I arrived back in Austin yesterday afternoon after spending a long weekend in Sonoma Valley, California with six of my best friends (and sorority sisters!) from college. It was such an amazing trip! If I’m being 100% honest, I was a little nervous about what I was going to eat while I was vacationing. I’ve learned how to be vegan in Austin: where to go for tacos, what place has the best ice cream (I’m looking at you, Sweet Ritual…), and which Drafthouse locations carry the buffalo cauliflower wings. Now that I’ve got the hang of it, being vegan here is so easy. When I go to a new place, I lose those advantages and have to start from the beginning. Although not impossible, it can be frustrating depending on where I am. One of the most frequent critiques that I hear about veganism is that it “looks really hard.” The last thing I wanted to do was resort to eating beds of dressing-less lettuce in front of a group of non-vegan women whom I deeply care about. I did not have hopes of leaving the weekend with any new converts, but I did want to show them that being vegan is not as hard as it looks. I certainly didn’t want anyone feeling bad for me. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about: California’s vegan game is on lock. DSC_0082 Here are some of my favorite “vegan” highlights from my weekend.

Velasco’s in Petaluma, California

When we arrived in Petaluma on Thursday night, we took an Uber into town. It was close to 9:00 PM, and we were nervous that we weren’t going to be able to find a place to eat. One of the girls asked the driver what his favorite restaurant in town was. He paused for a moment and then chuckled softly. “Well,” he said, “I’m vegan, so I probably like different things than you do.” Since we are former sorority girls, the whole car erupted in excited giggles (“Oh really? Our friend is a vegan too! Oh my gosh, how cool!”). I think that meeting a vegan in the wild helped highlight for them that I’m not the only one out there! He recommended Velasco’s, a cute little Mexican restaurant in the downtown area, because it has its own vegan menu in addition to the more traditional Mexican food offerings, which often rely heavily on lard. I wolfed down the battered cauliflower tacos that I ordered before I could take a picture, but rest assured: they were phenomenal.

The kindness at Wilson Winery

We spent all of Friday on a Terrific Tours winery tour. If y’all ever end up in Sonoma county, I cannot recommend them enough. Our tour guide, Ryan, found out that I was vegan and called ahead to the food truck we were grabbing lunch from to make sure that they could accommodate me. It was so nice! I can’t remember the name of the truck, but most of its dishes heavily featured pork. So sad. Nevertheless, they were very receptive to my dietary needs and worked with me to customize a beautiful salad that was animal free. They even put a flower in it! Look how pretty it was:

DSC_0099Later that afternoon, we ended up at our third stop of the day, Wilson Winery. As we were already a few bottles of wine deep, a few girls went inside to order themselves a cheese plate. One of them mentioned that I was a vegan, and an employee overheard. She took items from her own, personal lunch and plated them for me so that I wouldn’t feel left out. I couldn’t believe it when she arrived with the spread below, which included hummus, crackers, local tomatoes, and a bruschetta with lentils. DSC_0110It was such an kind gesture, and guess what? The other girls loved it as well!

Taking my sisters to Veggie Grill

When we arrived back in L.A. on Sunday night, two of the girls who live there suggested that we go to Veggie Grill, an all-vegan restaurant native to California, for dinner. They have eaten there before and love it. With their encouragement, my other friends were really eager to try it as well. The fact that everyone was so willing to go to a plant-based restaurant made me feel really special, and I think everyone enjoyed it! I certainly did. Eating an entirely vegan meal with some of my closest friends was very special to me.  I wolfed down my sandwich before I could take a photo. That was apparently a theme of this trip. I ordered the Buffalo Bomber (obviously), since I am obsessed with buffalo sauce. It did not disappoint.

Not a single meal left me feeling unsatisfied, and nearly every restaurant we went to had an explicitly labeled vegan option. If it didn’t, the foods were easily customizable, usually by simply holding the cheese. In fact, I would be tempted to say that California is a vegan’s paradise; however, the fact that the whole state is in an intense drought, a big portion of which is caused by animal agriculture, makes it difficult to do so. Hopefully the prevalence of delicious vegan options will help people start to explore it more: going vegetarian alone is said to reduce one’s water footprint up to 60%. Observing the parched landscape combined the fact that we saw not one, but two, fires only helped solidify my decision to be vegan. Every meal I make without animal products does the planet good.

Speaking of meals, tonight’s dinner was the Speedy Veggie n’ Brown Rice Noodle Bowl from Oh She Glows. This recipe has made its way into our frequent rotation. You might recall that I linked to it in my favorite recipe list. After gorging myself this weekend, I wanted to make something light and healthy for dinner. Loaded with edamame, broccoli, carrots, and celery, this recipe certainly fit the bill.

brownricenoodlebowlohsheglows

DSC_0080It’s been less than a day and I already miss these ladies so much. Is it too early to already want to go back? xoxo, sb