Posts Tagged donuts

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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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 ❤ 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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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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Vegan Weekends (or, The Post of Many Pictures)

Against my predictions, June was just as crazy for me as May, if not a bit crazier.  Almost every day of every weekend was booked, and then some.  So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to for the last five weekends…

The first weekend of June we had some friends join in on our tailgating for an A’s game and bf and I kind of went all out.  BF has been interested lately in making our own buns for hamburgers, which translates into ME making our own buns for hamburgers.  I had seen some loaves of Easy French Bread from La Dolce Vegan floating around the blog world, so I made some buns using that recipe.

I forgot to add the sesame seeds until after the second rise, and in adding them and trying to make sure they didn’t fall off I basically pressed all the rise out of the buns, so they were a little flatter then I wanted.  They tasted good though, and were definitely sturdy enough to stand up to burgers.

I don’t know what got in to me, but I had a mad desire to make Ramen Slaw, which is a dish commonly found at southern pot lucks and the like.  I found and followed a recipe online, but for the life of me I can’t find it again.  I’ll post up the link when I get home.

Ramen slaw, up close and personal.

Post-almond topping.

Here’s my plate:  veggie burger on homemade bun, grilled corn that I accidentally set on fire (like for real, flaming husks and all) and ramen slaw.  I went back for seconds on the slaw, so good.

It was bf’s cousin’s birthday, so I made dessert too.  I had a hard time deciding but in the end wound up trying the Black Bottom Blondies from My Sweet Vegan.

The look innocent enough from the top…

Bonus chocolate layer!  These were tasty enough, but honestly I didn’t like the texture.  It was kind of gummy and dense.  I’m thinking I may have overbeaten the batter, but the instructions say to beat it!

The next Saturday I was invited to a picnic at Tilden Park to celebrate the marriage of my friends Becca and Steve.  They got married in New York, so this was a nice was for us to get together.  I was completely blanking on a good picnic food to bring, so I asked Becca and she suggested the ranch dressing that she had at my house once.  Easy enough!

The food was good and simple, perfect for a picnic.  First plate:  veggie burger, chips & hummus, veggies & ranch.

Second plate:  fruit salad, pasta salad, tofu and tomatoes and more cucumbers.

Third plate, just because the roasted red peppers and grilled zucchini were done.

Lucky for all of us, Melisser of Sugar Beet Sweets made cupcakes!

Gluten free strawberry shortcake and peanut butter cup.

La la lemon and chocoate chocoalte.  I had a lemon and a pb cup.  Oink oink!  You can’t only have one of Melisser’s cupcakes.

Tilden Park is kind of amazing in an it’s-huge-and-you-will-get-lost kind of way.  There is a great old style carousel, and after lunch a group of us decided to act like children and go on it.  There are all sorts of beautiful, detailed animals.

Deer, zebra and kitty.

Lion, rooster, frog and horse.  There was also a dog and a panda and lord knows what else.  I chose the frog.  Becca didn’t want to ride because of motion sickness, so she tried to snap pictures of us.

My head is on the left above the rooster head.  Good times!

The next day I drove down to Santa Cruz to meet the NorCal PPK crew at Amey’s house for a potluck.  This was a vegan potluck of a magnitude never achieved before, and quite possibly never matched again.  Here’s the table when I got there, and food seemed to flow in continuously afterwards too.

Overflow area:

My contributions were a layered salad bar-style salad with iceberg, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, carrots, peas, red onions, seitan pepperoni, bacos, sunflower seeds, croutons and choice of ranch or balsamic vinaigrette.

And Fatfree Vegan’s Southern-Style Banana Pudding.  This was a big hit – really delicious and very easy to make.  I used EcoPlanet vanilla cookies because they were all I could find, and it worked well.

Obviously, I had to try a little of everything.  Plate 1:  empanada, mini bagel with herb spread, pirogi with caramelized onions, crackers with walnut miso dip, bread with yellow pepper dip, a spring roll with garlic scapes and mandarins and other crazy stuff, and grilled tofu on baguette with some sort of delicious spread.

Plate 2: pasta salad, salad with ranch, chips and guacamole,

I was stuffed at this point and put off dessert as long as I could stand, but it all looked so good!  Some more non-dessert arrived in the meantime, so that’s why there’s green on my mostly-dessert plate:  brussels sprouts with pistachios, braised peach and fig salad, swedish cinnamon roll, raspberries, key lime pie with white chocolate mousse, rice krispy treat, apple coffee cake and banana pudding.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Melisser made a ridiculous dessert.  If I remember correctly it was pie crust, cookie dough, cake AND meringue.  Here she is torching the meringue.

Inside shot.

Group shot!

There were SEVEN doggies at the potluck (three of which were Amey’s), and surprisingly enough I liked them all!  All the doggie owners tried to wrangle them in for a picture.

Here’s the ever-popular Strummer, sunning herself on Megan’s lap.

Our gracious host Amey with Snoopy the cutie-pie.

And my favorite pittbull, Fiona.

After pigging out we all sat around and chatted for a while, then Megan, Melisser, her husband Ryan and I went to downtown Santa Cruz to walk around and check out some shops, so at least I worked off a FEW calories.  Check out Amey’s blog post here, she has more detailed pictures of most of the food.

The next weekend we went to Vegas!  BF’s sister is graduating from her master’s program and wanted to get together to celebrate so a group of 13 of us went, mostly bf’s family and his sister’s boyfriend’s family.  Whew.  We scored an amazing rate at Paris, and really enjoyed staying there.  It’s a comfortable hotel, and the kind of place you wouldn’t really have to leave the whole weekend if you didn’t want to.

We got in late afternoon on Friday, settled in, and ate at a cafe in Paris that really isn’t worth writing about, except for the fact that I got a whole bottle of wine for $8 when most of their single glasses are more than that.

HERE is what Vegas means to me.

Ronald’s Donuts, my friends.  The donuts are out of this world good, they have soy milk for coffee, and I will happily make myself sick eating their apple fritters.  Here I am, slightly hungover and unshowered, in apple fritter heaven.

We had plans for dinner but needed to have a late lunch somewhere, because one cannot exist on apple fritters alone.  Enter Le Burger Brasserie in Paris.  I took a chance that this place would have something I could eat, and I won!  Upon inquiring of the waiter if their veggie burger had any dairy or eggs, he cringed and said “Yeah, I think it does…it has mushrooms, grains, vegan cheese…Wait!  Vegan cheese has no dairy!” and checked with the kitchen to be completely sure.

This was a good, good veggie burger.  The patties are made in-house, and are at least an inch thick and very tasty.  It comes with two topping, but I added one and chose portobello, avocado and caramelized onions.  Seriously, this was one of the best veggie burgers I have ever had and I’d recommend Le Burger Brasserie over the meal I had at Burger Bar easily.

The one caveat about this place is that it’s not cheap.  The burgers don’t come with fries, you have to order them separately.  But I would recommend that you do.

Because their fries are really good, despite the blurry image.  They have steak fries, shoestring fries AND waffle fries and you can get a three fry sampler if you want.

Sometimes when the waiter forgets to ask whether you want an orange or lemon slice with your Widmer and they bring you both, you put them both in.  It’s Vegas, you gotta get a little crazy!

Dinner that night was at The Wynn Buffet, where the lighting apparently does horrible things to my pictures.  Like last time I visited, I didn’t get to check that anything was vegan, but when in doubt went the cautious route.  So don’t take my word for it on this stuff…

Plate 1:  salad with vinaigrette, asparagus and pea salad, strawberries, dried fruit, marinated artichoke, pickles and a little piece of bread.

Plate 2:  pita with hummus and baba ganoush, rice pilaf, curried chickpeas.

Plate 3:  Asian slaw, spicy cucumbers with citrus, sushi, seaweed salad, and the most amazing miso udon which I tried to replicate after the last time I had it but didn’t really come close.

I also had a few bites of sorbet for dessert, but it was nothing picture worthy.  For the life of me I can’t remember where or if we had lunch the next day.  Maybe I just ate a bunch of donuts?

For dinner, we had a date with Hoffbrauhaus, a full-on German-style restaurant like in Beer Fest.  You sit at a long table with other parties, there is a band with an accordion on stage, and the waitresses can carry multiple mugs of beer in one hand.  Look at this perfect pour!

The menu includes two vegetarian entrees, but they’re both laden with cheese or cream, so I asked about a few side dishes and ended up getting three.

Yummy pretzel with sweet mustard.

Cucumber salad, which was good but not worth the $7 it costed.

Red cabbage.  The flavor was good, but they somehow managed to make the cabbage HEAVY.  I couldn’t even finish this small bowl.

I would recommend the Hoffbrauhaus if you’re into that sort of thing, but warn that it is not really within walking distance of the strip.  It may look like it is on a map, but please take a cab!

After dinner we went to Cirque du Soleil Mystere at TI.  It was quite a show, but overall I think I liked La Nouba in Orlando better.  Not that Mystere was bad, it just wasn’t better than La Nouba.  It was also really expensive; our discount tickets were more than I really wanted to pay, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity.

That was it for us in Vegas, but on the way out of town we stopped off at Ronald’s again.  I had asked around in the Bay Area to see if anyone wanted donuts brought back and had a large response.  So I bought ten half dozens, which didn’t include the donuts I bought for the ride home, or the donuts that the sweet people at Ronald’s GAVE to me!  Here are the donuts I distributed, with my pepper grinder for size reference (and bonus grease spots).

The next weekend, in addition to going to two baseball games, I baked a donation for the San Francisco Worldwide Vegan Bakesale.

These are Chocolate Chip-Raspberry Blondies from Vegan With A Vengeance, but made with Blackberries instead.  They are super-duper good and I can’t believe I waited this long to try them!  I did have a tricky time getting the blackberry filling to work, it kind of seized up and got stringy.  The recipe calls for tapioca powder and I used tapioca flour because I thought they were the same thing.  Anyone know if they’re the same thing?  I added some extra water to the filling and despite being really sticky, it worked out.

Seeing as SF is not a short trip exactly, and I had a hard time getting going that morning, I was a few hours late for the bakesale.  They had already sold out of a lot of items, but had enough to keep going.

We did really well with foot traffic due to our fantasitc location in front of Ike’s.  Ike’s has pretty much the best sandwiches ever (with extensive vegan options), so of course I had to get one.  I really wanted the Paul Reubens special but they had run out of Tofurkey, so I had a “Not So Sloppy” – meatballs and bbq sauce.

So friggin’ good!  And if you order a vegan sandwich they give you a vegan lollipop.

The bakesale was a HUGE success.  Between the two days and locations they raised $3,000 dollars.  Three thousand!  The proceeds were split between Animal Place and East Bay Animal Advocates.  I feel proud to have been a small part of such a great event.  Thanks to Melisser and Laura for organizing!

That brings us to this past weekend, which was the Fourth of July.  We kept it small and just went to a friend’s house to grill, hang out and play board games.  I decided to make a fancy grilled portobello sandwich, and started by marinating some big mushrooms according to this recipe.

During the veggie grilling session (after the grill had been cleaned of any remaining meats) we cooked the portobellos along with pattypan squash and corn.

I served the mushrooms on storebought ciabatta with lettuce, caramelized onions and avocado-horseradish sauce.  Delightful!  The portobellos weren’t the best I’ve ever made, but I think that had more to do with me cooking them over high heat for a few minutes too long than it did with the recipe.

In keeping with my one year tradition of making a red, white and blue dessert, I put together a trifle.  The layers are lemon pound cake from Veganomicon, strawberries, blueberries and coconut whipped cream.  I was going to do a simple silken tofu whipped cream but couldn’t find silken tofu anywhere, so I bought two cans of coconut milk, remembering that I had read somewhere that you could whip it into cream.  I followed the technique of this recipe, using all the cream from the tops of both cans (about 1 1/2 cups), 6 Tbs powdered sugar, 4 Tbs soy milk powder, 1 tsp almond extract, and a pinch of salt.  It did whip up and turned out nicely.

While I was carefully layering the trifle, bf asked me “Why are you arranging it so carefully if you’re just going to cover it up?”.  Well, this is why:

Trifle’s are supposed to look pretty from the side!

And from the top.  It tasted really good too.  There were lots of flavors going on between the vanilla and lemon in the pound cake, the coconut and almond in the cream and the berries, but it came together well and the pound cake had the perfect squishy consistency.

Lastly, here is how Jake likes to spend his time while I’m out galavanting and running around.

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Across the US with a stop in Las Vegas

On the 31st, bf and I packed up what was left of our possessions and headed west.  Eight days and 2700 miles later, we arrived at his mom’s house in Ripon, CA, where we’ll be staying until we find jobs and a place to live.  I took a little bit of food with me just in case, but wanted to live off what I could find on the road, which I knew full well might be just iceberg salads and saltines.  And way too much caffeine.

For lunch on the first day we stopped at a Ruby Tuesday’s somewhere in Alabama or Mississippi.  I had read online that their veggie burger was vegan, so I thought I could get a nice hot meal.  Unfortunately the waiter couldn’t confirm that it was 100% animal-product-free, so instead I got the salad bar and a baked potato.  Upon first glance I didn’t really see any protein I could eat on the salad bar, but upon going back I was pleased to find edamame, black beans and sunflower seeds.

Here’s my baby after his first trip out on a leash.  I worked on leash training him for a few weeks before we left.  I felt bad about his being cooped up in the carrier for twelve hours a day, so I tried to let him out at least once a day to stretch.  He didn’t necessarily like being on the leash, but offering treats made it more enjoyable.  This was taken from the driver’s seat – every square foot of my car that I didn’t sit in was packed with stuff.

That night I had to eat Taco Bell for dinner, as there were no other options where we were staying.  The hotel did have a free breakfast though, so in the morning I had some of their food and some that I brought for a nice breakfast.

At lunchtime we came across Juanita’s Family Mexican Restaurant just off the interstate in Tracy, TX.  I first checked that the beans were vegetarian, and figured I could at least have some beans and chips.  I ended up getting a pretty great meal, on the cheap – a big bowl of beans and a guacamole salad, with the most guacamole that has ever been on my plate.  I ended up mushing most of it together and scooping it up with chips.

That night while bf was looking for a hotel, I went to the SuperWalmart in search of some simple, relatively healthy food.  There was nary a decent hotel to be found in Vernon, TX so I ended up eating it off my lap before we got back on the road.

The next day we packed PB&J’s for lunch.  Near dinnertime I had to stop at a Cracker Barrel to drop off a book on CD (check out their borrowing program, it’s pretty neat and definitely helps pass the time) so we just ate there.  I figured I could at least get french fries and a salad, and that was precisely all I could get.  Cracker Barrel is really not vegan friendly, as anyone probably could have guessed.  They have applesauce on the menu that I was going to get too, but they were out that night.

Las Vegas!  The next afternoon we arrived in Las Vegas.  Our original plan was to spend two nights in Vegas and two nights at Disneyland, but we were already spending quite a bit of money, so we agreed to stay in Las Vegas one more night.  We ended up staying two extra nights, for four nights total.  It was a good amount of time to stay and be able to see everything without being rushed, and by the end of the four days we were very ready to get out of there.

Our first two nights were spent at TI (formerly Treasure Island), which is a nice hotel that we enjoyed.  I had read that Burger Bar is vegan friendly and it was recommended by a friend, so we trekked all the way down the strip to Mandalay Bay to try it out.  Their beer selection was impressive.  I had the New Belgium Wit.

I was hoping the vegan selection would be a veggie burger that I could pile with toppings, but alas, it was not.  It’s actually called the Vegas Vegan, which is cool.  The meal is roasted veggies between two deliciously marinated portobello mushrooms, served with burger fixings and fries – I subbed sweet potato fries.  I also added avocado.  I think maybe you’re supposed to try to pick it up and eat it like a burger, but I definitely used utensils.  I think picking it up would have been a sloppy disaster.

Overall the meal was very tasty, but a little too oily for me.  I had an upset tummy for a while after.  But, it’s a bonus when you’re food looks like a crab.

The next morning I got up and went straight to Ronald’s Donuts, which any good vegan knows is a must in Las Vegas.  I tried to go right when we got into town, but it was Sunday and they had closed just an hour earlier.  It was well worth the wait, and just as good as I had dreamed.  The lady was very helpful in helping me choose my dozen – she pointed out the four trays that weren’t vegan (which were all cake-style, I assume they use egg or something), told me what everything was, and even recommended which ones she thought I should try.  One warning – they only take cash.  She was very nice and held my box while I ran to the store to get some.  Who doesn’t carry cash on them in Vegas anyway?  Me, apparently.

I ate these bad boys over the next five days, even after they started getting stale, and with a little help from bf, who said he didn’t want vegan donuts but had to admit they were quite good after trying.

For me, the holy grail of breakfast pastries is the apple fritter.  My mom used to buy them from Publix when I was a kid, and I love them so.  Ronald’s apple fritter is ginormous – see my thumb for reference.  I’m working on a recipe to replicate the apple fritter in baked form, and eating these was a great reference for me to remember exactly what they’re like.  There are two in the picture above, one under the other.

This is what she called a “soy cream filled” donut, which was like a Boston Cream.  Another great thing about Ronald’s – they don’t mention the V word anywhere in the store.  There are all these unsuspecting “normal” people in there eating vegan donuts unawares.

Here’s a maple bar (which the lady said “eh” about, but we really liked), and what I think was called a cinnamon roll, which is hiding under the bear claw in the group photo (which bf took to calling the baseball glove, and eating one finger at a time).  The cinnamon roll tasted a lot like what I think those packaged honey buns taste like.  Again, see my hand for ridiculous size reference.

By the way, every time I ate a donut my stomach was really unhappy with the amount of sugar I was ingesting.  But it was totally worth it.

Back to the actual food.  Vegas is famous for its buffets, and we really wanted to try at least one.  I couldn’t find anything as to how veggie friendly any of them are, but I figured with the variety of food that was supposedly offered, I could at least find enough to eat.  If nothing else, the salad bar and some veggie sushi, which they all seemed to offer.  Turns out I did really well at each of the buffets we tried, three total.  The first was the Bellagio.

(Note:  As there wasn’t a proper wait staff or someone who could answer questions, I went with instinct on what was vegan and what wasn’t.  So don’t take my word that something shown here is vegan.  I used common sense, and when in doubt I didn’t take an item.  Who knows why people put certain ingredients in things though, there is a chance that I ingested something I wouldn’t have had I known exactly what was in it.)

First plate at the Bellagio:  a pretzel roll, grilled veggies, spinach salad w/ cucumber, chickpeas, almonds and balsamic vinaigrette, white wine marinated mushrooms, pickled veggies, and a bean salad.  The standout of this plate was the mushrooms, they were incredible.  The loser was the bean salad, which I was really looking forward to but couldn’t eat, as it was full of caraway seeds.  I can’t stand caraway seeds.

For the second plate I went to the Asian station:  seaweed salad, carrot salad, wakame salad, veggie sushi, cucumber salad and miso soup on the side.  The wakame salad was surprisingly bland, but when mixed with the seaweed salad it was good.  The carrot salad was also quite bland, it tasted like it wasn’t dressed at all.  The miso soup was very tasty, some of the best I’ve ever had.

By the third plate I was getting really full, but wanted to eat some veggies:  patty pan squash, asparagus, mushrooms and bok choy.  And another pretzel roll for good measure.

Their desserts are amazing to look at, so look I did.  Then I had some raspberry sorbet with strawberries and pecans.

Crazy but true story.  While in line at the Bellagio some people waved at us, and not ten people ahead were two of our friends from Gainesville, who we didn’t know were in Vegas.  Out of all the restaurants in Vegas, and all the times of the day, and all the people in line, they were right there.  So crazy.  So we ate lunch together and met up again later to hang out.  Nobody was really hungry for dinner, but I needed some fuel, and luckily I found this roasted veggie wrap at the Venetian food court.  It did my tummy right and kept me going for the rest of the night.

My favorite part of Vegas is just walking around looking at the hotels and casinos.  Yeah, I did my fair share of gambling (Jacks or Better video poker is my new fave), but the decor of some of the hotels is just astounding.  We checked out the Wynn, which I believe is the newest hotel on the strip, and a must see for anyone who enjoys whimsical, colorful decor.  People looked at me funny while I took pictures of the floor and ceiling, but I don’t care.  I love this place.  The tiling alone must’ve cost millions.

Another one of my favorite things we saw was the ceiling at the Bellagio, near the conservatory.  Each piece of this display was handmade.

The conservatory is free and has lots of pretty flowers, and Americana-esque displays made of natural materials, including a miniature replica of the entire hotel covered in seeds and bark and such.

Again, back to the food.  The next afternoon we went back to the Wynn to try their buffet, which is supposed to be right up there with the Bellagio.  It did not disappoint.  I felt that there was less selection for me, but in general the food was more fresh and seemed like better quality than anything else we ate in Vegas.

These plates were huge, by the way.  The first plate held salad with vinaigrette, a baguette, mushroom salad with balsamic reduction (they came in the little glasses), baby carrots, pasta salad, and gazpacho, to which you got to add the cucumber and bell peppers.  All of this food was delicious, but the standout was the mushroom salad.  When I turned it out onto the plate at least four cups of greens were hiding in there, as well as the balsamic reduction, which was just enough to coat it all.

The second plate was all from the Asian station.  There was other food I could’ve tried, like Mexican, but this looked really good so I loaded up.  Edamame, bok choy, kim chi, udon noodles with tofu and miso, a veggie spring roll, sushi, and miso soup.  The miso soup was good, but less good than the Bellagio’s.  Everything else was average, except the noodles.  Oh my goodness, the udon dish was to die for.  I could’ve easily eaten a whole bit plateful if I wasn’t already getting full.  I’m going to try to replicate it, although I have NO idea how they made the miso sauce that everything was coated in.

I was going to skip dessert this time, but looking at them made me want something sweet, so I had pineapple sorbet with oreos and melons.  Weird maybe, but good.

After lunch we placed some sports bets (poor bf likes to bet on sports, but always seems to lose) so we went to the ESPN Zone at New York New York to watch and have some beers.  We stayed for a while and got hungry, so we grabbed a table and had dinner.  I was thinking I could get the veggie sandwich I got at the ESPN Club in Orlando back in June, but it turns out the ESPN Zone and the ESPN Clubare two very different places with different menus.  I got some summer rolls which included jicama and daikon, and came with a very tasty peanut sauce and chili oil.  I also ordered fries since I didn’t know how filling the rolls would be.

BF’s van had been making a funny noise, so the next morning we had to take it to the shop.  They said it wouldn’t take very long, so we set out in search of food and hoped they’d fix it while we ate.  We were feeling a little under the weather (read: hungover) and wanting Mexican food, and we came across Roberto’s, which looked promising.  Checking out the menu, they had a vegetarian fajitas lunch special which sounded good, so we sat.  I was very happy when it came out and had more than just onions and peppers.  Broccoli and cauliflower!  I think they were from frozen, but still very tasty. 

For dinner on the last day we checked out one more buffet, The Spice Market at Planet Hollywood.  I had read online that they had a good Middle Eastern station, with hummus and the like.  This buffet was…okay.  I wouldn’t be upset if I had to eat there again, but given the choice I would rather go back to Bellagio or Wynn.

First plate:  salad, marinated wild mushrooms, couscous salad, sushi.  The salad bar was pretty weak, but the mushrooms were good.  The couscous salad could’ve been really good, but the couscous was a bit undercooked.  They used an herb in the salad that I couldn’t put my finger on, maybe chervil or tarragon?  Those are the only two I can think of that I wouldn’t recognize.

Second plate, the aforementioned Middle Eastern food:  hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, grape leaves, falafel, basmati rice, dried fruit and pita bread.  This food was kind of hit or miss.  The pita was pita and the hummus was hummus.  The baba ghanoush was a little too tangy for me, but I’m not a big baba ghanoush person anyway.  The tabouleh was mostly parsley and hardly anything else, and I didn’t eat much of it.  The grape leaves and falafel, however, were great.  The falafel had just been cooked and was nice and hot and crispy.  The rice was good, with almonds and golden raisins, and the dried fruit was very interesting.  It was rehydrated with some sort of sweet syrup, with flavors that I’m not sure of.

By the third plate my body was getting tired of being stuffed, but I really wanted more veggies.  Grilled squash and asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower, and stirfry.  There was absolutely no room for dessert.

On the drive in from Las Vegas to CA I was really excited at the prospect of cooking my own food for the first time in weeks.  My body was beginning to  revolt from being fed restaurant food.  I have a full kitchen here at bf’s mom’s house, but they don’t cook very much so my options are still limited.  It will be simple foods for me until we find a place to live, which is probably exactly what I need.

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