Vegan Offerings for Portland Dining Month 2014

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It’s a mesmerizing time to be tasting one’s way through vegan Portland as I tiptoe back into the vegan dining scene for Portland Dining Month. Continue reading

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

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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

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

Veggie Grill Double Feature

It makes sense that while I’ve been overwhelmed with the rest of my life lately, the one matter I’ve somehow made time to post about, is the one topic that vegan Portland is jumping up and down about: the downtown opening of our very own Veggie Grill.

It’s the growing chain that offers more than just novelty – Veggie Grill boasts the delicious normalization of vegan food in mainstream America.

Most importantly, the Veggie Grill in legitimate downtown Portland is NOW OPEN. The sneak peaks were held last week, and the very grand opening just happens to be today, June 6th, 2012. As usual, the location is shiny and new and sending countless people home with bellies full of soy chicken burgers and kale every single day. That’s what you really need to know.

Mac-N-Cheese and much more ahead…

I would say I became a Veggie Grill fanatic back in January, when sure, they invited myself and a few other Portland area food bloggers for a weekend tasting event down in Los Angeles. I had stopped by for a meal here and there on past visits to the area, and I enjoyed it, but the devotion was official while sampling nearly every thing they offered, including knife & fork items that were recently developed, while meeting the founders and head chefs. I had returned from a month-long escapade to Southeast Asia mere days before, and looking back, I realize their American vegan cuisine could not have come into my life at a better time. I remember people asking me if there was anything I had missed, vegan wise, while spending a month expanding my life and culinary horizons, and the only thing that came to mind was nooch sauce and seitan tenders. Cue nachos. Cue tenders.

Most recently, I’ve had the pleasure – the tasty, tasty pleasure, of attending two Veggie Grill events in the past couple of weeks.

Let’s start with the most recent, the sneak peek of the much-awaited downtown Portland locale on SW Taylor & 5th.

finally.

Janessa’s Thai Chickin’ Salad

Without a doubt, my new favorite item is the B-Wing Salad, with Buffalo glazed wings and creamy ranch dressing.


All Hail Kale Salad, Bayou Chickin’ Sandwich. All Veggie Grill chickin’ is a Gardein-ish substance, which trust me, tastes way better than that sounds.


Near definitive Veggie Grill Feasting ™


The gluten-free Urban Plate, featuring an entire portobello mushroom on top of tempeh and caramelized onions.


Uptown Nachos: an easy favorite

Veggie Grill offers both beer and root beer


A week or two before the downtown opening, Michele, Janessa and myself traveled all the way to Beaverton for a new menu items tasting. The things we do for Veggie Grill access! We were joined by Kristin, from Beaverton-based blog Our Ordinary Life, for a family style debut of B-wing Salad, VG Rollers, the Blackened Chickin’ Plate, “Crab” Cakes and a couple of other dishes we’d been fortunate enough to have a sneak peek of back in January. Bring it on.

Behold, a sign of great hope in the suburbs. How much better is this than a TGI Friday’s or a Subway?!? At least 200x.


On-wards.


You’ve got to be kidding me.

Serious preparation

Once again, more glorious Veggie Grill Feasting ™ lays ahead…

My adorable VVC cohorts and fellow Veggie Grill enthusiasts, Michele & Janessa. Appropriately hiding behind a menu.

Another brand new item: VG Roller, spicy tortilla bites with blackened chickin’, cabbage & zesty Santa Fe spread.

Also new, the “Crab” Cake with tartar sauce. Intriguingly chickin’ of the sea-like.

Time to bring on the kale – the Blackened Chickin’ Plate, one of the newer homestyle, fork & knife  plates on the menu.

Instant classic?  The Crispy Chickin’ Plate with cauliflower mashed potatoes and porcini gravy. Don’t you just want to cover it in nooch?

Another encore: The Urban Plate

I can’t get enough! This was first time trying the B-Wing Salad. I even brought one home for my girlfriend. She’s had it twice new, and declares it “the best thing on the menu. Obviously”. I concur.

Ed Casey insisted we try their staff-inspired Mac-N-Cheese paired with the bonus spoonfuls of basil & garlic pomodoro and pesto. I’m glad that Michele was there to remind me about my silly little nut allergy and I stuck to the pomodoro with my mac – delish!

VGF™ in progress

Michele liked the crab cake so much she went for a full order. Nice.

Ah, dessert. The new chocolate pudding parfait awaits.

Tah dah! Digesting with Janessa.

Hold up, carrot cake.

Til we meet again, Veggie Grill!

As in…tonight, for dinner.

Full disclaimer: All dishes featured in this post were courtesy of Veggie Grill.

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

Long Weekending: Home-Cooking, Test Kitchen, Bay Leaf & BOH

I had a wonderful long weekend. It marked the first time since November I’ve truly had a free weekend to cook and bake in a relaxed manner, in addition to a couple of swell meals out of the house. There was no special occasion, I wasn’t prepping for a dinner party or the week ahead, I was simply in my kitchen. No rush required.

Here’s the weekend, foodwise, including the casual, pasta from Isa’s latest PPK test kitchen, a return to Bay Leaf, cookies, and the first BOH dinner.

CTate's Queso. This was the original version of the Food For Lovers queso. It's delicious. Do a google search for "ctate's queso" and you'll come across the recipe.

If all I eat are quinoa and black bean bowls covered with queso for the next week, it’s fine by me.

The following pasta meal is a dish from Isa’s latest book in progress, with the working title, “Isa Does It”.  I skipped the toasted walnuts (dang you, potential allergy woes) and topped it with roasted sunflower seeds. I’ve been hooked lately.

Olive Angel Hair with Seared Brussel Sprouts

testing, testing

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance

note to self: look into a tablecloth you actually fancy

From lunch at Bay Leaf. I hadn’t been in quite some time, and my girlfriend had never. Their hot and sour soup and Sizzling Tofu is my go-to meal when I’m sick.

Springrolls

ah, delightful

Sometimes it’s nice to dine somewhere where the dishes stay the same, time after time.  It’s  even nicer to say that place is a vegetarian restaurant (somewhat) down the street.

Veggies Delight Noodle aka lo mein

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The Dong Po Tofu lunch special and my obvious adjustment to a droid.

Most of the time, I crave variety in my dishes, and I choose to dine out because I desire the experience of new dishes, different cuisines, creative dining, interesting textures – everything I don’t, and probably can’t – try in my own little kitchen.

Dry Rosé, Winter’s Hill, Portobello’s kitchen

don't mind me, I'm a cellphone pic on a candlelit table...

Over the weekend, I was invited to attend the first BOH dinner at Portobello Vegan Trattoria, which never stopped impressing, course by course. It started with a miniature potato pancake smaller than my thumb, moved onto a kimchi and kumquat (among other things) adorned green onion pancake, on-wards to beet and pinenut-filled ravioli with blood orange sauce and moscatel syrup (and more), two more stunning courses (both on the plate and in my mouth), and this rarely ever happens with me, but my favorite of them all, if you forced me to pick, was the finale: a miniature slice of sweet potato bourbon pie, topped with housemade coconut ice cream and caramel sauce. Yeah. The full menu is on the facebook.

Of course, I was already a big fan of Portland’s vegan Italian spot and moan about gnocchi pretty much whenever it’s mentioned, but this experience was damn avant-garde. Bear with my phone photos, and head over to their facebook page for a full album of much higher quality.

don't mind me, I'm another cellphone pic on a candlelit table...

Up ahead, a thankfully short week ahead capped off with a visit from my sister from  NYC, bagels in tow.

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.