Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Irazu's Costa Rican Food

My boyfriend is the one who introduced me to Irazu, which is located in Chicago and serves Costa Rican food. Here, I'll give you his recommendations for vegan ordering while dining at Irazu.

First of all, get the oatmeal shake made with water. Don't get soy milk, just water. This is one of my favorite parts of going to eat at Irazu. The oatmeal shake (pictured) is sweet and cinnamon-flavored and pretty darn filling on its own! You should also get a Vegetarian Taco. It's $2.95 and you don't need more than one. If you're really hungry, get an order of Yucca Fries, which come with a garlic oil for dipping. Add to that a bottomless basket of chips and a squeeze bottle of salsa and you're set for a delicious meal at a low price (but remember that they only take cash!).

The one additional thing that is a great treat when they have it is the Lava Juice, which is just watermelon juice! Refreshing and tasty!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cafe 8

In March we travelled to Tokyo, Japan where we found ourselves in a slightly more chaotic situation than anticipated when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the country just after our arrival (literally, our plane had just landed - you can read about the experience a little bit here). At any rate, once we arrived at our hotel, we were beyond blessed to find a vegan cafe located just around the block in our little neighborhood of Nakameguro.

Cafe 8 was to become our "home base" outside of the hotel. We had two meals a day there, every day after we found it. Even when all businesses were closed because of the threat of nuclear rain, they opened up and let us inside to eat. At the end of our trip they worried about us getting out of the country safely as much as we worried about leaving them behind (and they sent us off to the airport with muffins for breakfast).

And let's NOT forget the food! It was great! Despite not being strictly Japanese, the flavors were still a major change from any vegan food I have eaten in the US. We tried a number of dishes while we were there from a tofu sandwich, vegetable soup, crusty fresh-made bread with tofu spread and plump raisins, curry, vegetables cooked in a staub, and more. And the desserts! They were incredible in that they were flavorful, but not as sweet as you'd find in the US. One of my favorites there was a bitter hot chocolate, though I also ate my fair share of banana bread pudding with a sweet cream on the side.

I could write a really long entry about the role that Cafe 8 and it's awesome employees played in making us feel at home in Japan, but I'll save it for another forum. Rest assured that I will be back someday under more pleasant circumstances and I can't wait!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Injera Wraps

As one could probably imagine, LA has a huge variety of awesome vegan foods, including co-ops with amazing selections of grab and go items. One of my absolute favorites are these delicious injera wraps from Rahel Ethiopian Cuisine. They are perfectly spiced, perfectly wrapped, and perfectly filling! They are available at a number of co-ops and I think also some Whole Foods markets in the LA-area. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Native Foods

On Saturday, we attended a complimentary pre-opening meal service at the new Native Foods location in Wicker Park (Chicago). The staff was wildly hospitable and the food was delicious. They also have a really comprehensive allergy menu which is great for those who need to avoid certain ingredients. It's easy to see why Native Foods has been so successful in California as they seem to have their business model down to a science. We were very excited also to meet Chef Tanya, the visionary behind this concept who is, as it turns out, a fan of our products. It is always wonderful to hear positive reviews from other people doing good things in the world of vegan food. If you are in Chicago (or California and haven't been yet), I strongly recommend a visit for a meal to Native Foods. Having only tried a few things, I can't give a definitive recommendation, but I really enjoyed their tempeh burger. Also, the Watermelon Fresca (watermelon, mint, and agave) was extra refreshing and is all-you-can-drink! The Wicker Park location opens today with more on the way for Chicagoians!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Food Fight! Vegan Grocery Store

Despite the fact that I have absolutely no time to devote to such a project, I have dreams of opening a vegan grocery store. I love bringing new vegan products to people who maybe haven't seen them before (hello, blog!). As a customer, I love the idea of walking in and knowing that you can buy anything and that someone I can trust is assuring me that everything within those walls is vegan! Food Fight is an amazing all-vegan destination that carries a wide variety of food and other items. They have it all, right down to a well-stocked produce section. Even better, their prices are really, really reasonable. While I was there I found items that I'd read about online, but hadn't seen in person yet. They are located in Portland's "Vegan Mini Mall" which also contains Herbivore and Sweetpea vegan bakery. This is a must-visit destination in Portland! I can't wait to go back soon (we've been traveling to Portland a lot lately)!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tableside Guacamole

So, making your own guac at home is easier and probably cheaper, but it's kind of fun to be out at a restaurant and request exactly how much of each ingredient you want without having to be the one to chop it, scoop it, or mix it up. In other parts of the country, tableside guacamole can be a pricey novelty, but not in Texas! This tableside guac is from Christina's, a  small non-vegan chain near Dallas, Texas where my mom and stepdad like to eat. I like my guac with cilantro, tomatoes, a little salt, and lots of lime.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alo Drinks

Another vendor who we met in Portland a few months ago was a man from the Alo company. His booth was behind ours at a trade show and he generously kept us hydrated all weekend with these delicious Aloe Vera drinks. The company must have great distribution, because I see them for sale everywhere including most recently my local corner supermarket and a Piggly Wiggly in Wisconsin. They are affordable, every flavor I've tried is good, and they're very refreshing! Aloe is as good for your insides as it is for your outsides, so drink up!