We were not the only folks looking to doorbust for one of the all-vegan breakfast options at Pingala Cafe & Eatery in Burlington, an Earthy spot for simple vegan fare. Two minutes after opening time, there was a line at the counter. Perhaps if this sculpture and the wild flow of the Winooski river out back hadn’t drawn me in, we could have beat those do-good vegheads to the punch!
So I had to get the Tofu Benedict, given that rule of mine. I love this dish because it has it going on–variety of textures and tastes. This version was less dynamic and lacked a bit of seasoning, but was completely enjoyable.
After breakfast, we headed to Stowe to see the gorgeous Moss Glen Falls. Situated painlessly on the side of road, no hike is required to view these–which was slightly disappointing considering the sedentary itinerary of yesterday and today.
The falls were completely isolated upon our arrival. So I finally utilized the supplies that have been in my trunk at all times since several years ago for this exact purpose–the ability to swim spontaneously as required. A quick, clumsy change into my suit and swim cap in the backseat and I was ready to go.
It was a deliciously invigorating dip, and just in the nick of time as more visitors were rolling in.
Back at the car, a beautiful umber and sienna toned butterfly flirted and fluttered.
Here’s a cool cluster of outhouses nestled in the green mountains.
Lunch brought us south to the King Arthur Flour‘s Vermont campus, which hosts a shop and cafe. I was excited to visit, thinking back to my trip to Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store in Oregon last year. But we weren’t the only tourists excited to stop by! The place was swarmed. Though the cafe’s menu isn’t super vegan-friendly, I was relieved to see that all of the sandwich ingredients to the veggie option were sold in containers with all ingredients listed. So I could order confidently.
Though simple, the Sweet Chili Baked Tofu sandwich was packed with Vermont organic tofu and a yummy Asian slaw–and that is all it needed. It was bright, fresh and delicious. I also had a delectable watermelon, cucumber, and arugula salad with cashew and radish. Such a yummy lunch!
Later, we got to Northwood, New Hampshire to check out the in-the-middle-of-nowhere Susty’s Cafe, a bonafide 90’s style vegan eatery.
I had my eye on the deep-fried Tofu Fries… and then I devoured way too many of them. Who wouldn’t?! (The Electrician wouldn’t, actually.) Perfectly fried and crispy with ample seasoning, they were kind of dangerous.
Lastly, my dinner. A Pepper Seitan wrap. The seitan was tender and oozing with flavor. Maybe too much?
And since I hadn’t had a something sweet all day, I got the chocolate brownie (though really a cake) to go. A pretty retro dinner from start to finish.
As the fireworks begin to sound here in Manchester, New Hampshire, it is time to say goodnight again. More from the road tomorrow…
Last time I spent any time in Vermont, I was just a young punk snowboarding on the motel bed.
This time, like twenty years later, it is summer here in Vermont. The blazing sun, blue sky, and green mountains made for a beautiful scenic drive–off the interstate, behind careful trailers that help you acclimate, begrudgingly, to the speed of things round these parts. Then, a concrete gorilla holding a VW Bug reminds you that it’s about the drive there, not the destination. Or other such clichés.
Of course, it is about the food, too. And I love me a New England road trip because of things like this–higher quality soda fountains and easy vegan labeling, like this huge flag in New Moon Cafe in downtown Burlington.
We arrived for a quick, late lunch before a dinner reservation. I got the Vegan Delight, as it was easy and I was starving. Strips of soy saucy seitan, red pepper hummus, smeared avocado, a very fragrant basil pesto, red onion, grilled eggplant & zucchini, spinach on pressed whole wheat bread. A yummy sandwich in a wide open space.
I was excited for dinner at Revolution Kitchen. They have a dreamy menu of upscale options. The kind that can carry you through hours of driving.
First, their “Nachos.” But this is not a pile of chips. This is guacamole-filled deep fried wontons, non-aluminum can tasting Cuban black beans, a cashew queso and salsa fresca. Downright delectable.
For an entree, the beloved Seitan Piccata. This is the dinner equivalent to a tofu benny: if it’s on the menu, I’ll likely be choosing it. Two succulent lemony seitan cutlets atop garlic mashed potatoes, topped with sauteed spinach and that lovely white wine caper sauce. Perfection.
A quick three-bite dessert afterwards at My Little Cupcake just down the block. I got all the vegan offerings they had: vanilla with vanilla buttercream, vanilla with chocolate buttercream, and, my favorite, a cookies n’ cream cupcake.
The sun beams over Champlain Lake, saying goodnight to the long day that started in New York. See you tomorrow, Vermont.
Fields and fields of corn. This is what’s inside the heart of the heartland. After hours of fields of corn, I was back in the Motor City area to sample some vegan eats.
Lunch, finally was at Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak. They have a promising brunch menu they only serve on Sundays. (Darn!) And a regular menu with 90’s veggie fare. 90’s because things are served with a side of chips from a bag. The 90’s as in, a time when vegetarian food was rudimentary and unexciting. I opted for a sandwich special, the opened face tempeh. I had hoped that the Daiya was a sprinkling, and not the pile I was served, barely hot, on top of the barely cooked tempeh. I promptly moved the mound of processed cheese glob off the tempeh so I lost most of the pesto. What I was left with was not what I pictured in my mind as I traveled from Indianapolis. The slaw was a little bit of a redemption, but not enough.
I have to say: the best vegan cupcakes I have tried in my travels have been the vegan option at an omnivorous bakery. The fluffiest cake, the best frosting, the best pinpoint-perfect sweetness level… maybe these are more qualified bakers, as opposed to passionate vegan entrepreneurs who bake? But they are getting it right. This cupcake was sublime, an adjective I don’t use lightly, like say “yummy.” Spectacular in all the ways cupcakes can be.
After some exploration of Detroit, both crumbled and wartorn and thriving, I head to the uppercrust city of Birmingham, very different than the dilapidating Detroit proper. I headed to the fancy pants The Stand, a gastropub with a vegan section on their menu, otherwise filled with things like duck fat fries. I asked my waiter if the chef could whip me up a vegan tasting plate with a combination of the menu items, sans the honey and hazelnut roasted carrots.
It was a delight to be presented the dish by the chef! I felt like a V.I.P… although I have been wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight. (My rebellion of airlines’ atrocious policy on bags.) On my plate: the roasted mushrooms with crispy quinoa in a balsamic glaze, candies fennel with beets and walnuts, and the amazing roasted corn with lavender oil and candied almond. Every bit of this dish was scrumptious. It was a welcome veg-based meal done right.
I did some exploring of Detroit. Fancied myself an urban explorer.. from the car. After GPSing all about Gratiot, directed to make turns I would never make without prodding, I became fascinated with Detroit. Motown is a beam of light on the city. Standing in front of Hitsville U.S.A. feels different than standing elsewhere.
I found the juxtaposition of places like Birmingham and Detroit unsettling: how affluent some areas were while other parts were empty, destroyed, abandoned of hope–with wandering specters. But this is the lore of Detroit City. The city is now a museum of its former self, with its once-grand architecture crumbling away, scrapped, yet standing–like the thousands of empty, boarded homes. Visual reminders of the stark contrasts embedded in our society: race, class, money. Detroit’s Michigan Central Station is one large reminder.
Inside the residential streets, where there is a 1:1 ratio of abandoned homes to homes, the Heidelberg Project is thriving. I last saw it like 10 years ago. It has grown significantly since then, hosting other industrial and folk artists in the surrounding homes and yards.
I love this kind of crap.
I also had to visit the abandoned Packard Plant, the largest abandoned factory space in the world, apparently. Packards were luxury vehicles built here until 1958. Now the 3.5 million square feet plant remains abandoned, but still oozes life. Many are living inside the wreckage. Like the man I saw wander out from one of the ghostly buildings.
It was time to say goodbye to Detroit. The gorgeous sunset tucks me in for my early am flight.
In my quest of reporting vegan eats near and far, I have grown quite adept at planning trips with maximum “umph.” To follow, my most recent excursion to Philadelphia by way of the Jersey Shore, two destinations with thriving vegan options. In the interest of my hazy Sunday head, I am going to practice the skill I’ll soon ask my students next week, precision in language. Twisted Tree is a cafe on Cookman Ave in the Jersey Shore’s Asbury Park. Besides having simple vegan lunch options, they’ve got a mostly vegan bakery. I got a slice of their carrot cake. It had so many nuts and raisins, I kind of missed the “cake” part. The soft cream cheese icing was delightfully airy. Coffee, service and the variety of vegan baked goods makes it a great spot to pick up a goody or two on the way to the beach.
I was very excited to visit Silverball Museum, a arcade / pinball museum that offers sundrunk boardwalkers relief from the blazing sun. And the best part, you get unlimited play for the duration of your stay! Admission fees depend on how much time you want. I spent more of my time taking pictures of the nostalgic graphics of the machines than I did playing. I highly recommend stopping here if you’re in Asbury Park.
Unlimited Skee Ball, too!
They have some great pinball machines, including this Guns N’ Roses one. But I was much more into the vintage ones.
Since we were parked right in front of Mogo, home of a delicious Korean fusion tofu taco, we stopped in for a bite. The flavor-packed taco had chunks of sturdy fried tofu that truly stood up to its toppings, which consisted of assorted pickled delights. They even had a Kimchee Bar so you can dress your taco with even more flavor. My mouth is watering thinking of this taco. After I ate it in like 3 messy bites, I got two refills of shredded daikon. Love that cool heat!
I mentioned Cookman Creamery in my previous post on the Jersey Shore. I was disappointed to have missed homemade vegan soft serve with homemade vegan whipped cream. Yes, I said homemade. In fact, everything thing in Cookman Creamery is made from scratch by an amazing Mom and daughter pair! This is the kind of business that I love discovering. High standards, made with love, and free of packaging. All of Cookman’s flavors are tasted by the discerning decades-dairy-free Mom. She clearly knows a thing or two about really good dairy-free ice cream. And she is not afraid to say is loud and proud: the V-word is everywhere in Cookman! (Although we chuckled about an older woman who pronounced it “v-egg-in” and my Dad’s rendition: “vay-gun.”) Did I mention that they not only have hard coconut-based vegan ice cream with unique flavors (like “Ugly Avocado”), but they have vegan ice cream pies, vegan ice cream pops, vegan “flying saucer”-esque treats, milk shakes, etc etc etc.
I had to get their Banana split. These are my supporting reasons. 1) I always get the banana split if it’s available. It’s tradition! 2) I can try three flavors of ice cream (I got soft serve vanilla, soft serve chocolate, and hard Ugly Avocado). 3) They had a variety of vegan toppings like homemade chocolate, caramel and strawberry sauces, vegan marshmallow sauce, and homemade vegan whipped cream (the best I’ve tasted). and 4) Being away from my home base, I always choose excess.
What a treat! Cookman’s is the real deal. Truly.
You know how John Turturro’s character in Box of Moonlight is searching for childhood haunt Splatchee Lake? That is how Morey’s Piers at Wildwood is for me in a way. My family and I used to go to the Jersey Shore when I was a kid and I never forgot this place. It is the Swing Ride that swoops over the boardwalk towards the ocean that I never forgot. (And a Fun House that is no longer there.) So I rode it again. This time not crying.
On the way out of Wildwood, we hit The Wild Burrito for a sampling of their vegan options. The Wild Burrito isn’t scared to use the v-bomb on their menu, which is so helpful. They make their own seitan, which is also something that a vegan can feel good about supporting. And they have tortilla and plantain crusted fried avocado fries. Bam!
The avocado fries were the star of our visit, as was the service. The fries were not the greatest value, over $5 for five fries, and they needed some seasoning… but there isn’t much that creamy avocado can’t fix.
Finally, to Philly. Along with many road closure due to a White Linen Party/restaurant pop-up. We made it to Charlie was a sinner, a vegan “speakeasy” in the heart of Philadelphia’s theater district, for a bite of dessert and some ambiance. The bar and eatery, opened by Hip City Veg‘s people, is dark and filled with pretty people. They’ve got a cool name and posh design. But I don’t need that stage show, I just want the food. I had Charlie’s Chocolate Cake, which was more a fudge brownie in crumbles, topped with strawberry sorbet, cocoa nib, and salted caramel. Like the morning carrot cake, I missed the cake! But the crumbles were rich and decadent. I’ll have to return for a bite of their creative savory dishes.
And finally, cheese steaks for the road. Because I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. We headed to Blackbird Pizzeria for their delicious vegan seitan cheese steak. The best vegan Philly cheese steak in the city of Brotherly Love. No use going anywhere else. Except a stop for non-vegan cheese steaks for the men in our lives.
Morning in Sparta, Wisconsin started with a much anticipated roadside attraction: the fiberglass mold graveyard on the grounds of FAST (or the Fiberglass Animals, Shapes, and Trademarks Corp.) The owner is fine with you wandering around at your own risk—perusing the molds and taking pictures–and so we did. There were recognizable molds, like Bob’s Big Boy or the very attractive large ice cream cones with both waffle and sugar cones, and a ton I wished I had the opportunity to see what came out of the mold. But there were only several colorful fiberglass pieces.
After a bit of a drive, we made it to our breakfast destination, Modern Times in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was very hungry and ready to chow down with fierce ferocity. I got the Polenta Rancheros, housemade polenta patties topped with black beans, ranchero sauce-basted tofu, poblano sour cream and cabbage salsa. It was very good but pretty wet. It needed some starch to sop up the deliciousness.
Next was Glam Doll Donuts, a bombshell of a donut joint with a separate case of vegan versions of their delicious flavor combinations. The place hit all the marks–extraordinary donuts superior in every aspect and adorable vintage decor with plenty of room for photoshoots with the donuts. Plus all their donut names pay homage to glamour queens of America.
There were plenty of vegan options to choose from but I chose their Varga Girl, a light, airy donut filled with a delectable almond cream and iced with a drool-worthy coat of chocolate… and topped with toasted almonds.
It was perfect in every way: the donut was not too greasy and had wonderfully nostalgic mouthfeel; the almond cream had a spectacular texture and taste; and the chocolate icing tasted like chocolate, not a waxy flavorless encasement but a dress of richness that let the donut’s almond notes sing. It really was amazing.
Ok, never mind the teeth marks. It’s all about the cream filling.
We stopped at this fantastic used book store so I can pick up some sci-fi mentor texts for my 5th graders. It was a great stop but left our lungs dust-filled and ready for a brisk walk.
We headed lakefront to the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway to walk around Calhoun Lake, part of Minneapolis’s Chain of Lakes. The chain of lakes right outside downtown Minneapolis is a popular destination, second only to the Mall of America. Ugh.
Finally, a late lunch at Ecopolitan, a building with natural health services and a raw, vegan cafe.
Of course it was the raw, vegan cafe that drew us in. We started with the Cashew Cheese Log rolled in sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and fresh basil, served with sweet marinated onions and very hearty flax crackers. And a balsamic reduction. The exterior of the log had all that flavor, inside–deliciously creamy, soft and subtle.
For my entree, I chose “Surprise Me,” an option where the chef creates a unique dish for you. It was risky but they were out of the one thing on the menu I felt strong about. I was indecisive about what I wanted. So I received this stuffed pepper loaded with their zucchini noodles, a ground nut concoction, fresh avocado and drizzled with a nut cream and surrounded by vibrant sprouts and veggies. It felt so good to eat raw… everything was so fresh and flavorful. My tastebuds stung and tingled with delight.
Next it was onward to Fargo, North Dakota, our most western point on the itinerary. As summer and being further west has the sun going down at almost half past nine, we took advantage of the prolonged daylight. We squeezed one more meal in. This quickie was from Red Raven, an esperesso “parlor” / performance and art space in an old firehouse.
The sammy: a curried chickpea “salad” on toasted seeded bread. It was simple but really good. Nice work, Fargo.
The Art Deco Ambassador Hotel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Mexican chocolate cake from Outpost Natural Foods (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Lake Michigan at Bradford Beach. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Monty’s Blue Plate Diner‘s vegan menu. (Madison, Wisconsin)
Heathen Vegan Shoplifter’s Delight open-faced sandwich. Portobellos, fried Bandung tempeh, red onion, and fresh avocado with lemon tahini dressing on a baguette.
The Infinity Room at the House on the Rock, a glorious and fascinating place, suspended and overlooking the forest below.
Section 2’s carousel was breathtaking. These pictures hardly do it any justice.
Circus collection was also a draw. This man collected everything old and neat and housed it in this maze-like structure. It was dizzying and fantastic.
Everything moved and jangled.
I’m so glad we made our way into the Black Forest region, heading southeast from Kemnath towards the Swiss border. Our first stop was Stuttgart. With more than 5 million people residing in the Stuttgart metropolitan region, it’s no wonder that the city is bustling the same way big cities in the states are–crawling with traffic and under development. Luckily there are vegan options to be had in an area of the city dominated by adult shops and strip clubs, oddly enough. We had lunch on the cobblestone corner at V Vegetarian Restaurant, a clean, posh cafe and bar offering clearly labeled vegan options in their small menu. After some help with translation from a customer and the sweet staff of V, we were ready to eat.
The kids are loving our vegan adventures so far! And now another American friend is town who is vegetarian, a young lady stopping on her way back to New York from studying in Russia. Given my party’s vegan friendliness, I get to see more of these eateries menus. In this shot is my rhubarb crumb cake, a German version of an Indian dish and a colorful and scrumptious-looking salad topped with nori-wrapped tofu.
Yes, I said vegan rhubarb crumb cake! It was delicious. I washed it down with sips of rhubarb soda.
I chose the Paella with rice, mushrooms, chopped green beans. The dish was flavorful but just a little mushy. I needed a contrasting texture.
Next on my checklist, visiting two record breaking sized cuckoo clocks. I have become exciting about cuckoo clocks since our trip to Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, contemplating buying one of these intricately carved pieces of German craftsmanship. But they’re a hefty Euro. This large one in Triberg was a fun stop. The clock was surrounded by a bunch of similar-minded weirdos awaiting the cuckoo’s arrival on the hour. We basked in the beauty of the area while we waiting in a prime viewing spot.
After the cuckoo cuckooed, we walked the shopping strip in Triberg, pouring over the wooden crafts quickly as most shops closed at 6pm. There were clock shops a-plenty that may have taken a large chunk of my discretionary income had they been open.
Views around the Black Forest were astonishing. Tremendous trees filled the hills of the region, dotted with traditional German dwellings with beautiful wood-carved balconies.
When kids are hungry, you can’t make them travel hours for a vegan options. I ordered a pizza with no cheese at an Italian cafe in town. Though my pizza had peas, carrots, and corn on it, it was pretty satisfying. We did, after all, have a hike to do! We made our way to the tallest waterfalls in Germany.
It was nice to be able to watch the sun set from the forest.
This was my favorite shot.
Although we were all tired, enthusiasm still lingered for finding the other huge cuckoo clock in town. We got there way after the adjoining shops were closed but the clock had a coin-operated mechanism. We dropped a EU in and the sleepy clock awoke. A languid music box melody chimed from it as villagers filed in and out of the top of the clock.
Another beautiful and unique sight here on my trip to Germany. Goodnight!
It was a long drive into Birmingham, Alabama. After hours of being snug between rolling green acres with the occasional billboard, sometimes a city comes out of the night and disorients you. Birmingham was faster than I expected. I slept in and slept off my highway stupor and needed a good breakfast to fuel me for the long day of sites and sounds. Luckily there is Golden Temple Natural Grocery & Cafe, the area’s only all-vegetarian cafe inside a limited natural foods grocer. The cafe opens at 11 a.m., which left me some time to browse the arsenal of Wiccan Goddess supplies in the shop.
I tried not to bum-rush the cafe counter at 11 a.m. but I did–just like I did yesterday at Loblolly Creamery. I was elated to see they had a batch of vegan cupcakes freshly made for me to eat. They were supposed to be Red Velvet but the baker had some struggles with beet juice coloring. This she told me as I waited for my juice order. Yes, a cupcake and some fresh-pressed juice. I told you I dance on the poles.
I thought the cupcake was quite good. The texture was very soft. My eager chompers melted through the cake easily. Pretty good, Birmingham!
Oh, what’s that? Lunch happens immediately after breakfast on the road? Sure. I headed to Bottletree Cafe, an adorable cafe/bar/venue that is covered wall-to-wall in the most impressive display of vintage kitsch delights. It reminded me of my teenage bedroom, a treasure trove of thrift-shopped bric-a-brac. Or like Loves Saves the Day in NYC’sEast Village in the 90’s. When I arrived Star Wars was playing on the huge projector screen. I would have loved to eat lunch watching Luke Jedi-train in the Dagobah system, but the lighting would be horrible for pictures.
I came to Bottletree for their vegan wrap option–the Tofu Thai Wrap. Battered and fried strips of tofu, splashed with a sweet chili garlic sauce, sprinkled with chopped red onion and packaged with shredded lettuce, shaved carrot and cilantro. It really hit the spot- sweet, heat, and fried spots to be specific.
Look at this outstanding dense tofu all stark white. And a side of quinoa!
After my morning in Birmingham, the plan was to stop in Montgomery. There were a few food options I wanted to check out, and a few roadside attractions. Two of which had to do with Hank Williams. But the drive to Montgomery was mostly dark grey. With most of the trip to Mobile being alongside these fickle rainy fits, I thought I’d press on south on the Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway with Hank Williams on the speakers instead.
In and out of heavy downpours, I managed a few scenic stops, one at a fill-up in Clanton when this huge peach caught my eye…
And another in Prattville to see W.C. Rice’s Cross Garden.
This reminds me of the Buddhist hells I visited in Thailand.
“Hell is Hot, Hot, Hot” was all over the place. On ovens…
and old air conditioners…
On pretty much everything.
After Hank Williams on repeat, I was happy to have the chance to stop at his childhood home in Georgiana, Alabama. The home is now a museum, which was closed when I got there unfortunately.
I was happy I was able to see it.
My final stop for the day was in Mobile at the Mellow Mushroom, a “funky” pizza chain with locations all about the south. The place was packed with University kids and yuppy middle aged men in in Denali vests. A bad scene all around. I order a tofu, tempeh, basil, tomato and artichoke calzone to go and made a b-line to Gulfport, Mississippi to settle in for my last night down south.
Goodnight, Mississippi! See you in the morning.
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