Honeymoon – Los Angeles 

I’m loving reading this year’s Vegan MoFo posts! Sadly, my last semster of school is taking main focus, but I’ve still got two more honeymoon posts left to share with you guys.

Los Angeles was interesting to say the least. Our overnight train arrived extremely early to the station (4:30 a.m. to be exact), which was too early for us to drop our bags in the hotel lobby and go see any attractions. So we ended up sleeping in the station with the huddled masses until about 9 when we knew the La Brea Tar Pits would be opening.

So slightly frazzled looking, but still excited, we set off to see LA. We took an Uber to the tar pits and our driver was this fascinating Armenian man who chatted with us about his home country, how he came here, and what we should do with our two days in town. I’m glad he was so friendly because it made our time stuck in LA’s notorious traffic seem less long.    

We stopped by the museum first before exploring the grounds. It was a bit pricey to get in, but ended up being worth it to see the massive amount of bones excavated from this site. There were tons of skeletons, each accompanied by paintings of their original state and visual timelines for those unfamiliar with the tar pits’ history. IMG_0844They have collected 100’s of dire wolf skulls and had a huge display of them on the wall. IMG_0831 After the museum we walked around the grounds to see the actual excavation sites. We could stand there and gawk at researchers as they tediously chipped away at the dirt and moved around the various fossil crates.
There were no researchers to be seen in this area, but according to nearby plaques they’re still currently finding bones in this section.Looking at the bones and drawings of giant sloths (here and at the Houston Museum of Natural Science) has caused me to develop a deep fear of them. So these sculptures were not my favorite part of the La Brea Tar Pits, but it was made up for by the lovely grounds and extremely friendly staff. A definite must see when visiting LA.

Our next stop was the Museum of Death in Hollywood. No photos are allowed inside, so the image below is all we’ve got from this stop. But it’s probably a good thing photos inside aren’t allowed, because it’s a very very gruesome museum.

We mostly went because of my morbid fascination with serial killers, which they greatly feature in their extensive collection, but some of the rooms were stomach churning with photographs of car crash or war crime victims. It was a bit too much for us and we walked through some rooms without looking at the images plastered on the walls. Although I’m glad we went, I wish we could’ve just picked and chosen the rooms we enjoyed in our visit (which would be the serial killers and Charles Manson displays) and not had to walk through some of the grislier areas. It was worth it though to see a quilt that was hand sewn by Manson’s followers which were cute floral prints made into a swastika pattern. Totally crazy.

So with the warning that they are 100% serious when they say it is a morbid affair, Museum of Death might be a good stop if you have a sick fascination or two.I could’ve sworn I had more photos, including our lunch, but they seem to have disappeared from my camera. So I’ll wow you with my description in lieu of visual evidence. After the museum, we walked down Sunset Boulevard (and saw the vastly over-rated stars on the sidewalk) to Veggie Grill, which is a chain in California that is totally vegan and has a ton of faux meat options.

I couldn’t resist the b-wing salad, which features a bed of lettuce topped with spicy buffalo wings, avocado, corn salsa, and a creamy ranch. Peter got a Santa Fe crispy chicken sandwich, which has a fried chicken patty with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, and a spicy mayo. Both of our meals were beyond amazing. I didn’t go in expecting too much because chains don’t always deliver quality, but we were very full and happy afterwards and kept repeating “That was just SO good.”

Afterwards we still quite tired from our lack of sleep, so we just watched a movie (Mad Max: Fury Road) at the theatre next door. Later we went back to the hotel, napped, woke up for dinner and realized that we were so tired we didn’t want to walk anywhere. So (lucky for us they deliver) we got Veggie Grill again! I got the crispy chicken plate which had sides of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and garlic kale. Peter got the exact same sandwich because his earlier meal was so good. Once again, we were very happy with our dinner and it was made even better that we got to eat it while wearing pajamas in bed.

After a night of restful sleep, we set off early to see the beach. We went to Venice Beach first and rented a tandem bicycle for the afternoon. We rode it along the bike path and although it was a bit scary at first (especially since Peter was the “driver”) we had a great time whizzing by the beach goers. We stopped a few times to wander around the strange shops and avoid the scary tattoo parlors. Trust me, you don’t want that $20 bargain tattoo on you forever.
  Eventually we ended up at Santa Monica Pier, which has the Pacific Park amusement park. Pretty hungry from our journey, we stopped off to have lunch and take a ride on the Ferris wheel. I cannot remember which restaurant we went to (even after scouring the area in Google Maps), but it was nearby  and they ended up having black bean tacos that could be veganized and a vegetarian burger for Peter. We paid out the nose for eating so close to a tourist spot, but the food was good and the view of the ocean from the patio was great.We wandered the beach after lunch, picking up shells and being amused by the various types of birds that would jump around in the tide.For dinner we headed to China Town, which was only a 20 minutes walk from our hotel. Now I know ramen is Japanese and not Chinese, but we had to check out Ramen Champ for two reasons: 1. I’ve never eaten ramen made with fresh noodles 2. They had vegan optionsThe atmosphere in Ramen Champ was great. With art plastered on everything from the wall, to the menu, to the chopstick packaging, the visuals of the restaurant realy added to the meal. I got the house ramen with added tofu and I paid a bit extra to make it spicy. Peter got the same exact thing, minus the heat.  This was a bittersweet meal, both because the fresh noodles were amazingly chewy while the flavorful broth seared my mouth and because I knew that there’s no place that serves ramen like this in central Alabama. So we savored this delicious meal before heading back to the hotel to rest for our journey to San Diego the next day.

Honeymoon – Austin

This post is definitely going to be the longest thing I’ll write about our honeymoon, because we stayed nearly 4 days in Austin, an amazingly vegan-friendly city.
If you’re comfortable walking pretty much everywhere, we recommend staying at the Super 8 near the capital/university area. We stayed there and it was a five minute walk to downtown Austin.

Day 1: We arrived by train in the early afternoon and immediately set off looking for the Shhmaltz food truck, famous for their vegan reuben.The truck is in a nice little area tucked behind a bookstore. We somehow managed to get lost, but when we called the lovely owners (twice actually) they managed to give us directions that led us there.  So, even if you’re using Google Maps, remember to check behind the bookstore!

The area was nice and green with a canopy to shade us from the sun. Plus adorable planters with succulents decorated the tables.I, of course, got the vegan ‘Harvey P’ reuben and on the side a pickle sampler. The sampler included pickled cucumber, jicama, carrots, and watermelon radishes.

The sandwich lived up to the hype, and the pickles were the perfect accompaniment. The seitan (house-made, I might add) was full of flavor with an eerily similar to meat texture, topped with an equally delicious sauce and smashed between toasted marbled rye.  Peter ate their ‘Gertrude Stein’ goat cheese sandwich, that he described as “creamy and yummy”. The city was chock-full of interesting street art.

 Although we don’t have any photos from it, our afternoon was spent wandering through downtown before heading to the University of Texas campus to visit the Blanton Art Museum and the Texas Memorial Museum.

The Blanton was awesome with several pieces of modern art and an exhibit on civil rights. My personal favorite piece was a life-size Aunt Jemima packing heat.

The Texas Memorial was small, but interesting, and definitely worth the small entry fee of $2 each for students ($4 for anyone else 13+). It had a decent collection of geodes, minerals, dinosaur bones, and examples of local wildlife. Before we knew it, we’d actually been looking around there for over an hour!

All of that walking built up an appetite, so we visited a food truck I’d been hearing about (and wanting to visit) for years: Arlo’s. We got there right before a storm was about to break and the guys in the truck were happy to package our meal for to-go.

Once we got our food, the heavens opened and our tiny umbrella couldn’t shield both us and the burgers. So we sacrificed our own comfort to save the food, and jogged to our nearby hotel. Once dried off in the hotel (sorry for the shoddy lighting) we dug into our bacon cheese burgers and order of tater tots. Now I know you can’t tell from the picture, but this is the most magnificent burger I have ever eaten. Probably my favorite meal of our entire honeymoon.

The burger patty and bacon are all house-made seitan, and I’m fairly sure they used Daiya cheese, along with lettuce, tomatoes, and mustard. Oh man. We ended up eating there twice more during the trip, despite us wanting to try new things every meal. If I lived in Austin, I’m pretty sure the Arlo’s staff would soon know Peter and I by name. Day 2: We were up bright and early to visit the Texas Capital Building and go on a tour. The building was amazingly decorative, from the doorknobs to the hinges.
 The main focal point (and the most crowded place) was the center of the building, which at the very tip-top featured a huge star that was actually 8 feet across, but looked much smaller from the ground level.

 Our tour guide was nice and informative, and seemed genuinely happy to answer questions. We went through the Texas House of Representatives room, and were told about various things happening there and the history behind some of the portraits on the walls.

 For lunch we went to the Austin Farmer’s Market There were so many vendors with beautiful local produce and products. It made me quite sad that I didn’t have a kitchen to cook all the wonderful looking fruits and vegetables in.
We got some tamales at The Gardner’s Feast tent. I chose the mushroom type and Peter got feta and spring veggies. To drink we had our first encounter with kombucha at the Buddha’s Brew tent. They had taps on display so you could sample the wares before investing in a bottle. We both ended up liking the blueberry flavor best. Peter being King of the Pigeons after dropping tamale crumbs.
 We couldn’t resist dessert from the Happy Vegan Baker. Peter chose a vanilla cupcake and I got a blackberry pastry. Both were delicious and we left the Farmer’s Market full and happy!
We couldn’t resist a good photo op. The First Street Bridge was a really pleasant walk over the Colorado River. It was a pretty view and felt far away from the actual traffic.
Our main destination across the bridge was Peter Pan Mini Golf. A kinda creepy but a lot of fun mini golf course. I don’t know who sat down and thought up the ideas for each hole’s theme. Seriously, an ant singing on a taco? Or an obviously high bunny rabbit with a skateboard? The wackiness of the sculptures made it even more fun.
 Neither of us are actually any good at mini golf.
 Missing holes took up the rest of our afternoon, so we decided to get dinner on that side of the river. Thankfully, it’s hard to go someplace in Austin and not be within two blocks of vegan food. Unity Vegan Kitchen was just a short walk away and offered some very, very good food.

Peter partook in the lasagna, which was a big portion size and filled up with thick tomato sauce, something similar to ground beef, and cashew cheese. I chose their weekly special, which was a chick’n and cheese chimichanga.

Peter is happy with anything pasta, so he gave his meal a thumbs up. Mine was amazing and full of gooey cheese, spiced chick’n (pretty sure it was Beyond Meat), and all wrapped up in a crispy fried tortilla. It was also served with two cups of salsa on the side, one red and one green. If you’re in the neighborhood, check this place out. Their food rocks.
Day 3: Texas has a reputation for having great Mexican food, so we wanted to try out the Tamale House East, which had stellar reviews online. The large line told us that it must be worth waiting for. I happily ordered the vegan mushroom enchiladas and Peter asked for the cheese enchiladas. I’m sad to say that this was our one bad food experience in Austin. The waitress brought out our food and mine had cheese. I told her I’d ordered the vegan enchiladas and she seemed bewildered and said that was them. “Is this vegan cheese?” I asked doubtfully and then she said “No.” After a minute, the manager came out and said he could fix this and whisked the plate away. About 5 minutes later cheese-free enchiladas were at my table, though all of the staff had acted like I was being unreasonable.

The food was just mediocre, like something I could get at any run of the mill Mexican joint. A soggy corn tortilla stuffed with sauteed mushrooms (without any real flavor) and topped with green salsa. The sides were fine, but lukewarm when brought out. Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend going there if you don’t want a plate covered in cheese.
 We visited the French Legation Museum on a whim, and it turned out to be one of our favorite parts of Austin. It featured Austin’s oldest home and our tour guide told us about former residents. The entire thing was furnished with period pieces and fascinating to view. If you don’t want to pay for the tour (even though it was only $5!) the grounds are free to visit during the museum’s open hours. Afterwards we strolled through the Texas State Cemetery. It was well kept and featured some well known people (including Austin’s namesake). 

 Since our last restaurant visit didn’t work out, we decided to stick with food trucks again. There was a food truck park just a five minute walk from the hotel and there we settled on Coat and Thai for dinner. Peter got the pad thai and I ordered the green curry (be sure to specify you want it vegan!). We got it packaged to-go so we could eat while we waited on the bats.
 Under Congress Avenue Bridge is a horde of thousands of bats that fly out every night and people go out to watch them.The area where we sat was actually really nice, even more so when it cooled down after the sun set. We happily sat there and ate our Thai food (which was delicious and very filling!) while we waited.
 Eventually a steady stream of bats flew out and it was an amazing sight. You could hear them squeaking and see them fly out into the nearby trees. We stayed about two hours, just fascinated by the seemingly unending amount of bats.  Our train out of Austin was later in the day, so we had time for lunch and an activity or two. We went back to the food truck park, but sadly Coat and Thai was closed. Luckily though, Way South Philly was open!

Peter got the Marciano and asked for no steak, so basically it was a pizza sub (which he was ecstatic about). I got the Adrian, which had squash, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions.

gotta be honest, at first I was sad at the thought of just a veggie sandwich. I expected something that would probably be a little plain and not filling, but boy was I wrong. The veggies were all perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The roll it was served on was equal parts crusty and soft, and then everything was perfected with a little drizzle of hot sauce on top. Good job, Way South Philly. You taught a jaded old vegan that even a meat and cheese place can make a darn good veggie sandwich.
 After lunch we walked around 6th Street, which had a huge collection of restaurants, art galleries, clothing stores, and other wacky findings. One of the best things there was the Museum of the Weird, which was tucked into the back of a gift shop.

When you first enter the tour guide does a small (yet impressive) show featuring sword swallowing and other classic stunts. Then you’re free to explore the museum’s array of items, ranging from deformed taxidermy animals (see below) to the fiji mermaid and big foot tracks. Although the museum wasn’t huge, we had a great time there. A lot of the displayed items’ authenticity are questionable, but that just adds to the fun.
We had such an absolute blast in Austin, we were sad to leave. And even though we packed our days here to the brim with activities, I feel like we just saw a small fraction of what the city has to offer. We’ll be back, that’s for sure.

Pizza Planet (Vegan MoFo #1)

vegmofo

Happy Vegan MoFo 2014, everyone! I am very excited to kick off my theme for this year, Disney movies. I’ll have a good mix of old and new, plus popular and obscure Disney films to feature yummy dishes from.

To start off, we’ll stick with a 90’s classic, Toy Story. In the original movie, Woody and Buzz Lightyear get stranded in a gas station, but manage to snag a ride to the Pizza Planet restaurant/arcade in search of their owner, Andy. I’ve always loved the idea of this kind of space-themed Chuck E. Cheese, so it inspired me to make pizza from it!

Since most kids seem to drift towards classic cheese pizza, I decided to lay low on the veggies and keep to the theme. I was quite proud of this pizza, due to everything being homemade.

toystorypizzaI used a whole wheat crust (which Peter proclaimed delicious), oil-free pizza sauce, and cashew mozzarella cheese with a sprinkle of fresh basil from my windowsill. The pizza sauce turned out a bit on the sweet side, but everything else was great.

The crust was chewy and used only whole wheat flour, so there was no guilt with making it. I was skeptical about the cheese, but once baked it firmed up and had a good texture for those craving cheese pizza, but not wanting to splurge on store-bought vegan cheeses. I may play around with the agave ratio in the sauce next time I make this, but I’ll definitely be baking up this pizza again.