Thursday, May 30, 2013

Portland Wrap-up - Voodoo Donuts, Veggie Grill, a Simple Kure, the Vegan Mini Mall, and a Grand Departure

Our last day in Portland was a doozy. Good thing I went for a nice ling run in the morning, because the rest of the day was all about food. Voodoo Donuts was on the must-do list, but we knew we didn't really want to start our day with a sugar bomb, so we headed over to Veggie Grill first. Sure, it's a chain, and sure, you're starting to see them everywhere, but so what? I think it's wonderful to have a shining familiar food-face in a strange town, a place where I know I can eat and enjoy anything on the menu. And I like that they don't make a big deal out of being vegan. They call it plant-based, but leave it as almost an afterthought. Brilliant, says me, to keep it as inclusive as possible for the largest number of people possible. If everybody ate more vegetables, even accidentally, the world would be a better place. And I'm quite sure my burger and sweet potato fries would please darn near anybody.

Next stop, Kure Juice Bar, for a couple of shots of wheatgrass and a fresh glass of Liquid Sunshine - the pre-antidote for the bad ol' donuts we were heading for just a few blocks away.

Voodoo Donuts was every bit as weird as I'd hoped it would be. Edgy and hip, and in a really crummy part of town, it also had very nice customer service, and a good selection of vegan donuts, even later in the day. Steering away from the Froot Loops-topped monstrosities (and happy to not see the famed but decidedly un-vegan bacon donuts) we went for a nice maple bar and a humble cake donut with peanut-crusted chocolate icing. It was a delicious gut bomb, and a fun treat just to set foot in the place. If I had a bucket list, this would be one item checked off.

We had also heard tell of the world's only Vegan Mini Mall, and sure couldn't pass that up! Mini is sort of the key word here, with only four little shops, but all of them worth a visit. Sweet Pea Baking Company was darling and delicious looking, but we really couldn't eat anything else after our donut fest. Herbivore Clothing Company has lots of great clothes and accessories. Rick got a new not-leather wallet there. Food Fight Grocery is a great little all vegan market, where we picked up some snacks for our travels the next day. And while there simply wasn't time for a proper visit to Scapegoat Tattoo this trip, I'm thinking that my next tattoo will most certainly need to be a vegan experience. I'll be back!

Later in the evening, we met up with our pals, Jim & Lani, for one last meal in Portland, at the restaurant we'd been saving for last, appropriately named, Departure. Since it was emphatically recommended to us by Grant Butler, who writes a weekly vegan food column for the Oregonian, we knew better than to pass up the chance to check it out for ourselves.

Riding the elevator to the 15th floor, we knew we were in for something special. The interior of the restaurant is sort of like a retro-future cruise ship, and the patio looks out across the city toward the river. I would have been content to sit there with a glass of wine until the sun went down, but our table was ready, and we knew there was even more in store for us.

I'd call the food something like elegant, artful, Asian cuisine, and although Departure is not a strictly vegan restaurant, they do have a full vegan menu, as well as a gluten free menu, and a regular menu. 

Click to enlarge. It's a good read!
The plates are affordably yet generously small, and meant to be shared around the table, so that's what we did. We had an excellent, honest waiter, who steered us away from certain things, and toward some of his favorites. He was right about everything, particularly the Greens & Seeds Roll, the Sweet Potato Tempura Roll, and the Salt & Pepper Tempeh, which was moist and saucy and full of flavor. We also all enjoyed the Kimchee Fried Rice, even though the boys thought they didn't care for kimchee. And I loved the Wok Fried Brussels Sprouts, even though I'm not a big fan of the little sprouts normally.

I may have to stop called Brussels sprouts "turtle heads"...

Kimchee Fried Rice. More please.

Greens & Seeds Roll (center), and Sweet Potato Tempura Roll

Salt & Pepper Tempeh. Mine. Get your own.

Empty plates and smiling faces all around.
And for dessert... yes, we forced ourselves to eat more sweets... a banana split with fried bananas and butterscotch-miso sauce, and a perfect strawberry-asian pear crisp with almond ice cream, thai basil, and candied lime.

The entire Departure experience was a most wonderful send-off, the kind that makes us want to go back and visit again soon. In fact, a move to Portland is sounding like a better and better idea all the time. If good food says "welcome," Portland is one of the most gracious hosts ever.

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