quick thoughts on travel snacks, boring eats & a thank you to Koyo Organic Ramen

I’m currently in between short business trips somewhere calming, but less than bountiful, vegan-option wise.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve had to truly rely on my emergency rations (bars, instant soup, hummus, fruit, peanut butter, go!). I’ve become so spoiled by Portland and trips to cities that offer vegan culinary adventures as a sweet bonus. I’m fully capable and experienced in special requests, but it’s not like that always works out for the best. And quite frankly, I am just depressed by mundane options and iceberg lettuce and people offering me bacon wrapped scallops and not sure which part isn’t vegan.

Long rant shortened because I’ve been vegan and positive for far too long to truly complain, and I am pretty impressed with the expansion of Luna and Clif bar flavors in the past few years. I thought my new favorite would be the Carrot Cake Clif bar, but it was pushed over by the White Chocolate Macadamia – which yup, is vegan and made with cocoa butter!

The simple hero of my vegan convenience foods that didn’t require refrigeration-or-microwaving was Koyo Mushroom Miso Ramen.  Everything tastes better out of a mug, especially when you’re sitting in a hotel room watching Iron Chef. I used to keep this as a back up option at work, and I think I still have an expired package somewhere, but it was since replaced by downtown food carts.

The only actual meal I was able to semi-successfully order? This pizza. Here comes another mini rant.

blondie's pizza

There was a cheese-less foccacia on this pizzeria’s menu, but when I attempted to order it without cheese, it became just that, an attempt.  I was assured that the pizza didn’t hold together without the cheese. Okay. I was able to talk the staff into a cheese-less personal pizza with tomato sauce. I like to think that every time vegans state their requests, courteously, it helps the vegan (menu ordering) cause.  The next vegan or picky person won’t seem so strange and the term enters the establishment. When I passed on the parmesan as it was delivered, I received another curious/judgemental ‘no cheese’ comment. Vegans are just that shocking.

As for the pizza? I did eat some, because I was a) ravenous for a real meal b) paid for it and c) was gracious, but I won’t be returning here later in the week. Flimsy, dried mushrooms, over-cooked, muted black olives, super thin tomato paste-consistency sauce, and just blah crust. Blah!

I’ll pack more fruit and ramen.

Adventures with Daiya: Tofurkey Pizza

The new Tofurkey Pepperoni Pizza, Sampled at Food Fight!

Tofurkey Pizza Samples

My past exerperiences with Daiya have ranged from a tasty, gooey grilled cheese with tomato at Savor Soup House, to uncooked samples at VegFest, to so so home experiments, to the oozing pizza I thought was going to coat my mouth forever and lead to the world’s first drowning by vegan cheese at zpizza in California.  After the first couple tries, it was clear that I was in the minority opinion (but not alone) on this non-dairy cheese, it was taking over the vegan world, and making commercial strides into the ‘real’ world.

I came to accept that progress has been made, vegan cheese that looks and tastes like plastic will one day be behind us, and that goo is here to stay.  That being said, please don’t think all I do is complain about Daiya.  I think it’s fantastic that people are so ridiculously jubilant over a vegan product.

I remain open-minded and my appreciation has developed, which brings me to the latest of my Adventures with Daiya:

In the ever-flowing wave of vegan excitement over the novelty of vegan convience foods, and progress, in the name of nondairy cheese, comes the Tofurkey Pizzas.

I sampled the pizza above, Pepperoni, and the Tofurkey Cheese on Earth Day last weekend at the vegan mini mall.  I liked the Pepperoni, with the thin layer of dispersed Daiya  cheese (both Mozzarella and Cheddar?), mild sauce, and smokey bits (which truly tasted like Tofurkey jerky, but who’s complaining?)

I thought the sole Cheese slice had too much of the greasy cheese, but the Pepperoni distracted me from that with the chewy bits and I can see myself reaching for a slice in the future, if it comes my way.  It’s a little sad that they don’t use traditional rounds, but it’s a freaking vegan frozen pizza, so who cares?

Pros:

  • Vegan, soy-free, and non-hydrogenated!
  • Two popular brands & the possibility of being widely available.
  • Nostalgic, convenience food, with a vegan twist.
  • Thin crust and thin layer of Daiya.
  • pizza!

Cons & Questions:

  • Brand new – have you seen it in stores yet?
  • Over-priced, convenience food – you make the call.
  • The recommended serving size is 1/3 a pizza, is that practical?
  • Daiya is now found at Whole Foods and all over the place – try your hand at a homemade pizza!
  • The Daiya effect aftertaste.  I was telling my friends about this pizza days after trying it, and my mouth was still weirded out.

More convenient Daiya options:

Buy it online, or in Portland at Food Fight!, Whole Foods, and Lamb’s Market.

In other recent vegan cheese adventures:

I really, really like Bacun Cheezly.

cheezly

So much so that I made this pizza with Hot Lips dough, sliced creminis drizzled with olive oil, roasted raab, sliced Granny Smith apples tossed in liquid smoke and balsamic vinegar, Bacun Cheezly, and Mozzarella Teese.

Pre-baked

pre-baked pizza

Photo Essay: boston. vegan. vacation. go.

Just what got checked off the Vegan To-Do List from my Return to Boston post…

See tall buildings? check!

beantown

As for food, let’s start with the No Name.  If there was a flag representing Vegan Boston, this would be on it.  The very first gluten/fake meaty anything I could stomach! (and now require at least once every two years).  Battered gluten, sweet and sour sauce, sesame seeds, broccoli – need I go on?

they call me no name

More from Grasshopper – Tofu & Broccoli

1/100th as exciting as the No Name, I know.

Grasshopper

What best follows Grasshopper?  Pizza! Who’s with me? (Not immediately after! Allicia can attest.)

Slice of the day from Peace ‘O Pie in Allston.  With Daiya, vegan sausage, pine nuts, kalamata olives, and roasted garlic.

Peace O'Pie

I was really content with my experience at the former T.J. Scallywagg’s.  On top of that, this was the first time I tried the Mozzarella Daiya and continued eating.  Super nice staff, great menu, and gluten free options!  Any place that optimizes the pine nuts gets a gold star in my book.

My friends shared this intense looking vegan ham & mushrooms pie:

Peace O'Pie

Tableside jar of Parma.  A shaker of nooch (okay, or Parma) is the true sign of a vegan friendly establishment.

Parma at Peace O'Pie


Soy Latte from Espresso Royale on Newbury Street

Espresso Royale

Featuring Bagel Rising bagels and cream cheeses & tofu cream cheeses!

Below, you can see my first East Coast bagel experience – a real treat with jalapeno tofu cream cheese, roasted red peppers, and sprouts. Thank you to my friend Sarah for the rec, even if I wasn’t badass enough for the vegan Tequila bagel sandwich!

bagel rising

Spike’s Curly Fries

spike's

Dinner at Montien Thai Restaurant in the Theater District.

One of those great, impromptu dining decisions.  I was really pleased that our server didn’t even flinch at the vegan requests.

Montien

Sorry for the flash photos, but what can I say? It was after a bubble gum martini at the IT.

Montien

Rice Noodle something something.

Montien

Back Bay, the old college stomping grounds.

boston

Comm. Ave – tiny little bits of old snow that broke my heart.

Comm Ave

Wired Puppy Coffee on Newbury St.

NEWBURY ST

Espresso from Wired Puppy.  Every now and I give in and decide my stomach is up to the task.  It was worth it.

Wired Coffee

Davis Square & Blue Shirt Cafe

Blue Shirt

My friend Millie and I decided to visit Davis Square for a bit. I have so many fond memories from my first apartment there.

Our original intention, besides wandering memories, was to visit the new, all vegan Pulse Cafe that someone had left me a comment about a couple months ago. Sadly, we were in Davis early on, and the cafe didn’t open until 5pm.
We then browsed the menu at Diesel Cafe and were both bummed that the most exciting vegan option being a hummus plate, and went corner the corner to Blue Shirt for lunch. The cafe had expanded since my days of running in for a wrap with tofu to quickly eat on the T to class or work downtown, and it at least seemed like their vegan options had as well.  There were a few more mentions of tofu on the menu, but bizarrely, it’s not that they weren’t vegan, because I comprehend that honey and eggs are utilized, but that there wasn’t a vegan-izable version of a couple of these options. Both Millie and I found our wraps unexciting, which is extra sad considering that a) we have just flown in that morning and were ravenous, and b) we’re both excitable people!

A Disappointed Millieship

millie! with a boring wrap.

Her Disappointing Curry Wrap

wrap

My Disappointing Wrap.  I rarely don’t remember what something was, but this…huh?

wrap 2

Expanded Blue Shirt Cafe

blue shirt

Ah, Chinatown.  I remember when I found you terrifyingly sketchy to walk through at night as a college freshman.  How things change. This is where the original Buddha’s Delight was. I did go for lunch at My Thai, and have a review in the works.

Chinatown, Boston

Soy Latte from Boston Common Coffee Co. in Downtown Crossing. News to me. I have to say that it doesn’t look like much, but it was decent.

soy latte

Let’s head to Kendall Square. When I lived in the area, I was constantly paranoid of secret helicopter pads and underground labs blowing up on the MIT campus.

jess 032

My reason for the venture to Kendall – scoping out the Clover Food Labs food cart. It was nearby the relocated Olive Tree cart, which was formerly my staple Jerusalem cart (and restaurant). I was in college, so my diet was supposed to consist of $3 falafel wraps.  C

jess 033

Heading down to Central Square – just because it’s fun, I will mention again how much I used to love Pu Pu Hot Pot, their free delivery, and Spicy Tofu and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce.  And again, did you see their name?

Central Square

The highlight of my time in Central Square, or Cambridge, for that matter,my first exposure to Leslie and the Lys!  Wow. Wow. Wow. WOW.

leslie

Another highlight? 1369 Coffee House.  So reliable!

jess 015

Vanilla Soy Latte.  Vanilla = Vacation.

Soy Latte from 1369

Next up, NYC.

new teese on pizza

The vegan cheese wars are fascinating, ridiculous, and full of hyped out opinions.

Every now and then, something special comes along, making its way amongst all the passable, or please-pass non-dairy alternatives. Follow Your Heart, Daiya, Teese,  and Cheezly are all brands that have gained notoriety in the vegan community in recent years.

If you’re already rolling your eyes and agreeing with the first statement, stop reading now, because I’m clearly about to wade into the waters.

If you agree, and yet, like me, you can’t resist trying each new one as soon as you can, please, continue.  It primarily boils down to sheer curiosity – Which one is the best? Which one will make your life that much easier?  Which is actually worth buying? Which one will make your pizza look real? We want to know!

Either way, I’m just posting photos of a pizza that some dear friends and I put together, my contribution being the new formula of Mozzarella Teese that some vegan bloggers were sent a sample of:

Pizza with Mozzarella Teese, Marinara by Liz, Roasted Butternut Puree by Bram, Handmade dough by Chelsea, and sliced mushrooms.

new teese

Flavor-wise, I didn’t notice a huge difference.

I admit – I’ve been a fan of Teese since it premiered in 2008. I find it similar to Follow Your Heart Mozzarella, but tastier and a tad saltier. Formerly, Teese Mozzerella used to do the pooling melt thing, but I didn’t see any of that this time.

It was overall, creamier, from the shredding to the softening.  Our dough was beginning to overcook, or else I think a few more minutes would have led to more of the sought-after ‘melting’ achievement vegans dream of every single night.

I have some more left, so I’m going to try again on another pizza, and likely, a panini.  I really like the idea of an insane pizza with a little bit of Cheelzy, the new Teese, and sauteed raab.

I hope at least one of my Daiya-happy friends chimes in with their opinion here (pssst, Chelsea)!

Over all, I’m pleased with it!  I think it’s scary to be anyone but Daiya in the vegan cheese world lately, but I’d prefer it on pizza any day.  Teese is making an effort – and perhaps they can also offer cute bags of shredded soy dairy, because I’d be all over that.

More Pizza.

new teeeeeeeeeeese

Close up:

new teese close up

Check out the slightly cooled look:

teese

Thank you, Chicago Soy Dairy!

In other vegan cheese news:

Anyone else tried it yet?

Check out the new labels coming soon here!

Return to Boston, MA: My Vegan To Do List

The Vegan Strip in Allstron: Grasshopper, Peace O’Pie and Deep Ellum

vegan strip in allston

Prior to my return to Boston in February, I engaged in my normal vegan research:  googling “new vegan boston”, updating my facebook status with vacation countdowns, trying to make sense of reviews on Yelp, and inquiring with the best on a PPK thread.  A huge list of maybes was formed, with less than 4 days to make it happen…

These were the must-gos (and eats):

  • Grasshopper of course! My bad memories of this place are quite behind me.
  • Grezzo: upscale raw dining in the North End – crossed off because I went last Spring & I was on something of a budget.
  • Red Lentil – newer vegetarian restaurant in Watertown – I didn’t go, but my travel partner, Millie, raved about it and a cauliflower dish…
  • Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown- alas, I’ve yet to go.
  • Veggie dog and curly fries at Spike’s – curly fries, check!
  • My Thai Vegan Café (old Buddha’s Delight location, upstairs) – I’m working on a separate, small travel review for Stumptown Vegans. I miss Buddha’s.
  • Veggie Planet in Harvard Square – because I’ve been so many times & it wasn’t pulling me back on this trip.
  • Vegan ice cream and baked goods at Allston Café (formerly Herrell’s)
  • Wheeler’s Ice Cream – I returned for my second visit here, and…they weren’t open.  I’ve heard so many stories like this.  There were boxes all around the front room. Please post hours and keep to them?
  • Bagel Rising bagels – jalapeno tofu cream cheese & veggies on a bagel at Espresso Royale - and a fantastic soy latte.

Newer Recommendations:

  • Pizza at Peace O’Pie (old TJ Scallywag’s location)
    • And bringing said pizza into the glorious Model Café next door (if you haven’t been, or you have, you know I mean that fondly, but sarcastically).
    • Consider me a fan after my slice of the day!
  • Deep Ellum bar – the vegan offerings intrigued me, and the cocktails – even more so!
    • I had an El Diablo margarita with chili-infused agave. I wanted to sip it all night.
  • Clover Food Lab – vegetarian cart in Kendall Square/MIT – I sought this cart out for a meal, but sadly, they only had oatmeal available at the time for vegans, so I passed.
    • The vegan lunch options seemed more inviting – really nice staff working.
  • Jack and the Bean Bowl – vegetarian cart in Copley Square – wasn’t open on the weekends when I checked.
  • The Pulse Café in Davis Square – another sadface! stopped by with Millie for lunch, learned it didn’t open till 5.  A very disappointing meal followed nearby.

Also on my To-Do’s:

  • Great soy lattes – check! at 1369 in Central & Espresso Royale on Newbury
  • Leslie and the Lys at TT the Bear’s – Millie convinced me to go to this.  I took her word on it – and was AMAZED.
  • The Middle East – tends to be a regular stop on my trips, but not this time.
  • Cheap falafel – technically happened at Olive Tree, but it was so dry and everything else in the wrap was so bland. I don’t forget how blah vegetables can be around Boston.
    • particularly sad because I used to frequent their cart (or the previous owner’s) on a much-too-regular basis in Kendall Square
    • their bathroom situation was hilarious…leave the front door, walk literally around the block till you have the big green door in the back, and find the bathroom with the broken light inside.
  • Thai cuisine - surprise dinner at Montien in the Theater District – fantastic!
  • Harvest Coop – I browsed and picked up a fair trade coffee at Clear Conscious Cafe
  • Sam Adams beer – because it’s Boston? in any case, it didn’t happen this time. FYI, according to Barnivore, all their beers are vegan except for the honey porter and cherry wheat.
  • Karaoke - Do Re Mi almost happened, but it wasn’t meant to be…
  • Martinis with Maria – bubble gum martini, check
  • Wandering Davis Square
  • Frolicking in snow – there was some snow on the ground, but not enough to keep the smile on my face.

What actually happened?

I spent a few days in Boston just last May, so I didn’t have to jam it all in.  My primary reasons for going were snow, friends, and spending a few days of my much-needed vacation in a major city I was familiar with.  I attended Emerson College in Boston in the early 2000s (and I’m admitting it, Maria)! I’ve lived in historic buildings downtown, a beautiful old house in Davis Square, a craphole in Mission Hill and an ever bigger craphole in East Cambridge between Central and Kendall Squares. It’s the city I discovered my veganism, went to my first vegetarian restaurant (then Buddha’s Delight, originally upstairs) and started almost becoming an adult. And then I ran away to Portland, of course.

Food cart row at MIT – Clover is the furthest

jess 033

The No Name at Grasshopper

they call me no name

Slice of the day at Peace O’Pie with kalamata olives & vegan sausage

Peace O'Pie

Check back for more of the riveting, snow-less photo tour.

Adventures with Daiya: zpizza, Quesadilla & Native Bowl

Thank You, zpizza.
daiya

The first time I tried Daiya, I was in Laguna Beach, CA and had a pizza delivered by zpizza, pictured above. I was in such dislike with this goo on soft crust that I thought I was being tricked with soy cheese with casein.  This new soy-free vegan cheese had just arrived on the scene at Food Fight! in Portland days before, and across the vegan internet, the hype was through the roof.  And it didn’t come across like hype, there seemed no doubt that this vegan cheese was revolutionary.  New and old vegan cheese eaters seemed to be ridiculously impressed.

It’s been released across the country and added to menus like no vegan cheese before it.  In Portland, Mississippi Pizza, Savor Soup House cart, Whiffies (in a vegan meatball pie!) and Native Bowl are all using it so far.

There’s no tricking to melting it.  It does what it’s supposed to. It comes in two flavors, Italian blend and Cheddar style, and I’ve accepted that it’s the new king of the vegan world. Does that mean I have to like it?  Do I simply dislike it? Is it too realistic, channeling too much Velveeta (thanks Maeve, for that)?

On my first post about Daiya, after grilled cheese trials at home and from Savor Soup House, I mentioned my mixed feelings.  On one hand, this is a melty, available vegan cheese making waves and getting real respect (restaurants, consumers and bloggers); on the other, there’s something about the cloying, stick to the roof of your mouth texture and flavor it gets when melted that rubs my taste buds the wrong way. Yet, I actually liked it raw at VegFest.

Onto the adventures.

Quesadilla with Spicy Pinto Bean Spread and Italian Daiya

daiya quesadilla

I was utterly impressed with the melt action! This was so easy and I wanted to like it. Sadly, couldn’t manage more than two bites.  Is there cilantro in the cheese that’s activated once it’s melted?  I’m joking, sorta.

Lunch from Native Bowl in the Mississippi Marketplace, featuring a grilled cheese with Cheddar Daiya, housemade cashew cheese, seitan  and jalapenos.

Native Bowl

This sandwich rocked the house, but I think I could have easily lived without the Daiya: it’s didn’t capture everything in a melty embrace, and that was OKAY! The other ingredients, fine, working with the Daiya, made for an excellent, unforgettable sandwich.  And pickles! Cookie! Love, love Native Bowl.

Final Thoughts:

When I told people about the zpizza experience, I was told a couple tips repeatedly – there was too much cheese and there needed to be more toppings, and that I should try it again in a sandwich.

So, because I don’t want to be the crazy official hater, or called names and kicked out of veganism, and every so often I can bear and appreciate it, I’m trying to think of this new product like an acquired taste and I’m welcoming more tips! Vegans will never live without the gooey cheese sensation again – you’ll tell the next generation stories about this! The pre-Daiya era.

And if you’re a hater, well come here for a hug, because it’s taking over.