Category Archives: vegan Swank Jelinek

Vegan / Swank / WFPB? Have I got the store for you

If you’re vegan, the 99 Cent Store is definitely worth checking out. Do you eat LARABARs? Love them. They are all-natural fruit meal bars, with a short, understandable list of ingredients. No garbage. They are thick and delicious, and perfectly on my Swank OMS diet. They really put the shame to the hundreds of other bars out there that for some reason are filled with additives. Why? I don’t know. Anyway, not my problem anymore. Homie don’t play that, and neither does LARABAR. (Really dating myself with that reference. Uh, not my problem.)

Mab found two boxes of LARABARs: 16 blueberry bars in one box, and 10 chocolate chip bars in the other. (They were brand-new, unopened boxes, so I don’t know why different numbers in each. Again, not my problem.) Each box was 99 cents. Not each bar, each box. 99 cents. Yes. LARABARs go for at least a couple blocks each, Mab says. These boxes filled with LARABARs were 99 cents each. Hear me? Two dollars for 26 bars. Boom. She keeps looking for more, but store inventory changes all the time.

They have portobello and crimini mushroom packs. One dollar. For two giant portobellos, bigger than hockey pucks. Yes.

They also have produce. Two good-sized bell peppers, red, yellow or green. One dollar.

So laugh at me for shopping there. Not my problem. You're welcome.

White Castle’s vegan slider incredible for your tongue, not so much for your MS

Holy freaking cows! I haven’t had a burger in about six years, so I could not believe the flavors playing across my tongue.

There’s a new fast-food champ for vegans. Burger King’s vegetarian burger was my fave, and Taco Bell had a couple of options. But that was only settling, because there’s not a lot out there. (A class-action suit alleges that another of the options steals pay from its workers. Adios, Chipotle.) But like the numbers of vegan products at supermarkets have exploded over the past year, now the fast-food operators are piling in.

White Castle already premiered a vegetarian slider that I tried this summer, and it was OK, considering what’s out there. Let’s face it, we’re not going to Whitey’s for cuisine. We’re there to scarf, and the vegetarian was scarfable, given adequate prior imbibafication. But now there’s this Impossible Slider of theirs, proudly advertised as plant-based. (Mab and I were doing double-takes seeing the words plant-based splashed boldly across a White Castles sign.)

So, how good is it? I had to be careful not to devour my own fingers while mowing through these little guys. I’ve actually done that before, chomping into my own digits while I was slavering over a Ricobenie’s deep-dish pizza, which happens to be the tastiest pizza in all of Chicagoland, fight me. Mind-altering substances may have been involved. But I still have all of my fingers, and I sure wished I had ordered more of these sliders.

They packed the savory saltiness of a beef burger, with a lot of the same chew. That’s quite an achievement by the developers of the Impossible Burger, which White Castles is using here, and up to now was on offer only at higher-end restaurants. Other meatless burgers out there concentrate on flavor or texture but never get both right. This one does. It captures that most essential flavor of the White Castle burger, where the patty blends and melts into the bun, because the two are literally grilled together. Biting into an Impossible Slider, you get all of that, with absolutely no meat. Absolutely no grilled onions either, I understand, which damn well sounds like heresy . (It could also use an extra pickle to capture that familiar flavor, since it is twice the amount of food as a regular slider, 90 grams versus 55, and twice the price, $2 versus one.)

However, I was so pleased with what was going on, that I didn’t miss the onions until afterwards. Here’s how good this thing is: at the bottom of the slider boxes were the slider droppings! You know, the lonely bits of burger, bread crust and (usually) onion left behind on the bottom of the box. They are the reason God gave you fingertips, to scoop out those buggers, and they are the true mark of authenticity. I could have shed a tear. It had been years.
To that point, the only failing was that they were crumbly. I had burger bits falling into my lap, bits that were trying to escape my feeding frenzy. But I was full-metal carnivore by that point and it mattered not at all. It only requires better burger strategy next time. (Hat tip to my brother.)

No, what will keep me away is what I found later in the ingredients. The Impossible Slider is an ingenious combination of wheat, potato protein and coconut oil. It is the coconut oil, and the slice of cheese on a standard Impossible Slider, that brings the saturated fat per burger up to 12 grams. Even when you hold the slice of cheese, that number is way too high for someone with MS, if you subscribe to the Swank dietary approach. Dr. Swank’s work associated saturated fat with increased long-term disability. That is why Dr. Jelinek axed trendy coconut oil entirely from his Swank-based OMS program.
Yes, I get that it’s junk food, but I’m putting this out there for those who care. The stakes are high. It’s not just about having to shop for a wider pair of pants: this is more like eating yourself into being bedridden and dead. Anyway, to me it was a brief shining orgasm. To a Chicago kid White Castles runs deep.

The numbers: Impossible Slider with no cheese. 90 grams serving size, 230 calories, 110 fat calories, 12 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 0 cholesterol, 620 milligrams sodium, 16 g carbs, 0 fiber, 2 g sugar, 12 g protein. Ingredients primarily wheat, coconut oil and potato protein.

OMS note: along the way I also learned that the Burger King veggie burger contains corn oil and egg white, and the bun has vegetable oil.

Homestretch: Counterculture vegan & *#@&! hotel in Austin, Street art in Caldwell

Day 8

Changing terrain Is exciting. You know you’re going places, to another region. We drove down the scrubby foothills of the West Texas mountains into the green, rolling Hill Country. I didn’t realize our route would take us through Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg has old town charm, German restaurants, beer gardens and weinkellars, lots of tourists, and more vineyards than this Midwesterner has ever seen, all packed in a small town (well, 28,000). Next door is Johnson City, with a lot of old, well-kept buildings that Lyndon Johnson no doubt knew all about, it being his hometown. We are definitely returning.

I love Austin, but on this Sunday it was traffic jams and headaches. Check-in at the Peers Hotel took an hour, even with reservations. The entrance was terrible, but more on this later. It was the end of the day, we needed some grub. Then to add insult to injury, there were asses illegally parked in the handicapped spaces at the couple of places we stopped. No, Austin, this time I ain’t feeling you.

Counterculture was the best part of our stay, and even that… OK, Counterculture serves up what they call vegan comfort food. Handicapped parking was sketchy: one handicapped space surrounded by potholes and no easy path to the entrance. I wanted to blow out of there but it was getting late and we were hungry, so carry-out it was. Mab ordered the jerk seitan sandwich with french onion soup. I got a Reuben with side spinach citrus salad. All good, and the jerk sandwich was the champ. We were tasting flavors that were new to us here, so we were happy – if what you’ve got is a tofu scramble or veggie chili, I can get much better at home, thanks. For us, Counterculture met that standard. For the entire trip, though, the golden cup goes to Viva Vegeria in San Antonio. A thousand miles later, I’m still thinking of those nachos and sauces.

Day 9

Can’t recommend Peers Hotel in Austin for disabled travelers. (My accessibility review with pictures is here.) They offered nice modern rooms for cheap, especially considering the location, but it’s probably temporary because of ongoing construction. This was the worst entrance I’ve ever seen: In our lowered-floor minivan we bottomed out (scraping chassis on concrete) twice for every time we entered or exited. (6 entrances or exits X 2 = 12 blows to the vehicle. Like the narrow doorways in Terlingua, it limits your comings and goings.) If that were all, I might write it off as a mulligan. After all, it sucks for the proprietor as well as the guests. But this ain’t all, oh no.

These accommodations might work well for some, but if you need any type of special consideration or information, i.e., you are disabled, then gird your loins. After three separate calls with the owner or manager about whether or not the bed was on a platform, we still had no idea what we’d find checking in. Sure enough, check-in took an hour. It turned out that the new weekend desk person, who was genuinely trying, wasn’t even told which was the accessible room. Eventually we needed two men to help the Mab lift the bed up onto our blocks, and checking out the next day it took three to help her take down, complete with sour faces. It was a high bed to transfer onto, and the carpeting made it difficult with the lift – which are everyday kind of problems, but by that point we were in no mood for more obstacles.

On the plus side, the toilet and shower were both wheelchair accessible, as was the sink area with room for an attendant. But were the little things that added up: One washcloth provided for two people. No tissues. In a couple of instances, key card would not open the lock. The entrance ramp was steep. After we checked out, Mab needed both hands to wheel a loaded luggage cart to the manual front door. This owner or manager exited directly in front of her without bothering to hold it. That said it all. Finally, those last two scrapes across the concrete to send us on our way, grinding our teeth. So long, fuckers.

Also, none of the laundry facilities at the last couple of places we stayed were working. Call in advance.

On our homestretch through Caldwell, Texas, we passed a line of unusual metal sculptures along the road. My mantra this trip was to keep moving forward and not stop for every sight, because up ahead would be another one and another one and another one, and this served us well. (Exceptions allowed, of course, because it’s a vacation, for chrissake.) But we were on our way home, and these sculptures were striking enough that Mab behind the wheel deserved to see them, so we circled back. Looking it up later, they are the work of the late Dr. Joe Carlisle Smith, who led an incredible life. They are big pieces, most 5 feet or taller, primarily metal but in other media as well. There are many of them all around what I assume was his house, but they’ve been written up in several publications and there’s even one in front of the local McDonald’s. Interesting pieces I wish could look at more closely.

Accessible Travel: Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Garden – and Alpine, TX does vegan

Day 7

In the morning move I followed up with Peers Hotel in Austin to describe our accommodation needs and what was agreed to, because I had an uneasy feeling. Last week he said, “We will do whatever needs to be done.” Today, it sounded like he was trying to get out of what he promised on February 2 and also agreed to in the Expedia confirmation where I left very specific requirements. Again he said they would do what we needed, but when I hung up Mab and I both shrugged because his tone was not reassuring. More fun later…

It was an open-ended day to kick around before we started the home-leg of our trip. We decided the nearby Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Garden was worth a visit. (Also highly rated online are the Fort Davis National Historic Site and especially at sunset the Fort Davis State Park, and the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University – alma mater of Dan “Hoss” Blocher from the TV show Bonanza (Mab, trivia whiz) – right down the street in Alpine. Also, depending on who you ask, the Marfa lights viewing stand.) The center focuses on plant life and natural history of the Chihuahuan Desert straddling Texas and Mexico. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. They take pride in the diversity of their guests and are happy to accommodate disabled visitors. They recommended which trails and exhibits were most wheelchair-friendly. The cactus and succulents greenhouse where actual scientific work is done is open to viewing. It is floored with crushed gravel that works best with wider tires. Same can be said for the mining exhibit that was put together by two elderly miners. It too was lined with gravel that was all right to drive over. (Mule-powered wells? Display below.)

The staff allowed us use of an employees-only service road to get closer to the greenhouse. It was still very bumpy for a wheelchair van, and the scientist receiving us didn’t get the message and turned us away. Right away she realized what happened and so we crept our way back to the greenhouse. It was well worth it. There are hundreds of exotic-looking species, mostly cactus, of all shapes and sizes, labeled on long tables. We really got into it. You can’t blame the scientist for being protective of all the work here, especially after hearing a few horror stories of the tinkering some visitors have done. No touchy specimens! Great facility and experience.

We went a couple times for take out to a little family place called Snack Shack. Generous portions, very tasty, and vegan options. Yesterday, stuffed potato with broccoli, grilled onion, jalepenos, mushrooms and chives. Today, I ordered a bean burrito and they had no problem with substituting potatoes and jalapenos for the cheese. The sweet lady in the drive-thru window said they’ve been in business for six years. While we ate we watched a few dozen deer and bucks crossing the road in front of us. Why did they do that? To get to the Snack Shack! Hopefully, the for-sale sign out front is for one of the houses sharing a driveway with them, because this little shack rocks.

We closed out our stay in the mountains with a beautiful sunset of soft blue and bright orange over the rolling foothills. Good day.

Vegan San Antonio: Viva Vegeria & Earth Burger – yaas!

Viva Vegeria, 1422 Nogalitos, San Antonio, TX, (210) 465-9233

Had fun at Viva Vegeria. There was parking in back. The restaurant is easily accessible to wheelchairs, and they offered to rearrange tables. Two small dining rooms with a few nice wooden booths. Colorful, funky, with a lot of devotional candles, and decent music. Service was very friendly. The whole vibe is cool and relaxed.

It was hard to decide from the two-page menu: I wanted to try everything. Highlights were the nachos that are some of the best I’ve ever had. Mab said they’re not just great vegan nachos – they’re great nachos. In fact, they’re the best thing I ate on the whole trip through west Texas. Recommending the chicken enchiladas (vegan), the sauces (sweet chipotle, creamy green ranch, and a spicy yellow ‘traditional’ sauce of tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and probably cauliflower) and the tall, fresh-squeezed lime-ade that leaves pulp on the side of the glass: It’s the real deal. Had no room to try their fruit desserts that sounded so good. Brought plenty of food back to our room, another two meals’ worth.

Earth Burger, 818 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX, (210) 524-1086

On the way back to the hotel, stopped at Earth Burger for some righteous drive-thru, all vegan. (Think about that phrase, vegan drive-thru. Where do you find that?) The jackfruit pulled pork sandwich packed the sweet tang you’re looking for, and my first Beyond Burger, with cheese and fries, satisfied. Maybe pricey at $20 for two, but what does that fine cuisine at McDonald’s run you? I can tell you that as a four-year vegan it certainly felt good pulling into a burger joint and not having to read over the menu with a magnifying glass. One of the trade-offs you make with this lifestyle is spontaneity, but here it is at Earth Burger. With a side of fries.