If I’ve been a bit quiet lately it’s because I’ve been travelling a fair amount over the holiday season. I just recently got back from a trip to Tucson, Arizona and also managed to squeeze in a road trip to Telluride, Colorado for a little snowboarding. Along the way we made a detour to the Grand Canyon as well – can’t go that far and not see one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
So here is a recap of my travels and the food I ate along the way. Mostly pics for this post. If you have questions about anything, ask away in the comments!
We flew Virgin Atlantic for the first time back to the US, and besides having comfy and empty seats (we upgraded to economy plus at the airport), the vegan food was pretty decent. For my lunch I had a tomato pasta dish with salad, bread and fruit. However they did put real butter and cream cheese on my tray – think they missed the memo on that one! The landing snack was however really boring – it was just a skinny veggie wrap with a scarce amount of hummus, making it very dry and tasteless.
It was great to be back in Tucson those first few days – I just love the desert so much. The first morning there I took pictures of the sunrise and sunset, went on a hike in the local canyon and had a drink with my best friend downtown. Those first few days pretty much set the tone for the entire trip, and many more hikes, sunsets and drinks were had.
Christmas! I’m really lucky in that most of my family are either vegan, vegetarian or non-picky eaters (looking at you bro), so our Christmas Eve dinner party is always 100% vegan. This year we had 2 x Field Roast roasts, green bean almondine, roasted root veg, salad, 3 types of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, stuffing, cornbread, stuffed acorn squash, roasted brussels and cranberry sauce. We also had a vegan pumpkin pie with coconut ice cream and a mudslide pie. Oh, and of course plenty of tequila (we were in Arizona after all).
On Christmas morning I made everyone tofu scramble for breakfast (find the recipe here), with Field Roast sausages, avocado and potato cakes made using leftover mash from the night before.
Another day, another hike. This time along Soldier’s Trail on Mt Lemmon. It was a very cold day – and it even started to snow on us on our way back!
For Andrew’s birthday we went to one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson – El Charro downtown. El Charro has been a Tucson institution since 1922 (!) and in recent years have been making a real effort to produce delicious Mexican food for vegans. On this occasion I had the crispy avocado tacos with jalapenos and it was absolutely spectacular. I seriously could have eaten it every night.
After a week or so in Arizona we decided to take a roadtrip to Telluride, Colorado for a little snowboarding trip. Along the way we planned a slight detour to visit the Grand Canyon, which meant we were able to stop in Flagstaff for lunch. While Flagstaff is a small town, it is a fantastic place for vegans – so many veggie and vegan-friendly restaurants abound. For lunch we settled on Red Curry Vegan Restaurant and ordered (clockwise from top left): crispy tofu with vinegar peanut sauce, spicy tom ka soup with veggies and tofu, aubergine with fried tofu and veggies in a basil garlic sauce and wild rice, and finally, pad Thai. both mains also came with a salad, fried spring roll and potato curry wonton. Every single dish was amazing. Seriously, if you get the chance to go, do.
The Grand Canyon! It was as spectacular as I remembered. I’m not going to lie though – it was insanely busy. It took us over an hour to go about 5 miles to reach the park entrance as it was bumper to bumper, and once there had to fight for space on the railing. If you think I’m exaggerating….
The park rangers said it was one of the busiest days of the year – even by summer standards. I guess everyone had the same idea as us. Oh well, we still enjoyed ourselves.
The drive leaving the Grand Canyon and going East is absolutely stunning.
Telluride had been getting a ton of snow before Christmas, so we lucked out and had really great conditions for the first couple days and even had some great powder runs.
While the snowboarding on the mountain is fantastic, the food can be a bit hit or miss for a vegan. However, there are some restaurants in Telluride village, right off the slopes, that are a bit more vegan-friendly (although more expensive). On this day we ate at the Tomboy Tavern and had the kale and quinoa salad, a huge veggie burger in a type of pita/flatbread and really yummy spicy edamame.
Panoramic view from the top of the run “See Forever.” We had a few lovely bluebird days.
On our last night in Telluride we went to the incredibly popular Thai restaurant Siam Thai. For starters we had veggie spring rolls with a spicy peanut dipping sauce, stir-fried tofu and veggies in a peanut sauce and “drunken noodles” which was the best Thai noodle dish I’ve ever tasted. If you want to eat here, make sure you call them at 4pm to get on a waitlist on that day as they don’t take reservations. You’ll also need to ask what dishes are vegan-friendly as they put fish sauce in some of the noodle and veggie dishes.
Back in Tucson and a very excited me finally got to eat at Govindas for brunch. I seriously look forward to this food all year, and it was just as good as I remembered. It’s a vegan buffet that includes a mix of savory and sweet dishes, and I loaded my plate up with tofu veggie scramble, home fries, daal, salad with coriander cashew dressing, basmati veggie rice, spicy ginger sauce and a veggie lentil soup. Sitting on the patio in the warm sunshine eating this food is my idea of a Sunday well spent.
We picked up my mom from the airport one day and stopped off at Sachiko sushi on the way back for a sushi feast (seriously, am stuffed just looking at the pictures): tofu agedashi, spinach dumplings, seaweed salad, vegetable yakisoba with tofu, avocado maki and vegetarian roll. This place serves up seriously good sushi.
Our final hike of the trip was a gruelling, 8-mile roundtrip hike up the Ventana Canyon Trail to the Maiden Pools. It is a tough hike, but one of my favorites for the beautiful changing landscape and spectacular views of Tucson from the top. For our little picnic lunch I packed us tofu and hummus wraps with every veggie known to man. Plus a little wine (hiking tradition).
Our final meal out in Tucson was at Zemam’s which is a little, nondescript Ethiopian restaurant that serves amazing food. I went with Andrew and my two siblings, and we ordered 3 veggie dishes each which come out on one big, communal platter with plenty of injera (spongy Ethiopian bread) to eat with your hands. It is truly so good. I have yet to eat at any Ethiopian restaurants in the UK – so if you know of any that you can recommend, please let me know!
It rained quite a bit in Tucson while were were there – including the last two days of our stay. I was a little disappointed just because this was exactly what I had to look forward to back in England, but it’s actually really special when it rains in the desert. All the washes were flowing around Tucson, with many roads having to close, and all the rain in the valley meant there was major snow dumpage on the mountains.
When it rained, we ate. Including a yummy, quick lunch at Whole Foods which for me included a huge salad from the salad bar and a slice of vegan pizza which had a tomato base topped with roasted aubergine, sliced tomatoes, roasted garlic and rocket. It was so, so good. And I should make an edit – when I say “quick lunch”, I really mean I ate it quickly. It actually took me ages to decide what to get as there were far too many vegan choices.
As we were flying out of Phoenix, we drove up the night before to get a hotel and have dinner with my brother and his girlfriend who took us to Greens in Tempe. This place is a sort of fast food/casual restaurant that is completely vegan, serving a range of delicious junkfood as well as healthy veggie bowls. It was my last night, so junkfood it was. We started with vegan crab puffs and spicy buffalo wings with ranch dressing. So far, so so delicious. For my main I had the “no harm chicken parm” with a side of tahini coleslaw. It was so moorish and very similar to the real thing – even the cheese was amazing, and I normally hate vegan cheese! Andrew went for the chicken pickle po-boy that was also really tasty. Dear Greens – please come to Leicester!!!
The flights home were relatively smooth. However, we flew with Virgin’s partner Delta on the way back and they didn’t have us down for vegan meals (ugh). However they were nice enough to give us a few miles for the mixup.
We had a really lovely trip overall and hope you all had a nice holiday season as well!