Girls on Food

Food Trucks

Four Bites of Bay Bites Food Truck Festival, Mobile, Alabama

Kraken Catering Co. Menu
Kraken Catering Co. Menu

I am a sucker for a food fundraiser. To me, there’s no better pairing than excellent food and a good cause. On Wednesday, Mobile Baykeeper (the Gulf Coast’s non-profit environmental organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Mobile Bay) and their Young Advisory Council hosted Bay Bites Food Truck Festival at Cooper Riverside Park in downtown Mobile. Tickets were $15 per person, which included admission and three draught beers from Sweetwater Brewing Company (Sweetwater 420). Nine trucks attended, and food items ranged from $3 to $14. Although I didn’t get to taste everything offered (despite desperately wanting to), with the help of some friends (Daryn, Christine, and their 5-year-old, Violet), we managed to do some damage.

First up was Kraken Catering Co., who had an impressive menu. I couldn’t resist the “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese,” ($8) which boasted two slices of grilled Texas Toast filled with Provolone, Gouda, caramelized figs, and beef brisket.

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese – Kraken Catering Co.

One of my favorite sandwiches is a ham and brie with fig preserves on a French baguette, and this was pretty much its Southern cousin. It was a lovely balance of sweet and savory, and the sandwich itself was pressed to perfection. There isn’t anything worse than a soggy grilled cheese, and Kraken’s was crunchy in all the right places, with quite a lot of oozy cheese and soft, sweet figs.

Beef Brisket, Green Beans, Potato Salad, Texas Toast from Smith's Catering
Beef Brisket, Green Beans, Potato Salad, Texas Toast – Smith’s Catering

 

Next up was the BBQ Brisket Plate from Smith’s Catering ($10). In the South, barbecue is king, and it’s no surprise the lines for this truck were long (actually, the lines were long for every truck). The brisket was tender (but still held together when forked) with just the right amount of smoke, and ever-so-slightly sweet.

Violet and her Frios Pop
Violet and her Frios Pop

 

After all the savory, my sweet tooth was announcing itself in a big way. Violet and I were excited to see Frios Gourmet Pops in attendance. Their deal is homemade popsicles, and one cool thing about them is that they source locally-grown fruit whenever they can. I was torn between Watermelon Mojito and Blackberry Ginger, and it was Frios itself that urged me towards the latter. You really cannot go wrong with a Frios homemade popsicle ($3.75 each or 4 for $14), but this one was spot on. Sweet, tart blackberries pair perfectly with the earthy spiciness of ginger root, and it made me want to figure out in what else other than a popsicle I could marry the two flavors. Blackberry-Ginger hand pies, anyone?

A Blackberry Ginger Popsicle, Riverside
Blackberry Ginger Pop Riverside – Frios Gourmet Pops

My excitement continued when I saw that Von’s Bistro, one of my favorite downtown lunch spots, represented at Bay Bites. Their best dish (in my opinion) is the “5 Spice Pork Bahn Mi” ($7) with 5-spiced pork, sliced cucumber, pickled daikon radish and carrots, cilantro, jalapeños and a unique, spicy cream sauce. It’s a riot of sweet, sour, spicy, savory flavor, is absolutely amazing, and I could eat one for lunch every day of the week.

5 Spice Pork Bahn Mi - Von's Bistro
5-Spice Pork Bahn Mi – Von’s Bistro

Despite a typical Southern summer thunderstorm an hour before kickoff, Bay Bites Food Truck Festival was a roaring success. I hope they raised plenty of money to protect and conserve our waterways, and I look forward to next year’s fundraiser. I’m pretty sure the best strategy is to go with a posse and send one person to each truck to order several items at once. The long lines kind of prohibits pick-and-choose ordering (my weakness). All in all, it was a fantastic chance to get acquainted with some of our city’s newest food trucks.

Jojo's Food Trunk Menu
Jojo’s Food Trunk Menu

Because it’s (somewhat) socially acceptable to take photos (but usually not bites) of people’s food, here are a few items I got to see but not taste:

Lamb Taco - Jo-Jos
Lamb Taco ($8) from Jo Jo’s Food Trunk, all the way from Tuscaloosa. Ground lamb, lettuce, tomato, red onion, a few olives, and feta rounded out this Greek-style taco. According to Daryn, it was quite tasty.
Fish Tacos -- Von's Bistro Flour tortillas, crispy fish, cabbage, jalapeños, cilantro, pico, cream sauce
Fish Tacos — Von’s Bistro Flour tortillas, crispy fish, cabbage, jalapeños, cilantro, pico, cream sauce. I’ve had these at the restaurant. Dynamite.
Spring Rolls - Von's Bistro Deep-fried pork spring roll with sweet and sour sauce
Spring Rolls – Von’s Bistro Deep-fried pork spring roll with sweet and sour sauce

 

Poke-nom Go: Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max Food Truck

Each day from Monday to Friday between 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, different food trucks park in front of the Starbucks Headquarters located in SODO (South Downtown Seattle).  On Fridays, Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max is there in a sea foam green truck on the south end of the parking lot.

Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max
5300 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
Food truck schedule found at
http://www.samchoyspoke.com
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The first time I came here was a few weeks ago while I was working out of an office nearby.  So I decided to go back again today, because I can’t seem to get enough of that good stuff.

As the self proclaimed “God Father of poke”, Sam Choy has been bringing poke to the Pacific Northwest since 2013.  His concept is to introduce poke, “amongst other delicious island dishes, to a wide audience.”

 

Poke Rice Bowl

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I ordered the poke rice bowl with salmon in spicy shoyu and added avocado.  Something fresh, light and flavorful without being too fussy sounded appetizing and this did not disappoint. It’s also more than enough food for one person.  For those who don’t like uncooked fish, they can sear yours or cook it all the way if you request it.  There is also a tofu poke option for people who don’t eat fish or are vegetarian.

Mac Salad

IMG_1522Whenever I go to a Hawaiian food joint, I have to try the mac salad.  Otherwise I feel like I just got a burger without the french fries.  It just has to be ordered or it’s not a complete meal.

 

The mac salad had the right combination of salty and light sweetness, with the pop of onion bursting in my mouth.  I asked to add spam which was cooked on the slightly over done/burnt side, but I liked it that way.  I thought it enhanced the flavor profile and created a smoky taste.

Other things on their menu include Aloha Chicken, Kalua Pulled Pork, Loco Moco (ground beef cooked and served over rice) poke wraps and salads, and their version of Masubi (seaweed wrapped around sticky rice and a slice of spam).

This is not some hokey poke…see what I did there?  I love food puns!!!  But Sam Choy will be quick to tell you “mo poke, mo betta!”

Check out their website and see where their food trucks are scheduled, or go visit their restaurant in the Hillman City neighborhood in the Rainier Valley.

Hungrily Awaiting This Weekend’s LA Food Fest

Hey Foodies,

One of the coolest things about living in Los Angeles is that there’s always an event with lots of eats happening. I LOVE a good food festival and LA Food Fest, 7/8-7/10 at Exposition Park, has me pumped with excitement for this coming weekend! Here are the top reasons why you should check out LA Food Fest this weekend (get your ticket here):

la food fest map
LA Food Fest map

The chef hosted an opening party – On Friday, 7/8, at 7 PM,  the LA Food Fest kicks off with an intimate long table dinner (informal of course, this is LA) in their Rose Garden Pop Up Restaurant.

This multi-course, family style dinner will include meals prepped by popular local chefs Chris Oh, Nguyen Tran and Johnny Ray Zone. What female foodie in their right mind could resist a dinner with such cute chefs? (insert heart-eyed Emoji here)

There will also be plenty of beer and wine selections to pair with the dinner. Tickets to this event are $150, but you will still have access to Saturday and Sunday’s festivities. #worthit

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Our friends from Birdies will be there! Pictured: Lemon Thyme Pistachio & Spicy Birdie w/ fried egg

Over 100 + food and beverage vendors – Saturday, 7/9 and Sunday, 7/10, LA Food Fest will pack  Exposition Park full with all its various goodies. Be sure to wear your “eating dress”!

The vendors I’m looking forward to tasting are:

Cento Pasta Bar
Waffle Jack
Ceviche Stop
Fritzi Dog
Pirozhski Truck
The New York Pig– 2016 James Beard Foundation Nominee for Outstanding Restaurant (NYC based)
Barcito
Free Range LA
Vendors are being added daily, for a complete list check our the LA Food Fest list here.

You can attend LA Food Fest on a budget – Tickets start as low as $15 to get in, and all the vendors are guaranteed to have one $5 food item available (while supplies last). So if you only have $40 to spare, you can still leave satisfied.

If you have more to spend, you should check out the Golden Hour option, which is $69. At this price, attendees receive two hours of all-inclusive sampling before the main action starts.

Amazebowls, who we've reviewed before, will be there as well!
Amazebowls, who we’ve reviewed before, will be there as well! Pictured: Coconut bowl

This family-friendly festival also features charity partner Peace4Kids’ Mobile Village Kitchen. The live culinary stage featuring chef demos, live podcasts, sneak peeks at summer movies Sausage Party and Lights Out. There will also be an Artisanal LA Farm Shop featuring more than 30 unique made LA-based vendors, a Bocce, Beer and Chill Zone. And live music, sets from KCRW DJs Anne Litt and PRI’s Betto Arcos, and a Kids Zone presented by Barnsdall Art Park. What more could you ask for?

I think it’s safe to say the LA Food Fest is an event not to be missed! I’ll see you there Saturday, and a video will be coming soon! – Julianne

Sipping in San Francisco: The 40th Annual Union Street Festival

Crowd Scene SFUSF

Local artists, unique products, festive food, and of course craft beer and fine wine — this is what San Francisco is known for. And what better place to celebrate all things SF than on trendy Union Street in the upscale Pacific Heights district? That’s exactly what hundreds of Bay Area folks did this past weekend at the 40th Annual Union Street Festival.

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Fremont Burger & Brew Fest 2016

Overcast clouds and a bit of rain didn’t stop the Bay Area from some big bites at Fremont’s Burger & Brew Fest last Saturday.

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Fremont’s city hub closed it’s street to celebrate local cuisines and California craft brews. For $35, guests were allotted ten 5-ounce tasting pours — that’s 50 ounces of brewski! — and with reps presenting anywhere between 2 to 8 beers each, there was something to please every palate.

The Breweries: Das Brew / Hanger 24 / Speakeasy / Mendocino Brewing Company / Golden Road Brewing / Stone Brewing Co. / Peak Organic / Goose Island / Elysian / 10 Barrel Brewing Co. / Deschutes Brewery / Shock Top / BudLight / Joe IPA

Now, I’m not going to lie to you; I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to beers. But, like I said, with so many options at the Brew Fest, I knew I was bound to find something to appease my picky tastebuds. So I got the ballDas Brew Mean Monkey rolling with a few light lagers. Das Brew’s Mean Monkey Hefeweizen (4.5% ABV, 15 IVU), a nice pale wheat-based ale, had enough body to feel like I was drinking a real beer, but the delicious hints of fruit and spice balanced out the yeast perfectly, it was super refreshing for a nice summer day.

Then there was 329 Days of Sun Lager by Golden Road Brewing 329 Days of Sun Lager(4.8% ABV, 25 IBU). This Lager was
probably the lightest of all the beers I tasted, and I’m not complaining. 329’s taste was so subtle and the finish so crisp and clean, it could perfectly pair well with any meal — not just burgers.

 

But, when you’re at a beer tasting, it would be a waste not to go out of your comfort zone a little. And I couldn’t resist trying a few more unusual offerings. Especially when the rep from Stone Brewing Co. mentioned a “lemon-zesty” beer.
Stone Delicious IPAStone Delicious, an Indian pale ale (7.7% ABV, 75 IBU) is, indeed, a simultaneously citrusy yet bitter beer. The brewery combines Lemondrop and El Dorado hops to add a bit of sweet to the hop spice. A crazy concoction that just actually works — ideal for anyone looking for something outside the box.

Speakeasy’s Prohibition Ale (6.1% ABV, 50 IBU) was probably by far my favorite beer that I tasted that day. With its red-amber coloring, it just looks beautiful. Good news: it tastes beautiful as well. Like I said, I’m not, by any means, a beer aficionado, my palate is more attuned to picking out the flavors in a complex wine. Well, this ale is perfect for anyone like that. Right as it’s poured, you can smell citrus fruits, oak, spice, and a hint of caramel. When I tasted it, I felt like I was drinking a beautiful bouquet of autumn fruits in a pinewood forest.

Sign me up for a refill. I’m taking this beer with me to lunch…

The event provided tons of options from local shops, food trucks, and good old stand-bys like The Counter and Whole Foods.

The Food: Mario’s French Dips / Tacos De Los Altos / Whole Foods / Madam Floodpuppy’s House of Catfish / The Counter / Hungry Kong / Grillaz Gone Wild / Capello’s Barbecue / Arirang Korean Barbecue /

WholeFoodsBurgers
Grilled burger samples by Whole Foods

There were also quite a few local vendors providing samples of their sauces, marinades, and BBQ rubs.

Lucky Dog Hot Sauce
Lucky Dog Hot Sauce — he finally convinced me to try his top 3 most mild sauces!
OSO chipotle bbq sauce
OSO Pepper Company Chipotle BBQ sauce sample. Deliciously smokey with a kick of an aftertaste!
OSO raspberry bbq sauce
OSO Pepper Company Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce. Adds a little sweet to your spicy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, when all is said and done, I couldn’t pass up a good veggie burger for lunch. So I hit up Capello’s Barbecue food truck for a deliciously house-made veg burger. To me, what makes a great meat alternative patty is when you can see the vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, even walnuts — they were all there in this amazingly fresh burger.

Veggie burger alla Capello's Barbeque
Veggie burger alla Capello’s Barbeque

The day was a success. I got to try some new brews, get my tongue blasted by hot sauce, and left with a belly full of burger. Thanks, Fremont!

Cheers!
Cheers!

Wine & Brew at the Sacramento Zoo 2016

Wine + Brew + Sacramento Zoo = Trifecta of Sacramento FUN!

SacZoo Wine & Brew - giraffe

It’s no small feat to keep this family friendly, animal loving haven open year round. So the Zoo came up with a fabulous idea for a fundraiser, which benefits the animal care and general maintenance of our beloved, local Sacramento Zoo.

Sacramento Zoo
3930 W Land Park Dr, Sacramento, CA 95822
http://www.saczoo.org

Wine And Brew Sac ZooI don’t think the Zoo gets old at any age. But adding adult libations to the mix makes it that much more enticing for those of the adult beverage drinking age. Add in the fact that it is also a fundraiser for said Zoo and you really can’t lose or not attend such an awesome event.

Can we please talk about the line-up real quick? For the early bird price of $45 or the normal, not early person price of $55 you have access to the following:

WineriesBogle Vineyards / Carvalho Family Winery / Helwig Winery / Matchbook Wine Company / McConnell Estates Winery / Mount Aukum Winery / Muddy Boot Wines / Renwood Winery / Sentivo Vineyards and Winery / Shenandoah Vineyards / Sobon Estate / Terra d’Oro Winery / Three Wine Company
Turkovich Family Wines / Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery

IMG_5995Breweries – Bike Dog Brewing Company / Device Brewing Company / Firestone Walker Brewing Co. / Great Basin Brewing Company / Hoppy Brewing Company / Knee Deep Brewing Co. / Lagunitas Brewing Company
Lost Coast Brewery / Napa Smith Brewery / Mendocino Brewing Company / New Helvetia Brewing Co. / Oak Park Brewing Company / Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Sudwerk Brewing Co. / Track 7 Brewing Co. / Two Rivers Cider Company / Yolo Brewing Company

If you are a Zoo member, you also had a slight discount for the early bird price. They didn’t forget about the Designated Drivers either, their cost was only $15 for a fun event, sans the booze.  They had a handful of Coca-Cola options to choose from for everyone, not just the DD’s. They also brought in food trucks to help balance out all the delicious beverages, all of whom donated
10% of their sales to the Zoo.

Sacramento Food Trucks – Drewski’s / La Mex Taqueria / GyroStop / The Sweet Spot

soalsbury steakNothing makes me happier than to see a huge line at an event, especially a fundraiser. Thanks to the Zoo for letting Girls on Food giveaway two tickets to this event. Our girl Rebecca had a great time at the event too. Sadly, I didn’t get to run into her, but from her IG post I know she had as much fun as I did.

As we were dropped off in our faux-Uber, really my little sister, we noticed the crazy long line. Thankfully we hopped into the Will Call line, then breezed in right away. From the moment, we walked into the Zoo all of the staff and volunteers were very kind and helpful.

Wine GlassesThe Zoo should think about selling libations more often, like every day they are open. 😉 As we handed our tickets to the volunteers they directed us to our wine glass pick-up, which was a few short steps away. The lovely volunteers gave us our glasses and then we were off to booze it up. Born and raised in Sac, I know this Zoo fairly well; essentially it is one large loop. Tossing caution and map to the wind, we decided to go toward the Tiger, where plenty of vendors were set up. We had perused the silent auction before we started tasting the adult beverages.

IMG_5990Thankfully the Zoo has so many fun photo ops, really for the kids, but when there aren’t any children, you just do it! There wasn’t one booth we didn’t try. And I can honestly say, every single vendor was sweet, poured generously, and didn’t mind chatting up everyone in line. Seriously, you’d think they were getting paid to hand out gratis drinks. Everyone was in a great mood, and it was a great vibe in the Zoo that night.

Going to the Zoo as a child is full of wanderlust, but add alcohol and it’s adult wanderlust. Admiring the giraffes while sipping on wine was something I’m not sure I’d ever thought I’d do. It was almost as if they knew everyone was enjoying them. Three of them lined up and started galloping together, running if you will. One even stood there, picture perfect for us to snap a pic. The other was just enjoying his dinner.

After a few too many tastes, we decided to grab some food. They grouped the food trucks in two’s. The GryoStop was the closest to us, so we went after it. Greek food is fantastic, so we had no qualms with our option. The other two were on the other side of the Zoo, but we would have been happy with those options too – American or Mexican. J and I decided to split an order of the Loaded Fries and a Beef/Lamb Gyro; it was the best decision we made that day. I’ve never tried this truck, but I’d certainly hunt it out in Sacramento after trying it. The Loaded Fries were amazing, who thought of combining tzatziki sauce with nacho cheese and topping it with feta is a pure culinary genius. No pretentious foodie here, just a girl who loves anything with a burst of flavor. After we had devoured these two delectable Greek goodies, we sent off to tackle the other side of the Zoo.

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IMG_6002I can’t even lie; I was stoked to head into the Reptile House with my wine glass. I already love the reptile house, but enjoying a beverage in there was even more exciting for some odd reason. Everyone attending the event was having a great time. We met new friends in there and burst through the doors laughing as we left. We then found the other two food trucks, but the lines were pretty long, and we wanted to try more wine and brew, so we skipped them for more booze. This area is already a picnic area, so it was a great setting for hanging out, eating, and relaxing if you were tired. They were playing music, and it was a great vibe.

We got back on the Zoo ‘loop’ to continue our tasting. The mixture of beer to wine options seemed spaced out well. It also helped that they had plenty of ‘Coca Cola stations’ with bottled water and soda. The bottled water was helpful to rinse out your glass, especially from the beer to wine transition or vice versa. I’m sure the DD population enjoyed those booths as well. Zinfandel was a common denominator with all the wineries here. Seeing as how many of these are local wineries, Zin is their specialty. I think almost every table had a Zin to pour; it isn’t my favorite, but I’m starting to more and more these days.  IMG_5996

The two and a half hours went by so quickly. Even though it was just J and myself, we had a great time. The staff and the attendees made it a great environment. It was worth the ticket cost and I’d encourage everyone to attend next year; you get your monies worth of booze, fun, and animals…all while donating to a great, local cause. If I could suggest one thing, I’d ask them to add two more food trucks. With all that booze flowing, we all were hungry; the lines proved it.

A shout out to the animals for letting us get wild and crazy in their hood for an evening!

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Dia de los Verdes & Food Day in Long Beach, CA

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This past Saturday, I had the amazing privilege of attending the Dia de Los Verdes & Food Day Celebration in the beautiful Long Beach, CA. Dia de los Verdes and Food Day were actually two separate events held by different organizations that merged their efforts into a collaborative event. In honor of the city of Long Beach participating in Food Day for its second year, Green Long Beach, Squeeze Art Collective, The Growing Experience, and many more organizations, vendors, and community members joined to fill the day with fun, learning, and of course, food!

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Before walking into the event, which was held in the majestic and lovely Growing Experience Urban Farm (pictured below), I knew very little about what “sustainable food” really meant. I came to learn that sustainable food is food that is produced safely and humanely, distributed fairly and effectively and disposed of responsibly.

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There were so many resources for education about the production and disposal of food and how to be mindful of waste in general. One table that caught my attention was that of Zero Waste LA (dontwastela.org), a new system for waste and recycling that is soon t come to Los Angeles.

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In keeping with the “Dia de Los Muertos” theme, there were also beautiful and creative altars throughout the event. Food Day Long Beach organized the Food Day event aspect:

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One of my favorite parts of the day was the vegetable pickling demonstration. We were shown how to pickle just about anything. The demonstrator just used his favorite vegetables, apple cider vinegar, and Himalayan pink salt. Some jars he said he’d had for 2 or 3 years!

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Next I watched a cooking demonstration for a creative cauliflower stir fry recipe. The cauliflower was processed to serve as a substitute for rice, then stir fried with mixed veggies, ginger, olive oil and soy sauce. Absolutely delicious

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The vendors present at the Food Day all had one thing in common: they all served vegan dishes and treats exclusively. My first stop was at The Caffeinated Kitchen for the most delicious vegan donuts I’ve ever had. Well, it was actually my first vegan donut but it will most certainly not be my last! I had the pecan praline donut, and it was absolutely delightful. It managed to be cakey (probably because of the fact it was baked rather than fried), yet still very light and fluffy.

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Next, I made my way to Southern Fried Vegan: completely southern vegan food! I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about whether or not a vegan twist would take all the yum out of a traditionally southern meal, but I was pleasantly surprised. The way SFV works if you choose different items to go into a single bowl. I had a combination of jambalaya (made with vegan sausage), collard greens, and fried “chickun”. And had I not spied the “u” spelled in “chickun”, I’m sure I wouldn’t have known the difference.

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Later, I stopped by the Falasophy food truck,  a mobile falafel and hummus bar. Filled to the brim. However, I opted for their spicy garlic fries as a snack. They were flavorful and packed a bit of a tangy kick that was right up my alley.

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What was most impressive about Dia de Los Verdes & Food Day was the incredible sense of community I felt there. But then again, has anything in history been known to bring people together more than food?

A Vegan in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas

vegan in the rio grande valley

 

farmer's market

raymondville countryside

This is the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Oddly enough, there are no valleys here. It’s flat, lush land for miles and miles. I’ve spent the past week and a half traversing this southernmost region of Texas and I have to say – I love it. Maybe it’s all the palm trees, tropical flowers, sunshine, and friendly people, but there’s something about this area that captivates me. ?? It’s made up mostly of small towns, many dotting the border of Mexico, so as a vegan coming down to visit I had no idea what to expect in terms of veg friendly food. But I was pleasantly surprised.

major health foods

There’s a handful of health foods stores in the city of McAllen, which is where I spent most of my time. McAllen is pretty small compared to the big cities I’ve lived in (Dallas, Austin, Beijing), but it’s got a nice mix of old town feel and modern amenities. There’s a Sprouts Farmers Market near downtown, which is one of my favorite health foods stores, so I was really excited to find one in the valley. I also explored a local store called Major Health Foods that has a wide selection of vitamins, supplements, beauty & skin products, vegan cheese, ice cream, and more. They even have a little bulk foods section.

coconut oil

I also found the biggest jar of coconut oil I’ve ever seen. 54 ounces for $44.00. I think it would take me a few years to use up that much! If you head past the registers toward the back of the store, you’ll come across a vegan cafe that has a different special every day. Major Health Foods has everything a vegan could need, but since they are local and not a chain, expect slightly higher prices.

mcallen public library

I ended up going to the McAllen Public Library several times. It used to be a Walmart, but when they got a new location, they gave the building to the city and it got turned into a huge library. Awesome! ? ? ?

 McAllen Public Library
4001 N 23rd St, McAllen, TX 78504

As soon as you walk inside the lobby, there’s a brand new cafe in the right hand corner. They have a wide array of coffee drinks with the option of using soy milk or almond milk, tea, salads, and a Jalapeno Veggie Wrap. I decided to try the wrap, but minus the jalapenos because I’m a little intolerant of super spicy foods.

jalapeno veggie wrap

It was quite tasty and still had a little kick to it, even without the jalapenos. It contained black beans, which made it a very filling meal, plus sauteed zucchini, spinach, carrots, a green sauce, with a side of veggie sticks and a pickle. The only thing that could’ve made it better was a few slices of avocado. For my drink, I went with their homemade sweet tea. I liked it because it wasn’t overly sweet like most, and it had a hint of citrus.

coconut chips

Across the street from the library is the 99 Cent Store ? ? woo hoo! Forget the Dollar Store ? they are sooo expensive. The family I stayed with introduced me to these delicious dark chocolate coconut chips which are normally 3 or 4 bucks, but at the 99 cent store they’re ONLY 99 cents!! They also come in a regular flavor without chocolate. The store had a nice selection of teas and I picked up an organic green tea. There’s a small produce section, wines marked down to $2.99 ?(not sure if any are vegan brands, but if so, it’s worth a visit just for that), home goods, and lots of other things.

nectar avenue

On my way back, I stopped to take a look at the McAllen Food Park, which is located in the parking lot connected to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Food trucks are slowly but surely becoming popular in McAllen, and I saw several during my stay. This is the menu for Nectar Avenue ☝️, the only food truck in the park with vegan options. They serve fresh juices, smoothies, a fruit bowl, veggie bowl, gazpacho, garden wraps, and more!

McAllen Food Park
400 W Nolana Ave, McAllen, TX 78504


farmer's market

homemade jam

Every Saturday in McAllen there are 2 farmer’s markets – one is at the public library from 10 am – 1 pm and the other one is at Fireman’s Park from 9 am – noon. The weekend that I went there happened to be a big music festival in town, so a lot of the regular vendors at the market were at the festival. Despite a smaller market than usual, I was still really impressed with the local products available. I ended up going to both markets because I was in total farmer’s market mode.

homemade granola

farmer's market

I found lots of vegan items: jams, jellies, fruits, vegetables, granola, pecan butter, and even deodorant! I bought locally handmade rose jelly with roses straight from their garden, a small bag of pecans, Mexican squash, and deodorant because I was having a situation with my current one (it wasn’t working, ewww).

vegan tamales

By the time I got to the market at Fireman’s Park it was lunchtime and I was hungry. Lucky for me I found the perfect meal. One vendor was selling homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves. There were 3 flavors: bean & cheese, chicken something or other (I glazed over that one), and spinach & mushrooms. I love the spinach & mushroom combo so I grabbed them and chowed down – and they were SO good.

There’s usually a vendor at the farmer’s market called Le Vegan Factory, but I couldn’t find them and I suspect they were stationed at the music festival.

chickpea burger

On Monday I hit up a restaurant called The Mighty House because they have Meatless Monday. The vegan items on their menu are the falafel and the veggie burger, and every Monday both items are on special. I went with the burger which is made with chickpeas and topped with spinach, tomato, and avocado. It comes with chips or a side salad. And I couldn’t resist getting the fresh coconut cucumber juice.

The Mighty House 
1303 N 10th St, McAllen, TX 78501

organic juices

On my last day in the valley, I went to the Green Owl Deli and found myself in vegan heaven. Green Owl has a couple of items containing meat, but most of their menu is vegetarian and vegan. They have a beautiful selection of organic juices, vegan desserts, gluten free options, helpful employees, and a lovely seating area.

Green Owl Deli
2901 N 10th St, McAllen, TX 78501

green owl deli

green owl deli

After much consideration, I narrowed my choices down to the lasagna and the chalupas, both being vegan and gluten free. I also grabbed the Turmeric Elixir juice which was very tasty. Everything was super yummy, but I think the lasagna was my favorite. Instead of pasta, the base is made of eggplant and zucchini, and filled with black beans, lentils, & marinara sauce. It’s topped with cheese and comes with a side salad.

Needless to say, vegans will not go hungry in the valley. There’s lots of delicious options!

Here’s a couple general tips if you’re traveling and not sure where to find vegan food:

Mexican and Chinese restaurants almost always have vegetarian and vegan options, or can be easily altered if you ask. Local restaurants are great and usually accommodating, but if you need something that’s quick and can be found along he highway, try Chipotle or Taco Bell. Taco Bell recently announced a slew of menu items that are certified by the American Vegetarian Association. Yay! And you can’t go wrong with rice + veggies + tofu at a Chinese restaurant. Lastly, the local grocery stores are chock full of vegan ingredients perfect for a home cooked meal or putting together a quick snack for the road.

I will definitely be back to the valley soon, and it’s nice to know there’s no shortage of cruelty free food 🙂

Jillian ♥

P.S. To check out all the cool things there are to do and see in the valley (besides the food?), go to my Compassionate Women blog next Friday for the full scoop!

7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival in Oakland, CA

One of the best things about living in Northern California is no matter which direction you turn there is always something to do. Head north, you can stomp grapes, hike among the redwoods and explore the little tiny towns that connect the dots throughout the upper portion of the state. Look west towards the Pacific Ocean and endless oysters can be feasted upon, whales can be watched until your hearts content and waves can be caught with just a cowardly lion’s thimble full of courage. Look below, towards the south and you can lose yourself amidst the fog as your roam the streets of the city by the bay, cheer on the red and gold at the future home of Superbowl XLIX or chew until your jaw falls off on some of the best saltwater taffy Santa Cruz has to offer. This weekend, however, my compass pointed towards the east. A direction known for Cal Bears, an entire nation who bleed silver and black and a community whose cultural heritage and pride often help to carry them through the most adverse of life circumstances.

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I was in Oakland this weekend for the 7th Annual Eat Real Food Festival, a community celebrating one simple thing… GOOD FOOD!! If a state fair, a block party and a street-food festival had a threesome and created a baby from it… Oakland’s Eat Real Food Festival would be its amazingly beautiful and delicious offspring. With an eye on teaching the public how to support local food systems as well as promoting a stronger and healthier community-run organizations and businesses, the Eat Real Food Festival strives to bridge the gap between the average consumer and their local food producers and growers.   Individual food artisans mingled with national sponsors who in turned rubbed elbows with regional farmers and mom and pop businesses as a way of showing their support for one another. With 100% of the proceeds going to support the Food Craft Institute, a non-profit educational institution which supports the entrepreneurship and economic growth of small traditional food businesses, the Real Food Festival allows the community to sample the offerings of up and coming Bay Area businesses. Which really, when you think of it is a win/win situation for everyone.

The Eat Real Food Festival has, thus far, been the biggest food festival I have ever been to. With over seventy-five thousand people attending the event within a three-day period, there were more than a few mouths to feed. Fortunately, the sweet and savory selections did not disappoint. Over 120 food, wine and spirit vendors showed up with the very best of all types of cuisine. Mexican, Peruvian, Spanish, Korean, All-American, Portuguese, Soul Food, Seafood, French, Italian, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner… you name it they had it!!! Enough to make your head, or really your stomach explode.

One of the first items I happily indulged on was actually not a meal at all. I am a firm believer in dessert first, therefore I saddled up to the West Coast Style Frozen Custard Truck to try my first ever frozen custard. Half custard, half ice cream and all completely heavily (literally I think that is what heaven tastes like), it left me asking one question: How after 29 years of being on this earth have I never tried frozen custard before. Though there were numerous selections to choose from, including vanilla bean and rich chocolate, it was easy for me to pick a flavor. Being a sucker for anything Thai inspired, I immediately went for the Thai Ice Tea flavor with sweetened condensed milk on top.

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With the temperature being over 90 degrees outside, it was no surprise that the creamy treat cooled me down, but even if it was ten below zero I’m sure I would have found myself face deep in the bowl of goodness.

Next up came the paella from San Francisco based catering company ñora. Paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish is known for being cooked in a large round, shallow pan, which allows the rice in the Paella to become extra crispy. Along with aiding in the cooking process, this cooking vessel and the chefs who work the Paella in the pan create quite an exciting spectacle for those waiting to try. Fortunately, the taste was worth the wait… it was absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned with saffron and not too hot right off the Paella pan.

DSC00334  Following the Paella, I decided to give my tummy a bit of a break so I wondered over to the entrance to the festival where many of the information booths were located. I learned about the importance of urban farming and sustainable food systems from the fine volunteers at City Slicker Farms, a non-profit organization designed to educate the general public about where their food comes from.

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After collecting a complementary package of antique sweet pea flower seeds I quickly made a beeline to the Love A Bee honey stand, where I learned about importance of bees in our ecosystem all while sampled some local varieties of organic honey. I ended my mini farm tour with a visit to some adorable fine feathered friends, baby chicks  DSC00304

brought by Clover Stornetta Farms in Petaluma, where they along with eggs, produce a wide variety of delicious organic dairy products.

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My second lunch (my first being the paella) came from Bombzies Asian BBQ. The Vietnamese BBQ chicken, their original recipe had me at first site.

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Next came giant pickles and marinated vegetable salad from Happy Girl Kitchen Co.

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followed by a demonstration from the Chipotle on how to make their signature fresh guacamole with only six fresh ingredients: ripe Hass avocados, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno and kosher salt… yes, please!!

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It was impossible for me to end my day without grabbing a few things to go for my hungry folks waiting at home. That was actually an easy choice. It was organic modern soul food in the form of a BBQ pork belly sandwich from Keenan’s Kitchen for my dad.

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And for my mom, the ultimate mushroom lover, it was wild mushroom and cheese empanadas from the El Porteño, an Argentinian food truck and caterer located out of San Francisco. Empanadas so good, I found myself look up the locations of their food truck for future reference.

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Finally, my last stop before departing the Eat Real Food Festival was to glutinously pick up something which I had been thinking about all afternoon. It was to an unpretentious little popcorn stand I stopped by and quickly sampled at the beginning of my day. The popcorn at the POP Mama POP Artisan Popcorn booth is easily the best popcorn I have ever had, and this coming from someone who grew up on classic air popped popcorn all her life. Their organic locally grown corn paired with the delicious flavors they create is out of this world good. Flavors such as Jalapeno Sweet, Parmesan Garlic, Hot Chocolate and Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper left this life-long popcorn connoisseur coming back for second and third samples.

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I came back so many times the founder Kathleen Hackett, couldn’t help but laugh as I stuffed yet another sample of the kettle corn in my mouth (nearly choking on it in the process.. thanks to the random bystander for the quick smack on the back) Kathleen, who not only makes a good product and was generous enough to indulge my numerous samples, but was also generous enough to have all of the festivals tips go towards the victims of the valley fire. But in the end it was the popcorn that kept me coming back for more, especially the Snickerdoodle flavor. What was once a childhood cookie memory, had been transformed into the ultimate sweet and salty snack. A snack so good I have no shame in admitting that I ate the entire bag I purchased from the festival for breakfast this morning.

To say the Eat Real Festival treated me well is an understatement. If life was being played out in the novel pages of Charlotte’s Web, I was for the briefest of moments Templeton the rat, the errand boy (or girl) set out to bring back to you messages of up and coming, new and thriving food favorites in the area. I and my stomach are more than happy I followed my compass east this weekend. If I had not done so I would have surely missed out on the veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord of deliciousness.

Arlo’s in Austin, TX: Vegan Food Done Right

arlo's vegan food done right

Meet Arlo’s Bac’n Cheez Burger. Me and BCB (for short) are good friends.

Us vegans are just like everyone else. I know some people may think all we eat is tofu, carrots and hemp seeds (and yes, we do eat those things) but we also want to indulge in junk food and comfort food too, dang it! ??

That’s where Arlo’s comes in. If you live in Austin, Texas – aka Land of Vegan Bliss – then you are in luck. Arlo’s is comprised of two food trucks that are conveniently located in the downtown area. Also convenient, as least for me, is that they are parked right in front of two awesome bars ??This pretty much completes my life. The main location is at Cheer Up Charlie’s, right in the heart of Austin’s famous music scene.  They also have a new location along a very popular strip on the east side at Drinks Lounge. I went to their opening a couple of weeks ago and it was packed! Arlo’s is well loved here.

900 Red River
at Cheer Up Charlie’s
Austin, TX

2001 E. Cesar Chevez
at Drinks Lounge
Austin, TX

http://www.arlostruck.com/

arlo's food truck

The main reason that I am in utter love with them (other than they’re delicious food) is that they are committed to supporting local, organic, and non-gmo products. All of their food is made fresh on site and aside from being 100% vegan; they also offer gluten free options. But the best part is that even if you aren’t vegan, you can still enjoy their food because well, it’s great food; Simple as that. Plus, their burgers legitimately look like hamburgers. Like seriously, I can’t tell the difference. And the ingredients are super wholesome, healthy, environmentally responsible, and fresh. So you can indulge without all the negative side effects ??

Whenever I hit up Arlo’s, I always go for the Bac’n Cheez Burger because I used to have a mild (i.e. severe) obsession with bacon back in my omnivorous days. But this past week I decided to be adventurous and try something new, I got the BBQ burger, because way back when, BBQ was my other meat obsession.

bbq burger arlo's

It’s a house-made soy & gluten free patty, grilled in BBQ sauce, with chipotle mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and pickles. It’s a little spicy so beware to all of the non-spicy people out there. It was finger lickin’ good and I chased it down with tater tots (insert Napoleon Dynamite quote here) because tater tots are da best. But if you aren’t obsessed with tots like me and Napoleon, Arlo’s also has french fries, sweet potato fries, and chips & salsa. They’ve also got a Chipotle Chik’n Burger, Chik’n Tacos, and Street Tacos. My advice? Start with the Bac’n Cheez Burger – it’s their most popular item for a reason, then you can work your way down the menu from there 🙂

arlo's taco

And now that I’ve got an Arlo’s frequent flyer card, that should make it easy for me. In fact, it will probably be my main mission in life to get all those stars punched in as quickly as possible. I suggest you check out Arlo’s asap to get your guilt free indulgence on. Feel good about what you eat and support local businesses!

Jillian ♥

P.S. If you want to explore more yummy vegan establishments in Austin, look for my other reviews here.

Photo credits: http://www.arlostruck.com

Arlo's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The 5th Annual L.A. Taco Festival

The 5th Annual L.A. Taco Festival was held last Saturday in downtown Los Angeles. The hot August day didn’t stop the crowds from heading outdoors to try some of the best tacos from around the city. 18 vendors set up shop in Grand Park and along a portion of Hill Street which had been blocked off just for the event

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Long lines formed at every vendor during the entire festival. Taco lovers waited for 20 – 30 minutes sometimes more just to snag some of the amazing food they’d come to try. Every taco vendor offered something different to the crowd. Some tacos were very traditional by nature; fresh tortillas, grilled meats or veggies and fresh guacamole. Some were a little more unique, with ingredients like ahi tuna or short rib.

Like so many other attendees I grabbed a soda in a glass bottle marked made in Mexico and sipped on it as I listened to the live band playing in the park square. After strolling around the festival for a while scoping out what I just had to try I spotted Guerrilla Tacos. I knew immediately after reading their unique menu that this was the place for me.

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Guerrilla Tacos is a food truck out of Culver City, CA. Their menu changes daily as they seek local produce and sustainable ingredients. For the L.A. Taco Festival they offered a few dishes. I opted for the Sweet Potato taco and the Baby Squash taco.

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Both tacos were completely new to me and absolutely delicious! The baby squash taco was filled with shredded squash and zucchini. The taco was packed the taco with oaxacan cheese and top everything with chives. Every bite was light and fresh.

The Sweet Potato taco was layered with mashed sweet potatoes, feta cheese, and fried corn. The potatoes had spicy chiles mixed into them which ensured the taco would pack a punch. The feta cheese off set the heat in the most amazing way!

The L.A. Taco Festival was a glimpse of Los Angeles at it’s finest. Grand Park remained busy for hours as Angelenos made their way downtown to eat tacos from around the city as they enjoyed what remains of the summer.

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Website- http://www.latacofestival.com
Instagram- #LATacoFest

Guerrilla Tacos Website- www.guerrillatacos.com/home.html

Hot Buns in the City: Angie’s Wieners

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This weekend I got to meet Angie, the bubbly and enthusiastic proprietor of the Angie’s Wieners (follow on Twitter @AngiesWieners for daily locations) food truck. Her truck features grass-fed, private label, gourmet dogs with options for chicken, beef, polish, vegetarian and their newly added andouille. The dogs are a fantastic 12 inches long and are served on brioche buns with a tasty selection of toppings. Angie gets her buns from Homeboy Industries, an organization that provides training and support to former gang members and the previously incarcerated. Angie herself has a primarily female staff manning everything from the register to the grill.

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I got to try the Femme Fatale and the Producer on Polish. The Femme Fatale is made with Angie’s chicken dog and covered in ranch, hot sauce, chipotle aoili, and blue cheese. I’ve never had blue cheese on a dog before but I am hooked! The bun is probably the best hot dog bun that has ever existed, I do love me some brioche. The Producer is a little more classic with sauerkraut and spicy mustard. The sauerkraut was a perfect balance to the spice of the dog and mustard. You can bet I’m trying a “Happy Ending” next time I see Angie! It’s a bread pudding made with those awesome brioche buns.

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The Femme Fatal
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The Producer

DSC03985Angie has a fun outlook and her pin-up branding is bright and cheery. I love her sense of humor, the nod to Old Hollywood, and the motto “The Biggest Wieners and the Hottest Buns” is giggle worthy.  She said that men and women, young and old have a laugh at the branding while enjoying her gourmet dogs. When asked about plans for a brick and mortar location, she admitted that there is a chance at one in the future, she also hints that one day you might be able to pick up a pack of “Angie’s” in your local supermarket.

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Special thanks to James Roddy for the photos covering the event.
Angie's Wieners Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato