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. :)