Tagged: Vegan

Better Know an Austin Vegan:

Craig Vanis, Bistro Vonish

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Craig Vanis with one of his delicious kolaches at ATX Vegan Drinks

Author’s note: This is the third entry in an occasional ongoing series.

Craig Vanis is a man on a mission. A devout foodie in the most holistic sense of the word, he aims to bring the best vegan fine dining experience to Austin with his upcoming restaurant Bistro Vonish. Focusing on local, fresh produce, Craig’s culinary offerings have garnered much buzz with his series of popular supper clubs, and we can’t wait for him to bring his full vision to fruition with his brick-and-mortar establishment.

If you would like to help make that a reality, please seriously consider donating to his Kickstarter, which ends next week. You can also sample some of his wares at ATX Vegan Drinks tonight, where he’ll be slinging his famous kolaches. Get there early, because they sold out in minutes when he was there last month!

Craig and I sat down in my apartment a few weeks back to discuss his journey, holistic consumption, why Austin is such a good a fit, and the various geographic permutations of barbecue. (Seriously.) What follows is a lightly-edited version of our rather delightful conversation.

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Better Know an Austin Vegan:

Brendan Good, Event Coordinator & VNA Communications Director

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Brendan Good, Event Coordinator & VNA Communications Director

Author’s note: This is the second entry in an occasional ongoing series.

Brendan Good is a busy man. As Communications Director for the Vegetarian Network of Austin, he’s responsible for co-organizing twice-monthly meet-ups for the long-running group, as well as heading up their podcast and quarterly newsletter. He also helped create the VegATX.com portal, a comprehensive event calendar that can also be seen on this very blog. On top of all that, he co-organizes the Lone Star Veggie Chili Cook-off (which a certain blog team did quite well in, by the way) and the semi-annual Gathering of the Tribes, Austin’s largest vegan potluck – the spring version of which is being held tomorrow, on Earth Day weekend. All are encouraged to come down to Pease Park, chow on some great food, hear some speakers and live music, and get in touch with the rest of the vegetarian community.

After months of full schedules (mostly him) and flat-out procrastination (mostly me), Brendan and I sat down on a warm Austin December day to chat. Add a few more months of procrastination by yours truly, and it’s finally up. Brendan and I discussed his background, his involvement in event coordination, and ways to help bring our large community together. Since the interview was more of a two-way discussion – it was also being recorded for the VNA podcast – I have edited it heavily for the sake of brevity. Enjoy.

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Texas VegFest 2013

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It's a beautiful day for a VegFest!

Our Texas VegFest 2013 photos are finally up! This year’s Texas VegFest was bigger, better, and a ton more fun with over 5,000 people coming to enjoy the vendors, speakers, live music, and general festive atmosphere.

Team Settlers of Seitan is victorious!

To warm up the crowd for the big day, we hosted another ATX Vegan Drinks – Texas VegFest Edition on the eve of the festival, and drew a huge crowd, thanks in no small part to all of the out-of-towners who came to Austin for Texas VegFest! Texas was well represented, with many visitors coming from Houston and Dallas, and we even met some folks who came all the way from Oklahoma and Colorado! Thai Fresh supplied the delicious baked goods (mmm, vegan croissants…) and ice cream, and the team known as “Settlers of Seitan” swept our challenging vegan trivia night, winning all three rounds with only a single incorrect answer! We even spotted Texas VegFest speakers Ayinde Howell and Omowale Adewale among the crowd.

On the day of the event, we had an even bigger blast than we did last year, hopping from booth to booth and grazing on tasty food from what seemed like an explosion of food vendors, compared to the first Texas VegFest. We got off to a later start than last time, so finding parking nearby was a little more challenging, but the extra walking was much needed exercise to make up for our gluttony at the festival.

The later start also meant we managed to avoid the big lines to get into the gate, and we sped right through the collection of the $5 suggested donation and had our lovely Wheatsville swag bags in hand within moments of arriving at Fiesta Gardens. The swag bag was stuffed chock full of coupons and samples, and was very useful for the multitude of additional coupons and samples that we collected as we made our way around the festival. Wholesome Sweeteners included an especially generous sample pack in the swag bag – we’ve been sweetening our morning hot beverages with free agave nectar packets almost every day since Texas VegFest, and we still have quite a few left to go…

Corn dog and deep fried cinnamon roll from Tough Cookie Bakery

Many of our favorite local vegan and vegan-friendly food vendors were well represented at Texas VegFest, and a couple of out-of-town vendors were there as well: Good Karma Kitchen drove their truck down from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Sinfull Bakery brought a big pile of vegan pastries from Houston, and Vegeria made the trip up from San Antonio. There sure was plenty to eat! I really loved the BBQ and Lemon Picatta skewers from The Hearty Vegan, and luckily for us, they posted the recipes for these delicious concoctions on their website! We also got a chance to sample some food from Unity Vegan Kitchen, and we’re looking forward to checking them out again when they open their trailer! We were glad that Tough Cookie Bakery made it back up to Texas VegFest this year, though sad that they had run out of pretzel brats by the time we made it to their trailer. Luckily, they still had plenty of deep fried cinnamon rolls and corn dogs.

We didn’t have the time to see as many of the speakers this year as we would have liked to, due to the HUGE vendor turnout and our late start, but we did get a chance to catch Ayinde Howell’s cooking demo and got a taste of delicious cheddar broccoli soup. We’ve been told that Texas VegFest is planning to put video recordings of all of the speakers’ presentations online, so that those of us who missed out on festival day will get a chance to catch up. (Unfortunately, online viewers will not be able to taste the delicious samples from the cooking demos – you still have to show up in person for that.)

Ayinde Howell eats grass

Thanks and congratulations to all the fine Texas VegFest staff and volunteers who worked so hard to make this event a success two years in a row. I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for year three!

We’re a little late to the Texas VegFest coverage party, so in case you haven’t already done so, check out these great writeups from fellow Austin vegan bloggers Kaylin’s Kit, Lazy Smurf and Lizz Delicious, fellow Texas vegan bloggers visiting from outside of Austin Generation Cake and A Little Vegan Blog in Big Ol’ Texas, and visitor from farther away, Vegtastic! (we are so glad that we randomly met Helen at Cheer Up Charlie’s). Don’t forget to take a look at the great photos from official Texas VegFest 2013 photographer, Austin Vivid Photography.

Better Know an Austin Vegan:

Adrienne Lusk, Texas VegFest director

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Adrienne and Cooper enjoy the Texas Bluebonnets

Behind every vibrant community are the people who make it possible, and the Austin vegan scene is no exception. The capital of Texas has long held a reputation as a beacon for alternative minds, resulting in a rather large collection of bloggers, chefs, event coordinators, entrepreneurs, advocates, and others who are intent on making their city the best there is for plant-based living. Whether it’s a new vegan menu item, an upcoming group potluck, or an animal-friendly city policy, there is usually at least one tenacious individual to thank for it. In this new interview series, we will put a human face on this phenomenon, examining the diverse crowd of those who give this Middle American enclave its edge. Welcome to Better Know an Austin Vegan.

At no other time is all of this apparent than at Texas VegFest. The annual event brings together everyone from the scene and beyond in a dazzling display of the power of community, and it will mark its second year this Saturday, April 6, at Fiesta Gardens. We were pretty pumped for the event the first time around, and we are even more delighted that it has made its return. Full details of the festival’s activities – including vendors, speakers, bands, and more – can be found on their website. Also of special note is the return of ATX Vegan Drinks – Texas VegFest Edition, which will again be held on the eve of the festival, this Friday at Cheer Up Charlie’s. So feel free to come out and mingle!

Heading up the festival is its director, Adrienne Lusk. Arienne has the boundless energy, enthusiasm, and expertise integral to the its success, and is the embodiment of the positivity and easy-going professionalism one experiences at the event itself. We discussed her own background and how she came to be involved with VegFest, what she and the other board members learned from last year, and plans for event in the future, among other things. Our biggest thanks go out to her for her time, work, and for helping to get this series off the ground.

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Texas State Veggie Fair 2012

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2012 marks the third year for the Texas State Veggie Fair. We made the trip up to Dallas for last year’s event, and it has grown explosively since then. This year’s selection of vendors and exhibitors was greatly expanded, and the new venue at Reverchon Park had more than enough room for the larger number of booths. To top it all off, there was convenient free parking at the garage across the street.

Texas State Veggie Fair Program

We’re too beat from our weekend of fried-food gluttony and the long drive to do a proper write up, but our personal highlights included:

For full coverage of the event, enjoy our extensive Texas State Veggie Fair Photo Gallery. Our friends at Lone Star Plate have a great recap of the fair as well.

I can’t wait to see what the Texas State Veggie Fair has in store for us next year, but until then, we have Texas VegFest 2013 to look forward to! Who knew that Texas, of all places, would be the home to so many great veg events?

A Fall Pumpkin Treat and a Bake Sale for SARA Animal Sanctuary

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Who doesn’t love the fall? The leaves begin to turn deep orange and red colors. Sweaters make their way out of the bottom drawer and onto our shoulders to keep us warm during  nippy evening strolls with our dogs (also wearing sweaters) through Central Park — wait — this is not the New York of When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. This is Austin, and our Zilker Park is still recovering from the throngs of people treading all over it for the Austin City Limits music festival. Yes, this is Austin, where pretty falls days are scattered between “unseasonably” warm days. What do we do in Austin to remind ourselves (and our dogs) that it is indeed Fall? We go to vegan bake sales, buy pumpkin-laced goods, and raise money for SARA Animal Sanctuary in Seguin!

Austin blogger Lazy Smurf recently reported that SARA Animal Sanctuary has fallen on hard times and particularly needs help paying their electric bill. Ms. Smurf has organized a vegan bake sale to benefit SARA Animal Sanctuary this Sunday October 21 at Counter Culture. If you can not attend the actual sale on Sunday then you can still sign up to donate baked goods and make plans with Ms. Smurf for a Friday or Saturday drop off. Alternatively, you can simply make a direct donation to SARA Animal Sanctuary. However you decide to help, please join the facebook event and invite all of your friends. Volunteers from the sanctuary will be present to answer questions, and Counter Culture will feature live music from Ken Atkins and the Honky Tonk Kind to entertain you during their popular weekend brunch. All in all, Lazy Smurf and Counter Culture have put together a pretty neat event for an awesome cause. And just to remind myself that is indeed fall, I plan to contribute something made with delicious pumpkin.

Obviously, I have been in a pumpkin mood tonight, so I took action and made the tempting cake you see pictured at the top of the page. To read about my experience making a vegan version of the pumpkin poke cake from the Something Swanky blog, click through to the next page.

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Vegan on the Loose: San Diego

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Welcome to our first installment of Vegan on the Loose: your one-stop around the country restaurant review. I travel for work. A lot. And as a vegan on the go around the country, I get to constantly eat amazing vegan food. My first stop for this travel season was San Diego (could I GET an easier location to find tasty vegan noms?!)

For my first meal, I dragged (and I do mean dragged) my friends to this place called Veg-N-Out. Can’t. Gush. Enough! This place is like a vegan dream. It may not look like much,  but just trust me; it’s ridiculous.

We started with the sweet potato medallions with ketchup. Tiny golden disks of joy in my mouth. No joke. With some salt, they were heavenly. I even got the meat-eaters to agree on that one.

Then we have the Big Kahuna sandwich. Oh the sandwich…I can’t. There are not words.  Ok, maybe there are.

They use a “chicken” base that they create (like a BBQ-shredded-chicken-mess) that is delish. Then they add some vegan cheese, a pineapple slice, lettuce, tomato, onion, vegan mayo, and mustard. You get fries or salad on the side. I got salad with some kind of dill dressing that I want to bathe in (no, seriously…I mean that).

All of that, plus a locally brewed ginger Kombucha tea, and stick a fork in me; I AM DONE!

They also had some locally baked vegan cookies and brownies. I tried both the chocolate chip and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I was licking the cellophane…licking. As for the brownie…it was a vegan brownie. Nuff said.

Overall, Veg-N-Out is a must visit for any vegan on the go. The menu is about 5 pages long, and everything I saw coming out of the kitchen looked amazing. Go, GO NOW!

For the Love of Food Trailers

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[ Editor’s note: Food trailers open up, close down, or move locations fairly regularly. This post has been moved to the guides section, which we periodically update as things change, so go to the Red Hot Vegans Guide to Austin Vegetarian and Vegan Food Trailers for the most up-to-date listing. ]

Having spent the majority of my life in Pennsylvania, the concept of food trailers was foreign to me until I moved to Austin 2 years ago. Since then, I have grown to love food trailers for two reasons: 1) they offer aspiring business owners a goal more easily obtained than opening up a brick and mortar and 2) the low overhead cost of trailers keeps food prices affordable for patrons.

Although there has been an explosion of food trailers nationally in recent years, this type of business structure has a few unique requirements to ensure success. Agreeable weather, high population density, and a culture in favor of local business are needed to bring patrons to trailer windows. And Austin has all three to offer.

According to an article on KXAN, the City of Austin has over 1,600 mobile food establishments, but the exact number of trailers is unknown. AustinFoodCarts.com and FoodTrailersAustin.com profile several hundred trailers and their whereabouts in Austin.

Living in such a vegan-friendly town, many food trailers offer vegan and vegetarian fare, even if there’s only one option. While the gesture is much appreciated, today’s post is dedicated to those food trailers that are purely vegan or vegetarian.

Guide to Vegan and Vegetarian Food Trailers in Austin

North Austin

  • Portabello Burger and Veganized Mac and Cheeze from Good to GoGood to Go: This veggie burger joint is the newest all-vegetarian trailer in town. Located in the North Anderson Trailer Yard (NATY), Good to Go offers 5 types of burger patties with lots of different topping options including veganaise, Daiya cheese, hummus and soyrizo chili. Try a veganized mac and cheeze or a frito pie on the side.
  • Vegan Jalisco from The Vegan NomThe Vegan Nom: Austin’s first all-vegan taco trailer. Having opened only 6 months ago, the Vegan Nom has already carved quite a name for itself in the Austin vegan scene. I once heard someone proclaim, “What angel blessed us with the Vegan Nom?” I’m in total agreement. With homemade salsas and killer ingredient combinations, the Vegan Nom is not to be missed. I recommend starting with the Rockin Vegan Migas Taco.

HydePark/ University

  • Cinnamon Rolls from Capital City BakeryCapital City Bakery: This all-vegan bakery is one of the best/worst things that has ever happened to vegans in Austin. Go and try one of everything: cupcakes, mini pies, cinnamon rolls, whoopie pies, cookies, cookie sandwiches, brownies, cake slices, and mini bundt cakes!
  • Moses Falafel Trailer in the Longhorn Food CourtMoses Falafel: My fiance, who grew up in the middle east, has declared Moses Falafel to have the best falafel in town. And I agree. If you want to eat a falafel pita like a real Israeli, don’t order a side of fries. Rather, ask for your fries in your pita.

East Austin

  • Bac'n Cheezeburger from Arlo'sArlo’s: The bac’n cheeze burger at Arlo’s is hailed as one of the best veggie burgers not only in town, but possibly ever. Yes, it’s that good. Once you’ve sampled this delicious treat, try out one of the 7 other menu options Arlo’s has to offer–they are good, too!
  • Veganized Reuben from SchmaltzSchmaltz: Jewish deli style food options? Yes, please! Take a recommendation from Yelp and order the Seitan Pastrami Reuben. Just hold the swiss to make it vegan.
  • Breakfast Sandwich from The Vegan YachtVegan Yacht: One of the oldest vegan trailers in Austin, the Vegan Yacht serves up sandwiches, wraps and “freeto” pie in East Austin. As for what to try, just follow the website’s instructions: “Close your eyes, point, then order. It will be tasty.”

South Austin

  • The Gob from BananarchyBananarchy: I recently watched all three seasons of Arrested Development (thanks to Carrie) and therefore am in love with all of the fun TV show references on Banarachy’s menu. Try the Gob dipped in vegan chocolate. Don’t forget, there’s money in the banana stand.  
  • Vegan Fruitcup Trio from Mister FruitCupMister FruitCup: Looking for a healthy dessert? Head over to Mister FruitCup. Their varieties of fruit salads include herbs, chilies, nuts, vegan whipped cream and waffle crumbles. Check out Marie’s recent post on Mister FruitCup for more info.
  • Vegan Dosa from Nomad DosaNomad Dosa: This Airstream offers amazing, freshly made dosas (kind of like a crepe) filled with delicious Indian curries. Definitely try the mango lassi–it’s vegan!

Multiple Locations

  • Chimichurri Seitan Wrap and Hibiscus Tea from Conscious Cravings Conscious Cravings (University and South Austin): Hot wraps, cold salads, freshly made juices, and rosemary baked fries. Everything on the Conscious Cravings menu can be made vegan. My personal favorite: the pan-seared tofu.


So, what’s your favorite all-vegan or vegetarian food trailer?

Where No Vegan Has Gone Before

Vegetarianism and Veganism in Star Trek

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NCC-1701Plates: the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Red Hot Vegans.
Their continuing mission: to explore strange new foods, to respect all life, and eat vegetation, to boldly go where no vegan has gone before…

In case you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, and the franchise of spin-off TV series and movies inspired by it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inspired by the Utopian future portrayed in Star Trek, and have always held out the hope that some day the people of Earth might learn to put aside their differences and work together to make life better for everybody.

When I started going down the path that eventually led me to choose a vegan lifestyle, my hopes for the future of humanity grew to include the hope that we might some day move away from our dependence on animals for food. Luckily, the Star Trek future looks bright for vegans — let’s take a look what we might be eating in the next few hundred years:

Boldly go and continue reading…

Vegan Eats on the Drag

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If you are at or near UT Austin and looking to grab a bite to eat, head on over to the Drag — where Guadalupe Street borders campus. The Drag offers a mix of American, Asian, and Tex-Mex cuisines at prices even a college student can afford!

Vegan Breakfast Platter at Kerbey Lane

Kerbey Lane Cafe: Gotta love a 24-hour diner! Try the vegan queso (small $6.05), daily vegan pancakes (full stack $5.95), or the hippy burger ($5.75).  Vegan menu available online.

Madam Mam’s: Vegan options at Madam Mam’s are scarce (most dishes contain fish oil); however, they mark what’s vegan on the bottom of their online menu. Stick with the madam rolls ($3.50), tofu spring rolls ($4.50), noodle lord ($6.95), and pad macaroni with tofu ($6.95).

Mellow Mushroom: We highlighted Mellow Mushroom in our vegan pizza round-up. Try a mega-veggie specialty pizza (small $12.99) and sub in some Daiya.

The DragNoodles & Company: Noodles & Company is the newest vegan-friendly joint on the Drag. Order any bowl ($5.35) and add on some organic tofu ($2.39). My personal favorite is the Japanese pan noodles. Vegan options are listed at the bottom of their nutritional guide.

Pita Pit: Staying late on campus? Pita Pit is open till 4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. They offer 4 different vegan pitas: garden, falafel, hummus, and spicy black bean ($5-6 each). Choose from their big selection of vegan toppings to create the perfect late night snack.

Austin’s Pizza: Austin’s Pizza serves vegan crust and sauce but you’ll have to eat it cheeseless, as their soy cheese contains dairy. Order a personal size pizza ($8.29) and jazz it up with 20 different vegetable toppings.

Jamba Juice: So many smoothies ($4-6) to choose from! Pair an apple cinnamon pretzel with a smoothie of your choice! Quick, delicious breakfast. Vegan menu available online.

Chipotle: Grab a veggie burrito, bowl, taco or salad ($6.25) and add guacamole to your order for free. Just avoid the pinto beans (contains pork) and the chipotle-honey dressing.

Hoa Hoa: Located inside the Dobie Mall, Hoa Hoa offers a variety of tofu and vegetarian entrees, many of which are vegan. I highly recommend the sesame tofu ($6.50).

Hai Ky Cafe: I love when restaurants indicate vegan options on their menus. Thanks Hai Ky! The #83 Bun Goi Cuon Tofu ($7.25) is awesome and big enough to share with a friend.

Veggie Heaven: Last, but certainly not least, is Veggie Heaven. Almost everything on the menu is vegan and entrees range from $5-$8. The service is pretty quick for sit-down or take out. Enjoy your meal with a flavored bubble tea with soy milk ($2.50).