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.

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 – El Paso

It was an adventure in itself even getting to El Paso. The train lines from Austin were obstructed by a fallen tree (thanks to a slew of storms) and we had to take a bus to San Antonio’s station. Once there, we sat around for about three hours while they prepared the trains to El Paso. While waiting we met a lot of nice people in line and had great conversations, so that made the time pass faster.

Once we arrived in the late afternoon from the overnight train, we were exhausted and hungry. We checked into  the Gardner Hotel, a dusty yet charming hotel that’s famous for being a rest stop of John Dillinger’s bank robbing spree. We were delighted to find that the pizza place directly next to the hotel, the Pizza Joint, had vegan options!

They were actually out of Daiya cheese that day and were extremely apologetic about it, and the wonderful staff were aware of what crusts and sauces were vegan-friendly. I ended up getting their thin crust pizza with garlic olive oil, kalamata olives, artichokes, red onion, and fresh basil. It actually didn’t even need the Daiya, I think it would’ve covered up the pizza’s nicely balanced flavor.Peter wanted to keep things simple and just ordered two slices of cheese pizza. Little did he know that those slices were each bigger than his head. Check out the awkward posed bite photo he insisted on me taking.Pizza Joint also had a small collection of board games, so we spent our lunch playing Battleship. While we waited on our Uber at the Austin train station, we met a lovely woman named Eva who was delighted that we were visiting Texas on our honeymoon. We later ran back into her at the Texas State Capital and she offfered her phone number and an “insider tour” if we were ever in El Paso. So while in town, we met up with her and she drove us all around.

Eva volunteers at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) so we got shown the campus, the library, and some of the recently renovated grounds. We also visited a tamale shop (which had dessert tamales that were vegan!), her former school, and some of El Paso’s other interesting sights.  Eva drove us up the mountain in the center of the city and we had an amazing view of El Paso and also Juarez, Mexico. According to her, the mountain writing on the Juarez side says “The Bible is good, read it”. Meeting Eva was such an awesome part of our trip, and we parted with a hug and her telling us “Have a good life, and take care of people you meet along the way.” Such a nice woman. For lunch, we stopped by the Green Ingredient, which was only about two blocks from the hotel. Be warned, it is on the ground floor of the Chase Building with no signage outside. We walked by twice before we stopped and asked a security guard who pointed us inside.

Inside was an airy and well-lit dining area, with a friendly staff. Peter wasn’t particularly hungry (from the earlier tamales), so he just got dessert. He chose the avocado chocolate mousse, which was actually vegan. I like avocado mousse just as much as any other vegan, but this stuff is unrivaled. Really creamy and rich, on top of a soft chocolate cookie and sprinkled with cacao nibs. I can’t resist anything with “buffalo” in the title, so I got the cauliflower wings with tofu ranch. Our waitress was nice enough to substitute broccoli for the celery since I abhor that vegetable. These were very spicy (a good thing in my book) and perfectly textured, just inbetween being too soft or crunchy. The ranch wasn’t as creamy as expected and had a very lemony flavor, but it worked well with the cauliflower.  After lunch we visited the Magoffin Home, a historic adobe home in downtown El Paso. We took the guided tour and it was a great way to spend an hour. We learned about how the adobe housing was made, a large amount of El Paso history, stories of the Magoffin family, and how this particular family impacted the growth and change of the town. A really neat place, just like El Paso itself.

Honeymoon – Austin

This post is definitely going to be the longest thing I’ll write about our honeymoon, because we stayed nearly 4 days in Austin, an amazingly vegan-friendly city.
If you’re comfortable walking pretty much everywhere, we recommend staying at the Super 8 near the capital/university area. We stayed there and it was a five minute walk to downtown Austin.

Day 1: We arrived by train in the early afternoon and immediately set off looking for the Shhmaltz food truck, famous for their vegan reuben.The truck is in a nice little area tucked behind a bookstore. We somehow managed to get lost, but when we called the lovely owners (twice actually) they managed to give us directions that led us there.  So, even if you’re using Google Maps, remember to check behind the bookstore!

The area was nice and green with a canopy to shade us from the sun. Plus adorable planters with succulents decorated the tables.I, of course, got the vegan ‘Harvey P’ reuben and on the side a pickle sampler. The sampler included pickled cucumber, jicama, carrots, and watermelon radishes.

The sandwich lived up to the hype, and the pickles were the perfect accompaniment. The seitan (house-made, I might add) was full of flavor with an eerily similar to meat texture, topped with an equally delicious sauce and smashed between toasted marbled rye.  Peter ate their ‘Gertrude Stein’ goat cheese sandwich, that he described as “creamy and yummy”. The city was chock-full of interesting street art.

 Although we don’t have any photos from it, our afternoon was spent wandering through downtown before heading to the University of Texas campus to visit the Blanton Art Museum and the Texas Memorial Museum.

The Blanton was awesome with several pieces of modern art and an exhibit on civil rights. My personal favorite piece was a life-size Aunt Jemima packing heat.

The Texas Memorial was small, but interesting, and definitely worth the small entry fee of $2 each for students ($4 for anyone else 13+). It had a decent collection of geodes, minerals, dinosaur bones, and examples of local wildlife. Before we knew it, we’d actually been looking around there for over an hour!

All of that walking built up an appetite, so we visited a food truck I’d been hearing about (and wanting to visit) for years: Arlo’s. We got there right before a storm was about to break and the guys in the truck were happy to package our meal for to-go.

Once we got our food, the heavens opened and our tiny umbrella couldn’t shield both us and the burgers. So we sacrificed our own comfort to save the food, and jogged to our nearby hotel. Once dried off in the hotel (sorry for the shoddy lighting) we dug into our bacon cheese burgers and order of tater tots. Now I know you can’t tell from the picture, but this is the most magnificent burger I have ever eaten. Probably my favorite meal of our entire honeymoon.

The burger patty and bacon are all house-made seitan, and I’m fairly sure they used Daiya cheese, along with lettuce, tomatoes, and mustard. Oh man. We ended up eating there twice more during the trip, despite us wanting to try new things every meal. If I lived in Austin, I’m pretty sure the Arlo’s staff would soon know Peter and I by name. Day 2: We were up bright and early to visit the Texas Capital Building and go on a tour. The building was amazingly decorative, from the doorknobs to the hinges.
 The main focal point (and the most crowded place) was the center of the building, which at the very tip-top featured a huge star that was actually 8 feet across, but looked much smaller from the ground level.

 Our tour guide was nice and informative, and seemed genuinely happy to answer questions. We went through the Texas House of Representatives room, and were told about various things happening there and the history behind some of the portraits on the walls.

 For lunch we went to the Austin Farmer’s Market There were so many vendors with beautiful local produce and products. It made me quite sad that I didn’t have a kitchen to cook all the wonderful looking fruits and vegetables in.
We got some tamales at The Gardner’s Feast tent. I chose the mushroom type and Peter got feta and spring veggies. To drink we had our first encounter with kombucha at the Buddha’s Brew tent. They had taps on display so you could sample the wares before investing in a bottle. We both ended up liking the blueberry flavor best. Peter being King of the Pigeons after dropping tamale crumbs.
 We couldn’t resist dessert from the Happy Vegan Baker. Peter chose a vanilla cupcake and I got a blackberry pastry. Both were delicious and we left the Farmer’s Market full and happy!
We couldn’t resist a good photo op. The First Street Bridge was a really pleasant walk over the Colorado River. It was a pretty view and felt far away from the actual traffic.
Our main destination across the bridge was Peter Pan Mini Golf. A kinda creepy but a lot of fun mini golf course. I don’t know who sat down and thought up the ideas for each hole’s theme. Seriously, an ant singing on a taco? Or an obviously high bunny rabbit with a skateboard? The wackiness of the sculptures made it even more fun.
 Neither of us are actually any good at mini golf.
 Missing holes took up the rest of our afternoon, so we decided to get dinner on that side of the river. Thankfully, it’s hard to go someplace in Austin and not be within two blocks of vegan food. Unity Vegan Kitchen was just a short walk away and offered some very, very good food.

Peter partook in the lasagna, which was a big portion size and filled up with thick tomato sauce, something similar to ground beef, and cashew cheese. I chose their weekly special, which was a chick’n and cheese chimichanga.

Peter is happy with anything pasta, so he gave his meal a thumbs up. Mine was amazing and full of gooey cheese, spiced chick’n (pretty sure it was Beyond Meat), and all wrapped up in a crispy fried tortilla. It was also served with two cups of salsa on the side, one red and one green. If you’re in the neighborhood, check this place out. Their food rocks.
Day 3: Texas has a reputation for having great Mexican food, so we wanted to try out the Tamale House East, which had stellar reviews online. The large line told us that it must be worth waiting for. I happily ordered the vegan mushroom enchiladas and Peter asked for the cheese enchiladas. I’m sad to say that this was our one bad food experience in Austin. The waitress brought out our food and mine had cheese. I told her I’d ordered the vegan enchiladas and she seemed bewildered and said that was them. “Is this vegan cheese?” I asked doubtfully and then she said “No.” After a minute, the manager came out and said he could fix this and whisked the plate away. About 5 minutes later cheese-free enchiladas were at my table, though all of the staff had acted like I was being unreasonable.

The food was just mediocre, like something I could get at any run of the mill Mexican joint. A soggy corn tortilla stuffed with sauteed mushrooms (without any real flavor) and topped with green salsa. The sides were fine, but lukewarm when brought out. Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend going there if you don’t want a plate covered in cheese.
 We visited the French Legation Museum on a whim, and it turned out to be one of our favorite parts of Austin. It featured Austin’s oldest home and our tour guide told us about former residents. The entire thing was furnished with period pieces and fascinating to view. If you don’t want to pay for the tour (even though it was only $5!) the grounds are free to visit during the museum’s open hours. Afterwards we strolled through the Texas State Cemetery. It was well kept and featured some well known people (including Austin’s namesake). 

 Since our last restaurant visit didn’t work out, we decided to stick with food trucks again. There was a food truck park just a five minute walk from the hotel and there we settled on Coat and Thai for dinner. Peter got the pad thai and I ordered the green curry (be sure to specify you want it vegan!). We got it packaged to-go so we could eat while we waited on the bats.
 Under Congress Avenue Bridge is a horde of thousands of bats that fly out every night and people go out to watch them.The area where we sat was actually really nice, even more so when it cooled down after the sun set. We happily sat there and ate our Thai food (which was delicious and very filling!) while we waited.
 Eventually a steady stream of bats flew out and it was an amazing sight. You could hear them squeaking and see them fly out into the nearby trees. We stayed about two hours, just fascinated by the seemingly unending amount of bats.  Our train out of Austin was later in the day, so we had time for lunch and an activity or two. We went back to the food truck park, but sadly Coat and Thai was closed. Luckily though, Way South Philly was open!

Peter got the Marciano and asked for no steak, so basically it was a pizza sub (which he was ecstatic about). I got the Adrian, which had squash, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions.

gotta be honest, at first I was sad at the thought of just a veggie sandwich. I expected something that would probably be a little plain and not filling, but boy was I wrong. The veggies were all perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The roll it was served on was equal parts crusty and soft, and then everything was perfected with a little drizzle of hot sauce on top. Good job, Way South Philly. You taught a jaded old vegan that even a meat and cheese place can make a darn good veggie sandwich.
 After lunch we walked around 6th Street, which had a huge collection of restaurants, art galleries, clothing stores, and other wacky findings. One of the best things there was the Museum of the Weird, which was tucked into the back of a gift shop.

When you first enter the tour guide does a small (yet impressive) show featuring sword swallowing and other classic stunts. Then you’re free to explore the museum’s array of items, ranging from deformed taxidermy animals (see below) to the fiji mermaid and big foot tracks. Although the museum wasn’t huge, we had a great time there. A lot of the displayed items’ authenticity are questionable, but that just adds to the fun.
We had such an absolute blast in Austin, we were sad to leave. And even though we packed our days here to the brim with activities, I feel like we just saw a small fraction of what the city has to offer. We’ll be back, that’s for sure.

Honeymoon – San Antonio

We had a blast with our short time in San Antonio.

We started the day early by wandering around the city, just taking in the sights. I loved the brightly colored houses and murals celebrating the Hispanic culture.

Lunch was at Señor Veggie, a little vegan restaurant nestled in the downtown area. Peter had the veggie street tacos with jackfruit carnitas, slaw, pico de gallo, and cashew cream. It was served with a side of freshly fried potato chips.

These tacos, I can’t even form words about how amazing they were, I would know since I stole one from Peter. The carnitas were chewy, the slaw added a fresh bite, and the pico was a mild tangy compliment to it all. If you visit Señor Veggie, please get these.  

I ate the eggplant torta with a side of Texican lentil chili. The chili was just generic lentils with spices, similar to something I could make at home, but not bad by any means. The sandwich though was a show stopper. 

The combination was a strange one, but delicious. Fluffy bread spread with ranch, black beans, and topped off with a fried eggplant patty, lettuce, and pico de galo. I’m going to attempt making this at home next time I get the gumption up to try frying something.After lunch we walked to Market Square. It’s a bit of a tourist trap with shops full of postcards and Texas shot glasses. But some of the buildings contain shops run by local craftspeople with interesting trinkets, clothes, decorations, and even toys.          It was ridiculously hot in San Antonio, so we stopped to sit on a bench and have a cold drink. While there, we watched the plethora of birds running around the Square. Among them was a pigeon we nicknamed “Carl” who was the head pigeon and spent his time bullying the smaller birds over breadcrumbs and stray french fries.Our evening was spent visiting the Alamo. We went about an hour and a half before closing time, so the majority of the crowd had dispersed. We had a great time exploring the old buildings on the grounds and reading about their history. The area was also very beautiful with a lot of greenery, sculptures, and even a koi fish pond.

A wonderful way to finish off a day in San Antonio.      

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. 

Honeymoon – New Orleans

The first stop on our trip was New Orleans, the only city we had previously visited together.

Most of the city’s cheap hotels were booked up for Jazz Fest, so we ended up staying across the river near Algiers Point. Our hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the ferry, so we had a nice time strolling (and sweating in the 85+ degree weather) through the neighborhoods near the water.  While riding the ferry, a plane was flying overhead trying to spell something. Or insult somebody, we weren’t quite sure. Hungry from our trek, we stopped in at the always delicious Dreamy Weenies. We were shocked that the place was empty, apparently due to the Jazz Fest. The poor guy behind the cash register was so bored and quizzed us about where we were from and what we were doing in the city.

I got a kielbasa dog topped with slaw and red beans and rice. Peter got a smoked “chicken” dog with sour cream and cheese. 

    The majority of our day was spent taking the Saints and Sinners tour offered by French Quarter Phantoms. This is the second tour we’ve taken from this company and both have been fantastic.

The tour guide took us all through the French Quarter while regaling us with tales about the beginnings of New Orleans, various stories of its seedy history, and even told us about a woman who may become the city’s first saint.

While wandering the French Quarter we also saw this awesome lighthouse for rent. Since we’ve previously discussed moving to NOLA, I’m totally down with the idea of us living in a lighthouse there.

Dinner was at Seed near the edge of town. We dined on beignets (not pictured) to start and for dinner Peter had the southern fried tofu poboy and I had the walnut taco salad with seed gumbo.

I love this restaurant, not just because of the great food and friendly servers, but because we can enjoy New Orleans classics while still sticking with an animal-friendly lifestyle. 

  

Eating Through Rochester

I spent the last weekend of spring break visiting my sister in Rochester, New York. She’s moving from there soon and kept saying “Come visit me and eat all the good vegan food up here!” So I finally took her up on the offer.

I arrived early in the afternoon and we immediately went to John’s Tex Mex. The place was small, but not too cramped and with very friendly staff. We started off with chips and a flavorful chunky salsa.I ordered the un-beef burrito bowl with refried beans, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and olives. It was served with a side of Cholula hot sauce and two house-made salsa (salsa verde and chipotle) which were fantastic. I honestly expected it to be smaller, with about the size of burrito filling, but the meal was so ridiculously huge that I ended up getting two meals and a midnight snack out of the one bowl. Not that I’m complaining, we definitely got a bang for our buck here.

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Street art was prevalent throughout Rochester. The image below is just one of many I saw, including  illegal graffiti and several professional murals. Poor Kaitlin had to deal with me pressing my face up to the window every time we drove somewhere or trying to roll down the window to snap a picture.

Dinner was at Spot Coffee, a nifty café inside a renovated Chevrolet service station. The atmosphere inside was great, with a tall ceiling and a large selection of seating areas. Plus the staff was very knowledgeable on what was and wasn’t vegan (parmesan cheese in the dressing, eggs in the bread, etc.)

I settled for the one vegan menu item, the hummus wrap. Apparently their hummus flavor changes on a daily basis, and that day was chipotle. I was pleasantly surprised with how this one turned out. I’ve had a few too many hummus wraps that were under-flavored with sad wilted vegetables stuffed inside. But this wrap was nicely toasted and stuffed with mixed greens, tomato, and cucumber. It was served with a side of balsamic tossed greens.For entertainment that night we stopped by The Little Theatre to see It Follows. The theatre was adorable and plays mostly independent movies.

Before I left Alabama, I’d heard multiple times to go eat at Dogtown when I got to NY. Since my life dream is to own a vegan hot dog cart, I think it makes sense to take any opportunity to try a new veggie dog.

I found out upon walking into the place that Dogtown was honorably mentioned in the Top Five Vegan Hot Dogs contest. I’ve actually been to the restaurant that won 4th, Dreamy Weenie’s in New Orleans. I may need to make a travel itinerary based around eating at all the other winners too…

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Inside the restaurant was pretty packed, so we ended up ordering our food to-go. The décor (and menu names) were all dog themed, and even included this adorable wall of  customers’ dogs.

What I ended up ordering, after staring open-mouthed at the menu board and the plethora of options for a while, was the vegan German Shepard. It was a veggie dog with sauerkraut, yellow mustard, and cooked onions. The bun was also phenomenally hearty (soggy buns make me sad) and didn’t fall apart before I finished the hot dog. Served on the side were fries and ketchup.

The East End area had a ton of cute little shops. One of which was Greenwood Books, a used bookstore with books ranging in topic from vintage piano sheet music to Appalachian herbal medicine.

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Unsurprisingly, I found a book that I needed. This vegetarian cookbook combined two things I love: food and travel. What’s not to like? Since returning home, I’ve already tried the beer battered tofu recipe (from the England section) and it was fantastic. We’ll see, soon we may have a monthly “travel” meal to other countries.

On my final night in Rochester we ate at the Red Fern, an entirely vegan restaurant. I ordered the Compost Plate, a nice play on the garbage plates that Rochester is famous for. All piled together, it featured pasta salad, a chilled sweet potato salad, balsamic tossed mixed greens, and buffalo tempeh. Everything tasted fantastic, my only complaint was that the buffalo was not hot at all. Kaitlin said that she’s had a hard time finding anything actually spicy in the north, and that southern states seem to be better at accurately labeling things as “hot”.

 Kaitlin decided to partake in the buffalo sandwich, which featured the same buffalo tempeh as my plate, stacked together with pickled vegetables and bleu cheese sauce. After trying a bite, I could happily live without a vegan replacement for bleu cheese (bleck!) but the otherwise the sandwich was very tasty, especially the fresh soft bun it was served on.

 I had a wonderful time eating through seeing Rochester and hope to return again someday. Who knows, maybe that’s where my hot dog cart will end up. 🙂

Glasgow Trip

Glasgow was probably my favorite city that I visited this summer. Something about its vibe just made me happy to wander around the beautiful (and occasionally grungy) streets and chat with all the interesting people I met. It may have also helped that Glasgow had a lot of amazing vegan restaurants to choose from.

The one I visited the most was Stereo, a hidden gem in a dark alley plastered with band posters. They had a set menu and also daily specials to choose from, so you’ll never be bored coming back here for a meal. My favorite meal of the entire trip was loaded nachos.
Corn chips topped with cheese, beans, salsa, chipotle cashew sour cream, and jalapeños. It’s so ridiculously good that I ate this a total of three times over my two trips to Glasgow.
The other meal I tried at Stereo was the cheeseburger. The bean burger was delicious with a flavorful creamy sauce and stretchy vegan cheese. Served on the side was a lightly dressed salad with a hint of citrus, and home fries.

The other vegan restaurant I frequented was Mono. Sadly, something seemed to get in the way every time I ate, so I never managed to snap a photo of my meals. I went twice and got the portobello mushroom burger with beer battered onion rings (yum!) then the chili dog with aioli fries. Everything was delicious.

One of the coolest things about Mono though was the fact that it had a record store and zine shop in the same building. While I waited on my food to cook, I wandered through Good Press and its array of interesting zines.This was my personal favorite of the zine offerings.

The Duke of Wellington statue was on my must see list.
It was conveniently right behind the statue is the Gallery of Modern Art, which had a fantastic collection of pieces. The one that I found the most breathtaking was a project (which I frustratingly don’t remember the name of now) featuring cardboard models of every religious building in town.
IMG_0324.JPGThe best place to visit on a sunny day was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It’s a beautiful building and has lovely grounds to lay around on.
And while the grounds are cool, what’s inside the museum is even better. From deranged modern art to classical pieces and historically relevant items, there was something for every interest.

Five Must-Dos in Liverpool

Although my first two months of working abroad through Workaway were spent mainly in Ireland, I took the time to visit parts of the UK also. The first place I saw was Liverpool, England. I was a bit intimidated before arriving because several people said “You’re going to Liverpool? Alone?!” when they found out I wasn’t going for a visit with friends or family.

It all turned out well though, because I had a blast in Liverpool. There were plenty of things to do, places to see, and vegan food to eat. Plus any time I got lost (which I’m embarrassed to admit happened a few times), passersby were always happy to help and point to a spot on the map or tell me that Google Maps had sent me the wrong way.

Museum of Liverpool

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The Museum of Liverpool, is a great free place to explore the city’s past. Their exhibits are extensive and include the history of several people groups (the Irish, black, and Jewish communities), along with a large feature on the LGBTQ movement. My favorite part was their highlight on transgender individuals.

Albert Dock

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Albert Dock is an adorable little area that holds several entertaining spots. From independent shops to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, there’s something for everyone here.

While wandering around the dock, I was drawn into the Quay Confectionery shop due to their amazing jelly bean portrait of The Beatles (who originated in Liverpool). Inside, there were plenty of vegan-friendly sweets options.

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The Wheel of Liverpool (also known at the Echo Wheel) is nearby and definitely worth a ride. Although I’m not a huge fan of heights, I got on it anyway and had a great time being terrified of the squeaky ride.

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Western Approaches

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For any history buffs, or even those with a mild interest in WWII, Western Approaches is a must-visit when in Liverpool. Tucked away in the center of the city, the museum is inside the underground command center used during WWII by the Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Much of the same furniture and equipment still exists, so you can view the war cabinet’s telephone, the code deciphering room, and even a disarmed German bomb.

Walker Art Gallery

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With one of the largest art collections in England, visiting Walker Art Gallery is a great way to see pieces dating from the renaissance all the way to modern day. During my visit, I was amazed by the exhibit displaying some of the gorgeous quilts by Grayson Perry. Since the collection is so large, it took me about two hours to wander through the entire building.

Street Art

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It’s hard to turn around in Liverpool without seeing some sort of street art. From professional murals to impressive graffiti, the city streets almost always have some colorful message to convey. While there, I saw one of Banksy’s originals (see above) without even realizing it at the time.

20140727-183854-67134564.jpgBonus: An adorable yarnbombing I saw at St. John’s Gardens.

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