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!