Friday, August 08, 2008

Secrets of Vegan Travellers

Hearst Castle Roman Pool

I went on a short vacation this week to Cambria/San Simeon, along the California Coast Hwy, to Hearst Castle. After becoming vegetarians/vegans, DH and I have a challenge regarding what to eat while we travel because we live in a non-vegan world. This issue didn't stop us from going on vacations and trips. My secrets are the Internet,, and a GPS system.

Before a trip, I usually visit to see what restaurants are available in the area. If there is no vegan restaurant in this site, I search the Internet to find restaurants with vegan or vegetarian options. Then, I either print a page or two and/or enter the addresses into my Garmin nuvi 260. This GPS tool was a xmas gift from DH last year. I thought it was the best gift I ever received from him (on top of the kitchen tools he gave me). If there is such a thing as a Vegan Garmin, it will be perfect. But there is none, so I entered all the vegan restaurants I found into my Garmin.

Talking about secrets, I want to let you know about Mary's Secret Garden, a 100% Organic Vegan Bistro, in a California beach town called Ventura. This is the last place we visited during our trip but it was the highlight of it all so I will start from here and then go backward.

We visited this bistro TWICE in 2 days and splurged on vegan dishes. It was indeed a VEGAN HEAVEN. For someone like me who cook ALL THE TIME, it was nice to have someone else cooked for me, for a change. It was a real treat for me!

This bistro is small but homey. It looks like an old 50s house that was converted to a bistro. I found this restaurant at a year ago and we went to visit it then but I didn't let the secret out till now. It's too bad that I live 1.5 hours away -without traffic and 3 hours away-with 101 Hwy traffic from it. That's the only issue I have with this bistro.

Other than that, the vegan dishes are so delicious, healthy, gourmet, colorful, and organic. If you read its reviews at, you'll find that lots of visitors complained about it being pricey. It's true that it is pricey but have you looked at the price of fresh organic ingredients in your nearby organic market or a farmers market? Eating organic is not cheap. That's the fact.
I know so because I shop organic, too.

We definitely were very satisfied with what were served to us. Every dish was a gourmet meal and made personally by Chef Mary (except the cakes, her friends made them). Half of the menu is vegan raw and the other half is vegan cooked dishes. She also provides 'specials' all the time so you don't have to eat the same thing all the time (or if you want to eat the same thing you'll find that in their menu). I met Chef Mary and talked to her. She was very nice, helpful, and humble. Our waitress, Rose, had a lot of recommendations for us which some we followed and some we didn't but she was very accommodating.

During our first visit DH ordered Mushroom Bakin Burger with a side of raw slaw. DH doesn't like veganaise or any other vegan mayonnaise so he asked for mustard on the side:

This dish has a lot of umami in it. All of them were yummy, including the raw slaw.

I ordered Blueberries/Pineapple/Coconut smoothie (one of the specials) and Vegan Shrymp Pad Thai. I thought the smoothie was very colorful and delicious.

My Vegan Shrymp Pad Thai was right on! It was spicy, peanutty, and flavorful. Mary suggested that I squeezed all the limes all over it to enjoy it more. She was right.

At our next visit, the next day, we ordered a raw appetizer, Vegan Mock Salmon Raw Sushi. The picture speaks for itself. It was very refreshing and tasty.DH ordered Middle Eastern Platter served with warmed whole wheat pita bread (on the menu) and opted for both Stuffed Grape Leaves and Falafels. Mary made everything on this plate. The Stuffed Grape Leaves were stuffed with rice and garbanzo beans. The hummus had herbs in it and was quite delicious. The taboulleh was a raw one. I was intriqued with the grains in the taboulleh but was told that they were HEMP SEEDS. Rose showed me the Organic Nutiva Hemp Seeds that they sell and use. I bought a package and am going to use it in my taboulleh, the next time I make it. Hemp seeds have a lot of omega oils in it and are definitely nutritious.
I ordered Vegan Chicken Cilantro Salad. I am curious about the cilantro dressing and wanted to save room for a dessert:

This salad and the dressing was delicious. It was all homemade and gourmet but the vegan chicken was not, I think.

We split this Vegan Heaven Coconut Cream Chocolate Cake. This finished off our trip on a good note: I definitely know that all my vegan friends will be drooling over this cake.

The last few days before we visited Mary's bistro we had just adequate vegetarian dishes. Most of them are dishes we ate at non-vegan restaurants with vegan options. We visited Sojourner Cafe in Santa Barbara.

I had Tempeh Reuben and DH had Tempeh Taco Salad. You can ask for veganized items in this restaurant. Their dishes were good but they were nothing real special(compared to Mary's). They were just good and adequate food.

We also found a Southeast Asian cafe in Cambria that offered vegetarian dishes, called Wild Ginger . This cafe is owned by a Singaporean Chef. This one is not in yet. There are a few vegetarian dishes in their menu. I had the Curried Butternut Squash-Sweet Corn Bisque that was spicy and coconutty (it has coconut milk in it). DH had Indian Vegetable Samosa. We both opted for the Sezhuan Tofu with rice. Surprisingly, it was spicy and flavorful. For desserts, we opted for their home made sorbets (available flavors are pomelo, kiwi strawberry, lime, lychee, mango, pomegranate).

I picked lychee and DH got the lime one. I was very surprised of how good it was. I could taste the lychee very strongly. Yum! I may make this at home. We definitely were satisfied with what we found in Cambria. We had another dinner at Morro Bay at a California Fusion Mexican restaurant called Taco Temple. If you ask to hold the sour cream and cheese, this restaurant provides vegetarian burritos and tostadas that can be veganized. Their black beans and rice are vegetarian. What I like was that everything tasted so fresh with lots of veggies.

Well, looks like my vacation is over. This means that I am going back to my kitchen and will start cooking again!


Anonymous said...

Oh wow! Seriously, thanks for sharing this. I've always wanted to see Hearst Castle and now I have one more reason to do so!

julie hasson said...

What a fun trip you had Debbie!! I loved your pics of the Hearts Castle too.

Mary's Secret Garden sounds wonderful. I'll have to tell my mom about it.

The Voracious Vegan said...

Gorgeous pictures! It looks like you had a great mini vacation. And you are so right, I'm drooling over that cake right now!

maybelles mom said...

Wow, interesting post. but, what is mock salmon?

spiceislandvegan said...

In raw term, mock salmon is grated carrots with some nut pate in it. :-)

maybelles mom said...

Thanks for the reply. Sounds delicious.