Monday, June 27, 2011

Seek and ye shall find a vegan menu in Austin Texas, Guero's Taco Bar

First of all two of my favorite words are taco and bar.  Not really but it wasn't called chimichanga bar.

There is a rule somewhere that says, basically,  all good things shall start with, a pet peeve.  Why did I have to ask for the vegan menu?  Why was there nothing in the menu even saying "Hey, look what we did!!!!"  I came because I knew there was one but this just isn't right.  I think both menus should be given to every single customer.  Let them know about it.  Let them have the choice.  Let them think, "Hey, I know a vegan," or even, "Didn't Oprah do a vegan thing?  So this is vegan?"  Whatever.  Don't keep it a secret.

Now for the meal.  Yesssss!!  Was it the greatest mexican food I ever ate?  No.  The whole experience was great.  Fun.  Delicious.  Cool.  Part of a happenin'.

There was a special on the Food Channel.  Is this where the Vegan food truck was?  No, just a bunch of food trucks but still a happenin'.
A little bit of the neighborhood we were in.  If you look at the building on the left, on the Cooking Channel's "Eat St." during the Austin episode they featured the facade in about a 1/2 second shot.

This building was over 100 years old and used to be a feed store.  Apparently it still is a feed store.

I had a hard time reading the name too.

It looks like the place is mobbed but there are outside tables and just a few people milling about.

The bar at the front.
I wished for a good meal.

Huge dining area but most is taken up by the kitchen.  Just to the right is the salsa bar.

Fresh hot chips with Pico de Gallo, Verde Tomatillo, and Rojas Chipotle.

With a menu like this why not just offer it to every guest who sits down.  This is expansive.

Salsa Bar
Vegan Black Bean Soup
The Black Bean Soup was an ok rendition of the soup.  Although it had a decent flavor I didn't think it had any high points of flavor.

Chalupas ala Celeste | $7.29
Two crisp shells with refried beans, soy chorizo, grilled onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Topped with warm chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.

and on the same plate ...
Soy Tacos al Pastor 1.59.

I thought at first I had a plate of a Soy Taco with a salad. It was funny in a way.  I wasn't even sure what I had because to me a taco is a hard crispy shell.  This was wrapped in a soft whole wheat, (my choice), tortilla and filled with cilantro, onions and pineapple.  It was pretty good.  I like soy chorizo but I know people who don't and that's the primary flavor of this dish.

This was a solid but standard dish.  I thought it was salad so of course was surprised when I found my dinner under there.  Had I really read the description I wouldn't have been so surprised.  But I chowed down waiting for my entree.  A red chipotle sauce was an interesting salad dressing and I wasn't sure how well it went with the richness of the avocado.  Then the crisp fresh greens and finally down into the meat of the dish.  The refried beans, soy chorizo and grilled veggies made for a nicely combined meaty filling.

Another shot of the food truck camp.  It takes up the whole block.

This is a coffee shop.  That one word in the window caught my eye!

I'm not sure what that place was called but it's right next to this place on Congress.
Overall my vegan diner at a non vegan restaurant in Austin was a really fun and nice experience.  There are many vegan places in Austin, including the Vegan Yacht, that I'd like to give a go to should I have the pleasure of another overnight there with a less, "animal insistent" pilot.

Guero's Taco Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Juicy Ladies, I stumble into a vegan/raw/organic birthday in Woodland Hills , CA

For some reason, on this trip, my culinary discoveries were made while the girls were out buying things. I found The Pizza Cookery whilst California was being lightened of their excess shoe inventory and found this oasis while the shopping sharks circled the overstock of bathing suits.  All I wanted was a nice green smoothie, Happy Cowed the area and Juicy Ladies was 2 blocks away from the bathing suit shop.  I pull into the parking lot and there was nary a spot to be found.  Could it be because the Starbucks shared the lot?  

Possibly but many of the spaces were taken up by tents and tables.  

Apparently having fun at a "HAPPY 2 YEAR BIRTHDAY" party trumped finding a place to park while attending said party.  I sort of left the 4 ways on and shimmied next to a truck and a vacant handicapped spot.  The band was playing and sample tables were set out, (well, tables containing samples were set out), vendors were vending and the place was a-hoppin'.  I smile at the thought of California drivers and lack of road capacity and parking lot spaces.  I also think cars and driving are too high up on the list of things people in California put on their list and smile that the Juicy Ladies prioritized correctly!!

Music wafted over the concrete.

Inside is a counter and refrigerator cases.  There are many juicy ladies working behind the counter, juicing and prepping.  There was a certain buzz going on and a constant flux of people.  This was exactly the kind of place I dread.  I could significantly lighten my pockets if I wasn't careful!  And I wasn't.  My juice was kale, beet, apple, ginger, and carrot.  I don't know if it was on the menu, just a few things I felt like having.  I also ordered a mock tuna wrap, wrapped in Romaine and picked up a couple of containers of Kale Salad from the cases.

Well, OK, it doesn't look packed but it was pretty busy.

There's the white car I shimmied between the truck and handicapped space.  

I found it amazing, although it was Southern California, and such things should be expected in Souther California if anywhere, that a raw organic place was so busy.  I was happy that it was, just sort of not expecting it.  It was also nice to see the cross-section of people there.  Not filled with grungy hippy types, although I did know a few hippies who weren't grungy in my day, but a cross section of people who found themselves there for whatever reasons.  It's nice to see the vegan/raw/organic movement growing first hand.

Wait 5 minutes and a new wave of people fill the seats. That looks more like a hoppin' scene.

I sampled the three items below.  I thought the Kelp Noodle was very sea-weedy (duh, kelp!) and enjoyed the Pesto but my favorite was the Kale.  Perhaps I'm just getting more attuned to when my body needs coffee and when it needs greens.  I can think back a few years when I would no more think of eating raw kale than I would think of chewing on a chair leg, but now the thought of a lightly dressed pile of kale with some seasoning, garlic, fruit, a sweetener and a spice or two is something I actually crave.  I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks, or at least an old dogs palate.

Sample table with Kelp Noodle Salad, Raw Pesto Salad and Kale Salad.

I tasted the cupcakes and bought 10 for the BBQ I was attending.  They were the best received vegan item I brought.  If I weighed 165 pounds I would have tasted them all but I stopped after my first bite of the chocolate chocolate chip.  Evil evil baker lady!


My lunch sandwich sans bread.
I thought the concept of wrapping a wrap in lettuce intriguing.  Not that I couldn't imagine the crunch on the raw filling but was just wondering how it would hold together.  The other question I always ponder is why we vegans have an unceasing habit of naming things after foods we no longer eat. This was a mock tuna salad.  It was delicious.  It had a crunch from the grated ingredients and a nice creaminess (nut  or seed puree binder I'm guessing), and had a perfect essence of the sea from (?) kelp.  But, it tasted nothing like tuna.  So I wonder why we don't call things "Sea salad" instead of "mock tuna", or light patty instead of "chik'nish".  You get the idea.  We know it's not chicken and chicken eaters aren't going to be fooled by leaving out a vowel. Not criticizing, just pondering.

Oh, and the wrap held together much better than I thought it would!

If you're looking for some raw options with really happy and friendly service, delicious fresh options that you don't find in too many places, definitely stop by the Juicy Ladies for lunch a few times a week!  I'm looking forward to my next Van Nuys trip and my next quick stop at JL.

Juicy Ladies on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Abundanza Vegan options at The Pizza Cookery, Woodland Hills, CA

Happy Cow to the rescue.  The girls were going nuts at the Off Broadway Shoe store.  I just don't get it. I have a pair of work shoes and a pair of sneakers.  When I wear out one I'll head down to Moo Shoes and get another.  But it was a feeding frenzy and that made me hungry so I Happy Cowed and found a veg-friendly place a block away.  Yes, one block.  Life ... ya gotta love it.  

The Pizza Cookery is an interesting venue with white Christmas lights aglow and new antique signs posted on the walls opposite a picture of Nathan's in Coney Island with it's own in-picture lights.  All this is tempered by down to earth sawdust on the floor.  Which is reminiscent of old time steak houses.  Hmmm.  I love a little bit of juxtaposition.

Hi Mom.

OK, so now here's the thing.  No.  Look.  Here's the thing:

Menu page one.

Menu page two.

This isn't a pizza shop trying to slide into the "veg-friendly" category with a few vegetables thrown on a pizza.  (Arrrrgh!  I so friggin hate that attempt to fool me into driving to your establishment only to disappoint me.  It won't work. Although I hate to because it spoils the "adventure now I make a call or look up your menu online and all it does is WASTE TIME because most of those who try and come up under the "vegetarian" banner don't even have a non dairy cheese!!!  End rant).  But The Pizza Cookery is a pizza shop with TWO VEGAN CHEESES.  This is a place where I can get vegan eggplant parmigiana.  That means no egg wash to hold the bread crumbs seasoned with cheese!  That means gardein in sandwiches and "chikn" parm and "chikn" Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.  That means vegan salad dressing.  In a way I hate a menu like this because when you go to a place for a light snack and end up wanting to order everything and that's not fair either!  (Waaaaaa!)

Of course there are special vegan garlic knots and vegan butter!
Of course a light bite starts with ... garlic knots.  Hot right out of the oven with a side of earth balance.  How.  Do.  I.  Not.  Eat.  Six.  Garlic.  Knots?  I did find the insides a bit on the undercooked side and still a tad doughy but I'm not going to let that stop me.  The next day for a party they were cooked all the way through so perhaps they come out of the oven that way and are supposed to finish cooking at the table where normal people don't put scalding hot bread in their mouths or exhibit a total lack of self control.  Perhaps they were just undercooked.

Then it was put before me.  I swear I thought the ceiling was going to open up and a heavenly sunbeam come shining down on my food.

Eggplant Parm.

The eggplant was cooked to the point of melting and with the cheese and breading turned into a soft creamy mass of deliciousness.  The sauce was well seasoned and no one part of the flavor profile jumped out but the combination was outstanding.  Every bite I had to remind myself that I wasn't going to finish it, wasn't going to finish it ... wasn't going to finish it.

You could just really want to move to California to get this on a regular basis.  

The next day I ordered a tray of their Chickn Philly Sausage and Peppers. The choice was that or the Chickn Parm, both made with gardein.  It took a while to explain that I wanted just the contents of the sandwiches and not a bunch of sandwiches.  It was served in one of those big tins that could have been popped into one of those holders with the sterno cans underneath. Daiya cheese covered the peppers and onions.  My only critique of the dish was the gardein was cut into chunks and probably would have been closer to the original if it had been shaved and sauteed up with a bit of crisp ... then again crisp is hard to do in a tray.  The flavor was nicely sweet from the onions and I thought it was delicious although didn't garner much of anything at the party except silly vegan comments.  I find it interesting/puzzling/frustrating when someone wont taste something because it's vegan.  (The day before when we were talking about food amongst the family my stepdad pronounced, "I"m not eating a vegan meal!"  As my daughter says, "Take a chill-ax pill."  Anyway, I forgot the picture of this dish. (sigh).

I did want to thank the staff for sharpening the pencil and working out a price that reflected that it didn't come with pasta like the other trays.  Definitely a place that understands vegan and customer service.  I will not leave the valley without a stop at The Pizza Cookery and hope you put this place on your list.

Do you deliver to 90th and 3rd?

This is a place where you can go and get your vegan food and the others can eat what they normally get in an italian place.  Although the owner Jason is vegan and we talked a bit about the care he puts into making sure vegans get what they want, (and not what they don't to the point of making sure his sugar is vegan after he discovered they use bone char in regular sugar), I still find it interesting when I'm asked if I want meat sauce or marinara sauce with my vegan dish.  I guess it shouldn't be a surprise because I've been asked that by so many who don't understand veganism.  In this case it was clearly asked because of people asking for vegan food with some non vegan choices.  This was asked for clarity to make sure I got what I wanted and not because of confusion or guessing.  With a vegan at the helm I was pretty sure the staff was well trained ... and rightfully should be a magnet for vegans in the valley.

Pizza Cookery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vegan Southern Comfort food at Raleigh's Remedy Diner

Someday in my heart of hearts I know that there will be no more animal suffering and death for the purpose of amusing our palates.  Until then vegans need places to go to with their un-enlightened friends where no one needs to whine about the lack of choices and Remedy Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina could be the template for such a place.  I'm sure as vegans take over the world the sheer economic forces of demand for vegan dining with cause a shift to 100% vegan and raw menu ... but were not there yet and this is the place to be seen if vegan comfort food is on your agenda.

We had to fight the hordes off but the wait for a table was manageable.  
We got there at the tail end of the dinner rush which apparently ends at 9pm.  We tried 3 tables before we found one we could all agree on.  It was like the Paris Peace talks.  JK, it was only 2.

A la fresco.  I'm from NY and don't like eating in the street.  If you're from Raleigh you might not enjoy sweating over your food.  That should be reserved for chefs.
My friend Helene (formerly from Long Island Vegetarian Group), just moved to Raleigh.  I mean just.  Like in the day before.  Living 45 miles away from me on Long Island, we saw each other once a year, maybe.  She moves 500 miles away and BANG, the next day we're breaking bread.

From the bottom left for those of you who might care, my eyes and nose, Helene's nephew, significant other, and my friend Helene who just moved to Raleigh from 
We started with the Buffalo Soy nuggets.  It seems that the regional, (wouldn't it be great if every region had it's very own), soy nugget factory, Delight Soy, has created a widespread use of their product.  ("Build it and they will come."  Field of Dreams).

These nuggets have a nice mouthfeel and a "meaty" taste with a hint of sweet.  These were made with a nice heat and cool ranch.  Very garlic-y.  Mmmm.  Can't have too much garlic!

Buffalo Non-Chicken Wings. Six local soy “chicken wings” in a homemade buffalo sauce served with celery and homemade vegan ranch dressing. 8.00. *VEGAN*

Next we moved on to the nachos which had a tofu sour cream that was a tofu sour cream to end all debates about tofu sour cream.  Amazement and creaminess.  The nachos had a multitude of layers, salsa, jalapenos, daiya cheese, and fake meat.  It was as good as any we've had but what?  You ran out of vegan BBQ???

Bad Remedy Diner!

Bad Bad Remedy Diner!!!

Tortilla chips topped with ample helpings of melted cheddar and pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, jalapenos, red onions, black bean relish, sour cream, and guacamole 6.50 *add grilled chicken or vegan BBQ for 3.00*

Vegan Philly Cheese Steak with vegan cole slaw.

Yes Helene, V for Very Vegan Victory.  This place serves vegan comfort food and the "beef" is sliced and meaty with a perfect hero roll.  Peppers and onions and daiya.  Mmmm.

Philly Fake Steak. Thin strips of lightly seasoned local soy "beef" slices, with grilled green peppers and onions smothered in swiss and provolone served on a hoagie with mayo. 8.95 *Vegan 10.00* Sorry, we can’t separate the pepper & onions.
The Seitan cutlet with (OMG!) fried broccoli and vegan mashed potatoes.
I thought this was excellent in terms of flavor but the person who ordered it thought it too salty.  I totally enjoyed the peppery-ness of the gravy.  What I didn't care for was the consistency.  I was expecting a seitan cutlet and this was more like seitan ground up and reformed in a "meatloaf" kind of dish.

Now the fried broccoli.  Whoever invented this must have made a pact with the devil.  To take such a wondrous food and deep fry is is going against nature.  Beware.  If you try just one it's like vegan crack.

Country-Fried Seitan Steaks. Homemade seitan steaks battered and covered in white pepper gravy served with mashed potatoes and fried broccoli. 14.00 *VEGAN*

Meatball sub with roasted potatoes.  I didn't taste this.

Vegan Tempeh Rubin
I had the tempeh rubin. The bread was panini toasted and crispy crunchy delicious with the soft nuttiness of the tempeh and the smooth crunch of the sauerkraut.  Great ruben but after eating about half of the half the bread ended up getting soaked through and it became drippy.  Not a catastrophe.  I'm just sayin'.

So if you have a mixed group in Raleigh and seek southern comfort food this is definitely a place you wont go wrong.  I'll be back to the RD in RDU

The Remedy Diner on Urbanspoon