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...

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