Monday, July 27, 2015

USA 2015 Part 5: Austin After VVC

Just because VVC was over didn't mean that everything was. The next day I met up with a group of people for brunch at the famous Bouldin Creek Cafe.

vvc-goodbye-breakfast


I couldn't say no to the famous Rennedict, which I had with a side of very juicy grapefruit. This was AMAZING! This place has the best tofu scramble in the world, each bit was coated in delicious noochy goodness. I still dream of this.

Rennedict with Grapefruit from Bouldin Creek


I also tried a little bit of delicious potato and leak scramble.

Potato and Leek Scramble from Bouldin Creek


Bouldin Creek is very close to Rabbit Food Grocery, which is such an awesome place, and is probably my favourite vegan store ever! I didn't have much room to buy all the wonderful things I could have, given that I had all my swag bag goodies to pack and flight baggage limits to stay under. But I bought a few fun things.

Rabbit Food Grocery purchases


Afterwards we went to Thai Fresh to check out their vegan ice cream options. Unfortunately their ice creams had a very heavy coconut base, and after a sample I could tell it would be too much coconut fat for me. They had a lot of fun flavours that other people tried, and the tamarind flavour I sampled was pretty great. Luckily they also had a case full of vegan desserts. I had a a lovely blueberry crumble slice with an iced chai. Jojo ordered a peanut butter caramel chocolate pie, which seems to be similar to the Smlove pie from VWAV. I tried a tiny bit, it was great but so rich!

Blueberry Crumble Slice from Thai Fresh


Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Pie from Thai Fresh


I had a free afternoon then, so I decided to get some culture at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, turns out that Texas has quite the history! It was a Republic briefly! Lots of people killed each other! There is a really big star there! There was also a pretty cool little exhibit about Roller Derby, which was fun.

Texas State History Museum


I was craving some vegetables for dinner, and Christy recommended Koriente. It was just what I needed! Especially after a bit of a walk to get there. Through a field of SQUIRRELS! (More ont hat ina later post.) I started with a hummus roll that came with some peanut sauce, and a miso soup. Then moved on to a Shiitake Tofu Bowl with brown rice and broccoli, because I love tofu and mushrooms. I also had an iced red tea, yum.

Hummus Roll (with peanut sauce_ and Miso Soup from Koriente


Shiitake Tofu Bowl with Broccoli and Iced Tea from Koriente


After dinner I met up with some vegans at Rattle Inn for a Two-Step lesson as a Texas experience. It was fun, though I felt a bit awkward to after the lesson I was happy to watch.

The next morning, my last day in Austin, I went out to Biscuits and Groovy for part one of breakfast. I had the MC Hammer (scrambled tofu, maple bacon, cheese and chives) with home fries. I only realised later I should have also have asked for a side of gravy so that I actually had biscuits and gravy!

MC Hammer with Home Fries from Biscuits and Groovy


Breakfast part two found me back at The Steeping Room for the Vegan Breakfast Bowl with a side of Tempeh Bacon, and an Iced Spring Bud Chai (nutmeg and vanilla) on soy. The bowl had black beans, potatoes, greens and cashew sauce, and was nice. The tempeh bacon was good, but at $3 for three tiny strips of bacon was a bit steep!

Vegan Breakfast Bowl with Tempeh Bacon and Iced Spring Bud Chai from Steeping Room


On my way back to the AirBnB, I stopped by Central Market, which is a pretty nifty grocery store with a lot of vegan things. And then I went back to pack, as I was getting up at stupid o'clock the next morning to leave Austin. And also to hang out in the aircon, because it was hot!

My plan was to catch a bus to meet Kelly at Cherrywood Coffeehouse for afternoon tacos (it's a thing). However I accidentally waited at the slightly wrong corner and watched the bus go right by me. The next one didn't come for 40 minutes, so I power walked there instead. Hot!! Anyway, it was worth it to see Kelly and to enjoy a yummy tofu, avocado and potato taco. When they say potato, what they mean is shoe string fries! Yes please! I also had a hibiscus iced mint tea, because I was super hot after my walk!

Taco with avocado, tofu and potato and Iced Tea from Cherrywood


Kelly headed off to the airport, and I successfully managed to wait at the right stop to catch a bus back to my AirBnB and finish getting ready for the morning. Then I headed out for pre-dinner ice cream (this is also a thing) at Sweet Ritual.

Sweet Ritual


This time I was going for some fancy flavours. I had the Cinnamonkey Elephantastic, which is peanut butter, cinnamon and banana, with peanut shell. I also had a scoop of watermelon sorbet, which didn't scoop well at all but was so sweet and refreshing and delicious!

Watermelon Sorbet and Cinnamonkey Elephantastic with peanut shell from Sweet Ritual


For dinner I tried out Love Balls, a vegan-friendly Japanese street food truck at Spider House. I got the Vegan Side Set, which had miso, grilled onigiri, seaweed salad and bean sprout salad. It was delicious!

Side Set from Love Balls: Miso Soup, onigiri, seaweed salad, bean sprout salad.


Austin (Spider House)


Then it was back home to try and get an early night for my super early morning!



Sahara with her Panda With Cookie Pirate Carrot


Sahara with the Panda With Cookie pirate carrot cat toy I bought for the girls from Rabbit Food.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

USA 2015 Part 4: VidaVeganCon Day 2

Sunday, day two, started with a walk through a park to the conference center for another great day. I was actually still kind of feeling full from the day before, and wasn't sure how I could possibly manage to eat. Then there was the breakfast buffet.

Again I went with toast (my previous combinations and peanut butter on one and avocado and chevre on the other), with sides of scrambled tofu, chorizo, hashbrowns, coconut bacon, cheese slice and fruit. As well as some raspberry yoghurt and a grapefruit juice.

Breakfast Day 2 Part 1 - Toast with PB and chevre and avocado, fruit, scrambled tofy, chorizo, hash browns, coconut bacon, Daiya slice, SD raspberry coconut milk yoghurt, grapefruit juice


The first talk of the day was 'Stop Breaking the Law, A$&h#*!' by Randi. This was fascinating, and also a bit scary in how limited the protection from the law is in some cases. Erika has done a great write up here.

I wasn't entirely sure where to go for the next session, and wound up in 'Honesty in Your Online Presence' by Monique Koch. This talk wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was completely amazing! Monique is such an open and honest person, there were tears, there was laughter. It was amazing. Definitely a highlight! You can find a recap written by (you guessed it) Erika here.

Here I am with Cadry of Cadry's Kitchen in the break! It was great to meet Cadry. She lives in Iowa, which as any Buffy fan knows is where Riley Finn is from.

Me and Cadry (Cadry's Kitchen)


The next talk was 'Tweet Like You Give a Damn: Social Media & Why You're Doing It Wrong (IMHO)' by Brian Patton, which was pretty hysterical. The room was packed out, I was lucky to get a seat right at the back. One of my favourite moments happened during this talk. I ended up sitting next to Lindsay and without a word, as we watched the talk, we started following each other on Twitter and Instagram.

The theme of today's lunch was 'Vegans Heart Tacos', and they had a magnificent taco buffet for us! There were three suggestions for assembling tacos, which I took as a guide, though substituted as I needed for my preference.

Taco Buffet lunch - variation on all three options.


At the back is my version of the 'Korean' cowgirl, which had cabbage slaw, fried tofu, Korean BBQ sauce, garlic aioli and scallions. I committed a sin and left off the kimchi because I looked pretty spicy. I chose the lettuce leaf wrapping option here. Moving clockwise we have 'The Casual', which had lettuce, refried beans, guac, queso, pico de gallo and sour cream in a corn tortilla. And finally, the Westagram. Kale, mac and cheese, seitan bacon and Apple BBQ sauce in a wheat tortilla. Yes. it was as good as it sounded. I also took a little extra scoop of mac and cheese! I actually went back for more mac and cheese, but it was all gone because it was so good. Want to make some yourself? The recipe is here. Seems like it was made with coconut oil, so probably good that I didn't get to eat as much as I wanted! But if you would like to make me a big batch you can easily substitute that.

Back to sessions, and I found myself in 'On-Location Photography' by Hannah Kaminsky, and picked up a few tips including how to use some settings on my camera that I didn't even know I had! There was also a Book Club breakout session at this time, which has been summarised by (yep) Erica here. I am glad she wrote a summary because now I can add lots of new books to my reading list!

The next session I had been really looking forward to 'Veganism, Body Image, Self-Esteem, Eating Disorder Recovery, and how Blogging & Reading Blogs can Influence All of the Above' by Lacy Davis, however it was announced that Amey was hosting a pop-up class on Compassion, and I just had to go to that (don't worry, Erika summarises Lacy's talk here). Amey's talk was so beautiful, as she discussed her concepts of compassion and self-compassion and her favourite yoga sutras. There was a chance for people to talk about their own struggles, and there were many feels, and there were some tissues required.

We had a surprise afternoon tea with these beautifully decorated sugar cookies from my very favourite Capital City Bakery.

Sugar Cookie afternoon tea by Capital City Bakery


This is me with Nichole and Callie, who run a great podcast called Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack. Check it out! It was so fun to meet these two.

Nichole and Callie from Vegan Warrior Princess Attack


And just like that it was the last talk of the conference. I was torn between 'Ethics of Vegan Dining & Boozing' by Bianca and 'Adventures in Vegan Travel Blogging' by Jojo. I ended up in Jojo's talk, which was a riot (I heard that Bianca's talk was great as well!). Erika, who is the greatest note taker ever, has done a write up of Jojo's talk here. You can also see Jojo's amazing 'Packing Like a Pro' video here. I'm pretty sure there is sorcery involved.

Afterwards I took a photo with beautiful Amey. I think she might secretly be a unicorn.

Me and Amey (Vegan Eats and Treats)


This was the final VVC, so the farewell speeches were particularly moving. Even though this was only my first VVC, I was still in tears. I only just found it! How can it be over forever? Why didn't I go to the other ones? This is something that is definitely worth traveling half way around the world for. Pretty much everyone was up on or in front of the stage by the end of this. And I can never hear Save the Best For Last or (I've Had) The Time of My Life again without crying.

Farewells


I had to get a photo with Jess, one of the organisers, and Jules, both of whom were so welcoming the entire conference.

Julia and Jess


But it wasn't all over yet. The official after party was happening at Cheer Up Charlie's, home of the famous Arlo's, home of the famous bacon cheeseburger with a side of tots that I ate. I had been looking forward to this for so long, and it did not disappoint. It was so good! I love that the patty is homemade, and you can see lentils and stuff in it, it is such a great burger. Plus, TOTS!

Bacon Cheeseburger with Tots from Arlos


Bistro Vonish also had a pop-up there and I had this Mac and Cheese Kolache. It was a little strange, because the bread part was kind of sweet, but still good.

Mac and Cheese Kolache from Bistro Vonish


Me with Jojo.

IMG_1231


I had the opportunity to go and see the famous bats, so I didn't stay for the announcement of the Red Hot Vegan's VVC Scavenger Hunt winners (Jojo and Amey). We got down to the river where the bats fly across and waited. Unfortunately by the time the bats came out it was very dark so I couldn't get any sort of decent photo. But here is a pretty photo of the sunset while we were waiting.

Austin Sunset


Also unfortunately a cyclist got hit by a car behind us (the car drove off, jerk). We think they were mostly OK. But it certainly took the shine off the event. To settle out nerves, we went to Sweet Ritual for ice cream. Because I am a lame vegan, I got strawberry ice cream (I love strawberry) and peach sorbet, even though they had many ridiculous and exciting flavours there. That was just what I felt like. And they were great!

Strawberry Ice Cream and Peach Sorbet from Sweet Ritual


Then it was back to the after party for some final farewells (and some not so final ones) and a quick trip to the photo booth before it was time to go back to my AirBnB and sleep.

VVC After Party


But don't worry, there was still a few more Austin adventures left.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Kitty at Spider House


This cutie was lazing around the Spider House Cafe one evening when I was there. Very friendly.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

USA 2015 Part 3: VidaVeganCon Day 1

Saturday was the first day of the conference itself, and this conference included an awesome breakfast and lunch! Breakfast was a Taco and Artisan Toast Buffet! It had everything, including Dandies for your coffee! Or, if you are like me and don't drink coffee, Dandies for your mouth!

Dandies and So Delicious yoghurts at VVC


Earth Balance at VVC breakfast


Breakfast Buffet


Even though it was Austin, I gravitated to the toast section for breakfast. I had toast with Earth Balance peanut butter, and toast with Heidi Ho cashew chevre, avocado and nooch. I also had some sides, including tofu, roasted potato and delicious Sweet Earth bacon, as well as some sort of cheese slices, brand unknown. And a So Delicious Strawberry and Banana Coconut Yoghurt. And then I went back for a second plate of more PB on toast and potatoes, but also some fruit salad and a grapefruit juice. And this is just what I had, there were all sorts of options to choose from! You can see a great round up of the breakfast options, including a recipe chia pudding that I didn't have but was apparently amazing, at Amey's blog.

Breakfast Day 1 Part 1 - PB on toast, Heidi Ho chevre, avocado and nooch on toast, Sweet Earth bacon, roast fries, SD strawberry banana coconut yoghurt, Chao cheese


Breakfast Day 1 Part 2 - PB toast, fruit, roast potatoes, grapefruit juice


We also picked up our amazing Swag Bags of Wonder! Eventually, once I make my way through it all, I will do a full post detailing each item and my thoughts, but for now here is a picture of what we got.

Swag Bag of Wonder


Then it was onto the morning's talks! For the first session I went to 'The Paths to a Mindful Life' by Gene Bauer, which was a great chance to hear the founder of Farm Sanctuary talk about his life and how he finds his way to compassion in a world that so often is not compassionate. There was also a talk on at the same time by Matt Ruscigno called 'Science is Awesome: Why we don't need to exaggerate health claims about veganism.', which I would have liked to go to as well. Thankfully Erika has done a great recap here.

The next session was the hardest to choose from, because Amey was running a Zine Making Workshop that I had been looking forward to, but it ended up being at the same time as the Feminism & Veganism Panel. Ultimately I went with Feminism, but it was a harsh choice. Erika has done an amazing write up of the feminism panel here.

After a short break (where there were cookies, but I didn't eat them because coconut oil), I went to a talk by Sayward Rebhal on Facing Failing Health as a Vegan. This was a great talk, with Sayward talking about facing her own health problems and the isolation she felt as a vegan with poor health, especially with the seemingly ever increasing focus in some circles on vegan as a 'health cure-all'.She has previously done a blog post on this issue here.

And then there was lunch! Saturday's lunch theme was 'Vegans Heart Bowls', and even though we were given plates there was so much deliciousness to go around! For my bwol I had brown rice, kale, spinach, chard, buffalo cauliflower with lots and lots of ranch sauce to counter the head, avocado (I love how generous they were with the avocado), some more Sweet Earth bacon, tempeh sausage rounds, coconut bacon, apple BBQ sauce, hummus and more Heidi Ho chevre. So good! For dessert there was a selection of puddings. I went with the blood orange sago pudding with ginger crisp. They also had constantly refilled iced tea.

Bowl Lunch - brown rice, kale, spinach, chard, buffalo cauliflower, ranch, avocado, Sweet Earth bacon, tempeh sausage pucks, BBQ sauce, coconut bacon, chevre.


Blood Orange Sago and Coconut Pineapple Panna Cotta Puddings


Here I am with Michelle, who goes by Food.N.Catz on Instagram and Twitter, and who did a talk on branding later on in the day.

Me and Michelle (Food and Cats)


For the next session I went to a fun Food Styling Workshop run by Hannah Kaminsky, to pick up some tricks to try and make my food look prettier! She made a frito pie out of store bought ingredients and it looked gorgeous! Another talk I was interested in during this session was Preventing Ex-Vegans: Strategies to Maximise Long-term Success on a Vegan Diet by Ginny Messina. Thankfully she has done a great blog post on the subject for those who missed out!

The final talk of the day that I went to was 'Can We All Just Get Along? Finding Common Ground in Different Forms of Activism: A Discussion', led by Christy Morgan. Once again, Erika has done a great recap.

After the conference, a group of us went to Rabbit Food Grocery, which is Austin's all vegan store. I will post more about it later, but it is awesome! It is also near Bananarchy, which is trailer that sells frozen bananas that can be dipped in vegan chocolate. Even though it was rainy, frozen bananas are important because of potassium and also it was fun for me and Josh to say 'bananarchy' in American accents. I had a half banana, dipped in chocolate, with chopped nuts and cinnamon. It was so good!

Banana with Vegan Chocolate, peanuts and cinnamon from Bananarchy.


Saturday night was also the 3rd birthday celebrations of Capital City Bakery. We arrived and had to line up for an hour to get in the door, it was so well attended!

Capital City Bakery


Capital City Bakery


Capital City Bakery


Here I tried my first kolaches, which are delicious! One was ham and cheese and one was scramble and sausage. These were amazing, and so filling! Ham and cheese was definitely the best!

Ham and Cheese and Scrofu and Sausage Kolaches from Capital City Bakery


I also had a piece of their strawberry cheesecake. Oh. My. God. I do not know what magic they do, but this is seriously the best cheesecake I have EVER had. In fact, all other cheesecake is now meaningless.

Strawberry Cheesecake from Capital City Bakery


On the topic of Capital City Bakery being awesome, here is a terrible picture of a piece of chocolate cake from there I was given by Randi. Best chocolate cake of my life? You know it!

Best chocolate cake ever from Capital City Bakery


The moral of this story is that Capital City Bakery is seriously amazing. I wish I had more time to go there and eat all of the things! We should all go there and eat all of the things. Book a flight to Austin now, you will thank me! Then you will cry because you can never eat cheesecake again without remembering the best cheesecake in the world. But it will be worth it, because you will have had the best cheesecake in the world! Not to mention all their other delicious goodies.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Scrunchy


Scrunchy, the kitty at my AirBnB. Sadly Scrunchy has since passed on, she was a very old girl. I am thankful I got to meet her.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

USA 2015 Part 2: VidaVeganCon Kicks Off!

Thursday afternoon was the Unofficial (But Official) VVC Meet & Greet at Buzz Mill for those who were in town early. I can't deny that I was pretty nervous, being a social awkward person plunging into an outdoor patio full of people who mostly already knew others there. But turns out I didn't need to worry, because everyone is lovely! I was welcomed by Jess, one of the amazing VVC organisers (who made me feel so welcome the entire weekend). I was so excited to finally meet Jojo from Vegan In Brighton (who I have followed in the internet since way back when I used to frequent the PPK) as well as fellow Australian (but living in Germany) Josh. I also met Randi from Laughfrodesiac and Lauren.

Buzz Mill had a vegan food cart out the back, Golden Spike Rail Cart, which is now operating as a wholesale business rather than a cart. However on the day they were still open and had a fun menu. I was still pretty full, but I had this Mini Cheese Steak (minus the capsicum) which was pretty yummy even though it was not very photogenic!

Mini Cheese Steak from Golden Spike Rail Cart


I've been a huge fan of Bianca from Vegan Crunk and finally got brave enough to say hi. She also had her best friend Sheridan with her, and we had met online through Bianca's blog, so that was such a great delight to meet her as well as Bianca!

Sheridan, me and Bianca


Austin is home to an amazing vegan ice cream shop, Sweet Ritual, and they were selling a couple of flavours there. It was hot, and also who says no to ice cream, so I got a scoop of the chocolate (almond-based) with sprinkles.

Chocolate Ice Cream with Sprinkles from Sweet Ritual pop-up


After the meet and greet I ended up at in.gredients for trivia with Jojo and crew. I was on a team with Josh, Erika (who I worked out used to do the Cosmopolitan Hour podcasts, which I loved!), Terry Hope Romero and Marie and Dan from Red Hot Vegans (who also organised the VVC scavenger hunt). Our team (Ovulation Nation) came fifth!

In.gredients have vegan mac and cheese, but by the time I was feeling hungry they had sold out! Not to worry, because we headed over to Via 313 food truck where I got to tick off one of my 'must eats', the Detroit-style cheese pizza (made with vegan cheese). This was so good! As I was not traveling with a partner, I ate this entire thing and it was GLORIOUS!

Classic Cheese Pizza from Via 313


The next morning was the day of the Vegan Bazaar, and I wanted to make sure that I didn't fill up on breakfast too much. So I went to JuiceLand (I went to the Guadalupe location, they have several) and had a Peachy Keen smoothie, which had apple juice, peach, spinach and kale in it. It was great, and judging from Instragram was a popular smoothie among VVC attendees!

Peachy Keen from JuiceLand


On my way back I stopped off at Wheatsville for the second part of my small breakfast. Just take a moment to admire this portion of their produce section. Greens are so pretty!

Pretty greens at Wheatsville


I picked up a chai latte (the JuiceLand ones had both honey and coconut oil in them... WHY???) and a breakfast taco (while in Austin). I also grabbed this cute oatmeal cup to stash for Indianapolis (more on that after Austin) and a mini-cheese just because. The taco had black beans, potato and 'beef mince', and ended up being a lot spicier than I anticipated. But thankfully I had some Maple Pecan Malk in the fridge to cool me down.

Breakfast Taco, chai and snacks from Wheatsville


And then it was on a bus and off the the Bazaar! The first hour was a cheese tasting put on by none other than cheese queen Miyoko Schinner! We can get three flavours of her cheese in Australia, but unfortunately they are all quite heavy on the coconut oil, so I was stoked to be able to try the other flavours! My favourites were the Mt Vesuvius Black Ash and the Aged English Smoked Farmhouse (I love all smoky cheeses). I didn't get a good photo of the cheese laid out on the tables, but here is my plate!

Miyoko's Cheese Plate


There was also a limited edition flavour, this gorgeous Fleur de Mai Sweet Cream Strawberry. The flavour of this was incredible! I wasn't sure if this had coconut oil in it (I suspected it did as her softer cheeses tend to) so I only had a little bit but it was so good. Plus, pretty!

Limited Edition Strawberry Cream Miyoko's cheese


The Bazaar itself was pretty amazing. A lot of great vendors and so many samples! Capital City Bakery was there with an entire table full of free samples! I had a cherry pie in a cup, a strawberry blonde cupcake and a chocolate chip cookie. I also finally got to sample a lot of Treeline Cheese which is incredible, the scallion one was my favourite.

Capital City Bakery samples


Treeline Cheese samples


Other vendors there that I enjoyed samples from included Mean Vegan Products (my first ever tamale tasting, also they make some great mushroom jerky) and Upton's Naturals (their new jackfruit products are great!). But there were so many more as well!

The bazaar also had some talks going on. After the crowded vendor area, sitting in a peaceful theater was a nice break. I went to Bianca's Kombucha and Ginger Beer Home Brewing talk, the 'How We Made Austin Awesome' Panel (CLICK ON THAT LINK!) and also Terry Hope Romero's guide to the internet.

Bianca's kombucha demonstration


Terry Hope Romero


I happened to bump into Anika from Vegan Score, Seattle Vegan Extraordinaire! I had not had a chance to meet her on my past Seattle trips, so this was Very Awesome (everything is awesome!). She also introduced me to two other Seattle vegans, Brit and Jean. Hanging out with awesome Seattle people just made my day!

There were four food trucks that came to the event, and I sampled from two. Of course I could not miss out on a taco from The Vegan Nom. They have a HUGE menu as well as specials, but I ended up going with the intriguing Maple Miso Sweet Potato, which had maple-miso glazed sweet potato, creamy salsa verde, coriander and avocado (I had them leave off the raw red onion). It was so good.

Maple Miso Sweet Potato Taco from The Vegan Nom


I also had a sweet corn tamale from Cool Beans. Forgive the terrible photo, but this was great! I was sad not to try and of their tacos, which I hear are amazing.

Sweet Corn Tamale from Cool Beans


My Bazaar haul. I want to go back and buy so much more stuff!

Vida Vegan Bazaar goodies


For dinner I met up with the Seattle vegans at Spider House, there was some sort of event on there but it got a but confusing so we just ended up sitting and eating and talking. I got the Mock Chicken Wrap from The Vegan Yacht and Brit got their famous Frito Burrito.

Mock Chick'n Wrap from The Vegan Yacht


Frito Burrito from The Vegan Yacht


Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Sahara


Sahara sleeping the morning before I left.