Thursday, July 30, 2015


I am happy to be back in the valley, despite the hot, humid weather we are experiencing at the moment.  That being said, I loved the last part of my trip in Portland, OR - there is so much good vegan food there!  I could have been there for two weeks and not tried all of the vegan restaurants.  So I had to go with a sampling, which I will review below.

We arrived at our vegan bed and breakfast, the Cherokee Rose Inn, on Sunday afternoon.  After relaxing for a couple of hours on their covered front porch, complete with wooden swing, we walked around the corner to the Sweet Hereafter.  This vegan bar features drafts from many local breweries, along with a great selection of food.  We started with an order of chips and salsa to accompany our beers, an IPA from Washington for me.  For dinner, we both ordered the veggie burger on a pretzel bun - amazing!  We both opted for the coconut kale as a side, which was an excellent decision; kale sauteed with coconut milk, what could be better than that?

On Monday morning, we were treated to a delicious vegan breakfast at our B&B - fresh fruit, soy sausage, and French toast.  We had to stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, of course, so I had a chocolate frosted for my breakfast dessert.  After a couple of hours of browsing at Powell's, we were ready for lunch, so we headed to the food trucks.  We both decided on the Georgian food truck and got a sample of all of their vegan options - dumplings filled with delicious mushrooms; bread stuffed with bean paste; eggplant and walnut rolls; and cucumber and tomato salad with walnut dressing.  My favorite was the dumplings, which you hold upside-down, take a bite, and slurp out the filling so as not to make a mess.

For dinner, we headed to Blossoming Lotus, a vegan restaurant with many Asian offerings mixed with options from many other countries as well.  We started with the Bruschetta with almond ricotta - amazing!  The couple sitting across from us had food envy when it arrived.  For my entree, I went with the Bibimbap, which can be difficult to find vegan.  This version had soy curls, veggies, roasted garlic aioli slaw, pickles, hot sauce, and sesame seeds.  Though very different from the traditional Korean version, it was good.  Unfortunately, I was so full from the starter that I could only eat half of the bowl.  Laura got the burger with cashew brie, which she said was very good.

Tuesday morning's breakfast was fresh fruit, tofu scramble, potatoes, and biscuits.  We skipped the donut dessert and saved our appetites for Sizzle Pie, which is not a vegan restaurant, but always has two to three vegan options.  We went for the slice and salad combo, both of us deciding to try the pie with caramelized onion topping instead of cheese.  It was excellent, very different from your usual pizza, but very tasty.  The salad provided a good balance to make the lunch a bit healthier, especially since we went to Back to Eden for ice cream dessert (where I got mint chocolate chip, of course).

On Tuesday afternoon we learned that our fellow B&B guests, Bethany and Lacey, were also planning to go to Portobello for dinner that night.  So we all walked there together and asked if we could be seated together, even though we had separate reservations.  They were very accommodating, and we were able to sit together.  This proved to be a good decision, first and foremost because they are great company, but also because we got to try many more dishes!  We started with the cheese plate, which featured two of Miyoko's cheeses and three of the local cheeses from Vtopia.  They were all tasty, but my favorite was the caramelized onion cheese from Vtopia.  However, Miyoko's smoky option was a close second.

For dinner, we decided to share four plates.  The kale Caesar salad was excellent and not too creamy, which I appreciated.  The crispy eggplant, recommended by our waitress, was fabulous - cooked perfectly and topped with greens.  My entree choice was the gnocchi, which is hard to find vegan, and it did not disappoint.  We also tried the ravioli, also difficult to find vegan, and it was delicious.

And of course, we needed to try some desserts!  After much speculation, we chose the peppermint chocolate cake (which had a fancier name that I can't remember), which tasted like an amazingly delicious Peppermint Patty.  The fried apple pie had more fried dough than apple, but that was okay with me!  The bourbon pecan ice cream it was served with was out of this world.  Portobello provided an excellent end to my stay in Portland!
And now I must say that I am happy to be home.  I am limiting my travels for awhile, with the possible exception of the Farm Sanctuary hoedown in a couple of weeks (where the food will be amazing!).  But for the time being, I am going to enjoy NoHo.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Seattle, continued

Oh my, Seattle has some tasty vegan food!  On Thursday night, we met Deb and Scott at El Borracho for some Mexican food before the Amazon 20th birthday concert.  They were running late due to Seattle's lovely traffic, so we enjoyed some delicious guac and beers while we waited.  El Borracho has a small vegan section on their menu, and Laura and I each tried the three different vegan tacos - one with mushrooms, one with soy chorizo, and one with poblano peppers.  They were small, but tasty!

On Friday morning we tried the Wayward Vegan Cafe for breakfast.  It is a funky cafe with a very extensive menu; it was hard to choose a meal!  I finally settled on the tofuevos rancheros, which was wonderful!  Tofu scramble with black beans and avocados on top of a corn tortilla, finished off with sour cream.  The potatoes were also delicious.  I tried a bite of Laura's potato pancakes, which were also quite tasty.

On Saturday night we were able to score a reservation at Sutra.  I am so happy we were able to get in!  Sutra is set up like a supper club, with one seating and a prix fixe menu.  Before dinner was served, the chef came out to tell us about each of the courses.  The first two courses were served together - a roasted cauliflower soup which was scrumptious and an arugula cucumber salad with smoked caperberries and candied sunflower seeds with hyssop-hempseed dressing - yum!

Course three was a shiso-brandy wine tomato topped with the most delicious roasted maitake mushrooms.  Also included were cider braised fennel and lemongrass fingerling potatoes along with pomegranite molasses, toasted sesame seeds, and microgreens.

The fourth course featured quinoa-cashew cheese stuffed Aneheim chiles with Beluga lentils, sauteed Spigarello, and a roasted garlic-saffron-lime basil tomato sauce.  After the soup, this was definitely my favorite course!  Not too spicy, but full of intense flavor.

Finally, dessert - a small but richly delicious piece of raw cacao-cardamom fudge topped with whipped vanilla coconut cream and wild huckleberry sauce.  It was small but completely satisfying!

We wanted to try one last place before leaving Seattle, Cafe Flora, so we went for brunch before heading to Portland.  I have been here for dinner, but not brunch, so I was excited to check out the menu.  We started by sharing a sinfully decadent vegan cinnamon roll.

For my actual breakfast, I had the vegan summer scramble with tofu, mushrooms, and summer squash.  It was definitely the best vegan scramble I have had on this trip so far!  It was also served with roasted potatoes, which were perfectly seasoned and cooked.  Cafe Flora was a great way to end some excellent Seattle eating.

And now, Portland, the last stop on my journey, where there are way too many vegan restaurants and not enough time.  Where to go first?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Spokane and Seattle

We have made it to the west coast and we are out of the vegan food desert!  We did okay in Montana and Wyoming, but I will be happy to not have to eat at Subway again for awhile.  My saving grace was in Columbus, MT where there was a cute little coffee hut across the street from our hotel.  They had real coffee (I had been drinking the Bud Light of coffees for the past few days from our hotel) and non-dairy smoothies.  They even give an animal cracker with their coffee!

We finally made it to Spokane late Tuesday afternoon, where there are multiple vegan options.  Our first choice for dinner was Mizuna, but unfortunately they were closed because they were filming a Mackelmore video on the street and were using the restaurant as their base.  Thank goodness for Happy Cow; we quickly decided to try Saranac Public House.  It turned out to be an excellent choice!  They had a great selection of local beers and many vegan options on their menu.  We started with the baked pretzels, which came with a very spicy mustard and vegan cheese.  For our entrees, we ordered the vegan mac and cheese and the Thai bowl with peanut sauce and coconut rice.  Everything was delicious!  The peanut sauce was perfectly spicy, and the mac and cheese was one of the best vegan versions I have tried.  Thank you, Happy Cow!  (and Mackelmore, who incidentally, we will be seeing tonight at Amazon's 20th anniversary celebration).

On Wednesday morning, we walked to Boots Cafe, which is all vegan!!  They had many pastry choices, but I opted for the pumpkin waffles (a little early in the season, I know!).  They were served with a delicious cinnamon butter, which I opted for as my only topping, leaving the fake "maple syrup" aside.  The waffle was outstanding!  I tried Laura's muffin and coffee cake, which were okay, and her rice pudding, which was pretty yummy.  I also got a breakfast cookie to go, which was peanut buttery and not bad, other than the consistency; I'm thinking they used Teff flour (the bakery is also gluten free).

We arrived in Seattle around 2:30, and had a late lunch at Plum Bistro, which is a vegan cafe.  We let our waitress decide on our side dish, and she opted for the yam chips, which were served with a salty ranch dip.  The chips were good, but the dip was a little too salty for me.  I ordered the Jamaican wrap, which had some delicious, spicy tofu and mashed yams - yum!  I tried Laura's arugula salad, which was tasty, and her crepe, which was salty.  Overall, I would rate Plum Bistro as good, but they could cut way back on the salt.  Last night we had a late, light dinner at Betty, where they made their green been salad with apricots vegan for us; it was a perfect late dinner after a heavy lunch.  Today we walked to Mighty-O Donuts where I tried the raspberry frosted on a regular cake donut.  The donut was okay (I'm not a huge donut fan, in general), but the iced latte was fantastic!

We have lots more eating to do in Seattle and Portland, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis

I have to start by saying that the Chicago Diner was hopping on Thursday night!  We had to wait 45 minutes for a table, and loads of people came in as we waited.  I love it when veg restaurants are packed!  Once we were finally seated, we faced the daunting task of deciding what to order.  I had already decided on the Rueben, since they are well known for it, and it did not disappoint!  It was incredibly messy, and incredibly delicious, possibly the best and most authentic vegan Rueben I have tried.  Ana ordered the "chicken fried steak," which was also delicious, mostly because of the amazing gravy it was smothered in.  Laura ordered the lentil loaf, which was okay, but not overly flavorful - she went the healthy route of the three of us!  But she did have the salted caramel shake, which was decadent and yummy.  I thought about ordering a mint chocolate chip shake, but they were out of vanilla ice cream, and honestly, I was too full to drink one anyway.  I guess I'll just have to go back to Chicago to try one some other time!

We decided to stop in Madison on our way to Minneapolis.  I had been there once before and loved it, so I was excited to go back.  We were hoping to find the Ladonia Cafe, which I guess is actually a vegan food truck.  But we walked up and down State Street and could not find it.  On the upside, we got to see all of the street vendors and were able to get a walk in on a long day in the car.  On the downside, we did not find the vegan truck.  However, there were plenty of vegan options available.  I went with a salad with Korean BBQ tofu and Laura had a Middle Eastern plate with falafel and grilled eggplant.  For dessert, we split the raw tiramisu that Ana had brought for us the night before.  It was a perfect way to end a lunch by the lake!

After checking into our hotel, we went in search of Ecopolitan, a raw restaurant in Minneapolis.  It took us a little while to find it, as it is tucked into a larger building.  But I am glad we did - it was amazing!  We started with the guacamole and salsa with raw "chips" (more like crackers, really) for dipping.  Our waitress had warned us that they would be spicy, but neither of us found them to be spicy at all, just full of great taste.  I ordered the tostadas, which were covered in lentil taco "meat," contained more guacamole (I can't get enough!), and drizzled with sour cream.  They were amazing!  Laura ordered the casserole, which was creamy and delicious.  I ended the meal with a small coconut date roll, which was good, but not as delicious as the rest of the meal.

And now we are in Wall, SD.  There is not much going on here, other than Wall Drug, which was advertised for about 200 miles as we drove across South Dakota.  I went for a run this morning, and after about half a mile, I was in complete desolation.  So that gives you an idea of Wall.  Needless to say, it is not the most vegan friendly place in the world.  We went to a Mexican restaurant last night (that also serves pizza and pasta) and asked for veggie fajitas - it was like we were speaking a foreign language.  But it worked out in the end.  We ate chips and guac (yes, again!) and the fajitas weren't half bad.  Mine were served with refried beans (not Laura's though, weird!), which I did not touch, as they often have meat in them.  But the veggies were cooked well and had good flavor.  Plus, I added hot sauce (of course!), so that always makes meals better.

We are off to Montana tomorrow!  Rapid City has some vegan options, so I think we might pick up something for lunch on the way.  And Billings looks promising in terms of having some food we can eat.  We just need to get through one more dinner in Wall...


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cleveland and Chicago

Laura arrived in Cleveland around 12:30, picked me up at the hotel, and drove right to Cleveland Vegan for lunch.  We decided to try a few things from the menu and share.  We started with the summer bruschetta trio, which came with tomato basil, peach and red pepper, and celery lime spreads to put on a grilled baguette.  I loaded all three spreads together on my pieces of bread and thought it was quite delicious!  We also tried the lemon almond ricotta crepe with raw lemon curd and raspberries.  It is hard to find vegan crepes, so we were excited to try this one, and it did not disappoint.  The shredded breakfast potatoes with ranch sauce were yummy, and the florentine benedict was pretty good too.  I was never a huge fan of eggs benedict, but this vegan version was pretty tasty.  Cleveland Vegan gets a good score in my book!

We headed back to Flaming Ice Cube for dinner after an afternoon at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame and a beer at Nano Brew.  We were supposed to meet our friend Jesse, but he wasn't feeling well, so it was just the two of us.  I ordered the pizza burger, which was fantastic!  The macaroni salad on the side was great too.  Laura got the Asian quinoa bowl, which she said was okay; the peanut sauce was a bit spicy (not a negative in my book!).  For dessert, I ordered three little pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which were excellent, and Laura ordered the molten chocolate cake, which was good but too rich for me.  All three of my visits to Flaming Ice Cube were superb!

On Wednesday we drove from Cleveland to Chicago.  We started getting hungry for lunch in Indiana, and the most veg-friendly town on the way was, unfortunately, South Bend.  Ignoring the fact that we were in the land of Notre Dame, we made our way to the Crooked Ewe Brewery and Ale House.  They have a completely vegan menu in addition to their regular menu with some very creative choices.  We decided to choose three and share.  The salad we chose was amazing.  Filled with kale and nuts and couscous, I could have eaten an entire one by myself.  But we had other items to try - fried cauliflower in a sweet sauce and seitan brisket with potato salad and pickles.  They also brought over buffalo artichokes by mistake - finally, the buffalo sauce I have been waiting for!  We had to get most of those to go, since we didn't order them and we were stuffed from all of the other food.  Oh, and I tried their oatmeal stout - I was unsure after the first sip, but sold by the third - yum!

We arrived in Chicago in the late afternoon, and I soon discovered a link to some vegan deep dish on my Facebook page, so we began our quest.  We decided to walk the three and a half miles, knowing that we would be ingesting many calories.  Kitchen 17's website warned that they often run out of pizza, so we headed out around 5:15.  When we arrived a little more than an hour later, the place was hopping!  We grabbed the last open table and put in our order for a traditional - vegan sausage and pepperoni with a layer of cheese and a layer of marinara.  The pizza was amazing, but incredibly filling; I couldn't finish my second piece.  Take note - they only do deep dish on Wednesday nights!

This morning we headed to Wrigley Field for a tour and had a late breakfast at Pick Me Up Cafe.  I went with the Santa Fe scramble, with vegan Chorizo, potatoes, peppers, onions, and jalepenos.  It was topped with some sort of melty delicious vegan cheese.  The scramble was good, but very heavy and filling.  Luckily we are having a late dinner tonight.  Laura ordered the French Toast, which was excellent.  We are off to the Chicago Diner for dinner in a bit - meat free since '83!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summerfest and Cleveland

Well, I've been on the road for almost a week.  I am posting from the Phoenix Coffee House in Cleveland, where the coffee is okay and the music is good.  I am sad because Jeff and Jestina have left for their long drive back to Massachusetts.  I am also jealous that they will get to eat lunch and drink vegan milkshakes at Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse.  But I am excited for Laura to arrive and begin the next part of the journey - the trek across the northern USA!

We left NoHo for Summerfest last Wednesday, July 8.  We made it to Scranton right around noon and stopped for lunch at Eden, A Vegan Cafe.  I am giving Eden a rating of okay.  They focus mainly on vegan versions of meaty sandwiches, and call them by their meaty names - cheesesteak, ham and cheese, etc.  I found that to be a little off-putting.  They even have vegan "salmon," which I find to be weird and probably not very good.  I ordered a buffalo "chicken" wrap with mashed potatoes as a side.  The wrap was okay, but the sauce did not really have that buffalo taste.  The meat was a little too reminiscent of real chicken for me.  The mashed potatoes, however, were pretty delicious.  Jeff had "steak and cheese," which he also gave a rating of okay.  Jestina had barbecue drumsticks, which were interesting - they had a stick inside to simulate the bone.  The bbq sauce seemed to be better than the buffalo sauce.  It was a good halfway stop on the way to Johnstown, and I would probably support them again during future drives to Summerfest, but Eden does not top the list of my favorite vegan restaurants.

And then we were sucked into the vortex of Summerfest.  I won't even get into the food - it was all delicious and we ate way too much!  It's amazing how quickly those five days go by.  It's been less than two days since I was there, and it already seems like a dream.  It is such an amazing experience, to be surrounded by hundreds of like-minded people, to meet so many wonderful, friendly, people, to never have to ask if your food is vegan.  There is always one speaker who gets to me more than the others, and this year that was Gary Francione.  He spoke at Friday night's plenary and hooked me instantly; we went to every talk he offered on Saturday.  I never considered myself an abolitionist before hearing him speak, but I now have a lot to think about.  Sunday was a hard day; I hate leaving Summerfest.  Counting down the days to next year's conference (where I will be bringing my own bath towel and possibly my own sheets, and staying in the LLC instead of the dorms)!

We left Johnstown a little after 4:00 and headed to Cleveland.  All of the vegan restaurants were closed, so we had to get creative.  Luckily my Cleveland friend Jesse had an excellent suggestion for dinner - Town Hall in Ohio City.  They have a full vegan menu on Monday nights (for Meatless Monday?), but plenty of good options every other night, including 36 beers on tap.  I had vegan tacos, which had tofu and a mango salsa.  Jestina had some pretty delicious guac and Jeff had a burrito.  All very solid vegan options, and there were many other choices too.  Great suggestion, Jesse!

One thing about Summerfest - you do not get much sleep!  So we made Monday morning our morning to sleep in, and arrived at Flaming Ice Cube a little after 11.  They don't have a lot of breakfast options, so we decided to go with lunch instead.  I ordered the buffalo panini, which more than made up for Eden's disappointing wrap.  Jeff had a tempeh salad sandwich and Jestina had the quesadilla, which she said was spicy but good.  She also had a chocolate banana smoothie that I may go back for when I finish writing this...

Upon recommendation from a dinner partner at Summerfest, we went for some late afternoon ice cream at Tremont Scoops.  They had three vegan options available - vanilla, mint chocolate chip, and cookies and cream.  I got the mint, of course, and Jeff and Jestina got the cookies and cream.  Both flavors were delicious - creamy and tasty.  Not quite FoMu caliber, but close.  We went to Great Lakes Brewing for dinner.  Not a lot of vegan options there; we went for the beer.  On a whim, we tried Mitchell's for an ice cream as a comparison after dinner.  We definitely did not need more ice cream, and we were definitely on a bit of a sugar high afterward (who am I kidding - while we were eating too!).  We tried all three vegan offerings - chocolate ice cream and mango and raspberry sorbet.  The chocolate was good, but way too rich - it was like eating a melted chocolate bar.  The sorbets were good though, especially the mango.

We tried to find vegan breakfast this morning before Jeff and Jestina took off, but we were unsuccessful and made do with the complimentary hotel breakfast.  Luckily they have Strong Hearts Cafe to look forward to, and I have Cleveland Vegan to look forward to for lunch.  And then back to Flaming Ice Cube for dinner with Jesse!  Off to Chicago tomorrow for some serious vegan eating.  :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I just returned from a long weekend in Asheville, part one of my summer travels.  Asheville is a fantastic city, a liberal mecca in the midst of rural western North Carolina.  It was my third trip to Asheville, but the first time I spent more than one night there.  It was great to be able to truly explore the city, sample some great vegan food, and enjoy beer from a few of the twenty-one breweries in the city (there are more breweries per capita in Asheville than in any other US city).

Upon our arrival in Asheville on Thursday, we started the trip off right with a late lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe.  We decided to try the south Asheville location, which was easier to reach by car (we went straight from our drive from Raleigh) and also much larger than the downtown location.  Our waitress was super helpful and sold me on the vegan black bean burger.  She made sure that the aioli was left off and gave me extra avocado dressing instead, and added some avocado on the burger for good measure.  I had the kale and carrot salad on the side, which was dressed perfectly and was quite tasty.  Oh, and she brought me sourdough toast so that I could enjoy their homemade blueberry jam since I couldn't have the complimentary biscuit.

After napping and showering at the hotel, we wandered the city and stopped in the park for a free concert and...a dance off!  We eventually made our way to Rosetta's Kitchen, a cute vegetarian (mostly vegan) restaurant on Lexington.  We opted to eat in the "outdoor" section, which had a roof but the front section was open to the street.  It proved to be a good decision, as we were treated to live music toward the end of our dinner.  We started with the vegan queso dip and chips, paired with a local IPA - a perfect summer snack!  I enjoyed the Korean barbecue tofu, which was just slightly spicy and a little sweet.  It was paired with brown rice and kale for a simple but delicious meal.  Heather opted for the peanut version of the tofu, which was also delicious.  I give Rosetta's Kitchen a thumbs up for casual vegetarian dining.

On Friday morning, we tried Green Sage, which would become our go-to place for breakfast.  Less than half a mile from our hotel with plenty of vegan options (and places to sit), Green Sage was the perfect way to fuel ourselves for a day of hiking.  On day one, I enjoyed tofu scramble, root hash, vegan "soysage", and a vegan biscuit with Earth Balance.  Though the biscuit was a little dry, the breakfast was a win in my book, especially since it came with a flag that said, "dairy free."

Friday evening began our brewery tour.  We started at Thirsty Monk for a beer and a snack.  I opted for the coconut porter, which was an excellent choice.  I tried my best to sip and enjoy, but it was so smooth and delicious, it was difficult to do so!  Since I hadn't eaten since breakfast, I also enjoyed grilled pita and homemade hummus, which was big on cumin and taste.  Next, we went to High Wire Brewing, where I went with the more refreshing choice and got the IPA.  The beer and atmosphere were great - dogs lounged on the floor, customers played old school Nintendo games, and the US Women's soccer team played on the big screen.  We ended the evening at Lexington Ave Brewery.  My brown ale was good, but my meal was not.  The only vegan option was an Ethiopian dish made with lentils and tomatoes.  It should be good in theory, but it was so salty I could not enjoy it.

We tried to go to the Over Easy Cafe on Saturday morning for breakfast, but the wait was so long, we ended up at Green Sage again.  I decided to try the tofu wrap, which had the same tofu scramble, hash, and soysage, but also had spinach.  And hot sauce, of course, added by me.  I decided to try the iced latte, which was a good choice - it had the perfect amount of soy milk and was deliciously refreshing.

We started Saturday evening at Wicked Weed Brewery.  Since we were not eating dinner, we went downstairs for beer and snacks.  We joined others at a long wooden table and ordered sea salt and vinegar popcorn, boiled peanuts, and homemade chips - perfect beer snacks!  I ordered the blueberry chipotle stout, which did not really taste like blueberries, but did have a bit of a kick to it.  Regardless of its lack of blueberry flavor, it was delicious.  Fueled for a mile or so walk, we made our way to Plant for our 8:00 reservation.  Plant is an upscale vegan restaurant featuring mostly small plates, similar to Vedge in Philly.  We decided to share three different things.  The fried plantains with sour cream, scall'antro, and hot sauce were amazing, definitely my favorite dish.  The Caesar salad was okay.  I liked the addition of the smashed avocado, and the "bacon" was delicious.  However, I did not love the dressing, which didn't seem Caesar-like at all to me, and the roasted carrots were strange - I didn't even realize they were carrots until I looked back at the menu.  The cornbread was good - served with a yummy Romesco sauce, grilled green onions, and hazelnuts, it was an interesting new twist to an old favorite.  The bread was also not overly sweet, which I appreciated.  And then there was dessert.  The cannoli was awesome, with a delicious orange flavor to it.  The candied fennel ice cream was good, though I didn't really taste the fennel.  The blackout pie was good, but a little too rich for my taste.  I didn't like the ice cream it came with (salted macadamia nut) as much at the ice cream that came with the cannoli.  Overall, I enjoyed the experience and the food, though it's definitely an every once and awhile kind of place, being somewhat fancier than most vegan/vegetarian restaurants.

On Sunday we got to Over Easy early and opted to sit outside so that we wouldn't have to wait long for a table.  I ordered one vegan ginger spice pancake - excellent - and a side of maple chipotle tempeh, which was amazing and possibly the best tempeh I have ever eaten.  Sunday dinner was at Laughing Seed Cafe, my personal favorite restaurant in Asheville.  We started with the jalepeno onion fries, which were perfectly crispy and delicious.  I had the burrito for dinner, with spicy tofu and mole sauce.  Unfortunately, we were too stuffed for dessert.

Back to Green Sage for a light breakfast on Monday, since we wanted to do an early lunch before leaving town.  I had a smoothie made with carrots, cinnamon, banana, almond butter and almond milk.  I wasn't sure about carrots in my smoothie, but I was sold after drinking it!  We did an early lunch at the downtown location of Tupelo Honey, where I opted for three different sides - blueberry lemon quinoa, shaved brussels sprout salad, and sesame asparagus.  It seemed fitting to end our trip at the same restaurant we started it at.

Next Wednesday I leave for Summerfest where lots of eating will happen, and then I am off to Cleveland to start a two week cross country trip.  I will have my laptop with me, so I will be blogging from the road!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm Back!

I have been on a bit of a travel hiatus.  Last spring, I moved from Framingham to Northampton and I started a new job in the fall.  I spent the summer settling in and the fall/early winter transitioning to a new job.  But it's February break, and I am back on the road!  Laura and I went to Philly for three days of vegan eating, with a few other things thrown in.

We started our journey right here in NoHo, with a hearty breakfast at the Green Bean to fuel our road trip.  I enjoyed my standard favorite, Tempeh Arizona, while Laura tried the tofu triangles and the herb and onion bread with almond butter gravy - yum!  We hit the road at 8:15 and were in Philly by 1:00 - very excited that it's such an easy drive from the valley, especially after discovering so many good vegan eats in the city!

Our first Philly stop was Blackbird Pizzeria for lunch.  I was planning on just trying the pizza, until I discovered that they have "wings!"  So I stuck with just one slice, a Mexican one with avocado, caramelized onions, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese.  It was reminiscent of the Mexican (non-vegan) slice at Antonio's, which used to be my favorite.  Laura didn't want her peppers, so I spiced my slice up with her extras.  I took a bite of Laura's veggie supreme slice, loaded with three kinds of mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and green peppers.  It was good, but I liked my spicy one better.  We decided to try the root beer BBQ "wings" at the suggestion of the guy who took our order, and an excellent suggestion is was!  These wings are by no means healthy, but they are delicious!!!  We ordered a Caesar salad with capers, onions, and artichoke hearts to add a healthful element to our meal, but were sadly disappointed with that choice.  Luckily the pizza and wings made up for the lackluster green portion of our meal!

On our cold walk home, we decided to stop for a hot beverage.  We stumbled upon Bodhi Coffee, and the baristas happily made us vegan hot chocolates.  It was a perfect end to our lunch.

For our evening outing, we went to Charlie Was a Sinner, a bar serving small plates.  I will start by saying that the atmosphere in this place was totally not my scene - much too trendy for my beer-loving self!  I am pretty sure I was the only customer who ordered a beer in this land of $12 cocktails.  That being said, the food was amazing!  We ordered a variety of small plates to share.  To start, we had the vanilla citrus salad with pistachio puree and crispy quinoa.  This light dish had a delicious, unique flavor and was an excellent place to start.  Next up, house made ricotta from smoked tofu on toast.  A bit salty for my taste, but good nonetheless.  I chose the Korean style fried tofu and loved it, though it was a bit too spicy for Laura's taste - more for me!  The bonus pickles underneath were an added surprise.  Laura's choice from this section was the crab cakes with a tangy remoulade - delicious!  Our final two selections were from the pan roasted section.  The spiced cauliflower was good, but didn't hold a candle to the Brussels sprouts.  One of my favorite vegetables in any form, the grain mustard aioli and lemon parsley bread crumbs made for a superb dish.  I would get over my feelings of un-trendiness to try more of their dishes!

On Tuesday morning, we took a walk in the snow to Grindcore House, an all vegan cafe.  They have bagels and vegan cream cheese!  I was quite excited to enjoy a toasted everything with sun dried tomato and basil cream cheese, one of my pre-vegan faves.  Laura was excited to try the doughnuts, though I found them to be too sweet when I took a bite.

For lunch on Tuesday, we hit up Hip City Veg.  Mainly a takeout joint, there wasn't a lot of room to sit, but we managed to snag a table.  We went for an order of sweet potato fries, with Siracha aioli for dipping.  The fries were pretty greasy, but the dipping sauce was fantastic.  Then again, anything with Siracha is fantastic in my book.  I had the curry tofu wrap, which was reminiscent of the curry chicken salad at John Stone's another of my pre-veg faves.  We split a chocolate covered cherry shake to top things off, which was tasty and not too sweet, exactly to my liking.

Dinner was the purpose of our trip - Vedge!  I have been wanting to try this restaurant for a long time, and it did not disappoint.  We tried two small dishes from each section of the menu, as recommended.  First up was the best dish of the night, the rutabaga fondue served with soft pretzel bread.  I am not sure how they made such a tasty, cheesy dip from rutabagas, but it was amazing!  I could have just eaten that all night.  But that wouldn't have been very interesting, so instead we moved on to the stuffed avocado with pickled cauliflower, "fried rice", black salt, and Romesco sauce.  The avocado was perfectly ripe and the filling was quite good.  From the hot plate section, we chose the charcoal grilled romanesco cauliflower and the roast Maitake mushroom with a celery root fritter.  The cauliflower was good, but the mushroom, and particularly the fritter, win the prize from me in this section.  From the dirt list, we went with the crispy and creamy sunchokes and the Brussels sprouts (of course!).  The sunchokes were different and yummy, almost like potato chips on the outside.  The sprouts were good, but we both liked the ones from the night before better.  Finally, for dessert, we tried the lemon cheesecake and the chocolate uber chunk.  I didn't love the cheesecake, as I am not a huge fan of citrusy cheese, but Laura enjoyed it.  The chocolate peanut butter dessert was served in a mini mason jar with a pretzel-peanut crust, malt custard, and stout ice cream.  How can you go wrong with the chocolate peanut combo?  The stout ice cream was different and interesting - I think beer should be added to ice cream more often!  Speaking of, we walked off our dinner while heading to National Mechanics for a beer upon recommendation, one I am glad we followed - this was much more my scene as far as bars go!

On Wednesday we went to PS and Company for breakfast, a vegan, gluten free, organic establishment.  I went with the house made sprouted Mueseli with Brazil nut milk and a sweet potato muffin - both were excellent!  Laura tried the quinoa pancakes, which were okay, and the mushroom "bacon," which was delicious!  For lunch, we tried the vegan cheesesteaks at Govinda's.  I don't really remember what a non-vegan cheesesteak tastes like, but these were some darn good sandwiches!

On our way home, we stopped at the Papa Ganache bakery in New Jersey at Laura's request.  I bought two cupcakes that I haven't tried yet, as I was too full to eat anything.  Plus, I was saving room for It's Only Natural in Middletown, CT, our final eating stop and one of my favorite restaurants.  We both started with the soup special, parsnip and corn chowder, which has inspired me to make some corn chowder at home this weekend.  I insisted that we oder the old standby, sweet potato fries with smoked ketchup, as Laura hadn't tried them before.  We split the pesto special, made with mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar, and served over crispy polenta cakes.  This was a recommendation from the couple sitting next to us, and we are happy they interrupted our discussion to give us this tip!  Laura got the vanilla mousse for dessert, but I was too stuffed to order anything.  I did try a bite, but it was too sweet for me.  I was excited to find that ION is only a little over an hour away from NoHo!  Road trip soon...

And now I must run many miles a day in the cold and eat only salads for the next week to counterbalance all of this eating...