Archive for the ‘Road Trip’ category

Road Trip Review: Denver’s Vegan Van

July 14th, 2013

Denver Vegan Van

 

We love to travel and it has been awhile since I’ve made a travel post. Our last trip was to Colorado just last week. It has been 3 years since visiting one of our favorite places and in that time the vegan options have become plentiful. It is always great to visit somewhere you can easily dine out without worrying if your veggies have meat sprinkled in them.

We were excited to discover that Denver now has its own food truck. Food trucks are booming in some areas and languishing in some. I still believe it is a food fad but I’ll still partake of one when I find it. We did happen upon Denver’s Vegan Van while making a visit to Nooch, which happens to be a full vegan market.

The Vegan Van has a short menu as a food truck should.  Selections were limited to sandwiches and wraps with their version of vegan ‘wings’ made buffalo or hoisin style. Nothing very mind-blowing or extravagant to be found. Just a few simple things. Simple is good.

Denver Vegan Van Menu

 

Denver Vegan Van - Planet Rock

The Planet Rock - A tofu sandwich with buffalo sauce and topped with creamy cole slaw. While the sauce was very good it didn't do much for the seemingly unmarinated tofu underneath. It did not "rock", as the name implies.

 

I went for a Planet Rock. This was a standard buffalo sauced tofu sandwich topped with a creamy slaw. The flavor of the sauce was OK, there were 3 pieces of, unfortunately, unmarinated tofu on the sandwich and the slaw had a good flavor. Mrs. Nashveggie and Miss Nashveggie each had the Super Freak, an Italian-style veggie burger with bruschetta. The burger was covered in a mix of green and yellow peppers. I’m not really sure what was Italian about the burger. One might expect some basil or oregano. Perhaps some marinara-sauce topping if even taking the easy way out. There was no bruschetta to be found, the bun was just a bun. There was no toasting, garlic, oil or anything else typically used as bruschetta topping. The patty had a rather bland flavor and the greens and peppers lent more flavor to the sandwich than the patty did. While none of the sandwiches were absolutely stand-out even more of a let down was paying $7-$9 per sandwich and getting nothing more than stale popcorn as a side. Even plain potato  chips would have been a better offering than a handful of popcorn that was mostly unpopped kernels.

Denver Vegan Van - Super Freak

The Super Freak - I'm not sure what about this sandwich supports its name. Described as "Italian-style" nothing about it gave it the flavor.

 

I really believe that Denver can support a vegan food truck and I hope on our next visit to the area the Vegan Van is still riding.  I also hope in that time they have made significant improvements. They have plenty of room to make them.

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St. Augustine Vacation

July 19th, 2011

Another Summer vacation is behind us. Each year we make a trek to St. Augustine, Florida so Mrs. Nashveggie can veg-out on the beach. It’s her one annual requirement.  Sand, the sound of waves and a book pacifies her.  St. Augustine is the city she went to college in and where she lived when we first began dating so returning there is based on the fact we know the area quite well. That and the fact there’s a beach. The beach is important if I didn’t emphasize that enough already. We like the fact the beaches aren’t overrun with nutty families with coolers in tow and it is highly preferred over the Redneck Riviera which so many from this area attack every year. You know where I’m talking about, that strip of beach that runs from Mobile, Alabama to an area just east of Panama City Beach, Florida and where you’ll find every beer-gut, Budweiser-swilling, SUV-driving, camouflage-bikini wearing redneck in a 500 mile radius. Yes, the Redneck Riviera, not what this post is about nor where you’ll find me. As I said, we head to St. Augustine on the East coast of Florida where the beaches are clean and relatively free of crowds if you know where to look. We have our own little beach few know about or at least few choose to go there and that makes us all the happier.

St. Augustine has a few places to find a vegan lunch. I’ve written on them before and the choices have not changed. If you’re looking for a big vegan dinner you’re best moving up the road to Jacksonville or south to Daytona as the choices aren’t the widest in St. Augustine. You could try The Perfect Moment, a raw vegan cafe serving what I lovingly refer to as “pretty food” but I can give you no pointers on that as it is “pretty food” and I don’t typically partake of that. You could go to The Manatee Cafe, a great vegetarian restaurant that serves mostly things I make easily at home. The do have great vegan breakfasts and sandwiches but we didn’t visit this trip. We did visit Stir It Up, a small walk-up lunch counter serving wraps and smoothies as well as Mango Mango’s where it’s not easy to order vegan off the menu and if you ask for what can be made vegan you’ll still have a slim selection. Mango Mango’s does, however, have a killer Black Bean Soup. I know, soup isn’t exactly what you might want for dinner on a hot, humid beach vacation but it really was exactly what I wanted. The black bean soup was heavy on the jerk seasoning and contained small chunks of one of my favorite fruits, plantain. Mrs. Nashveggie had the Caribbean Mango Island Salad, a mix of greens topped with peppers, oranges, coconut, almonds and mango. The salad looked great and tasted fresh. Heavy on the mango and sweetness. We ate at Mango Mango’s a couple times and had the same each. We also made a few trip to The Spanish Bakery. Cheap lunch awaits! Two fresh bowls of gazpacho, a big hot loaf of bread, six cookies and drinks for $10! Seating is all outside under big shade trees and on a hot day gazpacho is perfect. Most of our time in St. Augustine was spent on the beach as it usually is and meals were relegated to fresh fruit and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Mango Mangos - Caribbean Mango Island Salad

Mango Mango's - Black Bean Soup

On the drive back we stopped off in Atlanta for a couple of days. My mother-in-law lives there so life wouldn’t be pleasant if we passed through without stopping for a visit. We decided on a new place for lunch, Urban Pl8. I had read good and bad about it but the food always came out good in reviews. Our arrival was during brunch on Sunday about noon. A 40 minute wait and we were seated outside near the small garden where some of the ingredients in this “local food” restaurant are sourced. Looking over the menu and reading between the various Paleo selections and after asking which selections could be veganized I decided on the Vegan Breakfast Plate. It included a pinto bean cake that was just a bit spicy but lacked much else on seasoning or salt leaving it very bland. It was accompanied by braised kale that was very good and maple sweet potatoes which I could have eaten a second serving of. Overall, not a bad meal but something should be done about that pinto bean cake. Dress it up in some flavor-love. Mr’s Nashveggie had the same and my mother-in-law had Lily’s Nut Burger, a patty of walnuts, cashews, brown rice and cheddar cheese topped with sour cream on a whole wheat English muffin. Of course, it’s not vegan but is vegetarian so add that a choice if that’s your way. It was on the small side and I would have needed at least 4 of them to consider it lunch. It was served with a mixed greens salad that was drenched in a very spicy dressing. Again, on the small side but I guess hangovers need small eats for brunch. The Kid had tofu scramble and the same maple sweet potatoes included with the vegan breakfast. The scramble looked very good and had subtle flavor. It contained a mix of red peppers, zucchini and onions and seemed to be cooked in an abundant amount of oil which was served along with in the bottom of the bowl. The food was nothing outstanding and I’ve had worse but the service was really bad. It took 10 minutes to get our drinks after ordering and 20 minutes for a refill of my sweet tea. The Kid’s tofu scramble was served with shredded cheese on top, which was not even mentioned in the description, and was replaced with a fresh dish when we brought it to the server’s attention. I’m not sure on the exact breakdown on the time but we arrived at the restaurant at noon and left after eating, no floundering after finishing, at 3:20. Most of this time was spent waiting for our meals. Everything seems to be prepared fresh when ordered and to order by one cook. The restaurant wasn’t extremely packed. If you do plan on visiting Urban Pl8 be sure to give a good amount of time to get in and out.

Urban Pl8 - Vegan Breakfast

Urban Pl8 - Lily's Nut Burger (Vegetarian, not vegan)

Dinner that evening was on the mother in law’s suggestion. She had decided we should go to Nicola’s. No argument from me, Nicola’s is great. A Turkish restaurant on LaVista, Nicola’s makes anyone feel like family. Everyone is greeted by the owner upon entering and kept entertained by the length of the visit by him and one or all of the staff. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night you’ll be able to enjoy belly dancing. Be ready to be asked to join in. Everyone is and at some point in the night the entire restaurant is on their feet in the center of the dining room dancing to Middle Eastern pop tunes and sloppily belly dancing the best they can. I can only guess I might have better falafel and fried artichokes if I visited a Middle Eastern country and ate them locally. No, I take that back I’m sure these would beat anything I would get if I traveled thousands of miles. This is the absolute best Middle Eastern munchies I’ve ever had and the personal attention you get just adds to the experience.

Nicola's Restaurant - Hommos, Baba Ghanoush, Falafel with vegan sauce, Artichoke Heart, Tabbouleh, Fattoush, Grape Leaves (vegetarian), Spinach Pie (vegetarian)

It’s peach season so we made sure to have enough room in the car on the trip home for extra cargo. If you’ve bought peaches locally you know they’re not cheap. They might seem cheap until you buy a sufficient quantity to do something with then you realize that $1.49 a pound adds up. Grocery stores and local farmers markets are not the place to buy peaches if you’re looking to save money. To do that you find the growers selling their product. Being able to haggle helps, as well. Instead of that $1.49 a pound we got 60 pounds of big, plump, sweet, juicy, delicious smelling peaches for $20. That comes out to about 33 cents a pound. That’s the way to buy peaches! Look soon for a post on various peach concoctions. I’m looking to try something peachy new. Any ideas?

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Another Colorado Trip

October 21st, 2009

We’re back from our latest excursion west.  It’s always good to get away.  It’s always better to get away to a place that has vegan offerings.  On this trip to Denver and Boulder we visited some places we’ve been to before and found some new ones.

Most of our days were spent walking the streets of Boulder.  A trip to the Boulder Farmers Market was made and I found what a Farmers Market should be.  I have been to markets in other cities but Boulder does it right.  All local, no vendors selling the same stuff that’s in the grocery store from a factory farm in another state.  I bought some beautiful purple peppers that will be used in quesadillias and multiple squashes that my wife plans to use somehow in something tasty.  There were many tables of apples so a big bag of these tiny Honeycrisp that tasted like candy had to be gotten.  One vendor had nothing but mushrooms, every fungus you could desire.  A bag of assorted fungus was procured.  There were vendors selling baked goods, soups, breads and most of them were vegan.  Asking if something was vegan was never met with a stupid look, only a smile and a yes.  I’m always on the lookout for coffee and I found a few local roasters selling their beans.  I picked up a pound of espresso roast from Silver Canyon Roasters and I write this with a cup in hand.

Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market

While in Boulder we found a little coffee shop on Pearl Street and decided to give it a try.  The Laughing Goat served a good cup of coffee and it wasn’t overpriced as most are.  I did notice they kept their beans in a freezer which I have always thought to be a no-no.  Maybe someone can tell me otherwise.  As I had already picked up the beans from the farmers market I didn’t try these but the cup of coffee I had was very good.  The girl working the register did give us a chuckle as someone came in and asked for a Venti. She pointed to their menu and said “These are the sizes we have.”  Silly Starbucks sheep.

Also in Boulder is Savory Spice Shop.  We visited on their grand opening last year and found many spices that are unavailable in stores in Nashville.  The owner was very nice and helpful and gave me some pointers for chili peppers. This time we got a few things needed for some dishes we’ve been wanting to cook.  I also got some bhot jolokia chilis. They hold the Guinness Record for the world’s hottest pepper. The Scoville ratings for these peppers are over 1,000,000 and by comparison Tabasco Sauce has a Scoville rating of 2,500. They should be a great addition to my chili!

We visited restaurants we’ve been to before and not all worked out as expected.  A visit to Watercourse Foods had been planned for weeks in advance and it was one of the first places we went for lunch.  I ordered the Buffalo Tofu sandwich with onion rings and sweet potatoes and wifey had the the Grinder with onion rings and broccoli.  The kid munched on their Banana Bread French Toast which she gets each time and doesn’t leave a bite to be shared.  Honestly, our going to Watercourse Foods had a lot to do with us wanting to just drink Oogave which they serve on tap, free refills.  Our previous trips to Watercourse have been great but after only eating half of our meals we felt like boxing the rest to go, something I never do.  About 15 minutes after we left both of us were doubled over in pain.  I won’t go into details but we had planned on multiple visits to Watercourse Foods on this trip and after this one we were afraid to return.  The kid felt fine and the only thing our meals shared in common were the onion rings so that’s where we placed the blame.  Next trip we’ll try again but I couldn’t risk getting sick a second time on this trip.

One night we were looking for a quick snack and after passing on all of the usual quick haunts we typically visit we reluctantly agreed on VG Burgers which, I felt, failed miserably on our last visit.  Since we only wanted a basket of chili-cheese fries we thought they could fit the bill.  We both shared a basket of chili-cheese fries and the kid had a basket of just fries.  The fries were tasty this time but it just seems their portions are small for the price.  It was pointed out to me by my wife that it is organic so what looked to be two potatoes worth of fries may well merit $2.99.  Leave it to her to play the devil’s advocate. VG Burgers previously had Oogave with free refills but the refills had been nixed so $1.79 for a small drink didn’t work out.  To their credit, they played Michael Franti the entire time we were there.  I’m not totally giving VG Burgers a thumbs down on this visit but I just think it’s a bit pricey for what they serve.

We located some new places and one of those was Sweet Action Ice Cream.  Although not completely vegan they do have offerings that the animal-free crowd would enjoy.  This is one of those ice cream places that makes it all on-site, my favorite kind.  The day we went the vegan flavors were pumpkin and coffee, which I could only guess were meant to be paired into a pumpkin latte cone or cup with a scoop of each.  The pumpkin tasted too much like frozen pumpkin puree so I passed.  Coffee ice cream was never my favorite but this one didn’t have a strong coffee flavor so I got a scoop along with a scoop of lemon raspberry sorbet.  It doesn’t sound good together but it worked out nicely.  They also serve vegan ice cream sandwiches.  Peanut butter cookie with vanilla ice cream and oatmeal raisin cookie with peach ice cream were the two choices they had.  My wife walked around and looked through a window at their prep area and discovered a list of their vegan flavors which they rotate out.  It looked like we picked the wrong day to have ice cream.  Vegan flavors like Five Spice, Mothership Wit, Coconut Lemongrass, Coffee Yeti Stout, Garam Masala and Apple Spice were listed along with about twenty others.  Unfortunately, a second visit to taste these creations didn’t fit in our schedule.

On our way out of town we met Stephen, the owner of Oogave at their office to pick up plenty to keep us fixed until we return.  A case of Estebans’ Cola, Esteban’s Root Beer and a case of random flavors was loaded into the car.  Oogave’s cola is the best cola, hands-down, that you will ever find.  Agave sweetened and all-natural, it doesn’t get much better!  Seriously, this is some good stuff!

Oogave Van

We discovered many of new things on our trip but one thing we discovered was something we may have already knew.  We belong in Boulder.  There’s just too much for us and the feel of the town is a fit.

More pictures can be found on Flickr.

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Cololrado – Day 3

October 2nd, 2008

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Our third day in the place we are supposed to be living.   The public transportation system in Denver is great, hybrid buses, cable cars and bike lanes on nearly every major road.  Traffic during the morning and afternoon rush isn’t very bad and I am sure it is because of that transportation system.   This day, after spending the first part of the day an event that energized and motivated me in ways I never thought possible, we went back to Watercourse Foods.   After that delicious goods we had the day before it was an easy pick.   This time I opted for the Reuben with sweet potato homefries and onion rings, Elizabeth had the Eggplant Parmesan mashed potatoes and onion rings and our daughter had the Vegan Buckwheat Pancake (she loves breakfast foods).   The Reuben was prepared with chopped portobello mushrooms, red cabbage slaw and vegan Russian dressing.  Being a connoisseur of Reubens, this one was excellent and the portobello is a very good alternative to the many Reubens I have had made with tofu.  Elizabeth didn’t like her Eggplant Parmesan as much as The  Grinder which she had the day before, she said the breading was not crisp enough.   The huge buckwheat pancake our daughter had didn’t last long, nor did the berries and banana it was served with.   Watercourse Foods is the best vegan restaurant we have visited to this point.

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 Vegan Reuben

Following munchies we drove  to Colorado Springs and walked around Garden Of The Gods, a place we go to every time we visit the area.  Our daughter loved climbing on the rocks and it is a very nice quiet place to walk.   After we made a stop at Pikes Perk coffee.  The coffee beans they use have always been the best I have ever had.   It’s has been about 6 months since I have had any substantial caffeine so I had a decaf double mocha.  Before leaving I picked up a bag of the espresso roast, I will probably get back on the coffee binge as the cooler weather starts and I might as well start back with the best I can find.

Oh, I guess you want to to know what that big event was earlier in the day.

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Colorado – Day 2

September 30th, 2008

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Our second day involved doing many things around Denver.  One of those was lunch at Watercourse Foods.  After my bad experience at VG Burgers I knew it could only get better, and it did.  After we found our destination we grabbed a to-go menu just to check out our choices before committing ourselves as we usually do when trying a restaurant for the first time.   Too many choices, but how many are vegan?  Then I saw the line at the bottom, “All Items Can Be Made Vegan.”  Perfect!

After being seated we started looking over the menu, our daughter had her own kid’s menu and since breakfast was available until 5pm she wanted the kid’s BBFT (Banana Bread French Toast).   After looking for a bit I settled on the Po Boy with sides of onion rings and mashed potatoes and gravy, with a bit of help from our server Eryn, and Elizabeth had The Grinder, shaved seitan, grilled onions and peppers on french bread served with au jus and sides of broccoli and fries.   We were soon served plates piled with food.  My daughter’s french toast was two thick slices of banana bread french toast served with maple syrup, berries and banana slices.  Her love of berries is deep, those went quick.   My po poy was a deep fried hunk of diced portobello topped with slaw on a bun, peel-on mashed potatoes and brown gravy and four huge onion rings.   Elizabeth’s sandwich was piled with shaved seitan, she had second thoughts on the brocolli after seeing my onion rings.

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Banana Bread French Toast

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The Grinder

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Portobello Po Boy

After lunch Eryn asked if we cared for dessert, we usually have to give a no to this but she told us all were vegan!   Splurge!  She brought out a tray with six or so selections but the Tiramisu was an easy choice as we have not had it since going vegan.  It was topped with shaved chocolate and after asking I found they used a tofutti mixture to replace the marscapone.  I didn’t taste much in the way of rum but I believe it was there.  Overall, delicious.

Our sandwiches were $10 each including sides and the kid’s menu selections ar $3.50 each.  Desserts are $6 bringing our total to about $30 plus tax.   A much better eat than VG Burgers and at less cost.  Definitely a must-visit-again.

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Interesting sign at the Butterfly Pavilion.

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