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
There’s sometimes a phrase you find yourself using against your better judgement. You find it entering your conversations. It’s suddenly there. You may become aware, and attempt to phase it out and substitute some other vocabulary (see: the contemporary, multi-generational … Continue reading
In the past six months, Veggie Grill has opened the first of four restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, and three are non-surprisingly in the Portland metro area. Our city may be considered a bubble, but if this bubble is representative of … Continue reading
Somehow, someway, I didn’t make it out to A.N.D. Cafe, one of Portland’s newer vegetarian spots, until last month. When it comes to brunch, which is currently the main focus at the all-vegetarian and just-as-vegan-friendly spot on East Burnside & … Continue reading
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
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.
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.
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.
Once again, more glorious Veggie Grill Feasting ™ lays ahead…
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.
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!
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.
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.
For a legitimate lunch, we stopped by vegan food cart-turned-adorable dinerette, 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.
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.
Cowabunga, Eugene – til we meet again.
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.
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
Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance
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.
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.
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
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.
Up ahead, a thankfully short week ahead capped off with a visit from my sister from NYC, bagels in tow.
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):
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
Disclaimer: All dishes were complimentary at the pre-opening.
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.
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.
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.