Thursday, May 30, 2013

Eating in Portland - Portobello

I'm in Seattle now, but still have some Portland places to rave about before moving on. Portobello was much talked-about at VVC2013 last weekend, so we made sure to make time for it. Next time you're in Portland, I recommend you do the same. We arrived a little before opening time, so popped in next door for a beer at the Beer Mongers while we waited. It's a great little spot that looked to be super popular with the locals. We liked it too!

Once Portobello's door was opened, we zipped over for an early dinner, and were glad we did because the place filled up before we even ordered. In all fairness, we did take our time reading the menu. We're not used to all-vegan restaurants, and it's rare to be able to choose from everything, rather than just a couple of items. What a wonderful problem it was to have to make a decision.

The Food. Was. Amazing.

Fresh, local, colorful, delicious, and artfully presented. It was torture for Rick to wait, fork in hand, while I snapped pictures in the lovely late afternoon light. I picked up a few good recipe ideas at Portobello, and can't wait to have a chance to try them out. I'll also look forward to our next visit to Portland, so we can eat at one of our new favorite restaurants again. Portobello is way at the top of the list.

Sweet little pepper filled with cashew cheese.
Roasted Portobello mushroom with polenta and creamed spinach.
Potato gnocchi with spring vegetables.
Strawberry-rhubard tart.

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.

Eating in Portland - Blossoming Lotus

I've been wanting to eat at Blossoming Lotus for over a year now - ever since I took a 10 day cooking immersion with Mark Reinfeld of Vegan Fusion, who was part owner of the place at the time. We finally had the chance to go while visiting Portland this week, and it was well worth the wait, even though Mark is no longer involved. I don't care what kind of food you favor. If you like delicious, creative, beautiful food, and you find yourself in Portland, go to Blossoming Lotus.

We were with our friends, Jim and Lani, so we ordered all sorts of dishes to share and taste. There were moments when I just wanted to go in a corner and be alone with what was on my plate. That's my version of "two thumbs up" or "5 stars."

Crispy Artichoke Fritters
Chana Masala 
Polenta special with trumpet mushrooms 
Caribbean Phyllo Roulade
Wok Tossed Tofu and Greens
There was dessert too, and I have no idea why I forgot to take pictures of it. I guess we were all so caught up in conversation and good food, we lost sight of the assignment at hand - to document every morsel. You'll just have to visit Blossoming Lotus yourself, and see what sweet delights are on the menu that evening. You can't go wrong. Just order everything and eat it all up.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eating in Portland - Sizzle Pie

One of the reasons we're so enamored with Portland is the food. There are so many vegan restaurants here, and others that are quite vegan-friendly. I love to cook, but we also love to eat out and see what other people are cooking. That doesn't work out so well in Taos, but it sure does here, in sunny Portland, Oregon. (OK, I fibbed about the sunny part. It's been mostly rainy and grey the whole time we've been here, but we really don't mind.)

One of the most talked about places in our many restaurant discussions at VidaVeganCon was Sizzle Pie, a pizza place across the street from world famous Powell's Books. I've been yearning for pizza lately, so we headed there for lunch yesterday. So glad we did. It's every bit as good as people were talking it up to be, and I'm now totally inspired to create my own version of their caramelized onion sauce, and smear it all over everything that will stand still.

We started with a big, generous salad, which we really felt the need for after a weekend's worth of conference food.

Rick always waits so patiently while I snap pics of our food.

I love a place that will do 1/2 and 1/2.

Yep, we liked it.
Sitting there looking out the window, I could totally imagine us living here, maybe up there in that nice apartment building, looking out over Portland from our balcony. City life, and all it has to offer, is really alluring right now. On with the exploration!

Monday, May 27, 2013

VidaVeganCon Day 3

We finished up VidaVeganCon yesterday with another terrific round of classes, and more delicious food. I ended up taking a total of 3 food photography classes, so I really hope to see some improvements in my pictures. And my last class of the day was on SEO optimization, which has always completely kerbobbled me, but now I think I understand it a little bit better. We'll see. I want huge numbers of readers. I know they're out there, hungry for some good food news!

Throughout the weekend, I also came to view my own blog and work somewhat differently, and I began to see some changes I'd like to make in the whole structure. I feel the need to redefine, for myself, and for my readers, what vegan means to me, and where I place myself in the grand vegan scheme of things. It's still gelling in my mind, so we'll see what comes of it. Basically, I want to find ways to be more inclusive to non-vegans. Vegan food is good food, but it doesn't require a membership card to enjoy it. 

I'm also getting closer to completing the book I've been working on. It's a cooking book for new vegans, dabblers, and anyone who wants to eat whole, healthy foods without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. And again, I want to somehow make it ok to eat tasty vegan chow without feeling obligated to make any huge life changes or commitments. 

Here are a few more pics from the conference and out after-celebration. I'm already looking forward to the next VidaVeganCon! Thanks everybody! It was a blast!

Our last-day lunch was a wonderful sandwich bar, sponsored by Nasoya.

Some assembly required. The Happy Campers Gluten Free Bread was amazing!

Dinner later at Bangkok Palace. Pumpkin Tempura. Yes, please.

Pad Thai, no egg. Perfect.

Later, a ride on the ferris wheel that's right outside out window. I'm not as afraid of them as I
 used to be...
Lots of pretty bridges in Portland.
We have three more days in Portland, to explore, relax, and see if it feels like someplace we might want to move to eventually. I'm also glad we have time to try more of the dazzling selection of restaurants here. I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

VidaVeganCon Day 2

Another day, another cranial-gastric overload. It's all in a day's work, my friends, and it's a job I intend to keep.

Similar to Day 1, this was a day of eating, listening, note taking, chatting, and hand raising. Excellent food for thought throughout, even on the rare occasion when I didn't really agree with what was being said in class. Why argue? I think it's better to consider differences in opinion to be deeper learning experiences than if we all held hands and sang together for hours on end. You know? There was actually a point where I looked around and thought, These people are kookooheads. Fortunately, it was at the end of the day, and time to move into the evening.

I may be vegan deprived in Taos, but what I'm beginning to see is that all vegans are not alike, and simply wearing that badge does not mean that we will be best buds. No problem! I actually am quite enjoying most of the people I'm meeting here. We have a lot in common, if not everything. And it's interesting to note that my own definition of "vegan" has been challenged and shifted.

Tonight we attended the Galarama, at Staver Locomotive. It was a very nice fancy-pants party in a great setting, with food, drinks, music, pretty lights, and a silent auction benefitting Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. I won the one thing I bid on. I got a canvas shopping bag, a t-shirt, an apron, and two small coloring books, all for five bucks. I know they were hoping for more, but there were lots of items that sold for adorably high prices. Basically, mine was a sympathy bid on something nobody else wanted. I'm a sucker that way. I was rescuing a sad little homeless prize bag. And who in this world doesn't need another shopping bag? Right?

One more day of intense vegan mind contortions, and then a lot of time for filtering it all through my own view of what it means to be vegan. I wasn't expecting such intensity. This is going to be good. It's already good.

VidaVeganCon Day 1

Day one of VidaVeganCon was terrific! We started with a room full of vegan food companies offering samples of everything from nacho cheese, to kale chips, to "chicken" pot pies, to truffles. I tasted every single thing, and will talk more about my faves soon. The goodie bags they gave to all of us are actually grocery bags, filled to the top with vegan treats and snacks and cheeses and cookies and cereals. Honestly, I could eat all week on what they gave us. But will I? Noooo!!! There are too many vegan restaurants in Portland to pass up. Coming from Taos, where we barely bother eating out anymore, I'm in Vegan Nirvana here. I might stay. I don't even care about the rain. At least not today.

After all the meeting, greeting, and tasting, classes started up, and continued all day. Rick and I divided the schedule, choosing different classes so we could compare notes later and not miss too much. I took food styling and iPhone photography, which were both a lot of fun, and I learned some great tips for my food photos.

The class on publishing cookbooks was oddly discouraging. The panel was three authors who all had publishers, and they made the process sound just horrendous and constricting to a person like me, who is used to doing pretty much everything my own way, especially creatively. Fortunately, a woman from the audience commented that she has been self publishing for years, and loves it. That gave me hope, and I decided not to scrap the book I've been working on for the last 6 months!

My favorite part of the day was Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan's talk on adding animal activism to our blog message. Not only do they know very thoroughly what they're talking about, they walk their talk in life, and in their non-profit, Our Hen House. They were so comfortable with their message, and so well spoken, clearly shining examples of what presenters at a conference like this should be striving for. I've been listening to their podcast sort of obsessively for a few weeks now, and their newsletter and website are jackpots of information and news for anyone interested in humane animal treatment. (Aren't we all, deep down, really?) Go visit the Hen House! I hope you will be as smitten as I am! (Yes, I met them briefly after their class, and will admit to being just a little bit bumbling and starstruck. Oh dear...)

So today is breakfast - more treats to try! - more great classes, lunch (oy!), more classes, and then this evening is the Galarama. This is our "fancy party," benefitting Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. I'll report back on all the highlights! Have a great day!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Off to VidaVeganCon!

Rick and I are heading for Portland, OR, to attend VidaVeganCon. I've been looking forward to this for months! I'll be on the road for 2 weeks, going from Portland to Seattle to see my kids, and then to San Jose to see my family and run the See Jane Run 1/2 Marathon in Alameda on June 8th.

It's a lot to do in 2 weeks, but this is exactly how I visualize my "perfect life" - traveling, exploring the awesome vegan-ness of the world, running, meeting people, eating great food, and blogging about all of it as I go. All I need now is to get paid buckets of money for doing it, and I trust it will happen!

Stay tuned as I take you along with me. We're going to have so much fun!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

See Jane Run Discounts!

That's me!

This is cool. As a See Jane Run Ambassador, I get to offer you special discounts on upcoming SJR races. Use the codes below to get 10% off the the entry fees. I'll be at the Alameda race on June 8th. I'd love it if you'd join me there!

See Jane Run Women's Half Marathon & 5K - San Francisco Bay Area:

See Jane Run Women's Half Marathon & 5K - Boise:

See Jane Run Women's Half Marathon & 5K - Seattle:

See Jane Run Women's Half Marathon & 5K - Wichita:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Greek Salad with Creamy Dressing

My daughter says that a Greek Salad should have at least as much "stuff" as lettuce. I agree. I made this one for a little Mother's Day dinner, and it was a huge hit.

Creamy Greek Dressing

1 cup raw cashews, soaked 20 minutes or longer, up to overnight
1-2 T fresh oregano
2 T nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
about 1/2 cup juice from a jar of pepperoncini

Place all ingredients except the pepperoncini juice in a blender or food processor.
Add the juice gradually as you blend, until the dressing is smooth and creamy, and has a nice thick consistency.

Greek Salad

chopped lettuce and/or other greens of your choice
chopped tomatoes
chopped cucumbers
chopped red onions (I leave these big enough to pick out, because I don't like them)
artichoke hearts packed in water, cut into large bite-size pieces
pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
sliced pepperoncini
Tofu Feta

Toss everything together in a large bowl, with enough Creamy Greek Dressing to coat the salad well, but not to smother it.

I served this up with pita bread and Oil-Free Hummus. Perfect!

PS - I made it again for a potluck, only this time substituted brown rice pasta for the greens. They cleaned out the bowl! Fortunately, I left some at home, and it's great layered on top of some greens for a full meal salad.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Power Bites

This is not a post about the evils of too much power... It's about food, of course!

With only a few short weeks until the See Jane Run 1/2 Marathon in Alameda, CA, I'm starting to think about what sort of fuel I'll want to carry with me on race day. I don't want anything to do with packaged bars, gels, or drinks. Yuck. I want something real. This recipe is a cross between the more complicated Power Balls and the super simple almond-stuffed-dates I sometimes take with me on longer runs. Of course you don't have to go running to eat them. They make a great snack any time!

Power Bites
makes about 20

1 (packed) cup pitted dates, coarsely chopped into halves or thirds
1/2 cup almonds, soaked in water overnight and drained
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well chopped.
Form small 1-2 bite sized "pellets".
Cut small squares of waxed paper, and roll the Bites up, twisting the ends of the paper in the same direction (like candy) for easy un-spinning on the move.
These don't really need to be refrigerated, but I keep them cold anyway, stored in a glass bowl with a lid.