Almost time to head back east! So I started the day with a donut, a Pepples Donut. The Ferry Building has a market place with high-brow eats, and this Oakland-based all-vegan donut maker has a little outpost there.
The selection was extensive.
I choose the salted caramel (well-recommended) and skipped the more complicated flavor options (I was looking at White Chocolate Curry.) for a standard vanilla-glazed. They were top quality cake donuts, liken to Seattle’s amazing Mighty-O.
Breakfast in the Mission. St. Francis (or San Francisco) is the oldest ice cream parlor around, founded in 1918. The place clearly hasn’t changed much since the dining room addition in 1948. That is why it’s a wonderful thing that there menu of diner grub is inclusive of vegans. It’s a delight to see the v-bomb adorn the menu of a place like this.
I created my own Tofu Scramble combo, with tomato, green onion, vegan sausage, and sliced avocado. With a perfect portion of home fries, it was an ideal breakfast.
We set off to explore some of San Francisco’s famous neighborhoods, like the Lower Haight. I stopped with the clusters of tourists to capture the iconic San Fran-ian image of the Painted Ladies, colorful Victorian homes with the skyline behind them.
But the bustle of the city wore on me quickly, especially after a walk through the gentrified Haight-Asbury. I missed the sea and wanted to look at it again. We headed back to the Marin Headlands to see the Point Bonita lighthouse. But first, we had to walk through a cliff.
What is the allure of the sea? It’s one of life’s projection screens–a deep and lively realm that holds all you need it to hold (mystery, opportunity, openness, love, loved one’s ashes, whatever) and, acknowledgingly, delivers it back to you. And in this way, I like how I feel looking at it. I like feeling just how much I am able to feel. Is that totally weird? Yeah, I probably inhaled too much of those smoke clouds in Haight-Asbury.
What do you give the sea?
And then it was time for the final stop: Millennium Restaurant, the renowned gourmet vegan eatery that I’ve been meaning to try since the nineties. We nabbed an exclusive 5:30pm/Monday night reservation. And I got the 3-course prix fixe so I can sample as much as I could. To start, the Crusted King Trumpet Mushrooms–arborio rice dredged paper-thin mushrooms with a cabbage salad & lime vinaigrette, sitting next to a pool of Gochujang dipping sauce and sprinkled with Szechuan pepper sesame salt. They were absolutely delicious. I appreciated the thicker sliced mushrooms more, as some just tasted like breading.
My entree: Juniper & Mustard Seed Glazed Tempeh strips with a creamy cashew horseradish mashed potatoes, caramelized onion-stout sauce, grilled asparagus and shaved Meyer lemon & fennel with black eyed pea chow chow. The “chow chow” seemed like the outlier on the dish, not quite fitting with assertive stout sauce. I enjoyed the dish a great deal, but was ever so slightly disappointed with the tempeh. I guess I wanted it to blow my mind more. But it tasted like tempeh I could have made.
Dessert! I choose the Lemon Cornmeal Cake made from red cornmeal topped with balsamic macerated strawberries, vanilla chantilly cream pipings, and garnished with almond brittle. Oh, and there is mint ice cream on the plate too, but I wanted no part of it.
Done & done! Thanks for the eats, San Francisco.
I’m thinking of the piano chords to Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens. They’re kind of thundering, like a definitive decision, like a confident first step of something. I love how that song makes me feel. What is so delightful about music is that you get to pick and choose the emotion you want to linger in for a few minutes. And like all art, you bring your whole world to your interpretation–your reasoning and your logic (or sometimes better, your lack thereof); it’s an active, dynamic relationship. In that way, a song can be comforting and feel new at the same time. In that way, a song can do all sorts of things using your raw goods–your capacity to feel, your imagination, your ability to connect the two. A good song, that is. I feel like that is why I don’t listen to much new music. There is still so much going on in the songs I’ve loved for decades. I like feeling the song’s expansive associative history, its cast of characters. There’s an irreplaceable context that doesn’t transfer easily to new music. I find that the new music I enjoy is only because it reminds me of something old, something already verified, something that already made me feel that way–in a different time, when it felt new.
Homemade banana chia oatmeal
Quinoa kale roasted Delicata squash salad with kumquat, golden raisin, and assorted veggies. Dressed in lemon-tahini dressing. Inspired by OhSheGlow‘s wonderful cookbook.
After a night of total gluttony, we got an early start. I wanted to hit WPA Bakery (Well-made Pastry Alliance) for their weekly vegan donut options. Then we were hitting the road, heading back to New York.
They had a few vegan options scattered about… but I came for a donut. I left with their signature vegan Red Hot cinnamon donut and a blueberry muffin. I ate both in the car at different points of the drive like the road warrior I am.
The Red Hot donut was red, very red… in a whoa that can’t be natural way. It really was striking. And I can taste the Red Hots in there. The texture was soft and cake-like. But, here’s the thing: Red Hots are not vegan… This I learned after eating it and searching for their ingredients–in that order.As a vegan, you know that sometimes you eat things that aren’t vegan. It happens. Of course not when you make my own food, but when you eat out, it definitely happens. You move on. You have your personal definition of what your veganism is and you don’t beat yourself up. Then, there’s the insect thing. Some vegans are more liberal insect-derived ingredients. Like honey. Like confectioner’s glaze, a.k.a. shellac, which is what Red Hots contain. This glaze is pretty popular. It creates that characteristic sheen coat on many popular candies… even those bulk candies that many vegans devour unknowingly (dark chocolate covered almonds, I’m talking about you). There’s things like Advil and other pills, which are coated in animally derived stuff like most over-the-counter pain relief… like most pills in general…
The blueberry muffin was the perfect snack to munch on during the New Jersey Turnpike traffic. More straight forwardly vegan for sure.
Now, Delaware. I’ve driven through the tiny state many times. But this time I would stop. Mostly because Home Grown, near the University, has “omelettes” made with “vegan eggs.” !! What were these vegan eggs? I really had to find out.
I got the Garden Veggie Omelette with those vegan eggs. To my relief, they were similar to Isa’s amazing version. What a delight to have such care be taken to offer vegans omelette options! I was amazed with every bite.
And I took a lot of pictures in my amazement.
Score, Newark, Delaware! Thanks for a great breakfast.
Karyn delivered–in save-the-best-for-last fashion. And after peeping her menus from her multiple vegan restaurants for many years, I was finally sitting in Karyn’s on Green, ready for Saturday brunch.
I had the Breakfast Sliders: two delicious Belgian waffles for a bun, their yummy butternut squash “bacon,” a savory tofu “egg,” and almond bacon cheese, with a dipping pool of pure maple syrup and a side of home fries. What’s missing from this spectacular sweet and savory dish that takes the best of all breakfast staples? Nothing. It was close to perfection.
Note that packages of vegan processed foods were not part of the deal–no fake this or that. Just Karyn’s interpretation of popular breakfast components made from plant sources in-house. Can you taste the difference? Yes you can. Thank you, Karyn, for your high standards. They are the reason this dish will not soon be forgotten.
Amazing food. And outstanding service.
And one more last sweet bite. Something reliable. Something I know I could grab a cupcake on the go and head to ORD. So why not Sprinkles‘ Cupcake ATM?! I know from my NYC visit to Sprinkles that their one vegan option (the Red Velvet) is stellar. So I drove through the Magnificent Mile in torrential downpours to park illegally for my final Chicago treat.
I attempted to use the ATM but it was not stocked with my vegan option. So I had to run inside. No big deal because the rain kept the tourist masses at bay.
The reward: the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten. Did I say that before? Well, I’ll say it again. This vegan cupcake is the best of all cupcakes I’ve ever tried in my travels, locally and elsewhere. I dined on it in my car… just in case I needed to flee from the meter maid. (Notice that wax paper bag. Smart.)
Today I embark upon the first of many summer adventures. On this mix of business and leisure, I am heading far north to coastal Maine for an institute on humane education, a 4-day intensive workshop on IHE’s educational practice. I received a full scholarship for the course. I think because I wrote a great essay. I forget that I am a pretty damn good writer. Maybe because now my writing is mostly superlative-heavy brief descriptions of food… or mentor writing for my class of 10 year olds. It’s nice to see I can still make them swoon with my writing.
So, speaking of superlative-heavy brief descriptions of food, let’s start! Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, Massachusetts was a perfect halfway stop. I came, created my own omelet, ate a slice of cake, and hit the road, Jack.
My omelet… with shredded Brussels sprouts, tempeh bacon and their housemade vegan cheese sauce. The omelet itself: great texture but seriously lacking some black salt. The innards: housemade vegan cheese sauce did nothing but moisten, Brussels rocked, and tempeh bacon–way to balsamic-y. But I was eating a vegan omelet and I liked that.
Lemon curd-filled coconut cake was just like diner cake! Yummy.
The bakery case was stocked with many-a vegan option.
After I filled up, I was read for a long drive for someone with nothing to think about. And a little aeroplane over the sea, two of the best roadtrip albums ever. And yes, c.d.s. These two gems are worth an iPod of 6,000 songs to skip through.
After learning of the dinner situation in Surry, Maine at the Institute’s grounds, I stopped in Bangor–at a Thai / Japanese / Vietnamese place called Zen. It was pretty good Asian for Bangor, Maine–a dusty, one horse town with day mayors a-plenty. I got the fresh spring rolls and an entree to make it worth the friendly waiter’s time. A bit too much lettuce but a welcome fresh bite.
My entree-the mango curry with tofu and a heart-shaped bed of rice. Aww.
And, finally, I arrived:My home for four days.
And did I mention vegan lunch is included each day… and that the sweet Zoe Weil gave us some delicious candied ginger ice cream. I think I’ll do just fine here.
Pleased to be finally eating a healthy breakfast, my day of Oregon eats began in Bend at Mother’s Juice Cafe. This place fit right in with Bend, a progressive mix of aging hippies and idealistic youngins.
I had their Mothers Bowl: a vibrant chia pudding (made with hemp milk, kale, lemon, ginger and mango) topped with apple, strawberry and almonds. Though I expected the city to be much more vegan-friendly, I was glad that this was the only real breakfast option of substance… I would have likely swung for something decadent if it was available.
The next few hours were spent basking in the sun and admiring, once again, the lay of the land. Here is a shot of the blue sky before I was subjected to heavy downpours for the remainder of the drive. I love that the peaks of the Cascade range were always in the background.
Crater Lake National Park still had winter closures and at the time of my visit and localized clouds hung heavy on the park. Scaling the high packed snow that surrounded the view gave me a bit of altitude… but the lake was covered in a dreamy, white gauze.
I didn’t stay at the lake for long. My only source of warmth still smelt of cow breath and it was not cutting the wind.
Though the view was gorgeous, I was filled with worry about running out of gas. The mountainous incline to Crater Lake ate a significant amount of my quarter of a tank. The helpful rangers steered me toward the closest gas station… that was closed, as many had been on my drive south on 97. Old, abandoned gas stations. I noticed everyone because I had wanted to stop and photograph each one. But if I stopped every time I saw something I wanted to take pictures of, I’d get nowhere!
Now here is something I definitely needed to stop and photograph: Cornbread Cafe in Eugene. This all-vegan comfort food spot if just what I needed, especially after a chia seed pudding breakfast. I could barely contain my excitement.
I built my own meal, choosing their chicken-fried tempeh (local from Eugene), mac uncheese, and mashed potatoes–all swimming in their cashew-based gravy–with a tremendous biscuit with a ton of Earth Balance on it. It was quite the meal! Cornbread is another cart to storefront success story. They are mostly organic and their offerings are mostly fresh made. I wish I could have been able to come for their weekend breakfast menu, more specifically their Chik’n and waffles.
This chicken-fried tempeh was dreamy. Not a frozen patty of processed textured soy protein, thank goodness.
Ok, this is when you’ll realize I am an absolute glutton. A root beer float was my beverage of choice for this fantastic meal. Amazing. Thanks for the deliciously satisfying pit stop, Eugene!
And I am still eating! But now I am in Portland. The place overwhelms me. For dinner, a crepe… because I don’t eat crepes often. Suzette Creperie has a gluten-free and vegan option that I was very excited about: a savory Marsala Soaked Fig crepe, roasted garlic-chickpea spread (hummus, right?), caramelized onions, and spinach, folded neatly and drizzled with soy crema. This was tasty but a bit overstuffed, which made the texture heavy and wet.
And I had to get a quick dessert. After all, I was in Portland. My vegan desires can be easily met. And I wanted soft serve. I stopped into Back to Eden Bakery for a sweet treat.
Remember when I called myself a glutton? I got the deluxe banana split with all vanilla soft serve, chocolate sauce, homemade caramel and berry sauces, a sprinkling of mini Dandies and cherries on top. It was worth sitting next the annoying hipster family of ice cream slurpers. Ok, that’s enough for now, Portland.
And because I am a tourist, the White Stag sign. Time to head back to my room and not drive or eat. Goodnight, Portland!
Like I mentioned in my previous post, Portland is Vegan Heaven. The level of vegan eats available, both from all-vegan establishments and omni eateries, is truly daunting. Hours of operations helped me decided on Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store, a outlet of sorts for Grain God Bob that serves up vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Having to make it to Montana by the evening, I needed an early breakfast if I was going to fit in lunch and dinner and a cupcake stop! An early riser still on New York time, I was at Bob’s before 7 am, basking in the glutinous offerings.
The stock was impressive but I was disappointed flours were not at all discounted.
You don’t bring me flours anymore.
Breakfast: Vegan French Toast, thickly cut 10-grain bread with maple syrup. So fresh and delicious.. but I needed some Earth Balance. Thanks, Bob.
Across the street is Dave’s Killer Bread company store. Dave makes chemical-free bread that locals love. Which is great because his backstory is inspirational, his high quality breads are a labor of pure love and he’s got an adorable logo. You need more than that?
Okay, how about this?
So unlike Oregon, I feel like I have better represented vegan offerings in Washington state, though more specifically Seattle. But not Eastern Washington, which just so happens to be in the way of my reaching Montana. After a gorgeous ride through Mt. Hood territory, I followed the Columbia River east to Oregon’s border, all green and lush and coniferous… to the very boring and brown 395 to Spokane. But first, Richland and their vegan cupcake option at Frost Me Sweet Bakery and Bistro.
It was a Strawberry Shortcake that was vegan today. And it was a yummy couple of bites, however… with Voodoo doughnut, maple syrup and now a cupcake, I was nauseous from all the sugar.
So I couldn’t even look at the bakery case at Boots Bakery & Lounge, an all-vegan spot in an adorable area of Spokane, Washington. The Spokane I knew 15 years ago looked nothing like this.
I could, however, load up on a medley of saltiness and veggie-based delight. I chose three spoon drops from their deli case, including a lemon rice pilaf (I need some acidity!), mac & cheese, and a tofu scramble. The nuked up plate helped balance out my poor tongue. But I secretly wanted 3 spoonfuls of mac & cheese. It was that earthy kind of mac that tastes kind of nostalgic. In fact, the scramble tasted kind of 90’s vegan too. Food flavors are similar to songs in a way, they hold constellations of memories packed up and folded and stored inside them… and the associated love gets credited to the flavor, and not all the stuff we connected to it. Just like songs. This I was thinking of in my many hours of driving–that songs are dresser drawers that hold memories. That you tuck it all in there and say, “That’s a good song.” But it’s really a million other things.
Okay finally, Missoula, Montana. I made it into this small college town with the plan of getting a good night’s sleep after dinner. But here I sit rambling on about songs and flavors still. So let’s talk about Montana. For dinner, Iron Horse Brew Pub. Why? Because they offer housemade tempeh substitution on any of their sandwiches. Yeah.
The tremendously tall Tempeh Sandwich was stacked with greens, sprouts, and cucumber. The thin strips of tempeh, whose texture was spot-on, needed a bit of a stronger marinade… and needed to make up a larger percentage of the sandwich innards. But this was a very welcome dinner after a day of sweet gluttony.
Here is a close-up of the delicious imbalanced ratio.
What a delight to get a snow day on what would be my second day back at school! While we were snowed in, I took care of business. Like making a hearty breakfast: vegan French toast! Nevermind running out to the grocery store to pick up milk and eggs before the storm, this French toast requires neither. And what a way to use up the rest of the bread.
These are perfect little French toast bites. Add some Earth Balance and maple syrup and I can eat a dangerous length of bread. Save some for later and they taste like fast food french toast sticks out of the nuker. Secretly good.
With temperatures dropping to the single digits, we took in the outside cats, much to the upheavel of our 3 resident cats. The huge ginger cat, aka The Big Galoot and the sweet little fluffy girl who’s been tugging at my heartstrings, aka Hippie Frank.
Parking lot snow mountain.
My garden, winterized. Happy Snow Day!
And done! After a 2-week whirlwind of travel, I am now resting my behind on the couch, adjusting my clock back to the Eastern timezone. Here are the highlights of my last day in Germany.
I really wanted to see the Baltic Sea before heading back over the Atlantic. But time was an issue. Instead of heading to Rügen island, accessible through the Stralsund (a 6 hour roundtrip train ride from Hamburg), I headed to Lübeck, a short 1 hour train ride, one way.
I hit the Hanburg train station at 06:00, when drunken boisterous dopes still wandered about, to ensure I wouldn’t have to share Travemünde Strand with too many folks. My plan worked. It was me and the sea. Staring out towards Scandinavia, I had requisite profound thoughts/questions and then moved on, joining the early bird cyclists on the boardwalk.
The German coast along the Baltic and North Seas have a special claim to fame: the strandkorb, a straw beach seat that is characteristically German–the epitome of form meets function. With reclining high-back cushions and foot rests, as well as storage and an easy lock-up gate, these awesome chairs were designed in the 1800’s to block the coastal winds.
The lonely strandkorbs lined the beach
This was how far I stepped into the sea. It was a very chilly morning.
After returning to Hamburg, I made a b-line to Veganz, an all-vegan grocery chain with stores across Germany– including this one in Altona, a hip, multi-culti borough of Hamburg city. That’s right, a store where I can buy anything without scrutinizing the ingredients! Clearly this was a must-stop… but there was another all-vegan supermarket I could have visited: Bevegend.
Before perusing the aisles, I had breakfast at the in-store Fairy Food. I needed to try their vegan croissant and have my first-ever cappuccino.
Once again the vegan cheese spread in Germany impresses me. I wished I could have bought some to bring home but I knew it wouldn’t last.
I regret not buying a bag of these white chocolate buttons.
So much fun to check out these German vegan items.
They even had a cosmetic counter.
Their ice cream cooler was not “open” during my visit unfortunately.
I bought a few item, including this “nougat ring.” After trying that Charleston Chew-like candy bar, I was excited about vegan nougat. This confection from Vegan Bakery was a nice treat to devour on the train ride to Berlin. The nougat was more like a whipped buttercream piped on top of a flaky cookie, then chocolate-coated.
It was a packed ride to Berlin from Hamburg… and I was ready to get a good night’s sleep in my private room. I reserved a seat on the train for the first time and, in turn, avoiding having the stand the entire way. I checked into yet another spotless hostel that was easily accessible from the huge central station. I took a quick walk and had a hearty dinner before making it back for my early bead time. And thankfully, the first bit of rain I saw on my trip limited the noise of boisterous travelers milling about the courtyard.
I chose my dinner spot based solely on location. I wanted somewhere within walking distance. I thought the reviews of Seerose painted a scrumptious picture. It was just what I needed–veg-heavy, fresh and flavorful.
Here was my dish, front-view. The beautiful colors and different textures and tastes were divine. I heart fresh herbs.
And the other side of the plate. Look at those big chunks of squash.
And here it is… a Berlin Wall. Not thee Berlin Wall. But a wall in Berlin. I had nothing left to explore sites in the big Berlin. Another time, Germany. It was time to head home.
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