Posts Tagged pizza

VeganMoFo: One Day in NYC

Last October I got a last minute opportunity to go to New York City for two nights for a work trip.  I’d been to/through Manhattan a few times but never really had the chance to spend time there and explore, so I jumped at the chance and immediately started researching places to eat.  Food was, of course, the main attraction for me.  My workplace was paying for the flights and two nights at the Hilton Midtown.  I couldn’t afford to pay for another night on my own, so I decided to take a red eye in order to have a whole day to myself before I had to begin work functions.  Red eyes are always a better idea when booking than when actually taking them; I have a hard time sleeping on planes and get pretty wiped out.  But, it was too good of a deal to pass up!

My plan was:
breakfast – Cinnamon Snail
lunch – Candle Cafe
afternoon – Champs for Dun Well donuts or Bagel Store to pick up food for breakfast to bring back
dinner – pizza from Vinnie’s, beers at Brooklyn Brewery
dinner #2 (depending on tiredness/stomach capacity) – Beyond Sushi, Lula’s

When I discovered that Cinnamon Snail’s Friday location was a 15 minute walk from the hotel, my decision for breakfast was easy.  After landing at La Guardia at 9AM, cabbing it to the hotel, and checking in to my room which was surprisingly ready already, I headed to the truck that I had heard so much about.  The weather was overcast and drizzling, but I did not care.

I was absolutely starving and wanted one of the breakfast platters, and opted for the 200 Year Old Frog Man Breakfast Jamboree – maple pecan waffles with cardamom butter, candied pecans & Vermont maple syrup. Served with scrambled tofu, chipotle grilled seitan, and spicy French mustard greens.  I also got coffee, and a donut to enjoy later.  It was really hard to choose from the bakery case, everything looked amazing!

There was nowhere to sit near the truck, so I walked to the nearest park, Bryant Park, which I knew or from watching Project Runway.

This warm meal was perfect to fill my belly on a chilly, dreary morning.  The waffle was incredibly sweet, and incredibly good.  The spiced butter and maple syrup ran into the crevices, and the candied pecans were a nice crunchy contrast.  The greens were pretty bitter (and I like my greens bitter), but good when eaten next to the waffle.  The tofu scramble was standard; I do remember that it had some good herbs in it.  The seitan wasn’t my favorite.  The seasoning was good, but it was a little chewy.  I was plenty full from everything else though!

The next item on my agenda was lunch, so I needed to kill some time.  I checked out Parson’s (also of Project Runway fame) just because it was close by.

I walked through Times Square just to say I saw it, then hung out in the MOMA store for a while, to warm up and buy some Christmas presents.  (They have a great selection of super cute kids books.)

I also stopped by FAO Schwartz to see the piano from Big!  Around lunchtime I was just starting to feel a little hungry, so I started the walk up to Candle Cafe Upper East Side, about a half hour by foot.

The restaurant was pretty full, so I took a stool at the end of the bar, right by the smoothie supplies.

I started with a Green Goddess juice – mixed greens, apple, lemon and ginger.

The sandwiches and daily specials all sounded good, but I was overtired and starting to not feel so hot, so I stuck with the Good Food Plate, where you choose four sides and two sauces.  I went with steamed greens, mac & cheese, grilled tempeh, quinoa pilaf, and tahini and carrot ginger dressings.  The greens and quinoa pilaf were pretty plain, which made them perfect for mixing with the sauces.  The tempeh was well marinated and had a great grilled flavor.  I honestly didn’t love the mac & cheese.  It wasn’t bad, but just wasn’t very flavorful.

I really enjoyed my lunch at Candle Cafe.  The service was quick and friendly, and the people watching was great.  I was dead on my feet for the walk back…so, so tired.  I knew that taking a nap would force me to skip a planned destination or two, but I needed sleep more than anything else at that point.

I woke up after a few hours feeling much better, and recharged with the Cherry Chocolate Pretzel Party donut that I had bought from Cinnamon Snail.  This treat was definitely a party!  Possibly a party with too much going on.  I liked the donut okay, but wished I had stuck with a more classic flavor that I might have enjoyed more.

With that, I ventured over to Brooklyn, taking the NYC subway for the first time ever.  It’s a little confusing if you don’t know exactly where you’re trying to go!  I eventually got on the right train and managed to get off at the right stop, just over the Williamsburg Bridge.  My first stop was The Bagel Store.  I wouldn’t have much time for breakfast the next two mornings, nor were there any appealing options at the hotel, so I picked up some supplies to take back.  The Bagel Store was very cool.  They had all the typical flavors plus some seasonal options, and multiple flavors of tofu-based cream cheese!

From there, I headed to Vinnie’s Pizzeria.

this guy stepped out to instruct his dog just as I was taking a photo

When I first went into Vinnie’s I thought I was in the wrong place, and actually went back outside.  Although I had done my research beforehand, I didn’t see anything about vegan options anywhere.  Plus I think I was a little intimidated by the hipster vibe.  I went back in and found the section of the menu board I had missed, stating that they had vegan slices!  I should’ve taken a picture of the selection.  The guy behind the counter was really nice, and listed out all the vegan flavors for me to choose.  I took my pizza to go, so that I could enjoy it at Brooklyn Brewery.

I was a little sketched out by walking by myself at night, and very happy to turn the corner and see the big Brooklyn logo!

I bought some tokens, got a beer, and dug into the pizza.  I went with an eggplant parmesan slice and a bbq chicken slice, and they were both outstanding.  The crust was crispy even after walking ten minutes, and all the toppings were very flavorful.  They did have the Vegan Mac Attack available (topped with macaroni, ground beef, two cheeses and hot sauce), but I skipped it since I’d had mac with lunch.

As for the beer, it was great.  We used to drink Brooklyn Lager pretty often when we lived in Florida and can’t get it in California, so it’s a treat whenever we can have it.  The brewery is really cool place, it’s a big industrial style room with long picnic tables.  Groups of people were having lively discussions or playing games.  I didn’t mind being there by myself, I sipped my beers while reading a local paper and playing on my phone, and listening to conversations.  After a few beers I was getting really tired, so I gave away my last token and headed back to the hotel.  Despite wanting to go to Lula’s reeeally bad, there was no way I was doing anything else that night.

I had planned to rise early the next morning and run in Central Park, but that did not happen.  I was still on west coast time, and got up just in time to get ready and eat breakfast.

I sliced open the everything bagel from The Bagel Store with a plastic knife and spread on the jalapeno tofu cream cheese, and it was SO GOOD you guys.  I know everyone thinks it’s a joke when people say “New York bagels are better”, but they really are.  I can’t even explain why it was so good, but it was dense and chewy and crispy and light all at the same time, and the jalapeno cream cheese was the perfect complement.  I didn’t really take into account that the whole reason I was there was to talk to people all day…I chewed a lot of gum…

I had to be at my table from 10 to 3, and could only sneak away for 15 minutes and eat what they had available for lunch, which was a plain green salad and a sad veggie sandwich with the cheese taken off.  It was at least enough to get me through the day, along with a good amount of coffee and sparkling water.

After the forum was over I had to pack up and move hotels, since the hotel I was at was booked full for the second night.  The new hotel was right by Koreatown and I needed a quick early dinner before heading out to meet friends, so I checked out Woorijip.

It’s a buffet style, not vegetarian but offering plenty of vegetarian options.  Clockwise from bottom left: rice noodles with kimchi, greens, mung bean sprouts, bok choy and eggplant, seaweed salad, inari, veggie sushi, and tofu with vegetables.

That evening I went to watch the Gator game at a bar in Tribeca (whose name I can’t remember), which was surprisingly filled with fellow Gators!  After taking the subway back it was pretty late, and I needed to pack.  Believe it or not, I was hungry again, so I sought out anything nearby and found there was a Whole Foods a few blocks away that was still open.

Veggie wrap, salad roll with peanut sauce, Sweet & Sara S’more, and a beer.  Good packing fuel.

After a few hours of sleep I was up and getting ready to leave.  I enjoyed the last of my New York food, a pumpkin spice bagel also from The Bagel Store.  It was moist enough to eat on its own, with a cinnamon sugar topping.  A perfect way to end the trip!  I really enjoyed my short time in New York, and would love to go back sometime soon.  Beyond Sushi is at the top of my wish list for next time.

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VeganMoFo: Zachary’s Pizza

Zachary’s Pizza is a well-known pizza joint with four locations around the bay area.  My boyfriend Dave remembers it fondly from his college days, and it was one of the first restaurants he told me about when we moved here.  Out of curiosity, I e-mailed them in early 2009 to inquire if their crust was vegan.  They replied very quickly that, unfortunately, it contained a small amount of butter.

Fast forward to December 2011, almost three years later.  A Zachary’s manager e-mailed me out of the blue to let me know that they now offered a vegan option, the whole wheat crust and Daiya cheese, and they wanted me to be one of the first to know since I had previously inquired.  Talk about customer service!

About a year after that, I finally got the chance to try Zachary’s one random Friday night when Dave and I decided to get pizza on the way home from work.  Their pizzas aren’t cheap by any means, but they’re substantial and you can tell they’re made with quality ingredients.  One or two slices of the “stuffed” Chicago style pizza is easily an entire meal!

I went with the spinach and mushroom pizza, and it was ridiculously incredibly good.  They don’t skimp with the fillings; lots of veggies, melty Daiya mozzarella, and chunky, herby tomato sauce.  You can taste the fresh basil.

Blurry closeup of the deliciousness.  I officially declare that Zachary’s is delicious, worth the price, and awesome for caring about the vegan citizens of the East Bay!

edited:  Dave has requested that I add this picture of Jake, taken right after he ate some of Dave’s pizza.

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VeganMoFo: Reno

I’ve been to Reno too many times to link to all my posts about it (here’s a link to a blog search), but on this latest trip I made it a point to try to find even more restaurants which were vegan friendly.

To start out my Saturday morning, I went for a run along the Truckee River.  There is a pathway along the river which happens to run right through downtown Reno, which made for a really nice run.  There were lots of other people out running, biking and walking their dogs.  Breakfast was a Larabar and a banana which I had brought with me.

For lunch, I headed to Fairly Grounded Too, which I had read about on Vegan Coaches page about dining in Reno.  It’s on Virginia Street a few blocks south of the river, and it’s easy to miss – the sign mostly says “coffee” really big.  Going inside, it’s a modern yet cozy coffee shop with plenty of space for you, your coffee and your laptop.

Their sandwiches and salads are premade and none are vegan, but if you ask the nice people behind the counter they will let you know if anything they have that day is vegan.  This rainbow vegetable soup was recommended; I don’t know if the have it every day or if it’s a special, but it was delicious.  The vegetables were chunky and not overcooked, and there were some interesting spices that I couldn’t put my finger on.  It came with a slice of bread, and they actually had Earth Balance for spreading.

I needed a caffeine fix, so I got a soy latte as well.  This was one of the best soy lattes I’ve ever had, slightly bitter but not too strong.

The girl also mentioned that the biscotti was vegan.  I’m not usually a big biscotti fan, but obviously I had to try it.  It was cherry almond flavor, with both almond extract and chunks of whole almond.  The biscotti was chewy and crispy at the same time, and very good.

That afternoon I had a massage (heaven), and we decided to embark upon the Reno Beer Crawl, which occurs the fourth Saturday of every month.  You buy the glass for five bucks, and can get 6 oz pours at eleven bars for one dollar each.  It was really fun, and a great way to explore more of downtown.

After all that beer and walking around, I was in need of some serious fuel.  We walked down to Pie Face Pizza, as I had heard a rumor that they had vegan cheese.

The rumors were wonderfully true.  Even though it’s not listed on their online menu, they do have Daiya.  This is The Resa specialty pizza – sun-dried tomato, roasted garlic, jalapeno, red onion, spinach, pine nuts, Daiya instead of goat cheese.  It was spicy and garlicy and melty and I ate the whole thing and I’m not ashamed.  Pie Face was a hip and happening place, and I would definitely go back.

Sunday morning I went for brunch at Pneumatic Diner.  I had been there once before for lunch, but it was at a weird time of the afternoon and there was nobody else there, so I wanted to go again when they were more busy.  I was hoping they would have some sort of vegan breakfasty item like pancakes, but they did not.  The menu is massive though, almost too big, so everyone will find something they like.

The breakfast burrito immediately caught my eye, but I think that’s what I ordered the first time I went, so I chose The Vegan Bubba, a sandwich with hummus, red onion, shredded carrot, marinated grilled eggplant and zucchini, and greens.  I chose to add the optional “slab”, which is grilled tofu.

Look at all the deliciousness spilling out!  This was actually a really tasty and satisfying sandwich, despite its apparent simplicity.  It kept me full for a long, long time.

On the way back home, we stopped around 4PM for a late lunch and headed toward a Togo’s, which was in a shopping plaza with not much else.  Walking up to the store, something caught my eye.  It was a sign in the window of Flour Garden Bakery that said “vegan black bean chili”!  Needless to say, I went inside to check it out.

Sadly, they had just put the chili away to freeze (even though it was over an hour until they closed), but luckily they had tofu salad sandwiches on display.  The tofu salad was tasty, but the bakery’s sprouted wheat bread was the real standout.  It was soft, hearty, and a little sweet, the perfect sandwich bread.  If you ever happen to be hungry near exit 199C on I-80, pull over and find Flour Garden.  It’s a great feeling to find things marked vegan unexpectedly.

That’s it for this rendition of vegan in Reno.  My only regret is that I didn’t get to Freeman’s Natural Hotdogs.  There’s always next time!

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On The Road Again

Unless you know me in real life, you probably don’t know that I used to be in a some-what successful ska-punk band in college.  We never got signed or made a whole lot of money, but we did go on a few tours, including one to the United Kingdom, and we had a whole lot of fun.  I’m in a different band now, and I never really thought I would go on tour again because we’re “adults” with “jobs” and “responsibilities”.  A band that we are friends with from Florida, Morningbell, contacted us a while back, asking if we would be interested in going on an eight day west coast tour with them.  We would provide and haul the gear, and they would do all the hard work of booking the tour and making arrangements.  The answer was yes!  It was a different kind of tour, because we were actually at home for three days in the middle as opposed to being gone the whole time.

The thing about tour is, you’re in it together.  You obviously spend a lot of time in the van, but you also spend a surprising amount of time just waiting around, and you have to kind of go with the flow.  My goal on the trip was to eat as much delicious vegan food as possible without being a pain to anyone else.  I have a lot of pictures, so I’m gonna split this into two posts.

I prepared for tour by stocking up on some snacks and breakfast items, so that I would only really have to worry about finding lunch and dinner each day.  Apples, fruit leather, cheddar crackers, emergen-c and stevia, english muffins, split pea soup, bananas, kale chips, pumpernickel pretzels, a pro bar, bragg’s-roasted almonds, and a few kinds of nut butter.  The paper grocery bag that held my food became known as my feedbag, as in “hey guys, can you see if there’s a banana in my feedbag?”.  I also took a bunch of big bottles of water so that I wouldn’t have to buy small bottles at gas stations, and we may have stashed a few bottles of two buck chuck.

I was particularly excited about these.

And these.

I tried the “kool ranch” kale chips on the way down to LA.  They didn’t taste particularly ranchey, but did have those undertones of garlic and onion, and were very tasty.  The whole bag only had 200 calories, and I could only manage to get through half of the bag as an afternoon snack.  Filling!

I was hoping to eat at either Veggie Grill or Real Food Daily before our show in LA, as both were relatively close to the venue.  What I learned quickly is that in LA, “relatively close” means count on 45 minutes in traffic, so sadly I didn’t get to either.  We stopped at a grocery store and I got what I could.

Apparently this is the part where we all look at our hands.

Morningbell

The next morning, I grabbed a soy latte from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a chain which seemed to be all over LA.

For breakfast, I tried the maple almond butter on an english muffin.  This stuff is the business.  Seriously, if all almond butter tasted like this I would eat it constantly.  Also, I learned that english muffins are hard to fork split without a fork.

Our lunch stop that day was at a stereotypical highway-side fast food mecca, and my choices came down to Subway or Taco Bell.  The veggies at Subway sounded really good, but so did the protein of a Taco Bell bean burrito, so I did what any normal person would do and got both.  No pictures, but the sandwich was possibly the best Subway I’ve ever had, due to the addition of avocado.

Upon arrival in San Jose we had about an hour until load in, so we checked out the Vietnamese place across the street.  On tour, you often have to eat what is close and easy.

Luckily, they had a few vegetarian dishes and I chose the tofu stir fry.  It wasn’t the most amazing stir fry every, but it was a warm and welcome addition to my tummy.

The show in San Jose was actually in a record store, Streetlight Records.  This is True Mad North, some of whom are old friends of Dave’s from high school.  I <3 these guys.

The next morning was Saturday, and I had to go in to work.  Well, they didn’t make me go, but there were some things I really wanted to take care of before I was gone for a whole ‘nother week, so I went in for a few hours.  As a reward for being dutiful, I treated myself to brunch at The Donut Farm.

Tofu scramble with spinach, mushrooms, herbs and green onion, hash browns and sourdough with house-made “butter”.  Sadly, they were out of the Dave’s Killer Bread they usually have, so I had to settle for sourdough.  My quest for Dave’s Killer Bread will continue in part II.

Apple fritter and coffee with coconut creamer.  I think I like Ronald’s apple fritters a little better, but really, if we’re ranking vegan apple fritters we’re splitting hairs.

I didn’t want to buy any groceries the two days we were at home, so it was mostly burritos and Chinese, which isn’t worth reporting since I eat them all the time!

The next day, we were fortunate enough to play a show at the Russian River Brewpub in Santa Rosa.

According to Barnivore, the beers brewed at the brewpub aren’t vegan, but the beers in bottles which are brewed off-site are.  So, bottled beer it was!  This redemption blond ale was really light and tasty.

Their online menu didn’t list a vegan pizza, but the in-store menu did.  This is “Mary’s Vegan Pizza”, which had spinach, artichoke, green pepper and olives.  It was a good pizza, but it really could have used a pop of flavor, like something spicy or sun-dried tomatoes or something.  Nevertheless, I’m not complaining any time I find something labeled vegan on a menu.

That’s all for today!  I’ll be back soon with part II, in which we went north to Portland and Seattle.

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Heading To The Cabin

I haven’t heard from the second winner of the Appetite For Reduction giveaway, so I’m hoping the third time’s a charm!

The new winner is number eight, Autumn Tao.  I’ve e-mailed you!

The day after Christmas, I flew to the east coast to spend time with my family at “the cabin”.  A few years back, my parents bought a cute little cabin in Clayton, Georgia, so now they head up whenever they can, and I was happy to be able to join them as well as my brother and sister-in-law.  I didn’t anticipate when planning my trip that Atlanta and northern Georgia would experience a big snow storm beginning on Christmas day!  I’ve got lots of pictures, so I’ll try to keep the text short.

For comparison, the same tree in October.

We didnt spend much time out here on this trip!

death icicles

I was a little concerned about finding vegan food in small-town back-country northern Georgia, but my mom assured me that I would find enough to eat.  The Ingles grocery store there was pretty well stocked, and downright pleasant!  Between what my parents brought, stuff we bought and local restaurants, I was plenty well fed.

Oatmeal with bananas, Back To Nature Harvest Blend trail mix (good stuff!) and agave nectar.

cute little kitchen set up

Possibly my favorite sandwich:  hickory smoked tofurkey, hummus, mustard, pickles and mixed greens, with baked chips and my mom’s veganized ginger cookie.

We found this really delicious, locally made bread at Ingles.  It even said “vegan” on the label!

My sis-in-law had never seen snow (I know!), so upon arrival she immediately jumped out of the car and made a snow angel.

bustling downtown Clayton

bookstore kitty!

For dinner, we went to Mama G’s.  The pizza crust was confirmed as vegan, so I ordered this delicious personal pizza with broccoli, garlic, artichokes and sundried tomatoes.  It was really tasty!

my family at Mama Gs

Yay for beer that I can’t get at home!  Ingles lets you build a six pack from single bottles, so I got to try a variety.

Tofu scramble breakfast made with onion, mushrooms and what I could find at the cabin – salsa, garlic salt, mustard and dried cilantro if I remember correctly.  My parents had some for breakfast too, although my dad wanted a swipe of Miracle Whip on his :)

Brother and SIL in Franklin, NC

On the way back to town, we stopped at Fatz Cafe, a local chain, for lunch.  I knew there wouldn’t be much for me on the menu, but what I did end up ordering was pretty tasty.

house salad (minus cheese, bacon and croutons) with raspberry walnut vinaigrette

baked sweet potato, loaded up with salt and black pepper

We stayed in for dinner that night – spaghetti, focaccia and roasted veggies.  I started to feel under the weather this night, but I wasn’t going to miss…

Our day trip to Asheville, NC, and lunch at Laughing Seed Cafe!

Before we left, I fueled up with peanut butter and banana on cinnamon raisin toast.

While we waited for our table at Laughing Seed, we walked around and checked out some shops, my favorite of which was The Spice & Tea Exchange.

I bought little packets of ras el hanout, zahtar and spicy cocoa mix, but I wish I could have bought a lot more!

When we finally sat down at Laughing Seed, we shared two appetizers.

pakoras - tri-pepper and squash-onion

crispy wontons with delicious sesame-ginger dressing

Moms plate - roasted veggies and sauce over toast, and a salad (their menu changes seasonally and this meal isnt listed any more...)

Dads "Lumberjack" - seitan with spinach and gravy over toast, and mashed potatoes

My Havana Cuban, with vegan cheese spread instead of swiss, and carrot soup. Didnt really taste like a Cuban, but it was good!

coconut cream pie; I dont love coconut usually, but this was nice!

Vegetarian food isn’t always my family’s favorite (I’m looking at you, brother!), but everyone found something on the menu that they liked well enough.  I thought the Laughing Seed Cafe’s food was really nice, and I’d love to go back sometime.

We passed by a gingerbread house contest - Dr. Suess house!

This house had its own garden, adorable!

last breakfast at the cabin - pita with peanut butter, soy yogurt with trail mix, and coffee

We said goodbye to the cabin (and the snow) and drove down to Florida, where my parents dropped me off in Gainesville, where my friends were getting married on New Year’s Eve.  I was pretty sick with a head cold by this time, but I only had two nights in Gainesville so I tried to make the best of it!

I met my friend Jackie for lunch at Boca Fiesta, which opened up soon after I moved away and now seems to be all the rage.

herbivore menu section!

Vegan queso! You could tell that it had been thickened with flour, but the flavor was good. I dont complain about vegan queso, ever.

I got a giant burrito, salad and collards. This was so much food, but I managed somehow.

That night, my wonderful friends Janeen and Mark got married!  I won’t post many pictures for privacy’s sake, but here’s one – look how pretty!

A few of the other guests were vegan, so there was a vegan-only food table.  Sadly, not everyone got the memo, and there wasn’t much left by the time I got there!

I had some vegan drumsticks, pakoras, mac n cheese, and vegan cheese and crackers, which was plenty enough for my sick head and tummy.

The cupcakes on the table were vegan!

We held sparklers instead of throwing rice, which was only slightly terrifying.

Despite catching a death-cold that ended up lasting three weeks, and having the worst flight home ever (my ear didn’t pop on the way down from my first flight, and I had to walk around the airport basically deaf and miserable), my trip was so fantastic!  I only wish that I could have spent more time with my friends and family.

On a side note, check out xgfx.org, a new vegan and gluten free website run by three lovely ladies – Allyson of Manifest Vegan, Kittee of Cake Maker to the Stars, and Jessy, my favorite happy-faced vegan!

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Saturdays = Donuts, and Other Delicious Foods

A few weeks before Christmas I found myself with a free Saturday, so I decided to head out to San Francisco and get in the holiday spirit by checking out Union Square.  I had a different destination in mind for my first stop though.

It was delightfully foggy that morning at the Ferry Building Farmers Market.  I spent a while walking around looking at all the amazing produce I couldn’t buy because I didn’t want to carry it around all day.

But I wasn’t there just to ogle the fennel.  I was there for donuts.  Pepple’s Donuts has a kiosk in the Ferry Building that I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not known it was there!

Trying the blueberry donut was a given, as it’s always been one of my faves.  I was stumped on what other flavor to try, so the girl working there suggested the candy cap flavor, which is actually made with mushrooms purchased from their Ferry Building neighbors, Far West Fungi.  I don’t know exactly how it works, but candy cap mushrooms are sweet – I would describe the flavor as something between caramel and maple syrup.

The blueberry flavor had flecks of blueberry in the donut, which was nice, but the blueberry flavor wasn’t quite as strong as I had hoped.  Regardless, it was delicious, as was the candy cap donut.  After two of these bad boys, I had a MAJOR sugar rush!  I headed out to Union Square to check out the holiday going-ons and do some window shopping.

Walking up to the giant Macy’s, I was looking forward to seeing their window displays, but I wasn’t sure what was going on in the window with a large crowd around it.

Kitties and puppies!  It turns out Macy’s teamed up with the SFSPCA to promote animal adoption, and you could go inside the store to see more available animals.

The volunteer outside said that so many people wanted these little guys that they were collecting names for a lottery-style drawing.

After walking around the square and trying very hard to hold onto my money, I headed to my dinner destination, in the Westfield Mall food court.

It was really awesome to see an all vegan restaurant in a busy food court!  They had some really nice looking hot dishes on their line, but I was in need of some serious fuel and decided on a sandwich.

This is The Queen Sandwich:  marinated soy protein with house caramelized sauce, vegan mayo, cucumber, cilantro and lettuce.  I also got some Thai Iced Tea, which I had never had before.  It kind of tasted like chocolate milk.  This was a good meal, but I think next time I’ll get an appetizer and a hot dish to see what Loving Hut is really all about.

A more recent Saturday started in Oakland.  Dave woke me, needing a ride from the repair shop, and his penance was to accompany me to Oakland to try brunch from the Donut Farm, Pepple’s storefront in North Oakland.

In addition to a multitude of donut choices, Donut Farm offers a tofu scramble with seasonal veggies and/or pancakes.  I really wanted to try some pancakes, but couldn’t justify getting both pancakes and a donut.

The scramble of the day had collards, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions and probably some other things I’m forgetting.  The hash browns were a wacky orangey color, purportedly from cooking them in palm oil.  The meal came with my choice of Dave’s Killer sourdough or wheat toast, with Donut Farm’s housemade “fake butter”.  The scramble was good, and the hash browns were good, but the real show stealer here was the toast!  This was my first time trying Dave’s Killer Bread, and it lives up to the name.  If I could get this stuff anywhere near here, I’d be buying it constantly.

Of course, I got a donut too.  (I’m feeling really spoiled all of the sudden…)  This is the salted caramel flavor, a plain cake donut with caramel frosting and big flecks of salt.  Incredible!  You can definitely taste the salt, but it blends so nicely with the sweet frosting.  The donut alone is not very sweet, so it really allows the frosting to stand out.

I was attending a birthday get together later that day, which seemed like a perfect excuse to gift a box of donuts.

Chili-mango, coffee, green tea matcha, salted caramel, coconut, and a candy cap underneath.  The guy at Donut Farm commented that I was getting all the exotic flavors…why not?

After drinking some excellent rum drinks at Smuggler’s Cove, which is like Pirates of the Caribbean for grown ups (in a good way), we were ready for some dinner.  Luckily, the birthday boy had done his homework, and new that Patxi’s was in the neighborhood.

Patxi’s (pronounced Patchy’s?) will gladly use Daiya mozzarella instead of cow’s cheese at no extra cost, and while I’m sure this cell phone picture doesn’t do it justice, please believe me when I tell you that the pizza was AWESOME.  Our toppings were spinach, artichoke and olives.  The pizza was hot, the cheese was melted but not messy, and the flavor was fantastic.  I would highly recommend giving Patxi’s a try if you ever get the chance!

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VeganMoFo: Impromptu Trips – Disneyland and Reno

Scene:  late July, at a Saturday afternoon Oakland A’s game.

Dave:  “If I paid for everything, would you guys leave right now to go to Disneyland tomorrow?”

Me:  “Uh, hell yes?”

And that is how we found ourselves heading down I-5 on that Saturday night, already exhausted, with dreams of Disney dancing in our heads.  (Note – I know a lot of people don’t like Disney because they’re an evil corporation and all that, but I like Disney and I’m not apologizing for it.  I even worked at Disney World for a little while and managed not to become disenfranchised by seeing Cinderella taking a smoke break and Chip ‘n Dale walking around with their heads off.)

Dave’s sister lives near LA, so we stayed at her place, going to bed after midnight and getting up bright and early at 6AM.  We were only going to be there for one day, so we wanted to maximize our time at the parks.

This accurately reflects how we felt most of the morning.  We were excited to be there, but boy were we dragging!

I had eaten a banana and a Luna bar for breakfast, so after a few hours I had this Mickey pretzel for fuel.  I felt kinda bad about eating his face.

For lunch, we headed to the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney, which is one of Dave’s favorite places on earth.  I ordered the portobello mushroom sandwiches, which I had confirmed on a previous visit was vegan if you take off the dressing and cheese.  I asked for a side of vinaigrette to add some flavor, and ordered fruit instead of fries, which in retrospect was a bad idea because I really could’ve used more heft to the meal.

Walking around the hotel area looking for a place to stay that night, I ran into Goofy!  Horrible picture of me, but…Goofy!

(True story:  On the way to the ESPN Zone, I was singing along to “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, which was playing over the speakers.  Dave and Matt were laughing at me until we passed a middle-aged gentleman (not an employee or a dad) also singing along loudly, and then they laughed even harder.)

Scariest ride EVER.  When I go on the Tower of Terror I don’t scream because I’m having fun, I scream because I think I actually might die.

I became a little ill that evening, possibly from letting my blood sugar get too low and/or exhaustion, so Dave was kind enough to stand in line and get me this Vegetarian Gumbo from the stand next to the Haunted Mansion.  Truth be told, it wasn’t that great, but it was gentle on my tummy and stabilized me enough to go on a few more rides before passing out.  Sorry about the awful photo…

Verdict:  I still love Disneyland, and I’m glad that they have veggie options in the park.  From what I remember, the veggie burgers that you find around the park are vegan (ask for no butter on the bun), and I’ve heard that some ice cream shops have soy ice cream on request.  One day just isn’t enough to do everything!

Onto our last trip to Reno, which falls into the impromptu category because we had decided to go about two days prior.  As I mentioned in my last Reno post, we’ve gotten into the habit of going to Reno every few months, so this will probably be my last Reno post for a while, as there just aren’t that many vegan options there to show you.  Unless I go to Freeman’s again, which obviously would be very exciting.

We left work a little early on Friday to make the four hour drive.  After checking in, we decided on Brew Brothers for dinner.  I asked our waiter if he knew what brand their veggie burger was, or if it was house-made.  He said he didn’t know, and didn’t offer to try to find out.  Come on, guy.  I was highly irritated by this.  If you are a server and you don’t know the answer to a question regarding ingredients, at least offer to try to find out.  Maybe I’ll be nice and say never mind, but probably I am asking for a reason and would actually like to know.  I try not to be an annoying restaurant customer – I had one question, and if the veggie burger turned out not to be vegan, I had a back up plan.

Which was the veggie pizza with no cheese.  It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was warm and filling and perfectly spicy.

I was feeling a little spunky and indecisive about what I wanted in the beer department, so I ordered the full sampler.  It was $1 for one 4 oz sample, or $7 for all eight 4 oz samples.  That’s 32 ounces of craft beer, people!  And it came in this awesome wheel!  Don’t worry, I didn’t drink it all – I needed help to finish.  Some of their beers are really good, and some are okay but not a stand-out.  Overall, I really like Brew Brothers except for the mean waiter who won’t answer my questions.  (To be fair, we’ve had good service there before, and the waiter wasn’t that mean…but he wasn’t that nice either.)

The next morning the boys went to the buffet, and I slept in and enjoyed this hotel room breakfast.

…and then this happened.  Sports book, football and baseball lines, bloody Mary.  When in Rome…

When I couldn’t stand being inside one minute longer, I stepped onto the street to check out the Great Italian Festival, which just so happened to be going on that weekend.

The concept was pretty neat, actually.  Each booth was for a family or region, and they had big vats of hot pasta sauce.  Most booths had little slices of bread they would scoop some sauce onto for sampling.

Or, you could buy a bowl of spaghetti for them to put the sauce on.  All the sauce samples were free, which I thought was really nice considering how much festival food usually costs.

There was a grape stomping (?) contest, of which I only saw the before and after.  This guy was pitchforking grapes into the buckets in preparation for their stomping.

There were fresh artichokes, but sadly they were all going in that giant pan with sausage.

I did pick up a bellini to try, made with fresh peaches, and it was lovely.  I don’t think I had ever had a bellini before.

There was one vendor that caught my eye, pastamore.  They had a large variety of their vinegars and oils for sampling, and every single one that I tried was outstanding.  They don’t currently sell in any retail shops, but you can find their products on their website.  I bought two of their balsamic vinegars to take home.

Upon coming back inside from the festival, I was in dire need of lunch.  I headed over to the Silver Legacy food court, which has one or two veggie options, and they were closed!  In the middle of the day at 3PM!  What’s the point of a casino food court if they’re closed in the middle of the day on a Saturday???

Luckily, I’ve been to the area enough times now that I know what my other options are, because I was getting hangry.  I headed back outside and across the street to the taqueria.

Okay, so burritos don’t photograph very well, but my god do I love burritos the size of my head!

Dave and I celebrating 10:10 10/10/10.

I also celebrated winning my first sports parlay!  I turned $10 into $90.  Or rather, I recouped the money I had lost playing craps and buying vinegar.

Since I had eaten such a late, large lunch, I wasn’t hungry again till it was basically time to retire.  I went to the food court again, and AGAIN it was closed!  How is a casino food court to make any money if they’re closed at 3PM and midnight on a Saturday?  I don’t get it.

Instead, I went to Cafe Sedona, which I don’t really care for but is open 24 hours, so they win.  The only real option was the veggie burger.  The fries were pretty good and the burger came with sprouts, so it was decent for midnight eats with limited options.

We checked out relatively early the next morning and decided to take the long way home, since neither Matt nor I had ever been to Lake Tahoe.  We weren’t in a hurry, so we stopped for brunch at the Black Bear Diner.  They have a few vegetarian menu items but nothing that’s vegan without being modified, and they are happy to accept special requests.  In spite of my limited options, I really do like the Black Bear Diner.

I wasn’t in the mood for another veggie burger AT ALL since I’d just had one 10 hours prior, but it was the best full-meal option, so I went for it.  I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised when my plate arrived!  For vegan diner food in a non-vegan diner, it was good stuff.

It was a long drive to Tahoe.  A very long and sometimes scary, mountainous drive.  The first view of the lake was worth it though.

We descended to the city of Lake Tahoe, and drove around about half the lake.  Tahoe is a lovely area with plenty to see and do, and we definitely want to go back and spend some time there on one of our next trips.

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