Sunday, June 27, 2010

Portland Food: Here we go again!

I know. I'm spoiled by my recent travels. Here are some vegan delights on the opposite coast (the west one).Though my journey to Portland was all about seeing old friends and revisiting favorites, I did manage to squeeze in some new places.

One example of this was brunch at Tube. They had a vegan menu (think tofu scrambles and breakfast burritos), in addition to their full brunch menu. However, what set Tube apart for me was the fact that they had vegan "egg and cheese" sandwich, an homage to egg mcmuffin of my past. There was nothing really surprising or creative about this dish, with the exception of the American flags added to my meal, but getting two "egg and cheese" sandwiches and a healthy side of hash browns for $7 definitely made me happy. With prompt, friendly service, generous servings and hearty food, I would probably make this my brunch location of choice if I lived in Portland.

Another unusual aspect of my trip to Portland was trying to find restaurants that would please my meat eating father, and I think Laughing Planet would have fit the bill. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to test this theory with my dad, but I did get a chance to go there on my own and eat the Black Jack quesadilla. I was a little nervous about getting this because of a lack of fake cheese, but the black bean dip created a supremely creamy base for the veggies that filled this bad boy up, and when smothered with their house salsa verde, this was a champion in the world of quesadilla, vegan or not.

An additional aspect of Portland's food scene that I had previously left unexplored was food carts. My first experience with this impressive scene was a blueberry hand pie from Whiffies. Oh man. They have a separate fryer for vegan pies, and all choices, both sweet and savory, are marked on the menu. There's not much I can say about this place except that it is delicious, filling and that the owner is super nice. There are tables with tents in the immediate vicinity, so order a pie, sit down, relax and enjoy.

Coming up next: potluck brunch, Vita, Back to Eden bakery

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ten things that make me happy: NYC Edition

I've decided to post ten separate lists of ten things that make me happy. Everyone should have a list of at least a hundred things that make them happy. Here are ten things that make me happy in New York.

1) The Cloisters: This was easily my favorite museum in New York City. Located within Fort Tryon Park, the views walking through the park, to the museum, are worth the trip alone. Once in the museum, there is an extensive collection of Medieval art housed within a castle setting. There are famous pieces, such as the Unicorn Tapestries, to lesser known pieces, such as a slightly terrifying representation of Saint Michael. Additionally, a significant chunk is Medieval art is creepy (reliquaries anyone?), so when you combine that with a beautiful, secluded setting, you've really got something special.
2) The fact everyone takes their dogs everywhere with them: Although I am well known for being a cat lady, I would also be hard pressed to dislike a dog. This is why I loved how no matter where I went in New York, there were dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, medium dogs. It was a constant parade of adorable.
3) The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Absolutely mind-blowing, both in size and content. The only way I could tackle this guy was by imagining that I was visiting several tiny museums in one day. My favorite collections were the Modern, Medieval, Renaissance and Egyptian collections. I also loved the exhibit American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity. Eating lunch on the steps here is advised (there's a fruit cart right by the steps), but make sure nobody sits above you, with the exception of Blair Waldorf.
4) Crispin Glover: Do I have to say anything? The only thing that surprised me was the fact he had an seriously endless amount of patience. Super kind, super brilliant. Needs better fitting pants.
5) The American Museum of Natural History: Dinosaurs! An uncomfortable amount of taxidermy! Surprisingly terrifying fiberglass whale! However, what I thought was greatest about the museum was all the vintage exhibits that had been left in: giant dioramas of forests, murals, etc. It would be easy to tear these quiet, less visited portions out and toss in some trendy display in an effort to gain more visitors, but part of what makes the museum so wonderful is that they have their own history on display.
6) Parks! Central Park, Union Square, etc. Grab lunch and have a picnic. I never felt overwhelmed by the city thanks to these options for some quality time with the outdoors. My favorite lunches, setting wise, were when I just grabbed something to go and ate it in whatever park was nearby.
7) Vintage shopping: Atlantis Attic. Beacon's Closet. Though some vintage shopping in New York was painfully expensive (Urban Outfitters by Union Square, I'm looking at your used shoe rack), these two spots were goldmines.
8) Public transportation: New York's subway system is frightfully easy to get around with. I loved it, and actually became comfortable enough to play on my iPod instead of staring anxiously at the subway map until arriving at my destination.
9) The Strand:Oh hello, giant bookstore with a huge percentage of your merchandise discounted! What's that? I should just plan on paying to check my luggage now because I will need an additional suitcase because of you? Okay! Just gimme my books and my Art Spiegelman tote and we'll call it even.
10) High quality people watching: You know there's good people watching in New York. KNOW IT. Dear lady trying desperately to feed the squirrels: thank you for making my day, and good luck with enticing squirrels in the future.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New York City Food: Part Four of Four! Whee!

This will be a short one! I only have one restaurant left to talk about: Terri. Located near the shopping strip by Union Square, this is a great little place to get a lunch on the run. They have minimal seating, no bathroom and a well stocked grab and go cooler. I opted for the buffalo chicken sandwich and a Butterfinger shake, as well as a bottle of strawberry mint lemonade for the road. The menu is all vegan and I was not disappointed at all with my last meal (for the moment) in New York City. The buffalo sauce was appropriately spicy and evenly smothered over what I think was Gardein and the shake was smooth and just what I wanted after hauling my luggage through the subway. For an impromptu dining choice (Dosa Man had been my first choice), I feel like I got pretty darn lucky.

I am looking forward to future trips and having the chance to explore new things and to return to favorites. What were my favorites? You will have to wait. That's a whole other post.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New York City Food: Part Three of Four? I think?

You may want to sit down for this installment of the riveting series of what I ate in New York City. I am covering a potent trio of Lula's, Candle Cafe and Soy and Sake. Whoa. I know. Can you handle it?

Let's start with Candle Cafe. Alice and I decided to eat here because A) it was close to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (yay for more planning!) and B) it was cheaper than Candle 79. Alice and I decided to split an appetizer and an entree for maximal dining pleasure with minimal cost. I was a little intimidated by the prices- I tend to get nervous in fancy restaurants, but the amazing food quickly quelled all my fears. Alice and I started our meal with the delectable quesadilla- crisp on the outside, melty goodness on the inside, with a serving of fresh salsa to top it all off. The appetizer was a success. Our entree was the Tuscan Seitan Parmesan Sandwich (which came with two sides, more fiscal prudence) and was also a hit. The cheese on it was freakishly melty and the tomatoes in the side salad were unbelievably fresh. If I get the chance to go back, I will probably order the tofu club, but this was the perfect introduction sandwich to Candle Cafe- hearty and delicious with a topping of quality vegan cheese.

That evening we ventured to Soy and Sake, a vegetarian sushi restaurant, with a full non-sushi menu similar to Red Bamboo, located by the IFC Center (more planning!). While it wasn't the same quality as Shojin, they did have the advantage of filling your sushi with fake fish. Fake vegan fish. Of course, I wanted to try it all, so I got the maki platter with the ginger salad. This meant I got three rolls: tuna avocado, salmon avocado and eel avocado. Whoa. The rolls were all delicious, though they had an appearance reminiscent of cat food and I couldn't really tell which fish was which, but they were filling and savory and calmed my strange craving for vegan fish. The meal was finished off with a Peanut Butter Bomb from Vegan Treats. Rich, delicious, made for sharing. I was definitely satisfied with this meal.

The final installment in this trilogy of joy is Lula's. Lula's is an all vegan ice cream shop with a smorgasbord of flavors, and ice cream coming in both traditional and soft serve. Due to my two visits there, I got to try both types. Of the traditional ice cream, I had the drumstick flavor covered in hot fudge. This flavor consisted of vanilla mixed with bits of cone and chocolate, much like the non-vegan treat of the same name. Yowza. Creamy and rich, but not overwhelming, I wanted to get a second scoop but did not have the money at the time. Fortunately, I came back to Lula's for a second time and treated myself to a flurry, which is basically Dairy Queen's Blizzard, but without the dairy. It was even better than I could have dreamed. Cake batter soft serve with mint creme cookies created a perfect treat for sitting on the sidewalk and watching people go by. Lula's is an adorable little shop and will definitely be on the itinerary when a return trip to the city is scheduled. Highly, highly recommended.

One more and then NYC food is done! Portland soon!

PS- I'm sorry these photos are arranged in a visually displeasing manner, but blogger is being wonky about letting me put them where I want them. Sorry!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New York City Food: Part Two of ????

I won't lie: the majority of the time I was in New York, I had songs about the city running through my head. Remember me to Herald Square indeed.

Fortunately, I was also full of delicious food when I was there. This leads to part II of the food I ate on my trip to NYC.

When I last left you, I briefly mentioned that I ate vegan omelets at the underrated Organic Grill. This has not changed. I had heard nothing about the Organic Grill prior to arriving in New York, despite years of menu reading, and only went when my dear friend Alice suggested we brunch there. I have no idea why I haven't seen this place all over the internet. Not only do they have a Disney-esque exterior, spacious bathrooms, delicious food and servers with charming accents, they have customizable vegan omelets. You pick your fillings and can even add vegan cheese that is cooked perfectly. I went for kale, black olives, white mushrooms and "mozzarella". The omelet at first seems a little spendy, clocking in around $10, but you get an enormous omelet, a generous side of home fries, some toast and the ability to go without eating until seven that evening. Anyway, go here, blog it, tweet it, make it big. Totally worth it.

Dinner that night was at Curly's, located by Union Square and Trader Joe's- good to know if you plan on shopping in the area. I opted for the buffalo burger and fries. I didn't get a picture because, um, I forgot to take one, but I will tell you this: ask for extra napkins if you order this guy. Also, bring your crayons and creativity, because you can color on the placemats here. Awwwww yeah!

The next morning saw me introduced to my first NYC bagel and my first foray into tofu cream cheese. Both were a success, and were obtained at The Bagel Store. It was a salt and vinegar bagel with tofu vegetable cream cheese. It was good. Here is a picture (you don't need me to explain a bagel, do you?).

Dinner that evening was at Angelica Kitchen. I ordered the marinated tofu sandwich, and it was one of the most perfect sandwiches I have ever eaten. Light but filling with delicate flavors that mingled incredibly well. The vegetables on it were also marinated, so they weren't as crisp as I thought they would be, but they added an unexpected flavor that I really enjoyed. Evan was also kind enough to bring me danishes and a mini loaf of banana bread made with raspberry chocolate- best dessert ever.
Next time: Lula's, Candle Cafe and Soy and Sake. A trio of awesome!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New York City Food: Part One of ????

I just took the most amazing trip to New York City for the first time. Everything about it was incredible. In fact, I procrastinated on blogging about it because I simply did not know where to start. So, with a deep breath, please allow me to dive right in.

My journey into the foods of New York began with a trip to Peacefood Cafe. Ignoring the name, this place is excellent. I had the creamy chickpea fries (pictured above) and the seitan medallion sandwich (right), which is a sandwich worth $12. Seriously. Alice and I had to take home leftovers, along with a tiramisu to go. Highly recommended, and it is very close to the American Museum of Natural History, for your planning purposes.

 The next day was the hottest day of the trip. Thankfully, it was also an extremely fun day, and filled with fabulous food. The lovely Gwen of What I Wore took me shopping, eating and comedy showing. Store-wise, I loved Old Hollywood and Beacon's Closet (APC dress for $30!), but I'm focusing on food right now. Gwen took me to Boneshakers, where I had the Club Racer and she had the tuna melt. I had honestly intended to order something other than the Club Racer but it was so hot that I just ordered the first thing I saw on the (intimidatingly) large menu. Luckily, Boneshakers came through and gave me an excellent, filling sandwich and a wine bottle full of water, just what this girl always needs.

Dinner was at Foodswings, which meant buffalo wings! They had a little wooden skewer in the middle to really create that drumstick effect. I also got the Butterfinger shake, but neglected to take a picture because it was so freaking hot that I started drinking it the second I got it. Definitely get something other than water to go with those drumsticks- you'll want to cut the heat a bit.

The following days meals consisted of grapes on the steps of the Met (thanks to Blair Waldorf for that idea) and dinner at Vegetarian Dim Sum. I didn't get any pictures because I was already late and didn't want to ask everyone to wait just a little longer so I could take pictures, but let me give you some advice: the treasure balls are better than the treasure boxes, and the shrimp dumplings taste eerily like shrimp.

My next meal took place at the severely under-rated Organic Grill and since this is getting long and I'd like to wax poetic about my vegan omelet (just you wait!), you will have to wait, breathlessly, for the next installment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daily Grub: Making Omaha Even Better

I'm happy to report that Daily Grub, the restaurant of Clean Plate's Elle Lien, is just as wonderful as the weekly raw brunches that I was lucky, and spoiled enough, to attend. After eating there multiple times, I find it very comforting to know that there is a vegan restaurant in Omaha that I can confidently recommend to anyone- vegan or not. The food and ambiance are fantastic and I can sometimes barely believe my luck to have this amazing restaurant in my own city.

When entering Daily Grub, you immediately notice the calm and clean aesthetic. This is a place that invites you to come in and relax, with sparse, beautiful and effective decor and delicious smells coming from Elle's tiny kitchen. The menu takes up most of a wall, and it is worth noting that Daily Grub is cash only, but eating there is absolutely worth hitting up the ATM.

And the food? Amazing, not that I expected anything less. I have sampled the green thai curry and two types of sopes, all with lovely, complex flavors in food that made me feel energized, rather than weighed down. I also was allowed a close-up look at a waffle, which I figured my mom would offer me a bite of. She didn't. I am 99% sure that this is the only time my mom has been so into her meal that she didn't offer me a taste. That's a big deal. The menu also features juices, smoothies, soups, hearty bowls, sandwiches and anything else Elle dreams up.

My one complaint with the restaurant is that I can't go there for dinner. Some days make it hard for me to squeeze a lunch trip over to Daily Grub in, and I would definitely stop there for dinner if the option was available, even for only a couple evenings a week. However, I will continue to buzz over for lunch whenever possible and will keep proudly recommending it to anyone who will listen.