Monday, September 28, 2015

Guero's Taco Bar has a VEGAN MENU, Vegan Austin TX

Sometimes, juuuust sometimes, non-vegan restaurants surprise you. When we were walking along South Congress in Austin, TX, we decided to check out Guero's Taco Bar for a few reasons: they had drinks, they had chips, and they had outdoor seating. Well, to our surprise, they also had a VEGAN MENU! And you know as well as I do: few things taste as good as something vegan when you least expect it.

That's the look on my face when I'm trying to figure out if a place has vegan options

Take Food for Lovers Queso. I like it; I like it just fine. But as unexpected vegan nacho cheese at an omni restaurant when you expect nothing?  Phenomenal!


I also had one of their soy taquitos al pastor: "authentic with a vegan friendly twist- soy chorizo on a corn tortilla chiquita, topped with chopped onion, cilantro, and pineapple." I'll admit that it sounded much more spectacular than it was in reality, but....

there was also a salsa bar! So, I did not go hungry.

Which was good, because: margaritas.

Highly recommend if you're nearby.

We drove/walked around the surrounding area afterward while we waited for nightfall.

Spied these vegan donuts with a disgraceful 225% vegan tax in Whole Foods.

Visited this hot sauce shop where I was too disappointed to buy anything when the hot sauce featuring vegan Maker's Mark was decidedly non-vegan.

Giggled at some cute kitsch.

Scowled at some nonsense. #stoptellingwomentosmile

Admired a non-vegan cupcake airstream (the cupcake was spinning).

Perused our adorable vegan guide to Austin:

And, of course, listened to music.
This is as good a time as any to say, please don't photograph musicians/entertainers without making a contribution. They are there for your entertainment, but also to make a living!

The pooch snoozing in the back was in the guitar case at one point: extra cuteness!

All this up until it was time for the bats! It's hard to capture the enormity of the South Congress Bridge bat population in a photograph; each pale line in the sky is one of MANY Mexico free-tailed bats taking their nightly insect feeding.

Stay tuned for much more on Texas! Little by little I'll get to everything...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Organic Vegan Gluten-Free Natura Wine

It's not every day someone sends me wine to review, but that's just what the generous folks at Natura Wine did a few weeks ago and it arrived with perfect timing to imbibe poolside.


Knowing how infuriating it can be to source vegan wines, I'm always on the lookout for brands I can gravitate to as go-to selections. When I find one that I like, I generally keep a case on hand for guests and gifting. Natura makes vegan wine that comes from organically farmed, estate vineyards in some of the most renowned wine-growing valleys of Chile and it's also gluten-free.


To save you the trouble, I went ahead and checked them out on Barnivore: vegan-friendly indeed! There are nine varieties available from Natura; they sent their cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc Chilean wine.


VM pretty much wrestled me for them, but I managed a few mouthfuls before she got out her straw.

The pear-ish hue of the sauvignon blanc made it look particularly refreshing and it was subtly fruity without being sweet. I wanted to make it into sangria or at least a spritzer, but VM would not allow it under any circumstances; she is much more of a purist than I when it comes to wine.

The cabernet sauvignon was pure ruby: subtle berry notes with a full body that was screaming for a hearty marinara dish with which to pair.

This is just a sampling of the options- what Natura calls "varietels," on offer; they also make a merlot, carmenere, chardonnay, pinot noir, and malbec: all gluten-free wines. Head to to find out more!

I promise you that 89 was only interested in the pretzels that lay just beyond the wine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sometimes a Vegan Donut Isn't a Vegan Donut

A couple of weeks ago, a few friends and I considered an impromptu meetup at a New York coffee shop known throughout the community for their vegan friendliness as both purveyors of vegan goods- employing an on-site vegan baker from the time of their inception, and regular host of vegan events. Schedules and train delays conspired against it, and so a solitary friend wound up enjoying an iced soy latte with a vegan sugar donut all by her lonesome. As vegans tend to do, she posted said snack on social media and purchased a donut for each of the vegan friends she was on her way to meet.


Across town, I was en route to an early dinner when I received a troubling text from a friend who had just seen the post and happens to be the former vegan baker at said coffee shop,

“Text her…I haven’t delivered to them in over a month…She’s eating a non vegan doughnut right now.”

A blizzard of text messages ensued in all directions: sent, received, and forwarded until all three vegans were able to piece together that- despite having been told that “all of the donuts” were vegan and even specifying the previous vegan bakery by name, the coffee shop was- in fact, no longer carrying vegan donuts at all. One furious baker, one queasy friend, and me- the stunned facilitator, all stopped in our respective vegan tracks for a moment to catch our breath.

The baker immediately contacted the coffee shop to alert them to the fact that they were misrepresenting non-vegan items as vegan. The response was swift and relatively aloof, citing a likely mistake by a new staff member. But if the baker hadn’t delivered vegan goods to the coffee shop in over a month, why would a new staff member assume the baked goods were vegan and/or have any idea who the former baker was? Once she further relayed that the recipient of the misinformation and non-vegan donut was a well-known, social media-savvy member of the vegan community, the response was significantly more concerned and an email of apology went out immediately- to be received moments after the victim of the event finished expelling the offending donut.

It’s not as though we don’t already know that vegan ingredients aren’t always taken seriously in the food industry. If Starbucks accidentally squirts whip on your latte they think it’s okay to just scoop it out. Many omnivorous restaurants wouldn’t hesitate to remove the chicken from your salad in the kitchen and give you back the same contaminated leaves. But, it's not a question of purity. Particularly if you’re an establishment that has built much of its customer base on vegans, aren’t you more than a little responsible for the information you impart?

Food for thought. I'd love to hear yours.

[UPDATE: through the power of hashtags on the interwebs, I was able to find that the incident at this establishment was not an isolated one and has reoccurred since.]

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Highlights of Bethlehem VegFest 5!

I know I always say it, but Bethlehem Vegfest is my favorite vegfest and this year was no exception. What's not to love about an outdoor, pet-friendly, all vegan fest? Did I mention it's free admission and all-welcoming? Yep; it is.

89 and I were decked out in our message wear: me in Vegan Police Shop and 89 repping The Tree Kisser. True story: a little later in the day, a (possibly vegan) woman waiting for her lemonade alongside me asked me about 89's shirt and, when I explained that she was vegan, informed me that "dogs can't be vegans!" WRONG! Totes vegan, totes thriving. She didn't want to hear it and literally turned her back on me in dramatic disgust- I felt as thought I'd met an online troll in real life: someone who just wants to make derogatory and judgmental comments without defense or conversation. So not interested in that; move along with your haterade.

VM was stylin too, but it proved a little difficult to squeeze all of our shirts into a selfie. Here she is modeling Herbivore, Matt & Nat, and Franklin Hill Vineyards (more on that later).

We began our day at Vegan Treats because that's how we roll. We I chose a few donuts to "share": glazed sprinkles, powdered cannoli creme-filled, and a cronut.


And then I noticed that they had chipwiches... What's a girl to do?


We shared that one (for real), but here's a whole one in all its glory from another day for you to appreciate.


Then it was time to head to Vegfest! I thought it was really cool that it made it to my GPS: we've hit the big time, my vegan comrades (or not; I really don't know how GPS works).

Our gleesome threesome and our eight collective shoes (one not pictured, although I assure you it was there).


First stop: the Compassion Co. booth for these pins I've been coveting. I've been a big fan of their shirts for their impeccable designs, obvious quality, and admirable ethics, but I'm an even bigger fan now as a result of my respect for The Bearded Vegans.

After that I made a beeline to mompops for a strawberry lemonade popsicle for...

This nerd.

I saw more people walking around with a mompop than without. It was the perfect storm of refreshing and convenient. Even people waiting in the extremely long food lines were enjoying mompops as they waited.

Because it was so hot, throughout the day I had a few forgettable and/or un-enjoyable drinks from various vendors- most notably a hot mess of pureed blueberry and lemon juice that was passed off as a "smoothie" for $6, but VM fared better in that department by visiting her fave tent: Franklin Hill Vineyards. She had their fainting goat red wine infused with natural cherry: served over ice with fruit. Somehow she discovered that the young woman at the tent was a vegetarian like her and, because vegetarians confound me more than omnivores, I butted into the conversation to find out why she wasn't vegan. She told me that she didn't eat meat because she didn't want an animal to die, but she didn't see what was wrong with dairy or eggs. Because VM gets very nervous around me in situations such as this, I simply suggested that she visit the speaker tent later on that day because Vinny DePaul was going to discuss "Transitioning to veganism." It was at this point she started telling me that she only eats milk and eggs from a farm down the street from her where she knows the animals are treated well and the farmer only "takes" the "excess" milk. I asked her if she knew where the baby cows went and she assured me they were all kept on the farm- even the male calves. Since that's not a likely or sustainable farming method, we went back and forth with me trying to explain and her trying really hard to be right- to be able to justify knowing that animal exploitation is wrong except for in the kind way she is participating. As for me, I was just getting more and more annoyed- not because I was impatient that she doesn't know what most vegans know, but rather: for one, I find it ever more interesting that even though factory farms produce over 95% of the world's eggs, every thoughtful vegetarian I meet assures me that they're not getting their eggs that way. Second, I want to take the day off at Vegfest; I don't want to have to debate with a vendor at a vegan event why there's no right way to do the wrong thing. Third: I don't want VM mad at me.

After that lively debate we headed off in search of lunch. To say The Cinnamon Snail slayed it would be an understatement. VM unofficially awarded them the "longest line for the longest time" award; it was a sight. Because we're spoiled in that we can catch them at events in New York and New Jersey, we decided to grab something new instead. To give you an idea of why we made that decision, here is the view of the front of the Cinnamon Snail line from the relatively tiny line we waited in for our food; you'll notice you can't see the end.

We chose The Taza Truck because VM wanted falafel. I really wanted to try their Egyptian cuisine, but was hesitant because they're not normally a vegan food vendor.

I was still keeping my options open when I spied the kushari on their menu: seasoned lentils, rice, and pasta (!) topped with garbanzos and caramelized onions in a warm, tangy red sauce. The last thing I felt like eating was something warm, but something (pasta) about this dish sounded so appealing that I couldn't resist.

I apologize for the terrible photo; it doesn't in the least do justice to this phenomenal dish. But, here it is: flanked by a falafel sammie belonging to VM on one side and a ful sammie belonging to a friend on the other- neither of which I bothered to photograph unwrapped because it really was all about the kushari. It was so spectacular that I went back to the truck to thank the staff and they could not have been kinder to me and my appreciative tummy.

We took another swing around the fest and I got this awesomely snarky Lois Eastlund tee from Grape Cat (not this one), a Vegan Shop-Up regular like me. Maybe 89 needs one with a similar message about vegan dogs? Perhaps Compassion Co. is interested in a collaboration...

Finally, we couldn't resist checking out the always-impressive and impeccable Vegan Treats tent. This year an orderly line seemed to form organically, while in years past customers just squeezed in wherever they could find an opening. It always amazes me that despite the heat and the crowds the staff is always cheery and helpful; the desserts are each flawless.

Because I intended to swing by the shop again on our way home I didn't expect to buy anything at the tent, but I couldn't resist these totally adorable ice cream shortbread cookies that VT has been outdoing themselves with of late...and a fruit marscapone tart that was eaten too quickly to be photographed.

As it turned out, the line at the shop itself was down the block when we returned, so we decided to forgo what would have essentially been a third visit in a single day.

On the way home we took a very happy detour to pass my favorite house in Bethlehem that just happens to be up for sale (in case anyone is looking to get me a present).

It was another terrific Bethlehem Vegfest! Happily, I ran in to quite a few people I've met over the years at the fest; so nice to see you guys! I will be glad to do it all again next year- perhaps with slightly less drama.

photo by @broccolishitake!

[UPDATE 9/7/15: just found 89 online in a Lehigh Valley Live article (thx, Brzl!)]