24 Hours in Seattle: Pickles, Donuts & Downpour

KJ

Oh, hello there! Here’s 24 hours worth of everything the post title says, plus, lunch at In the Bowl in Seattle. Continue reading

Hump Day: Weekend Birthday Cake, Drinks & Dinner at Departure

6101398112_e6ac575e64_z

VeganMoFo Day Eleven > Looking back on Days Six & Seven with a coconut layer cake, dinner at Departure and my 31st birthday celebration stuff. Continue reading

Austin Cocktail Round-Up

Alma Blanca: habanero-infused siembra azul blanco, ginger liqueur, agave nectar, pineapple juice, fresh corn, hoja de hierba santa, hibiscus-rose-infused salt rim

Tales of the Texas VegFest (starring jaw-dropping vegan funnel cakes, tacos, Capital City goodies, Ethiopian stews and more) this past weekend are still rocking the vegan internet, so consider me crazy jealous – and in taco withdrawal. That’s certainly another … Continue reading

Portlanding: Vegan Options at Departure Restaurant + Lounge

Greens & Seeds Roll. The table favorite.

Early last month, I just may have used two almost-birthdays as an excuse to finally experience Departure’s new (to us) Pan-Asian, vegan-friendly happy hour offerings. The real kicker was their bao-sampling during IFBC’s opening night, local restaurant exhibiting the week before. … Continue reading

Eugene, Eugene with the Sisters Legume

Communal breakfast caffeination at Wandering Goat. Photo by J. Legume

It looks me nine years of dwelling in the Pacific Northwest, one quick train ride, and the encouragement of two sisters, but I finally made it to Eugene for the weekend recently. The break included sunshine, strolls, Lane County farmers market, vegan food, frolicking at the top of Skinner Butte, soy lattes, TMNT: The Secret of the Ooze, and the charming company of the Sisters Legume.

Everything I’d heard about Eugene seemed to be true: it was scenic, it was cozy, it was much closer than I thought, there were lots of bikes, interesting pizza, cute vegetarian carts and the breeze often carried a delightful combination of nutritional yeast and pot. It reminded me of weekend trips to Northampton, MA during my college years.

After a late night arrival, we started the weekend bright and early at the Wandering Goat coffeeshop. We quickly moved on to the second order of business: picking up treats for later at Sweet Life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard friends who’ve been to Eugene debate Sweet Life vs. Sweetpea, it’s ridiculous. Just bring on the pastries!

Inside the box: cinnamon roll, salted caramel cupcake and blueberry fritter

The verdict on the box from Sweet Life Patisserie:  I appreciated the dark (perhaps, black cocoa powder?) chocolate cake of the cupcake with bites of the rich, coconut & brown sugar-tinged salted caramel frosting. It made me realize how many bakeries must use cheap cocoa powder – the difference here was apparent. The blueberry fritter was more like a soft scone, which wasn’t up my alley, and while I didn’t try the cinnamon roll, J. Legume found it to be  a “fine cinnamon roll”, but ” a struggle” to devour. So darling.

Once we had consumed and breathed in enough sugar for the morning, we stopped at the downtown farmers market to take in some greens.

Raab perusal break at the farmers market

It would be another week before I had a chance to visit the Portland Farmers Market since it’d reopened for the Spring, and my local green-seeking-radar was going crazy. It had been so long since I could purchase raab without a plastic tag. So, so long.

Choi samplin'. This booth has tasty sesame seed-based mixes for sale.

In addition to a beautiful bunch of gai lan for a Bryant Terry recipe, I picked up sun-dried tomatoes, buckwheat pancake flour, Dakota black kernel popcorn and garlic.

Spotted on our stroll along the river: this is how we do it.

For a legitimate lunch, we stopped by vegan food cart-turned-adorable dinerette, Cornbread Cafe.

Since moving to Oregon in 2004, I've sipped from many a mason jar. It took a year to get over the nonsensical horror.

Counter-style seating at Cornbread Cafe

Why does one go to Cornbread Cafe? Why, vegan comfort food. Shout it out style: VEGAN COMFORT FOOD.

Just look at this menu, full of cruelty free country classics.

My new, bizarro cashew allergies withheld the gravy and cheese sauce options (and the d-cheese does not appeal to me), but I was incredibly satisfied with my plate, so who cares?

I don’t, and will continue to tell myself this (alright, again and again), return, and chomp into more crunchy-coated Southern Fried and Buffalo style tofu, after which, I will one day try the Shredded BBQ Seitan and Chicken Fried Tempeh.

Basically, I’m already penciling in a second visit on my next trip to Eugene, unless the Garbanzo Grill cart catches my attention first. We can share.

Such vegan wonders from such a small-ish city! That’s the Northwest for ya.

Pictured: Southern Fried Tofu, jalapeno cornbread with Earth Balance, Uncle Todd's sauteed baby spinach, BBQ sauce and mashed potatoes - hold the gravy.

Sisters A. Legume & J. Legume

For dinner, we picked up a pizza from a place I’d heard both raves & a few whines about through the years, PRI: the Pizza Research Institute.

Admittedly, I decided to bypass the famous peach and pear topped ‘zas once I heard they were canned fruit, which is silly, since the pineapple and jalapeno party below was the same case, and it was March.  We built our own pie, and while the tangy, miso cheese sauce took some time to set, it was a welcome change from processed shreds. The toppings, however, overloaded the chewy crust. That being said, I’d return to try out a peach slice and a pint of ale. There’s no way around it. Plus, any pizza is better pizza when paired with costumed turtles.

Pizza with red sauce, vegan cheese sauce, spinach, jalapeno, pineapple and herbs.

Cowabunga, Eugene – til we meet again.

The view from Skinner Butte

Three Days, Five Things, Chicago

Back in January, the busy month that was, I went with team VVC to scout Chicago as a potential location for Spring 2013’s conference.

Did we want the conference to take a leap east to a bigger city? Or did we want one more year of celebrating the vegan grandeur of our own home turf? We’ve now been discussing the pros and cons of both locations for 2 months, and as of last week, came to a decision. I won’t spill the beans here – you can check out the Vida blog for the official news.

Oh, we did.

As for the windy city, I had never been before, and had 3 items on my to do list:

1) Location scouting
Verdict: Check! Plenty of possibilities in multiple neighborhoods, and really great, really reliable public transit options – one stop even told us the weather, which bring me to…

Perfect day.

2)Winter
Verdict: We arrived the morning after the first real storm of the season – check! I used to joke that I suffered from reverse seasonal depression since moving from New York and Boston to Portland, where it rarely snows for more than a few minutes within the city and 40F is a low. I miss the chills. To be fair, I do loathe humidity, as well.

No deep dish, but they have multiple Upton's seitan options so....

3)Vegan deep dish pizza
Verdict: According to our friend Snarky Vegan, there was a pizzeria in Chicago that was serving vegan deep dish until it closed a couple of years ago. These days, you can request a deep dish pie without cheese, making sure to ask about butter in the crust, or you can go to other pizza parlours for Daiya or Teese (hometown pride, y’all) topped pies. Michele and Janessa did have a chance to hit up one local shop for a cheese-less slice after I headed back to Portland for work (d’oh!), but overall, I did enjoy our pie at The Boiler Room. More on that follow below.

Three Days, Five Things, Chicago

With three full days, I had a taste for Chicago, and longing for more Upton’s under my belt. It’s a huge city with spread out vegan options, including the classic Chicago Diner (which we dined at twice, rest assure).

Since I’ve been a major procrastinator (see: December travels) and Janessa and Michele are covering the same trip, in addition to our joint contributions, for the VVC blog, I wanted to break down my brief stay in Chicagoland with my five favorite food experiences. Plus, it’s an internet blogging list rule, or something.  

Regrettably, in my five days, there was more I tried that I wasn’t a fan of (I’m still trying to get the thought of a hybrid cheese sauce off my tongue) vs. what I could rave about, so the list was easier to put together than I planned on.

The tops include my inaugural torta experience at Quesadilla, a stand-in for deep dish pizza at The Boiler Room, classic milkshakes, caffeination, a surprise turn with cake balls, and more swooning over Upton’s products.

First up, Quesadilla:

Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur
2235 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Complimentary chips & salsa at the all-vegetarian Quesadilla

Ordering a Soy Curl-stuffed torta from Los Gorditos – either the truck or the restaurant – has been on my to-do list for years now.  I’ve simply been so easily distracted by burritos and mulitas and the quick journey home to my apartment. Now that I’ve experienced the tremendous satisfaction that was my meal at Quesadilla’s, as pictured below, it could actually happen?!

Vegan Cubana torta with Mexican sausage, soy bacon, soy chicken, lettuce, avocado and beans on crusty bread. It was intense and did not disappoint.

One of the soy meat-sensational tacos on our table.

Counter-style ordering with Michele at Quesadilla.

Next stop, The Boiler Room:

The Boiler Room
2210 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Pizza with Daiya, Upton's seitan bacon, some shredded basil and marinara.

We held a small VVC reunion at The Boiler Room once we learned that deep dish pizza with vegan cheese,  our original intent, was currently nowhere to be found in the city.  The crust was surprisingly thin with an element of flop,  something that saddens my inner New Yorker. I will, however, give kudos to the high quality ingredients and availability of Upton’s seitan products. It takes something special overshadow the d-cheese, in my humble option.

Intelligentsia Coffee
Millennium Park Coffee Bar
53 East Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

Let’s just say that while it was not my first visit to an Intelligentsia location, coffee on a warm day in Silver Lake does not compare to a soy latte on a brisk day in Chicago. I quickly went through the smokey Diablo Dark Roast I brought back home with me.

Soy Latte, Intelligentsia

Cake Balls at Bleeding Heart Bakery

Bleeding Heart Bakery
1916 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

So, I’ve yet to take an official stance on cake balls. Part of me thinks they’re dumb, part of me really enjoyed the moist cake balls at the evidently-starred-on-a-Food-Network-special Bleeding Heart Bakery, part of me wants to throw every round piece of sprinkle-coated cake I see out of a window, and my heart says I should really give Dovetail’s a chance in Portland before I roll my eyes some more.

Yeah, I'd pop more of these into my mouth.

Bleeding Heart: proudly offering preservative-free Srichacha for all your preservative-free spicing needs.

Vegan Milkshakes!  I experienced the joy of two creamy vegan milkshakes in the windy city. I want more.

Chicago Diner
3411 N Halsted
Chicago, IL

&

Whole Foods Lincoln Park’s Diner
1550 N. Kingsbury Street
Chicago, IL 60642

Peanut butter cookie dough milkshake sharing with Janessa at Chicago Diner.

Chicago Diner: Like we went to Chicago without dining here twice! I often suffer from bad-ordering luck, and it happened here with a few plates, despite small plate sharing optimism with Janessa. Over all, I think brunch had the most potential, regret not ordering the Titanic BLT or more with Upton’s seitan (a reoccurring theme of the trip) and have to give my props to their milkshake…and they were out of whipped cream at the time. It was an awesome welcome.

Whole Foods: Team VVC had a momentous shopping excursion at Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, where we sipped sparkling wine as we strolled the aisles picking up goodies and stopping at the Diner. I’m not one of veggie dogs, but my cohorts dug in, while I opted for a different classic:

Cookies and Cream milkshake & hand-cut fries at the Diner. What of it?

I’ll spare the details, but I would not order these appetizers again:

Special: Potato Skins at Chicago Diner. Pass. That ubiquitous hybrid cheese sauce may have seeped into my brain.

BBQ Seitan Wingz and Ranch at Chicago Diner. Pass #2, and #3.

Honorable mentions:

Ebel's Weiss Hefeweizen from Two Brothers Brewing Company at Native Foods. This was light and lovely.

Coming across two Native Foods in Chicago = delightful. I picked up a Twister wrap with blackened chickin’ for dinner on my Denver layover on my way out-of-town.

Dinner with our friend Kelly Peloza, the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, at Native Foods on West Belmont. I ordered a tasty deconstructed Scorpion Burger over quinoa, proving to myself that ordering faux gluten-free is indeed, pretty amusing.

Official VVC cocktail hour at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower.

If only there was a vegan option...

Long live Upton's.

Brunchos & Joni’s Toffalo

From the people who brought you Totsgiving, the admirers of the dude pie, comes a new meal for those indulgent days you feel like a true liberal arts college gourmet: BRUNCHOS.

baked tator tots, vegan sausage gravy, cheesy sauce, tomato, avocado, Frank's Red Hot, baby spinach and pan-fried seitan bacon.

We all learned that it’s the perfect fare for that slightly belated day you watch Groundhog Day on repeat. The trio of greens, cheesy sauce and diced tomato truly bring that element of class to the presentation. The bacon seitan was a combination of these two recipes. I’ve got the slightly spicy and smokey flavor where I want it, but I’m not quite there with the red layer yet. Crispy bits, however, did their job above.

Brunchos…another tator tot revolution.

Joni's Tofallo Wings from Just The Food. Photo by Julia

In other awesome developments, last night’s post we-didn’t-watch-the-superbowl-celebration included Stellas with Julia and a baked version of Joni’s Tofallo wings, served with baby carrots, celery sticks and Spiral Diner Ranch for dipping.  I added fine breadcrumbs, cayenne and garlic powder into the breading, baked at 400F for 20 minutes, flipped, and baked another 18 minutes at 425F, with decent spray oil canola action.

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.