Friday, July 11, 2008

Grand Tahoe Adventure

Who: VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland and her getaway guy
What: A post-party weekend getaway
Where: Lake Tahoe, Calif.
When: June 28–30, 2008
Why: To relax and rejuvenate after the party festivities!

The Scoop: It’s true. We had one heck of an issue launch party. You know when everything goes just right? Well it all did, the night of our fabulous soirée to benefit the very important Humane California campaign.

But after all is said and done, a little R&R was in order to get back on track. And with a cozy cabin at our disposal that just happened to be a stone’s throw from a handful of veg-friendly eateries, we were happy campers. Oh, we also enjoyed the very close proximity to gorgeous Lake Tahoe, but I digress from what’s of utmost importance: the food.

After a four-hour drive from San Francisco and then quickly getting settled at the cabin, we strolled over to the area’s most talked-about veggie hotspot, Sprouts. Although not completely vegetarian, the restaurant boasts a bevy of veggie options that would keep us satisfied for a much-longer stay than we had planned. Clearly a neighborhood staple, the place was packed with fresh-faced locals (Ski instructors? Hikers? Bicyclists?) in for their fix of healthy, wholesome, generously-portioned food. We grabbed a table outside and tucked into chips and guacamole, a taco salad smothered with tahini sauce and salsa, and the always-dependable brown rice with veggies. After an evening stroll along the lake, we found ourselves at Freshies, a Hawaiian-style restaurant loaded with vegan options. In need of a sweet finale, we shared a slice of the housemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie. Vegan and delicious.

The next morning, eager to go hiking but also wanting to try another restaurant, we stumbled upon Wide Awake Conscious Café. A small but inviting and quite chic café, the menu makes a claim we’d never before seen: 100% vegetarian, except for a few dishes marked with a chicken icon. Okay, we can live with that; at least they’re proudly touting the veggie focus. We again dined al fresco and sipped on freshly squeezed orange juice (with biodegradable corn straws) before indulging in one of the best veggie breakfast burritos we’ve ever had. Stuffed in a flat bread were tofu scramble, vegetables, beans, and vegan cheese, then the whole thing was grilled to perfection (see photo below). Each order arrived with a pair of burritos, plenty to share amongst two people. We loved their self-service water pitchers teeming with edible flowers and herbs, and an all-vegan dessert case is in the works. If you’re in need of free wi-fi (is anyone not in need of free wi-fi?) or a computer to check email, Wide Awake offers both.

Later that evening, after a very long, hot day of hiking, we couldn’t wait to return to Freshies to partake in a Hawaiian-themed meal on their deck overlooking Lake Tahoe. Although we had to wait about 30 minutes, it was so worth it—we were seated in clear view of the setting sun over the lake. We started off with homemade lemonade and tempura-battered vegetables with spicy peanut sauce. Made with rice flour and rice milk, the tempura was super light and downright delicious. We then shared the East Indian Spinach Salad, with fresh spinach topped with curried tofu, green apples, pickled onions, tomatoes, coconut, mango, and scallions in a chutney vinaigrette. The restaurant is famous for its tacos, which can be made with tofu or tempeh, but we opted for the Rippin’ Red Curry, a blend of sautéed yams, sweet potatoes, tempeh, bean sprouts, spinach, and tomatoes in a fiery curry sauce (see photo of curry and salad above). We were in paradise.

The next day, we hit Sprouts one last time for a pre-bicycle-ride breakfast. We went with the toasted bagel sandwiches loaded up with hummus, cucumber, sprouts, and tomatoes. Why do these always taste so much better when someone else makes them? We sipped frosty fruit smoothies and then got on our way. Before leaving town later that afternoon, we stopped by the area’s lone natural food store, Grass Roots, for some road trip fruit and beverages. An institution in South Lake Tahoe, the market has been around for decades and carried all the veg provisions one would need, including freshly baked vegan cookies. We like that.

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