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 – San Diego (the grand finale)

Here we are, the last post about our cross-country trip… Nearly 5 months after we got married. This final semester of school is a real doozie, with more involved homework than any of my previous semesters. But since the honeymoons series is over, I’ve got a whole new theme for posts in the works (I’ll announce what it is next week) and also plan to start back writing Two Dollar Tuesday posts.

And without any further ado, here’s San Diego:

I had a really hard time choosing between ending our trip in San Francisco or San Diego. I’m really happy that we chose San Diego (which was because it didn’t require a train transfer) because it turned out to be Peter’s favorite city!

Having never seen any California city besides LA, I assumed San Diego would also be a sprawling city packed with people and traffic. It turned out to be a relaxed sea-side city full of amazing food and wonderful history.

Just like my Los Angeles portion of the trip, I am missing photographs of meals I know I took photos of. Alas, they are nowhere to be found, so I’ll just be mentioning where we ate with just a description.

We stayed at the budget-friendly Days Inn, which even at a bargain price was right across from the ocean and situated in the center of various museums and restaurants. We were able to easily walk there from the train station.

Right across from the hotel was a nice little park, which featured this deranged art installment. On the first day in town, after throwing our backpacks into the hotel room, we headed out to lunch. Happy Cow said there weren’t any restaurants nearby, so we stuck with Yelp and found Underbelly, an amazing ramen shop.

They had two vegetarian options (which you could also get vegan noodles for). Peter got the vegetable ramen, which had truffle oil, several types of mushrooms, and white asparagus. I went with the crazier sounding charred kimchi ramen, which had kimchi, rainbow carrots (which were divine), and a variety of shishito peppers.

While I loved Ramen Champ, I think this was probably the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever eaten. I love kimchi, and that combined with flavorful and brightly colored carrots and spicy peppers made a combination that was something entirely new for me. They also had a variety of condiments for customers to customize their own heat and saltiness. It was so good that we ended up eating dinner there again the next evening.

Full to the brim with noodles, we headed over the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Peter definitely finds ships more interesting than I do, so I just expected to spend about an hour or so wandering around the museum. Little did I know that this museum woould be extremely interesting and extensive, which is how we ended up spending all afternoon there.

The moment we realized it wasn’t gonna be your average boat museum was when we saw they had an USSR submarine on the guide map.

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The best part was wandering around inside, where you could see how giant their missiles were.11113725_10205854054904314_2096309917352862767_o

And how claustrophobic-feeling the whole place was.
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Peter and I both agreed that the working periscope was the neatest part of the submarine.11169747_10205854055384326_4478064034377368015_oThe second coolest part (trailing close to the sub) was the Star of India.

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The ship has lived a plethora of lives. Starting as a spice trading vessel, moving on to sailing immigrants from Great Britain to New Zealand, shipping logs in Alaska, and then finally ending up here.11350444_10205854053784286_5066209630102428459_nWe were two of the few visitors they had that day, so we had free reign on the deck and below to explore.

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Below deck was equally as beautiful and informative as above. They had charts and drawings explaining the Star of India’s various jobs, different classifications of sailing ships, and even mannequins placed in the tiny cabins to show what room was like for those immigrating.If you’re ever in San Diego, please visit the Maritime Museum. It’s wonderful way to spend the afternoon.We spent the rest of the day lazily exploring the sea side and Little Italy (right behind our hotel). For dinner we didn’t want to walk far, and didn’t mind eating something super casual. So we walked down the block to a little Mexican fast food place, Los Panchitos. They had a veggie burrito that I easily made vegan by removing the cheese and sour cream. It was a super soft giant flour tortilla stuffed full of refried beans, rice, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, and guacamole. Peter got the same, just without removing the dairy. It was really good and filling for just $5 and the staff was happy to accommodate to menu modifications.

The second day in San Diego we took the Old Town Trolley Tour to see the various major tourist attractions in town. We started by visiting the USS Midway Museum.One could easily spend the entire day exploring the Midway. We spent a solid 2.5 hours and had a great time. Inside we met a WWII veteran and he and Peter discussed the difference in the plane he flew back then versus the newer version.

They also had an awesome (though slightly nauseating) flight simulator where one person controlled the gun and the other flew the plane. Peter was pilot and we were upside down the majority of the time.
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On the upper deck was a huge collection of aircrafts. Some were for viewing (most had a sign telling their use/back story) but others allowed you to go inside and look around. 11026043_10205854060064443_9110357325304986009_o

The upper deck and inside had a large amount of mannequins doing everything from directing landing planes to serving up meals in the kitchen.
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Definitely the most wicked looking aircraft on deck.

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After the Midway we hopped on the Trolley and had a great time being toured through parts of San Diego we never would have gone to otherwise. We got off at Balboa Park and headed for the Museum of Man, which explores one of my favorite topics, anthropology.

The place was surprisingly small, but filled to the brim with folklore about monsters, carved Mayan and Egyptian stones, and more. We had a good time looking through it, and it was a beautiful building inside and out.

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After the MoM we headed to Evolution Fast Food for lunch. Sadly, as soon as we got to the parking lot, we saw it was empty. Two employees were outside and said that a kitchen fire inside was causing them to close for the day. When I asked what places nearby served vegan food, they pointed us to the Sanfilippo’s Italian restaurant next door. Thankfully, the place had Daiya cheese. So despite not having burgers, we got some decently good pizza for lunch.

Our last stop on the Trolley Tour was the Whaley House. The house is infamous for being named the most haunted house in the nation. We couldn’t resist getting a tour from there to end our trip.
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The tour guide (who I never managed to get a non-blurry picture of) was dressed in an 1800’s period-piece dress and did a great job telling the story of the Whaley family, plus she had several logical explanations for ghost stories, but didn’t totally scoff at the idea of a haunting. Sadly, I got no photographic evidence of the paranormal, but a few good shots of just the house itself.

The bottom floor of the house was where the first courthouse in the area was located.

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Very creepy, but common for that time, memorial wreath made of hair.

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Photographs and various items owned by the Whaley family.
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If I remember correctly the kitchen was a re-creation, but full of genuine period-pieces.

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By far the creepiest part of the house because of the doll collection.
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Last but not least, the upstairs had the area’s first theatre, which was taken over (along with all the upstairs bedrooms) by a travelling theatre troupe.

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And that’s it! Our honeymoon was such an amazing and fun time and something we’re going to cherish forever. Also, I want to give a big thanks to our friends and family who gifted us many things we did on our trip through Honeyfund (which is awesome and I recommend to all engaged couples). I’m super excited about getting back to regularly scheduled blogging and I hope you readers are too.

Honeymoon – Los Angeles 

I’m loving reading this year’s Vegan MoFo posts! Sadly, my last semster of school is taking main focus, but I’ve still got two more honeymoon posts left to share with you guys.

Los Angeles was interesting to say the least. Our overnight train arrived extremely early to the station (4:30 a.m. to be exact), which was too early for us to drop our bags in the hotel lobby and go see any attractions. So we ended up sleeping in the station with the huddled masses until about 9 when we knew the La Brea Tar Pits would be opening.

So slightly frazzled looking, but still excited, we set off to see LA. We took an Uber to the tar pits and our driver was this fascinating Armenian man who chatted with us about his home country, how he came here, and what we should do with our two days in town. I’m glad he was so friendly because it made our time stuck in LA’s notorious traffic seem less long.    

We stopped by the museum first before exploring the grounds. It was a bit pricey to get in, but ended up being worth it to see the massive amount of bones excavated from this site. There were tons of skeletons, each accompanied by paintings of their original state and visual timelines for those unfamiliar with the tar pits’ history. IMG_0844They have collected 100’s of dire wolf skulls and had a huge display of them on the wall. IMG_0831 After the museum we walked around the grounds to see the actual excavation sites. We could stand there and gawk at researchers as they tediously chipped away at the dirt and moved around the various fossil crates.
There were no researchers to be seen in this area, but according to nearby plaques they’re still currently finding bones in this section.Looking at the bones and drawings of giant sloths (here and at the Houston Museum of Natural Science) has caused me to develop a deep fear of them. So these sculptures were not my favorite part of the La Brea Tar Pits, but it was made up for by the lovely grounds and extremely friendly staff. A definite must see when visiting LA.

Our next stop was the Museum of Death in Hollywood. No photos are allowed inside, so the image below is all we’ve got from this stop. But it’s probably a good thing photos inside aren’t allowed, because it’s a very very gruesome museum.

We mostly went because of my morbid fascination with serial killers, which they greatly feature in their extensive collection, but some of the rooms were stomach churning with photographs of car crash or war crime victims. It was a bit too much for us and we walked through some rooms without looking at the images plastered on the walls. Although I’m glad we went, I wish we could’ve just picked and chosen the rooms we enjoyed in our visit (which would be the serial killers and Charles Manson displays) and not had to walk through some of the grislier areas. It was worth it though to see a quilt that was hand sewn by Manson’s followers which were cute floral prints made into a swastika pattern. Totally crazy.

So with the warning that they are 100% serious when they say it is a morbid affair, Museum of Death might be a good stop if you have a sick fascination or two.I could’ve sworn I had more photos, including our lunch, but they seem to have disappeared from my camera. So I’ll wow you with my description in lieu of visual evidence. After the museum, we walked down Sunset Boulevard (and saw the vastly over-rated stars on the sidewalk) to Veggie Grill, which is a chain in California that is totally vegan and has a ton of faux meat options.

I couldn’t resist the b-wing salad, which features a bed of lettuce topped with spicy buffalo wings, avocado, corn salsa, and a creamy ranch. Peter got a Santa Fe crispy chicken sandwich, which has a fried chicken patty with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, and a spicy mayo. Both of our meals were beyond amazing. I didn’t go in expecting too much because chains don’t always deliver quality, but we were very full and happy afterwards and kept repeating “That was just SO good.”

Afterwards we still quite tired from our lack of sleep, so we just watched a movie (Mad Max: Fury Road) at the theatre next door. Later we went back to the hotel, napped, woke up for dinner and realized that we were so tired we didn’t want to walk anywhere. So (lucky for us they deliver) we got Veggie Grill again! I got the crispy chicken plate which had sides of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, and garlic kale. Peter got the exact same sandwich because his earlier meal was so good. Once again, we were very happy with our dinner and it was made even better that we got to eat it while wearing pajamas in bed.

After a night of restful sleep, we set off early to see the beach. We went to Venice Beach first and rented a tandem bicycle for the afternoon. We rode it along the bike path and although it was a bit scary at first (especially since Peter was the “driver”) we had a great time whizzing by the beach goers. We stopped a few times to wander around the strange shops and avoid the scary tattoo parlors. Trust me, you don’t want that $20 bargain tattoo on you forever.
  Eventually we ended up at Santa Monica Pier, which has the Pacific Park amusement park. Pretty hungry from our journey, we stopped off to have lunch and take a ride on the Ferris wheel. I cannot remember which restaurant we went to (even after scouring the area in Google Maps), but it was nearby  and they ended up having black bean tacos that could be veganized and a vegetarian burger for Peter. We paid out the nose for eating so close to a tourist spot, but the food was good and the view of the ocean from the patio was great.We wandered the beach after lunch, picking up shells and being amused by the various types of birds that would jump around in the tide.For dinner we headed to China Town, which was only a 20 minutes walk from our hotel. Now I know ramen is Japanese and not Chinese, but we had to check out Ramen Champ for two reasons: 1. I’ve never eaten ramen made with fresh noodles 2. They had vegan optionsThe atmosphere in Ramen Champ was great. With art plastered on everything from the wall, to the menu, to the chopstick packaging, the visuals of the restaurant realy added to the meal. I got the house ramen with added tofu and I paid a bit extra to make it spicy. Peter got the same exact thing, minus the heat.  This was a bittersweet meal, both because the fresh noodles were amazingly chewy while the flavorful broth seared my mouth and because I knew that there’s no place that serves ramen like this in central Alabama. So we savored this delicious meal before heading back to the hotel to rest for our journey to San Diego the next day.

Ponyo Ham Ramen (Vegan MoFo #5)

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Ending a rough Monday with an easy and tasty meal is ideal, so today I relied upon a dish coveted by many college students: ramen. A Disney film that features this is Ponyo, a light-hearted Studio Ghibli movie that focuses on a friendship and fish.

Ponyo starts as a cute little fish-girl living with her alchemist father under the sea. Her curiosity is never ending and because of this she loves visiting the human world. As Ponyo keeps interacting with humans, especially her new friend Sosuke, she evolves into an adorable little person. The problems arise when she risks becoming too human, and her father tries to return her to the sea.

Despite all this, Ponyo is always one to have a good time. Especially when it involves ham. Throughout the film she is fed ham at various times and is usually followed by her screaming “HAAAMM!” enthusiastically. It’s quite adorable, and inspired me to try an oddly tasty food combination from the film: ham and ramen.

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The following recipe might be a bit on the spicy side for some, so adjust the sriracha as needed. I skipped making a mock hard boiled egg, but if you prefer one for authenticity’s sake then Meet the Shannons has a good recipe.

Ponyo Ramen

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. uncooked ramen noodles
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 4 pieces of vegan ham (I used Yves brand)

Directions:

  1. In a pot mix the vegetable broth, sesame oil, agave, soy sauce, and sriracha. Bring to a boil and stir in the ramen noodles. Cook for 3 minutes, then set aside for 5 minute.
  2. Place each serving in a bowl and top with green onions and ham. Serve while watching this whimsical movie!

Nutrition per serving:
Calories: 324 Fat: 4.7g Saturated Fat: 0.7g Protein: 15g Carbohydrates: 55g Sugars: 10.7g