As part of the 5th anniversary weekend Chris and I celebrated at the beginning of February, we made a trip to San Antonio to go to Vegeria
, a vegan Mexican restaurant in San Antonio. We were first introduced to this establishment at last year's Texas VegFest where we gladly took home a number of their tamales as we were too stuffed to eat them at the time. They were, of course, very good, and I instantly put their restaurant on my list of places to visit the next time we were in the area.
The original plan for our anniversary was to take an extended weekend and go all the way to Houston for some vegan mock meat Chinese food fare and tour some museums while we were there. Alas, the impending move, contracting the flu, and having to replace two tires quickly put a kibosh on that plan. San Antonio seemed like the best option. We headed down after a light breakfast and popped into Vegeria prior to gallivanting around town. It was already hoppin' mad in there by 11:30. I have honestly never seen a vegan restaurant so busy. We sat ourselves and quickly started examining the menu. There were so many options to choose from and it was almost painful making a decision.
I saw a mushroom dish listed and was immediately intrigued. I don't cook them at home much because Chris is highly suspicious of fungus. I love it, though, and while I was growing up vegetarian in New England I was constantly disappointed in restaurant dishes with portobello mushrooms as the focus. Even now, I've found that most conventional eateries just smother their mushroom caps in balsamic vinegar and melt a piece of provolone on top. Delicious? Yes. Exciting? No. But I spotted this dish called "Sangria Mushrooms" and thought, "Yes, that's what I want."
And it was spaz-mazing. The mushrooms had a very original flavor, very savory, and they came on a bed of cilantro coconut rice with roasted red peppers too. The combination was fabulous. And the sides (refried black beans and chips) made the plate complete. The beans were smoky and smooth and just really good. The dish comes with two sides of your choice, but I'm glad I ordered the ones that I did as they were perfect with everything else.
Chris asked our server what she thought was good and ultimately ordered the "Monster Tamale Taco" which was, in actuality, a giant taco stuffed with two tamales. What?! She seemed like she was in heaven, and we both oohed and ahhed over our meals while we ate.
In addition to a well varied menu of entrees, Vegeria also has a case of gluten-free vegan sweet things everyday. Their bakery case looks great, as does the rest of their decor. We opted to skip dessert this time (we were about to spend the rest of the day walking), but if you're able, you should certainly finish with a cupcake or bar.
The entire restaurant is gluten-free vegan, with raw options available, too.
I had a really great experience at Vegeria and am looking forward to returning in the future. The only drawback to the experience was finding a place to park. The restaurant shares a lot with other businesses and it was literally packed- to the point that people parked IN the entrance and made it difficult to get in and out of the lot. Just be wary! And prepare by looking into finding another lot nearby.
I highly recommend Vegeria and hope you check it out soon! In the meantime, here are some additional photos.
There are more vegan-friendly restaurants in Texas! Read on...
This post is one of many written by members of the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance for an annual City Guide that covers a range of topics. I'll be posting links to the other posts in the vegan category, and the rest of the guide, when they become available.
I have never lived anywhere with such a diverse mix of restaurant options for vegans as in Austin, Texas. This can be surprising to some, to say the least. Even long-time residents of this very city haven't experienced the scale of Austin's vegan community. This was evidenced to me by the conceited fellow I encountered while at Target that saw my Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cookoff
t-shirt and asked me, "Y'all realize you're in Texas
, right?" Pft! Austin is an island of compassion in the sea of carnism that Texas is often justly reputed to be. I've spent the last two years absorbing as much of it as I can and I thought I would share with you some of my favorite vegan-friendly places that offer excellent opportunities for vegan couples. I hope you like my recommendations, and feel free to add your own for other readers by leaving a comment or two!
While Chris and I don't get pizza very often, Conan's Cosmic Pizza
does make a delicious vegan pie. Compared to other vegan pizzas found throughout Austin (there are many purveyors), it is a bit more expensive; it's a deep dish loaded with toppings and tons of Daiya cheese. They have a number of vegetarian pizzas on the menu which can be made vegan with the addition of the Daiya cheese. The pan crust is vegan (thin is not) and is simply delicious. The atmosphere is truly unique; Conan's feels like the world's most awesome basement bar, with arcade games and wood paneling on top of loud music and crazy artwork on the walls. The vegan cheese is free on Wednesdays, too. And you can print up a sheet of $2 off coupons by clicking here
. There are three locations to choose from, W Anderson
, W Stassney
, and W 29th
(near campus), ensuring that nearly everyone in town has one nearby!
The Steeping Room
The Steeping Room
at the Domain
restaurant my partner and I bring friends and family from out of town to while they're visiting. They have a number of vegetarian menu items that can be made vegan including sandwiches, bowls, salads, and desserts. Obviously, the Steeping Room is also known for its wide selection of black, green, and herbal teas. The best part is that you can order by the pot. And there is nearly always something vegan (and tasty) in the bakery case. My favorite is the double chocolate cupcake, which would likely go well with a pot of Moroccan Mint, Blackberry Patch, or Orange Tiger. Before or after dining, the Domain is also a great place to walk around, with the Apple Store and Sur la Table nearby. It's an amazingly sweet and personal way to share an evening with the one you love! For those of you further south, they do have a location on North Lamar by the Triangle
Mother's Cafe & Garden
Chris and I started going to Mother's Cafe & Garden
last autumn after seeing a play downtown. The restaurant has a casual, welcoming atmosphere with a diverse menu. It's the only strictly vegetarian restaurant the two of us go to that is a sit-down, traditional restaurant style environment. Their dishes are wholesome and feel healthy but are really delicious at the same time. The "Tofu Enchiladas" are one of my favorites. Mother's has also been awarded "Best Veggie Burger" by the Austin Chronicle for their "Bueno Burger," which is very, very good. If you're more interested in bringing your date out earlier in the day, Mother's offers an array of vegan dishes during their weekend brunch; they'll make nearly all of their egg based dishes with tofu scramble instead. And if you'd like something a bit more wallet-friendly, bring your date out just for dessert. Share a piece of their "Belgian Chocolate Cake" or "Peanut Butter Pie" (both vegan!) with a glass of wine or coffee and watching your budget will be the furthest thing from your mind!
The Vegan Nom
Another great option for vegans hoping to cut back on their dining out budget, the Vegan Nom
is a tiny food trailer with a big amount of character. Chris and I just love this place. They specialize in vegan tacos, and are open until 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays. There are tables set up in front of the trailer near the street as well as further back in a more secluded area surrounded by a fence. To give you an example of their affordability, their menu lists "Breakfast Tacos" at $2 each and "Signature Tacos" for just $4. And they're all supremely tasty and filling. I highly recommend trying whatever they have for sweet treats while you're there, too; both the truffles and cookies I had on different visits were phenomenal! My brother thinks they're the bomb as well, and he's no vegan. He even updated his Facebook status to say so. So, yeah, get some tacos here and enjoy some fresh air with your companion at the same time.
The Longhorn Food Court
Yes, I love food trucks. Two of my other favorites can be found together at the Longhorn Food Court; Conscious Cravings
and Capital City Bakery
. They're a great combination. Order a wrap from Conscious Cravings (I love both the "Chimichurri Seitan" and "BBQ Seitan") and some "Rosemary Fries" and then a delicious, sweet something from Capital City Bakery for dessert. Win win! Moses Falafel
also has a truck at this park, if you're in the mood for that instead. While Conscious Cravings is open until 8, Moses Falafel closes at 6:30 and Capital City Bakery is only open until 6. Early date nights only!
The Daily Juice on Duval
Finally, I have to share my love of this location. The Daily Juice
has a three eateries in Austin, but my favorite is the one at Duval and 45th Street. I like the atmosphere a lot. Their menu includes fresh juices, smoothies, and kombucha, as well as salads, wraps, snacks, and sweets. This particular location also has my favorite food-thing in Austin; vegan soft serve and hard ice cream. The Sweet Ritual
counter inside the Daily Juice is my preferred place for something sweet. Whenever I'm celebrating a special occasion, it's a sundae at Sweet Ritual. If you're looking for a healthy meal for you and your other half, the Daily Juice is sure to satisfy. And if you're feeling a bit decadent when you're done, you can reward yourself for a healthy meal by getting a soft serve cone or shake to go. Sure, that kind of defeats the purpose, but I know I wouldn't be able to resist! And your date probably won't be able to, either!
Thanks for reading! There are so many vegan friendly restaurants in Austin, I hope that you enjoyed reading about my favorites. Again, if you would like to add your own recommendations, I encourage you to do so! Where do you like to bring your vegan dates?
Last August, one of my favorite Austin food establishments launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand their small business. Sweet Ritual
specialized in vegan soft serve ice cream, and they were excellent at what they did. Their goal was to add hard pack ice cream to their offerings, which would provide customers with more flavors to choose from as well as the ability to take their products home with them. They were successfully crowd-funded the following month and their backers and loyal consumers have been watching their progress as they unroll their new flavors.
The new and improved counter with hard pack freezer case.
Photos of their new flavors emerged on Facebook
yesterday and I knew I had to come by today, Saturday, to see if I could snag some of my own to try. I had seven flavors to choose from including Cookies & Cream, Thin Mint Cookie, Strawberry Cheesecake, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter Patty, Bananas Foster, and Rocky Road. The Thin Mint and Peanut Butter varieties were made with Girl Scout cookies, by the way!
After trying a sample, I got a two scoop bowl of the Strawberry Cheesecake. Described as "not as sweet," I had a feeling it would be up my alley. It wasn't overly sugary, but did, indeed, tasted similar to cheesecake. It had a nice strawberry swirl that was light and fruity, with graham cracker mixed in as well.
The other flavors looked equally delicious, with the Salted Caramel being soy-free. The original vanilla soft serve is still available, too, with a myriad of toppings and dessert building options.
Pints to go are currently $7.50. You can also take home their Fleur de Sel Caramel sauce for $4.25. Don't let the cold, dreary weather stop you! Vegan ice cream will make you feel better. And those Girl Scout cookie flavors won't be around for very long!
Click below for more images
Howdy howdy. I'm hoping that all of my lovely readers had an excellent weekend. Mine was busy. Busy but fun. Chris and I didn't get around to trying to fix the washing machine, but we did do a lot of other things. I'll be sharing them with you during the coming week. In the meantime, though, I'd like to share another great vegetarian restaurant with you.
You may have noticed that I have a thing for food trucks. Typically, a food truck (or trailer) does one thing but does it extremely well. There are taco trucks, ice cream trucks, trailers that serve only baked goods and coffee, and there food trucks made just for dogs (not hot dogs, canine dogs
). Vegan food trucks are like most conventional ones; they have a limited but specific menu and most of what they offer is really freakin' good.Conscious Cravings
is no exception to that rule. Their menu is predominantly made of wraps and they offer salads and smoothies as well. Nearly everything is vegan or is vegan-friendly (cow's milk cheese is available). When in doubt, though, always double check with the cook/server.
My first Conscious Cravings experience was at their South 1st St. location. My stepsister Marissa headed down the east coast and stopped in Texas on her way to California. She had just graduated from university and was continuing on with grad school, taking the long way for more fun and life experience (I presume!). She had spent a semester at the University of Texas and had fallen in love with Torchy's Tacos. There just so happened to be a trailer park eatery with both establishments and this is where we chose to meet for lunch as she journeyed through the Lone Star state.
I ordered the Chimichurri Seitan Wrap from Conscious Cravings and absolutely loved
it. The chimichurri sauce was amazingly good; an excellent blend of spicy and tart. Yum! And the seitan it covered had a hearty, beefy flavor. Surprisingly good for being so simple, and so CHEAP! All of their wraps cost five bucks. Win.
About a month later, Chris and I brought her mom down to the Longhorn Food Court assuming that there would be options for vegans and meat eaters alike. Unfortunately, the noodle place I had told her about was nearly sold out for the day and was only serving soup. It wasn't really what she was looking for! But she sat with Chris and I while we ate our BBQ Seitan Wraps (afterward we brought her to Wheatsville where she got a cheesy sandwich). I oohed and ahhed over my wrap throughout the entire experience because it was just. That. Good. Check it out.
Sweet, spicy, and filling. Sigh.
And I don't usually like BBQ anything! Something just told me I should try it and I am ever so happy that I did. It was awesome.
Another great thing Conscious Cravings has going for it is their perfect little rosemary fries. They're baked but crispy and flavorful. They taste healthy but delicious at the same time!
They also offer chips, cookies, and several different things to drink, should you feel so inclined.
And there are so many other things on their menu that sound fantastic, like the Couscous Salad (with olives, tomatoes, cilantro, and tamari), their Mango Smoothie (made with sorbet!), and their Spicy Chickpea Wrap (Indian spices, chickpeas, lettuce, and "green sauce"). Gluten-free substitutes and options are available, too.
Of the two locations, I would recommend the Longhorn Food Court over the Trailer Park Eatery. Why, do you ask? Because it's nearly 100% vegetarian and one of their neighbors is another one of my favorites, Capital City Bakery
. You could easily snag a BBQ Seitan Wrap and follow it with a Strawberry Blonde cupcake. What a way to spend an evening!
How about a recipe?
| || |And don't forget that I'm taking pledges for the Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals on Oct. 27th at Pease Park in Austin, TX. Please consider contributing to my fundraising team!
Ahoy! It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! What better time than to share me piratey cake with ye?
Okay, moving on.
There are many things I love about my wonderful partner. In addition to sharing many common interests, I admire her sense of humor as well as her constant enthusiasm for most things. Celebrating birthdays are something the both of us enjoy a lot. When mine came this past June, I wasn't really in the mood for anything resembling a party (I was turning 30, after all). We had a great day, most definitely, but I didn't provide her with anything to work with in terms of what to do or how to celebrate it, hahaha. Well, I decided I wanted to go a bit overboard with hers, so that's what I did. Eek!
And because we are so mature and are the complete opposite of nerds, I asked her what kind of theme
she would like. I believe the choices were space, dragons, and pirates. Her response was overwhelmingly in favor of pirates.
I procured an abundance of pirate themed party supplies including but not limited to a birthday banner, masks, plates and napkins, cake candles, goodie bags, and more. My next step was to set about ordering a pirate themed vegan birthday cake.
Enter Capital City Bakery
, a well-known Austin bakeshop serving delicacies like cupcakes, brownies, cinnamon rolls, and Italian sodas from a food trailer counter near the UT campus.
I knew I would get my money's worth from seeing pictures of the amazing custom order cakes owner and operator Kristen has made and shared with loyal customers on Instagram. I didn't really have anything specific in mind so I gave the vague request for blue frosting, a pirate hat or ship, and the words "Yarr, Happee Birthdae!" And that's exactly what I got!
I grabbed some other treats while I was there; a raspberry Italian soda with "cream" and a Strawberry Blonde cupcake. It took all of my effort not to finish the soda before I got home (you can see it pictured, in the background)! It was so, so tasty. And I got stuck in traffic (Friday afternoon, Labor Day weekend, Guadalupe, you understand) which made the Strawberry Blonde look a bit tired by the time I got home. But it was fabulous as well.
The strawberry frosting was flavorful without being overdone and the vanilla cake was fluffy and not dense, which a lot of vegan cupcakes can sometimes be.
Chris and I had only been to the bakery once before (after it was closed- oops). Last time we purchased a chocolate brownie with peanut butter frosting and an oatmeal cookie sandwich.
They were as delicious as they look, most definitely.
After my snack, I decorated our apartment and added balloons to the mix and went out to pick up a copy of Pirates: Band of Misfits
. See what I mean about the overdoing it part!? We went out to dinner at The Steeping Room
, watched our movie, and looked forward to cake and presents the next day.
I won't share any pictures from opening gifts because Chris is self-conscious (love you, babe!) but here's another one of the cake. It was awesome. I ordered a 4" and cut it into four pieces. Look at how cute the frosting is. Squee!
Just so you know, we got vanilla funfetti and vanilla frosting. I typically gauge cake on how much it makes me feel like I'm in a sugar coma when I'm done eating it. A slice of this cake was the perfect level for me. I could have eaten more if I had the option (that last slice would be for Chris for later). It was such a wonderful birthday and I'm glad I made Capital City Bakery
a part of it!
There are so many vegan options when it comes to baked goods here in Austin. I am frequently asked which bakery or brand is the best and I honestly just can't pick one. Each has their unique flavors, textures, and presentation. The best option? Try a little bit from everywhere, and keep on going back when you're done!
Would you like more to read?
Hey everyone! Tonight, I am going to continue writing about Chris and I's recent trip to the Houston area. This post is devoted to an excellent Mediterranean restaurant on the Webster-Houston city line that serves superb falafel!
I have to admit, I tend to lack enthusiasm for my meal whenever I go to a restaurant that prides itself in its meat; their vegetarian options are all too often along the lines of "house salad" and "pasta marinara" which obviously can be made anywhere and by anyone. Not really enticing at all.
You may recall in a previous post that I discussed my excitement for going to Houston for Chris's birthday and how I found some amazing vegan restaurants to try out. Well, when I discovered that all of those restaurants were 30+ minutes from our hotel in addition to the fact that Chris's mom didn't want anything to do with them I pretty much gave up on finding somewhere we would all be happy eating. Fortunately, Chris took it upon herself and found Al Basha Mediterranean Grill
on the Internet. And
it was literally right down the street from our hotel.
After spending nearly the entire day at the Space Center, we mozied on into Al Basha unsure of what to expect. The restaurant presents itself cafeteria style. An attendant greets you at the counter and you tell them what you would like to order. Each plate is labeled and nearly all of them included a list of ingredients. If you aren't sure whether or not something contains meat or dairy, you can ask and they will know. Everything is prepared fresh in their own kitchen- and this is something that you can both smell in the air and taste on your tongue.
I ordered the Falafel Plate. It consisted of five hearty balls of falafel (theirs is made from a chickpea and fava bean combination) on a bed of lettuce and accompanied by slices of red onion and tomato. The plate came with two sides as well and I decided to try their Fried Cauliflower (cauliflower and oil) and Cabbage Salad (cabbage, spinach, carrot, lemon, and mint).
Honestly, I haven't had much falafel. I know, I know, such a shame. But the falafel at Al Basha was simply delicious. I sometimes feel like falafel has a really green flavor or that the onion overpowers it. Not this recipe. It was great. The plate itself is a small meal without including the sides. The fried cauliflower was, granted, as expected, like oily cauliflower, but it did taste very nice. And the cabbage salad was really good. I actually liked it a lot. The combination of the lemon and mint was very interesting. I had forgotten what the ingredients were by the time I sat down and started eating and spent the rest of the meal trying to guess what it was that was making it taste so unique! Looking at the take away menu, I realized it was mint. Very neat. Not what you would expect, at all.
A very hospitable employee graciously checked on his guests while they dined. He offered us complimentary hot tea he described as a mixture of black tea, fresh mint, and rose water. We all tried it and I actually enjoyed it much more than expected. I typically shy away from teas with rose petals in them, but I had not tried anything with rose water in it. I wasn't disappointed. The floral flavor was not overpowering, which it can often be. I would recommend trying it prior to sweetening it, though, as I found that adding sugar made the floral taste much more pronounced. I still drank it all up, though!
There are many other veg-friendly options at Al Basha as well. Some other possibly vegan dishes on their menu include Tabouleh Salad (cracked wheat, diced tomatoes, parsley, onion, olive oil, and lemon), Fatoush Salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, onion, and pita), Grape Leaves (stuffed with rice and vegetables), Falafel Sandwich (falafel with lettuce, turnips, pickles, and parsley), and Veggie Kabab Pita (onions, peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms in a pita). Again, I recommend double checking with an employee to ensure that these items are vegan prior to ordering them.
I ended up leaving wishing I could go back there regularly and it inspired me to try to find somewhere in Austin that serves similar food. If you're visiting the Space Center in Houston and need a veg-friendly restaurant to try, you could certainly find yourself winning at Al Basha Mediterranean Grill
And with that, I will bid you adieu for the evening!
Would you like to eat somewhere else?
To browse more Texas restaurants and take a gander at their vegan fare, follow this link.
My-oh-my have I been a busy bee. As you may recall, I began training for a new job full time last week. This was while working part time at my other job. This coming weekend will be my last few days there. I am quite thankful for that. I haven't had to learn a completely new profession in over three years. The process has been nerve wracking at times; I tend to be anxious about most things these days but I've been managing incredibly well if I do say so myself. I spent some time with my actual co-workers this morning and it has me thinking very positively about my new career path. In fact, I had an absolutely wonderful
day. I'm looking forward to being on a normal
schedule and doing normal
things, which I haven't been able to do since getting my previous job.
Anyway, Labor Day weekend was super fun. It was Chris's birthday on the 1st and her mom came out to visit. I'll write about our birthday festivities later, but the highlight of the whole weekend was traveling down to Houston/Webster to go to the Space Center
. It was what Chris wanted to do, so that is what we did. I will try to limit the amount of photos I barrage you with...
Our time at the Center was predominantly devoted to the two tours they offer which involve being taken via tram to an astronaut training facility and mission control, which communicates with the International Space Station. I took a lot of touristy photos that belong on Facebook and absolutely nowhere else. The weather was atrocious- let's get that out of the way- and I tried my absolute hardest not to be a bum about the whole trip.
On top of the heat and
humidity, I have been experiencing a lot of upper back strain due to my spinal fusion and that Sunday was no exception. Waiting in line for the second tram was a dreadful experience, but instead of turning into a grouch and not actually doing anything to fix the problem, I asked Chris to carry my things and tried to carry my weight in a way that would ease the pain. I took some ibuprofen and stretched and massaged my neck and by the time we got back from our ride and sat down for lunch I was feeling much, much better. To be on the safe side, though, I had Chris carry my bag around for the rest of our visit.
I have to say that the highlight of the experience for me was touching "a piece of Mars." See the photo above. According to the Space Center's website, "The rock at Space Center Houston is the only Martian sample the public can touch, and is a piece from the EETA 79001 Martian meteorite found in the Antarctic in 1980. Part of the Antarctic meteorite collection at JSC, the sample is about 180 million years old – very young on the solar system scale – and is believed to have been thrown from Mars into space approximately 600,000 years ago. At 17.4 pounds, the original rock is one of the largest Mars meteorites ever found."
So yeah, pretty cool. You can also view various historical artifacts having to do with our ventures into space, like space and flight suits worn by astronauts. I took pictures of the two women's suits they had on display, including one worn by Sally Ride
. The biography located on the display had not been updated with the date of her death and did not include anything regarding her personal life, which made me sad. Hopefully they'll fix it in the future. The tram also brings you to Rocket Park where you can see the Saturn V rocket up close.
Honestly, I was afraid that Chris and I would be living off of French fries during our whole trip, but even the cafe at the Space Center had vegan options. One of the stalls in the Zero G Diner (as it is called) even had a sandwich labeled as vegan on their menu; a pita pocket stuffed with tabouleh and served with hummus. It wasn't a quinoa veggie burger with Daiya cheese or anything, but it sufficed.
One thing I do recommend to those visiting is to wear layers. While you will likely be HOT waiting outside in line for the tram, you will be COLD for anything you go to see inside. There are a lot of movies throughout the museum and presentation areas and they are all enclosed and have the air conditioning blasting. I guarantee that they make a killing on sweatshirts as they suckered money out of us and I can now find a bright green NASA hoodie hanging in Chris's closet.
All in all, I do recommend making a visit, especially if you're interested in science.
The only opportunity Chris and I had in which to try some local vegan food was later that night, but I shall save that experience for another post!
Let's try something tasty!
If you've been reading my blog for longer than, oh, a day or two (hahahaha) you have likely heard me mention a lovely little ice cream shop called Sweet Ritual
. They are a vegan
ice cream parlor located inside another great Austin staple, the Daily Juice. Currently, Sweet Ritual specializes in vegan soft serve. They usually offer two flavors per week and have a myriad of sundae options on their menu. Shakes and coffee are a few more of their specialties.
And I can't be modest in my adoration of this place. I love
Sweet Ritual. Which is why I'm devoting another post entirely to them. Amelia, who opened Sweet Ritual in December 2011 with friend Valerie, asked me if I would be interested in telling my readers about a fundraiser the girls are having in order to add "hard-packed" ice cream to their current soft serve menu. They're doing this using a Kickstarter
campaign, which is a "crowd-funding" platform that is extremely popular. Here's a video they made explaining the fundraising project.
I'm excited for this project for a number of reasons. Primarily it's because I'm extremely confident that Sweet Ritual's hard-packed will become the best on the market. Yes, there are a number of vegan ice cream options at my local Whole Foods and Sprouts, but they simply are not up to my standards. For instance, my local Whole Foods only offers a wide variety of Coconut Dream products and a couple other brands in flavors like "vanilla" (and I hate Coconut Dream. Yuck!). Even my favorite hard-packed ice cream, Purely Decadent by So Delicious, isn't as good as Sweet Ritual soft serve. You might be in a similar predicament. Adding another brand to the mix would be most excellent and the ladies at Sweet Ritual know their stuff. While it might be a long time before you'll see their hard-pack in stores nationwide, Austinites will at least have the option of getting some in their own town.
So, to try to get you on board, I asked Amelia if she would be willing to answer me a few questions about her company, her ice cream making process, and her business goals. Here's what she had to say.
Why ice cream? Some people love cupcakes, others are cookie fanatics. What makes ice cream so special to you?
Ice cream was always my favorite dessert as a kid. It was a ritual at our house that after we had put away the dinner dishes, my dad would break out a pint of ice cream and we'd eat it right out of the package. I like ice cream because, as you eat it, it changes in texture and forms. I named our shop Sweet Ritual because we are so ritualistic about the way we eat our desserts. I feel a sweet connection with the kid who scrambles his vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup into an ice cream soup, and then slurps it up on the spoon, because that's how I used to do it! We are really excited to offer a scoopable version of our ice cream to our customers. The number one request from our clients is either a soy-free or an agave-sweetened version. With the new machine we're
raising money for, we will have complete control over making different ice cream bases. These can be anything from cashew-based to almond-based. Also, we can control the sweetness level, and use alternative sweeteners such as agave or stevia.How do you come up with new flavors? Do you keep the season in mind? Or are your new additions based purely on curiosity alone?
When dreaming up ice cream flavors, I first consider what people like in Austin and what I can use to bring local flavor to the store. I'm so excited to do a chili mango flavor next summer! I'm also excited to be showcasing local vegan businesses and using their ingredients in our ice creams. We are working with Capital City Bakery
for brownies and Celeste's Best
for vegan cookie dough. I literally cannot wait to get the machine running - as soon as we get a good chocolate recipe down, I'm going to dive head-first into a white coffee/brownie bits/walnut crunch flavor. YUM!And finally, what are your long term goals when it comes to Sweet Ritual? I remember you mentioning wanting to open your own parlor. Do you dream of several locations? Franchising? Vegan ice cream domination!?
Our long-term plans with Sweet Ritual do include a store front, but that may be a few years away. We are letting ourselves grow organically in the direction we are going now, which means staying small, but having very tight control over quality of ingredients and freshness of product. We're in the store everyday making caramel in
small batches, or sifting cocoa for home made chocolate sauce. Buying this $10,000 ice cream machine will allow us to be able to wholesale our ice cream to area restaurants, so you can have a scoop of our ice cream alongside a fresh slice of pie at your favorite diner. Also, we'll be able to expand to San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, etc. with the wholesale product. It's a few steps away from world domination, but at least we'll be in more places than our tiny shop here in Hyde Park!
Mmm, I know that has me
intrigued. If you are, too, head on over to their Kickstarter
page and contribute. Perks for pledging include pints of hard packed ice cream, Sweet Ritual t-shirts, and even a private ice cream social for you and your friends! But you can also pledge as much as you feel comfortable, even just a few dollars. A lot of people will be very happy that you did!
And now for something completely different...
Hey, all. I have to admit, I am very
tired. I was a super busy bee on Wednesday. After going to the eye doctor's and picking the winner of my Glass Dharma giveaway, I also picked up some groceries, went to the craft store, and down to the farmer's market at the Triangle and picked up fresh, locally grown produce, hibiscus mint tea from the Nile River booth, and sweet things from Happy Vegan Bakery. Then I came home, made brown rice, black beans, and kale for dinner and whipped up banana mini bundt cakes after that. While those were baking
, I photographed the goodies I got from HVB and Chris and I had a taste testing fest with them. And then I photographed the banana cakes before doing all of the dishes I had created in the process.
Yesterday was equally as eventful as I drove to Dallas and back and nearly had a flat along the way. My stepfather travels a lot for work and he brought my mother with him this time so they could enjoy celebrating their 17th anniversary. I haven't seen mom since April when she came down for Easter and I haven't seen Richard, my stepfather, since October when I went to New Hampshire for my father's 50th birthday. So, because of the tire drama, I rolled into Dallas about an hour later than anticipated. We got a replacement and headed out to the Cosmic Cafe
, which they drove past while waiting for me to show up, plotting their route for when I arrived. I had intended to bring them to the Spiral Diner, which seemed like it served more American style food, but apparently they thought the Cosmic Cafe looked awesome after seeing it, looked it up on their iPhones, and decided we should go there. What cool folks!
The whole place is decorated in an Asian, predominantly Indian, style. There are lots of Buddhas to be found, elephants, and lotus flowers, too. What's more is that the place seemed really popular. We sat down just after one and the outdoor eating area was still packed.
In any case, it's important to note that the Cosmic Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant so the menu has a lot of things with cheese and yogurt on it. You can, however, order many dishes dairy free. They do not have vegan cheese, though. Sadness. Especially considering all of the nan pizzas on their menu. It didn't stop me from ordering one, though!
I started by inquiring about iced tea. They offered me a hibiscus passionfruit blend which I gladly accepted. It was served with blueberries and a lemon wedge and was very refreshing. I chose the "mandala pizza" for my entree, and that was exquisite. Loaded with fresh vegetables and herbs on top of tomato sauce and soft, spongy nan. It was just fine without any sort of cheese. Very impressive. Look at all those veggies! Squash, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and red onions? Don't mind if I do!
Mom ordered something called the "portobello trance" which looked like mushrooms in a flatbread sandwich made of nan. It looked wonderful, too.
And when our server told us they had a vegan strawberry cake for dessert, I had to try it out. So good! Mom thought it was a bit too sweet, but it was full of berry flavor. I ate almost the whole thing myself. Yum! And pairing it with blueberries was a great idea, too. I'm going to have to do that more often; fresh fruit and cake. What a great idea.
I would highly recommend visiting the Cosmic Cafe if and when you are in Dallas, regardless of your amount of veganness. I would suggest, though, that you eat inside until the wine place next door is no longer under construction. The workers were cutting galvanized steel while we were eating. It was noisy and smelled bad...
When we were doing stuffing our faces, I took a few more photos of the ambiance (which you can see on Facebook here
) before Mom and I walked down the street to City Pet Supply waiting for Richard to come back from his appointment. I bought Rusty some new toys and treats and then the three of us went back to their hotel. After much deliberation, we set out toward the "Grassy Knoll" on foot, went to the 6th Floor Museum, and had Chipotle for dinner on the way back. I introduced my mom to Instagram and we took some fun pictures of the three of us before I got back on the road. It was a long day, but it was definitely worth it.
Chris and I went out for sundaes on Sunday again this weekend. I've been working nights after the store closes doing fun things involving merchandise and signs. I don't get a lot of time off on weekends (or in the evenings) and I try to make a point of spending whatever time I can with her when I am able. Sweet Ritual
's special flavor for the week was "green tea" and the sundae they concocted for it was called the "Mt. Fuji." It was a green tea ice cream base topped with toasted coconut, crumbled Oreo cookies and graham crackers, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Really good. The green tea flavor was really mild and enjoyable; I hadn't had such a flavor for ice cream before and wasn't sure what to expect. What should you expect from green tea ice cream? Awesomeness, I guess!
I didn't have any culinary adventures since our last posting. I came down with a cold Thursday night and have been suffering laboriously over it since then. I haven't needed to take any medicine for it since Sunday night and am feeling much better, but still find myself needing a tissue now and then. Yuck! I'm the only one I know that consistently gets a cold in the summer in Texas. Must be lucky.
Chris made a very tasty dessert last night inspired by Jaques Pepin after watching one of his shows on PBS. She sliced up a pineapple and marinated it in coconut rum and agave nectar. It was really pretty good! The coconut flavor wasn't overbearing (she said she couldn't taste it at all, though I could) and the extra sweet offset the sometimes tart reaction one can have toward fresh pineapple. Fruit soaked in booze is always good, though, which reminds me that I still haven't shared Aunt Vanna's recipe for berries in Grand Marnier...
I'll be picking up my new camera from the UPS customer care center today. It's a long story, but I'm glad to finally be able to get it in my snap happy little hands! I wonder if it takes the same battery as my old camera- I should check. I'll be having lunch with my friend Jen and her sister Regina, who just moved to Austin and is also a vegan. She visited last August and I spent an afternoon taking her senior portraits with Jen and her other sister Charlotte before having lunch at Canoli Joe's
(which has a surprisingly diverse vegan menu!). I'm not sure where we'll be going, but it'll be fun nonetheless.
And finally, I found a really cool website that I'm excited to tell you about! Velvet Aroma
is like Pinterest
but for food and food blogs. When you sign up, you have tabs for reading, cooking, and exploring. You can add feeds from food blogs you love and read them on your Read tab. Cool! The Cook tab is where you save recipes into cookbooks or collections for future use. And with the Explore tab, you can find new and exciting recipes to try or blogs to follow by searching different categories. If you'd like to sign up, you can add me and the lizz delicious blog to your Read tab by visiting our profile page here
That's all for now. Thanks for reading!
Now, how about a recipe?