18 April 2012

Borderline Vegan: Alhambra, a veg-friendly culinary find in McAllen, Texas

Eight months into my vegan “experiment," I am happy to report that I dropped my total cholesterol below 200, have somehow managed to survive without animal protein, and contrary to carnivorous belief, have been able to find more to eat than leaves.

When my experiment began at the end of August 2011, I encountered the typical questions herbivore's would expect, but there was particular skepticism from my family and friends regarding how this lifestyle would be possible with my travel schedule. I may not hold a candle to the air miles of George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, but I put up a respectable 80,000 miles last year.

That’s enough airport food and client dinners to throw anyone’s cholesterol under the bus. My first trip as a vegan was to San Francisco. Talk about a lay-up. I have visited other cities and was more than able to get by with the trusty Thai or Mediterranean fare.

I was thankful for Fort Worth’s tasty Spiral Diner and Kansas City impressed me with their juicy jackfruit barbeque sandwich at FuD. However, I stumbled upon a particular restaurant in the small Mexican border-town of McAllen, Texas that has given me hope. Hope that healthy plant-based meals can be found, even when travelling to the most unsuspecting locations.

Alhambra prides itself on locally sourced organic food, and makes a point to highlight the veg-options on the menu. Thank you, Alhambra, thank you. I ordered the daily vegetarian special, making it vegan of course. It was two green bell peppers stuffed with a breaded chipotle soy cheese and the sides were roasted vegetables such as tomatoes, artichoke, and something carrot-like that I clearly haven’t come across yet in my vegan training guide. I was so excited to try it that I forgot to take a picture before I cut into the bell pepper.
The dessert was equally as delish and creative. Strawberries swimming in a sweet vegan cream sauce surrounded a mango cous cous with frozen mint lying on top. Needless to say the plate went back to the kitchen clean and my tummy went back to the hotel full!
Timing is everything and apparently I need to work on my timing. After visiting Alhambra’s website to jog my memory for details, it appears their restaurant/lounge will be “restructuring”. Soon to be operating as a non-profit, Alhambra will focus on a variety of community service activities as well as catering events. While I’m sad to know that Alhambra will be changing its direction, the healthy plant-based diet movement continues to pave an exciting path in places you may not expect. I am looking forward to continuing my healthy vegan “experiment”, proving that it is more than possible to implement, even as travelling professional.

Heather Borders | Facebook
Jacksonville, FL Astronaut Trainer turned Medical Device Marketer, Heather transitioned to a plant-based diet in August 2011 to lower cholesterol without medication. After seeing her (and her hubby’s) cholesterol plummet, there was no looking back! Heather wants to help make the transition to a plant-based lifestyle easier for people. She invites current vegans to visit Proof is in the Plant FB page to pass along creative kitchen organization and time-saving ideas for making a healthy vegan diet a reality for everyone. Heather will be the Food for Life instructor for Jacksonville, FL and lives with her husband, Lee, and rambunctious dog, Amos.

Photo credit: Heather and cc:flickr.com/photos/dph1110