Monday, November 5, 2007

Chili When It's Not So Chilly

There is nothing better than eating vegan chili at chili cook-off in Austin, TX in 80 degree weather. Okay, maybe a few degrees cooler would've been better, but still. This weekend we drove three hours up to Austin for the Lone Star Vegetarian Network's 19th Annual Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off. They should just rename it a vegan chili cook-off because that's what it was (all entries had to be vegan).

Ten dollars buys you entry to the Austin Zoo (a rescue zoo) and all the chili tasting your stomach can handle! We got to vote on our favorite of over a dozen chilis that we tasted. My vote went to a smoky white bean chili, but it was a tough call. There was everything from traditional chili to raw chili and everything in between. You wouldn't think that a few bites of each chili would fill you up, but then you'd be wrong! I could barely move by the end (although I did manage to save room for some vegan pumpkin carrot cake with cream cheese frosting ... don't ask me how, I think I have a separate compartment in my stomach for dessert).
We also got to walk through the zoo and see some of the rescued animals. There was some excitement when one of the monkeys escaped and was hovering in the trees between the lions and the tigers (it ended happy)! Regular zoos have always troubled me, I love seeing these beautiful animals up close, but hate the fact that we have taken ownership of them. I don't know too much about this Austin Zoo, but from what I've gathered from their website, it seems different.
Another highlight of the festival.... I got to meet Diann from Eat'n Veg'n and her son Chase as well! My first encounter with a fellow vegan blogger! It was so nice to meet you Diane!!

The rest of the weekend was spent biking and running along Town Lake, one of our favorite things to do in Austin. We also got to try three different veg-friendly eateries. First, after a grueling (okay, it wasn't grueling, but my butt is certainly sore from it!) bike ride, we drove down to "the Drag" near UT campus and went to Dhaba Joy for their famous Oatscreme! I got the chocolate-vanilla swirl. Very different from soy ice cream I thought, but still delicious. Also, I couldn't resist all of their vegan cupcakes, so I went for a mini chocolate-mint cupcake. Yum. And I didn't have to bake it! It's almost a good thing I don't live in Austin, otherwise I would be buying cupcakes right and left!

Our other two food outings were for brunch on Sunday at Mother's Cafe and dinner Saturday night at Mr. Natural's. Even though brunch made us quite full before the chili tasting, it was awesome to be able to go out for breakfast and not have to scour the menu for vegan options. I had breakfast tacos. My heart had originally been set on pancakes, but since they have just re-opened due to a fire, the menu was limited. Unfortunately our experience at Mr. Natural's is not much to write about. The food was cold, service was slow, and the guacamole and salsa were unforgiveable (especially for being in Texas). It was a big disappointment, which I hate to say about vegetarian restaurants, but I have to be honest.

Alright, so enough about Austin. Does this count as a post for VeganMoFo? If not, I will do better tomorrow!


the pleasantly plump vegan said...

yeah for chili! i love mine with chipotle powder, kidney and pinto beans and corn. yum!
and vegan soft serve! jealous!!

Anonymous said...

i've never had chili - i wanna give it a try :) by the way, "ooo!" for vegan soft serve! i'm jealous, too! i think your post does count as a veganmofo entry :)

the little one said...

Definitely counts as VeganMoFo! Your post makes me almost think Texas can't be that bad ;) Also, have to say that I think the secret to good chili is a beer. No?

Celine said...

I agree with the little one, beer is definitely an A+ ingredient to a good chili. :D

Ashasarala said...

That chili fest sounds like fun. I loooove chili.

I know what you mean about zoos. It's so nice to see animals up close and gaze at them in awe, but zoos are such horrible places for wild animals.

I have never had vegan soft serve ice cream before, but it looks so good!

The Little Vegan said...

Yay, you went to Dhaba Joy! And the chili fest sounds awesome! (Especially that carrot-pumpkin cake!)

I'm glad to hear that Mother's is back up-and-running. I was sad to miss it when I went to Austin this summer, because I loved it the summer before.

aTxVegn said...

That was a great review of the Chili Festival! I'll have to find out who won cuz we didn't stay for the award ceremony. It was sure great to run into you and be able to chat in person.

As for your other food in Austin, you probably would have done okay if you had swapped - Mr. Natural for brunch and dinner at Mother's. I think Mr. Natural is better known for his baked treats than his meals. You're right, no excuse for poor guac and salsa in Texas. Chase and I usually choose Asian or Indian when we eat out.

Melody Polakow said...

sounds like a great get together with Diann. How cool... and a vegetarian/vegan chili contest.. that is awesome!

Your food from the last post looks great. I love tempeh and quinoa.. and those cookies look amazing!

VeggieGirl said...

oooh the chili fest sounds great - and I like that the Austin zoo is a RESCUE zoo. yay! :0)

how fun that you got to meet Diann and her son - I always love reading about my fellow bloggers meeting!!

that soft-serve ice cream looks divine, oh my goodness gracious...

this certainly counts as a VeganMoFo post, in my book :0)

vegetalion said...

gahhhhh I am so jealous of the vegan soft serve... it's been so many years...

VNA Member said...

Thanks for coming to the chili cook-off! The winners are:

1st ($300): The Vegetarian Network of Austin's “Mad Veggie Scientists” led by chili cook Stevie Duda for her Vegetable Chili (assisted by VNA members Brendan Good, Teddi Irwin, Ken Jaffe, Susan Jaffe, and Rachel Jaffe)

2nd ($200): The Vegetarian Society of Houston led by chili cook Dan McClure for his Carri-Bean Chili
(assisted by Dana Wilson, Mandy Cohen, Pat Grissom, Caleb McClure, and Benjamin Cohen)

3rd ($50 each): A tie between the team of Vivian
Gardner, Phyllis Bagheri, Sunnie Young, and Ernst
Mueller for their Gentle on Your Mind and Stomach
Chili (Vivian is 80 and Ernie is 94!) and The San
Antonio Vegetarian Society team led by chili cook Amy Browning for her Home On The Free Range Chili (assisted by SAVS members Arnulfo Ojeda and Jan Keller)

People’s Choice ($250): The team of Don Barnes and Alice Strong for their Quintesensual Chili

Best of Show ($100) for booth design: The Vegetarian Network of Austin's “Mad Veggie Scientists”

Mark your calendar for next year's event, which is
scheduled for November 9th!

bazu said...

Oh wow, a vegan chili cook-off! That sounds wonderful, but I have to admit eating chili in 80-degree heat is a bit much for me! I bet they didn't want to call it 'vegan' so as not to alienate potential visitors/tasters..??

textual bulldog said...

Beautiful pictures! The vegetarian chili cook-off sounds heavenly (I love chili) and how cool that it was for a good cause. Also, isn't it funny how vegan cupcakes taste better when someone other than yourself has baked them? ;)

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Oh my gosh!!! I must've had the name for the title in my head because I subconsciously was thinking of yours! I did NOT mean to copy you, and I'm changing my title right now! So sorry!!!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Who knew Austin was so veg friendly?! Looks like fun!