SXSW, Vegan Style

It’s SXSW time, and thousands of people are descending on Austin for music, film, and as many free drinks as they can find. Have you been reading national articles about the Austin food scene and are wondering, is it all BBQ and barbacoa? What’s a vegan to do? It’s okay. We’ve got you.

To start with, Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life has an excellent SXSW guide as well as a list of late night vegan eats. The late night post is part of Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance City Guide series. The series has a number of vegan and vegetarian guides, so check that out, too.

If you’re here for music, be sure to go to Brooklyn Vegan’s annual show on March 13. This year there will be free vegan tacos by Pink Avocado and vegan nachos made by Food for Lovers queso. I don’t really understand music, but I know Brooklyn Vegan’s a big deal. The event is free but you should RSVP here.

On March 15, Counter Culture, an all-vegan Austin restaurant, is hosting a free SXSW day show. Food sales for the show will benefit Sunny Day Farms Animal Sanctuary located outside of San Antonio. The owner of Counter Culture is also a DJ, so the show should be good.

Update. See the comments below for more vegan-friendly free food.

Chloe Coscarelli Tonight at Book People

Chloe's Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli. Published by Atria.

Chloe Coscarelli, cookbook author and winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, will be speaking and signing cookbooks at Book People tonight, March 5, at 7 PM. She’s promoting her new cookbook, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, so now you can try the desserts that made Chloe famous. And if all that wasn’t enough, Capital City Bakery is providing cupcakes for the event.

Capital City Bakery on Cooking Channel This Sunday

Candy Cane Cupcake, one of the holiday specials at Capital City Bakery. Photo by mollyjade. Licensed under creative commons

Austin-favorite Capital City Bakery will be on the Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets, this Sunday at 9:30 Central. The episode features peanut butter desserts, and anyone who’s had Kristen’s peanut butter brownies or Peanut Butter Crunch cupcakes can understand why she made the show.

Congrats on the exposure, Kristen! It’s well-deserved.

Annual Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off

A vegan bowl of red. Source: mollyjade

I hope you’re hungry for chili this weekend, because Sunday is the 24th Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off! More than twenty teams will test their mettle by trying to cook the best five gallons of vegan chili ever made. And you’ll get to try each one.

This year’s festival is organized by the duo behind Austin’s Gathering of the Tribe’s potluck, and they’ve made a few changes. There are now two chili categories, All Veg and Traditional (read: fake meaty), as well as the usual People’s Choice award and recognition for the chili that best exemplifies the Engine 2 Diet principles. Lots of awards to go around!

Besides the usual chili cook off, there’s also a speed chili contest sponsored by Upton’s Naturals and Le Creuset. The winner of this contest will leave with Le Creuset cookware.

In the judges’ booth, you’ll see a few vegan celebrities, including Austin’s Lazy Smurf, the blogger behind Will Travel for Vegan Food, and Rob Franco, coowner of Arlo’s.

The cook off is back in its former location, the Burnet Road Farmers’ Market (formerly Travis County Farmers’ Market) on Sunday, November 11, from noon to 4 PM.

Central Austin Steeping Room

The new location of the Steeping Room on North Lamar opened on Monday. Steeping Room is one of my favorite brunch locations in Austin. I’m thrilled to have a location closer and, well, less associated with the Domain. Unfortunately, the Steeping Room is easing into its new location, which means no brunch for now. They want to get everything running well before they start serving the most important meal of the week.

I took this as a sign that I needed to branch out and try nonbrunch meals. I went in for afternoon tea on Tuesday after a doctor’s appointment. The rainy weather and the gloom of doctor’s office seemed to cry out for a hot cup of tea and a scone. So I obliged.

Pot of Monaco Premium with almond milk and a currant scone. Source: mollyjade

The atmosphere at the new location is a bit less cosy and a bit more strip mall. But there’s an upside to “less cozy.” The tables at the Domain location are so crammed together, meals often feel communal. At the central location, you can have a juicy gossip with your fellow diners without including the strangers on your right and left.

The tea pots at the Central location are metal, which isn’t quite as charming as the ceramic pots at the Domain. However, they seem to hold much more tea. I was drowning in Monaco Premium well before the tea pot was anywhere near empty. I asked for almond milk with my tea, though soy is also available. The scone, as always, was wonderful. Some baked goods aren’t yet available at the new location, but the vegan scones were effected.

Tofu and tempeh bacon sandwich with cashew Caesar salad. Source: mollyjade

I enjoyed my afternoon tea so much that I came back for dinner with my husband. We split a pot of herbal tea between us. My husband got the vegan soup of the day and a (nonvegan) scone, a great deal at $5.75. I had a tofu and tempeh bacon sandwich and cashew Caesar salad. The dressing on the salad was nicely tangy and it came with, wonder of wonders, croutons. Vegan croutons are so rarely available, this was a real treat. The tofu in the sandwich was the Asian-style marinated tofu they use in their tofu scramble. I was expecting something a bit more like a tofu club sandwich, so the Asian flavors of the tofu and the basil vegenaise took some getting used to, but eventually I warmed up to it. Midnight found me polishing off the leftovers in front of the fridge. (The sandwich usually comes with arugula, but they were out that day.)

Cup of lentil soup and a nonvegan scone. Source: mollyjade

The restaurant was a bit empty both times, so even though they’re still working out a few details with missing ingredients and baked goods, now is a good time to visit.

****

My friend Megan at Henry and Zelda really loves the Steeping Room, too. Check out her posts about it here.

Good to Go at the NATY

Good to Go at the NATY. Source: mollyjade

Austin has just been graced with another vegetarian, very vegan-friendly food cart. Good to Go is one a handful of trailers set up in a parking lot at 183 and Anderson called North Austin Trailer Yard, or NATY. When I first heard about this food trailer park, I was pretty skeptical. It’s an enormous parking lot surrounding by highway on two sides and a fairly busy road on a third. Not a tree in sight. Ugly, even by parking lot standards. But the NATY has transformed that area of the parking lot into something really pleasant.

Animal statues in front, with a peek of a bean bag toss in the rear. Source: mollyjade

You’ll find giant statues of a giraffe and a dinosaur, oversized board games, shade, and just a bit of greenery on the edges. It’s really a nice little spot to eat your dinner. And now, that dinner can be vegan.

Jenga, enbiggened. Source: mollyjade

Good to Go (not to be confused with Good 2 Go) is a vegetarian burger spot. Nearly everything on the menu can be made vegan. Of their four (yes, four!) vegan burger patties, three are homemade. The fourth is the wonderful hemp patty by Good Seed. I tried a patty melt with the black bean burger. The toasted bread and grilled onions were right on. The patty was great. Though the sandwich was a bit dry. Mayo isn’t traditional on a patty melt, but the sandwich needs a bit of something like that to even it out. Or maybe a thinner patty.

Patty melt with black bean patty and vegetable chips. Source: mollyjade

The star of the show, though, were the vegetable chips made from sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets. Crispy and just a bit sweet, they were indulgent without being greasy.

I highly recommend a visit. I can’t wait to go back and try the the Thai burger, which features marinated daikon and carrots, veggie fish sauce, cucumbers, and spicy mayo, with an edamame patty. Any spot with vegan fish sauce is alright by me!

Sunday: Austin and Dallas

Texans, you have some hard choices to make this Sunday. Dallas or Austin. Fried food or baked goods. Puppies or Gene Baur. Texas State Veggie Fair or Austin Bake Sale for SARA.

This is the third Texas State Veggie Fair, and it’s looking to be a great event. Lots of great speakers, music, and vegan food. This is the first year I’m able to go to the State Veggie Fair, and I’m really looking forward to trying new foods and meeting new people. On my to do list, Ginny Messina, Zombie’s Food Truck, and jugglers.

For people in Austin, the bake sale for SARA is the place to be. SARA is an animal shelter that cares for animals that often can’t be placed elsewhere very easily. Their specialty is old, sick, or abused dogs. They shelter more than 800 dogs, cats, and farm animals.

Lazy Smurf organized this bake sale when she heard that SARA was in danger of losing its electricity (a big deal in a steaming hot Texas summer). Let me tell you, if you’re ever in need of fundraising, get Lazy Smurf on your side. She plans wonderful events and can sell the hell out of a vegan cookie. There’s still time to sign up for the bake sale, or, if you’re not up to baking, come buy lots of goodies. The sale will be Sunday, October 21, from 2 to 5 PM at Counter Culture.

Biscuits and Groovy

The Gloria Gaynor, vegan style. Source: mollyjade

It’s hard for me to believe I haven’t written about Biscuits and Groovy yet, but a quick search of the archives shows I haven’t. It’s a regular part of my brunch rotation now, but it took me awhile to warm up to it. For the first months they were open, their menu was in constant flux. First they were vegetarian (and vegan-friendly), and I was thrilled to support a new veg business. Then they added bacon to the menu, and I was crushed. Then they took it off. The menu morphed and changed multiple times. But, it’s finally settled down and I’ve adjusted my expectations.

Biscuits and Groovy serves, as you’ve probably guessed, biscuits. The groovy refers to a music swapping program, though it’s also how they refer to their gravies. The final menu does include eggs, dairy, and meat. Sigh. But almost everything on the menu can be made vegan. (One pet peeve, they label things “real” or “vegan.”) Order yourself a few fluffy biscuits and cover them with anything from Daiya cheese or gravy to jalapenos or sausage. My favorite is the Gloria Gaynor ($9) with gravy, tofu scramble, Daiya, bacon, sausage, jalapeno, and chives, though often I’ll just order a few biscuits with jam (sadly, vegan margarine is the one alternative they don’t carry). It’s a pretty good deal at a dollar per biscuit.

The food tends to take a while to make, even if you just get a biscuit with jam, but they have a fairly nice shaded area with green onions growing, which always gives me a kick for some reason. I spend my wait pulling the deal leaves off the onions and sipping coffee from Flight Path.

Fancy Feast: Lenoir

When Lazy Smurf invited me to join her and two other bloggers for dinner at Lenoir, I was excited. I don’t get many opportunities to dress up and try the latest hit restaurant.

Lenoir is run by husband and wife team Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher. Todd is the chef, and he explained each course to us as it came out. He told us how he and Jessica split the work: he cooks the individual components of each dish, and Jessica tastes the final creation. (Guess which job I’d prefer!)

If you follow along with the Fall Lenoir menu, you’ll see that our four courses were largely made up of components of other dishes.

Source: mollyjade

The first course was a salad of radishes, cucumbers, and coconut bread dressed with black garlic dressing and dabs of spicy chow chow. The chef explained how the dressing was created by poaching the meyer lemons several times before emulsifying them with black garlic and a bit of mustard. (E2 types take note, there’s no oil in this dressing.) The chow chow was a fermented chili paste, and I wish I knew a bit about it because it’s very different from the cabbage relish I know as chow chow. I really liked each individual bit of the salad, but I found there were too many strong flavors for my taste taken all together. (And yet, I still finished every bite!)

Source: mollyjade

The second course was a sweet potato dish. Cold sweet potatoes were dressed with granola, arugula pesto, and kale chips. The kale chips were a great crunchy contrast against the soft sweet potatoes, and the arugula and kale kept this from veering toward Thanksgiving casserole territory.

Source: mollyjade

The third course is what won me over completely. After two cold salads, I was beginning to worry I’d leave a bit hungry after grazing on (tasty but) dainty vegetables all night. Much like the first course, there were lots of components playing together, but here I think they worked together perfectly. In the center is a packet of zucchini slices stuffed with a quinoa and eggplant mixture. The zucchini is sitting on a bed of mustard greens and a pool of curry sauce.  On top of the zucchini packet are thin, roasted slices of okra and shishito peppers. Thin slices of okra mean that you get a great, crispy texture without any of the okra’s hated slime. Around the dish is a garnish of corn and pomegranate arils.  The pomegranate arils and corn provided a bit of crunch in each bite. The total result is a warm, comforting, filling vegan dish.

Source: mollyjade

I was also thrilled with the final course. Upscale restaurants tend toward fruit platters and fruit sorbet for vegan desserts, so to receive a warm dish with multiple components was delightful. Crispy filo pastry stuff with warm apple filling and paired with coconut sorbet (such a different beast from fruit sorbets) and rum raisins. It was a perfect ending to a great meal.

I highly recommend Lenoir as a restaurant for vegans looking to celebrate a special occasion or just eat something a little out of the ordinary. I do suggest calling ahead (as we did). While these four courses were made largely of components of other dishes, there’s no way we would have received such thoughtful dishes without notice.

You can see what my dining companions thought of the meal here:
Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life
Muy Vegan
Rock’n’Realty

50 Vegan Foods to Try in Texas: Part 1

There’s a huge variety of vegan food in Texas, and I know I’ve only nibbled a fraction of it. With a few recommendations from friends, I’ve made a list of 50 Must Try vegan foods that represent the best our state has to offer. I’ve split the list into parts for my sanity and your suspense. In no particular order…

1. “The Mitch” Tofu Club from Spiral Diner (Dallas or Fort Worth): A club sandwich that even Mitch Hedberg is allowed to eat. Three slices of bread, grilled tofu, lettuce, tomato, chipotle mayo (you know, because we’re in Texas), and bac’n bits all held together with frilly toothpicks. The combination of the chipotle mayo and the bac’n bits adds just the right amount of smokiness. The potato salad on the side is mashed and bright yellow. I can never decide if I like it or not, yet I always eat every bite. (True story: last night I had a dream that I had a gallon of this potato salad in my fridge and couldn’t decide whether to eat it or not.)

Arlo's Bac'n Cheez Burger. Source: mollyjade

2. Bac’n Cheese Burger from Arlo’s Food Truck (Austin): This cheeseburger is like its greasy counterpart at a national fast food chain, except healthier and free of animal products. Instead of beef, the homemade patty sports lentils with plenty of gluten to hold everything together. Add cheese, seitan bac’n, lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, and lettuce, and you might be humming that song all night long.

Chole Bhature at Shri Balaji Bhavan. Source: Vegan Houston

3. Chole bhature at Shri Balaji Bhavan (Houston). Vegan Houston calls this “the best on the planet,” which is pretty high praise. If you’ve never had this dish before, it’s North Indian chickpea stew with fried bread, and it’s as awesome as that sounds.

4. Chimichurri seitan wrap from Conscious Cravings (Austin): The quality of this wrap varies. On its good days, it’s my favorite sandwich. But even on its bad days, it’s worth eating. Chewy chunks of seitan dressed with chimichurri sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, vegan mozzarella, and a squirt of sriracha, all baked up in a wrap that gets a bit crispy.

5. Neftacos Feliz from Zombie’s Food Truck (Fort Worth and Dallas): Named after Ranger’s pitcher Neftali Feliz, these tacos are the fan favorite at Zombie’s. Shredded seitan is served in a tortilla with all the fixings, including a drizzle of pepper pineapple ranch.

Vegan Platter at Kerbey Lane Cafe. Source: madam.furie

6. Pancakes at Kerbey Lane (Austin). Kerbey Lane isn’t the kind of place that makes you feel like family or the kind of place that leaves you writing embarrassing love notes about your meal on Yelp. It’s the kind of place where you can get vegan pancakes at 3 AM and slather them with Grade B maple syrup. And really, what else do you need from pancakes?

7. Kale salad from Central Market (Austin, Dallas, Forth Worth, Houston, Plano, San Antonio). Sold at the prepared food counter, this sweet, tangy, and crunchy salad is now a permanent part of my family’s holiday meals. The salad has inspired many copycat recipes, including this one from Hail Merry.

8. Pretzel bread from Tough Cookie Bakery (Bastrop and Dallas). This rich bread is great for sandwiches, though truthfully, I usually end up pulling off large chunks and find myself surprised that it’s all gone before I even got a chance to put avocado and tomato between two slices. For now, you can find Tough Cookie at farmer’s markets in Dallas and Bastrop, though they have plans to distribute to Austin soon.

Peach Kolache. Source: mollyjade

9. Fruit kolaches from Sinfull Bakery (Houston). The kolache is one of Texas’s iconic foods, but no city embraces the kolache like Houston does. You’ll find kolaches filled with everything from migas to barbecue. So it’s no surprise that Houston has the first vegan kolaches. Generally sticking to more traditional fillings, Sinfull Bakery’s fruit kolache fillings are all homemade and often local and organic.

Holiday Sundae at Sweet Ritual. Source: mollyjade

10. Sundae from Sweet Ritual (Austin). The ladies at Sweet Ritual make all their own syrups, and it shows in their sundaes. There’s nothing wrong with a milkshake or cone, but if you really want to get the full Sweet Ritual effect, start with a homemade waffle cone or bowl and end with a drizzle of salted caramel or chocolate sauce.