Most of the drive from northwestern Washington to northern California was largely uneventful. Rainy, but uneventful. We stopped at our favorite Co-Op in Bellingham and we also hit a Costco along the way to stock up on the basic food necessities for the long drive and the motel room living that lay ahead of us. We drove through a mini blizzard (although it probably wasn’t considered “mini” to the two-wheel drive cars with all-season tires on them) from the Placerville area to South Lake Tahoe. I pitied the poor folks, dressed in their light clothing (shorts – really? Seriously?), underneath their cars in the piles of snow installing those crappy cable chains (I heart my 4WD Xterra!). The Weather Channel called it the “Western Wallop” and we drove straight into it. It was an adventure.
After a good night’s sleep at our motel in South Lake Tahoe, we spent the next two days exploring the hamlets and villages around the north shore of the lake. We looked at a few available homes in Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe City and Truckee. We saw a lot of local shops along the way that we made a mental note to come back and visit when we had more time (and more room in the vehicle, too). We quickly decided that, although lovely areas all of them, South Lake Tahoe was the place with the best “home vibe” for us. The rest of our time house-hunting and playing tourist was spent in and around South Lake Tahoe.
Some evenings, we fended for ourselves with hummus vegetable plates and wonderfully stinky garlic bread, courtesy of Costco.
Or, we created some fabulous vegan club-like sandwiches with a yummy multi-grain bread from Lake Tahoe Sierra Grains, Yves vegan deli meats, vegan Pepper Jack cheese, Vegenaise, Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground, lettuce, tomato and avocado.
In the mornings we ate plain bagels with peanut butter, bananas, homemade yogurt, and/or J’s favorite homemade granola; both of which I had prepared in advance for our road trip. We used the plastic cups provided by the motel to make our own travel yogurt parfait cups.
For human eats and treats, we consulted HappyCow.net for the Lake Tahoe area and we found some restaurant and natural foods store listings with vegan/vegetarian options. We took our appetites and our cameras (with the flash off – we don’t want to be rude) along with us to check them out.
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New Moon is a small, but wonderful, natural foods store in Tahoe City with a very vegan friendly deli located within it. We stopped by while we were out exploring the north lake area and we ordered a big lunch (leftovers to take back to the motel with us) and we did a bit of shopping, too.
I ordered the Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing and it didn’t last long. In fact, I remembered to take the photo halfway through the salad.
J ordered the Thai Peanut Noodle Salad, but I don’t have a picture of it because J was apparently very hungry and he wolfed it down while I was digging out my camera. I managed to get one bite from him and there was no mystery why it disappeared so fast.
Sprouted Lentil Dahl – a bowl of protein-packed goodness. I thought this would be good in a wrap or with some brown rice and some additional dressing, too.
Inari – a tofu skin (yuba) pocket with white rice inside it and served with a sweet teriyaki sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger. These didn’t last long, either.
We found our to-go dessert, too: a tub of vegan cookie dough. Vegan cookie dough doesn’t have eggs in it, so it is safe to eat it raw. A sweet luxury like this makes a traveling vegan very happy.
One observation that we made while checking out their prepared food selection in the deli: some foods labeled “vegan” contained honey in the list of ingredients. I suppose that is a matter of choice for some vegans (whether honey is vegan or not), but to us it is an animal/insect product so we do not eat it. I was never that fond of “bee puke” in my omnivore days, anyway, so avoiding it now hasn’t been a great hardship.
Sprouts Natural Foods Café – South Lake Tahoe
This place always seemed busy, which is a good indicator of the quality of their food. The staff was über friendly, knowledgeable and helpful; all we had to do is tell them we were vegan and what sounded good to us and we were good to go.
I had the Vegetable Crunch sandwich on a bagel (because their sandwich bread contains honey, he told me. Having it in a wrap is another vegan option). I ordered it without cheese and exchanged the honey mustard dressing for balsamic vinaigrette. I also ordered the Soup Du Jour—which is always vegan at Sprouts—and this particular day it was Hawaiian BBQ. Mmm mmm!
J ordered the Classic Burrito with tempeh, holding the cheese and sour cream. It was so loaded with veggies and salsa that it was impossible to pick up; so he ate it with a fork and knife. Of course, it was wonderful.
Both of our orders came with sesame tortilla chips – SO good. The meals were wonderful and definitely hit the spot. Bonus, we were able to order a beer with our lunch, too.
Freshies Restaurant & Bar – South Lake Tahoe
A bit of Hawai’i in frozen Lake Tahoe, how cool is that? It’s located in a tiny strip mall building but once you step through the door you feel like you are in a Hawaiian plate lunch café, minus the humidity and chickens milling about outside.
They begin serving dinner at 5:00 and we arrived at 4:30. I didn’t look at their dinner menu so I am not sure how the offerings differed from the soup, salad & taco “lunch-ish” menu that we ordered off of, but we were not disappointed.
For starters, we ordered the small (boat) My Tri Fries: freshly cut yams, sweet potatoes and organic russet potatoes fried in California Rice Bran Oil and seasoned with Caribbean spices. Oh…my…gawd.
I ordered the local’s favorite salad (to atone for the fried potatoes appetizer): The Crunch, minus the two cheeses. It’s loaded with crunchy veggie and seed goodness. The creamy basil salad dressing that makes the salad (the waiter says) would have been wonderful, were it vegan, but I swapped it out for balsamic vinaigrette. I added grilled Portobello mushrooms to the salad to make it a real hearty meal. It’s even better with grilled tofu.
J’s meal was mouth-watering to look at and even better tasting: the 2 taco platter with one blackened tofu and one blackened tempeh. He held the cheese and ordered extra salsa in lieu of the chipotle tartar. The tacos came with organic rice and black beans and an out-of-this-world slaw (I detected a hint of roasted sesame oil). I most definitely will be ordering that our next trip back to Tahoe; it was all I could do not to make him switch plates with me.
We typically don’t order dessert when we eat out (and usually there aren’t any vegan options when we eat vegan in an omnivore restaurant), but we couldn’t resist the mousse-like Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie on a homemade graham crust. Definitely another “oh…my…gawd” moment!
Oh, and J was stoked that Freshies has Pliny The Elder on tap.
The Free Bird – South Lake Tahoe
Free Bird is a cute little organic take-out joint no bigger than a Washington espresso stand! In the milder months you could take advantage of the outdoor seating area, though. We ordered their only vegan offerings that day: Curry Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney and French Lentil & Rice Soup to share (more “oh…my…gawd” goodness).
While we waited for the food, we enjoyed some seasonal infused water (lemon slices and sprigs of fresh rosemary – what a cool idea and very refreshing) and J ordered a Cacao Bliss Smoothie (raw cacao powder, coconut milk, almond butter, agave nectar and a pinch of Celtic sea salt). Bliss it was. The smoothie was so good that I probably drank most of what was J’s smoothie and I made sure to stop there again on our way out of town for another one (instead of ho-hum coffee).
Grass Roots Natural Foods – South Lake Tahoe
As I mentioned in the previous post, we found our Christmas dinner dessert, the vegan gravy mix and our dinner rolls (bonus: the leftover rolls made some good road food with peanut butter.) at this cool little natural foods store.
Grass Roots is a small, but well-stocked for its size, store. And the people working there were very helpful: I was thrilled to learn that they will special order for me when I live there. So, with a little advance planning and creative storage, I will be able to do my “specialty” vegan shopping locally rather than traveling to the nearest Whole Foods in Reno, Nevada.
J found some delectable homemade cookies there, too (yes, that is a dinner plate that the cookie is on). We enjoyed that bad boy with a hot chocolate (made with soy milk) and peppermint schnapps.