vida vegan con news!

Vida Vegan Con III Date Change landscapeAs you may know, I’m one of the trio behind Vida Vegan, home of Vida Vegan Con, the vegan media and lifestyle conference. We started out as purely a blogger conference but have widened our scope a bit to include video, audio, presenting/speaking, publishing, and some general philosophy/sociology/lifestyle aspects of veganism. We figure if folks are better at writing and talking about a cruelty-free life, that’s going to help those around us see that this vegan thing ain’t so weird or tough. Good for the animals. Good for the earth. Good for our health. Boom.

So with that out of the way, two giant bits o’ news:

VVC III

After a gut-punching monkey wrench of a scheduling error, we have finally been able to announce our new date for Vida Vegan Con III, in (one of my favorite vegan-friendly cities) Austin, Texas: May 29-31, 2015. Mark those calendars, ’cause it’s on. Regular registration doesn’t open until August 1, but as part of announcement #2 (don’t skip ahead!), limited Early Bird registration and inclusive packages will be available tomorrow, Friday, June 13, at 8:00 a.m. PST. These are $60 off regular price, so cha-ching! (It’s below cost for us, but it’s fun and we’ll just work super hard to get loads of great sponsors to make it up.) For more information on this and speaker applications, visit our site.

Vida Vegan Membership Drive

One of the coolest things about Vida Vegan Con is that the attendees and speakers are really on equal footing and are able to turn to one another for advice, skill sharing, and general friendstuffs. We hang out when we travel, we consult one another when we’re buying a new camera—you get the idea. We have a private Facebook group for past VVC’ers and it’s great except if you’re not on Facebook. So the grand plan is to expand our website to include member pages and a forum. That costs cash. Like a ridiculous amount of cash.

So we’re baby-steppin’ it. Our members will be part of our inner-circle-type group, which we’ll turn to for input as we move forward with Vida Vegan developments. Members also have a chance to opt in to be connected with vegan-friendly brands for potential samples, reviews, and such—and of course they’ll receive VVHQ discounts and other opportunities.

To kick things off, from June 13 through July 31, we’re holding a Membership Drive, with crowdfunding-style perks: from shout-outs to a personalized postcard or Instagram photobomb from VVC III (if you can’t join us), all the way up to a trip to Portland and brunch with me and my VVHQ co-founders, Janessa and Jess. You know you want to brunch with us. Janessa will have a bag of nooch in her purse, Jess will ask you lots of questions, and I will make funny faces and show you how to order the best breakfast of sides.

So I’m off to do what I can to ensure a smooth launch. Wish me luck, and I hope to see you in Austin!

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fundingmofo: austin’s capital city bakery is growing up

capital_city_bakery_buildingI got to visit Kristen Davenport’s Capital City Bakery cart on a Vida Vegan scouting trip to Austin—after drooling over her Instagram photos, I’m happy to report they would not disappoint.

In the short time it’s been open, Capital City has won all sorts of awards, been featured on TV, and has reached the point where she just can’t keep up with demand, doing what she can during off-hours in a rental kitchen. Girl needs her own kitchen!

So she’s building one. Kristen found a space in East Austin, which is super cool and home to some vegan neighbors, and she’s running a Kickstarter to help equip the kitchen. And it’s almost over! As I type this, she’s got just over a day and a half to go. Don’t you worry for a minute she hasn’t made her goal—of course she has—but every dollar above this helps.

image-317232-fullEven if you don’t live in Austin, there are backing perks for everyone, including a T-shirt designed by Herbivore Clothing‘s Josh Hooten. Personally, I went with the 6-pack of cupcakes…which I will just have to pick up the next time I’m in Austin. Because there will be a next time. This city is so fun, with loads to do, and plenty of vegan treats.

So do consider helping. Kristen’s laid out a few stretch goals, including one that’s already been made: the recipe card. With enough backing you could end up with a bonus brownie. (Read: Please give. I want a bonus brownie.)

austin, part 2: the rest of it

This is the second installment of my Austin coverage. If you missed part one (the tacos, oh, the tacos), check it out here.

Sure, some of these are going to be taco-related—and I’ve still got a margarita to share—but there’s a lot more to Austin than those lovely tortilla-wrapped gifts from the Tex-Mex gods. A lot. Grab some chips and salsa before you start or you’ll have to take a snack break somewhere in the middle.

wheatsville sign

First up, one of the coolest, friendliest co-ops I’ve set foot in, Wheatsville. They carry two brands of vegan cookie dough, if that’s any sort of measure of awesome. (I think it is.)

wheatsville popcorn tofu

This is the darling of Wheatsville. We were told it’s a must, and we were smart enough to obey. Simple enough, it’s battered, fried tofu bits, and it’s available in the original flavor pictured and Buffalo-style. I wound up ordering around one-third pound and devoured the whole thing without pause. Jess and Janessa classed it up and split a popcorn tofu po’ boy. A good time was had by all. Be warned: This is a lot of fried, even for a champion like myself.

wheatsville lip balm

And my $2 souvenir, the co-op’s very own branded vegan lip balm. Thrifty and pragmatic.

wheatsville kombucha

And whaaaaat? Michele drank kombucha? Yeah, I did. And I’d do it again. This didn’t have that pond scum floating in it, and the taste was clean. Tangy, for sure, because it’s kombucha, but it didn’t quite taste like toilet wine to me. Hooray.

wheatsville lunch with bloggers

This is what lunch with vegan bloggers looks like. We eat very few hot meals.

capitol city truck

And y’all know this one, right? Right? Girl’s blowin’ up Instagram with her gorgeous treats. It’s Capital City Bakery!

capitol city

We grabbed a bunch of stuff, including a sixer of cupcakes. Looking like this, they don’t have to taste as good as they do. Kristen talks about how lucky she is to be so successful so fast—and sure, luck is part of it—but she’s so talented and driven. This is years of experience and lots of long days and nights.

la condesa drinks

Fancy drinks, anyone? We did happy hour at La Condesa, a gorgeous little spot in Austin’s booming downtown area, which apparently hardly existed a couple of years ago. Thanks, SXSW?

la condesa guac salsa sampler

Fancy guac, anyone? We shared the quacamole (and salsa) sampler, which they made vegan for us by leaving off some bits of crab and queso fresco. I loved them all. Maybe my favorite is the one with apples. I didn’t even bother looking at the dinner menu; if I come here again, this is what I’m getting.

la condesa sampler plate

Right?

spider house sign

Spider House. My kind of place. Think a sleazy, arty version of Hard Rock Cafe or Fridays or one of those other shit-on-the-wall, sensory-overload joints that people love so damn much. It’s like a junkyard with really comfortable little nooks where you can sit down with friends and close out the rest of the world. And it’s not just a bar. You can go there during the day and order coffee and eat sandwiches (or guacamole and chips).

spider house drinks

And with a juice bar close at hand, all your drinks are made with super fresh juices. Janessa won Best Drink Order with her Rose…um…something. (I’ll update it when Janessa reads her email!)

curras tamale

On to Curra’s Grill! We almost didn’t get here, due to a giant spider in the car. (Luckily it chose to crawl up Jess’s leg instead of mine, so I was still able to steer straight.) I strayed from the taco theme and went with a vegetable tamale. This is just an a la carte tamale—the full dinner plate has FOUR of these plus a trough of beans (they give you double beans because the rice isn’t vegan). The server knew “vegan” and was great about asking questions to make sure we were taken care of. Yay.

curras margaritas

Given the low light, tight quarters, and super fun company, this was the steadiest shot I could get of our avocado margaritas. Avocado margaritas? Avocado margaritas. Like a milkshake, smooth and creamy. As the only driver in our group, I had to be very careful with my drinking, but it would have been so easy to overdo it on these. I have to try making this at home. It doesn’t sound that tough.

cornucopia

Know what else I could easily overdo it on? Popcorn. We were so grateful someone mentioned Cornucopia to us, because seriously, what if we missed it and found out about it later? You can’t ship the experience of walking down the line, sampling as you go. The vegan flavors are labeled, and if you ask nice, they might have some extra stuff to taste in the back.

fiesta masa

Vegan blogger sightseeing includes grocery stores, don’tcha know. Because look at this: Masa dough for tamales, just as I’d pick up pizza dough in a pinch. We spent a good hour in this Fiesta, checking out all the hot sauces, good-fortune soaps and candles, and…

fiesta spice aisle

the spice aisles! I picked up a $2 package of “Mexican saffron,” which isn’t really saffron, but it’ll make your rice pretty. I’ve never really been bowled over by the flavor of saffron so I’m willing to cheap out on this one.

fiesta sodas

Don’t forget your 25¢ can of icy cold soda on the way out. And yes, you can buy a child’s bike (or a sequined dress) outside the grocery store.

austin pizza cart

Oh! And the food cart scene. We were just talking last night about whether Austin is cooler or more of the “it” city right now, and I think the food cart scene is part of what is really exciting about Austin. They’ve got this passion, such a burst of energy and fresh blood, and they’re just doing really interesting things with their carts. It’s not enough to have a pod—your pod needs to have its own personality. A giant light-up sculpture, a giant circus-tenty canopy, or something. Good food isn’t enough of a draw. And maybe it’s the zoning or whatever permitting issues make the difference, but I’d really like to see more personality in the pods up in Portland.

Anyway, this Via 313 wasn’t even in a neato pod, but it was next to a bar (Violet Crown), where we could get some Moscow Mules and wait for our pizza to be delivered.

austin pizza

It’s apparently Detroit-style. Anyone from Detroit? They explain the history on their site. Whether you agree with it or not, it was great. This is what I want to eat in a bar.

me so hungry

And it was a short walk to Cheer Up Charlie’s and its pod, which included Arlo’s, home of the vegan bacon cheeseburger that we just didn’t have the time or stomachs for. I did grab some Fat Elvis rolls at Me So Hungry. They’re pan-fried rice paper rolls of banana and ginger, with peanut sauce—say “hold the honey” and keep it vegan.

manhole

Bye, Austin! I miss you already. And again, huge thanks to Lazy Smurf and Chris & Crystal from Food for Lovers. They were our guides for much of this trip—it’s thanks to them that I’m already trying to figure out how I can get back there.

austin, part 1: tacos, sweet tacos

no breakfast tacos

So…they were so sick of being asked for breakfast tacos that it was worth it to purchase and power this neon “No breakfast tacos” sign? Welcome to Austin.

And welcome to my Austin taco post. So many tacos that my rest-of-Austin post will have to wait. Not a taco fan, you say? Well, darlin’, you just haven’t explored “taco” to its fullest. That’s like saying you don’t like sandwiches.

I traveled to Austin with Jess and Janessa, to do some location scouting for Vida Vegan, and I promise you I shall return. Austin is much like Portland in that it’s a young, somewhat liberal bubble of a city. I didn’t really hear any Texas accents, save for at the airport. And I’m guessing it’s the easiest place to eat vegan in Texas. And eat we did.

vivo sign

Our first stop was Vivo, where we met up with a childhood friend of Janessa’s. Gold stars and check-plus for this one.

vivo puffy taco

Ladies and gentlemen, my first Austin taco. Also my first puffy taco. We all chose different fillings; I got one with guacamole filling and one with grilled tofu. The guac one was tough to eat taco-style so I ended up using a knife and fork…but it still tasted so good. The grilled tofu one stood as my favorite taco of the trip.

Oh, I’m sorry, through my rambling and raving I didn’t hear you ask what a puffy taco was! It’s the best thing ever. Super fresh corn tortillas are lightly fried in oil so they puff up. So it’s not a hard shell. There’s a delicacy to it. You might also note from the photo (shot in sadly low light), this is no Taco Bell taco. What we found throughout our trip was a simplicity in taco ingredients, fresh and light.

vivo cucumber margarita

Austin can also make a mean margarita. This is Jess’s cucumber margarita. Slightly sweeter than expected but still refreshing. And friggin’ huge. vivo prickly pear margarita

And the margarita ordered by everyone else at the table: prickly pear! How gorgeous is that? Tangy and smooth and also friggin’ huge. Maybe it was the fact that I’d been up since 4 am or maybe it was the warm, dry Texas air, but even eating as much as I did, this thing got to me.

vivo chips guac

Not that these chips and salsa and guacamole weren’t also stars, but something’s got to go last. We were also convinced these are the best chips ever chipped. If you like spicy, ask for a side of their chipotle sauce, which is just chipotles and oil.

gueros menu

Next stop, Guero’s! We found this place mostly by random searching and thanks to Quentin Tarantino. It wasn’t gold stars; as #jadedvegans we weren’t wowed by the food. But it was a comfortable patio, with friendly staff and…

gueros vegan menu

…a nice half-page vegan menu. The print at the top might be too small to read, but it says “Many items on our regular menu can be vegan…” Even if there were no separate vegan menu, just this phrase instills so much confidence in the servers and chefs. Thanks, Guero’s.

gueros salsa

The complimentary chips and salsa. Bagged chips (with their volume I guess they’d have to be or have a dedicated full-time chip fryer), but super appreciate the three salsas. I’m pretty sure we left three empty cups. If we’d read the menu a little more closely we’d have noticed our unlimited refills at the salsa bar.

gueros guac

And a Texas-size portion of guacamole, for cheap. This would also completely disappear. This is my kind of quacamole, so much better than the squishy stuff.

gueros margarita

Our Happy Hour $4 frozen margaritas. A tasty little bugger. Janessa said she dreamed about this margarita last night.

gueros michele

My plain-Jane vegetable tacos. Squash and zucchini and onion…which would then be topped with salsa and quacamole. The potatoes are pretty much just fried, not too seasoned. And I got black beans, which were served in a thin sauce. I confess, I did not finish my beans—otherwise, my plate was clean!

gueros jess

Jess’s soyrizo taco.

gueros janessa

And Janessa’s enchiladas, one with black bean and one with spinach & mushrrom.

vegan nom menu

We scheduled a meet-up at the Vegan Nom taco cart, to see friends old and new. (Hi Joanna Vaught, Blissful Chef, Lazy Smurf, and Red Hot Vegans!) It was super dark, so the photos were all crap. But the three of us each got a different taco (mine was the Jalisco, with fakey chicken, onions, peppers, lime, and cilantro—normally comes with vegan cheese but I declined), and they were without a doubt the spiciest tacos of the trip. The cart has a little fenced-off BYOB area with some tables and chairs, and is apparently in the cool part of town. Super close by was Sweet Ritual, an ice cream joint where we met up with team Food for Lovers and I enjoyed the hell out of a peanut butter smores sundae.

thunderbird tacodeli

And get this: One morning we stopped by Thunderbird for coffee, and they had Tacodeli breakfast tacos to go. We also got breakfast tacos at Wheatsville Co-op (more from them in the next post), but this is much more notable. Coffee shops get daily deliveries of muffins and bagels all the time. I guess in Austin, you don’t want to be that place without the breakfast tacos (or you have to buy yourself a neon sign).

Want more? Check out Part 2—the non-taco post—here.