Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Cool Beans, ATX

Before I got to Austin I read about all vegan Mexican food truck Cool Beans on Stephanie's blog, I also bookmarked the truck on the Happy Cow app in my "New - must visit" list but it was meeting the duo behind the truck that finally pushed me over the edge and made me think "I need to eat there now!". I met Priscilla and Rolando at Buzzmill last tuesday night and as soon as wednesday lunchtime rolled around I couldn't stop myself from heading over there to sample the food they talked about so passionately. 

One thing that made me realise how invested in making everything from scratch they are is how quickly they knew what I'd be able to order when I mentioned my allergies - they didn't need to check any packets or consult their recipes because they really know their shit.

I'd heard that their homemade corn tortillas were the bomb dot com so I knew I'd be ordering tacos. I ordered The Outkast and Nick went with The Native. We also got an order of Street Corn, hold the chilli powder, and a Sweetcorn Tamale to share.

I honestly don't even know where to begin describing this delicious meal because just thinking about it sends my brain into a spin and all I want to do is sprint out of the door so that I can go and eat it all again! That's how good it is! The outcast was not the kinda thing I'd usually go for, normally I'm a mock meat and cheese heavy taco orderer, but this simple, flavourful portobella mushroom taco had me floored. It also turned me into a total corn tortilla convert! I was team flour all the way until last tuesday and now I'm just confused and I think that maybe a really great corn tortilla might pip a flour tortilla to the post. Nick super loved his garbanzo tempeh and pineapple filled Native Taco, I could tell because he just kept saying "Oh wow" over and over whilst he was eating it which was a bit of a giveaway.

The street corn had come highly recommended by my pal Jess just a day or two earlier and I was beyond excited to learn that it's made to order so leaving off the chilli would be no problemo. As soon as it arrived at the table Nick and I both pounced upon the delicious sweetcorn, homemade mayo and sesame parmesan topped creation like grackles taking a mouthful each until it was gone. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best things I've ever eaten. I'd heard of Mexican Street Corn before and I thought that it sounded like a delicious idea but I'd resigned myself to the fact that I'd never get to eat any because y'know I'm lazy and I'd never heard of anyone selling a vegan version until now. The sweetcorn tamale disappeared in about three seconds flat but I was oh so glad that they had one left so that I was able to try it, I love tamales but when you either don't have a kitchen (or do but it's at an Air B&B and it isn't well stocked) making your own isn't a very realistic proposition so I was super pleased to find a delicious chilli free version at Cool Beans.

Once we'd finished eating Nick and I were discussing how this meal was up there with the best food we've eaten all year when Priscilla and Rolando popped up with some surprise food for us! Their famous Warrier taco had been off-menu that day but because someone had driven over to the east side just to try it they got cooking and whipped up a batch of their super inventive Q-Rizo (Quinoa Chorizo!) and some of their spelt tortillas because they're nice like that. They kicked their generosity up a notch and brought one over for Nick to try and knowing that I wouldn't be able to sample it they whipped me up a little off menu creation with avocado and pickled red onions.

I was super excited that Nick got to try The Warrier but I was even more excited about how they managed to make something as simple souning as a spelt tortilla with avocado, pickled red onions and coriander (okay, okay, cilantro) taste so freaking great. I was not at all surprised to learn that these two whip these up to snack on regularly and I will probably be requesting this pretty often over the next four weeks!

Cool Beans are one of the four trucks that'll be serving up delicious food at this Friday's Vida Vegan Con Bazaar at The Marchesa Hall & Theatre. If you're into delicious food do stop by and check them out, I swear you won't be disappointed! In other Vida Vegan Con related news (OMG I can't believe how soon it is!) I'll be selling my zine, European Vegan, at the speakers table at the bazaar on Friday so come & check it out. Over the weekend you can catch me talking about Veganism & Feminism with Julia, Anika from Seattle Vegan Score & Nicole J. Georges on Saturday morning at 10:55am and my Adventures in Vegan Travel and Blogging From the Road talk is on Sunday at 4pm. I'm so ready for a weekend of fun and I can't wait to kick it all off at Thursday's meet and greet, see y'all at The Buzzmill!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Vegan in... Austin!

These past two weeks have been a total whirlwind of excitement, travel, stress and just plain old getting shit done.

May 5th saw Nick and I hopping onto a flight from Bangkok to Heathrow and from there we headed straight to Brighton for six nights of BFF shaped food and fun at Tabitha's house. I managed to see almost every single person I like that week; I met up with friends at the new Loving Hut on Gardner Street, had dinner at Pho (which I have to admit was a little disappointing after eating the real thing all over Vietnam) with all of Nick's old friends, hung with Randi at both VBites and Boho Gelato (they made me pistachio!) and caught up with Sal for sleepover fun, much chatting and a whole lotta Pizza Face.

I also managed to cram in a whole lot of Vego bars and blustery seafront walks. It was a strong week! I also managed to get my zine, European Vegan, 99% finished which I was super excited about. Having not only a place to just sit still but also a printer really helped with the zine productivity!

After six days in Brighton Nick and I were on the move again and we had Austin in our sights. After some tasty eats at Cornucopia in Dublin, their potato salad is so amazing, and my first time ever sleeping on the floor at an airport we were winging our way to Austin.

We arrived last tuesday and checked into our super cute Air B&B. A combination of research and local knowledge from our previous trips totally paid off and we're in a brilliant location. We can walk to Barton Springs and we're a 10 minute drive from both Wheatsville and Whole Foods which is perfect. I'm definitely going to be blogging more about the food I've been eating so far but here are some of the highlights...

The Vegan Nom! I have been craving a Del Ray, their "fish" taco, since we left Austin last September and I was super excited to be reunited with it. In fact, as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to go and grab another one because it's just so damn good. Breaded, black pepper coated faux fish, crispy cabbage and a lime creme all topped off with perfectly ripe avocado and even more black pepper... it's perfect.

Via 313 is another spot I've been dreaming of non-stop and I couldn't wait to get a slice (or four) of their vegan margherita pizza into my mouth. They use Follow Your Heart cheese and it's baked right into the perfectly oily Detroit style crust before being topped off with the most delicious marinara sauce. So damn good! I enjoyed checking out their new sit down location in Oak Hill because the Friday night bar scene really isn't my thing but I'll definitely be revisiting their truck at Violet Crown when it's quieter.

As well as eating I've been hanging out with all of the wonderful Austin (and Portland!) vegans at quiz nights, on patios, at ramen joints, at brunch spots and ice cream parlours and even in their kitchens! It's been a blast and I am beyond excited that I get to be here for four more weeks. I also managed to swing by the brand new Rabbit Food Grocery to grab some fun treats and I've been getting down with the huge range of American vegan products, from s'more fudge to canned vegan tuna and everything in-between I've probably tried it! More on that next time but as it's the first time I've ever had more than a microwave in the US you can bet your ass I've been getting a little crazy in the kitchen.

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, my zine was 99% finished when I left Brighton and now it's 100% a reality and I am so excited about it! I've been working on it for about 7 or 8 months because translating everything and then getting it all checked over by fluent / native speakers is process to say the least. European Vegan is a pocket sized guide to reading labels Europe-wide. For years I've made lists of all of the ingredients I'd like to avoid at home and translated them into the language of the country I've been heading to, my zine sees that through to it's logical conclusion with translations in 32 languages to help make shopping abroad a breeze.

I've used the lists to find churros in a Spanish hypermarket, fun snacks at a Bratislavan health food store, and to suss out which sausages are egg free in a Belgian supermarket so it's a tried and tested method of finding vegan eats when you can't read the language. As well as including translations for things like eggs, milk and honey the zine also covers you if you're looking for shoes or clothes with translations for leather, silk, wool etc included too. If being able to shop abroad easily isn't enough of a draw I'm also donating 20% of the sale price to the League Against Cruel Sports because after the hideous election results our furry friends in the UK need our help more than ever.

European Vegan is on sale now in my Big Cartel store. It's currently shipping first class airmail from the USA so if you're in Europe please be patient as it won't arrive quite as speedily as if I was sending it from the UK. If you need it urgently I can send you any page you need as a PDF document as soon as you purchase a copy! If you're heading to Austin for Vida Vegan Con firstly, yay! I am excited to hang out with you! And secondly, I'll be selling European Vegan at the Speakers Table at the Vegan Bazaar next Friday so you can grab a copy in person.