After several weeks in Los Angeles, I'm lulled into the slower pace of these health-conscious cities. We stay in Scottsdale, at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center, where we're comfortably tucked away, gorging on fresh fruit and emerging only to try local restaurants.
The comments on this casual eatery are mixed: "It's a vegan McDonald's! Awesome!" and "This place is dirty and disgusting," so I'm not sure what to expect. It turns out to be neither of these things, and offers a solid menu of sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and entrees. Many items are heavy with garlic, salt, and fat (which isn't entirely a bad thing), but you can easily go healthy with items like Steamed Edamame, Tahini Coleslaw, or a Balsamic Picnic Salad (greens, organic pecans, apples, and strawberries in balsamic dressing). The appetizer menu looks interesting, but the Crab Puffs and Samosas are just okay. For a fatty, salty fix, go for Mum's Meatball Po Boy instead. I usually don't order salads at vegan restaurants, but the Three Green Salad (palm hearts, Spanish olives, lemon olive dressing) and Jerk Tofu Salad (jerk-spiced house tofu with greens and Jamaican dressing) are tempting. The mock chicken is worth trying, whether in the Ranchero Salad, where its accompanied by greens, carrots, and ranch dressing, or in the Drunken Mushroom Chicken, with sake and tamari over rice noodles. Don't miss the Thyme Fries, and try the Tsoynamis, made with vegan soft serve. The Rocky Road is excellent (vegan marshmallows!), and the otherwise icy Pumpkin Pie is topped with whipped soy cream. Flavors vary daily.
2240 N. Scottsdale Rd. #8, Tempe, AZ 85281
This pan-Asian eatery serves mock meat dishes, well-cooked vegetables, and classics like eggrolls and noodle bowls. The evening we visit, they are incredibly busy, with only one or two servers staffing the packed restaurant. We wait over an hour for our food, which turns out to be great. Servings are small and prettily plated. To apologize for the poor service, they bring us a slice of peanut butter chocolate cake, which on asking, we discover isn't vegan. It is quickly replaced with a tapioca coconut pudding, which is very good. Visit during lunch, and you won't contend with large crowds and overwhelmed waitstaff.
13802 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale Arizona 85254
raw vegan sushi at Chocolatree
I giggle to see the hours listed as "11am-8pm or as late as the Bliss Vibes keep alive!" but I'm genuinely happy to be at this raw, high-vibe cafe. After a day of hiking and searching for energy vortexes, I'm hungry and tired. It's New Year's Eve, and we haven't booked a place to stay, but Chocolatree is open, and both the server and the cafe are warm. We're more interested in the free wireless internet than the food, but when Thai Coconut Soup and a Sushi Plate arrive, I eagerly tuck in. The soup is amazing: fresh Thai coconut cream with lime, onion, garlic, and chiles, filled with fresh vegetables and served cold. The sushi is simple, and a bit loosely wrapped, but good. The menu is similar to Go Raw Cafe, with some more inventive offerings. For dessert, we order the Chocolate Ganache Cake, and my two-year-old has found love. I vow to try the Chocolatree Porridge next time, a mix of warm coconut cream porridge with strawberries, seeds, and agave, from the kids' menu.
the extensive selection of raw chocolates at Chocolatree
I buy a few raw chocolates for the road, and savor a bite of Aztec chiles and cinnamon. It's after 8, and we still don't have lodging, but the Bliss Vibes are alive.
Be sure to ask which chocolates are vegan; some contain honey.
1595 West Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336
I ring in the New Year on a road under the naked Arizona sky, and we're the only people for miles. Minutes earlier, there's an unfortunate incident involving liquid and a rapidly moving car.* But we can't stop laughing about it. I'm with my favorite people in the world, and the view is so expansive, I can't tell where the road ends and the sky begins.
*Do not atttempt to dump urine when driving 80 mph; it will not end well! That's right, I'm writing about this on a food blog.