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Vegan in Las Vegas, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I documented the first half of my trip to Vegas, and all of the glorious eats that were had.

The morning started innocently enough, with the intention to trek to a vegan restaurant called Pura Vida for brunch.  As the only all-vegan restaurant in the vicinity of the strip (and not terribly close, at that), it was my mission to get there no matter what.  Which is good, because getting there was an ordeal and a half.

We bused down to the very northern tip of the strip and set off on our journey, surrounded by a fairly unpopulated terrain of pawn shops and the occasional restaurant.  There was a problem with the map I had printed off Google – I, uh, failed to include an address – but I hadn’t needed the address of any of the other restaurants, so I figured with a bit of walking we’d find our way.

And then a bit of walking turned into nearly an hour of walking, getting absolutely nowhere under the hot Vegas sun.  Finally we decided to stop inside one of the pawn shops and borrow a phone book in hopes that the address would be contained within.  It wasn’t, but there was a phone number.  Mike’s phone was out of commission and mine was on its last bar of life, so we gave the number a ring – disconnected.  Great.

So Mike called his little sister back home and asked her to Google the place and get the address and phone number.  Success was had – we now had information! – but when he was telling his sister where we were located and asking her the route to the restaurant, she wasn’t able to help us.  Oh well, I thought, I’d just call the restaurant and ask them for directions.  But as luck would have it, there was no answer.

By this point my bladder was at bursting capacity so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant.  Mike asked one of the workers how to get to the address we had written down, and to our absolute joy, we were given directions.  Rejuvenated by problem solving, we happily headed on our way.  Only, the way was long.  Really long.  And part of the trip was down a road with no sidewalks and nothing in the way of buildings or people – not the kind of place you’d want to be wandering at night.  And then, about half an hour from the time we were given directions, we arrived at Pura Vida.  I could’ve kissed the ground.

I went to open the door of the restaurant but was met with a hurricane of resistance.  No, literally.  There was a huge wind tunnel that I somehow summoned (magic powers?) and I had to fight my way into the restaurant.  A huge gust of wind followed Mike and I inside, and all of the customers and workers turned and stared at us, some cracking jokes about making a big entrance.  Did I mention it was a calm, relatively windless day?

So there we were, sweaty and hardened from the harsh elements, but happy as all hell to have actually made it to Pura Vida alive.  I should mention that if I’d bothered to study a real map in advance, it would have been a 15 minute walk from the original bus stop.  But hey, adventures!

This, my friends, was the breakfast pastry to end all breakfast pastries.  Filled with vegan sausage, tofu scramble and veggies and topped in a delicious cheesy sauce with a side of guacamole, my stomach cheered victoriously.  It was on special, so it wasn’t a part of the regular menu, which is sad because next time I’m in Vegas I’d like to eat this 1,000 times more.  On the plus side, there’s a bunch of other beautiful food items on the menu (like waffles!).

We also got a breakfast burrito called “The Latin ‘Tude”, which was a beautiful assortment of refried beans, soyrizo, tofu scramble, cheese, avocado, veggies, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, roasted potatoes and poblano peppers.  Need I say how glorious this was?

The wild burrito was captured and masticated by the terrifying molars of Allysia.

…Mike chose a gentler approach.

And cookies!  I really wanted to go back to this place again, but since it was a bit out of the way, it just didn’t happen.  Next time.  One of the best parts about this restaurant (aside from how freakin’ incredible the food was) is that everything is made in-house.  Meals take about 20 minutes to come to the table, but they don’t use a microwave and everything is fresh.  That’s my kind of restaurant!

Oh, and I should probably mention that the dozen or so people who walked in the restaurant after us arrived calmly, with no crazy windstorm following them in.  I’m taking that as a sign…of our awesomeness.

In the afternoon, we took a meander through the Wynn hotel, one of the most expensive on the strip.  And as some of you may know, Steve Wynn himself is a vegan, so every restaurant in his hotel has a small, separate vegan menu, including the fancy restaurants.

Food choices aside, The Wynn is the perfect hotel for me.  Look how bright and colorful it is!  The whole hotel is like that.  Yup, next time I go to Vegas, I’m going to A) be rich, and B) stay here.

So after Mike got over his whole dying thing (mild heat stroke), we drank champagne and dressed all fancy-like, ready for a night on the town.  We made reservations at one of the higher-end Wynn restaurants called La Cave, and didn’t want to show up looking like chumps.  Plus, dressing up is fun.

Those are two dapper-looking people right there, let me tell you.  Alas, all I have for you is one photo from La Cave, since my flash doesn’t work and it was so dark in there.  But I’ll have to tell you about the meal because it was THE BEST FOOD EVER.  Yes, it even warranted all caps.

Since this was our last night in Vegas, we wanted to go all out with the fine dining experience, so we started the meal with a wine sampler from Spain – two reds and two whites.  Dudes, you should all play the booze sampling game – it’s so much fun trying to identify the little subtleties and nuances in flavor.

The way the food at La Cave works is every dish comes out on a small plate, so you want to order multiple plates.  In our case, we decided to order 6 plates and share everything.  6 was a little intense, even for people with large appetites like us – 5 would have been a little more reasonable.  But then, the only dish I would have wanted to sacrifice from that meal was the tossed salad, because everything else was so ridiculous.

Okay.  It started with a pizza.  But not just any pizza – a pizza with a perfect crust (you know, crisp on the outside, tender on the inside), an incredible red sauce, and simple toppings like artichokes and olives.  This was my second favorite dish of the night, which sounds strange, I know – because you’re just thinking, “it’s pizza”.  But it wasn’t just pizza, I promise you.

Other plates soon started arriving – there was a lovely quinoa dish, one with roasted beets and a cashew feta (amazing), and then the champion of everything – the tortellini.  Tortellini in a cheesy, buttery cashew sauce with a generous amount of assorted sauteed mushrooms.  The stuffing in the tortellini was to die for, but those mushrooms, tossed in the rich cashew sauce, haunt my dreams.  If I can manage to recreate that dish, I’ll die happy.  And I know there was a 6th plate, but I have no idea what it was.  Which is sad, because everything we ate was over-the-top good.  Thanks for being vegan, Mr. Wynn.

We ended the meal with dessert, the only dessert any reasonable person would consume after such a belt-loosening meal – a glass of good port.  It was my first time ever trying the stuff but I fell in love – sweeter than wine and a little thicker, with spicy complexity.  I’d have that for dessert more often if it wasn’t for the price tag. 🙂

After allowing our stomachs to settle some, we indulged in a night of clubbing.  Yup, loud music, huge crowds, and endless dancing.  Drinking Grey Goose vodka with soda water didn’t hurt the experience, either.  I know it’s probably not everyone’s thing, but I love dancing, and there’s so few good places to do it at home.  We had a blast, and ended our Vegas trip with lots of kaboom.

Of course, with a departure time in the early afternoon, we couldn’t in good conscience leave without visiting Red Velvet Cafe one more time.

We both opted for paninis, mine being the Chicken Spinach Artichoke, with vegan substitutions of course.  Great pre-flight food!

And who could leave without devouring a tiramisu cake?  Red Velvet Cafe, I’m quite sad that I didn’t have a chance to sample all of your many cakes.  But there will be a next time.

When we found out that our flight would be delayed at the airport, we stopped to grab a beer, because really, what else do you do when you’re waiting at an airport?

Little did we know, we’d be waiting a long time.  A really long time.  So long, in fact, that we missed our transfer flight and had to stay overnight in Minneapolis.  Though I would have much rather not have spent an extra four hours in an airport whilst in Vegas, we managed to make the most of it, like when we discovered sea salt chocolate:

The intrigue!  The suspense!  It was actually pretty good, though quite weird.  The first taste was salty which almost made the chocolate taste savory, but then the salt flavor faded away, back into normal chocolate. I’m still not sure how I feel about salty chocolate, but it was an experience.

And of course, the 1am greasy food party at our hotel was a big spirit booster (and Futurama was on!):

The next morning, we arrived in the all-too-familiar airport, homogeneous as they are, and found us some breakfast eats.  I managed to find the French Meadow Bakery again, and they had a vegan apple-walnut muffin which I pounced on.

We decided to try a pre-made green juice (since I have a juicer, I admit to being a pre-made juice snob), and an iced soy latte, which had become a staple of our Vegas trip.  Breakfast of champions, though the green juice was far too sweet for my liking.  But I’m well aware that my palate is not average when it comes to sweet things.

And then, we were off.  Back home, to real life again.

Ahh, Vegas.  I am fond of your glitz and tackiness, your food and drinks, and all of your wacky people.  Can’t wait to go back again!

travel and restaurants

Vegan in Las Vegas, Part 1

Howdy!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I hopped a plane to Vegas, aka Sin City, aka Awesome City, where many great adventures were had and amazing food was consumed.

The story went as this – The parents of my drummer won a trip to Vegas but couldn’t use it, so they gifted it to him, and I got to tag along.  Sweet deal, eh?

The morning of our departure started on a crazy-good foot…

What you see there is a whackload of delicious crepes, with some good French press coffee and green juice.  Perfect pre-flight food!

We spent the better part of the day in airports and/or on planes, but luckily we managed to find plenty to eat along the way.  At the Minneapolis airport there’s a restaurant called French Meadow Bakery which carries a few vegan items.  There are two locations in the airport, a large one and small one, and we just found the small one, which carried a very respectable salad with tofu – good tofu! – and a house-made vegan chili.  Not half bad for airport food!

The salad got bonus points for having some heft in the form of toasted sunflower seeds and marinated tofu, and more bonus points for the inclusion of shredded beets!  The white balsamic vinaigrette was perfection – tangy and savoury.

More magical finds at the Minneapolis airport were a cute little carton of Silk soy milk, and dark chocolate peanut butter cups!  I can’t remember the brand, either, because we devoured them so quickly.  But I think with enough adventuring, vegans can find food and snacks at most airports.

By the time we arrived in Vegas it was already dark, and all I wanted to do was throw all my stuff in the hotel room and head out on the town for a meal.  However, surprises were lurking around the corner when we inserted the card key into our hotel room to find that it was, uh, occupado.  Is that a word?  Probably not.  An attractive lady who was half-dressed (with a loud, sparkly bra) was doing her hair in the room that was supposed to be ours.  So naturally we got all awkward and then headed back to the desk, politely asking, “what the f-?”  But we didn’t say that since we’re so polite and all.

Of course, sometimes it pays to walk into a room that’s already occupied – in our case, we were gifted with this as an apology:

A HUGE suite with a big Jacuzzi and everything.  I’d totally walk in on half-naked people every time I go to a hotel for this kind of apology gift.

When we went back downstairs, there was a lady dancing on a stage in the lounge area, wearing nothing but some glitzy undergarments…the same lady we walked in on.  It made a lot of sense, actually – she was very calm about strangers walking into her room while she was changing.  I suppose she’s used to people seeing her wearing very little.

Ravenously hungry by this point, we wandered over to the New York New York hotel, which is what it sounds like – a giant hotel that looks like the New York city skyline.  Contained within this ridiculous hotel (almost all of the hotels on the strip are lavish and ridiculous) was a restaurant I had read about beforehand called Chin Chin, an Asian-fusion restaurant that can sub tofu for any meat entree on the menu.  Choices!

We started off the evening eats with steamed vegetable dumplings which came with a simple soy-based dipping sauce.

They were intensely delicious, and as I was inhaling them, all I could think about was how good all future Vegas food would continue to be.

And the feast!  I had the vegetable lettuce cups, which is described in the menu as “Black mushrooms, bell peppers, water chestnuts, smoked tofu, pine nuts, and white crunchies served with four lettuce cups”.  First of all, the “white crunchies” were noodles, and secondly, there was more than 4 lettuce cups – that’s like a half head of iceburg lettuce!  There were at least 6.  The flavor was fantastic (maybe a touch salty), but the real star of the meal was Mike’s tofu dish, which is worthy of a close-up:



He got the “orange chicken”, but with tofu instead, which was a wise decision – it was probably the most perfect tofu I’ve ever tasted.  It was just the right balance of crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside – silken tofu at it’s finest.  And the sauce!  There was no radioactive globby orange sauce to be found here, happily.  It was a dark sauce with a citrus touch and orange undertones.  Brilliant. 


And what better way to celebrate the beginning of Vegas than with a Manhattan?  That’s some good, strong booze right there, as seen by Mike’s awe face.  Mmm.  It would have been even better if I didn’t spill half of mine all over myself. 

After a night of wandering, boozing and then sleeping (traveling all day is tiring business!), we awoke late to a hot desert sun and decided to spend most of the afternoon indoors.  Which was fine because there was some crazy mall action to be had.  No place has malls like Vegas has malls, believe me.  Especially malls with $800 shoes and $2000 coats.  



We arrived at the Fashion Show Mall with one very specific purpose, however – food.  It just happened to be a nice bonus that there were fun stores to meander through as well.  Because contained within the Fashion Show Mall is the holy grail of awesome vegan food and desserts – The Red Velvet Cafe.



Like Chin Chin, most of the Cafe’s menu items can be veganized with vegan meat and/or cheese.  And 99% of their desserts are vegan!



They had all kinds of beautiful cakes, and some cookies that I never tried because I was too enamoured by the cakes.  But we’ll get to that.  However, I did spend quite a bit of time staring through this glass and drooling.

For my entree, I decided on the Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Tartin, described as “Whole Wheat Pita topped with Hummus, Grilled Eggplant, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Red Onions, Heirloom Tomatoes and Feta Cheese.”  They subbed the feta for a Daiya-like concoction which they told me was not Daiya, but a cheese made specifically for their restaurant.

Mike got the Chipotle Turkey Avocado Wrap, because he could eat avocado on life itself (who couldn’t?).  He got it with the vegan cheese and turkey and said that, though he’s no vegan meat connoisseur, it was one of the best he’d ever had both in flavor and texture.  I tried some and had to agree – it was soft and not chewy, but still had some bite to it.



And dessert, of course.  Could you really eat at the Red Velvet Cafe and not have a red velvet cake?  I think not.  Especially because the cake was incredibly moist and not too sweet, allowing the icing on top to take the sugary role.  Both of us were enamoured by this cake, declaring that no one could think vegans eat sad food if they tried meals and desserts like this.  A+.


After wandering the mall and having adventures, we decided to venture away from the strip for two very deliberate reasons – 1) vegan Indian food, and 2) rare beer.  Luckily, finding Mint Indian Bistro was a breeze.

Rare beer!  Mike’s beer, the EKU 28, was a warming beer that would be great in the winter for how strong it was – with an 11% alcohol content, it definitely had some kick!  I also opted for a German beer, the Einbecher Ur-bock Dunkel, mainly because the description told me it was made according to the original recipe from 1378.  It was great – really bitter and hoppy, but smooth.

For our meal, we decided to order a dinner for 2, which meant a couple appetizers, a large sampling of mains, and a dessert.  For our first appetizer we got cracker-type things with delicious sauces – the green one being minty, and the brown one being quite sweet.

A kwati soup also showed up as an appetizer and it was hella tasty – the broth had a tomato-mushroom flavor which made it earthy and rich, and the soup had vegetables and lentils in it with just a little spice.

And then, the main course.  There was so much awesome here I hardly knew what to do with myself.  There was a dal, a masala, a chickpea and spinach dish, a coconut milk curry dish with veggies, a couple others that I’m forgetting, and some chapati and rice to go with it all.  I’m fairly confident we spent the duration of the meal saying little else but “this is delicious”.  Or maybe “I am so happy right now”.



They were out of their carrot pudding for dessert, which neither of us were too choked up about (though I’m sure it was good).  Instead, they brought us an iced dessert that tasted like icy coconut milk with shredded coconut, some sort of sweetener, and cinnamon.  It was actually quite good and made an excellent palate cleanser.

When we were wandering around in the evening, we stumbled upon this:
A busking string quartet!  How cool is that, right?  These lads were crazy good and I couldn’t help but stop and watch for a while.  We need some busking like this where I live!

As a final picture of the evening, I’m drinkin’ the booze in a giant E at the Revolution bar.  Yup, it’s a Beatles-themed bar at The Mirage, the same place where Love, the Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil show is held.  Which I may or may not have gone to. 🙂

But we’ll leave part 1 at that for now, and I’ll be back tomorrow with part 2.  Toodles!

travel and restaurants

Alberta Tour + The Coup in Calgary

Yo!

This post on my band’s recent tour through Alberta is a little belated, but so be it.  And it wasn’t a tour so much as a weekend of shows, but tour sounds cooler.  So I’m gonna share some pictures from the weekend, as well as glorious food photos from a restaurant in Calgary called The Coup.  Here we go!

These were my travel companions for the entirety of the trip, for better or for worse.  The rhythm section of any band always seems to have a special bond.  As in, they like to touch each other.  But don’t worry, I’ll keep this post PG.

See?  Even their hats are BFF.  There was a lot of driving during the weekend – about 8 hours each way, so we needed to play games to keep ourselves entertained.

Have any of you ever played this game?  Where you fold the paper and each person draws a segment?  So fun.  
And now, The Coup!  The Coup is a trendy vegetarian restaurant in Calgary that I’d heard great things about.  We were ravenous when we arrived, which meant we were a little sad to have to wait to be seated.  Jeremy got so hungry he tried to eat Mike.

But then we were seated and all was well, especially when we were delivered heavenly beer.

I was drinking the Blanche du Paradis, and it was incredible.  I think it was some sort of Belgian beer brewed in Quebec.  Does that make any sense?  Maybe I’m just making stuff up.  The rhythm section drank some sort of hibiscus wheat beer, which was also pretty tasty.

And then came my lunch.  I had a flatbread sammich with juicy veggies tossed in a marinara sauce, which was delicious, but the real star of my plate was that dark looking bowl of soup…

Mike got an eggy sammy and the same incredible soup.  It didn’t look terribly promising, but it blew us both away.  I’m pretty sure we just closed our eyes and ate in silence, all bliss-style.  The broth was thin with bits of pulverized mushroom and was flavored with savory herbs like thyme and sage, and the soup was rich with carmelized onions, mushroom pieces and chickpeas.  A thin sprinkling of chives added a nice color to it all. This is one soup I really want to recreate, though it’s probably going to be a challenge.  It’ll happen!

Jeremy is giving his bowl of curry a look of tender endearment.  It was essentially a hot soup with a base of coconut milk, but the spicing was perfect and it was full of goodies – even lotus root!

One awesome thing about The Coup (and there are many awesome things) is that they have several vegan dessert options (including a boozy ice cream sundae thing – I’ll have to get that next time!).  I went with the chocolate torte because I’m a sucker for chocolate, and it was great.  Very, very rich, but the fruit sauce cut the richness and gave it some zing.  Mmm.

At last, Vic and I make a cameo!  I was there the whole time, but behind the camera.  Vic was on his own solo mission during the weekend, so we just saw him at shows.  You know, because guitarists are pretty important.  I guess.  This picture was taken at The Slice in Lethbridge, which was a blast to play at and I’ll definitely tour through there again in the future.

For a night on the tour we did some camping, which ended up being pretty luxurious because we had a giant tent.  Look at that thing.  It’s a beast!

And then, after a night of music playing and crazy shenanigans, we awoke on Monday morning with the sun at 5am for the long drive home.

By the end of the tour, we were out of our road trip food (which included a gratuitous amount of bread, avocados, tomatoes and hummus) so we stopped at Taco Time, of all places.  Did anyone else know that taco time had veggie-friendly burritos?  It certainly wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but it definitely did the trick at 10am when I was ready to gnaw my own arm off.  And, you know, mexi-fries.

And then, I was home.  And chilled out hard (no pictures of that, though).  And it was back to real life, which was a bit of a difficult adjustment to make – I could have toured for another few weeks and been completely happy.  But there’s more of that in the future, so it’s hard to complain. 🙂

Take care, all, and I hope you had a good long weekend (even though it’s kind of late to be saying that)!

travel and restaurants

Vegan at Gran Melia, Cancun

Heyo!

In a previous post about Cancun, I mentioned that I would talk about the eats and such at our resort in Cancun called Gran Melia.  It’s a five-star hotel, and we got a deal on an all-inclusive package since virtually my entire family flew here together (23 people!).

Not knowing what to expect, Logan and I arrived armed and ready. 

The Ades drink and green tea were purchased at the market downstairs, but everything else we brought.  In fact, this stash was already slightly depleted when I took this picture, since we originally had more chocolate and lara bars.

I’m super glad we packed snacks, especially the chocolate.  Understandably, vegan dessert options at Gran Melia were nonexistent, but I don’t like to be shafted from dessert, and so we happily devoured rice milk chocolate like it was going out of style.  The lara bars were handy for day trips, and the nuts were great for a little extra protein and satiation.

And when it came to breakfast, the granola and nut butter were indispensable.

Breakfast

We enjoyed most of our meals at the buffet called Quetzal, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a wide selection of food that varies day to day.

The banana was enjoyed with the nut butter we brought with us, and Logan drizzled pear syrup on the sweet fried plantains.  We ate a lot of raw vegetables in the morning, since we were so grateful to be eating something that resembled real food after being on the plane.  There was a fairly good selection of fruit (mostly fresh melons at this time of year), but also jarred fruit in syrup like mangoes, peaches, pears and mandarin oranges.

We were very joyous to discover that some days they had soy milk sitting on the breakfast buffet table – it tasted like the So Nice brand.  On this particular morning, we put the granola we brought to good use.  They provided cereal and granola, but we wanted to eat our own because we’re picky like that.

More fruit, and a banana that was later smothered with nut butter.  The mash in the bottom left corner was called “banana with dried fruits”, and it was warm and sweet and very good.  On the top right corner is a scoop of refried beans.  Refried beans have been everywhere, but since they’re often made with lard I’ve been careful.  Generally, I follow my nose when it comes to determining if a food has meat or a meat product in it, since I find them very potent.  I’ve noticed that the beans vary from batch to batch, sometimes smelling animal-ish, and sometimes smelling just like the ones I make at home.  On the whole, though, we avoided them.

Those hash brown potatoes were damn good, and I devoured them every time I saw them at breakfast.  I also enjoyed some sauteed mushrooms in soy sauce and a potato-onion-parsley hash, along with fresh fruit, some granola in the background and a glass of fresh grapefruit juice.  They have a good selection of fresh juices each morning (all fruit, not vegetable), like watermelon, papaya and orange.

Lunch and Supper

Unlike breakfast where all of our meals were enjoyed at Quetzal, we went to a few more locations for lunch and dinner, due to being out and about, family meal reservations or simple curiosity.

What I can say about the Gran Melia resort is that if you’re vegan, the buffet is the way to go for meals.  Most of the restaurants have nary a vegan option, except an appetizer or salad.  We went to a place called Kunah, and the two pages of mains were literally just a different animal for each dish.  But Logan and I smiled and nodded and enjoyed some chips with an avocado-beet cerviche, and later retreated to our room to munch out on some chocolate.

We visited another buffet-style restaurant called La Perla, situated outside near some swimming pools, though they were very much a burger and fries kind of joint in the daytime.  But Logan and I love fries.

They also served nachos, but sadly had no guacamole.  I was all pouty, because I’ve come to expect chips to be piled high with salsa and guacamole.  Though as a side-note, when we visited Xel-Ha (an outdoor aquarium), they had a huge vat of guacamole and Logan and I happily called it lunch.

Luckily, there was a fresh salsa and tons of pickles and lolives olives.  Our room service platter of nachos, however, was most excellent:

That’s a full-sized dinner plate piled high with guacamole – there must have been three avocados in that heap.  The salsa was a little watery, but tasted great mixed up with the guacamole.  And since Logan and I couldn’t conquer all the guacamole in one sitting, we saved some for breakfast, which was delicious smothered atop potatoes.  Just be sure to specify that you want guacamole with no cheese…
And then, the wedding meal.  Logan and I weren’t really sure what to expect, since you never really know what a catered meal will be like as the weirdo vegan, but I was told beforehand I could expect a potato, some veggies, and a grilled portobello.  Logan was told he’d be served grilled veggies on rice.  Not the most exciting food in the world, but hey, at least we were being fed.
We started off with a salad…
It was pretty beautiful and actually trumped the salad everyone else got, which was basically just romaine, cheese chunks and a caesar dressing.  The vinaigrette was simple and tasty, and I was just so happy to be eating a bunch of crunchy vegetables.
As for the main?  Well I didn’t photograph them, which maybe says something.  Mine was quite good, though I had to share my potato with Logan since he just got a plate of grilled veggies…no rice.  What man (or woman) could possibly be filled up on a meager plate of grilled veggies, I ask?  At least they tasted good.  
When they started bringing out tiramisu for dessert, I was wondering if Logan and I would get a plate of fruit or something – I wouldn’t have complained, and I still had lots of room in my belly.  Alas, we got no dessert.  Nada.  So we later snuck back to our room for more rice milk chocolate, and all was well.
At the Quetzal buffet, however, we always managed to pile our plates high.

There was almost always rice and potatoes, and plenty of raw and cooked vegetable salads to choose from.  On certain days, we even got to enjoy chickpeas (delish) and black beans.  Logan and I loaded up on olives at every meal, and pecans made a frequent appearance.  But yeah – no shortage of vegetables for us.  
As you might expect from buffet-style food, everything was rather oily.  I didn’t really mind since I was so happy to be well-fed, but it was nice to return home and eat a non-greasy rice bowl topped with crunchy raw veggies.  
So the verdict?  If you’re a vegan at Gran Melia, Cancun, you’ll almost undoubtedly do well.  There’s meat everywhere, but there are plenty of vegetable options (at Quetzal, at least) most days.  There was only one or two days where Logan and I noticed a lack of selection, when they decided to put cheese on the potatoes and seafood in some of the salads.  But we didn’t go hungry!  And the snack bars we brought were mainly for  day trips – we didn’t need them at the hotel.  The granola was great to have for breakfast, though if you’re into stuff like Corn Pops, they’ve got little mini boxes of assorted cereals.
And the best part?  Logan and I never got sick!
But I’m happy to be back in my own kitchen.  My hair is lamenting the loss of its poofy curls and my skin doesn’t particularly enjoy Saskatchewan’s cold, dry air, but it’s actually been a really warm winter so far.  As of this moment it’s 0 degrees (about 32 F), which is amazingly warm for this time of year, where highs of -20 (-4 F) are common, and the windchill can get into the -40’s (-40 F).  And it’s supposed to be warm like this all week, which is worthy of celebration.  And cervezas! 🙂
travel and restaurants

Vegan Friendly Restaurants in Fort Bragg, CA

One of the best parts about spending the last month and a half along the west coast is just how darn easy it’s been to eat.  Even in the small town of Fort Bragg, California, people tend to know what you mean when you say the word “vegan”.  Coming from Saskatchewan (the land of farmers), that’s been a real treat.

For anyone who might end up in Fort Bragg one day, all of the restaurants I went to, even the ones that are clearly not vegan in any way, have been incredibly accommodating and knowledgeable, which leads me to believe that most of the restaurants in the town, far beyond the list here, would have something on the menu that you could easily modify.

Cafe One

Cafe One was one of the first restaurants I went to in Fort Bragg, because it’s fairly well-known for being vegan-friendly and organic.  Indeed they were, and their menu had a ton of offerings including some breakfast items like tofu scrambles, but I was in the mood for noodles.  The ambiance was kind of surprising – very 50’s diner-like – so I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the food.

Well one thing that was immediately obvious to me is that they didn’t skimp on the portions.  My plate arrived piping-hot and loaded with veggies, noodles, ‘fu and crunchy coleslaw.  The flavor was on the bland side and the soba noodles were overcooked, but it was nothing the hot sauce at the table couldn’t remedy.

As I was waiting at my table, I casually glanced at the dessert menu, not getting my hopes up because vegan dessert is kind of a rarity.  But lo and behold, they had vegan pie, as well as soy ice cream!  I didn’t have any room in my stomach but I needed to get the strawberry-rhubarb pie, especially because my blogging peeps keep posting all these gorgeous pie shots and I’m feeling all pie-starved.  And it tasted great!  Not even remotely healthy, of course, but sometimes you just gotta eat pie.

To my knowledge, Cafe One doesn’t have a website, but they’re located at 753 North Main Street in Fort Bragg, CA and I promise you there are plenty of vegan menu selections.  It’s a little on the pricey side, but I found that most restaurants here are a tad pricey.

Headland’s Coffeehouse

The locals that I talked to all encouraged me to check out Headland’s Coffeehouse, which is apparently the coffee shop all the cool kids go to.  They have live music every single night, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I was happy to discover a few vegan options on their menu, including a selection of packaged vegan cookies!  The cookies were of the “super healthy gluten-free this and that” variety, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

One of Headland’s vegan offerings is a giant bean and rice burrito…and I mean giant.  That thing was like the size of a book, but I wasn’t complaining, and polished it off with glee.  As far as burritos are concerned, it was good, but if I were to make it, there would be vegetables inside.  I love rice and beans…but veggies make a nice flavor and texture contrast.

I also took some African Samosas home with me, which you can buy individually.  Of course I had to spill the sauce right before taking the photo – it was obviously thin and a little runny, and I like me some chunky chutney, but the flavor was good.

Headlands is a great little spot and I would totally recommend everyone go there.  Their website can be found here, which also has their full menu and a list of their live music.  They’re open 7-10 most nights, with the exception of Sunday when they’re open from 7-7.  Check ’em out at 120 E Laurel St, right downtown where all the awesome shops are.

The Company Bar

The Company Bar is located in the same building that my school is, and is a great little place to go for drinks and snacks.  They even have couches!  And the best hummus I’ve ever had in my life!  Their menu has several vegetarian options, but I checked with the staff and they weren’t vegan (pesto had parmesan, etc).  They were super friendly and helpful about finding something on the menu, though, and the pita was vegan and AWESOME, so I was a happy gal.  Pita, hummus and beer make a great team.

The company bar can be found at 303 North Main Street (in The Company Store).  Check it!

La Playa Mexican Restaurant

La Playa is a small, unassuming restaurant where you can enjoy authentic, homestyle Mexican food and beer.  It’s one of several Mexican restaurants in the town of Fort Bragg, but I decided to go to this one for two reasons – one, it’s very close to the school, and two, th website claimed to be vegan-friendly.

When I sat down and began settling in, they brought me a dish of chips and salsa.  Yay!  The salsa was quite thin, but luckily it was flavorful and fresh.

I ordered the veggie burrito, mentioning that I was vegan, and is everything in this burrito fine for me?  I was assured that it was.  I then asked for some guacamole, to which the kind server replied, “You can have guacamole or avocado slices – we do put cream in our guacamole.

“Thank you for telling me,” I said.  This is why it’s important to mention being vegan when you go out to a restaurant!  Some things that you assume are always vegan (guacamole!) are sometimes not.

This was a perfectly good burrito – not the best I’ve had, but it was hearty and I’d eat it again, especially for the fair price and their consideration of my veganism.  It was also a big, filling portion and I was stuffed when I left.  La Playa can be found at 542 N. Main St.

Maria’s Kitchen

There’s a lot of Mexican food in Fort Bragg, and I ain’t complaining.  The window decor definitely enticed me to come inside Maria’s Kitchen and check out their vegetarian food. 

What I found was a cheap and hella delicious tostada, which is basically a giant chip with all the taco fixins.  There were other things on the menu that could have been modified to be vegan, and the servers were knowledgeable, polite and helpful.  I definitely ate this tostada a second time.  It was just so full of flavor and spice!

They appear to be without a website, but they exist o120 S. Main Street and I highly recommend them.  It’s not a classy dining experience, but it is delicious.

Piaci Pizza


I was informed by some locals that right across the street from my school was a place that sold super-yummy pizzas, and they understood the concept of vegan.  What I got was 
(not surprisingly) super friendly and fast service, a big pizza with a hefty amount of olives (hurray!), and a great crust which was simultaneously crispy and tender.  I was only sad that I discovered this place near the very end of my visit, or I would have gone back and tried other types.

You can check out their website or visit their store a120 West Redwood Avenue.

travel and restaurants

Living Light Cafe Review – Fort Bragg, CA

The Living Light Cafe is in the same building where all of the classes are taught, and is full of raw, organic and vegan goodness.  They don’t have an extensive menu as it’s a very small cafe, but everything I tried has been absolutely wonderful (especially the desserts!).

Every day until 2pm, they offer a menu of juices, smoothies, milks, ice creams, cooked soup, and sometimes even zucchini pasta and pizza, in addition to some packaged and refrigerated items that can be bought beyond 2pm.  There are a few big meals you can get, as well as a huge plethora of desserts.  They sell condiments like cashew cheese and guacamole, and happiness like kale salad.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Living Light Cafe also sells their own dehydrated goodies – think power bars, seasoned nuts and biscotti.  And they have a great salad bar!  For such a little place, they definitely maximize their space.

Lunches and Meals

In addition to their salad bar, which I didn’t photograph but ate from regularly, they have 3 “culinary creations” that you can just grab and go right from their fridge.  I’ll show you two of them and share my thoughts…

This is a crazy container of awesome, also known as a Taco Salad.  The cool thing about raw foodies is that they can usually make a great salad, one that’s gonna make you full.  I mean really, how often do you get near the end of a salad and say, “hmm, I wonder if I can finish this all, I’m feeling pretty stuffed”?  I rarely ever think that about a salad.

But this salad had everything – a bed of romaine, a cheese sauce and sour cream sauce, a generous heap of refried “beans”, olives, salsa and guacamole.  When I get home, I’d love to recreate this beautiful, meal-sized salad, which was completely worth the $10 price tag.

What is that hiding there in the back left corner, you ask?  It’s half of a raw Not-Tuna Sandwich!  Initially I was all, “gee, I wish they’d give me a whole sandwich,” but honestly, the half is so jammed with tuna pate, and the raw flatbread is so hearty, that you don’t really need more.  And the gigantic heap of greens really rounded out the meal.

I was talking to one of the employees of the Living Light store, and he enthusiastically told me how he tried the Not-Tuna Sandwich for the first time, and absolutely loved it.  This wasn’t a raw foodie making such a big claim, just a regular dude, so that tells you something.

Snacks and Stuff

There’s a huge ton of snacks that they carry, so I’ll only share with you a couple.  I purchased way more than a couple, but I don’t think you need to see pictures of all the varieties to get the idea.

Chocolate almond biscotti was at the top of my list, because, come on, chocolate almond biscotti.  While this raw version lacked the signature “crunch” of a traditional cookie biscotti, it was very decent in its own right, and tasted great dunked in almond milk.  I would say the texture was more comparable to a chewiness as opposed to a crunchiness, which made me a little disappointed – however, I still enjoyed it.  It’s definitely a healthier snacking option than the real deal, since it’s basically just made up of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

These Thai curry seasoned and dehydrated nuts weren’t my favorite, but it was the only one I took a picture of.  The seasoned nuts selection included everything from sweeter, chocolate-covered nuts and fruit to more savory items like Cilantro Lime Mojo pumpkin seeds (my favorite).  I love that the nuts haven’t been roasted, which can dramatically alter the fats in them and make them less healthful.

Dessert!

It was a rare day that went by without me staring longingly into their dessert fridge, drooling over the rotating assortment of goodies.  Naturally, I ate a ton of dessert.  I mean, come on – when else am I going to have access to all these raw treats?

Of course, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”, so luckily they offered many of their desserts in little sizes, because raw treats tend to be very heavy on things like nuts and seeds, which are incredibly filling and high in calories.  This one, a California Mudslide Pie, was so perfectly creamy, almost like a white chocolate cheesecake, with a rich, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture.  It would be impossible to pick a favorite, but if someone held a gun to my head and made me, I probably would chose this one.

…Or maybe this one.  Here we have a little Key Lime Pie, which also had an incredible dreamy-smooth and firm filling.  Perfectly sweet and lime-y with a crumbly, nut-based crust, I went into a happy dessert trance as I ate this pie.  I’m getting hungry again just looking at it…

I took this Chocolate Dream Bar Brownie home with me, so it got banged around a little bit.  This is the cheapest dessert they offer (some of the big slices are around $8), which is why I decided to get it.  I didn’t think I would love it, but it was actually very good, and satisfied any and all chocolate cravings I had.  The “cake” was a chunky mixture that consisted of nuts, dates, cocoa, and maybe some almond pulp (just guessing here), with a soft, cream-cheese-ish topping and some chocolate ganache and coconut flakes for good measure.

When I see a raw Lemon Poppyseed Cake, I buy it.  I don’t ask questions (except to make sure it’s vegan), I just grab it, pay, and run.  And then I scrutinize it, thinking, “how could it look so cake-like without any flour or baking?”  Then, an eager bite.  The cake is definitely based on coconut, I think, maybe flakes ground into a coarse flour.  Oh, and the frosting.  The frosting!  The cake is good, but the frosting is incredible and sells me on the whole thing.  This cake wouldn’t fool anyone, because you can never really replicate that spongy gluten texture of a flour-baked cake, but it was nice and light and thoroughly enjoyable.

Tiramisu, always the star of the show – and with good reason.  Raw sponge cake layered with chocolate coffee mousse, layered with a cream remniscent of dream whip, and topped with chocolate shavings.  The picture kind of speaks for itself, and all of my descriptive words (delicious, awe-inspiring, tear-inducing, etc) seem to be kind of obvious.  Because come on.  Look at it.  Raw tiramisu.

If you’re interested in checking out the Living Light Cafe, you can view their menu or visit their website to check out their hours.  The store is located at:

301-B North Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437



P.S.  Happy first day of MoFo, everyone!  

travel and restaurants

Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Portland, Part 4

I have one more Portland post up my sleeve, before I’m fully immersed in my culinary training here in Fort Bragg – and you’d better believe I’m excited.  Let it be known that I love making food, and eating food.  And I’m going to get better at both.  Hell yeah.

So despite how entranced Logan and I were with the whole food cart scene, we did actually manage to get out to some real restaurants, too.  And a doughnut shop.

1. Laughing Planet Cafe

Laughing Planet was our very first Portland food stop, entirely because of its proximity to our hostel.  Hungry from a long day of bus and train rides, we eagerly stepped inside, where a menu of burritos, bowls and beers greeted us with much glee.  And we gleefully greeted them back!

The menu had some good lookin’ vegan options, and most of it could be easily veganized by getting rid of the cheese, or subbing it with Daiya.  Yup, they had Daiya – and vegan sour cream!

Of course, we went with burritos, because burritos are nature’s perfect food.  I got the Grilled Veggies burrito, but ix-nayed the cheese (obviously) and added sour “cream” and guacamole instead.  Even after adding that delicious, fat-laden goodness, the (huge!) burrito only cost me $6.50!  Hello, America.  Need I mention the cheap beer?

Meanwhile, Logan ate the Che Guevara (pictured left).  Amongst the seasoned beans and rice, it contained bbq sauce and plantains – can’t really go wrong with that.  The burritos were huge and messy, but luckily each table came with some very important instructions:

So basically, Laughing Planet Cafe was a perfect first date, promising many more delicious meals to come, and lots of cheap beer.  We still had to get to know each other a little better, but I had a good feeling about this handsome city called Portland.

2. Portobello

We couldn’t come to Portland and miss out on the opportunity to visit Portobello, an upscale vegan dining experience.  My fine dining experiences in general have been very limited; mostly I’ve carried an idea in my mind of small portions, dim lighting and a hefty bill.  And if that’s what was in store, so be it – you just can’t pass up fancy vegan dining.

…Or beer.  But you knew that was coming.  Not pictured is me sipping champagne, just to feel extra fancy.  I don’t think I’ve ever had champagne before this – that’s how deep my love of beer runs.  But foregoing beer was worth it for the bubbly!  And to make our wait even more enjoyable, we munched on these cute appetizers:

Meet the Cashew Cheese Stuffed Sweety-Peps, a perfect blend of sweet, sour, spicy and smooth.  If I could think up any more words starting with ‘s’ to describe these, then I would.  Super.  Stellar.  Satisfying.

After enjoying our appetizer, we were ready for a meal.  Logan ordered the Arrabiata pizza, and it was the incarnation of beauty itself.  The menu described this pizza as “chili-fennel seed marinara, cherry peppers, cashew cream, and vegan sausage” – doesn’t that sound incredible?  The portion was huge, shattering my main concern about fine dining – I knew our bellies would indeed be full by the end of this meal.

After eating a slice or two, the waiter came by and asked how everything tasted.  Logan exclaimed with gusto, “this is the best pizza I’ve ever had!”  It was that good.  The crust was perfect – thin and crisp with some softness in the middle, and you just can’t go wrong with vegan sausage and Daiya.  Though the menu offered pizza topped with their homemade cashew cheese, Logan opted out because he is a complete Daiya devotee.

I ordered the small size of their Spicy Eggplant Ravioli, because how often does a vegan get to eat fresh, homemade ravioli?  It’s way too much of a pain to make at home, so getting it at a restaurant is a real treat.  As you can imagine, it was incredible – though not very spicy, so I think even a spice wimp could enjoy this.  When it arrived, the portion did seem small indeed, but I’m glad I chose that size because I had a very full belly afterward!  And it was very important we save room for dessert…

Vegan tiramisu.  Delicious, rum-soaked spongy cake layered with a light, creamy whip.  It was perfection.  Logan and I were exploding afterward but it was so, so worth it.

For the amount of food that we ate, and for the excellent quality of that food, the price was very fair, and not nearly as expensive as I was originally anticipating.  Whether or not you’re vegan, Portobello is a great place to go – if it was in my town (oh, how I wish!), I would feel comfortable taking most anyone there, since the food speaks so well for itself, and does a great job telling the world that vegan food can be gourmet, fresh and inventive, without being weird.

And now I’m all emo because it’ll be a long time before I get to enjoy Portobello again.  Band, if you’re reading this, we need to do a west-coast tour ASAP.

3. Hungry Tiger Too

When Logan and I first walked inside after recently completing our vegan strip mall adventures, I immediately saw the holy grail of all whiteboard messages:

First off: vegan corndogs?  For realz?  The deal was truly sealed when I learned that a pint of beer could be had for a mere $1.  It was like a dream come true.  The last couple of days had shown me cheap beer o’plenty, but this took the animal-friendly cake.

While we sipped our cheap beer, we started flipping through the 3-page vegan menu, which sadly isn’t online, so you’ll just have to visit in person.  Check out that drink menu – $2 cans and bottles?  Whoa!  We must’ve died and gone to beer heaven!

It wasn’t just beer heaven we were experiencing, either – with so many delicious sounding choices on their menu (All-day breakfast?  Score!), it took us a good 20 minutes before deciding what to munch on.  Ahh, choices, I had forgotten what you felt like.

We ended up getting an order of Tofuffalo Wings (come on, say tofuffalo out loud, you know you want to), which was deep-fried tofu goodness in a barbeque sauce, served with some vegan ranch.

In addition to the Tofuffalo, we shared a small portion of their Greek Tofu Scramble, which was a giant plate remniscent of Smitty’s, but vegan, and way more colorful.  Like so many places in Portland, the portions were very generous and were cheap as hell.  Our entire bill – beer, corndogs and food – only ended up costing us $20.  I could live in this restaurant.  Again I say to my band: west coast tour.  Pronto.

4. Voodoo Doughnuts

Voodoo Donuts might as well be world-famous, what with their crazy donut selection and offerings like Diablos Rex and Maple Blazer Blunt (both of which we got, by the way).  It definitely seemed world-famous when we got there – there was a lineup way out the door!  But Logan and I were determined to score us some vegan doughnuts, so we waited patiently in the hot 30-degree sun to claim our prize.

Hello, prize.  We decided to get a box of 6 donuts, so we had plenty for snacking and for breakfast.  Aren’t they awesome-looking?  The best of the bunch, in my opinion, was the Portland Cream, described as “Raised yeast doughnut filled with Bavarian cream with chocolate on the top and two eyeballs” – I’m sure you can find it in the picture.  In addition to the Diablos Rex (top left) and Maple Blazer Blunt (top right), we also got the classic Voodoo Doll (complete with pretzel stake, bottom left), an orange-flavored one which I can’t find the name of (Update: It’s called the Orangutan – thanks, Logan!), and a classic glazed doughnut, buried underneath all of the madness.

Oh Portland, now that you’ve been gone from my life for five days, I miss you like crazy.  Where else in the world could such amazing vegan food be found on virtually every corner?  You have stolen a piece of my heart, dear city.

Okay TCK, let’s get on this.  Step 1: achieve fame.  Step 2: tour the west coast.  Step 3: Eat.

travel and restaurants

Vida Vegan Con, the Eats – Portland, Part 2

Vida Vegan Con, the very first vegan blogger conference, went by in a crazy whirlwind of great food, meeting folks and informative panel discussions and presentations.  I’m not the first to recap the events, and I certainly won’t be the last, but here are some highlights of the trip.

Lunches – I can seriously eat everything?!

Corn and roasted veggies, looking all colorful and alluring.  Speaking of colorful, check out that purple cauliflower hummus!

Giant hunks of tempeh, served with plenty of bbq sauce.  I’m not one to usually buy tempeh, but this was damn good, and shall I say meaty.

A creamy, yum-tastic pesto potato salad.

Kale, beautiful kale!  I nearly jumped for joy when I saw two gigantic bowls of kale for the lunch spread – only at a vegan conference.

And my plate, part one.  There was definitely a second plate, but it was not nearly as lovely, since I just piled things on like a crazy caveman on the loose.  Or something.

Check out that long table filled with droolworthy vegan food!  The second day was a free-for-all burrito affair, with more toppings than you could reasonably pack into just one.  So naturally, I had two.

There were three meats to choose from, and I went with some sort of soy curl thing (I think), and walnut meat.  Roasted veggies and yellow rice were mandatory on both, and then I topped the left one with guacamole and black olives, and the one on the right with sour cream and fresh salsa.  Heaven.

Dessert – Ice Cream Partay
Since the conference was sponsored by none other than Coconut Bliss, we enjoyed tons of ice cream for dessert.  Here’s my friend Kiley, hanging out at her booth of happiness:

Throughout the weekend we got free ice cream samples, and some t-shirt and water bottle handouts – not to mention decadent desserts at the conference!

During the Saturday night gallorama, not only were we given ice cream for dessert, but also at least 10 delicious toppings to choose from, including sprinkles, chocolate syrup, ricemellow cream, peanuts and smooshed sandwich cookies.

Logan and I were clearly thrilled about the noms.  Spoon attack!

And Breakfast, Too!

Of course the breakfasts deserve mentioning.  This plate features tofu scramble, a pancake, roasted ‘taters and chia pudding, my fave.  Oh yeah, and Earl Grey tea, too – the convention started early!

In the next post, I’ll talk more about the panels and people, but for now, I’m going to provide a quick link round-up of those who have also been posting about the conference.

VVC Link Roundup:

Erin over at Vegan Homemade was posting pictures as she went, using her fancy smartphone.  I happen to think any smartphone is fancy because I don’t have one.  She has pictures from day 1, day 2 and day 3 – lots and lots of yummy foodstuffs!

Dynise of Urban Vegan collected a whole bunch of images all into one comprehensive photo essay post, full of awesome vegan folk and food.

Gena, mastermind behind Choosing Raw, has so far posted pictures of day 1 and day 2, along with her typical eloquent musings and thoughts.

JL has been chronicling her entire Portland adventures, including a post on the opening reception of the convention.

And last but not least, Jen from That Pain in the Ass Vegan has checked in with a report of breakfast.

I’m excited to see (and share!) more posts from these guys, as well as from others who haven’t yet had time to post about the weekend, like myself.  Take care and see y’all tomorrow!

travel and restaurants

Portland, Part 1: Vegan-Friendly Food Carts

I had heard of food carts, but I had no idea what to expect upon actually seeing a real, live one.  Sure, we have a couple food carts in my city – a hot dog one here, a popcorn one there.  What I’ve come to realize, though, is that these aren’t carts so much as they are little mini junk food stands.  Portland, home of hundreds of small-trailer-sized carts serving everything and anything you can imagine, is akin to a revolution.

They look innocent enough, lined up on the street like teeny little shops.  But they’re everywhere, and could satisfy virtually any craving you could have.  Sushi, Thai, Mexican, burgers, super healthy stuff, juices and smoothies, waffles, desserts of all kinds – you name it, there’s a food cart for it.
We’ve had the time and inclination to visit several food carts on our (too short!) journey to Portland – here I’ll share the vegan-friendly food carts we visited.
Homegrown Smoker Natural Barbeque
This is *the* cart worth mentioning for any vegan folk.   Homegrown is in the University area, run by younger dudes and is entirely vegan.  As I was ogling over the menu, I mentioned to Logan that you can always trust a guy to make delicious comfort food.
Logan was intrigued by the Macnocheeto, a burrito with their homemade mac n’ cheese, baked beans and vegan sausage.  It was a yummy, carby bbq affair:
I ordered a special they were having, a Fufish Po’boy, because I’ve always wanted a po’boy.  It’s basically a Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette, usually with fish, layered with crunchy coleslaw and pickles with a spicy mayo.  Subbing in for the fish was tofu, which was perfectly battered.
With so many good-lookin’ choices on the menu, I would go back again, and again, and again, if I had more than a couple short days left here in Portland.  So much great food to eat, so little time!
The Whole Bowl
This vegetarian food cart, located downtown, had a teeny little menu – a main dish with all the fixins, and then dessert (not vegan).  But I had heard something about the sauce in this Mexican-ish rice bowl being like crack, so we had to try it.
The bowl was full of cilantro, olives, black beans, avocado, salsa and rice, generously topped with the mysterious, and hella delicious, yellow sauce.  I don’t even know what this sauce was made of (it’s vegan though!), or why it’s so vivid yellow, but it did live up to the crack claims.  So despite the lack of choices on the menu, what they do have is very, very good.
DC Vegetarian Cart

Another legendary food cart, we had to check out DC.  Mainly what I was attracted to was the vegan “steak and cheese” sandwich they have, made with their own homestyle seitan.
Image from Food Cards Portland [source]

It was gigantic – though I tried my hardest, I had no hope of completing this tasty, tasty beast.  It was also very messy, so if you get this thing, do make sure to get some napkins!  Logan got himself a veggie burger, which he loved – he said it was like getting fast food, if fast food was half-decent.
Native Bowl

Our last stop was Native Bowl, Julie Hasson’s food cart.  She offers a variety of rice bowls, with lots of fresh crunchy veggies, tofu (or other plant protein), and different sauces.  After random selection, I decided on the Broadway Bowl, which had a peanut-ginger sauce, tofu, and lots of veggies.  Logan chose the esteemed Mississippi Bowl, which was a bbq-style rice bowl with soy curls, ranch and veggies.
All of the food carts we visited were both delicious and inexpensive.  I only hope the movement starts spreading up to Canada!

Catch you all later with more Portland goodness.

travel and restaurants

Vegan Food in Victoria, BC

For the last five days, Logan and I have been eating vegan food in Victoria like there’s no tomorrow, as well as enjoying the company of friends and loving the natural beauty of Vancouver Island.  It’s a little bit of a hike to get to Victoria, but once you’re there, it’s so worth it.  As a first-timer to the west coast, I’ve distinctly noticed how different the vibe is from other places I’ve traveled to – very laid back and soft.

And the food – oh, the food!  Finding vegan food in Victoria was super easy, and I can’t wait to visit again to enjoy more epic noms.  In this post, I’ve laid out the six places we visited – none are straight-up vegan establishments, but all are very vegan-friendly and delicious.  In fact, I didn’t have a single bad meal the entire time I was in Victoria.

1. Hernande’z on Yates St.


When we heard that Victoria had a Mexican place to eat, and that vegan cookbook author and resident Victorian Sarah Kramer loves their food, we knew we had to go.  There were a couple of easily veganized options on their quick lunch menu – the Burrito “Clasico”, filled with seasoned black beans, yellow rice, greens and salsa, and thBurrito de Calabacita, which had all of the above in addition to slow-cooked zucchini.  

Burritos never look like much, but this was probably the best burrito I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  It was perfectly seasoned and super flavorful.  My only minor complaint was its lack of spiciness – I like me some fire in my Mexican food!  But this was a great, quick meal for veggie folk.  Score one for Victoria.

2. The Reef Caribbean Restaurant

The Reef is a mainly omnivorous restaurant, but they have several menu items that are vegan, and which were fantastically delicious.  We all ate Trini Roti, the Ital version, with yummy curried veggies like potatoes and carrots.  Here’s my plate, which doesn’t quite convey the scale of this food – I was full after eating half of one, along with some yam fries, plantain chips and vegan coleslaw.

T’was a fantastic meal, made complete by the yam fries (not pictured), plantain chips and beer.  And Rowan’s being all mystified by water in the background.

3. Blue Nile East African Restaurant

This Ethiopian restaurant looks totally unassuming on the outside, all small and modest and hidden in the midst of a little strip mall.  The all-you-can-eat buffet inside, however, was bold and delicious.  There were plenty of vegan options on the menu, with various lentil, split pea and vegetable dishes abound.  My favorites were the Bursen Tumtumo, red lentils in a spicy berebere sauce, and Hamli Zebhi, flavorful spinach with garlic and ginger and other “exotic spices”.  However, everything was amazing and I was disappointed that my stomach filled up so soon.  I envied John, who went back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths!

Logan’s plate, heaping and emanating yum, with some injera hanging out off to the side.  Injera, a spongy sour bread made from teff flour, is what you use for cutlery in Ethiopian cuisine.  Rowan, meanwhile, was eyeing up everyone’s plates and certainly ate his fair share.

4. Cafe Bliss – Raw Food Restaurant

I just had to visit Victoria’s own raw food restaurant.  Their menu has many tempting offerings from juice to smoothies and mylkshakes, to entrees like pizza, noodle bowls and “BLT” sandwiches.  They also have a gorgeous dessert display, though at least half of them were made with honey, including the chocolates and cakes, so I was sadfaced about that.

I had a lovely salad with a mix of greens, pea shoots, cucumber, beets, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, olives and an orange miso kelp dressing.  It was as good as it looks – I figure you can always trust a raw restaurant to serve you up a snazzy salad.

Along with the salad, I had a raw cracker and a tomato-based vegetable soup.  It was served in a tiny little mason jar, which is a great way to cut down on plastic.  If you return it when you’re done, you get $1 back.  The soup was flavorful and spicy and got an A+ from me.
Logan had a pizza with tomato marinara, cashew “cheeze” and brazil nut parmesan, with greens and veggies.  Though he wasn’t too keen on the crunchiness of the crust, he said the whole package was really tasty.
Natalie met up with us for lunch and had the “BLT”, which was served on their soft homemade onion bread, and had marinated and dehydrated zucchini to stand in for the bacon.  She let me try a piece and it was chewy and flavorful – I didn’t know you could get zucchini to do that!
Later in the afternoon, we came back for a snack – an orange creamsicle “mylkshake”, made with their homemade cashew ice cream and almond milk.  It was as tasty as it sounds, and if I lived in Victoria, I would be prompt about sampling their other mylkshake flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

5. Pink Sugar Cupcakery

An *almost* all-vegan cupcakery beckoned us on our downtown adventures…

Called “Pink Sugar“, it was super girly and stuff, but that didn’t deter Logan.
Look at that cute little display!  The only non-vegan cupcake was the mancake selection they had, made with honey.  But with flavors like the Elvis Banana Cake and the Toasted Coconut Cream Cake, Logan wasn’t too choked up about not being able to get the more manly of cupcakes.
I ended up getting the Lolla Lee Lou Cupcake, which was a vanilla cupcake filled with a coconut lavender cream, topped with a lemony cream cheese frosting.  Logan had the cupcake of the month, which was the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake.  Both were very generous on the frosting and incredibly sweet, but delicious.  And come on.  I come from Regina, Saskatchewan – being able to buy cute vegan cupcakes is such a novelty.

6. Solstice Cafe

Since we were full from our raw food lunch at Cafe Bliss, we didn’t get to enjoy Solstice Cafe in all of its vegan-friendly glory, but we did make sure to visit for dessert, where they had plenty of options in the form of cookies, cakes, muffins and bars.  I’ve heard they also have good vegan lunch items – maybe next time we’re in Victoria we’ll check it out.

Deciding what to get was a tough decision, but I came down on the side of good ol’ carrot cake.  Logan went for the chocolate espresso brownie – don’t they both look awesome?  They were glorious.  I’m not going to get over the sheer awesomeness of easily finding vegan treats anytime soon.
My impression, after hanging out there for five days, is that finding vegan food in Victoria is easy peasy.  There are tons of choices everywhere, and the best part is that even conventional establishments seem to know what veganism is.  If you say, “hi, we’re vegan,” the typical blank stare is nowhere to be seen – at least where I went.  Instead, we received, “Okay, so you don’t want butter on the pita?  And our fries are cooked in the same oil as fish – do you still want them?”  
Also, food aside, it’s just a really nice, pleasant city.  Downtown is fun, lively and safe, and it’s got lots of natural beauty both in the city and outside of it.  It’s pretty much a Canadian hippy paradise.
High five, Victoria.  High five.