Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Austin, Texas

Well, folks...

Clearly, I haven't posted in awhile. My lame yet valid excuses include traveling, Evan's laptop issues, the World Cup, and other life happenings, which have all gotten in the way as usual. I swear at this rate I'll be playing blog catch-up long after we return to Portland - months of retroactive blogging I presume, but that's alright. It will give me something to do while I look for a job. 

Next on our route: Austin, TX.
This was a lovely stop. Evan and I had been talking about visiting Austin on our cross-country (now cross-continent) road trip ever since we met last April ('09). I can't believe we actually made it! And while our original plan was to make it for SXSW, a one-month delay is fine by me.

Upon arrival, we stopped at a coffee shop called Austin Java.  This particular coffee shop happened to be adjacent to an amazing juice bar, which soon turned into a daily ritual for me during our stay. It was appropriately named, too, just for that purpose
1625 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 480-9501
Their menu was expansive with create-your-own juices & smoothies, house specials, organic Master Cleanse by the gallon, and an array of other fruity delectables. Any juice or smoothie combination you could possibly think of was already thought of here and in high demand by the Austin locals (and visitors like myself).
Case in point, I chose a "Serious Smoothie" for my first experience at Daily Juice.
More specifically, the "Green Sunset" smoothieAn interesting combination of mango, cherry, carrot, apple, beet, spinach, and spirulina, but hands down one of the best smoothies ever! The price may be considered steep by some at over $10 with tax, but for a 24-oz. nutrition-packed meal in a compostable cup, it's a small price to pay. This was both my breakfast and my lunch
*I recommend a high-speed blender if you'd like to try this one at home.

Daily Juice was also well-stocked with plenty of vegan superfoods, raw (and non-raw) food snacks, bottled super juices...
...vegan cookies, kale chips...
...prepared raw foods, kombucha, and Guayaki maté.
Over at the coffee shop, I opened up my laptop and jumped on my favorite raw food social networking I posted a forum discussion asking if anyone had suggestions for raw food hot spots in Austin. I received a few responses, namely from Yoga Brudder and Dorothy. They recommended
1Daily Juice (check)
2Daily Juice Cafe (there are three locations, one of which is a sit-down restaurant)
3. The Whole Foods Market headquarters (the original Whole Foods got its start here)
4Barboleta (a classy gourmet raw joint)
5. Yoga Brudder's yoga class (Aww, the sweetheart invited me as his guest)
6Casa De Luz (a non-raw macrobiotic center)
7. Two different farmer's markets (Sunset Valley and I don't remember the other one)
8. And through my own research I found a live food cafe called Beets Living Foods Cafe

I definitely had my work cut out for me if I wanted to visit all of these places before we moved on to our next destination.

That night, Evan had plans to meet with some of his friends living in the area. I used this opportunity to take Brudder up on his yoga class invitation at Yoga Yoga Studio. They have studios all over Austin.
Yoga was immensely grounding - a much needed fix from the constant uprooted, on-the-go feeling of our nomadic lifestyle. It was a mind trip meeting someone from giveittomeraw outside of the interwebz, and it was precisely what I needed - some good company, a like-minded person to talk to about raw foods and nutrition, health & wellness, life on the road...

After yoga, we headed to the Whole Foods Headquarters.
525 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
I was warned that I would be utterly impressed by this place and it did not disappoint. Check it out:
They had a raw bar!
 There's Brudder, aka Jim Beuchler.
I tried a selection of items - Raw Jicama Fries and Raw Kale-Avocado Salad
Raw Jicama Fries Ingredients: jicama, onion powder, paprika, cumin, olive oil, chili powder, sea salt, cayenne

Raw Carrot-Dill Salad
Ingredients: carrots, green onions, dill, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper

 Raw Marinated Veggie Salad
Ingredients: onions, peppers, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, salt, pepper, no-oil balsamic dressing (not raw - contains nutritional yeast, vinegar, maple syrup, and tamari)

They also had raw no-bean hummus... well as spiralized beet, carrot, and zucchini pasta to pair with several sauce options.
Over at the juice bar section, they had kombucha on tap.
There's Brudder.
I think I purchased a carrot-spinach juice at the juice bar. I also bought a head of kale to tear up into my assortment of raw food goodies. It was delicious, but it tasted like Whole Foods ("Whofe" or "Ho-Fo", as I've coined it) went a little overboard on the soy sauce, tamari, noma shoyu or whatever type of salty concoction they included in their recipes. I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

Brudder drove me to the van where I did a quick wardrobe change before leaving to meet up with Evan and his cronies at a bar called Cheer up Charlies.
1104 E 6th St.
Austin, TX 78702
This place made me so happy. They, too, had kombucha on tap. A bar with kombucha? Brilliant.  
Not only that, but they also offered fresh young coconut and yerba maté as non-alcoholic options.
Now if that doesn't cheer you up (Charlie), I don't know what will
But even with all those non-alcoholic options, I still went with organic wine in the end. The dance party called for something a little stronger than 'buch or maté.

So believe it or not, ever since that fateful night at Cheer Up Charlies, I have made it a point to ask just about every bartender I come into contact with if they carry kombucha. Naturally, I get a lot of strange looks, but it should be in more bars and I'm helping to get the word out. I choose not to drink beer or liquor or soda or even pasteurized fruit juice for that matter. I've given up wine for the most part, as well. What am I supposed to order at a bar otherwise? Water? Tea? I've been ordering a lot of tea at bars lately, especially with the recent deluge of World Cup coverage.
In other news, the next day we went to a place called Casa De Luz.
1701 Toomey Road
Austin, TX 78704
There's so much to say about this incredibly inspiring and surprisingly affordable macrobiotic cafeteria and learning centerCasa, as I mentioned earlier, has been on our radar ever since Evan and I met back in April 2009In fact, the very first night we were introduced to each other, we had a mutual brain barf of our uncannily similar dreams to open a restaurant/music venue/learning facility that combines a vegan-vegetarian central cafe with a music lounge. This multifaceted facility would offer an array of educational opportunities from chef classes to a wide range of workshops on gardening, permaculture, wild food foraging, yoga, meditation, as well as DIY How-To classes covering such topics as kombucha, fermented veggies, greenhouse construction, grow-your-own sprouts, tinctures, etc). In addition, we would host lectures by esteemed nutrition and health experts, political pundits, and inspirational speakers. In a perfect world, the restaurant would primarily be supplied by an extensive urban garden located onsite, with additional satellite gardens offsite, but in close proximity to where the facility would be constructed (or possibly reconstructed in an already existing building).

While doing research months ago on similar businesses and organizations currently operating in the U.S., we came across Austin-based Casa De Luz and we were determined to see it one day during our then future road trip.

 We finally made it.
I had learned from Brudder in yoga class that Casa's cafeteria is a (mostly organic) macrobiotic buffet open for lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch. And it's quite reasonably priced at $12.00 per person! Bargain health food is unheard of in the world of organic restaurants.
We arrived around 5:00 P.M. only to be informed that dinner begins promptly at six o'clock. In the meantime, we took a look around while the cafeteria was empty and snapped some photos
Dessert & Deli Case
Seating area
Beans and grains
Evan got the scoop on how the macro buffet worked from a very friendly and attractive staff member.
We poked around for the next hour and checked out the rest of the Casa grounds.
All books $2.99
 We had time for a walk in Zilker park.
Green smoothie spillage from earlier.
Laying on the grass
Turtle in the river.
And then we walked back to Casa for the highly anticipated buffetI was eager to see how the cooked macro food would affect my digestion after eating a primarily low-fat, high fruit and greens diet for the past two months. (I apologize for the blurry spot on the left side of every photo - the lens must have gotten smudged)

So the buffet worked like thisYou pay at the central counter and they give you a token. You grab a bowl of the Soup of the Day as well as a plate for the salad bar, which contains a pre-dressed salad of lettuce greens and shredded root veggies (carrots, beets, jicama). Sometimes the salad bar is accompanied with a large bowl of seaweed salad.

Casa De Luz dinner menu for that particular night 
Cauliflower soup
Garden salad with casa dressing (house dressing)
Medium, sweet and short grain brown rice with nori compote
Mixed blanched greens with pesto almond sauce
Red lentils
Steamed carrots, sauteed red cabbage, summer squash & zucchini.
Pickled radish and daikon.
Casa De Luz Salad bar
You take the plate of salad back to your table. They also have endless amounts of alkalizing kukicha tea available free for the taking.
The soup of the day was cauliflower soup.
The Casa token is supposed to be left out on your table.
A staff member will then come around and replace the token with a plate of cooked macrobiotic food.
The verdict

The salad was divine! The house salad dressing was absolutely mouthwatering - oilysalty, creamy, and wonderful. I went back for seconds and thirds on the salad bar alone. The cauliflower soup was mild and warm and lovely with speckles of dulse flakes. 

As for the main course - it looks gorgeous, right? It was so strange eating rice again. It felt criminal. It felt too good to be true, like I was giving in to some kind of indulgence, a drug of some kind, starchy bliss. The texture was deliciously sticky with a mouth-feel you could hear from a mile away (smack:smack:smack). The lentils were blended, which I think may have aided in digestion - pleasantly gritty in a thick, soupy mixture of complex carby goodness. The blanched greens were a bit overcooked in my opinion - I prefer my greens on the crispier side, but the pesto almond sauce compensated for it with a burst of flavor so powerful and rich that it diverted my attention from the flimsiness of the kale. The sauteed veggies were soft and warm and buttery (buttery in the sense that it was succulent and oily - they didn't actually sautée the veggies in butter). Mmm, but it did melt in my mouth and I miss that sensation about cooked food. Even the nori was cooked. Come to think of it, I've never had cooked seaweed quite like this. I've used roasted nori sheets in the past for sushi rolls when raw nori sheets were unavailable and I've ordered bright green and red seaweed salads at Japanese restaurants that are almost certainly cooked in one way or another. Casa's cooked nori seaweed was peculiar - mushy in an unappealing way. At least it was remedied by the fermented daikon - a refreshingly spicy and sinus-clearing radish. It's an excellent palate cleanser (and expectorant). I saved that for dessert. Not sure if there is a proper order of eating when it comes to the macrobiotic diet. I kind of jumped around from one item to the next and back again except for the daikon. I saved that for last

The gal we spoke to earlier told us that if we finish our plate of hot food and would like another, we are more than welcome to go back for seconds. If I remember correctly I think both Evan and I skipped the hot plate and opted for more salad instead.
I recall being shocked at how well my digestion seemed to handle the cooked macrobiotic food - even with rice and beans. No gas or bloating to speak of - I couldn't believe it. I do remember not quite feeling satiated, though. I craved more salad and was left feeling slightly unsatisfied. But all-in-all, our experience at Casa De Luz was beautifully gratifying and I was looking forward to making a return trip before leaving Austin. 

Check out the Casa De Luz website here
Check out the Casa De Luz menu here (it changes daily).

That night we went out on the town.
We walked into a bar on 4th street called The Ghost Room where we proceeded to be blown away by a band called Shotgun Party. We had never heard of them before but they definitely got our attention.
You can't beat their live performance. They're a lot of fun - quirky, lively, and eclectic. Below, you can see and hear for yourself. I spent two hours looking for the quintessential video - the one that conveyed the essence of Shotgun Party, the fun, the flirty, and the drunkardly fire-crackeriness. I found a winner - maybe not the best illustration of the Shotgun Party dynamic (definitely not a good depiction of their slosh quotient), but I am crushing hard on every inch of this song called "Holy Needles"
Here's a more accurate depiction of their lively drunkenness - how cute is she?

The following day, we took a day trip to the small town of Gruene, Texas. It's about an hour southwest of Austin on I-35. Evan had visited Gruene in the past with his friend, Mike, who grew up in this neck of the woods. He wanted to show me the grange hall, which apparently comes alive on the weekends with bluegrass music, hoedowns, and other hillbilly goings-on

Prior to our day trip, I stopped at Whofe to fill up on their raw bar. This is what looked good that day:
Raw Cracklin' Caulilower
Ingredients: cauliflower, red onion, garlic, ginger, peas, lemon, cilantro, curry, garam masala, fennel seed, chili flakes, sea salt, pepper

No Oil Raw Nut Burger
Ingredients: sunflower seeds, walnuts, yellow onion, sundried tomatoes, parsley, miso, thyme, sage, rosemary, corriander

No Oil Raw Curried Lentils
Ingedients: sprouted lentils, zucchini, carrots, chili powder, (I can't make out the remainder of the ingredients)

Raw Boccoli Cashew Crunch
Ingredients: broccoli, cashew, apple juice, red onions, currants, water, raw agave, sea salt

Raw Pumpkin Seed Cheese
Raw No-Bean Hummus
Raw Cheese Ingredients: raw pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, tamari, garlic, ginger, jalapeno peppers 

Raw Hummus Ingredients: squash, garlic, tahini, cayenne, paprika, sea salt, lemon juice, cumin, sesame seeds 

Raw Kale Seaweed Salad
Ingredients: kale, dulse, nama shoyu, ginger, olive oil, sea salt, sesame seeds

Desserts, too.

Strawberry Goji (blurry) Bar
This caught my eye - Green gazpacho (not raw, but could easily be adapted)
Ingredients: cucumbers, celery, green peppers, onions, scallions, parsley, olive oil, sherry vinegar, lime juice, wheat bread, cilantro, jalapenos, salt

If I were to prepare this Green Gazpacho for myself, I would toy with the idea of making a few changes. I might try avocado instead of olive oil; coconut vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead of sherry vinegar; either sprouted wheat bread, cooked or raw sprouted quinoa, or, perhaps, pine nuts instead of standard wheat bread, and maybe kelp powder and/or dulse flakes instead of sea salt.

More photos from the Whofe HQ:

Juice bar
Kombucha by the jug
Their colossal salad bar (only half of the salad bar is pictured below)
The outside seating area
While I was taking this photo, a gust of wind came by and whipped up my dressI flashed everyone inside the store going through the checkout line as well as the folks eating lunch outside. For a minute, I was embarrASSed (get it?), but at least I got the photo

Back in the confines of the 'Dura, I ripped into my items from the raw bar: cracklin' cauliflower, sprouted curried lentils, a mini nut burger, and pad thai sauce
I combined it with one bunch of kale and some on-the-verge-of-going-bad-and-turning-yellow broccoli.
Then I mixed it all together for lunch:
I'll tell you, one of the greatest disciplines I have/am learning on this trip is to buy only enough food for the day. Otherwise it'll get thrown out. Produce just does not last in the Vandurian Sweat Hut we call home. 

Back on the road...

We're headed out to Gruene, cruising down I-35 south, when all of a sudden we heard a loud pop come from the back of the van and realized on of our tires just blew out. We traversed across a four-lane freeway (traffic opened up for us at the most opportune time) and pulled over to the side of the road. We got out and surveyed the damage.
While Evan got to work changing the tire...
...I took pictures of the wildflowers that painted our landscape. 
Just kidding. I was actually an integral part of this tire-changing team; a real asset. I opened the tool box, looked for tools in the tool box, made space for the tire in the back of the van, got Evan some water when he didn't even ask for it, stepped on an ant pile, took photos...
Documented the entire ordeal...
There's the virgin, keeping an eye out, making sure we could do things like cut across four lanes of traffic safely and efficiently.
And there's the spare.
It's the type of situation that's always startling and unexpected, but at the same time neither of us were shocked that the tire blew out on us. In fact, we were surprised it hadn't happened sooner and quite thankful to be stateside rather than stuck in the middle of nowhere Mexico on a random highway.

We finally made it to Gruene, but my camera must have died because I have no photos to show for it. It was a cute little tourist trap of a town. Lush and green and full of smiling faces. We walked around and hung out in the grange hall listening to country music. I remember they had a pickle shop selling all kinds of pickles - sweet pickles, dill pickles, honey mustard pickles. I love pickles, but I'm not much for sweet ones. 

We took the slow road home; back country. We were afraid we'd lose the spare if we drove on the freeway.

Back in Austin, we had plans to meet up with Brudder at the Daily Juice Cafe 

4500 Duval St.
Austin, TX 78751
Look at that beautiful chard they're growing outside their windowsill.
Inside the Daily Juice Cafe (gah, this camera is the bane of my existence).
We split a Southwestern Salad and Rawkin' Enchilada between the three of us. 
It was as good as it looks. Maybe even better. 

Then we perused the dessert case.
I had heard about these Double Fudge Bites from Brudder and Dorothy on giveittomeraw (GITMR). They spoke very highly of them so I decided to indulge. Why not? 
Quite possibly the best raw chocolate treat ever. If you find yourself in Austin, definitely hit up Daily Juice Cafe. You won't be disappointed.

From there, we headed to Brudder's place. He shared some of his chard with us fresh from his garden.
We also bought some Ron Teeguarden Goji Berries from him (Best tasting gojis ever).
Then he showed us his moves on the rebounder.
And his superfood stash.
Ultimate Superfoods are the best.
Next, we went to Wheatsville Co-op open until 11 PM (nice).
Wheatsville co-op raw section
ChocoláTree from Sedona reappears in our lives. That was a pleasant surprise.
Hometown represents! Livin' Spoonful raw crackers from Portland, Oregon.
And It's Alive! raw crackers and seed snacks also from Portland, Oregon. 
Filling up the water jug.
Brudder is kind of a nutcase.
Their bulk section was worth noting. We found some raw carob powder here.
Raw nut butters by the bucket.
Then we snapped a photo op outside the co-op. Brudder made me promise not to post this photo of him because he thinks he looks like a cracked-out homeless man. I blurred his face, but it really only adds to the creepiness factor.
The following day I brewed some Ron Teeguarden Spring Dragon Longevity Tea on the dash. 
Read more about Ron Teeguarden products and Dragon Tea here.

That night we returned to Casa. This time they had seaweed salad as an option in addition to the shredded root veggies and pre-dressed salad.
The soup of the day was miso soup, but I didn't get any. I suppose I was saving up my appetite for the cooked macro plate. I didn't get a photo of the menu, but it looks like some kind of cooked bean (not sure which kind), brown rice, blanched red cabbage, braised kale with almond pesto paté, and fermented red cabbage.
This round of cooked food was not nearly as tantalizing as the previous Casa experience. While the seaweed salad was a welcome and much appreciated addition to the meal, the cabbage on the cooked plate tasted like mush - how could there be any salvageable nutrients left breathing in that mushy mess? Gross. Everything else on the cooked plate was mediocre except the pesto almond paté. A winner the first time, a winner the second time. The food didn't digest as well this round either. Gas and bloat and everything I would have expected on my first experience at Casa made its presence known on this occasion. I did enjoy the salad, however, several times over.
The following day I went on a jog to Beets Living Food Cafe.
1611 West 5th Street
Austin, TX 78703
I jogged in my fanny pack (probably following too closely in my father's footsteps - he started rockin' the fanny in the late 80s and hasn't stopped since).
I read up on the menu before I jogged down there and I was planning on ordering the Chunky Corn Soup, but they weren't serving it that day.
I ordered the Curried Carrot Soup instead.
And a green juice.
The soup was amazing, by-the-way. I could've consumed two quarts of this stuff. Try it at home: carrot juice, orange juice, pine nuts, miso, ginger, garlic, spices, lemon, sea salt. 

This joint ionizes their water, which makes it more alkaline - in turn, making you more alkaline.
Their dessert case.
I got a couple of items to-go, as well: The salad sampler (a choice of 3 salad options form the menu) - I chose the Sprouted Lentil Salad, Tex Mex Cabbage, and Kale Salad... well as a 1/2 order of the Asian Style Noodle Salad.
I had plans of combining all of those salads together with the remainder of produce I had in the van, but I ended up eating the salad trio before that could be arranged. I did, however, cut up the rest of my celery... onions and tomatillos...
and then combined that with the Asian Style Noodle Salad from Beets (I added some gojis and lemon slices, too).
Did I mention I was preparing for a flight home to Hood River, Oregon? This was my airplane food.

Yep. I booked a flight home. I needed a break from the road and Evan needed some time to himself as well. I managed to check off most of the items on my  Best of Austin Raw List except Barboleta and the farmer's markets. Hopefully, I'll be back in Austin soon to cross off the rest.

Stay tuned for my next entry on airplane travel, sneaky airport vendors, Hood River and Portland (Oregon) favorite eateries and natural food stores. Thanks for reading and I'll try to get this next post up before Summer's end. 


  1. Can you just come for a visit and cook for me? I prefer that the most!!
    Love to see you guys having a such a great time. I miss and love you both!!

  2. Thank God for opening the tool box and finding at the very least some raw carob powder. Great post!

  3. I'm so glad you came to Austin & checked out so many of my favorite places!! I love love love Daily Juice. I go to Casa frequently for community events, but you're right - the overcooked veggies are no bueno.

  4. It was a pleasure! I'll be back for sure.

  5. Your blog always makes me hungry. I'm going to check out that Dragon/Longevity Tea. I might even give some to my cat, Spanky. He's down to six lives left.

  6. Jasmine,

    Came across your blog while searching for non alcoholic and organic wines.

    Am still new to Austin as I been usually working overseas as an IT Engineer..

    Thanks for doing all the raw food hopping around Austin..I'll am avid organic grown veg and fruit person and you made my searching a little less time consuming.

    Keep up the on of the better blogs I'lve seen.

    God Bless,
    Austin, TX

  7. Hey Andy! Glad you found me/the blog. I hope you love Austin as much as I did. Full of great food, music, and nice folks. Take care.

  8. Hey Jas,
    This is so great! Your mom just showed me this, it is making me hungry! Glad to see your doing so well. I will keep checking your blog! Take care

  9. It is good to hear about what you found in Texas but I am missing out on all the stuff you have been doing for the last few months. Love the pictures and the comments. You are a natural. Can't wait to see you in Michigan

  10. This was fantastic! I clicked the link from your post on, and I'm so glad I did. Loved all the photos! :D

  11. I am kinda bummed you made the fanny pack joke about being like your dad before I could. Classic. So whats the deal about being more alkaline (in reference to the water you had at one of those joints)?

  12. You're doing a fantastic job with your blog. I love all of your pics. I got off on Shotgun Party, they reminded me of growing up in Texas and listening to the hillbilly music on the radio Saturday mornings.

  13. yaaay im so happy i found this! my husband and i are moving to austin in 6 weeks and i have heard so many good things (never been there) and this just makes it all sound even better! cant wait to go and eat so much good food and listen to great music and drink kombucha at bars yaaay! so excited! thank u for all this =)

  14. Yay Pasi! I'm so glad you stumbled upon my blog posting as well! And I'm glad it will serve as a good resource for you when you move there. You will absolutely love it.