Captain’s Log: Day 5

800 hours: Returned to the Peace Tree Juice Cafe to get a smoothie for breakfast.  The Desert Nectar smoothie, made of bananas, strawberries, soy milk, and ginger, was extremely refreshing, and a pleasant shade of pink.

1200 hours: Subway again.  Granted, we are driving through canyons with only tumbleweeds for company, so I suppose finding a Subway is pretty good.  I perked up at discovering some new Oreo products– Oreo creme cookies– which are basically Oreos covered in a light layer of fudgy goodness.  I got the peanut butter ones, which tasted pretty much exactly like Girl Scour Tagalong cookies– except deliciously vegan– and my mom tried the plain ones.

1600 hours: I had the good fortune of being able to meet up with one of my school friends in Salt Lake, where he lives.  And, because I am a dog pimp, I made him meet us at a dog park and bring his mini Australian shepherd, Mia, for a play date with Ianto.  Adorable antics ensued.  At first, like the Beauty and the Beast, they were unsure of each other; but then there was something there that wasn’t there before; and finally they were in puppy love.  It was good for Ianto to get some exercise after being cooped up in a car and hotel rooms for the past few days.

But, watching all that running and puppy energy made me tired and hungry.  Time to get some food we decided.

1900 hours: Gravy.  What a great invention.  Thank you to whoever invented gravy.  And an even greater thank you to whoever made the great vegan gravy I just consumed.

VegNews recently named Salt Lake City, Utah as one of the great up and coming centers of vegan food, so I had high hopes for the Vertical Diner.  I was not disappointed; in fact, I was ready to start searching real estate listings for an apartment nearby.

I sit here, my insides coated in gravy, and I couldn’t be happier.  While we waited for our food to be ready to go– we had to take it back to the room since my mom couldn’t come with us because the hotel had a ‘no pets left alone in the room’ policy–we slurped down a chocolate mint shake.  It was almost gone by the time our food was ready to go, and we seriously considered getting another one, it was that good.  It tasted like what I imagine a bunch of Thin Mint cookies taste like after having been eaten by a unicorn and stewed for fourteen hours in its creamy digestive juices; basically, it was magical.  Here’s my brother giving it the thumbs up, and actually smiling for a picture– so you know it’s gotta be good.

As if the shake and the gravy weren’t enough, the Vertical Diner is also known for its faux chicken (according to PETA), and so I enjoyed my gravy with a side of fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  My parents joked, how do you know it’s not real chicken?  But I could tell.  It was dense, probably made with some vital wheat gluten or something, and had the same flavor as a Boca chik’n patty.  But, it was slathered in gravy, so it was better :)

My mom had the Jamaican plate, my dad enjoyed the chicken biscuit pie, and my brother gobbled down the breakfast sandwich.  They all approved heartily of their meals.  Somehow we still had room for the delicious spicy fries.

I’d like to take a moment here and give a special thank you to my family for being so supportive and open to eating vegan food.  As my mom said this afternoon, as if it had just occurred to her, “You know?  We could be really shitty about this, and say, we don’t care if you’re vegan, we’re going to KFC!”

But they are not shitty, far from it.  My mom planned our whole route, and went out of her way to make sure there would be places where two omnivores, one vegetarian, one vegan,  and a dog, could all get a good meal.  If that isn’t love I don’t know what is.

In the musical Rent, the opening song asks, “How do you measure the life of a man?”

Well, now I know how to measure my life: by the amount of puppies in it, and the amount of good food; so today was really really good :)

 

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Captain’s Log: Day 4

800 hours:  I eagerly skipped into the Los Alamos Co-op, confident that I would find more deliciousness awaiting me.  After stocking up on food, by which I mean, I put things in my dad’s basket for him to buy, I went outside to sit with my mom while he checked out.  She and Ianto were sitting at the lovely little outside patio, and I excitedly told her about today’s selection of treats.  “Today the ‘deli vegan baked item’ is a blueberry fruit bar, and there’s also pumpkin walnut spelt bread made with coconut milk! Doesn’t that sound delicious?!”

She smiled at me and asked, “So which one did you get?”

I looked at her with a quizzical expression, “Uh…both….duh.”  As if that were even a question.  Pshh.

I would have also gotten another peach cobbler, as there were plenty left over from yesterday, but I wanted to try the new things.  I was surprised that there were cobblers left; it was so good, who could resist it?  Maybe  people in New Mexico aren’t particularly fond of peach cobbler?  However, there is also the possibility that the word “vegan” scares people.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that vegan food can be just as delicious as “real” or “normal” food.  In fact, in my experience, vegan food has a higher probability of being utterly delicious simply because vegans try to combat the notion that “vegan” means icky rabbit food.  It is my hope, that people like myself, who enjoy eating and making yummy food, will help to change people’s minds with our food activism, as well as our loud, persistent voices spread across paper and the internet.  I hope to explore this topic in a future post, when my brain isn’t mushy from traveling all day.

So, back to food.

My vegan breakfast burrito from the Co-op was good, but not great.  The potatoes and peppers gave it a lot of flavor, but I was disappointed when the tofu wasn’t scrambled, but simply plain.  A little seasoning like cumin, salt and pepper, and maybe some nutritional yeast can make plain ol’ tofu mouthwatering, as anyone who has made the Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe will know.

1200 hours: We stocked up on things for lunch at the Los Alamos Co-op, and so we were able to stop in beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colorado for a picnic in the park.  I stuffed myself with an Asian noodle dish in the sunshine, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and trying to ignore the frat boys in inner-tubes floating down the river.  I sampled the blueberry fruit bar from the Co-op and found it to contain about fifty percent brown sugar; which means it was delicious.

My mom had some apple ginger juice that she got from the Co-op.  And because Ianto is her favorite child, she shared a little bit with him.  Just thought I’d let everyone know that this juice is corgi approved.

1400 hours: Okay, I know it’s an evil corporate chain, but thank goodness for Starbucks, because you can always count on it to have soy milk.  I know, most cafes have soy milk nowadays, but when you’re traveling through small towns, it’s nice to be certain that there’s one place you an always count on to make you a decent soy latte, and you don’t have to go searching for it.  I can’t help it, I really like coffee.  I blame my addiction on my white people-ness and my time spent in close proximity to Seattle.

Anyway, we’ve finally crossed into Utah after cutting across a tiny corner of Colorado.  My mom and I immediately began listening to the soundtrack to The Book of Mormon the musical.  If you haven’t heard the Book of Mormon soundtrack, you really should; it’s hilarious, catchy, written by the creators of South Park, and it won all the Tonys last year.  So you really have no excuse.

1800 hours:  Cumin in hummus?  Yes, puleez.

The Peace Tree Juice Cafe has locations in Moab, Utah, as well as in Monticello where we are spending the night.  The Peace Tree in Monticello is located conveniently across the street from our hotel, meaning that we didn’t have to drive anywhere– which you really appreciate when you’ve been driving all day.

The only vegan things on the menu were the hummus plate, which came with carrots, celery, and pita pieces, and the wild rice with grilled vegetables.  The hummus had a lot of cumin in it, which I enjoyed, but it definitely had a totally different flavor than the regular hummus; so don’t order it if you’re are craving regular hummus.  The grilled veggies and rice was delicious, and quite colorful if I do say so.

My brother had the ravioli, which was the other vegetarian option, while my parents both had meat.  They said it was all delicious and amazing, which I suppose is the best you can hope for really– that at least if people are going to cook with animal products– that it taste really good and be worth it.

The waitress told us that it was only their third night serving dinner– they previously only served breakfast and lunch– which surprised me because the food was so good.  I looked at their breakfast menu and was intrigued by their smoothies.  A smoothie sure would beat eating bad oatmeal and cut up fruit at the hotel for breakfast.  Tomorrow is looking just a little bit brighter!

Captain’s Log: Day 2

800 hours: Still alive.  Vegan police are no where to be seen.  Apparently they did not register my infraction.  Am safe for now.

Breakfasting on granola with almond milk, hash browns, an apple, and orange juice, provided by my thoughtful Aunt.

1000 hours: On the road again, grey drizzle spits upon us, taunting us with the promise of rain and failing to follow through.

1200 hours: Stop for lunch at a gas station/Wendy’s.  My lunch consists of some french fries and a baked sweet potato from Wendy’s, as well as a banana and some Oreos.  I am not proud of myself, but pickings are slim as we drive further and further into the armpit of Texas. And hey, I didn’t eat all the french fries.  I gave some to the dog….

However, the baked sweet potato was pleasantly delicious and I have added Wendy’s to my list of emergency fast food joints.  The list now consists of Wendy’s and Taco Bell.

1800 hours: Finally arrive in Amarillo where we proceed to order take out from a restaurant claiming to serve Thai/Japanese/Chinese/Lao food.  I choose the tofu stir fry, but on the menu it was simply called “Tofu”.  Fittingly, the dish was made up of primarily GIANT hunks of tofu, as well as some veggies.  It was tasty, and restored some of the self-respect I lost at lunch, since this meal actually had some green stuff in it.

Yes, my level of self-respect is directly correlated to the amount of green food I eat per day.  The dialogue in my head goes something like: “Good for you!!  Green food!  How exotic and nutritious of you!!  You can look people in the eyes knowing that you have eaten more than just Oreos today!  Great job!!”   It’s sad really.

Anyway, we must have looked tired when we got the food because the restaurant decided to give us eight containers of Sriracha sauce and probably close to twenty packets of soy sauce.  I might or might not have contemplated dipping an Oreo in the Sriracha just to see what it would taste like…

Tomorrow we will finally cross the border into New Mexico– The Land of Enchantment.  Just a hunch, but I think that my definition of enchantment is different from the definition recognized by the state of New Mexico.  When I think of the word “enchanted” I picture unicorns, fairies and clouds made of vegan marshmallows.  When I think of New Mexico, on the other hand, I think of desert, sand, dryness, maybe some skiing and aliens.  But enchantment?

I guess tomorrow I will find out if NM can charm me with its food.  Maybe I’ll come under its  spell and never want to leave.  Perhaps it will bewitch me, body and stomach.  Hayuck yuck.

……..

And now I’ve used up all my remaining self-respect typing that, so I’m going to go eat a bucket of spinach.  Have a good night everybody.

Spring Break: Boise ’12, NO REGRETS!

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  Things get pretty busy mid-semester.  However, at the moment my brain is on vacation thanks to a magical time of year that comes around just when you need it: spring break!  A time traditionally associated with beaches, beer, and boobs…. or so I’ve heard.  Well, I went to a place that starts with “B”, but that was about as close as I got to having a traditional spring break.

The place: Boise, Idaho.  Not my first choice for a spring break destination.  I know it would have been more appropriate and exciting for my first vegan adventure post to be to Portland or Austin.  However, I have a hard enough time picking out socks in the morning, so it’s probably better that I didn’t dive straight into a vegan mecca where my brain would have exploded with all the options…and I inevitably would have tried to eat everything, not knowing when I would be back, and I would stuff my cheeks with food, and hide it in my suitcase, and gained twenty pounds in a week having spent all my time eating.  Yes, it’s probably best that didn’t happen.

Anyway…

I should explain this bizarre and bewildering choice of destination; my family is making the leap from Texas, to Idaho this summer; so for spring break we went house hunting in Boise, as well as to get a taste of what it had to offer.  My brother has recently adopted a vegetarian diet, so my family started planning well in advance where we could go to eat.  Now, I will admit I wasn’t very excited about going to Boise.  But, in the end I was pleasantly surprised with the eclectic and delicious meals I had in such a short time.

We arrived in the afternoon and our first stop was the Boise Co-op, where I wanted to EAT ALL THE THINGS!

There was a great selection of vegan goodies at the Co-op, both in the way of frozen stuffs and snack goodies.  There was a sizable selection of raw goodies as well.  The produce section was quite extensive, and they were giving away samples of a delicious green smoothie with ginger, apple, and spinach.

The Co-op does gets points off, however, for charging extra for soy milk at their cafe; but it was worth it because my latte was delicious, as was the bagel I enjoyed with it.

For our first night in Boise we went to Fork.  Yes, Fork.  It’s a restaurant in the heart of downtown that prides itself on being “loyal to local”.  All the ingredients either come from Idaho, Oregon, or Washington.  I enjoyed the Grilled Portobello Sandwhich, which was awesome.  I expected the mushroom to be whole so it would be like a patty, but was surprised that they cut it up.  I think this allowed it to soak up even more flavor because it sure was tasty!  It came with a side of chips as well, which I had high hopes for, it being Idaho and all.  I mean, the license plates say “Famous Potatoes”, a point of much distress for my mother.  Anyway, I was not disappointed.  Some of the fries were crispy, while some were softer, but all yummy and obviously homemade from scratch.  Sadly, I could not dip them in the remoulade sauce, but my family loved it. I would have liked to see a few more vegan and veggie options on the menu, but what I did have was very satisfying; and not a salad!!  A promising start to the week!  And it only got better from there.

I meant to take pictures of all my meals to share with y’all.  But, being me, I forgot ever single time and scarfed down my food before I even remembered that I was carrying my camera.  But, you all know what a portobello burger looks like, right?  So, here’s a picture that I did manage to snap of my brother’s dessert at Fork, some donut balls.  Don’t they look incredible?!  I was so jealous, they smelled fantastic and came with chocolate and peanut butter dipping sauces; although my family agreed they didn’t need them.  

Our next stop on the Boise Vegan Tour was the Taj Mahal for dinner.  Again, I wanted to EAT ALL THE THINGS!  There were like ten vegan dishes to choose from, but I eventually settled for the Mung Daal and my brother got the Bombay Aloo.  Both dishes could only be described as incredible taste sensations that exploded with deliciousness in ma mouth!  Also, they had the best naan I’ve ever had the delight to introduce to my taste buds.  Needless to say, it was hard to keep ourselves from going back for every meal.  Located in the center of downtown Boise though, I don’t think it will be very hard to find an excuse to visit the Taj Mahal again and again this summer.

I thought every other place would pale in comparison with the Taj Mahal.  But oh how wrong I was.  The next night we discovered Mazzah, a Mediterranean grill with amazing falafel.  I got the falafel sandwich and was all prepared to ask for the tzatzki to be omitted from my sandwich when the server asked me if I would like tahini or tzatziki.  I’m sure I had this giddy grin on my face when I said tahini.  More and more I find myself getting excited about simple things, like being able to have a choice between sauces on my sandwich and finding things on menus that are accidentally vegan– and aren’t salads :)  Anyway, back to the food; it was amazing!  For $3.99 my falafel sandwich was a bargain considering how much flavor it had and how filling it was.  Mazzah definitely made it on the list of places I’ll be hanging out this summer.

Finally, we made our way to the Boise Fry Company, a small place whose motto is “Burgers on the side”.  I was surprised to see a burger place show up on Happycow.net’s list of vegan places in Boise.  However, all became clear when I walked in and saw the menu.  Although there are only three choices of burgers, there are a multitude of options for fries.  And one of the burger options just happens to be vegan, so I was all set!  We got an assortment of fries to try–curly, skinny, regular and made of various different taters– and I was all set with my vegan burger, made of quinoa and black beans, when we made another scrumptious discovery.  Against the wall next to the drinks, there was a sauce and seasoning station.  All the sauces were marked if they were vegan, and so I was over the moon.  The garlic aioli absolutely rocked my world.  I wanted to smear it over everything!!  Some of the other sauces included blueberry curry, which I wasn’t brave enough to try, as well as just plain ketchup.  But really, after the garlic aioli I stopped using any other sauces.  I saw and ate more fries that night than I am proud to admit.  However, the fact that my mouth is watering just writing about this is a testament to the deliciousness of the experience.

Overall, I give Boise a B+.  The food I had was delicious, and while all of it was probably not 100% vegan, like we vegans are always so fond of saying– it’s not about being pure and perfect, but about limiting suffering.

Also, any city where I’m not limited to eating salad when I go out, gets a pretty good mark in my book….

….although I probably should have thrown a few salads in there :)  Oh well.

My spring break is now finishing up splendidly with reading, reading, and  more reading.  And I was just pleasantly surprised by one of my housemates when she returned home with a vegan treat for me, all the way from Portland’s Sweet Pea Bakery!  It’s a Charlie Brown– which I can only describe as a delicious peanut butter cup cookie.  And it’s huge!!  It’s sitting here taunting me….I’m trying to resist it until I get some more reading done.  We’ll see how that goes.

Also on the menu tonight, I’ve been craving pasta, so I’m going to try this recipe for creamy avocado pasta sauce, which looks scrumptious!  I figure I should eat something slightly green in honor of St. Patty.

Thanks for everyone’s continued support and kind comments!  I’ll have to think of something special to do for my three month vegan-versary which is rapidly approaching.   I’m thinking something with a mountain of Daiya, mmmm…..