Archive for February, 2011

My Big Fat Vegan Asheville Vacation

I just spent a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend trip with my boo.  We decided to go on a pseudo-staycation, so I wouldn’t have to take time off work. We picked Asheville, NC because of its status as hippie-crunchy mecca of the East Coast, and because we haven’t been to Asheville since the Biltmore Estate field trips of our elementary school days. It was only a four hour drive from Raleigh, but in hindsight, we should have stayed two nights instead of just one.

On Saturday afternoon, we toured the magnificent Biltmore Estate and later attended the Asheville Symphony’s Romeo and Juliet. Both highly recommended, but what had me on cloud nine was the city’s culinary delights. We ended up eating so much, we’re still full two days later.

Saturday night, we dined at Mela, an Indian restaurant on North Lexington Avenue. Mela is an omni restaurant with a heavy vegetarian and vegan selection. I ordered a salad of spinach, mango, beets, candied walnuts, and jicama, along with a raspberry and coconut milk martini, just for starters(!) The salad totally outshined my entree, the aloo gobi masala, which was a wee bit too spicy for my tastes.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Vegan Chocolate Cake at French Broad Chocolate Lounge

For dessert, we headed to French Broad Chocolate Lounge, an all-natural gourmet chocolate bar featuring decadent truffles, cakes, cookies, and mousses. I ordered a slice of the vegan chocolate cake, made with Theros olive oil, rich cocoa powder, and agave nectar. I also got an individual “Buddha” vegan truffle made with dark chocolate and coconut milk. I practically inhaled them both.

Tofu Benedictine

Tofu Benedictine at Laughing Seed Cafe

The next morning, with martini and chocolate hangovers, we went to the Laughing Seed Cafe for the organic Sunday brunch. With a completely vegetarian menu, Laughing Seed was right up my alley. I ordered the “Tofu Benedictine,” a spin on my old favorite, eggs benedict. My plate was piled high with “scratch-made biscuit, grilled organic tofu, grilled tomato, sautéed spinach, and seitan sausage over grits with herb oil and béarnaise.” Breakfast was so delicious, I finished my meal and wanted to actually lick the plate clean.

truffles

Vegan Buddha Truffles collection at French Broad

So after brunch, we decided to walk around town. Somehow, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge seemed to pull us back in, and we ended up in line for brunch dessert… which is not really a thing people do. But I managed to down yet another piece of that decadent, moist, vegan chocolate cake, and purchase a six-pack of vegan truffles for later consumption. The cashier kindly asked me if I would like a bow for the truffle box, but I pointed to my stomach and said they were going straight in there. “Word,” she said.

After a day of sight-seeing around downtown (two fantastic stores are Malaprop’s Bookstore and Blitzkrieg Games), we headed to Wasabi sushi for an early dinner before heading home. All I can say is Holy Cow they have Tempura Sweet Potato sushi rolls. My boo and I agreed it was one of the best sushi meals we’ve ever had.

sushi

Avocado and Tempura Sweet Potato Rolls at Wasabi

I have to say, I am left feeling pretty disappointed after this trip. Not in Asheville of couse, which was like a vegan’s dream world. I’m disappointed that Raleigh is so much larger and more populated, and yet we have only a fraction of the cool eateries and local, sustainable ideology Asheville seems to have. Maybe I’m just bitter, but here in Raleigh it’s like you have to hunt for a nutritious, local, vegan meal. Yes, we have Irregardless and we have Remedy, and I love those restaurants. But in Asheville, we couldn’t walk down the street without finding yet another place overflowing with vegetarian food. In any case, Asheville just became my second favorite foodie vacation spot (I think Western Mass will always be number one for me).

Grand Asia Market, Cary

I’ve been reading the blog Poor Girl Eats Well quite a bit lately, and the author reminded me to think outside the box when grocery shopping. I’m pretty good about saving money at the grocery store, and I’m always looking for a better deal. But what really inspired me to go to Grand Asia Market in Cary was the outrageous price of coconut milk at my usual supermarkets. Kroger, Food Lion, and Harris Teeter sell coconut milk for $2.50 a can. The cheapest I’ve seen it at Kroger was $1.69, on sale.  So I dragged my dad to Grand Asia today and he pushed the cart while I shopped. Thanks for being a good sport, dad! There were a few different brands of coconut milk, and I found one for 99 cents a can. Plus, you wouldn’t believe how varied their selection of tofu, wheat gluten and soy products is.  I got all this food for under $20:

Groceries

  • Eggplant
  • Mung Bean sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Red pepper
  • avocados
  • Baby bok choy
  • cilantro
  • Black rice noodles
  • 6 cans coconut milk
  • Frozen soy beans
  • Soy “chicken” cutlets
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