Tag Archives: vegan brunch

CLOSED Austin Java Tarrytown Redux + a GIVEAWAY!!!

UPDATE 2-10-2014 Austin Java Tarrytown suddenly shut it’s doors forever over the weekend. The word is that the veg options are going to move to the Barton Springs locations.

Almost exactly a year ago a new all vegetarian Austin Java opened up in Tarrytown. We went and, like the other Austin Javas I’ve been to, the food was pretty disappointing. There was a lot of confusion about what was vegan and what wasn’t and it seemed like no one really had any idea about how to make delicious vegan food. Folks from the neighborhood were really disappointed and the reviews were kind of depressing since everyone was blaming the bad food on the fact that it was vegetarian. I still held out hope that things would change and sure enough a new manager was brought in, Maddy, who seems to be doing everything right. First she consulted with local vegans, the ladies behind our local tempeh company the Hearty Vegans, to help her out. And help they did! The menu is definitely pared down and, if I’ve learned anything from watching Kitchen Nightmares, it’s that that is a good thing! There is a lot more focus on making things in house from whole foods rather than store bought substitutions. A group of us were invited to try out the new menu on the house and if they can recreate our meal for their paying customers I think that it is going to be very successful with both vegans and omnivores. In fact, Maddy said since developing the menu she learned to love vegan food so much that she’s now eating that way most of the time!

We started with some agave & lime marinated cucumber tapas that were topped with avocado and pico de gallo. This is something I would never normally order but I really enjoyed it. The marinade took the edge of the cucumber and I could see this being a great app in the summer when it’s 5,000 degrees. I enjoyed them with a glass of delicious chardonnay, I never would have thought of Austin Java as a place for wine and I’m glad I tried it since they often have happy hour specials.

Next we were brought a couple of samples of pasta. The pasta primevera is something that I get from time to time at the Austin Java on 12th because it’s one of the few vegan meals they have and I am always super disappointed with the mushy noodles, oily overcooked vegetables, and bitter taste. The pomodoro at the Tarrytown location was totally the opposite of that. I think the other locations would be blown away by the difference that an al dente noodle, a well cooked vegetables, and a light sauce makes. Also viva la vegan parmesan a fresh basil.

We also tried the jalapeno mac & cheese which has avocado and pureed peanuts as it’s base. I loved this dish, in fact, I’ve been trying to make my own version of avocado mac over the years and it never worked out nearly this well. Not everyone at the table was sold on the peanut butter but I didn’t really notice it, I thought it was delicious and creamy and I’d order it the next time I go back for lunch. I loved the basil and the corn. I’ll be curious to see what other people think.

Next we were brought some sandwiches. The curried tempeh wrap was my favorite. It was kind of sweet with pecans and maybe even dried fruit but on a thick salty pita. I thought it worked really well, and again, I hope this sandwich comes to 12th street because I could easily eat it a few times a week.

We also sampled the southwest veggie burgers that are made in house and also gluten free. We tried them on a GF bun that’s made locally by  Misty Morning Bakery which I think is popular with the GF-vegan community. The burger stayed true to it’s veggie roots and wasn’t trying to be a meat replacement so I think it will be popular with the non-vegans too.

I think next came the black bean chili which was very similar to a chili I used to sell on the lot a million years ago. It was a little sweet and had pops of corn. I really liked it, a nice wholesome dish. They should enter the Lonestar Veggie Chili Cook-off next year.

Next came the tempeh “street taco”. Since we were just getting samples ours were on fried tortillas and I should have asked if that’s how they will always be. I liked it, it reminded me of homemade nachos. The tempeh ground beef was delicious and I think we all really enjoyed the filling. In fact, I do believe it was Nanette’s favorite dish.

Finally we were brought pancakes and I didn’t even take a picture since I was so full at this point that I could barely manage and also you all probably know what a pancake looks like. These were damn near perfect. The batter was agave and banana sweetened and topped with a cinnamon butter and maple syrup. We all loved them. Molly said they were the best in town and I already want to get them again.

She sent us home with cupcakes and cookies and, honestly, we thought the chocolate chip cookie was one of the best in town. I’d put it right up there with Celeste’s Best & The Big John from Whole Foods.

I’m so happy with the new menu and so glad that Maddy reached out the Hearty Vegan and that they were so helpful. It’s nice to have well prepared tempeh on a menu because tempeh is really unique and delicious and you can’t get it many places in town. They even have a tempeh scramble that you can sub in the migas. Nearly everything on the menu can be veganized and there were a lot of GF options. They haven’t printed out new versions of the menu yet so be sure to ask for vegan things when you go (like the pancake). And of course, let them know what you think. I think really one of the best things for veganism is to have great vegan food all over the place and I’m happy to add Austin Java Tarrytown to the list and I hope it all goes really well for them.

This contest has closed, due to unforeseen circumstances Austin Java won’t be able to honor the winner for a while.

TO WIN A FREE MEAL

Generously, they have offered a free meal to two lucky readers! If you would like to win please comment below. Let me know what you are most excited about trying on the new menu. Make sure you comment with an email that you check so I can notify you if you are the winner.

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.

Mr. Natural Goes Serbian! Plus, adds brunch and new menu items!

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!!!!

Brixton Vegan Brunch

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. 

also Don’t Forget today is your last chance to order your holiday pies from Sugar-Skull and a lot of other places I mentioned in the Thanksgiving guide are already closed up so nail down those plans!

Breakfast Arepa

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.

The Vegan Yacht

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! 

Breakfast Rissoto & Vegetable Soup

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.