Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vegan Hot Springs Getaway

It's not always easy being vegan in New Mexico. Most of the time I cook at home, and now and then we'll go out for Thai food, or make do with chips, salsa, and guacamole if we're out for margaritas with friends. When we travel, we take some of our own food along for the ride, and trust that we'll find something - at least a salad - on restaurant menus along the way.

Rick and I took a mini-vacation to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa over the weekend, to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Ojo, as the locals call it, is close to home, but worlds away. It's an easy day trip from Taos, but we chose to spend a night, so we could really soak our bones and relax. We took along a small cooler filled with snacks, like nut cheese, crackers, champagne, and a southwest-style sushi that was a big hit with my sweetie.

To make this weird-but-wonderful finger food, follow the instruction in my original post, Sushi Made Simple, but fill the rolls with nut cheese, rice, chopped lettuce, black beans, carrots, and chopped jalapenos. I was out of avocado, but will add some next time! The dipping sauce was a spicy chipotle mayo, made with vegan mayonnaise, chipotle powder, a splash of jalapeno juice from the jar, and a little stevia or sugar.

I tend to overstuff my sushi, which makes it messy to roll up. Scale it down a bit of you can, or just scoop up what falls out and tuck it into the next roll.

The Artesian Restaurant at Ojo has something for everyone, including vegans. All menus can be found on the restaurant link, although they don't seem to be quite up to date. You'll get the idea though - they serve the sort of beautiful food you'd expect at a spa resort. Nobody goes hungry.

We ordered several things to share, which tends to confuse servers, but gives us a nice variety of things to taste. We had the Green Chile "Fries," which were fresh, crisp, and wonderful, and the Spinach Salad with prickly pear vinaigrette instead of the cumin vinaigrette, which has egg in it. The hostess was eager to help us choose vegan items, once we told her what we were wishing for.

The Tortilla Soup was so good we asked for the recipe, which we sort of got. It's a tomato-based soup, thickened with corn tortillas, and seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Garnished with little crispy sliced tortilla strips and avocado, this soup was lick-the-bowl good, and I'll be making at home soon.

Last, we shared the veggie-stuffed Chile Relleno, served with a darling little Quinoa Tamale, which was actually some wonderfully seasoned quinoa (was that a hint of nutmeg?) artfully served in a corn husk "bowl". The spicy red chile sauce was just right, and we didn't miss the goat cheese one bit. No room for dessert, we took a walk around the grounds, and then relaxed by the outdoor camp fire with the rest of our bottle of wine, and some bits of good sea-salted chocolate we'd brought from home.

In the morning, I remembered to bring my phone/camera to breakfast, but forgot to take a picture of my Tofu-Spinach Scramble until it was half gone. That's how good it was!

Back in my own kitchen now, I have some new things to try, and am happy to report that Ojo Caliente is, indeed, very vegan friendly.

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