31 Hours and Three Lattes: A Seattle Photo Essay

Last month, team VVC took a quick trip to Seattle.  It basically went like this: Soy lattes were sipped. Pickle chips were consumed. Vegan treats were sought out. Locations were visited. It was business as usual.

One of my first stops: a mug of house Caffé Vita & the vegan chocolate cupcake at Cupcake Royale

What clearly, caught my attention. I must admit, with a sign like this, I was expecting more than one vegan option, but it was good, albeit crumbly.

Once I arrived in the U District, I stopped at Trabant for a soy latte.  

Thanks, Rayray.

For brunch, I arrived early and revisited Plum. I had enjoyed the spicy mac & yeast, years ago, but overall, was left with a really greasy feeling in my stomach, and I’m not usually one to say such a thing.

The perplexingly plated Fresh Tofu Benedict – with tender, savoury seitan unlike anything I’ve had before (making me want to try it in pho), paired with a pomegranate mimosa.

droid photo, whoa-oh

I’m pleased that I tried this – and it was the most expensive item on the menu, but I would opt to try some of their fancy pancakes next time. I’m glad I dined solo and no one was there to witness the constant state of distress I experienced with each bite.

Dinner time, I met up with team VVC for hugs and cocktails at a seemingly mandatory stop on my past few Seattle visits: the Highline.

Sometimes I’m thrilled with my food, sometimes I’m near-terrified. This time, my long-awaited pickle chips were served indoors, remained crispy and warm for an impressive amount of time, and I was ranch-dipping and stoked. Yeah, they were salty and battered and dill-y and awesome.

The TLT. Classic, but nothing on D.C. Veg’s new TLT-on-a-sub-roll creation.

We stayed in a budget hotel outside of the U-District, which meant we somehow found ourselves across the street at the Ram for some type of manic late night happy hour with $3 pineapple  & whipped cream vodka cocktails.

Michele and I went with the upside-down pineapple drop, with Vanilla Stoli & Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka; Janessa went with a microbrew

Breakfast time at Herkimore: Mighty-O doughnut & soy latte. Ah.

Naturally, we picked up some goodies at Sidecar.

Our sight-seeing including a visit to Pike Place Market and Cinnamon Works.

The elusive Michele picks up a cookie.

One day, I will actually take note of whose art this is at Bang Bang. Because I want it on my walls. All of them.

I did manage to grab a plate of their smokey mac & cheese for lunch, while my silly cohorts ate bagels or something. I was content!

Smokey Mac & Cheese  with a side of toast, Bang Bang Cafe 

We had a meeting at the Seattle Public Library for our VVC Tech Seminar in the fall.

Janessa doing some undercover location scouting.

Supplemental caffeination via an iced Americano with soymilk at Victrola Coffee

Spiked refreshment, courtesy of a jalapeño pomegranate margarita at Bimbos Cantina

It may not have had that spice the name promised, but there was green hot sauce on the table – and a photo booth downstairs.

For dinner, we were joined by our friends Dawn and Anika at another Seattle vegan favorite, Teapot Vegetarian House. I hadn’t been in years, and it was a great time.

Our table somehow fit not one, but two of these BoBo Platters

Michele may have used these bamboo skewers as defensive weapons throughout the meal.

Our table also shared Beef & Broccoli, Vietnamese Crispy Fried Noodles – a unique dish I’d been craving since 2007, and a Ginger Soy Chicken special.

No photos of the noodles, but let me add that I’ve been googling them sporadically since first trying them, and have never seen anything close!

Mandarin Crispy Tofu

Lastly, souvenirs.

The espresso blend was freshly roasted and on sale for $5. Heck, yes. Cue cold pressing.

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.

Raw Chocolate with De-hydrated – Modern Living Cuisine

It’s now been one month and one week of fresh young coconut withdrawals, and I’ve finally stopped tearing up as I glance at the $2.99 and up,  flown-across-the-globe selections around town. It hasn’t been easy (well, the glaring price helps), but somehow, I keep my wallet in my bag. Recently, I caught myself staring at coconut photos in my Flickr and slowly realized, it’s beyond time I shared some of my winter vacation photos from SE Asia. And being that it’s the day after eat-chocolate-in-bed day, I finally knew where to begin. 

Let me explain: during my travels, I attended three very different culinary classes: a vegetarian cooking class at Peace Cafe in Siem Reap, May Kaidee’s Cooking School in Bangkok, and Raw Chocolate Prep by De-Hydraded Modern Living Cuisine. I’ll get to the first two classes eventually, because I really want to tell the tale of my love affair with Cambodian Amok and so on, but for now, let me photo document some raw chocolate creations. The class was taught my friend, the charming Jennifer M. Robertson, who I’d met at Vida Vegan Con back in August. Ah, the VVC connection!  Jen showed our class how to make a Thai-spiced chocolate smoothie, a rich chocolate torte with a well-textured coconut macadamia crust, assorted raw chocolate truffles, decadent bite-sized chocolate candies with a “royal” garnish, and be still my heart, young coconut-based dark chocolate ice cream with a candied cardamom-pistachio topping. Nearly everything used was organic, all dishes were prepared from scratch, and generous samples were provided of everything.

First up, a Thai-spiced chocolate smoothie with a base of frozen bananas and fantastic heat from local, organic chili peppers. When you ask a class in Thailand if they want their smoothie “spicy”, the response is going to be enthusiastically positive.

Looking back on this photo, I remind myself to breathe.

Starting the ice cream process

Ingredient display

For the tart crust.

Prepared raw macadamia and coconut tart crusts. This simply set for a short period of time before filling.

Raw cacao butter based truffles + green tea powder

Rollin’

Raw lucuma powder – so intriguing!

For the chocolate candies. The gold leaves are of a Buddhist design.

Set & adorned (these are clearly my jet-lagged examples)

Cacao nibs, crushed nuts and candied cardamom-pistachios: all raw toppings for the following treat…

Everything I sampled (damn new cashew allergy!) was so lovely, but the young coconut-based dark chocolate ice cream was tops and one of the most memorable flavors of my vacation.

My decorated tart, with dark chocolate mousse and torn flower petals

 

Jen takes her classes and retreats around the world. Check out the De-hydrated facebook for regular updates.

Steamed Soy

I remain a broken record these last few posts.  Reflections on my Southeast Asian travels, this past week’s VVC scouting trip to Chicago, and a Portland vegan nacho report (East End, Veggie Grill, etc.) are bound to come. I’m slowly compiling a list of my most memorable travel meals, and have been trying to recreate a few, as well. Khao Soi Noodles, Young Coconut Curry, Tom Yam, Tofu Larb and a ‘Wedding Dip’ in Siem Reap are all encouraging visits to Fubonn and eyerolls to food cart options.  I’m now back in town for a few weeks solid, at the least, and caffeination has been at my side once I was able to stomach it in Portland once more…

From this weekend: cup of coffee, Chicago Diner 

Equal Exchange beans & sugar

This past Autumn: Soy Cappucino, Cloud Seven Cafe 

Intelligentsia

Just yesterday: Soy Cappucino [f] & Soy Latte [r], Fresh Pot downtown 

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

The we’re-waiting-for-Sizzle Pie-to-open-for-brunch-pizza Soy Cappucino, Grendel’s Coffee House

Hilltribe coffee & steamed soy milk, Blue Diamond in Chiang Mai

The post Montavilla Farmers Market stop: Soy Latte, Bipartisan Cafe

Soy Latte, Public Domain Coffee 

PD/Coffee Bean International

 Soy Latte, Aliviar Coffeehouse

Maeve and I stopped here before the screening of My Own Private River with Gus Van Sandt and James Franco at the Hollywood Theater. Jitters. Swooning.

Soy Latte, Coffee Division 

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Lastly: more caffeination in Chicago. I picked up a pound of El Diablo Dark Roast from Intelligentsia’s Millennium Park Coffeebar on Monday.

Soy Latte, Intelligentsia in Millennium Park