t find any malt vinegar in Mexico though. 

When we were in the ocean I lost my late grandma’s ring, it just flew off my hand. I completely panicked but then we found it!!!! We looked for twenty minutes and then I saw it on top of a rock. All I could think was “My Precious”.

It was a wonderful day!

Mexico Part I: A vegan trip to Playa Del Carmen

Over the holidays I was lucky enough to go to Mexico with my family. I took so many pictures and wanted to share some, I’m going to split this into a few posts starting with our first few days in Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel.

The first place we went, before even putting our packs up, was to eat at the Kaxapa Factory, a little Venezulen spot off the main drag that promised plentiful vegan options. The proprietor brought us a sampling of all the tropical juices so we could see which one we liked best which was super fun since many of them were fruits I’d never tried. I settled on the guanabana. We ordered a little plate of vegetable cachapas to start

and then I got a patacone for my entree which was heavenly. I don’t think I have ever had one before which is kind of surprising since I love plantains.

Playa Del Carmen has one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and it was packed the week we were there. 

The main drag, Calle 5 has about a million tourist shops with trinkets, silver, ponchos, restaurants, pharmacies, and bars.

.

Along with Starbucks there was a local alternative Ah Cacao every couple blocks and I kind of became obsessed with their Mayan Drinking Chocolate which said vegan right on the menu! It was so thick and creamy, I wish it was a common item at coffee shops here because it’s perfect for when you want something sweet after dinner.

I also got to try the Mexican chain 100% Natural. I loved the mushroom ceviche.

But the tacos weren’t as good.

We stayed in a condo with a balcony that overlooked the gigantic swimming pool.

It was just a short walk to the beach though.

One day we took the ferry across to the island of Cozumel.

I got to go snorkeling

It was Sunday so I had a hard time finding anywhere open to eat but I finally found someone to make me a vegetable sandwich. Being vegan is pretty easy once you get it across. It probably wouldn’t be as fun if I didn’t absolutely adore guacamole which is what would often tide me over.

We wandered around until I totally panicked thinking I’d lost my snorkel. 

Playa del Carmen is on what’s called the “Riviera Maya” area of Mexico on the Yucatan and has numerous cave formations. It is famous for it’s cenotes, which are caves filled with fresh water where you can go swimming. On Christmas we had dinner at a very fancy cave restaurant called Alux. It was too dark to take pictures of the food but I definitely recommend it. Here’s my sister and her boyfriend by the entrance.

My favorite place to eat in Playa was definitely La Cueva del Chango.

It was a beautiful spot with a little water feature in the middle that had fish and turtles swimming! They made me a vegan version of the chile rellano which was stuffed with quinoa and raisins and maybe walnuts. I went back for breakfast and had the most outstanding fresh tangerine juice.

they also made me my favorite Mexican breakfast, beans, rice, avocado, tortillas, and fried plantains. 

My sister also introduced me to the chilada, which is just beer mixed with lime and salt. The perfect thing on a hot sunny day for when a michilada just seems like too much.

It was sad to leave

I’ll post more about Akumal and Tulum.

Texas VegFest Needs Volunteers

Last year was the first VegFest for Austin, even though we have been known for our veg-friendly ways for a thousand years. It took a group of people who were prepared to just get shit done to finally make it happen. I’m always amazed by the hard work and dedication that people have. I get overwhelmed organizing my pantry so I don’t know how these folks organize all the vendors, permits, bands, speakers, and god knows what else that goes into making such a huge and successful event. I know one of the most important aspects is that tons of people volunteer to help out and (obviously if you read the title) I am going to ask that you consider helping out too! There are great perks like you get to meet a bunch of awesome people, you get to go to the fest, you get to help the community and the animals, and when people ask you “what did you do over the weekend” you can have a better answer than “I layed around getting caught up on the past week’s general hospital on Hulu”. You get a cute T-shirt too so you can prove that you went to all the naysayers that didn’t believe you.

There are jobs for all skill levels so if you’d rather help with the planning and administration or work with kids, or clean the whole thing up afterwords, you will be able to find a spot.

Right now they are looking for Volunteer Team Leaders, the first volunteer meeting for team leaders is February 9. Team leaders are people who want to head up a group of volunteers on the day of the festival and in some cases in the weeks before for tasks like sending out flyers. They’ll have a more active role than your average volunteer. They can contact esti@texasvegfest.com to sign up.

They will also need volunteers in general to help with speakers, music, booths, entry, kids’ activities, set up, tear down, and general tasks. People can sign up for that on the website here: http://www.texasvegfest.com/volunteer/

So sign up and help make the fest super awesome.

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.