Tag Archives: travel

Vegan Las Vegas

For Halloween I got to go to Las Vegas for the first time and it was surreal. From now on when people from other countries ask me where to visit in the US I think I will say Vegas because it’s the ultimate manifestation of the American experience. Doing research for the trip about where to eat it also seemed like Las Vegas was going to be the most vegan friendly destination ever. All anyone will really tell you is to stay at the Wynn because all of their restaurants are vegan friendly. The Wynn, however, was way out of my price range so we just had a meal there. It was difficult to figure out which of their 20 restaurants to go too because the vegan menus aren’t on their website but, after some searching, I found a pinterest board that has them all Wynn and Encore Vegan Restaurant Menus which was very helpful. I went to make a reservation for Sinatra but then found that they had a dress code and since Dan only had sneakers we had to find something else. Grr! As Austinites, we are just not used to dress codes. I finally settled on La Cave and it was a lovely experience, except for the ever present thumping music. I had the mushroom tortellini, arugula, and cashew cream sauce along with the Gardein chick’n, celery root puree, and lemon caper sauce. Everything was fantastic, it was supposed to be small plates but just one of them would have been quite filling. Luckily, I was able to walk it off since we were staying at the other end of the strip at the Luxor.

I was really glad that we stayed there, and not just because I got a hot deal. Everything is pyramid shaped and it’s connected to the Mandalay Bay shopping center. Along the walkway there are three very vegan friendly restaurants that I learned about on the eating vegan in vegas tumblr. We tried the over-hyped but still really good Slice of Vegas Pizza. It wasn’t the best vegan pizza I ever had but they did have a shockingly vegan friendly menu with sausage, chicken, cheese, meatballs, pasta fagoli, fried caluliflower, garlic bread, and several vegan desserts like cheesecake! Next door has Hussong’s Cantina which has many Mexican plant based options and Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar which has a vegan burger. Downstairs at the Luxor they also had vegan friendly tacos at T&T (Tacos & Tequila). So while the food at the Wynn was amazing if you can’t spend a hundred dollars at every meal the Luxor seemed like the best alternative. Plus you get to live in a pyramid. I walked through most of the other casinos which is fun and exhausting.

New York New York

Paris

And we got to see the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil which was so beautiful. Now I want to see all my favorite albums transformed cirque style!

On Halloween we dressed up as Axl and Slash which was really fun for the shows at the MGM.

The Vegas Strip made me feel really crazy and I learned that’s a common refrain. You endlessley walk through these casinos and there is loud, horrrible music being blasted every which way, and the noise from the slot machines, and people trying to get you to see naked girls, and people wanting you to buy their vacation packages, and people begging for money, and tons of indoor smoking. By day three I was desperate to get out of there so we took a cab to Komol restaurant, an incredibly vegan friendly Thai restaurant. We got tons of food, a appetizer platter with fried Tofu, spring rolls, fried eggplant, crispy spinach and fried sweet potato, Tom-Kha Soup, Gluten Sukiyaki-Thai Style, and orange tofu. They even had vegan Thai Iced tea. My favorite part was the orange tofu, it was super crispy and delicious. I’ve been craving it ever since. I realized after the ridiculously expensive cab ride that it was about a half mile walk to take the monorail back.

For our last big meal we went to Hakkasan inside the MGM. Even though getting into the restaurant was a maze like everywhere else in Vegas I loved that it was dark with soothing music. Dan had the most delicious cocktail ever, the Green Destiny with Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka, cucumber, kiwi and apple juice. It didn’t even sound that good to me and I ordered wine instead and then tried to steal his drink. Everyone I was with had a lot of trouble deciding what to get but as soon as I saw the Dim Sum plate, I knew there was no other choice. It had morel mushroom dumpling, a truffle beancurd rolla, edamame dumplings, and crystal vegetable dumplings. I think the mushroom was my favorite.

But honestly, even with all the amazing food, glorious shows, and so many of my favorite people I was never so happy to get back to Austin where everything is on a human scale. I think if I do Vegas again I will have to stay off the strip. And eat doughnuts because I was really sad to miss out on that.

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Sacramento – Bangkok@12

I had another amazing meal in Sacramento worth writing home about. This time was Thai food downtown, or maybe it was midtown I’m not 100% sure on the neighborhoods. We walked around the Capitol building first and, I would imagine, that would be the center of downtown. It’s a beautiful Capitol park with trees from all over the state. Some are bursting with oranges, and there are stately redwoods, and silvery olive trees, and towering palm trees.

Bangkok@12 was recommended to me on the PPK several trips ago but this was the first time we tried it. I was amazed by the vegetarian section of the menu and just when I decided what I wanted I saw something else I wanted more. They had all the standard apps but I had to try the potato curry puffs because they sounded so unusual “Thai style mashed potato and onion wrapped with tortilla, then fried to golden brown, served with cucumber salad.” They looked like quesadillas but they tasted very Thai. The cucumber salad served alongside was excellent too.

I ultimately decided on the Thai Orange Tofu which came out and looked incredible. The tofu appeared battered and fried, the vegetables were crunchy and fresh, and their were mandarin oranges and cilantro served up as well. Sadly, the menu didn’t say that the batter contained mustard which I don’t like but they were still quite, just not to my taste.

My mom absolutely loved her mango curry too. I think next time I will try the Bangkok noodles or the avocado curry. Or the pumpkin curry. It all sounded so good. Today we are headed through Napa on our way to the coast so I probably won’t blog again for a few days. But, rest assured, I will be doing all my favorite things, eating, drinking, hiking in the trees, and reading books by the pool.

 

Sacramento – Noble Vegetarian

My favorite part about traveling the west coast, well after the trees, the ocean, the flowers, and abundant avocados, is that there are tons of Asian restaurants seemingly everywhere you go. Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Indian and every cuisine in between are all over the place. Every time I come to Sacramento I get to check out a new place and this time my mom brought me to another Vietnamese themed all vegetarian spot called Noble Vegetarian. They have every kind of vegan meat on the menu so I wanted to try every one! We started with the vegeham paste wontons. My mom was very wary but she ended up loving them as did I. 

We were also very impressed with the vegeprawn spring rolls. I was a bit nervous since I’m allergic to eating the animal shrimp but I’m happy to report that they were indeed vegan and I had no ill effects. God, that would be the worst! 

Next, we tried the Vegebeef Vegetable Medley and it, unfortunately, reminded me of a Beef Vegetable Medley you could get at any shopping mall. No, I take it back, the vegetables had more bite than you’d find at the mall. It just wasn’t anything special. 

Finally the soup came. I had a hard time deciding which one to try, there was a whole page of the menu dedicated to vegan soups and this NEVER happens in Austin. In the end we went with Au-Lac Sweet and Sour because I just couldn’t decide and I saw it had rice paddy herbs.

I was excited when it came out to see that it was completely loaded with vegetables, tofu, more shrimp, pineapple, tomatoes, okra, and who knows what else. It was delicious. I was sad I didn’t have room in my belly for vegan flan. That’s twice now on this trip I’ve been too full to try it. URGH!

And that ends 2014 VeganMofo for me, I am super proud of myself for pulling it together after my dismal start. There is plenty more to come.

San Francisco – Gracias Madre

I decided that I’d had about enough of Austin and headed out to California to spend some quality time with my mom this week. It’s been gorgeous. Yesterday we went to San Francisco to visit some friends and stop at one of my all time favorite restaurants Gracias Madre which I hadn’t been to in a few years. I saw that they opened up a beautiful location in LA and I sure hope Austin is next. California Mexican food is so different from in Texas. I love it. We started with the potato and masa gorditas.

They were fried perfectly crisp and soft inside and served with a cashew cream and the ubiquitous avocado. We also got the mole empanada. The last time I was here I wasn’t a fan of their mole but with the sweetness of the fried plantain in the empanada it was more balanced and delicious.

For my entrée I chose the pozole because I’d heard it was delicious and also I had in my mind all day that it would be cold and foggy in SF. It was sunny and warm but, whatever, I was set for some soup.

It was yummy and chock-full of avocado but it wasn’t as good as the recipe make at home all the time. I was hoping after this to try the flan but by the time our waitress came back all that food had hit my belly and there was no way. For dinner we went to Dosa on FIlmore and I’m still recovering from all the delicious cocktails, Uttapam, potato and basil spicy dosa and every kind of chutney. If you go, and you should, make sure you ask for the vegan menu because it’s very clear and even mentions if cashews are used which I know many are allergic too. It was magical, highly recommended. Now I’m going to lie down.

Ahhh, vacation.

New York: The City So Nice They Named It Twice*

When it’s been summer for a while in Texas it’s hard to remember what it’s like everywhere else. “No pants” kind of becomes a way of life. To put it succinctly, I packed all wrong for my trip to the north starting with upstate New York. Swacket totally lied to me saying that I’d be comfortable in jeans and a hoodie when I would have been happier with snowpants and a heavier jacket than I own. I mean, it’s the end of May! Also, I never learn. The nice part about the change in temperature was that it was just the starting moments of spring and everything was in bloom. We got off the plane at Newark and made our way to Ethiopian food at Lalibela‘s as soon as was humanly possible.

We had such warm service and it was a cute place but even though there were more vegetarian options, I have to say I like the Ethiopian places in Austin better. Lately it seems like they have just been popping up everywhere. We must have at least five by my count.

We headed up to Hudson on what I thought would be a two hour car ride, 6 hours later found us checking in to our sweet Air B&B house and meeting with our friends to start celebrating the next days wedding which was to be at a beautiful spot right on the Hudson river.

In the morning we drove across the river, through the town of Rip Van Winkle, and onward to the Love Bites Cafe which I thought was particularly apropos on a wedding day. (PS, lately I have been totally overusing the word apropos. It’s really fun to say. PPS I always totally overuse the word totally even though I’m not an 1980s california valley girl. I totally don’t know where this comes from.) We arrived in Saugerties, an adorable town with a ridiculous name, and settled in for another very expensive meal. Why is everything in New York so expensive? I mean, I get it in the city but every place we went was pricey and nothing was Texas sized.

I got the sweet potato hash which was pretty rad, although I could have used more greens…and more potatoes. 

We trucked back over the Hudson to Hudson to get ready and found the beautiful wedding spot.

Jen and Ian are so in love and I am so happy for them! If you live in New York and are interested in placenta encapsulation she is totally your girl. We had fun with masks and they had a delicious Mexican spread with tons and tons of vegan options so it didn’t end up mattering that my breakfast wasn’t lumberjack style.

The next day I had breakfast at Earth Foods and I still wish I could take it back. I know better than to order a tofu scramble that is described as having ginger, tamari, and sesame. Having tamari listed on the menu immediately signals that you are somewhere with a 1970s approach to veg food. Surely, you can put those items in a tofu scramble, but clueless restaurants try it, it’s always kind of… disappointing. Anyway we weren’t there for the food in the first place so I wasn’t even thinking of this as an “eat everything in sight trip” until my instagram friend Dianne reminded me that Lagusta’s Luscious was right on the way down to the city. Holy shit. The Motherland.

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I instantly turned into a vegas style high roller and I said to Dan, get whatever you want it’s on me. It was overwhelming. They had baked goods.

Chocolate bars, and things covered in chocolate. 

And so many handmade chocolate truffles.

We got the chocolate pyramid, the apple carmel, the croissant infused carmel, the furious vulva and more.

I think the chocolate turtle was my favorite.

Lagusta is in New Paltz which seemed like a serious hippie town. But maybe that’s just because we went to Karma Road for lunch.

Imagine friendly dreadie types, quotes from the Dali Lama, pictures of farm animals, and magazines about the healing power of flowers, with the dead softly playing and you will have a good idea what this place is like. We were really confused about the ordering process and ended up with a smattering of warmed up deli food which ended up being ridiculously expensive but luckily VERY tasty.

Then it was onward ho to Manhattan to meet up with some old friends at a micro falafel place called TaïmTaim

When I saw they had green olive falafel I think my heart skipped a beat. It was delicious.

We stayed the night with another friend in Brooklyn who took me to Bagel World in the morning. Bagels are one thing you just can’t really get in Texas so I was stoked for a New York bagel. When I saw the hand written sign; “this way to bagel paradise” with all the tofutti I knew I was in the right place.

I opted for scallion cream cheese on a poppy seed with olives aka what I would eat every single day of my life if I lived in New York. This blog would be about bagels then instead of breakfast tacos.

As much as I loved this bagel I’d rather be in Texas. Our food carts would never have a line like this.

That’s right, I went to the Cinnamon Snail, and after waiting in the line that seemed to last the better part of the day I learned that the cart was cash only and I only had seven dollars. In Austin this would be enough for a meal but in New York the best I could do was a couple of doughnuts. It all sounded so good. Maybe we can get them to drive down for Texas VegFest somehow? I doubt it, they probably make a killing. (not literally because they are so vegan) The doughnut was good and I was glad to have it on my cross country flight to Oregon which will be the next post. For now I will go back to enjoying New York on the screen.

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Going back to Houston town

Even though people pour into Austin in ever growing numbers, to me, it still feels like a small town. Whenever I go to Houston it feels like such a thriving metropolis. It’s just a couple of hours away but everything is different. It’s flat and sprawling with more tropical trees and you can’t even find breakfast tacos on every corner. My mission was to see a bunch of old friends, snuggle with my favorite cat, eat a ton of Asian food, and kick it old school (aka watch Star Trek with my bff).

Our first stop after the Menli Collection art museum (which had everything from Andy Warhol soup cans to Congo Jesus sculptures and is free!) was for eating at Nidda Thai where I tried the deep fried eggplant in yellow curry.

It was delicious but hot as a soldering iron plunged onto your tongue  I really liked the rice flour crust on the eggplant although when I asked if there was egg in it the waiter looked at me like I was crazy, maybe he thought I didn’t know what eggplants were? We later went to a bar called the Hay Merchant to meet up with an old friend and we also got stuck at a table with the most annoying people I’ve maybe ever met at a bar. Here’s a Lazy Smurf Tip™ if some girl starts telling you that she is running for governor of Texas and then meowing get the hell out of there stat.

The next day, after stopping at Dirk’s for coffee, we went to the planetarium to watch “Cosmic Collisions” and then got a free pass to the butterfly conservatory from checking in on foursquare! Finally one of my 1276 check-ins paid off! The exhibit starts with a lot of terrifying cockroaches and scorpions but then you get to walk into, what seemed like a giant jungle terrarium, to see thousands of butterfly’s

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It was the best thing ever to do on a cold and rainy winter day. After that we headed over to Quan Yin for lunch but it was temporarily closed for Lunar New Years.

We enjoyed the show and I got a mung bean pastry in a little Chinese bakery that had tons of vegan options.

At Quan Yin I was overwhelmed with choices since everything was vegan and decided I want to have a birthday party there so we can try everything. They have those fun tables with the lazy susan at the center like on My Three Sons and I wished that I had a bunch of people to use it with. We started with fried dumplings.

Amanda got the vermicelli bowl and it looked so good.

I panicked and got the orange peel chicken which was was good but I didn’t like the celery and carrots in the dish, I would have preferred broccoli.

After watching a ton of videos about pygmy goats and sloths we went out with my other friend at the Grand Prize bar and then came home to cuddle with the world’s most adorable cats.

The next morning I tried to hunt down vegan kolaches at Inversion coffeehouse but they only had cookies from Sinful Bakery. It sounds like you can only get them at the farmer’s market and maybe at central market. Next time I go I imagine they will be everywhere. Because that’s how I like to imagine Houston of the future, a vegan paradise. Amanda and I generally spend a lot of time oooing and ahhing over plants and this trip was no different. She took me to Another Place in Time where I bought some ferns and a succulent and saw a ton of neat plants.

We intended to overeat and go out in a blaze of glory by checking out the Pepper Tree Vegetarian Buffet that Vegan Houston always raves about but alas it was closed on Monday! We settled for Cafe TH where I was super stoked to see this sign.

But the pho was just good rather than grrreat. I don’t think I can ever truly enjoy any pho that isn’t made in the long process of Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World. It has spoiled me forever!

We went home and I pretended like I was going to feed the cats so they would say good-bye to me which kind of turned into a nightmare because then they were desperate for food. Sorry cats! I love you!

It was a great weekend! I can’t wait to go back.

Mexico Part III: Ruins, beaches, and vegan food in Tulum

After spending time with the whole fam in Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, and Akumal the responsible people flew home and my sister and I went to spend a few days in Tulum. We got to stay directly on the beach at place called Zahra. This was our view from our back door. 

Our little cabana was actually very romantic.

The bathtub was carved out of a log! Tulum beach is a long string of hotels along the beach but it’s got a rustic hippie/yoga vibe. The power goes out in a lot of places at 11 pm. 

Whenever there are hippies around you are bound to find vegan food as well and I was not disspointed in Tulum! My absolute favorite was Restaurare which was very high quality and had the nicest staff ever

for dinner I had an amazing mole but it was a real struggle to decide between all the options. We went for breafast as well and I had my only tofu of the entire trip. It was delicious.

They also make fresh juice there, which I guess really everyone does, but it is always outstanding. They told us by the next time we come back they’ll be making cocktails and they are trying to source local beer and wine as well.

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We rode bikes up and down the beach rode.

On the one end is a huge nature reserve and we went a little ways in to check out the beach. I was sad that I didn’t see any monkeys.

Along the beach rode there are cenotes you can swim in and tons of hotels where you can stop and have a cocktail. On the other end of the beach road are Tulum’s Mayan ruins. I took a boat trip out to see them and to snorkel on the reef.

I did not see any turtles there but I did see a nest by our hotel.

Here’s our cabana from the other side in the morning light.

A lot of the bars in both Playa and Tulum have swings hanging around the bar which is so much fun.

There are plenty of places to find my favorite Mexican breakfast, rice, beans, avocado, and plantain tacos like Puro Corazon

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We rode bikes into Tulum town but it wasn’t nearly as pretty and I couldn’t find nearly as many vegan options so stick to the beach unless you need to buy something other than hammocks.

We even biked in the rain a little bit. If you look closely at this picture you can see the rain coming in.

But mostly it was beautiful.

I would go back in a heartbeat.