Monthly Archives: January 2014

GIVEAWAY- Try Mr. Natural’s new Brunch menu for free!

Mr. Natural contacted me the other day to help get the word out about their new menu items. I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Natural and I love Mexican Breakfast so I was happy to help, especially when they said they would throw in two free brunches for y’all! The menu for this Sunday at the Caesar Chavez location is all vegan and it looks super friendly for gluten free folks as well. I already love their tofu migas but they will also have tofu scramble, rice with their fantastic refried beans, a variety of salads and, oh yeah, vegan fried chicken and waffles!

photo by Mr. Natural

fried chicken and waffles photo by Mr. Natural

They’ll also have a tamale casserole, toasted cauliflower curried quinoa with tofu , tofu and veggie quiche, spinach and daiya cheese filled puffs, and traditional biscuits and gravy!

photo by Mr. Natural

biscuits and gravy photo by Mr. Natural

You can finish it off with desserts like gluten free cheesecake bites,
marble chocolate bread, kombucha mimosas or even a vegan bloody mary.

photo by Mr. Natural

bloody mary photo by Mr. Natural

They have also added a lot of American style food to the regular menu like cheeseburgers, deluxe hot dogs, and chili cheese fries.

chili cheese fries

chili cheese fries photo by Mr. Natural

Since it is a vegetarian place make sure that you specify vegan when ordering off the regular menu and they will take care of you. Since this weekend is their first vegan brunch buffet they’d also love your feedback, if you feel weird about it, you can let me know on this post what you liked and I’ll get back with them.

TO WIN A FREE BRUNCH just comment below, you can tell me what your favorite thing is to eat for brunch, or what you are most excited about at Mr. Natural. Make sure you leave your name and a real email in the form so I can let you know if you won!

The giveaway is now closed (Congrats Lorena & Cady!) but stay tuned, there will be another one soon!

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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.

Pepper Tree Buffet in Houston is better than any Chinese buffet in Austin

I’ve always loved Chinese Buffet but have also learned to go in knowing that you’re in for a kind of disgusting experience of sticky cloying sauces, dry tasteless sushi, and egg rolls and rice that taste like styrofoam. Over the weekend in Houston I finally got to try the much lauded, all vegan, Pepper Tree buffet and it was the opposite experience. All of the food was in small portions that we constantly being refilled at this busy little strip mall restaurant. There were plentiful delicious vegetables, including an incredibly tender and tasty eggplant. They even had lovely little desserts, I had a coconut cake and a few red bean stuffed sesame balls. I didn’t even feel sick afterwards. Also, I learned Houston doesn’t have Cedar Fever so if you are ready to escape it at all costs, I recommend the trip. It was just lovely to feel my sinuses open up.

Even though it was in the 80s all weekend it might snow tonight! Texas winters are completely nutso. If you are wondering what to hunker down with, here is my soup guide. I hate the winter. We better at least get a snow day this time. I have two beagles that need extreme cuddling.

Sweet Ritual Ice Cream now available at Wheatsville!

I’ve been looking at this picture while listening to Explosions in the Sky and it seems rather apropos. Austin really makes magic happen sometimes.

Since the new Wheatsville south opened I’ve been going there, on average, once a day because not only do I love Wheatsville, but also it’s right on my path to just about anywhere in town. It is just damn convenient to pick up either groceries for dinner or bagels for breakfast or whatever else my heart desires.

And what my heart often desires is ice cream. I’ve gone through phases with almost every vegan brand but they almost always have the same standard flavors more or less: chocolate, mint, vanilla, whatever. As an ice cream lover it can get pretty boring. Meanwhile I follow Sweet Ritual on instagram and see their unique and ever changing flavors and then I think about driving all the way up to Hyde Park. I thought I was having a constant battle between my laziness, lack of superfluous income, and knowledge that ice cream is probably not something my body really needs at it’s current state.

And now I realize that, really, laziness was the only thing getting in the way of Sweet Ritual and me. As soon as I saw they started carrying the new pints at Wheatsville south yesterday I headed there as soon as I left my office. It’s true that I was especially excited to try the new flavor “Sweetsville Malt Cookie Dough” made with a new flavor of Celeste’s Best but when I saw the other flavors I had a hard time deciding (toasted coconut! ).  I had to try the special flavor. I could hardly wait to get home and unite the container with my friend the spoon. The whole household was in love (well we didn’t let crazy Willow try it, she does not need sugar) but everyone else expressed happiness in their own unique ways, me closing my eyes, Dan going to the store to get more ice cream, Dinger grunting in appreciation for his bite for ten minutes.

It’s good stuff.

It will be available at the Guadalupe Wheatsville soon and you can also get pints at the Flag Store by Sweet Ritual and the Juiceland in Oak Hill.

 

Vegan or Not Vegan? Lazy Smurf investigates Whole Foods and Ramen Tatsu-ya

Lately there has been a lot of chatter about the Whole Foods on 6th and Lamar as they have been going through renovations and lots of changes. Grain/Beans/Greens has been replaced by a much easier to understand “Eat Well” stand. The taco stand has been moved to where GBG used to be and you now have to go through a very complicated ordering process involving touch screens. Coffee has moved to where the juice stand used to be and the drip coffee is right in front of it. There is no longer coconut creamer on the drip bar but you can ask for it at the coffee bar. The baked goods case that’s usually filled with vegan doughnuts, big john cookies, and bagels has moved over by the drip bar too.  An expanded juice bar is in the old taco spot. For some reason, they also chose to put a restaurant in the middle of all of this. I’m not sure why they restructured this whole area. Maybe people were moving too fast and efficiently? It used to take me 10 minutes to pop in for coffee and tacos and now it can turn into a half hour affair. It’s hard to say if these changes will all stick around but damn if Whole Foods doesn’t seem busier than ever.

As readers may recall a while back I was stunned upon finding out that their potatoes for breakfast tacos weren’t necessarily vegan. It turned out to be a shared deep fryer situation which vegans can go either way on (I personally don’t care I just didn’t want my potatoes cooked in bacon grease which is what I was led to believe from a conversation with an employee). I know for some vegans shared fryers are pretty gross and then others don’t consume oil at all and for you all I have exciting news thanks to a tip from Mark. Now, when you order the potatoes, you can order them without being cooked in oil at all as part of their “Health Starts Here” campaign. The other good news, for those that, despite everything, still go to Whole Foods for tacos, is that you can now get the breakfast taco menu all day.

Another question everyone seems to have is about the doughnuts. In the past all doughnuts were labeled vegan. But, during the renovations, the doughnuts seemed to change and now are not always labeled vegan.

I spoke with a couple of people at Whole Foods who seemed certain that all the doughnuts are still, in fact, vegan and that it’s a problem with the labeling. Right in front of the bakery case there is a little book that contains all ingredients in all of the food and no dairy products are listed in any doughnut, but then not every doughnut is listed.

Of course, if you want to be ABSOLUTELY sure just go to Wheatsville where you can always find Red Rabbit Doughnuts which are better anyway and 100% vegan.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on all of my favorite soups in Austin and was dismayed by a comment from Kim that said

“I hate to do this to you, but Ramen Tatsu-Ya is only VEGAN if you order it WITHOUT the tofu and the brussels sprouts. I found out that they cook the tofu in the same stove that they cook the meat and the brussels sprouts are cooked with animal grease or something. It’s totally fucked up. I only found out, because one of the cashiers told me! This was after eating it like 3 times and she was the only person who mentioned that it’s only vegan without those two items.”

I was super annoyed with this information because Ramen Tatsu-ya had specifically promoted their special as vegan and I contacted them on twitter. The reply a few days later was a little unclear, but it did seem that, they themselves, do not believe their special ramen is vegan.

So it looks like Ramen Tatsu-ya can at least still be a lunchtime destination and there are a number of other places doing vegan Ramen. Additionally, Counter Culture has pho on special all this week which I guarantee is vegan.

I also guarantee everything from this lady at the new Capital City Bakery storefront is vegan. 

And now Cap City is also carrying Ham & Cheese and Sausage Kolaches on special which are so good I couldn’t even take a pic before I wolfed them down.

So now I’m adding investigative blogging to my Linked In skills.

Top 10 Austin Vegan Eats for 2013

Every New Year it is kind of fun for me to reassess my top ten favorites for vegan dishes in Austin. The list is usually split between my obsessions and my favorite places to take people to show them what Austin vegan food is all about.

My plan was to try a few more spots over the holiday break but laziness & cedar fever got in the way so The Dojo and a few others will have to wait for next year, hopefully they will just get better and better! I did make it to the new Eastside King on the South Side and I’m happy to report that I loved it as much as the original. The mochi tacos are delicious but the Brussels and Beet fries are still the best part. I spent a whole month eating tacos during the Taco Cleanse so tacos kind of dominate this list. I thought about even making a ten best tacos list but then I remembered I already made a taco guide. I’m stoked that this year I finally get to add barbecue to the list! After years of shameful waiting the entire Austin vegetarian community was SO HAPPY that BBQ revolution opened up with their delicious tempeh, soy curl, and seitan barbecue, I have a feeling they are just going to keep getting better. Vegan Beignets at Barton Creole, Croissants at Thrice, and Cinnamon Rolls from Capital City, Sugar Circus, and Happy Vegan baker were all super popular this year. It was the best year we’ve had for vegan sweets. It was tough to choose from so many great places but after much consideration, here is what I’ve got.

1) The Vegan Nom barbecued brisket tacos with jalapeño mac and cheese

The Vegan Nom really stepped up their game this year adding the del ray to the menu, a second trailer on East Riverside and claiming the top spot on my list with their amazing/phenomenal/ZOMG barbecued brisket tacos with jalapeño mac and cheese. Right now this taco is only an occasional special and it sells out within an hour of opening, but seriously, this is probably the only dish in Austin where I had one…. and then bought three more to take home. This taco is probably my favorite thing I ate this year. It’s kind of crazy since it’s made from two things that should not be so freaking great vegan (smoked brisket and jalapeno mac & cheese) but it somehow manages to transcend their animal based counterparts.

2) Via 313 Pizza

It’s hard to call this pizza number two on my list because it’s probably been my biggest craving all year. I grew up eating a lot of Chicago-style pizza – I absolutely loved the kind of pizza you just couldn’t get in my hometown- and it was always my first stop in the city. Then I moved away from the midwest and pizza kind of lost all of it’s luster for me. The rest of the country kind of does takes on New York-style which will always be variations on Pizza Hut to me. Once I went vegan, the jig was up completely. I’m not a big fan of the two major vegan commercial cheeses. So, when I first started hearing a lot about Via 313 I wasn’t very excited, I did like that they used Follow Your Heart cheese, but it didn’t seem worth passing up Arlo’s for anytime I was in that area. Then finally I tried it. I think my pizza was, like 14 dollars, and TINY. I was mad.

And then I took one bite and knew I’d be back the next day. Detroit-style isn’t exactly like the pizza I grew up with but it’s got a big fucking delicious crust and sweet non paste-y tomato sauce *on the top* as it should be. It’s a freaking revelation. Everyone I’ve taken there, from the midwest, from my mom to my best friend, has loved it.

3) Sweet Ritual Chaco Taco.

Our wonderful little vegan ice cream shop has also upped their game this year because, in addition to their soft serve, they now make ever changing magical hard pack flavors like Thin Mint (with real girl scout cookies!) and Sweet Potato with candied pecans and even COFFEE WITH RED RABBIT DOUGHNUTS CHUNKS and oh yeah, they even make their own Magic Shell. This year they also started selling pints at the Flag Store and the Oak Hill Juiceland. During the month of the taco cleanse, though, they started whipping up Chocolate Tacos and I was totally obsessed. The flavors of ice cream would change up but there would always be a delicious chocolate toppings and sometimes toasted coconut on their amazing waffle cones. They were kind of like a drumstick but, GOD, so much better.

4) Bouldin Creek Tofu Scramble.

I’ve realized that when vegans visit Austin the second time Bouldin Creek is usually their first stop, and with good reason. Bouldin is one of the few places I can think of in town that has had consistently delicious food for a thousand years. Everyone loves Bouldin and the key to it all, I think, is their tofu scramble. Whether you get it in a breakfast taco, amidst the gloriously decadent Rennedict, or in the Garden Scramble it always hits that perfect spot. Plus they open super early, stay open late, have a lovely patio, a warm inside and a friendly atmosphere. I’m so glad they survived their move across the street and I am hoping the manager Leslie bring her same magic to Flipnotics, which she also recently was put in charge of.

5) Puffy Tacos at El Chile y Cantina.

A taco doesn’t have to have any special “vegan” ingredients to make me happy. I am just fine with refried beans, potatoes, nopales, avocado, rice, or whole beans most of the time. For me, the best tacos are all about the quality of the tortilla and the toppings and that is why I love the puffy tacos at El Chile. First, their fried tortillas have the perfect consistency, they are never a bit greasy or mushy. Then they also seem to actually care about the vegetables they are putting on the tacos which is surprisingly rare! You would think restaurants wouldn’t serve overcooked roots and oily greens but alas, they are nearly always an afterthought. At El Chile the veggies are cooked correctly and then PILED on with tons of guacamole, fresh lettuce, and creamy beans. They also make a damn good margarita.

6) The Muffalata Sandwich at Unity Vegan Kitchen.

One of my favorite new trailers to open this last year has been the amazing Unity Vegan Kitchen. I first got to discovered it at the amazing 2013 Texas Veg Fest where everyone was raving about the cashew cheese lasagna. I am in love with the Muffalata sandwich, and not just because olives are my most favorite food forever and ever. I love this sandwich because it is perfectly executed on delicious homemade bread and thinly sliced marinated tofu. This is a woman who isn’t afraid of using a little oil and salt in her food either, which can be tough to find at all vegan places. They are going to be moving to North Loop House and Yard at 701 E 53rd St by BBQ Revolution and Red Rabbit on Jan 22.

7) Wasota Vegan Platter.

This is another perennial favorite of mine, that I’ve gone on and on about at length. Everything on the platter defines deliciousness and goes together so well that I can never stop eating it even after I’ve had my fill. That amazing flavorful rice, the perfectly fried plantains, the creamy spinach, the salty akara dumplings, the luscious beans, it’s just too good to even deal with sometimes, like last meal on earth good. This year the trailer moved to a lot on South Lamar across the street from Mr. Natural.

8) Cherrywood Coffeehouse Breakfast Tacos

One of my out-of-town friends had heard me talk about breakfast tacos A LOT. Actually, along with Star Trek and my dogs, tacos are topic I can go on about indefinitely. She’s heard me go on and on about breakfast tacos but didn’t have one until this year. I had a hard time trying to decide where to take her, I think we’d just come off the taco cleanse so my head and belly were full of ideas about the perfect taco. Eventually I decided it had to be the always consistent Cherrywood because their tacos are what a vegan breakfast taco should be (IMO), they have endless options like the standard veggie chorizo, guacamole, and refried beans but they also have deep fried tofu and shoestring potatoes (aka french fries). Breakfast isn’t breakfast without potatoes and veganism would be NOTHING without the french fry so they are, kind of, the perfect thing to have on a vegan breakfast taco. My friend took one bite and said “I get it now” and ordered more to smuggle to California.

9) Pie from Capital City Bakery

It’s tough to pick a favorite at Cap City, the brownies are so rich and delicious and probably weigh a half pound. The cupcakes are light and beautiful. The cookies are perfect, especially when filled with ice cream. But, I think the pies are my favorite part. We got to try a sampler of all the thanksgiving pies this year, from Pecan to Sweet Potato and each one was amazing. The tomato pie during pizza day (pictured above) was incredible. I am just so excited that the brick and mortar finally opened up so we can have perfect pies from Kristen @inmypies whenever we want. We really are living in a Golden Age.

10) Green Curry at Sway

I was so impressed with the Green Curry the first time I tried it at Sway on South First street that I tried to grow those little eggplants over the summer. I ended up with two which wasn’t really even a big enough yield for one curry. Luckily, you can always get them in the Green Curry at Sway along with a really tangy Pad Thai and a tapioca pudding with avocado sorbet and you pretty much have a perfect meal. One of my friends said he didn’t even really like Green Curry but that this one was a game changer. I think it’s all about the veggies. And the coconut cream on top. It’s super spicy though so be warned if you don’t like the heat.

Favorite Local Product: Kosmic Kombucha

I tend to go through periods where I suddenly drink Kombucha all the time and my favorite is Austin’s own Kosmic Kombucha. Over the last year I have tried just about every flavor going through weeks where I would only drink “Clockwork Orange” (Organic Kombucha, Orange Juice, Vanilla Rice Milk, & Vanilla) or the “Mint Julep” (Organic Kombucha, Organic White Grape Juice, fresh squeezed Orange and Lemon Juices, Fresh Mint). I think the “Pear of the Dog” (Organic Kombucha, Prickly Pear, Lime, Orange, Olive Juice, Sea Salt, & Agave) might be the most interesting Kombucha I’ve ever had. I love them all.

Most Missed- I thought about this category so many times over 2013. When I went to La Condesa on my birthday and found out they no longer offered the amazing vegan board I might have shed a tear. Oh, and when they told me it was because they were so busy now that they won a James Beard award it made me hate the culinary world as a whole.  And then when my favorite trailer park with Cap City, Conscious Cravings, and Moses Falafel closed down I thought that I might have to give away the category to the Longhorn Trailerpark. But then, in the waning days of 2013, one of the worst closings ever hit the vegan community like a knife to the gut; Cheer Up Charlies the vegan friendly, queer friendly, center for happy people had to close down (new development of course) and rumor’s started that our beloved Arlo’s would not re-open. I’m still hoping that these rumors aren’t true, this is a trailer that had over an hour wait at Texas Vegfest will somehow persevere, but it really doesn’t look good. They haven’t responded to any requests for info and aren’t saying anything on social media but have told others they aren’t interested in running a trailer anymore. I don’t know how we will go on without the wonderfulness that is the Bac’n Cheezeburger aka the best vegan burger I ever had. I wish I could at least have one more to say good-bye.

Please feel free to leave any favorites in the comments or make your own top ten, we all have such different ideas of what is the best! Any time I see people recommending places that aren’t my favorites I’m utterly shocked but, really it just gives us all more to love. The Vegans Rock Austin Poll has barely anything in common with mine. Red Hot Vegan did a bunch of favorites during veganmofo too and I think we have one dish in common. If you are interested in what’s in and what’s out for me here is my 2012, 2011, and 2010 lists, most of the places I mentioned before but didn’t list this time have either closed down or are still a favorite though. Hopefully 2014 will be the best yet.