Dinners Resume (Life before and after VVC2013)

Bagelwich

After the first Con in 2011, I returned to my delusional day job and vowed that if I could help put together something so seemingly epic, I wouldn’t be in the same place next time around, grumbling and devoting so much time to things that didn’t matter to me. I’m definitely not Continue reading

From the PPK Test Kitchen: Isa Does It Tester Photos

Isa Does It cover

Mission, complete!  Weeknight dinners…all set. No excuses. Testing for Isa Does It, Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s ode to weeknight wonders, has ended, which is sad news for me, but good news for you! This brand spankin’ new book is officially due out … Continue reading

Austin Cocktail Round-Up

Alma Blanca: habanero-infused siembra azul blanco, ginger liqueur, agave nectar, pineapple juice, fresh corn, hoja de hierba santa, hibiscus-rose-infused salt rim

Tales of the Texas VegFest (starring jaw-dropping vegan funnel cakes, tacos, Capital City goodies, Ethiopian stews and more) this past weekend are still rocking the vegan internet, so consider me crazy jealous – and in taco withdrawal. That’s certainly another … Continue reading

Same City Field Trip: Portland’s Better Living Show & Vegan Village

Check. (The original caption: Fast forward two months, and these vanilla beans, cacao nibs and golden rum will be chocolate liqueur)

What better time to start putting together a recap about a visit to the Better Living Home and Garden Show than a Boltbus with shaky but semi-reliant WiFi out-of-town? I’m now back home and just last night, started a batch of … Continue reading

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.

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.