Food Porn Edition: Veggie Grill’s Pre-Opening in Beaverton & Anticipation

It’s about to get all food porn up in here.

But first, some related anticipation with not only a purpose, but hope for those of us stuck working downtown and tired of shuffling away without direction when our go-to food cart is closed for the owner’s family cat’s birthday (which I totally understand):

Good riddance, Carl's Jr! Veggie Grill's downtown location is scheduled to open in May 2012.

Sure, I felt positive about the opening of the first Northwest Veggie Grill location in Beaverton. I was incredibly stoked to receive an invitation to the pre-opening weekend event, especially after my indulgent weekend in LA, and just as glad to see ‘normal’ vegan food available from a casual chain nearby in Beaverton. I mean, once a year I seem to make the public transit trek to Uwajimaya, so figuring out a convenient stop with vegan nachos isn’t out of the question.

It makes me smile big time to pretend I’m 12, and to picture that kind of accessibility to 100% vegan food in a neighborhood suburban complex. I mean, the world is changing, no big deal.

Really, it is a big deal that a major fast food chain suddenly closed in a very central downtown location, and will be re-opening as a plant-based chain.

Selfishly, I remain damn stoked about ordered a Bayou Chickin’ sandwich and sweet potato fries for lunch by Spring’s end, and thrilled that vegans, vegetarians and curious (and convinced co-working) omnivores alike will all be able to place that very same order.

Away we go.

Here’s a look, all classic Stumptown Vegans style, at some dishes my friends and I ordered at the aforementioned pre-opening:

Sante Fe Crispy Chickin’ Burger [Gardein patty]

All Hail Kale Salad

Uptown Nachos [with Daiya-based sauce]

All-American Stack [with Gardein strips]

Papa’s Portobello  Burger

Sante Fe Chickin’,  full plate

Interior

Attention: Shoppers

Disclaimer: All dishes were complimentary at the pre-opening.

Veggie Grill Weekend, Day Two: Avocados & New Menu Items

The following is a continuation of menu food porn from my recent Veggie Grill weekend. This post hereby includes upcoming Veggie Grill menu items of the ‘fork and knife’ variety (brief pondering: Do you call it ‘knife and fork?’ Or is that phrasing simply more carnivorous?), a morning visit to the Hollywood Farmers Market, strolling the Venice Beach pier, more silly photos, and further anticipation for the Beaverton opening, just over a week away. Never before have I muttered a similar sentiment for this suburb, but I like to think I returned from my December travels lighthearted, open-minded, prepared to take public transportation wherever it may go (and in any language), and certainly, craving American-style vegan cuisine.

First up, I appreciate a hotel with a chilled pitcher of soymilk, ready to go.

You know, I should have gotten my hopes up (and denied my bladder) when I passed by this publicity poster in an upstairs room. I missed out on a Dolly Parton lobby-walk-by, by mere moments.

My time visit to the Hollywood Farmers Market.

Oh, California.

I picked up two new-to-me varieties of avocado: Bacon and Zutano.

We were serenaded by a Michelle Williams look-a-like in between produce stops.

Branded iced tea shots from a Ghostbusters-style backpack. So LA?

Moving on, we made it to the West  Hollywood Veggie Grill, which I had lunched at last fall on my first visit to LA, for our second lunch tasting.

The full menu is here.

Here’s what we all came  here for, the food.

Most importantly, we started again with nachos. Most definitely, I did not complain. I may have applauded. I’m not normally one for the D-cheese, but Veggie Grill uses it as a base in their nacho sauce, and it really works.

Uptown Nachos [Daiya-based sauce]

Sweetheart Chili Cheese Fries [Daiya-based sauce]

NEW: Bayou Chickin’ Caesar Wrap

Chillin’ Chickin’ Strips, Sweetheart Fries, Ranch and Sweet & Sour for dipping

Wait a minute!

Chickin’ nuggets, Chipotle Ranch (how I dig thee) and BBQ sauce

NEW: Buffalo Chickin’ Sandwich

Fun tidbit: all sandwiches are available wrap-style or served on a bed of kale

NEW: Chicken Fried Steak Plate [Gardein] with Mashed Potato & Cauliflower (aka Caulipots! Name credit: Isa Chandra Moskowitz), Steamed Kale and Porcini Caper Gravy

NEW: The Gluten-free Urban Plate with Grilled Portobello, Grilled Tempeh, Caramelized Onions, Steamed Kale (aw, yeah!), Chipotle Ranch (yeahyeahyeah!), Tomatoes with Basil and Guacamole

NEW: Chocolate Pudding Parfait with Crushed Oreos and Sour Cream Frosting

Our Sunday tasting club: Terese from Veggie Grill, Janessa, Webly, myself and Veggie Grill ‘s “Food Man” himself, Ray.

One last look – surely, that’s a celebrity power couple clandestinely dining on the patio. It would be almost exciting as realizing Daryl Hannah was sitting behind  us the day before in a series of ridiculous pudding photos.

Farewell, Hollywood!

Hello, Venice Beach…

After a week back in rainy Portland, I admit, I missed reading on the beach.

If only there was a rum-based cocktail in a coconut available in place of $3 PBRs. Isn’t this the land of $2 buck Chuck?! The red is vegan-friendly, btw.

With that, we were on our way back to Portland -

Avocados & lemons in tow

I also had some Nicobella chocolates in my bag to sample back home.

On the downside, the mysterious Michele’s take out did not make it home with her.

More discussion coming soon to Stumptown Vegans, in addition to photos and menu tales from next week’s pre-opening event in Beaverton. Check  out their website and facebook for Portland AREA opening information. I’m out.

As for me, I’ll be in Chicago for the first time with the VVC gals this weekend (please share any tips!), and I’m focused on hushing my inner New Yorker about the idea of an authentic, deep dish pizza.

Veggie Grill Weekend: Day One

Veggie Grill: Day One. Everyone's ready to sample 4 different vegan burgers, right?

While I could sit here for hours and slowly being to photo document my December-long travels in Southeast Asia, deciding the next day’s destination on a whim, sleeping in a bamboo hut alongside a river, attempting to rock a saree at a Sindhi wedding, watching the sunset from the steps of ancient ruins, or the young coconut curry that changed my life, and so on…well, I’m almost ready. First,  however, comes the story of my satisfying weekend in Los Angeles.

No holds barred, here’s the gist: mere days ago, I was one of a few lucky-ass Portland bloggers flown down to LA (what!) for lunch tastings at Veggie Grill. I’ve been twice before, in West Hollywood and Irvine, and was a fan, and frankly, I thought the email I half-read while waking up in Thailand sounded too good to be true: Meet & Greets with founders? Cocktail hour with the CEO? Special lunch tastings and previews of upcoming menu items? Traveling with friends? Were they taking vegan bloggers seriously? Would we take ourselves too seriously?

The departure for the overnight whirlwind was less than a week after my arrival back home, and my jet lag was only just fading, but I was in. 

Again, the day was incredibly satisfying. It began with an early morning flight and quickly moved onto an extensive lunch tasting of the classic Veggie Grill menu items, while meeting with the co-founders, a visit to The Getty, haute cocktails with the CEO at The Bazaar, and later on, our off-site dinner at Mao’s before collapsing in bed watching Chelsea Lately.

I’ll be sharing more from our second day, including new menu items, and any news about the Portland area locations that comes my way soon, as well as  in-depth thoughts on the food itself over at Stumptown Vegans with Webly.

As for the first restaurant opening in the Northwest (which includes Beaverton, Portland and Seattle), expect the Beaverton Veggie Grill to open its doors the last week of January, followed by downtown Portland later this Spring.

The following are photos from the day, in order. You can download the current menu on their website.

It all started with our ride for the weekend, Lonnie, as joined by Janessa:

Cookies in the car for breakfast!

Get ready…

Get set…

Go! 

Uptown Nachos. We were treated to plates of these as lunch starters on both days, and I am not complaining.

Buffalo Wings [Gardein] and Ranch with celery

All  Hail Kale Salad with roasted corn salsa and agave-roasted walnuts

New favorite breakfast = leftover kale salad!

Refreshment break: Iced Pomegranate Green Tea 

The burgers begin…

Bayou Chickin’

El Dorado Style VG-Cheeseburger

Classic VG-Cheeseburger

Sweetheart Fries and my beloved Chipotle Ranch

Quinoa Mac-N-Cheese with Garlic  Breadcrumbs [Daiya-based]

You may think we were done sampling, but as the lovely Janessa showcases, we had more to come…

A few bites of dessert, perhaps?

Carrot Cake, Chocolate Tofu Pudding & Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie

“That cookie is just asking to be dipped in pudding” – Julia

It’s rare that my photo will included, but you guys….Janessa took a pudding photo series, and I wanted to share my favorite. 

The end! Of Saturday’s lunch tasting, that is.

Smiling bloggers & The Veggie Grill Founders & CEO

Ordering is counter-style at all Veggie Grills

Even as co-founder, Kevin’s cravings are relentless….

After our first lunch tasting on Saturday, we headed off to The Getty for some wandering. 

Not to mention a lot of close calls on these extended steps -

Cruising down Rodeo Drive may not have been a dream come true, but I like to think we were filming the opening sequence for some awful reality show that will never make it on air. I am not signing a release.

Later on, we digested and went for a cocktail hour at The Bazaar at the SLS.

I ordered the “New Way” Dirty Martini with Belvedere, on the right. Naturally, I could not pass up the chance for a burst of olive spherification and foamy olive brine air. I mean, come on.

Our group also experienced two table-side liquid nitrogen creations, including Michele’s Caipirinha and Webly’s Shirley Temple, pictured below. This series simply reminds me that I’m back from vacation and a new camera is totally on my back-to-life for a bit wish list.

This may have been the least dramatic of the hotel bathrooms used over the weekend, and yet I wondered such things as…just where will the water go in these sinks? Can people see through these stalls?

Hours later, with cocktails (and mocktails) sipped, we headed to Mao’s Kitchen for dinner. When Michele recommends a restaurant in LA, let alone a vegan-friendly Chinese restaurant, I’m in.

Fried noodles and sweet dipping sauce

Janessa and I split an order of the People’s Potstickers to start, filled with black & woodear mushrooms, smoked tofu and minced bok choy.

Next up to our table was a Peasants’ Onion Pancake. Not my type of dish due to our enemy status, but the ladies seemed to enjoy it.

Our crispy Beijing Spring Roll was $1. Enough said.

Tofu Fried Rice

Long-life Beans with Tofu

Hong Kong Chow Mein

HOLY CRAP, ROAMING, COULD-BE-FAMOUS, CARTOONISH FOOD CART ALERT!!!!1!!11!!

Day Two is up next. Go fawn over the menu some more til then.

Disclaimer: All lunch dishes were provided for by Veggie Grill, of which I have no contractual affiliation. I simply really enjoyed this outrageously fun weekend.

Baby, you’ve got a Bad Reputation…

Bad Reputation vegan slice, Caligula Caesar, PBR. It's almost like I'm a real person or something.

Just a quick update on a busy day – the Portland Farmers Market returned this morning (!!!!!!!), and I’ll have a bunch of photos to share from my produce wanderings soon. Adventures with Daiya wise, the slice above featured a bit too much of the beloved vegan cheese for me – overloading the super thin crust I appreciate so – but you locals in the cult of Daiya will go wild. I have no doubt. Just look at that crazy melt.

That being said, eating a slice of thin crust pizza, side salad & PBR in Sizzle Pie is still damn glorious.

Happy (Belated) Vegan Pizza Day from Portland!

This past Saturday, the nondairy cheese industry rejoiced as thousands of vegans gripped their stomachs in post-vegan-pizza-overload. I celebrated (or supported said vegan-friendly industries) by enjoying the greasy heck out of a slice of breakfast pizza at Sizzle Pie, which I can’t get enough, and by assembling some English Muffin pizzas for hungry friends later on in the day.

First up, the awesomely named Drugs Benedict slice from Sizzle Pie. It’s one hell of a unique slice with super thin, whole wheat crust, creamy white bean and shallot spread, fried chunks of hash browns, “cheesy” tofu scramble, bacun bits, and sliced green onions. Somehow, I resisted the call of the Weekend Brunch slice + breakfast drink special, and went for the slice + salad combo ($6).

Drugs Benedict slice and Rabbit Salad with vegan ranch, Sizzle Pie

And we’ve quickly hit later on in the day! – I had friends over and they simply had no choice but to celebrate this Vegan Pizza Day. Seriously, I have no idea if they even knew it was happening.  In general, there’s something about English Muffins pizzas that I can’t stand, but the novelty helps win me over. These mini pizzas are on whole wheat muffins with homemade basil tomato sauce and black olives. On the left is one of the fools with a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella Teese and spinach, and on the right there’s mozzarella Daiya (shocking, but true – using it up from a project!) and as inspired by Sizzle Pie, a cashew pesto cream.

Mini English Muffin Pizzas

Portland’s Late Night, Vegan-Friendly Eats

A list of bars, carts and restaurants of just where to find vegan grub that’s more than a hummus plate or basket of fries after 10pm. It includes 38 businesses, their addresses, neighborhood, late night hours, and recommended offerings.

If you think of more, please leave a comment!

Portland’s Late Night Vegan Eats
Originally Compiled by Jess and the vegan internet in Summer 2010 for the 2010 Try Vegan Guide to Portland

Sometimes you have a hankering for vegan poutine at midnight. Sometimes you really want a tofu burrito. Sometimes you simply can’t sleep without a bowl of pho.

Read on, late night dining enthusiasts…

Aalto Lounge

3356 SE Belmont St, SE/Belmont, 2am

It’s tragic that they’ve dropped the herby, housemade meatball sandwich, but you can still order their White Bean Cassoulet vegan (but, minus the duck !?!…what a way to start this) and enjoy the lounge or back patio come nicer days.

Backspace Café – all vegetarian

115 NE 5th Ave Old Town/Downtown, till 11pm Sun-Wed, till 12am Thurs-Sat

A vegan gamers’ paradise that’s also home to rotating art and live shows.

Recommended: Philly Steak Sandwich, Broccoli Goddess Salad, Club Vegan

Bar of the Gods

4801 SE Hawthorne Blvd., SE, 4pm-2:30am (full menu till 1:30am, bar menu after)

BOG is one hell of a dive bar. It’s dark, moody and illuminated with strings of grape-shaped lights to fit with the theme. Happy Hour is from 4pm-8pm, featuring $2.50 wells, $1.50 PBRS (75 cents on Thursdays?!?), chips and housemade salsa, and a small basket of really good handcut french fries for $2.  Other vegan options include the Spicy Red Lentil Dahl, BOG Bento Bowl, and Avocado Sandwich (specify vegan). Note: There’s a Chicken Fried Tempeh entrée on the online menu, but it’s no longer available.

Basement Pub

1028 SE 12th Ave, SE, 2am

Snacks include curried chickpeas and spiced black beans & rice in this cozy bar, where the big draw is 20 ounce pints, pinball, and the $1-3 small plate offerings.

Beulahland

118 Northeast 28th Avenue, NE/Burnside, 2am

Apparently people come here to watch sports and for some music video night; I tend to find myself here with friends for cider (because it’s always on tap) after viewings at Laurelhurst Theater. There’s a standard hummus plate and red curry. Anyone know if their housemade veggie burger is vegan?

Bonfire

2821 Southeast Stark Street, SE, 2am

Whenever you want to feel really hip on SE Stark. Tasty vegan offerings include the Hellfire Burrito, Portobello Sandwich, Tofu or TVP tacos, and really solid French fries – of which the Veganshizzle is a big fan.

Bye & Bye – all vegan

1011 NE Alberta St Portland, OR 97211, NE/Alberta, 2am

What do you need to hear? You’re crazy if you haven’t been here yet. There’s the BBQ Platter, Grilled Cheese, Meatball Sandwich, Eastern Bowl, etc. – not to mention the drink list and bartenders.

Recommended: BBQ Platter with bbq tofu, black eyed peas, collard greens and bread with Earth Balance

Cactus Jack’s

4342 SW Beaverton Hillsdale, SW, 2:30am

Reppin’ for SW. I think I went here once years ago on an adventure, because one thing remains the same: You must request the special vegan menu.

Crush Bar

1412 Southeast Morrison Street, SE, 2am

Home of Vegan Prom 2010, Crush is open late in inner SE and has more vegan options than I’d realized. They include grilled mushroom skewers, falafel, and rich mocha cake.

Dots

2521 SE Clinton St, SE/Clinton, 2am

If we’ve met, you probably know that I adore Dots. Hold onto your seat, but they actually added a new vegan item to their menu this past year – the Vegan Pita.

Recommended: Vegan Platter, Hot & Spicy Fries with Tofu Sauce, Vegan Geek Salad

East Side Deli

SE 47th & Hawthorne, Coming Soon to NE Lombard, 11am-11pm

I finally visited this all day & late night (with a walk up window!) deli, and all I can say is, I never want to make my own sandwich again.

Recommended: Start a sandwich with a roll of Dave’s Killer Bread, add layers of Field Roast, Vegenaise (put a V on the mayo selection) and pile on the complimentary toppings.

El Brasero cart

SE 12th and Hawthorne, SE, 2am or later

I’ll be honest, I’ve never eaten here because I’m more into the other late night options in Cartopia, and they’re more expensive than Los Gorditos. However, there are many vegan options and Soyrizo can be found across the menu.

The Fixin’ To

8218 N Lombard, NoPo/St. John’s, till 2am Mon-Sat, till 1am Sundays

I’ve yet to go, but my Stumptown Vegans partner has a full review here. Can you say, Frito Pie? Are you looking for a late night with warming Southern grub in St. John’s?

The Grilled Cheese Grill

1027 NE Alberta, NE/Alberta, 2:30am on Fri & Sat

Look, I dig their trippy school bus seating. A lot. And now I want a vegan grilled cheese with roasted jalapeno for lunch.

P.S. They have plans to open a new cart, er bus, on SE 28th

Hammy’s Pizza

2114 SE Clinton St, SE/Clinton, 4am

Late night delivery and takeout pizza, bread sticks (floppy, but good!), seitan nuggets (worth getting at least once) and calzones. Flavorful sauce and nooch, too.

Recommended: Vegan Greek Calzone with a side of sauce.

Hungry Tiger Too – has a separate vegan menu

207 SE 12th, SE, midnight

Greasy spoon and dive bar hybrid, mere blocks away from the Vegan Minimall.

Recommended: Vegan corn dogs ($1.25 on Wednesdays), Tofuffalo (40 cents on Thursdays), Club Sandwich, Giant Pancake, Butternut Wontons, Tots!

Langano Lounge

1435 SE Hawthorne Blvd, SE, 2am

Because you never know when you may find yourself looking for a moody dive bar that serves Ethiopian veggie dogs floating in a sea of spicy lentils.

LaurelThirst Public House

2958 NE Glisan, NE, 2am

Live music, tofu and veggie rice plates, housemade veggie burgers. I clearly haven’t been in years.

Mash Tun

2204 NE Alberta St # 101, NE/Alberta, 2am

Do vegan-friendly establishments outnumber the rest on NE Alberta yet? Mash Tun Brewpub is just south of Alberta on 22nd, and has a few vegan offerings, like falafel and tempeh things.

Recommended: Spicy Tempeh Things

Mississippi Pizza

3552 North Mississippi Ave. , Mississippi neighborhood, open till 1am Fri & Sat, till 12am otherwise

This pizza parlor and pub offers vegan cheese, vegan pesto, vegan pies, and slices. Quite likely the best vegan thin crust in Portland, and I dig any place that features chopped pepperocinis on their slices. Thanks to Josh at That Vegan Site for the tip!

Recommended: Garden Party and Historic Pies

Night Light Lounge

2100 SE Clinton St., SE/Clinton, 2am

For when you don’t want to go to Dots, this nearby lounge offers a lot of seating, a nice back patio, and a surprisingly good stir fry – and hand cut fries, don’t fret.

Recommended: Veggie stir fry with fried tofu, Fried Tofu with Peanut Squash sauce, Mint Fava Falafel

Pause

5101 N Interstate Ave, NoPo, 2am

I haven’t been, but I hear “good things” about their housemade black bean burger.

Peoples Sandwich of Portland

53 NW 1st, Old Town/Downtown, 10pm-3am, Fri & Sat

Their Soylent Green vegan sandwich is highly regarded.

Perierra Creperie

SE 12th and Hawthorne, SE, 2am or later

A member of Cartopia offering savoury and sweet, gluten free vegan crepes. I vote savoury.

Pho PDX – has a separate vegan menu

827 SW 2nd, Downtown, 12am-4am Fri & Sat

One of my favorite places to get lunch is this indoor food court downtown. They added super late night hours last year – for when it’s 2:14am and you must have vegan pho.

Recommended: Tofu Udon Curry Noodle Soup, Tofu Salad Bun, Pho Vegan

Potato Champion!

SE 12th and Hawthorne, SE, 2am or later

Possibly home of Portland’s best French fries. It’s a hotly debated topic. Order a cone or vegan poutine and consider.

Recommended: Fries with Veganaise, Truffle Ketchup, Vegan Poutine

Pyro Pizza

SE 12th and Hawthorne, SE, till 1am W, Thurs & Sun, till 3am Fri & Sat

When this cart housing a wood-fired oven opened last year, I was consistently blown away by their crust and ingredients. My last two experiences turned slightly burnt, and then super chewy, but I’ll definitely return to see what’s up. Oh, and bike delivery is coming soon and they sometimes have vegan seitan sausage~

Recommended: Margherita pizza with vegan cheese ($1 extra) and housemade sodas

Red & Black Café – all vegan

400 SE 12th, SE, 11pm

Stop by Portland’s anarchist, vegan café just before they close for a bite and quite likely, a show or reading.

Recommended: TLP sandwich, daily soup, housemade chai, kombucha on tap

Roadside Attraction

1000 SE 12th Ave, SE, 2am

This place has a cozy front yard with plenty of fireside seating and special nooks, only takes cash, and offers Veggie Skewers, a hummus place, and a couple other vegan-friendly options.

Shanghai Tunnel

211 SW Ankeny, Old Town/Downtown, 2am

The housemade black bean burger can be prepared vegan, and Big Note: only one bowl/sauce combo is vegan. Make sure to ask which one! And then, remind me.

Someday Lounge – all veg

125 NW 5th Ave, Old Town/Downtown, 2am

For when you’re downtown and looking for a cocktail and vegan food. Shares a kitchen and similar menu with Backspace Café.

Southeast Grind

1223 SE Powell Blvd, SE, 24 hours
This shop is home to round the clock Stumptown coffee, vegan pastries, bagel spreads, and more. Good place to get some work done for the insomniacs in town.

Tube bar – very vegan friendly

18 NW 3rd Ave, Old Town/Downtown      , 2am

Pure Portland greatness. Bunnied walls, duct taped seats, Daiya, and ham tube. What else do you need to know?

Recommended: Professor Nanotear muffins, Vegan Ham & Cheese sandwich plate

Vendetta

4306 N Williams Ave, NoPo, 2am

Haven’t been, but they apparently have a Sloppy Jane, and that’s cool.

Voodoo Doughnut – shelf of vegan donuts

22 SW 3rd Ave, Old Town/Downtown, 24 hours

Quite possibly the biggest and smallest tourist destination in this city – and set to expand into Berbati’s in the future. Make sure you order from the vegan shelf, most yeasted varieties are available both ways.

Recommended: Try both the vegan cake and yeasted donuts. I’m a McMinnville cream and Chick-O-Stick gal, myself.

Voodoo Too – shelf of vegan donuts

1501 NE Davis, NE, closed 3am-6am

See above. This time, on the East Side and with pinball.

Whiffies

SE 12th and Hawthorne                  SE, 2am or later

This cart is home to deep fried pies of rotating sweet and savoury varieties. If they have a seasonal, vegan pie (such as the PUMPKIN!) order it immediately. Fruit pies are nearly always vegan, just make sure to check the sign to see what’s up. Request the vegan fryer, and order some sweet tea or kombucha.

Recommended: Marionberry, Peanut Butter, Savoury Vegan Breakfast

XV

15 SW 2nd Ave, Old Town/Downtown, 2am

Another spot for when you’re downtown and looking for a cocktail and vegan food.

Recommended: Vegan pizza with white bean spread, Tofu wrap, Yam fries with Tomato Chutney

And now, a sampling:

The infamous Bye &  Bye cocktail (also available non-boozy as a Floor Punch)

Pints at the Basement Pub

The Donut Case at VooDoo, downtown (an entire shelf is now vegan yeasted and cake donuts!)

Fried Pies at Whiffies

Fried Tofu ($4 during Happy Hour) at the Night Light Lounge

Mini Pizzas at Tube

The Vegan Platter at Dots

Butternut Wontons at Hungry Tiger Too

Spicy Tempeh Things at Mash Tun

Yam Fries and Potato Chutney from XV

VooDoo’s McMinnville Cream Doughnut

Mcminnville

Last Year: The Veganshizzle and Jess Present: Our Favorite Vegan Friendly Bars! 1/22/10

A Few Days in the Life; Last Month: The Vegan Vacation in LA

First time. Los Angeles. Vacation. Tourist Sights. Vegan Foodz.

Every time I start to tell the stories of my short vacation in Los Angeles, I start squealing about catching up with an old friend, or dramatically demonstrating how I threw out my back on the morning of the last day – so, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

The Top 5 Highlights:

1) The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

I find myself telling my friend and co-organizer on a couple different projects, Michele, “Thank You!” on an average of 3 times a week, it not daily, and this recommendation deserved a big one.  Casual vegan sushi at Taiyo and big laughs at UCB made for a fun evening.

2) Flore Cafe. A small part of me wanted to wake up and brunch outside this  cafe every day.  If only I were that cool…  Photos below. More coming.

3) Intelligentsia Cofffeebar. Located at the Silver Lake junction, the Chicago-based roaster clearly boasts great coffee (vacation = lattes), endless hipster eye candy and a shaded patio to enjoy both with their wireless, where I often planned my next stop.

4) Sunglasses and simultaneous young coconut consumption. If I had glimpsed cool kids sipping other tropical fruits walking down the street, I’m sure I would have tried that, too. I know, it happens elsewhere, but this was like 3 girls, 3 blocks.

5) Late night vegan pizza delivery. What do you do when you’ve already deemed the vegan restaurant attached to your hotel inedible and you’re beat? Thank you, Cruzer Pizza delivery!

Runner Up: Seeing people reading scripts in public. I only saw this twice, once on the subway (which was handy!) and once on the bus (again, handy and easy?!?), but it cracked me up, both times. No offense. I love television.

The Photos & Foodz

Obligatory Sight-seeing.

Necessary star power. Not the one I posed with.

Graffiti-orientated sight-seeing.

There’s always been something eerie about Mickey Mouse.

Schoolyard Graffiti!

Is this a real landmark? I don’t know. Palm trees and a dinosaur were enough for me.

Vegan-friendly Silverlake: where I didn’t go…

As much as it pains me not to visit a cafe that shares a name with one of my favorite friends, there just wasn’t enough time…

Options, options, options.

Yup.

Aforementioned pizza delivery:

Ordering was a bit odd, but quick. I’m glad I went for the “extra crispy” (Italians use quotes) crust. Not sure why that meant overcooked seitan sausage bits, but the rest was tasty — and delivered to my door! in 20-something minutes!!

Again, this one can be filed under the worst vegan food in LA &  a dumb reason to book an adjoined (but quite cheap & decent) hotel: Vegan House.

My first meal..or should I say..bites of a meal, really blew, even for $4.99 “Happy Hour” fair. The order was bland, messed up, most of the vegetables were worrisome, the ‘chicken’ was mushy, and there were multiple pieces of hair. Negativity over.

In Silverlake, but sadly, encountered closed up:

Down West Sunset Blvd:

That whole Flore brunch thing I was talking about: buckwheat pancakes, blueberry sauce, tempeh bacon.

Inside Flore:

I was terrified of how under-toasted this bread appeared – and somehow, some noochy tofu, tempeh and avocado combining way, this was a kick ass BLT – with a side of fresh fruit, to boot. Kudos, Flore.

And kudos, sprouts.

Flore Deli Case:

I had just visited a Veggie Grill days before in Irvine, and was happy to come across one again. If this is the future of mainstream veganism, we’re gonna be all right*.

*Which is, admittedly, a much longer conversation about mainstream veganism and society.

It’s so…normal. And refreshing. And fast. Throw some of these into America, STAT.

Cajun Tempeh Burger. I don’t normally find myself saying such things, but I even really liked the citrusy slaw!

Inside the V to the G

I almost bought half price tickets to see Tim Allen and grunt the night away, but somehow, I resisted…

Instead, UCB! And here’s their neighbor – a freaking conscious convenience store.

Locali

Back to Silverlake – pictured because I really liked that they advertise their guacamole like so. How inviting.

Oh look, another vegetarian restaurant. This is getting exhausting.

And another that I actually visited: Pure Luck. Sweet service and pickle chips. Boring wrap. Why talk about anything else?

Half pickles/Half fries plate

Spring Rolls. Served fresh.

Scoops = mini vegan ice cream mecca = vacant shoppe = who cares, I was coaxed into sampling every flavor (okay, 4? 5?).

Vegan selections of the day included Salted Chocolate, Pomegranate Blueberry, Coconut Mocha and Banana Oreo.

Light & Creamy Banana Oreo with some fixin’s

I clearly caught this employee shirtless ?!? and dancing in the back…Sorry!

Fairly befuddling.

If I hadn’t come across Bar Keeper on my last day of vacation, lamenting that I’d already spent too much, I would have spent even more at this kitschy cocktail supplies store.

Be still, my heart. Be still, my nose. New spices and Coconut Bali Smoked salt  won out over vintage cocktail stirrers and exotic bitters.  Not that shocking.

Inside Spice Station:

Now, this is vacationing.

And back to reality…

return from travels & vegfest photos

Alright! I’ve spent the past weekend resting, doing laundry, and catching up with my cats after two weeks traveling on the West Coast for my mysterious day job.  As much as I usually think Portland is the bees knees, and as much as I complain about having a day job, I’m grateful for my employment and the bonus opportunities to explore other cities (and play travel writer). Back to my point and purpose here – I was in town for just over 24 hours halfway between my journeys north and south, which fortunately, allowed me to attend Portland’s annual VegFest. I may not have had time to experience every single exhibitor booth or attend any glorious talks, but I did get to see countless smiling veg-faces and proudly table for Vegan Iron Chef’s big public, pin-dispensing debut.

Most of these photos were taken as Saturday was ending. Pretend people aren’t falling asleep at their booths and that there’s a never-ending stream of veg-happy and veg-curious folks, because there was!

Photo essay time:

My favorite on the show floor (you can’t deny it was mostly a trade show out there, and I say that fondly): So Delicious.

I can’t really think of any flashy new veg products I hadn’t seen before or that blew me away, so I’ll call my favorite as I see it – So Delicious Coconut Creamer. And well, they were one of a couple of vendors offering complimentary coffee, and as I was there all day with my own mug, I happily drank it. On top of that, I have a fond memory of my friend Melissa bringing me one of their coconut ice cream sandwiches…

Deanna works the NW Veg table. She does so much for the vegan community and it clearly loves her back.

Here’s dear, smiling Wendy: VegFest organizer and author of the Veg Food & Fit blog.  She’s tabling with a friend for her recent cookbook release, Scatter Vegan Sweets.

What to wear when you’re veg…besides Herbivore, of course.

The German Viana line. In the past, I found these very hit or miss for my taste buds – but after sampling most of them, I really dug the Doner Kebap and Veggie Cevapici.

Supreme Master:  Never disappointing. Just tired. We had the sweetest reporter from their channel, Youping, come with a small team to Vegan Iron Chef last year.

Lundberg: Where I learned that according to CNN’s Health reporters, Black Rice could be the new Brown Rice. Noted.

Chicago Soy Dairy bros. Mozzarella teese, I got your back.

Fair Trade Theo Chocolate Samples

Another favorite of the day – Soy Feta at Heidi Ho’s Organic Vegan Cheeses. Locally made & currently available at Jazzkats Coffee Bar.  They graciously donated a fruit & hazelnut cheese spread to a Portland talk my friend & fellow blogger Janessa (with a new domain!) and I did last month for Try Vegan Week.

VegFest super announcer and staple, bodybuilder and author, Robert Cheeke, signs those autographs

Hold onto your hearts, you crazy Daiya heads – Amy’s  Vegan Mac & Cheese.  I finally tried it and have to give a big ol’ Pass, but I get convenience. I get novelty.

Pull yourself together! One more Daiya shot to go… Now this pizza? I really get it.

Thai and True’s distributor’s stand tied with Chicago Soy Dairy for the stand I supported the most, financially. I picked up 4 small tubes of teese (on sale 2 for $5 – it really bothers me that I can only get teese at one store in town, albeit the great Food Fight!) and restocked on Yellow and Massaman curry paste. Locally made & VEGAN.

Don’t buy curry paste from a can. This is so much better (or make it!)

Another popular neighbor, naturally:

Portland <3 Kombucha

I overheard such interesting, varying comments from the folks stopping by the Gardein table. What do y’all think?

Out to Pasture Sanctuary.

I  know these are *just beans* , but they really are good beans! The Better Bean Company.

A big bowl of spices at the CuisineMentor table.

Photo evidence of the crowds, and that guy on the left eating.

Food vendors. Who’s been to Yummy Tummy? I keep hearing such positive things!

Red & Black, my favorite anarchist cafe-runners, tabled on Saturday.

Sengetera, selling Ethiopian veggie combos.

My girls at the Vegan Iron Chef table:

Day Over! Back to the real job.

Off to work, work, beaches, work, Costa Mesa, and a few days vacation for my first time in Los Angeles after this.

I have a geeky Stumptown Vegans review of this cafe below coming soon….

Adventures with Daiya: Macaroni & Cheese

Vegan or not, who can deny this mac and cheese looks realistic?

I spy melting!

mac

Somewhere out there, a vegan couple is considering giving their newborn the middle name “Daiya”. Somewhere in Portland, I’ve come to accept and appreciate Daiya more than ever before.

The latest test? Adventuring into Macaroni & Cheese territory.

Vegan-traditionally, I prefer my noodles coated with a homemade nutritional yeast sauce started with a roux.  I’ve been on a roller coaster ride of Daiya experiences this past year, and I’ve been holding out for a real winner. With that, these Shells & Cheese with Daiya are now in the lead.

This vegan version is based on an adaptation from Serious Eats of Martha Stewart’s Macaroni and Cheese from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics.

Macaroni and Cheese with Daiya 101

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons Earth Balance
  • 4 cups unsweetened nondairy milk
  • ½ cup flour (I used chickpea)
  • 1 clove grated or minced garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon coarse salt
  • generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8th teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups of Cheddar Daiya (1 package)
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 pound of pasta, such as shells, cooked al dente.
  • ¼-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons additional vegan cheese (homemade or packaged), or tahini
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon miso

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 casserole dish.
  2. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add the garlic and stir frequently, cooking an additional 1-2 minutes. Quickly whisk in the flour.
  3. Stir in the milk and cook until thickened, 8-10 minutes. Whisk frequently.
  4. Remove the sauce pan from heat and stir in the spices, salt, pepper, Daiya, nutritional yeast, and any additional ingredients.
  5. Carefully pour the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  6. Even more carefully, pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Cover with breadcrumbs, as desired.
  7. Bake until golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.
  8. Optional: broil an additional 3-5 minutes for a crispier top layer.
  9. Let cool just a bit, and serve. And eat.

Consider: Adding chopped green vegetables to the last few minutes of pasta cooking, and consequently, into your mac.

Serves: A lot! I would recommend halving the recipe if you’re feeding 1-2 and don’t want leftovers for days.

Saucin’ and whiskin’

sauce

The melt: Daiya’s super duper melt remains revolutionary and the most impressive (and therefore, grossest?) on the market. I like to picture of a team of Susie-esque mad vegan scientists hard at work in Canada furthering their developments, and occasionally taking a snack break with Tings.

The taste: As my friend Maeve has so elegantly stated, it’s like Velveeta went vegan. Say what you will.

The verdict: I wouldn’t make this again. Using shredded Daiya felt like cheating, and I just don’t love the taste. Appreciate, sure. Like enough, maybe. However, it was fun adventure, and my mind was boggled at how the Daiya melted and stretched and sauced!

Shells and Cheese with Daiya 101

mac

Adventures with Daiya: Tofurkey Pizza

The new Tofurkey Pepperoni Pizza, Sampled at Food Fight!

Tofurkey Pizza Samples

My past exerperiences with Daiya have ranged from a tasty, gooey grilled cheese with tomato at Savor Soup House, to uncooked samples at VegFest, to so so home experiments, to the oozing pizza I thought was going to coat my mouth forever and lead to the world’s first drowning by vegan cheese at zpizza in California.  After the first couple tries, it was clear that I was in the minority opinion (but not alone) on this non-dairy cheese, it was taking over the vegan world, and making commercial strides into the ‘real’ world.

I came to accept that progress has been made, vegan cheese that looks and tastes like plastic will one day be behind us, and that goo is here to stay.  That being said, please don’t think all I do is complain about Daiya.  I think it’s fantastic that people are so ridiculously jubilant over a vegan product.

I remain open-minded and my appreciation has developed, which brings me to the latest of my Adventures with Daiya:

In the ever-flowing wave of vegan excitement over the novelty of vegan convience foods, and progress, in the name of nondairy cheese, comes the Tofurkey Pizzas.

I sampled the pizza above, Pepperoni, and the Tofurkey Cheese on Earth Day last weekend at the vegan mini mall.  I liked the Pepperoni, with the thin layer of dispersed Daiya  cheese (both Mozzarella and Cheddar?), mild sauce, and smokey bits (which truly tasted like Tofurkey jerky, but who’s complaining?)

I thought the sole Cheese slice had too much of the greasy cheese, but the Pepperoni distracted me from that with the chewy bits and I can see myself reaching for a slice in the future, if it comes my way.  It’s a little sad that they don’t use traditional rounds, but it’s a freaking vegan frozen pizza, so who cares?

Pros:

  • Vegan, soy-free, and non-hydrogenated!
  • Two popular brands & the possibility of being widely available.
  • Nostalgic, convenience food, with a vegan twist.
  • Thin crust and thin layer of Daiya.
  • pizza!

Cons & Questions:

  • Brand new – have you seen it in stores yet?
  • Over-priced, convenience food – you make the call.
  • The recommended serving size is 1/3 a pizza, is that practical?
  • Daiya is now found at Whole Foods and all over the place – try your hand at a homemade pizza!
  • The Daiya effect aftertaste.  I was telling my friends about this pizza days after trying it, and my mouth was still weirded out.

More convenient Daiya options:

Buy it online, or in Portland at Food Fight!, Whole Foods, and Lamb’s Market.

In other recent vegan cheese adventures:

I really, really like Bacun Cheezly.

cheezly

So much so that I made this pizza with Hot Lips dough, sliced creminis drizzled with olive oil, roasted raab, sliced Granny Smith apples tossed in liquid smoke and balsamic vinegar, Bacun Cheezly, and Mozzarella Teese.

Pre-baked

pre-baked pizza