Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gluten Free & Easy, now in Texas!

Hey cowpokes, we're coming to you live, from (so close to) Austin, Texas. We said a somber farewell to our Seattle network back in September in hopes of putting down roots beside our family trees in Texas. After eating out for two weeks during The Great American Road Trip, Bill and I found great solace in slow food. We've been home a few months now, and living 30 minutes outside of central Austin has rightfully forced us to get back to cooking. My latest sensation is waffles. Yes, those waffles. Soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, iron-pressed, long lost love letters from breakfast time. I've been making them with Namaste Gluten Free Flour ($10 for an 8lb. bag at Costco), chai masala (for flare) and whipped egg whites to give them the puffy fluff so often absent from GF fare, swamping them in syrup and strawberries and closing my eyes.

We're living in Round Rock, home of the big, round rock that once guided stagecoaches and wagons around deep waters while crossing the local creek. Fascinating, right? Well, Round Rock has an expectedly limited milk/gluten free menu, so I'm doing my best to stay interested in local dining.

I've tried the overpriced Cajun fish tacos at Louisiana Longhorn Cafe without much amusement, had disappointing pho and vermicelli bowls at Pho Viet and faced the reality of eating gluten and dairy free at my old standby, Taco Cabana. Every time I drive by I shed a tear for their flour tortillas. My local favorite is Vazquez Restaurant, for their fabulous tacos and ideal location just five minutes from my front door. And yes, I've found that even in a place rife with  breakfast tacos, I still find myself disgruntled. Now, for months bereft of my dearest neighborhood assortment of fresh Pacific fish, GF crepes and Vietnamese food I'm scouting the surrounding counties for palatable options.

Nancy's Sky Cafe's Fresh Hummus Rolls 
Nancy's Sky Cafe's Garden Noodles
My latest search has turned up Nancy's Sky Garden, the freshest and absolute best vegetarian food I've ever had. Modestly priced at around $10 a plate, Nancy's serves delicious, colorful dishes on a fourth floor patio overlooking downtown Georgetown. The fresh rolls ($6) are served with a dipping sauce, (almond-ginger, please) and the Garden Noodles are made of sweet potato, full of flavor and dropped in the middle of a wildly festive veggie orgy. (Are you conversely considering an orgy of vegetables, too? I know, SO different.) What will I do without this place when we move into Austin? Koriente. Nancy's original restaurant at 7th and Sabine. THANK you. Thank you thank you.

Dos Salsa's Bryan Salad, sans quesos
I also reasonably enjoyed Bryan's Salad from Dos Salsas, sprinkled with tortilla chips (GF?), fried bananas, black beans, avocado, corn, cilantro, and about a half pound of sugared pecans. The greens were unimpressive, but the toppings were plenty distracting. At $9.99, I felt like I was mainly paying for the pecans, and sure, I left out the cheese so maybe the glaring flavor imbalance was my doing, but the fried bananas helped me to forgive. Extremely busy at all hours, Dos Salsas is known as the best in Georgetown, but I probably won't be back in favor of a smaller, sweeter little taqueria yet to be found.

Bouldin Creek Cafe's V-Lux Salad

Down south in Austin proper, I stopped into Bouldin Creek Cafe for a little nosh and an Italian soda. I had high hopes for the vegan horchata, but it turned out to be grainy and way over-infused. Their V-Lux salad, however was a bright, fresh display of all my favorite things on the same plate. Oh, yes, another salad on a plate. Who, oh who will champion the big salad bowl? Didn't Elaine make this clear? Stuffing a mass of greens past my grill is work enough, do I really have to spend half the meal rescuing fallen leaves from the table? An unnecessary demonstration of my grace and patience.

Mr. Natural's Veggie Burger
on a GF Sesame Bun

Then there's good ol' Mr. Natural. Back in my vegetarian days before I knew what gluten was, I was all over this place. The Mr. Natural burger on a GF sesame seed bun is really quite a find. A wheat-free patty and a side of fries was just right. If you're from Austin, you know Mr. Natural and Veggie Heaven (can I get a what what for those vegan Spicy Yams???)  have the lock on veggie fare, but if you're visiting and those are all you hear about, take a listen here and haul ass to the nearest East Side King.

East Side Kings' Liberty Rice & GF Veggie Meshi
Asian fusion at it's absolute fancy finest, they can make a good half of their menu vegan, vegetarian and gluten free. Really, you're wasting time every moment you're not eating at East Side King. With more and more locations popping up, the brand is destined to become a national treasure. Don't leave without trying their liberty rice - ginger, garlic oil, basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeno tossed over steamed jasmine rice. My favorite dish is their veggie meshi - literally veggies and cooked rice - it's an orchestra of liberty rice, deep fried shredded cabbage, basil, cilantro, mint, onion, jalapeno and deep-fried brussels sprouts in a sweet-spicy sauce. They originally set up a trailer behind Liberty Bar, and have since spread throughout Austin so chances are, you're not far from one right now. Unless, of course, you're in Round Rock.

Dine on, readers! And do let me know if you have any vegan/gluten free recommendations up north.

The DD


Becky Sandifer said...

Makes me want to veg out on veggies.

Hayley in Training said...

I swear, salads on plates is my #1 pet peeve. Ugh. At home, I make salads in my big mixing bowl all the time and JW makes fun of me for it. I don't care, man. At least I'm not scattering leaves all over my desk!

Have you ever been to Mother's Cafe & Garden in Austin, off of Duval? I went once a few years ago and as a non-vegetarian, I enjoyed my meal. Which is saying something.

I'll be in Austin from March 31-April 6, and we should definitely meet up for some noshing. You down?