Last week, we went on a long beach vacation to our favorite place in the world, the quaint little Island of Little Gasparilla. I wrote about it in our food memoir We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook (in stores next week.) It’s where Jared and I got married, where we took Jackson for his first beach experience, and where Jared’s family has been vacationing for twenty years. To put it mildly, it’s a special place for our family.
We took along the Mimi because we love her and Jackson loves her…and well, we knew it was the only way we’d get any alone time. Thanks to her, Jared and I enjoyed an amazing all vegan dinner at Vino Loco Tapas and Wine Bar one night to celebrate our sixth anniversary. We were the only diners (it’s off season right now), and we got special treatment from the chef, who hand delivered each organic, well-thought out plate to our table. Simple flavorful food made with quality organic ingredients that let the veggies be the star. My kind of food! And then there was vegan gelato made out of almond milk. Oh my. The gelato was so amazing, we swung by on our way home to get more for the long road home…and to share with Jackson and Mimi who missed out the first time. I ate my scoop with one of Jackson’s leftover chocolate birthday cupcakes. I can’t remember the last time I had cake and ice cream. It was like a party in my mouth.
Did I say chocolate cupcakes up there? Oh yes! My sweet Jackson turned two on Saturday….and my usually healthy little eater has a dark secret. He loves nothing more than chocolate cupcakes. I used my go-to Chocolate Cupcake Recipe from Chow.com. They are quick and easy and don’t call for any weird ingredients. I subbed almond milk, whole wheat flour, and coconut oil this time (working with our limited pantry on the island). They didn’t rise quite as much as the first time I made them with canola and white flour, but they were still fluffy and delicious…and healthier. 🙂 We skipped icing in lieu of a dusting of powdered sugar. We aren’t much of an icing family…and it’s usually just fat and sugar anyway. We let him blow the powdered sugar on his cupcake instead of blowing out a candle. He thought that was WAY fun!
Happy Birthday Jackson! I have a feeling we have an adventurous year ahead! Twos = double the fun, right?
In honor of Jackson turning two, we’re giving away TWO early release copies of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook! Jackson just so happens to be a pretty big star in the book….so it seems fitting. To enter the giveaway, simply like our facebook page and leave us a comment HERE ON THE BLOG telling us you’ve done so. A birthday wish to Jackson would be like powdered sugar on the cupcake though. 🙂 Be sure to include the name that you use on Facebook so we can verify your entry and fill in the email section of our contact form so we can contact you if you are a winner.
Giveaway ends on at midnight central time Friday, August 2nd, We’ll pick the winners using a random number generator. Winners will have 24 hours to contact us before we choose another name.
I’ve become accustomed to the typical vegan dining out experience at non-vegan restaurants. Look up the menu in advance, call to find out if the beans and rice are cooked with lard or chicken stock or if they are willing to make something off the menu for us, trust that the hostess on the other end is actually informed enough to answer correctly, show up and hope for the best. Most places are willing to make modifications for us if we explain what we can and can’t eat and I’m genuinely grateful for their willingness to take these extra steps, but dining out is still one of the most difficult parts of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet. Even a lot of vegan dining places can be difficult because they use so much soy and processed fake-products, which I try to limit.
Last week, I happened upon a restaurant in Dallas called Sundown at Granada Restaurant & Beer Garden. They were voted Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant on D Magazine’s 2012 Best of Big D list. I started my usual routine of checking the menu online and was immediately impressed.
They had me at A.N.D.I salad! Our regular readers should know my love for kale and it’s ranking as one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet by now. Any chef that names a salad after the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index has this health geek’s attention. The menu also had several other options, clearly marked vegan. Jared and I called in the grandparentals to watch the little one so we could enjoy a dinner out that didn’t involve cutting our food into tiny pieces or chit-chatting with every stranger around us whom Jackson has befriended with a flash of his smile.
Sundown is nestled right next to the Granada theater in a cute/funky little part of town on lower Greenville. Though it was July, we sat outside on the covered patio; with shades and fans, we were quite comfortable. The hostess immediately brought us a chilled bottle of water, a nice touch for my water-chugging husband.
It was happy hour, so we put in an order for our $4 margaritas and perused the menu. Though the A.N.D.I salad was tempting, I had just eaten a big kale salad for lunch, and besides, there were so many other things I wanted to try.
The word that kept coming to mind as I looked at the menu was thoughtful. The chef didn’t just slap a pre-made veggie burger on the menu and call their restaurant veg-friendly, he included us in very thoughtful creative ways. Another thing I appreciated, even though I don’t eat meat, is that they use all grass fed beef and free range chicken.
We started with the Stuffed Avocados with Endive, a trio of avocado halves, each stuffed with a different flavor combination: Italian, Southwest, and Waldorf. I would never have thought to mix avocado, blueberry, and candied walnuts together, but it was delicious. We expected the Southwest to be our favorite, but the Italian actually took both of our votes. Again, I don’t think of Italian when I think avocados, but the sun-dried tomato, basil, and almonds married wonderfully with my favorite fruitable (fruitable: word I just coined for a “vegetable” that’s really a fruit).
We decided to share the Quinoa Burger and the Vegatative State Wrap for our entrees. To our surprise, the chef, Patrick Stark, delivered our meals to us. He talked with us for a good bit about his health journey and the process for writing the menu (it took three months to complete). He’s a young and tatted up guy, but killer talented and incredibly kind. After meeting him, I could see his story and personality shine through the menu and was inspired to step up my own cooking game. Oh, and if talking A.N.D.I wasn’t enough, one of his specials that week was “The Liquid Dinner,” a super food “Green Drink” with kale, berries, mint, agave, pineapple, bananas. I’m telling y’all, green smoothies are fine dining!
Back to the food. It was delicious. We ate it all. I will be back for more. The end.