vegansaurus!

08/13/2012

My Summer Vacation: A vegan on Shelter Island!  »


Hello, pals! I’ve been on vacation! Your friend Megan Rascal went to Shelter Island, N.Y., for an entire week with my bro and my sister-in-law. What a time I had! I saw a turtle and these cool turkeys above and like 80 million bunnies. And deer too! Not kidding. 

Mostly we grilled food at the house we rented but a few times we did go out to eat. One place we hit was Sunset Beach, a pseudo-Euro hotel. It’s overpriced but they had this great tofu curry dish that I totally loved. It wasn’t super-special but it sure was good. And what’s not overpriced is the view! Check it out:


Right?

The first few days we were there, I was starving for coffee. I don’t like regular coffee, just froufrou lattes and whatnot, so I didn’t want what we had in the house. But my brother was like, “We are not driving to town every morning just to get coffee!” That is, until he ran out of his coffee! Ha. Then suddenly we could go to town every morning to get coffee. The only two places where it seemed like you could get coffee were Stars Cafe and Reddings Market. To my surprise, both had soy milk! And Reddings has La Colombe coffee. Reddings also wins in the frothing soy milk department—Stars didn’t really know what they were doing. It’s a cute place, though, and a good spot to get something healthy to eat.

The one place I really wanted to try was 18 Bay. I read online that they were very accommodating to vegans. They just do a prix fixe menu and it changes frequently based on what’s good at the market that day or week. Very exciting! I called the day before our reservation to let them know that I would need a vegan meal and they were just like, “of course!” Very exciting!


Above is the appetizer course. Everything was really great. I was a little apprehensive because at least one item—the eggplant—they said they would make vegan just by taking the cheese off. I’ve never like that; it’s basically like you’re taking away half the flavor profile and serving me that … and for the same price, even. But this actually worked out very well. Some of the other items were tailored just for me, like the radish and melon salad, and others, like the pesto beans, were already vegan. This was probably my favorite part of the meal. So many things to try! So fun!

There was also a pasta course, and I got my own risotto and everyone was jealous! It wasn’t amazing but it was good. For the entree, I had a lovely squash and spinach creation. Good as well. And you won’t leave this place hungry—it was quite a bit of food!

The only disappointment was the dessert. It was a fruit plate. Mind you, a really great fruit plate, but a fruit plate all the same. I thought since I told them I’d be there ahead of time, they could come up with something more exciting. Alas. But it wasn’t some grapes and honeydew: It was delicious peaches and blackberries. So it was nice, just a bit of a let-down. 

Another delight on the trip was the fresh veggies! We stopped at a farm stand on the way there and then there was this farm stand, Pete’s Produce, on the island that had great stuff too. The tomatoes were super amazing and I’m not usually into raw tomatoes. Here’s our meal from the first day! My brother turned out to be quite the grilling genius (ignore the cup of feta—your know those omnis are addicted):


Yes, a successful vacation indeed! And I got a tan. I decided that I love getting a tan because people act like it’s a real accomplishment. If I lay around my house, I’m lazy, but if I lay around in the sun, I’m productive! That’s awesome. 

03/02/2012

Guest Post: The perfect vegan honeymoon!  »


I recently got married (yay!) and luckily, planning a vegan wedding wasn’t that difficult for us in San Diego. Finding the perfect, vegan-friendly honeymoon spot, however, proved to be much more of a challenge. After first deciding against the idea of a “normal” honeymoon on a “boring” island for a more adventurous, multi-destination tour, I had an epiphany. Drowning in wedding-planning stress, I realized, “Oh! THIS is why people want to be thrown onto an island, with an endless supply of booze!” Sign my ass up.

I wanted to find a place that wasn’t too cheesy or packed with tourists, and offered a decent menu. After reviewing so many menus of meat, fish, cheese, meat, fish, cheese, I FINALLY found a place that seemed to meet all the criteria: Jade Mountain, on the Carribean island of St. Lucia. JM is actually a mini-resort within the larger Anse Chastanet Resort. Booking at JM gets you access to both. While the pictures were beyond gorgeous—rainforest and beach—and they offered tons of activities, what REALLY sold us was the vegetarian restaurant and organic garden. Really? Vegetarian restaurant? That settled it. We informed them we were vegan when we booked our trip, and they acted like it was no big thang, and they could easily accommodate us. Off to a good start!      

When we arrived, they sent a chef to our “sanctuary” to discuss our favorite foods. What?! This must be what rich people live like. He invited us on a tour of the organic garden, and let us know that they were delighted to cook vegan for us and we can pretty much ask for anything we want if the menu they provide doesn’t please us. UM, OK!

During our first dinner at the Jade Mountain Club, the chef brought us a sampling of local fruits from the garden, hearts of palm salad, and pumpkin tofu curry. It was all amazing! Was this real? The next day the menu had fettuccine “alfredo” made with soy milk. I couldn’t believe it. We were in Vegan Heaven. Every meal was better than the next, and the friendly servers all knew our sitch and would warn us if something wasn’t vegan. We had delicious soups, lentils, eggplant, leeks, polenta, quinoa—you name it. And it was all SO tasty! Definitely the most gourmet vegan food we’ve ever had. This is in addition to the RIDICULOUS view the restaurant boasts, with an infinity pool and a “Celestial Terrace” for wine-soaked sunset-watching and star-gazing. Even in our room, we always returned to bento boxes in the fridge, full of vegan deliciousness—tofu bean dips, fresh veggies, and the best fruit I’ve ever had. It felt like we were on a vegan foodie honeymoon (if there’s no such thing, there is now!). 

The vegetarian restaurant at Anse Chastanet was a nice option, and definitely the least crowded restaurant in the whole resort—fine with us! While not all vegan, they still had decent veg options, most of which could be made vegan. We had fried sun-dried tomato gnocchi—not the healthiest thing in the world, but it was sure tasty! This place isn’t as fancy as the JM Club, but it was still a treat to be in a vegetarian restaurant.

We had assumed we’d be eating at Anse Chastanet all the time, but since the JM Club was so accommodating and nice (and included in our package), we ended up eating the majority of our meals there. But even the regular beachside restaurant had a veggie burger that blew my mind! I expected something like a Boca, but it was a fresh patty made from mashed potatoes, carrots, and other ACTUAL vegetables! We were totally surprised and stoked.

When we wanted a break from the frou-frou stuff, we had to check out a local Ital place we heard about in town—Jah Lamb’s. It’s run by a cool Rastaman out of the tiny kitchen in his house. We befriended a local who took us through the town of Soufriere, as we probably wouldn’t have been able to find this place on our own. We were served empanada-style pockets filled with dhal or potatoes, and the juice he served us was the most delicious tropical concoction I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Not only was the owner SUPER-friendly, the food was fab, and this place had an awesome vibe. And really, hanging out with the locals was probably one of the coolest moments of my life. 

On top of the gorgeous grounds and suites, the warm Caribbean sea and lush tropical rainforest, as well as some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, Jade Mountain was a vegan dream come true. We all know how much food can SUCK for vegans, especially when traveling. Nothing pisses my husband off more than not being able to find something to eat on a menu (seriously, watch out!). Spending the week eating iceberg lettuce and french fries just wasn’t going to cut it this time.

Now, this place was definitely pricy, but well worth it. It was easily the best week of our lives. The food was a highlight of the trip. I was totally happy to go small on the wedding in order to make room for this. No regrets. Especially because in this economy, there’s no chance in hell we’re getting back there anytime soon! If you can find a way, I guarantee you an awesome trip that will satisfy even the pickiest of vegans! Do it!    

Alicia Guzman Sadler lives in Santa Cruz with her new husband and two crazy cats. She spends her days writing, gardening, and cooking, and her evenings plotting to take over the world. Keep up with her culinary adventure at vegantopchef.posterous.com.

02/09/2012

Guest post: Vegan friendly vacation to Mexico!  »

Ever been to a MAGICAL city? My idea of a magical city would be one that feeds me truly delicious vegan food from the time I drag my ass out of my 10,000 thread count sheet covered bed until I pass out from too much tequila at night. Have you ever experienced such a thing?

Colibri Custom Catered Travel is committed to serving travelers who seek sustainable and organic farm-to-table, gluten free, and/or vegan cuisine. Now that I have your attention, the locale for this fabulous vacation happens to be Travel + Leisure Magazine's #4 pick for top ten world destinations: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

For seven days and nights, your trip includes all custom catered meals, outdoor adventure, town and farm tours, musical performances, tequila tastings, cultural experiences and more. A spacious hacienda in the middle of the historic center of town provides both private rooms and spacious dining areas under one roof. Your hostess and founder of Colibri, Cate Lazen is not only a former San Miguel de Allende resident, she was also diagnosed with celiac disease years ago and she knows how hard it can be to trust a restaurant with our vegan or gluten-free needs. Hence, a business built around the freedom to travel and eat well without worry. Cate is quite magical herself and the cost of the trip pays off in spades just to hang out with her!

Hold on to your sombrero, there is MORE! Colibri’s vegan chef Alicia Rivero has fantastic ideas for stuffing our vegan pie holes. Just to mention a few, how do these sound? Artichoke Dip with Basil Infused Olive Oil, Panzanella Bread Salad with Fresh Herbed-Tomato Sauce, Farm to Table Pizzas, Potato Gnocchi with Truffle-scented, Pesto Sauce Braised Eggplant in “Creamy” Saffron Sauce, Root vegetable Latkes with Red Onion Compote, Breakfast Granola with Nut Milks and Fresh Berries, and French Toast.

The list is lengthy, but these are just a few that sound drool worthy. Colibri supports sustainable farming, non-GMO foods, responsible water use and fair treatment of farm workers. San Miguel de Allende’s organic movement is in high gear, promising fresh, seasonal produce that serves as the foundation for vegan dishes. . Through Colibri you will get your foodie on responsibly. Check out how to get a tan, meet a hot lover, and eat your brains out without Montezuma’s revenge on their Facebook page.

Keri Siry lives in New Jersey with her 2 dogs Sammy and Honey Bee, new cat Hank and her 4 year old daughter Gemma and husband Darryl. Vegan for 8 years, Keri loves to share recipes and meatless know how via her blog at the Politics of Food.

05/25/2011

Breaking news: vegan travels in Eastern Europe, does not die of starvation!  »

Vegan traveling can be rough. A two-week trek through Peru five years ago left me exhilarated by the stunning beauty of the Andes and Machu Picchu but at least 10 pounds lighter. Seriously, I starved. I like to think I survived due to the twin graces of those lovely Hare Krishnas who own the Govinda’s chain of vegetarian restaurants, and beer—it’s like liquid bread! I was bracing for a similar experience in Bulgaria. In addition to mastering the Cyrillic alphabet and learning enough rudimentary Bulgarian to mitigate my tourist buffoonery, I was not heartened to read this from Lonely Planet:

Vegetarianism remains an alien concept to most Bulgarians, but it’s relatively easy to follow a meat-free diet here. On the down side, variety may be lacking and those with an aversion to cheese may find their options very limited…. Omelettes, vegetarian pizzas, and pasta dishes are common, but note that ‘vegetarian’ meals may simply mean that they include vegetables (as well as meat) or fish. Sometimes this designation doesn’t seem to mean anything at all. Vegans will have a much harder time.

The authors go on to describe a series of Bulgarian dishes they assume are what I, as the frantic vegan researcher I am, want to hear about. All but one of these involve cheese or eggs or eggs and cheese together. Fried cheese! Scrambled eggs with cheese! Cheese fried and stuffed with egg, then baked in more cheese! Okay, I’m kidding about that last one, but would you really know? I think not.

The internet was about as helpful as the Lonely Planet guys, which is to say, NOT. A search for “vegan Bulgaria” yields a bunch of forums in which nervous-sounding vegans plead for advice on what they’ll be able to eat during their visit. So you will forgive me for thinking I was about to starve. I was totally psyched to see the Balkan landscape, the Black Sea, the grand cathedrals and mosques, the rolling hills through which the Thracians (did someone say Spartacus? Bad. Ass.) once roamed. But I thought I was going to starve. On the off chance that anyone reading this is preparing for a trip to Eastern Europe generally, or Bulgaria specifically, I want to urge you to take heart! Bulgaria is a beautiful country, more than worthy of an extensive trip to linger in the university cafés of Plovdiv and be hypnotized by the insanely blue waters of the Black Sea and look at ruins and fortresses and monasteries until your eyes bleed. As a bonus, I am here to testify that not only is it totally possible to find vegan food in Bulgaria, but it is not the “alien concept” our friends at Lonely Planet say it is. Maybe things have changed dramatically over the last couple of years since they joined the EU, or maybe the folks at Lonely Planet don’t give a shit about the plight of vegan travelers. (Hint: They totally don’t.)

In addition to a host of meat and meat products, prepared in just about every way my tiny brain could fathom—and then some, almost every Bulgarian restaurant also offers some kind of boiled, roasted or barbecued vegetables. Additionally, nuts are ubiquitous. There are other dishes that show up on almost every menu, like risotto, but I personally fall in line with Captain Marty’s skepticism about soup, and I feel like it applies equally to cooked grains of any description. All any intrepid and enterprising vegan needs to know—I think this may apply equally to almost any language (correct me if I’m wrong, you cosmopolitan vegan travelers of the world)—is the word for “without” along with the words for “meat,” “meat stock,” “butter,” “eggs,” “cheese,” and the like. I know that right now you may be feeling overwhelmed. That’s a lot of words, right? But what else are you doing with your brain while you aren’t learning how to order food in Bulgarian? Go forth and starve not.


Vegetarian hot pot in Bansko. After asking for a completely vegetarian meal, the server told me that this dish was “for me.” My mother’s cheese-drenched Shopksa salad is in the background. I would hate to give you the impression that Bulgarians, unlike Americans, don’t drench every item of food in cheese. ‘Cause they totally do. Especially salad.


The bean-stuffed baked potato in Sofia was vegan when they left off the no-doubt copious layer of shredded cheddar cheese. Those bits on top that are maybe making you suspicious are actually very thinly sliced, caramelized onion. Complete protein was a bit challenging, so I was ecstatic after locating this dish. 


Barbecued vegetables in Burgas. These were perfectly cooked and so delicious that I insisted on returning to this restaurant three of the four nights we spent in this seaside university town.

Marla Wick lives in Sebastopol, a small community in Sonoma County, California, where people never change out of their yoga pants. She spends her time cooking, baking, knitting, and raging about politics when she’s not working as a freelance editor and writer. She blogs about food, animal ethics, cultural politics, and horror movies at vegan-squared.blogspot.com and www.bullypulp.com.

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