Thursday, September 25, 2014

Madison City Farmer's Market

It's always a good time to hit up a farmer's market - fresh, local, and often organic! Since 2007, Madison City has been the place for tasty, locally grown foods. Also find lovely handmade cards sewn from recycled materials, handcarved wooden cutting boards, and brilliant tie-dye wear.


The Wandering Photographer
Madison City Farmers Market can be found next to Trinity Baptist Church (1088 Hughes Road, Madison, AL) close to the border of Huntsville and Madison. Hours are Saturday mornings, 8am - noon, April through September, and 9am - noon, October through November.
  • Wide variety of fruits and veggies
  • Offers both fresh produce and locally made prepared foods
  • Buy local!
Find more information about the Madison City Farmers Market:
Website
Facebook
Twitter









A few of my favorite vendors:

Whirlwind Farm hail from Geraldine and can be found at the Madison City Farmers Market, along with the Lathum and Bailey Cove Farmers Markets.
  • Sustainably grown
  • No chemicals!
  • Non GMO and heirloom breeds
  • Unusual varieties of veggies, such as tatsoi
  • Nice, knowledgeable people
Find more information about Whirlwind Farms:
Website
Facebook



Mason Dixon Bakery can be found at 9009 Memorial Parkway SW, Suite F
Their hours are Mon - Thurs 10am - 6pm, Fri 10am - 7pm, Sat 10am - 5pm
They can also be found at the Madison City Farmer's Market, Greene Street Market and other venues around town.

  • Gluten free bakery
  • Very allergy friendly
  • Delicious cupcakes - try the Cookie Monster
  • Sugar overdose
  • Offers paleo and vegan fare
Find more information about the Mason Dixon Bakery:  
Website  
Facebook  
Twitter 

The Hummus People can be found at the Madison City Farmer's Market, Greene Street Market, along with other farmer's markets and Juice Bar Huntsville.
  • Very healthy, no oil!
  • Flavorful without being overly salty
  • Cool people
Find more information about The Hummus People:
Facebook
Twitter



Love farmers markets? Also check out my visit to Greene Street Farmer's Market

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shopping Asian

I estimate that probably half the food I consume is Asian in origin or style. I love it. That's all I have to say about that.

Originally dairy-free with a large vegetarian element, too, the Orient has suffered from a pollution of American ideas of food. Fillers, additives, and corn syrup now dominate their prepackaged foods as well, and shopping at an Asian food store now involves lots of package reading (just like everywhere else). Despite that, some progress is being made, and Oriental markets are still some of my favorite places to shop. You can walk out of an Asian food store with four bags of food and a price tag at just over twenty bucks. Cheap and tasty! Here are just a couple of my favorite options in the area.

At my favorite Asian grocery store, Far East Market (off 72 in Madison), they now have many vegan-friendly products, including an entire freezer section of vegetarian meats, many of which are vegan. They always have a supply of fresh Asian veggies and unusual types of mushrooms - two of my favorite things. They have an entire aisle of rice noodles and wraps (many are gluten-free). Take time to smell the soaps in the back. The staff is very friendly.

By the way after your Far East Market shopping experience, stop in and have lunch at VietSandwich, which is just across the way in the same shopping center. Have a veggie bon mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and a boba tea - known here as bubble tea.


If your Asian tastes run more Korean, check out the International Market (off Old Madison Pike). This is where I go to get weird pickled things, and also acorn flour. Eating gluten-free opens you up to experimenting with different flours, and acorn pancakes are the best! The Korean lady who owns the store never believes I know how to cook with it. They also have the basics of Asian cooking: a selection of rice noodles and canned items like mushrooms and lychees. I bought my Oriental folding table here, too, the kind that you sit on the floor with.

Earth Fare is great place to pick up authentic, no filler sauces. It is the only place I have found hoisin sauce (see below) that is actually fermented with no corn syrup. I also get my amino acid products here, which I use instead of soy sauce, and vegan, raw kimchi (see below). Organic, whole, no filler, canned coconut milks are also found here. Kroger, in the health-food section, also carries many of these, as do the locally owned health food stores, Garden Cove and Foods For Life.

_______________


So just what are you supposed to do with this stuff? 

I'm not a big recipe person. I have inherited this from my mother, who never has managed to teach me how to make squash casserole like her. We have a tendency to combine recipes, experiment, and just plain make up stuff. As a result, it's hard for us to share exactly how we made the food we are eating. The following is not exactly a recipe, but a rambling meander through my cooking mind. If you get bored, I won't fault you for scanning ahead or just looking at the pictures.

Here's a walk-through of yesterday's lunch.



This is the frozen vegan chicken "drumsticks" I started with from Far East Market, along with some happy mushrooms that we will not be using today.



Here they are out of the package. I had to squeal with delight at the little wooden sticks they were on. I love making food look like other things. A little chick made out of marzipan or a chicken wing made out of soy is the same amount of hilarity to me, as long as I'm not actually mutilating a real bird...but I may just be morbid.

For health reasons, I don't cook with oil any more, and products containing oil - such as these wings - are a real treat for me. So I have placed the wings on parchment paper to crisp-up in the oven. You could also use spray oil on your pan.

The package didn't give any cooking instructions so I tried 350, but decided that wasn't hot enough for proper crisping and turned it up too 400.

But now we need some green stuff. At the top left of the picture we have king mushrooms from Far East Market's produce section. These guys are basically giant stems, with tiny caps at the top. They have a taste reminiscent of the ocean - as many mushrooms do. I slice them up for this stir-fry but I have also left them gigantically whole in a soup.

At the bottom right & center of the picture we have bamboo shoots. Yes, fresh bamboo shoots, not canned! You can find them at Far East Market in their refrigerators in clear bags.

The green stuff is pak choy, a broccoli/cabbage relative, which is one of my favorite greens. You could also use chinese broccoli, bok choi or basically any other dark leafy green you please. Or whatever, it's a stir-fry -- put prunes in it if you want!

Also chopped up some onions besides being terribly healthy for you and tasty, the onions also provide natural oils for the pan, eliminating the need for concentrated oils like olive or vegetable.



This is my much used and abused wok. It isn't shiny anymore, but you'll have to trust me that it is clean. Woks are made specially for distributing heat properly in a stir-fry. You can also use the same pan for multiple layers of sauces and vegetables, pulling the older veggies up to the side of the wok to keep warm, while adding new veggies to the hotter center. Do some research on the proper use of a wok - it's fascinating...and proper treatment of your wok will stop it from turning bubbly brown like mine.

Anyway, the onions and the bamboo shoots have been added. The onions, for their oils, and the bamboo because it takes a while to cook at become soft, so we want it cooking the longest. Cooking with no oil requires a lower heat, so I keep the burner on medium. Let's leave these two alone for a few minutes, with the occasional stirring until the onions began to brown.

Here we need our cooking rice wine. Don't be fooled by imitations. When shopping for rice wine, be sure not to get those that are made up almost entirely of corn syrup. You also want to look for one that is actually fermented. Not only is this the best tasting, but it's also the best for you. Cooking gets rid of all the actual alcohol, so no worries there. Just because it's wine, doesn't mean it's expensive, either. Standard Asian grocery rules apply and even big jugs are inexpensive.

The jug pictured is my favorite brand from Far East Market. It is real rice cooking wine (in ceramic, not plastic), but even here we have to look out for fillers. I once poisoned my brother with this one: it contains wheat.



Meanwhile, our stir-fry is ready for an application of cooking wine. Bamboo picks up the flavor wonderfully. I add a splash (I estimate a tablespoon or two) of the good stuff. Remember to stir, and let it cook for a little more, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Here we'll need more of our lovely Oriental sauces. The secret to a good stir-fry is adding layers of flavor. Don't throw everything in there at once. We have two choices at this point: hoisin sauce or Coconut Aminos. Both of these can be found at Earth Fare. 

As I mentioned above, actual hoisin sauce with no fillers, made the proper way is actually very hard to find. Earth Fare brand is my choice. A viscose sauce that is somewhat a combination of soysauce and molasses. I know that sounds disgusting, but it's actually very tasty.

I've taken to using these coconut aminos because they don't have any soy in them, and I have to watch my soy intake. Braggs amino acids (found at any health food store) would also do. Both of these products taste VERY similar to soysauce and can be used as a low-sodium alternative.



Since the vegan chicken is a soy product, today I've chosen the coconut aminos. Also, it has a lighter flavor than the hoisin sauce and I think the vegan chicken will be a heavy flavor. Give the pan and good splash. Notice I've also added the king mushrooms at this point. They'll pick up the sauce flavor. Let cook until the mushrooms are done.




I add in the pak choy greens last. While cooking them to a mush may be Southern, it is not Asian, and we just want to bring out their flavor without over cooking. Stir a lot with the greens to make sure they don't stick to the pan.

Meanwhile, I've gotten impatient with my vegan wings, as the stir-fry is almost ready and they aren't crispy yet. I think 20 minutes at 400 would have done it, but at this point I turn the broiler on to speed up the outer crisp.


As it turns out the wings were delicious! Check out the details. The inside is stringy and moist, while the outside is flaky and crisp. Will definitely be buying these again.


Every Asian meal needs something and something fermented. In this case, I combined them. Kimchi is a the Korean method of fermenting cabbage with certain peppers. It was an acquired taste for me, but many people love it straight away.

Sunja's brand is raw, fermented, and vegan. You can find it at Earth Fare, Kroger, or other health food stores. If you choose to go looking for kimchi at Asian groceries be aware that it will be MUCH spicier than this, and also make sure it is vegan as traditionally it is often made with fish.

The complete meal is below. Kimchi on the right, stir-fry at the top, and vegan chicken wings on the left. The dark splotch at the bottom is the dipping sauce I chose for the wings, a store bought duck sauce (a sweet/sour oriental sauce made with apricots).


This ends my ramblings. What are your favorite places to shop Asian in Huntsville or Madison?  How about your favorite Asian recipes?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Don't Say the V Word: A Businessman's Guide to Veganism

"Is this vegan?" 
"Is this vegetarian?" 
"I can't have dairy, can I have this?" 
"Is this made using animal products?" 
As a restaurant owner, beauty products dealer, or even a retailer you might hear these questions. What do these people mean? What do they want? You do an internet search only to hear conflicting ideas and people arguing about morality and climate change. You just want a straight answer: how can serve my customers?

My goal with this post is to answer that question, straight up, no frills, and from a business perspective. I was raised vegetarian, and have been vegan for over two years now. I have also been a small business owner, and worked in the food service business for more years than I care to remember. I started Veg Out Huntsville in order to help local vegans find local places to eat and to shop, but found myself working with businesses a lot, asking them questions. To my surprise, most businesses were very friendly and eager to work with me, even adding new items to their menu to accommodate. This made me, and a lot of other vegans, very happy. 

You might think that vegans and plant-based dieters are just a small minority, not worth catering to. However, current trends show that Americans are eating fewer and fewer animal products and more people are becoming vegan. This trend shows no signs of slowing down, so you might want to hop on board now. Also, I always quip that a vegan customer is worth two omnivores because we eat ALL THE TIME. Of course vegans are big foodies! Who else would decide to save the world by eating?

But in order to serve vegan food (or products) you have to know what the word means. Despite the attitude some people have, you aren't born knowing what "vegan" means, and whenever I was served something not vegan, it was always on accident. My main focus of this article is for restaurant owners, but I also provide content relevant for makers of beauty products or clothiers as well.

Serving vegans doesn't have to be difficult, expensive, or confusing. So, let's discuss words, and get this cleared up!

Why Are You Living Like This Anyway?

The question of "why?" is a very personal one, and no two people will answer it the same. People eat and live vegan or vegetarian for diverse reasons such as health, animal rights, environmental concerns, and/or humanitarian concerns. You can write whole books about the reasons. For our business purposes, it really doesn't matter, so for this article we're leaving the debates up to the internet and the mass amounts of literature available. Just be aware that their are many reasons, and even strict vegans don't always agree with each other.


Defining the Differences

There are three main types of "non-meat-eaters", Pescatarians, Vegetarians, and Vegans. Although you can often serve them the same food, they are very different from each other, and shouldn't be mistaken for each other -- otherwise you'll end up with a lot of unhappy customers.

Pescatarian: Simply put, these are the fish eaters. Pescatarians don't eat mammals or birds, but they do eat fish and seafood. Gelatin is a maybe, depending on the individual. I won't be talking about them much, you won't often hear this word, and most pescatarians will confusingly call themselves vegetarians, but I wanted to introduce the word.
Non-food products: Sometimes pescatarians may not wish to buy leather.

Vegetarian: These are the people who don't eat meat. This means no beef, chicken, fish, lobster, llama, buffalo, or kangaroo. If it's in the animal kingdom, they don't eat it. Vegetarians do eat other animal products like eggs and milk. The word vegetarian is more familiar to people, and more socially accepted by America than the word vegan.
Non-food products: Vegetarians usually will not buy leather or fur, but will buy wool, feathers, and beeswax. They usually are looking for beauty products with No Animal Testing.

Vegan: These are the people that don't eat ANY animal products. They don't eat meat and also remove milk, eggs, gelatin, and often honey from their diets. The inventor of the word 'vegan' also did not consume alcohol, but not many vegans follow this, in fact many are voracious consumers of beer.
Wait, honey?: Honey is a contentious issue, even among vegans. However, if you see a product marked 'certified vegan' in a store, it will NOT contain honey. Vegans don't consume animal products and by definition this includes honey. There are those vegans who do eat honey, but never mark a product 'vegan' and put honey in it. Instead, if you have customers asking for vegan items, ask if they eat honey, and then point out items.
Non-food products: If someone comes to your business shopping for vegan items they mean it in the strictest sense. Vegans don't wish to buy leather, wool, beeswax, feathers, gelatin, or any milk derivative. They will also be looking for that No Animal Testing label.

 So that seemed simple, right? Unfortunately it does get more complicated, but I'll do my best to untangle things.


It's Just a Little Poison - Contamination Issues

 Something no vegetarian or vegan ever wants to hear is: "It only has a little meat in it." You can't have 'just a little' of a product you are avoiding; it doesn't work that way. You don't tell a person with peanut allergies, "oh, it just has a little peanut oil in it," so you don't mark something as vegetarian and then put chicken broth in it.

Omnivores produce an especially acidic digestive fluid in order to digest meat. If you no longer eat meat, your body no longer produces these. Even a small amount of meat, besides emotionally hurting your customer, can physically hurt them as well. My only experience featuring a small amount of meat left me sick for the rest of the night.

Your customer may be vegan for allergy reasons. In this case accidental contamination becomes an issue, too. I can't tell you how many times I have been served a meal with a small shred of cheese that has fallen into the plate. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to a vegan (especially someone that has allergies) it might as well be a chunk of arsenic. If you own or work at a restaurant, you know contamination is a big issue to keep bacteria in check. You should already be keeping your meat and dairy separately, so take it seriously and make sure the same utensils are not used, and hands are washed after handling meat & dairy products.


The Hidden Ingredients

"So I just have to make sure I don't use meat or milk or eggs in my food, right?"
 Right...plus a few other items. The bizarre fact about our culture is that items marked non-dairy contain milk in them. 
"Wait, what?" 
Check the ingredients for a 'non-dairy' creamer and the first item will be milk powder. While this might be acceptable for someone allergic to lactose, it's not acceptable for a vegan...or even someone allergic to another part of milk, such as casin. This is the place where serving a vegan can seem to become a nightmare. But don't panic yet, let's just take this a step at a time.

There are tricks to reading a label. Veganism and vegetarianism are more popular than ever. Your first step when reading a label is to look at see if it is already nicely marked 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' for you. If it is, great! You're good to go. If not, that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't vegan friendly. Next thing to check are the allergy warnings, which can be found at the bottom of the ingredients list in bold. Does it say Contains: milk? You don't need to look any further; it's not vegan friendly. So what if you've perused the label and can't find any of these helper words? Well, you could try the simple approach and try other company that is more open about their ingredients, or you can check the ingredients one by one. It's not as scary as you think.

The list of ingredients to avoid, although not intuitive, is actually not that long. My grandmother managed to figure it out and serve us vegan food made from scratch. Obviously anything that lists meat, milk or eggs as an ingredient is a no-no. Here's the list of hidden animal product ingredients to look for, and remember these ingredients are just a likely to be hiding in orange juice, as in margarine:

Food Products, Non-Vegetarian:
Carmine, Cochineal, Carminic Acid (red dye from beetles) 
Gelatin (from boiled body parts)
Isinglass (a form of gelatin made from fish)
Lard (we're in the south, do I need to explain this?)
Rennet, Rennin (calf stomach enzyme, only used in cheese)

Food Products, Non-Vegan:
Albumen (usually derived from egg whites)
Bee Pollen
Beeswax 
Bone Char (often used in white sugar)
Carmine, Cochineal, Carminic Acid (red dye from beetles)
Casein, Caseinate, Sodium Caseinate (milk derivative, often found in so called 'non-dairy' cheese and milks)
Gelatin (from boiled body parts)
Honey
Isinglass (a form of gelatin made from fish)
Lactose (milk derivative) 
Lard (we're in the south, do I need to explain this?)
Monoglycerides, Glycerides (derived from animal fat)
Whey (milk product) 

Cosmetic Products
 Note: There are people who eat vegan, and don't buy vegan, but if a customer is looking at your beauty products for vegan labels, they mean that in the strictest sense. Unfortunately, you'll have a harder time finding out if your ingredients are animal sourced, for instance caprylic acid may be derived from milk, or it may be veggie derived; you'll have to check with your supplier.
Albumen (usually derived from egg whites)
Allantoin (derived from urine)
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (may be animal derived)
Ambergris (from whale intestines)
Bee Pollen
Beeswax
Bone Meal
Caprylic Acid (may be sourced from milk)
Carmine, Cochineal, Carminic Acid (red dye from beetles)
Collagen (usually animal derived)
Gelatin (from boiled body parts)
Glycerin, Glycerol (may be animal derived)
Honey
Isinglass (a form of gelatin)
Keratin (protein from ground up bones, hooves, and feathers) 
Lanolin, Lanolin Acids (derived from wool)
Monoglycerides, Glycerides (derived from animal fat)

Whew! That was the hard part - it's smooth sailing from here on in. Now we just have to look at advertising tactics to make sure your customers know what you have to offer.


The Word Game: Advertising

So you have a vegan or vegetarian product. Maybe you made a special one, or discovered that a product you were already serving could be made veg friendly with only a slight alteration. We vegans love to see that vegan word slapped on everything, but from a businessperson's standpoint, that's not all you're going to want to do.


Standard advertising tactics apply. Alert the media! This may sound melodramatic, but you do want to advertise vegan/vegetarian products, same as you would any other product. 

For an example, let's look at Burger King. Not well known for vegetarianism, however they serve one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. Did you know that? Most vegetarians I talk to don't know either. If the veggie burger is listed on the menu at all, it's hidden over in the corner menu to the side of the counter with the Icees. Apparently, the Burger King thinks vegetarianism is some type of underground railroad that spreads information among it's followers. 7.3 Million Americans are strict vegetarian, while 22.8 million more eat a more loose 'Vegetarian-Inclined' diet. That's a lot of customers BK is missing out on by hiding their veggie burger. Don't be like BK...seriously their mascot is terrifying anyway... The main point being, vegans and vegetarians are individuals, not a collective. You can't tell one and expect the whole city to know.

BK Storm Trooper, DragonCon 2007, WanderPhoto



What may come as a surprise to business owners, it's not only vegans that will buy vegan products. There's also people with food allergies - milk, eggs, and meats are common allergens. Maybe someone's on a diet for the week. Many people just want to eat lighter on occasion. I know plenty of people that just don't like red meat. If you offer a quinoa salad that just happens to be vegan, many other folks like quinoa, too. 

Again, standard advertising tactics apply: pump in as many buzz words as you can. Let's say Johnny has a milk allergy. He's just learning about it, and he's not looking for the word 'vegan'. He's looking for the words, 'dairy-free'. Slap that on there, too. By the time we're done looking at all the possibilities, your burrito is not only vegan, it's vegetarian, dairy-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free, and maybe even low-fat! You're reaching a much wider customer base now.

Whoa, that's a lot of words cluttering a menu! Yes, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that all these words should be put on a simple menu (unless you are using symbols), but definitely push them when advertising on social media or individual billboards. 

 To Sum Up...

I've thrown a lot of ideas at you very quickly, so let's just briefly sum up.

  • Vegetarians don't eat meat or meat products. They usually want products with "No Animal Testing" and no leather or gelatin.
  • Vegans don't eat (or use) any products made by animals or derived from animals including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. They usually won't buy wool, beeswax, or other animal products
  • Eating honey is a contentious issue, even in the vegan community, but to keep it safe DON'T mark products vegan if they contain honey -- DO ask your customers if they eat/use honey and point out your options to them if they do
  • There's no such thing as "a little meat". If it contains meat AT ALL it's not vegetarian.
  • There's no such thing as "a little milk". If it contains animal products AT ALL it's not vegan
  • Beware of contamination between ingredients while cooking or storing food products
  • Check labels on every ingredient before declaring an item vegan or vegetarian
  • Advertise your vegan/vegetarian products same as you would any other product
  • Open your products up to everyone, and don't just use the word 'vegan' -- use other words like 'dairy free' and 'egg free'
I hope I have been of some help to you! If you have any further questions, I would love to help you out! Contact me by commenting here, or through Twitter, Facebook, or even Instagram.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Foodtruck Rally (Street Food Gathering) July 17th

The food truck rally has been bumped up a day to July 17th, due to rain. As usual it will be from 6pm to 9pm, on Church Street downtown and will feature its usual climbing wall and musicians. But what really makes this foodtruck event special is the time shift will put in during not only Greene Street Farmers Market, but also Sidewalk Arts Stroll is going on this Thursday evening as well. This could either be a great idea, since the crowds will be more spread out through downtown, or a really horrible idea that draws in too many people creating huge lines everywhere. Time will tell.

As we've talked about before, navigating a food truck event can be very difficult for a vegan or plantbased dieter - in some cases even a vegetarian -  so I've tried to get info from as many trucks as I could. I will be updating this post as I get more info. The list of trucks I've contacted is as follows:

Crave Heat

*UPDATED*
 

I've vblogged about these folks before. Of any of the businesses I've contacted, Crave Heat have been the most accommodating towards vegans, offering completely new menu items and special giveaways for vegans and vegetarians. This streetfood gathering gives you lost of options that are completely vegan.

Pineapple Delite

I haven't seen an offical name for this yet, but that's what I'm calling it. A hollowed out pineapple makes the tasty bowl for soyrizo with their new vegan cheese melted on top. Only 40 pineapples will be available Thursday, so either beg for more or come early.


 

Soyrizo Burrito or Tacos

A homemade tortilla wraps up a superamazing taste experience! Crave Heat makes their own soyrizo with authentic spices, and now larger and tastier chunks of tomatoes, onions, and olives. You can get your soyrizo on a handmade flour tortilla as a burrito, my vote for flavor and value - warms up great later; on corn tortillas as a taco; or sometimes they offer smothered french fries.

*NEW* Stuffed Bell Peppers

For this food truck event Crave Heat will also have sweet belle peppers stuffed with the amazing soyrizo and topped with vegan cheese and pico de gallo.

Veggie Burrito or Tacos

For simpler taste they still offer a veggie burrito made with vegan beans and rice.


Earth and Stone Woodfired Pizza

Generally pizza places have vegetarian options and it looks like they have some vegan options, too. Of course a real Italian pizza has very little (if any) cheese so you can always order a cheeseless pizza with the veggies packed on. They tell me their crust is entirely vegan. They also have hummus. In my strange world that means you you put hummus on the crust and you have a sort of a pita pizza that sounds like a great foodtruck meal to me.Their crust looks absolutely delicious!

Fire and Spice

A new food truck from Earth and Stone family! I querried about their vegan options and they went above and beyond with their answer, designing a new menu item for us!

 

Mediterranean Tortilla Melt

House made hummus with a great blend of seasonings on a grilled flour tortilla with a complement of VERY fresh veggies like onions, spinach, peppers, and mushrooms. Don't see it on the menu today? No problem, ask for the Veggie Melt and tell them to substitute hummus for cheese. The Veggie Melt is suitable for vegetarians.





Food Fighters Bustaurant

Their vegan options are limited, but they sound tasty! They offer sriracha fries and buffalo fries.

Mason Dixon Bakery

*UPDATED*

Huntsville's completely gluten-free bakery! Employees are generally very knowledgeable and helpful to find vegan, dairyfree, or paleo options, but sometimes they make mistakes as they don't have ingredients lists when they are out and about. For instance I've been told three separate times that the snicker doodles are vegan but when I finally bought them from a store the ingredients included honey, which strict vegans would be upset about.  I'm looking to get complete ingredients lists for all their products to double check, but theses are the items I have been told are vegan.

 *NEW* Vegan quinoa lime salad

Special for tonight's streetfood event. Sounds like a tasty combo!

Vegan cupcakes

There are three chocolate vegan cupcakes like the blue frosted Cookie Monster. They are very sweet, but absolutely delicious!

 

Vegan breads

Their regular white bread and their raisin toast bread are vegan. Last foodtruck rally they carried a readymade vegan sandwich.

 

Fruit and nut bars

These will remind you of Larabars, which is a good thing.

On-On Tacos

I have yet to try this food truck yet, but from talking with them it sounds like these folks are trying to accomodate a variety of diets. Their beans are vegan, they offer a paleo bowl, and their nachos can be made gluten-free. Nut free and shellfish are "quarantined" so they seem allergy aware. For a vegan meal, they suggest ordering a burrito or the nachos without the animal products.

Piper & Leaf


The quintessential Southern sweet iced tea in a variety of flavors. Too sweet? No problem, just ask them to make it unsweet. Be sure to bring back your canning jar cup for half off on refills of any kind. They carry a variety of tea and coffee products. 

 

 

Rocket City Expresso



These folks went above and beyond with their answer, providing us with a detailed list of milks, syrups, and smoothie mixes they offer that are dairy free and fully vegan. Very helpful and nice!
Besides coffee, they have various types of teas, or their mango or strawberry smoothies can also be made vegan. When it comes to coffee drinks, they have the basics that can be ordered with either Soy or Almond milk. Unfortunately, mocha, caramel, white chocolate mocha all contain dairy. But the following flavors are available:
Espresso
Espresso Macchiato
Cappuccino
Cafe Latte
Cafe Americano
Chai Tea Latte
Syrup flavors that are safe:
Almond
Coconut
Creme de Menthe
Peppermint
Raspberry
Sugar Free Vanilla
Vanilla

Sugar Belle Cupcakes

Currently they offer no dairyfree, paleo, or vegan options. They may be offering a paleo cupcake in the future. I spoke with them about expanding their menu for those on plant based diets, so please feel free to drop them a friendly note if you would buy a vegan cupcake from them.


See your foodtruck on this list? Don't? Want more details about your business for this Friday (and beyond)? Let me know and I'll update this post. If you aren't sure about anything vegan or vegetarian related on your menu, please feel free to ask questions and get nonpreachy, factual answers. Comment here or get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Food Truck Rally, June 20th

I've been posting on social media all this week as the information has trickled in about veg options at the food truck rally this Friday, June 20th from 6pm to 9pm. It will be held on Church Street downtown and will feature live music, a climbing wall, and light art surprises at the end. Curse gaming will be there giving out free tshirts to the first 500 people.

As we've talked about before, navigating a food truck event can be very difficult for a vegan or plantbased dieter - in some cases even a vegetarian -  so I've tried to get info from as many trucks as I could. I will be updating this post as I get more info. The list of trucks I've contacted is as follows:

Crave Heat
*UPDATED*
I've vblogged about these folks before. They have a veggie burrito to die for! A homemade flour tortilla wraps up fried veggies, vegan beans, and tasty seasoning. Ask them to leave off the cheese and sour cream for a vegan experience. They have also been posting about a special "surprise" just for vegans, and lately lots of yummy looking photos of soyrizo! Crave Heat has responded and is in the process of expanding our veg options, so ask about their special and be sure to thank them for being forward thinking.

Dallas Mill Deli
Haven't responded

Earth and Stone Woodfired Pizza
*UPDATED*
 I talked with Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza on Twitter a few weeks ago. So sorry guys, I didn't realize you were going to be at the foodtruck rally! Generally pizza places have vegetarian options and it looks like they have some vegan options, too. Of course a real Italian pizza has very little (if any) cheese so you can always order a cheeseless pizza with the veggies packed on. Their crust is entirely vegan. They also have hummus. In my world that means you you put hummus on the crust and you have a sort of a pita pizza that sounds like a great foodtruck meal to me! Their crust looks absolutely delicious!

Food Fighters Bustaurant
*UPDATED*
Their vegan options are limited, but they sound tasty! They offer sriracha fries and buffalo fries.
I often bend my plantbased diet (no oil, limited salt/sugar) when I eat out, and these sound worth it.

Mason Dixon Bakery
Huntsville's completely gluten-free bakery. Employees are generally very knowledgeable and helpful to find vegan, dairyfree, or paleo options. Vegan cupcakes like the blue frosted Cookie Monster are very sweet, but absolutely delicious! Their regular white bread and their raisin toast bread are vegan. They also have some fruit and nut bars that will remind you of Larabars.

Cafe on Wheels Neon Lilly 
Neon Lily brings us tasty cuisine that isn't your everyday American fare. She tells us she will be bringing the following foods: some new very reach and kosher same time salad called 'Vinegret' (potato, sweet peas, carrots, red onion, green onion... and more dressed with avocado oil. Borsch for sure, Kapusta (healthy coleslaw), shaurma with herbal seasoned rice, fresh veggies etc.  She also tells us she prepares very limited quantity so preorders are the best option. Text her with your name no later than Thursday, 4pm.

On-On Tacos
*UPDATE*
I've gotten in touch with them and it sounds like these folks are trying to accomodate a variety of diets. Their beans are vegan, they offer a paleo bowl, and their nachos can be made gluten-free. Nut free and shellfish are "quarantined" so they seem allergy aware. For a vegan meal, they suggest ordering a burrito or the nachos without the animal products.

Piper & Leaf
The quintessential Southern sweet iced tea in a variety of flavors. Be sure to bring back your canning jar cup for a discount on refills of any kind. They carry a variety of tea and coffee products. 

Rocket City Expresso
These folks went above and beyond with their answer, providing us with a detailed list of milks, syrups, and smoothie mixes they offer that are dairy free and fully vegan. Very helpful and nice!
Besides coffee, they have various types of teas, or their mango or strawberry smoothies can also be made vegan. When it comes to coffee drinks, they have the basics that can be ordered with either Soy or Almond milk. Unfortunately, mocha, caramel, white chocolate mocha all contain dairy. But the following are available:
Espresso 
Espresso Macchiato
Cappuccino
Cafe Latte
Cafe Americano
Chai Tea Latte

Syrup flavors that are safe: 
Almond
Coconut
Creme de Menthe
Peppermint
Raspberry
Sugar Free Vanilla
Vanilla

Sugar Belle Cupcakes
Currently they offer no dairyfree, paleo, or vegan options. They may be offering a paleo cupcake in the future. I spoke with them about expanding their menu for those on plant based diets, so please feel free to drop them a friendly note if you would buy a vegan cupcake from them.

Sweet Home Coffee
Haven't responded

See your foodtruck on this list? Don't? Want more details about your business for this Friday (and beyond)? Let me know and I'll update this post. Comment here or get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

VegOutHsv Questions and Answers

I've received several questions (and answers) through Facebook and Twitter so I thought I'd make it a regular event to share some of these here on the blog. I've transcribed the video this time, since I make such a long rant about local vegan politics, which you can find below. Please forgive the long run-on sentences but it's a transcription, not an article.







As a post script, I would like to add that there are many reasons for buying vegan products and I only discuss a couple. One reason I didn't mention it at all are the ethics of causing physical and emotional pain to other living beings. I felt I ought to mention this, since I wanted show respect for the ethical vegans following this blog. Just so you know, this is my personal #1 reason for living vegan.

Transcript from the video:

Hello and welcome to Veg Out Huntsville, the place to go when you're looking for a place to eat or a place to shot vegan and plant-based. Now I was getting a lot of questions on the website, on Twitter, on Facebook, about various different things so I thought I'd make a special v-blog to address those. And if you have any questions please feel free to post them on any social media, or if you have an answer that you think is better than mine also go ahead and post it on the social media and I'll pass it along. Now Kathryn wrote me back in May, actually, and I am sorry to say that I still have not been to this place, but it sounds absolutely delicious and it is on my list of places to try out. 

Now she says "Have you tried Viet Sandwich on Hwy 72?" Now I looked up where this is and it's actually in the shopping center where 72 and Slaughter/Jeff Road cross. At the intersection there's a shopping center and it's in there. "We've been veggie/vegan here for 16 yrs (!) and are always excited to hear about new dining options so definitely looking forward to hearing if you find something new. Viet Sandwich has Veggie Bahn Mi sandwiches with a soy based protein patty - they asked me if I wanted "mayo" on it, which I declined to make it vegan. I did get ours spicy which means fresh jalapeƱos (delicious to us, but perhaps too hot for others). They also have rice paper spring rolls - however I didn't get them. The sandwiches are only $3.75 and traditionally that type of bread contains no animal products." It sounds like a cheap a delicious place to try! I will be looking forward to trying it soon.

Next just a couple of days ago Holly posted, "Publix is now selling Tofurky artisan sausage (the chik'n apple flavor is the business!) and Gardein is on sale BOGO there starting tomorrow. It's a good week for stunt meat. :) " So be sure to check out Publix. Now Publix does carry a wide range of fake meat products which can be quite delicious. They usually have a whole lot of oil in them so if you're looking for health, there's not a whole lot of options there, but if you're looking for a taste or a treat once in a while there's some great options there. Go check them out at any Publix.

Then Shannon asked the question, "Do you know if any of the local food trucks offer vegan options? They're all over the place this time of year and I'd rather not stand in line forever to find out they don't have anything good." I had just this experience. Actually that is part of the reason why I started this, because I was seeing all these food trucks that generally don't list their menus online, and I have no idea what they have. Then you have like a half-an-hour wait time to just get up to the counter to ask what they have, and then half the time they don't know what vegan means. That's a terribly long process and in the meanwhile everyone behind you is going, 'come on, what's going on?' So it can be a very frustrating experience. So I decided that this information needed to be shared so that every body didn't individually have to do this. 
    Now the first food truck I set out to, also the first v-blog I ever did, was Crave Heat and it's very, very delicious. As far as other options it's on my To-Do list to check out other food trucks that are vegan friendly. However, I did post the question on Facebook and Twitter, and I got a lot of responses on Twitter. Livin' Like a Local reposted the question as did HSVevents - a couple of places did - and Livin' Like A Local tells me that OnOn Tacos can do vegan. This is probably correct as traditional Mexican is very vegan friendly, unless it's very texmex they will usually be able to find you something that they can adjust...although they may not know what the word vegan means, that's the problem I ran into.
    I've been talking extensively with Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza on Twitter, which Livin' Like A Local also put me in touch with them, and obviously a pizza place is going to have vegetarian options, but oddly enough it actually looks like they have some vegan options. Their crust is entirely vegan. They have hummus, and they have veggies. I think you put all these together and you have a sort of a pita pizza that sounds quite delicious. I've look at their crust before because I'm a big bread person, despite not being able to eat much of it having a gluten allergy, and their crust looks absolutely delicious. So I was very excited that there was some options rather than just having a cheeseless pizza. I know real Italian pizza actually doesn't have hardly any cheese on it but I've never been able to get into that, but if you put hummus on it somehow I can pretend it's not actually pizza and I like it. So there's my weirdity. So Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza is another place that is very friendly and eager to find something that is vegan. 
    When the food truck question gets asked, everybody goes, 'Oh, Chef Will!' Now I love Chef Will the Palate, I have talked about him before in my v-blog. He has amazing food! It's entirely vegetarian food and very vegan friendly. If you say the word vegan he can makes something up. They can direct you to what's on the menu - what's already vegan - they can make something special for you. He's an excellent chef, but I don't count him as a food truck because his trailer outside does not actually move. He stays at Lowe Mill. There's a reason why that trailer was put there to begin with many years ago. It's because they couldn't bring the Mill up to code to have food in there, because the floors and the walls were so horrible you didn't want to make food in there. Now they have since, of course, changed that as more money has gone into the building and they have Happy Tummy there inside and it's very clean in there and whatnot. But that trailer has still remained outside and that's where Chef Will is. I'm not even certain it can move but anyway it definitely doesn't. You can however find him out and about. He will have a tent set up at Greene Street Market, which is every Thursday evening. And you can find him other places outside of there, but not usually at the food truck rallies so I don't technically count him as a food truck. Now were he to get into the food truck rally business I would be absolutely ecstatic, as I think would a lot of people because every body loves Chef Will.

So the other thing I wanted to talk to people about is Livin Like A Local is putting on a burger contest. Now I asked them questions and the folks at Livin Like A Local decided that they ought to have a veggie burger section, which is great! At one point I was considered as a judge but I said I would need to know that these were vegan burgers not just vegetarian and the food places were not willing to accommodate me in that manner. But there is a veggie burger section, and it's June 21st and if you need any more information on that, you can check out Livin' Like A Local (no G, we are in the South). Livin Like A Local is a great place despite the food trucks not being accommodating - that's not their fault. They have been very supportive, they have been very helpful finding out information about vegan food, and spreading the word about vegan foods. So check them out. They are a great place to learn about Huntsville events that are going on. They're on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and of course they have a website. They have v-blogs at least twice a week so check them out and get some great information through them.

This does bring up a point that I'm kinda disappointed about. Businesses have -- especially in exploring this vegan thing -- have like this stigma if you say the word vegan they just shut down and they can't talk to you. So as a business that puts you in a situation where you're...the business is against the consumer, and that's not a good business ideal - surprisingly. For the most part businesses have been very friendly and easy to work with, but of course you run across that one that's just like 'well, we can't talk to you 'cause you're vegan.' And I think that's very shortsighted. 
    The number of vegans in this country has doubled in just a couple of years. Now when my brother told me this I wasn't terribly impressed, because I thought, well, if you have two people and you convince two other people to join you your number has doubled but that doesn't really mean a whole lot; you're still just four people. But looking at it another way, for instance, my parents went on vacation a little while ago, and on the way they stopped in Nashville and I found a couple of vegetarian restaurants that were very vegan friendly for them to stop at on the way through. They sat in line, waiting on a table for 45 minutes - and that is not the only vegetarian restaurant in Nashville. This is a lot bigger movement than I think businesses around here are giving credit and I think if we want to...you know the city's really trying to push this, 'Ok, we're gonna get some tourism in here', which I think is great, but in order for that to happen we're going to have to become a lot more world friendly [and offer] a lot more things that people are going to expect that they can find anywhere else in the country, and one of those things is places that they can eat at. Because if they can't eat anywhere they're not going to come here. And it's not just strict vegans that are affected by this, it's people with food allergies. You have peanuts and you have dairy, those are your top allergens. If you can't take that out of your food, you can't eat. To completely dismiss that is short sighted as a business and you're going to lose money, and you're not going to be able to move on with the times. 
    So anyway, just been a bit frustrated lately and I'm hoping that businesses will...the other thing I'm hoping to do with this group is get businesses to take this movement a little more seriously - because it IS a movement. People try to dismiss it as some sort of a weird cult, but it has nothing to do with that really. It's an interest in being healthy and an interest in living more kindly on the earth, because eating meat and dairy products is arguably the most destructive thing you can do, environmentally speaking, and also the most destructive thing you can do to your body according to the longest and largest dietary study ever conducted. And a lot of people are of course realizing this and wanting to at least cut down on their intake, and would definitely use these options even if they're not strict, 24hr vegans. They would definitely use these options if they were available on occasion. Anyway, so that's my rant for the day.

So post your questions or your answers to anything that's been asked, anything that you want to ask, tell me places that you think I should check out. And yes, I will get to that Vietnamese sandwich shop; it sounds delicious! And in the meantime I hope you enjoy and tell me if you find some nice tasty food.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Greene Street Market


My first trip to the Greene Street Market this year was a success! Strawberry smell wafting through the air (they tasted just as good as they smelled), mingling with local music greets and draws you into the market. From cupcakes to hummus, fresh produce aren't the only plant-based options you'll find. Learn more about the vegan offerings at the Market on this v-blog with special help from my dogs. Background music by Yomi on squeaky toy.







Hit me up on Facebook and Twitter @VegOutHSV



Greene Street Market can be found next to the Church of the Nativity (208 Eustis Ave SE) in downtown Huntsville. Hours are Thursday evening, 4pm - 8pm
  • Heavenly strawberry smell
  • Offers both fresh produce and locally made prepared foods
  • Buy local!
Find more information about the Greene Street Market:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

Chef Will the Palate can be found in front of Lowe Mill (2211 Seminole Drive) cooking away in his trailer from Tue - Thu 12pm - 6pm, Fri 12pm - 8pm, Sat 12pm - 6pm
You can also find him at the Greene Street Market and other local venues.

  • Very vegan friendly
  • Try his portabello mushrooms
  • Masterful chef
  • Ask and you shall receive
  • Buys local when possible
  • Get portabellos now!
 Find more information about Chef Will the Palate:
Facebook
Twitter 

Mason Dixon Bakery can be found at 9009 Memorial Parkway SW, Suite F
Their hours are Mon - Thurs 10am - 6pm, Fri 10am - 7pm, Sat 10am - 5pm
They can also be found at the Greene Street Market and other venues around town.
  • Gluten free bakery
  • Very allergy friendly
  • Delicious cupcakes - try the Cookie Monster
  • Sugar overdose
  • Offers paleo and vegan fare
Find more information about the Mason Dixon Bakery:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

The Hummus People can be found at the Greene Street Market, along with other farmer's markets and Juice Bar Huntsville.
  • Very healthy, no oil!
  • Flavorful without being overly salty
  • Cool people
Find more information about The Hummus People:
Facebook
Twitter

Harvest Roots Farm are based out of Falkville, but can be found every week at the Greene Street Market.
  • Tasty greens
  • They offer hard to find water kefir
  • Kefir contains friendly bacteria your stomach needs
  • Kefir makes you feel like you are drinking soda, with none of the nasty parts
  • Great Instagram account
Find more information about Harvest Roots Farm:
Facebook
Instagram

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cinco De Mayo - Crave Heat and Humphrey's

Last Monday was Cinco de Mayo, and Downtown Huntsville, especially Humphrey's Bar and Grill, held a margarita fueled event. From a margarita making contest, to pinatas, to lively decor of papel picado Humphrey's had it going on!

While I was sure to enjoy their margaritas, I was also looking to enjoy some food while I was there. I heard Crave Heat, one of our local food trucks, was going to have more traditional Mexican foods on their menu, so I decided it was time to try to procure some vegan food from a food truck. They are not very easy to navigate for vegetarians, let alone vegans.

Enjoy my slightly campy v-blog review of their veggie burrito, beginning with some video of the party at Humphrey's and some of their very colorful tortilla chips:


To sum up-
  • Super tasty!
  • Flavorful beans, rice, and grilled veggies wrapped in a fantastically flaky handmade tortilla
  • Slightly salty for healthfood eater
  • Order carefully, explaining that you want cheese and sour cream left off
  • Long wait, don't be in a hurry
  • Friendly staff
  • TMNT game
  • May be carrying veg chorizo in the future
  • Buy local!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coming Soon!

Hi there, I'm just getting everything set up but soon I'll  be your guide to tasty places to eat out and shop in the Huntsville, Alabama area. Huntsville's dining options are better than you think.

Whatever your reason for going vegan or eating plant based - health, environmental impact, global impact, allergies, or animal rights, you'll find great information here. I'll help you find those hidden items on the menu and locate the best shopping deals.

Are you a business owner looking to advertise what you have to offer vegans in this area? Comment here or find me on social media. I'd love to feature you...and I do take bribes of free food :)