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.

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…