Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vegan Fun in Palm Springs

Last weekend Mr VE&T set off for a week of sunshine and professional tennis down in Palm Springs. We brought along my two aunts, who are both super fun people AND big fans of tennis (and vegans!). Every year there is an important tennis tournament in Palm Springs, and all the top mens and womens players come from around the world to compete.

We got to see just about everyone! We spent our first day there watching Federer practice with Tommy Haas, and then Rafa practice with Stan Wawrinka. As you can see, we were right up close! I don't even own a zoom lens. It was so fun!

The tennis grounds where the matches are held is really beautiful and nicely maintained, and (if you're a tennis fan) it's a great place to spend the day. In fact, we spent 3 whole days there and had a great time. That said, there aren't many vegan options available for munching. One concessions stand was selling Lara Bars for $4. Uh, no thanks! There is a restaurant called Pizzavino in Stadium Two that offers all their pizzas with Daiya cheese... but that involves going to the restaurant and missing out on courtside time.

my aunt L likes lots of mustard!

So, every morning my aunts and I would make ourselves some little sandwiches. We went to Trader Joes and stocked up on all the sandwich fixin's. We've got the routine down, because this is how we make our lunches every year for our family trip to Yosemite. We had bread, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, hummus and baked tofu. Plus, lots of nuts and fresh fruit for non-stop nibbles.

Here's my sandwich, helping sustain me through a super fun Bopanni-Quereshi v Federer-Wawrinka doubles match. Mmmm, delicious!

The dessert is super hot, so, you'll always want to have lots of water with you. In fact, at various points around the grounds, they had Brita water filter "re-fill stations" so that you could refill your water bottle for free. I drank a TON of water.

Also, we stayed at such a great and funky spot in Palm Desert. There was a sunny courtyard with a pool and surrounded by citrus trees. Every morning the proprietors put out a huge bowl of chopped fruits and baked goods (not vegan), bread for toast (Dave's Killer Bread!), and grapefruits from their trees. Swoon. It was a pretty magical way to start the day. Just look at all those grapefruits on their tree!!

We were having so much fun at the tennis that dinner was sometimes an afterthought- and yet, we had some pretty great dinners:

Our first night out we went to LaQuinta Resort, which is where many of the players stay. We wanted to see if we'd spot any tennis celebs! (we did see a couple top 100 players). We had dinner at their "American Bistro," called Twenty6. Even though we got there *right* before closing, the service was super excellent and the server was really great about confirming that their veggie burger and avocado sauce was 100% vegan. He even read us the whole list of ingredients. I was so impressed - and that was a really yummy burger!

Our second night, we drove up to the city of Palm Springs to check out Native Foods. I've heard so much about Native Foods over the years and I really wanted to check it out. We got a serving of the polenta bites to share (super yums!), and I got the Greek Gyro Bowl. Mmmm. Now I see what all the fuss is about. All four of us got something different and we all really loved our food. That says a lot - because between the group of us we cover quite an array of dietary preferences. Now I've got my fingers crossed that Native Foods might come to Santa Cruz one day!

After watching Rafa squeeze out a late night victory over Radek Stepanek, we (and 16,000 other people) made our way out of the stadium in search of dinner. We got to Pizzavino in Palm Desert right before closing - but just in the knick of time.

I started with a baby kale salad, which was all-vegan as long as I asked for no cheese. It was super good, super fresh, and I was jazzed to have a big mountain of greens. Sometimes greens are hard to find when you're travelling.

I also got a pizza! I ordered with half-daiya and half-no cheese. I never get pizza with Daiya, and though I really like the idea, I think I actually liked the no-cheese pizza more. I thought there was a bit too much Daiya, so I removed about half of it, and enjoyed it that way. I ate the whole darn thing, so that's quite an endorsement! They also offer gluten-free crusts, and apparently Novak Djokovic had been in for dinner two nights earlier (he is famously gf).

In case you're headed to Palm Springs, here's a little more travel info:
Mamma Gina's in Palm Desert - you'd never know it from the outside, but this old-school Italian spot had lots of vegan options (clearly marked on the menu!!). I had a big bowl of minestrone and plate of sauteed broccoli rabe and both were very good.

Palm Greens in Palm Springs - we had a pretty good dinner here. Nothing bad about it for sure, but if I had that chance to do that night over, I'd probably just go back to Native Foods again. That said, they had a pretty great looking breakfast menu.

Clark's Nutrition - I'm not just plugging this spot because my awesome friend Mo works there. It's a super huge and fun locally-owned natural food store with epic selection.

 Our last day we went hiking in the Palm Canyons. So beautiful!

Mr VE&T loves dinos!


  1. Your trip to the desert and Indian Wells tennis tournament looks fantastic! Photos of the food are yummy. We are tennis fans also and a couple of years ago went at the spur of the moment to Indian Wells (no tickets in hand) and couldn't even get on the grounds as all the parking lots were sold out! After reading your blog we'll try for next year by planning in advance.

  2. Looks like you all had a excellent time — actually any place that's sunny and dry sounds pretty great to me — tennis-wise and food-wise. You made some great choices for on-the-go eating, and the restaurants look pretty good, too. I've never been to Native Foods, but I have their cookbook. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I've never cooked anything from it, but one of these days I plan to correct that mistake. I feel the same way about Daiya as you do — I prefer pizza without it. I don't usually like to admit that because so many people really, really love it, and usually I just give in and eat it.

  3. I love it when I learn something about my own town from visitors! I had no idea that Pizzavino had vegan options (actually I've never heard of them, but I will surely try it now!). And Mamma Gina's! I had a bad experience there years ago (long before I was a vegan) and have never been back. I might have to rethink that. And the La Quinta Hotel, two miles away...I had no idea that they had a vegan burger on the menu.

    I'm glad you loved Native Food. It's long been my favorite (of course, it is the only vegan restaurant in the desert, but still).

    I didn't get out to the tournament this year. I generally only go when someone gives me tickets (the nice thing about working in a country club...they buy season tickets, then, if they can't make it to a session will give them to their favorite fitness staff people :-) ).

  4. That pool! And that veggie burger. How lovely.

  5. Looks like you had a fabulous time filled with fabulous food; my F-stop loves Palm Springs. I'm dying to try Native Foods.

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  7. I, too, am a vegan who was recently in Palm Springs!

    I simply cannot say enough nice things about NATIVE FOODS CAFE. Not only was it a block & a half from my mate's flat, I was genuinely excited each & every time I went there. I ate there six times in eight days! From The Twister Wrap to the Bistro Steak Sandwich (with onion-ring-like fried shallots!) to the Chicken Run Ranch Burger, I simply cannot recommend it enough. Do NOT miss the Native Nachos by assuming you can get that anywhere — you cannot! — they are unique & gorgeous. There are many more 'natural' & healthy options, I just never had any. LOLz! It was a holiday. :-)

    As for Palm Greens, I had the *best* BLTA *ever* there — with avocado, that is. Handsome & friendly server, too. Don't pass it up! I was also intrigued by the breakfast offerings but never made it back there during my trip.

    See my holiday photos *and* food pics here:

    I'll be back there soon and will certainly check out Pizzavino and Mama Gina's (broccoli raab is absolutely my current addiction!).

  8. Kathleen6:52 PM

    I've never commented but that picture of your husband had me cracking up laughing. Lol.

  9. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Looks like a fun trip! We love stopping to see the Cabazon dinos on desert trips as well.

    Unrelated to Palm Springs: A new vegan store opened in my neighborhood! It's a nice spot and the owners are really nice. If you have any East Bay trips planned, let me know and we can go:

    jen e.

  10. Native Fooooods! I miss them so so much. They used to sell (maybe they still do?) this French Dip Sandwich that was completely out of control. It was so good. I also always had to get the nachos. I didn't care how much other food I was eating; nachos always happened. I'm so jealous, but so glad you got to try them out!

    I also prefer cheese-less pizza over Daiya. Nothing against Daiya - I just love vegetabley bread!

  11. Eeeee! How fun! Looks like a great time - those photos are amazing. We love the tennis too. It's all over now in Australia until next summer, although most of it is on the other side of the country from us, so we're watching on TV anyway :-)
    p.s. love the look of that veggie burger. Mmmmm.



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