New York City – Pt. II

During our second day in NYC in December, we meandered over to the Chelsea Market for a killer early lunch. DSCF0423There’s a nearly overwhelming amount of food and shopping options there, even when you’re “limited” to a vegan diet. We took a good 45 minutes to wander through everything before making food choices.DSCF0432I chose to get ramen from Mok Bar, which touts itself as a Korean ramen noodle bar. DSCF0435I got the one vegan option available, which was miso doengjanjjigae, which is based on the flavors of a popular Korean stew. It had great chewy noodles in a umami-packed broth with triangular tofu, fried onions, seaweed, and other choice veggies.

I also have a weakness for fermented foods, so I got the kimchi trio sampler and chose the traditional, daikon, and green onion types. Everything was amazing, even the daikon kimchi which I was a bit iffy about at first. In the end, although I’m sure this will reveal to readers how little couth I really possess, I added all three types of kimchi to the ramen to make a salty spicy bowl of awesome.DSCF0446I also had a little trouble breaking apart my chopsticks.DSCF0440Peter partook in Takumi Taco, which specializes in Japanese inspired Mexican food. He got an infant-sized burrito that included Japanese lentils, brown rice, beans (pinto, black, and edamame), ginger pico, cabbage slaw, and avocado cream. He said it was like eating a huge sushi roll with tasty Mexican food filling and gave it a thumbs up.DSCF0439Cyanide & Happiness fans will be happy to know there’s an original drawing hanging in the Market.DSCF0454A lot of the shops were selling bizarre and adorably creepy items. If only I’d had more room in my backpack. DSCF0452Despite it being cold outside, we ordered some gelato and sorbet for the road from L’Arte Del Gelato. I was pleasantly surprised when the guy behind the counter said all the sorbet flavors were vegan, even the dark chocolate! That combined with a scoop of coconut sorbet was like eating a cold Mounds bar. Peter stuck with an old favorite and got chocolate chip mint gelato.DSCF0448While waiting for a subway to Brooklyn, I noticed the most adorable art installation, Life Underground. Thankfully our ride took a while, so I had plenty of time to wander around and take pictures of the small sculptures made by Tom Otterness. Below are just a handful of the ones I took.

For those of you unaware of the Sketchbook Project, please go check out their website. It’s a really neat project where you purchase one of their sketchbooks and decorate it and fill the pages however you’d like. When you’re done, you send it back in and they add it into their collection in the Brooklyn Art Library.DSCF0482Peter and I participated in the Project a few years ago and were excited when we learned you can visit the entire collection. They have a nifty “check out” system where you can pick out books by theme or name, then you also get the two books next to it as a random bonus. DSCF0481We spent the next hour or so enjoying browsing through sketchbooks that ranged from amazing (like the watercolor travel journal about a visit to Singapore) to the just plain weird (I’m looking at you, book with only lipstick kisses inside). DSCF0480Brooklyn was definitely the most artsy part of New York that we saw. There was a good amount of street art to gawk at as we marched under the elevated subways and avoided the seedier looking areas.DSCF0497DSCF0485DSCF0492DSCF0498DSCF0500DSCF0487We ended our day by visiting someplace I’ve wanted to go to since I heard of its opening, Dr. Cow, a vegan “cheese” shop. The adorable shop front is so tiny it would be easy to just walk past it, but trust me, vegans, you don’t want to miss this.DSCF0490Inside is a small case displaying their various cheesy wares. The options ranged from the simple like plain cashew or sea salt, to the more bizarre like black salt with beet or balsamic with turmeric.

Thankfully, you can sample any of the flavors, so don’t worry about taking a blind guess at what tastes good. We settled in the middle of the strangeness spectrum and purchased some smoky celery salt cashew cheese.

This stuff was rich, creamy, packed with flavor, and everything I’ve ever wanted from “fancy” vegan cheese. I can’t promise if I lived in Brooklyn I wouldn’t be that person bringing out a fruit and cheese plate when company comes over.DSCF0488A short walk away is Dun-Well Doughnuts, an entirely vegan paradise of fried dough. There was a huge assortment of flavors and it was hard to choose. The guy behind the bar was helpful in giving suggestions on what to order. We ended up getting a mix of chocolate, maple, and eggnog doughnuts to take back to the hostel with us.DSCF0504And that’s how our two days in NYC ended. With us sitting on our hostel bunk beds happily eating cashew cheese and doughnuts for dinner. DSCF0502

Honeymoon – Tucson

Tucson was my favorite city of the trip, and I’d happily move there if given the opportunity. It has a really relaxed vibe and is just the right size for walking around, plus it has a large amount of entertaining activities and amazing food. An added bonus is there’s a large eco-friendly movement there, which makes it no surprise that they have a 100% solar powered indie book store (which has a pretty rad reading selection).

We stayed at University Inn, which was a decent hotel in the middle of everything. Really close to the school campus and within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to see.    Our first morning in Tucson we got an early start and headed towards the University of Arizona. We walked through several neighborhoods to get there, admiring the brightly colored houses, and we also happened upon a small bird in a cactus! He seemed quite happy there, so we let him be.   We arrived at the University of Arizona Art Museum just in time to see exhibits of all the graduating art students’ work. I really really loved everything we saw, plus it was free for those with students IDs. Below are photos of just a few of my favorite pieces.    After the museum we marched around campus a bit more before walking to the Tucson Tamale Company. I didn’t get any pictures worth posting (really poor lighting), but the food was fantastic. We both got the two tamale plate with two sides. The sides weren’t awe-inspiring, but the tamales were delicious. 

There was a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan flavors, so after much himming and hawwing I settled with the new delhi (Indian inspired with a filling similar to a samosa) and the vegan blue (blue corn masa with squash, onions, tomatoes, and chiles). Peter got the chile relleno (roasted green chiles and red bell peppers with cheese) and wisconsin (just lots and lots of cheese). 

The best part was that just as I was joking about how good these corn tamales were and that it was probably due to them being GMOs, the manager came by and asked how everything was. As we were discussing the nice variety of veggie-friendly food, she said “And everything is GMO-free too!” Which just made me love the place even more.

After a filling lunch, we walked around the downtown area before heading to the Loft, a non-profit indie movie theatre with a nice mix of newer releases and old classics. We ended up seeing Welcome to Me, a funny yet slightly melancholy film that was a good way to get us out of the afternoon sun.

We went back to the hotel for a swim before walking just a block to get dinner at Zemam’s Too, an Ethiopian restaurant. Neither of us had ever eaten Ethiopian before, but Happy Cow reviewers had wonderful things to say about Zemam’s. We got two veggie samplers and in doing so basically tried every vegan dish on the menu. 

I was worried Peter wouldn’t like it (he’s not big into spicy food) but he loved it and ate the collards so fast that I barely got a sample in before they disappeared. I also enjoyed the atmosphere of the place, which was located in a renovated house, and felt almost like I was eating dinner on a friend’s patio. Since this amazing food encounter, I now have a strong love for Ethiopian food and have been trying to perfect a homemade injera bread to accompany lentils and such.
  The next day we wandered through what I mentally deemed the “hipster district” of 4th Avenue which held loads of cafes, crafty areas, book stores, and head shops. The area had plenty of things to see and several pieces of functional art (newspaper holder, bike rack, etc.) to admire. 

We had lunch at La Indita, a Mexican restaurant with a Native American twist as a nod to the owner’s heritage. The server was great about knowing what was available vegan and I got a veggie plate which featured an enchilada, tostada, beans, and rice. Peter got something cheese filled that I can’t remember the name of. Both plates were very tasty and the red sauce was more vinegar-y tasting than most Mexican restaurants I’ve been to, which was a nice change. This combination of cultures was a tasty experience and one you should seek out on 4th Avenue.    D&D Pinball was definitely the highlight of our Tucson trip. It was a small room crammed to the gills with pinball machines. The machines ranged from pretty old (Monster from the Black Lagoon) to fairly new (The Walking Dead). We went there only planning to stay an hour, but ended up playing for nearly two!     I discovered a hidden talent for pinball and had a great time trying out all the different types. My personal favorite was a medieval game that when you scored high enough it would drop the drawbridge to the castle so you could attempt to hit a ball into it.           Since the majority of our trip was spent running around in t-shirts and jeans, we decided to have a “fancy” night out at a nice restaurant and the local theatre. Dinner was at The Tasteful Kitchen, an all-vegetarian restaurant with a ton of vegan and gluten-free options. 

Our waiter convinced us to get the pepper poppers as an appetizer. They were cashew cheese stuffed jalapeños and sweet peppers with a tangy dipping sauce. These were so good that I had to stop Peter from chewing on the leftover stems to “get all the flavor out”.

 I can’t remember the particular name of this dish (they have a rotating seasonal menu and it has already changed), but it was fried eggplant medallions with marinara sauce and arugula, accompanied by a smear of basil pesto. Eggplant has the tendency to sometimes get spongey and heavy when fried, but these medallions were perfectly seasoned and fairly light feeling.

I apparently blacked out and forgot to photograph Peter’s dish, but he had zucchini noodles with basil pesto, fresh vegetables, and gnocchi.  We packed up half of our entrees to-go to make room for shared dessert, strawberry cashew cheesecake with chocolate drizzle. The Tasteful Kitchen sure does know how to cook with cashews. The sweet cheesecake was nicely complimented by the bitter dark chocolate sauce and was the perfect way to end our fancy pants meal.After dinner entertainment was at the Rogue Theatre. We saw Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and I was expecting just a decent performance due to both a lack of love for Shakespeare and previous crappy experiences with well-touted theatre. I’m happy to say pessimistic me was wrong and the whole production blew our socks off.

The acting was spot-on, costumes were impeccable, and the set really immersed you in the story. If I lived in Tucson, I would definitely become a member of the Rogue Theatre to have guaranteed good tickets to all the new shows.

    I was sad to bid Tucson farewell because we had such a fantastic time there. Hopefully we’ll be back soon or even living there someday!

Honeymoon – Houston

Houston was… interesting. First off, two weeks before we left I received an email saying that our hotel was cancelled. Upon further investigation, I learned our hotel had out of the blue decided to shut down.

The city’s other hotels were packed due to an oil conference, so we were forced to get a super sketchy hotel (like sketchy enough for us to shove our coffee table against the door) on the outskirts of town.

Despite this set back, we decided to start our one day in the city early by taking the bus into the downtown business district.Lunch was at Green Seed Vegan,  a little neighborhood eatery and juice bar. The staff was a bit curt, but the atmosphere was nice and honestly we were just relieved to be someplace with ice cold air conditioning after wandering around in the Texas heat.Peter got a portobello cheese steak and dill fries. The sandwich was just okay, not a ton of flavor and bread was a bit stale seeming. The fries were spot on though, I never would have thought to put dill on themMy jackfruit barbeque sandwich was equally mediocre. The sauce tasted good, but the jackfruit had been cooked down to a mush and the bun was a bit stale too. While I was happy to find a 100% vegan restaurant in the middle of the city, I probably wouldn’t return because the food wasn’t anything to call home about.We decided to walk to the museum district instead of taking a bus, which I’m glad about because otherwise we would have missed some of Houston’s awesome street art.        Some of the paths we walked were truly beautiful and surprisingly green for being in the middle of a city.      The Houston Museum of Natural Science was awesome with a large dinosaur section (with a very excited Peter because he had previously never seen a dinosaur skeleton), Egyptian exhibit, and a huge pendulum that was fascinating to watch.Dinner was at the Hobbit Cafe, a bizarre restaurant we found through Yelp.  While some of the sandwiches had themed names like Smaug’s Delight and Bilbo the Magnificent, the menu mainly consisted of Tex-Mex food. I got the portobello mushroom fajitas without cheese or sour cream and our very helpful server offered to bring extra salsa and guacamole on the side to replace the non-vegan items. Peter got the cheese enchiladas.

The food was amazing. The fajitas were well-seasoned with finely sliced vegetables, and even the side items (brown rice and black beans) which I assumed would be plain, were full of flavor.And while the food was great, nothing could beat the decor. Everyplace from the entrance to the bathrooms was Middle Earth themed. It was fantastic spot if you’re interested in Tolkien’s work, but even if you’re not a big fan, you can still appreciate the delectable menu offerings. 

Christmas Trip – New Orleans

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday! For Peter’s gift I surprised him with a short train trip to New Orleans a few days before Christmas. Peter was stoked to ride a train for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Amtrak train.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0327.jpgWe arrived quite late to the city and were super hungry after eating an early lunch on the train. We walked just a few blocks to 13 Monaghan in search of good food and we were not disappointed. I got the BBQ tofu sandwich and Peter got the mushroom philly, both served with chips.

This was honestly the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Chewy tofu smothered in a spicy BBQ sauce and paired with vegan mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, and sliced sweet pickles. I devoured half before gaining control of myself and taking a blurry photo in the dim lighting.

DSCN0990The next morning we set out exploring. Seeing Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, and some of the street sculptures. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0328.jpg/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0329.jpgBreakfast was in the French Market at the Meals From the Heart Cafe. We were the first customers of the day and greeted by the very friendly owner. I ordered the vegan blueberry pancakes and Peter got an omelette.

This seems to be a recurring theme in New Orleans, but these were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. At home, I’m usually too lazy to cook anything significant in the mornings, so I enjoy getting breakfast food out when we’re traveling. These pancakes were just sweet enough, infused with fresh blueberries, and served with vegan butter, maple syrup, and walnuts. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0330.jpgWith very full bellies, we then set off to wander around the French Quarter. We marked off part of our bucket list by visiting a voodoo shop while in NOLA. It was a pleasant shop, not at all creepy like we expected, with helpful staff.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0331.jpg/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0332.jpgThe St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was a must-see for the trip. Full of fascinating and famous graves, we had a great time exploring this small place. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0341.jpg/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0333.jpgLunch was at Dreamy Weenies, a funky restaurant near the cemetery. I’d heard good things about this place and was excited to try something different. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0336.jpg/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0335.jpgI got the andouille dog on a wheat bun with vegan chili, sauerkraut, mustard, and ketchup, served with a side of potato salad. Peter got an Italian herb dog with cheese and mustard. We both agreed that these were amazing and I can’t wait to come back to try their plethora of other toppings.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0334.jpgAfter a bit more wandering and spending time in the WWII Museum (please visit, it is a fantastic place) we headed over to the all vegan Seed for dinner. Sadly we had to grab everything to-go just to make sure we could get to our ghost tour on time, but the short time spent in the restaurant was great.
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0337.jpgSince the food would take a bit to cook, we snacked on beignets and chatted with our super friendly server. The staff was hilarious and we could hear them in the back arguing about what Christmas music to put on. Choices included Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mariah Carey, and Disney. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0338.jpgPeter got eggplant parmesan, and I got gumbo with mac and cheese. Despite being a bit cold (we ended up eating after our tour) the food was delicious. The gumbo was very flavorful and chock full of vegetables. The mac and cheese was creamy and rich, with a nice crunchy breadcrumb topping. I didn’t get a chance to try Peter’s eggplant (the man loves pasta) but he promised that it was great. Also, if you’re looking for a fun and informative tour about the supernatural, be sure to check out French Quarter Phantoms Tours. We had a wonderful time stomping around the French Quarter and being creeped out. DSCN1042The train ride back was beautiful going over Lake Pontchartrain. We had a very good trip and can’t wait to visit the Big Easy again. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7f2/73905162/files/2014/12/img_0339-0.jpg

Memphis – Imagine Vegan Cafe

A few weeks ago, Peter and I took a quick trip to see my mom in Arkansas. Since our route goes through Memphis, we decided to stop there for lunch and found some great places with the help of Happy Cow.

This first post is about our stop on the way up, Imagine Vegan Cafe. It’s located in an upcoming neighborhood and the restaurant is nestled in a small renovated home. I was pleasantly surprised by there being an entirely vegan restaurant in a city well known for barbecue and fried chicken (and Elvis, but that part is irrelevant).

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The place is cozy and feels more like a home than a restaurant with its mismatched plates and motivational poster decorations.

We started off with the appetizer sampler because everything sounded too good to choose just one item. It included potato skins, chicken nuggets, pigs in a blanket, buffalo wings, and hush puppies served with a side of ranch and sour cream.

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Our main dish choices were stuffed ravioli with garlic bread and chicken fried steak with garlic kale and mac and cheese.

Peter’s ravioli was decent, but I think the sauce could do with a bit more herbs and maybe some vegetable chunks. It was just a bit bland to me.

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The chicken fried steak was amazing. It was a fried seitan base with a creamy white gravy on top. The accompanying garlic kale was flavorful and fresh tasting. The mac and cheese had a deliciously thick and creamy sauce and it is something I will definitely get again next time.

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We got dessert to-go because we were outrageously full from the main course. I chose an orange fauxstess cupcake and Peter got the chocolate hazelnut cake. Both were later devoured (after arriving in Arkansas) and didn’t fail to amaze us.

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Pizza Planet (Vegan MoFo #1)

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Happy Vegan MoFo 2014, everyone! I am very excited to kick off my theme for this year, Disney movies. I’ll have a good mix of old and new, plus popular and obscure Disney films to feature yummy dishes from.

To start off, we’ll stick with a 90’s classic, Toy Story. In the original movie, Woody and Buzz Lightyear get stranded in a gas station, but manage to snag a ride to the Pizza Planet restaurant/arcade in search of their owner, Andy. I’ve always loved the idea of this kind of space-themed Chuck E. Cheese, so it inspired me to make pizza from it!

Since most kids seem to drift towards classic cheese pizza, I decided to lay low on the veggies and keep to the theme. I was quite proud of this pizza, due to everything being homemade.

toystorypizzaI used a whole wheat crust (which Peter proclaimed delicious), oil-free pizza sauce, and cashew mozzarella cheese with a sprinkle of fresh basil from my windowsill. The pizza sauce turned out a bit on the sweet side, but everything else was great.

The crust was chewy and used only whole wheat flour, so there was no guilt with making it. I was skeptical about the cheese, but once baked it firmed up and had a good texture for those craving cheese pizza, but not wanting to splurge on store-bought vegan cheeses. I may play around with the agave ratio in the sauce next time I make this, but I’ll definitely be baking up this pizza again.