The bummer of my flight being cancelled seemed to infiltrate my food choices, too. I plan to make up for these less than wonderful options with a kick-butt breakfast tomorrow. But first, some roamings: The Babcock Building of the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, now empty and decaying.
The UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Though visitors are invited to enter, it didn’t look to sturdy.
A hasty choice in lunch back in Charleston, Dellz Uptown is kind of frozen in time.
Tell me you wouldn’t totally be thrill about this wrap in 1996.
And I kid you not that I could NOT break this cookie in half with my hands.
And now, eager for a satisfying sweet treat, dreaming of Sweet Theory Baking Co. from yesterday, I gave Cupcake Downsouth a try. They had a vegan option on Fridays. But I guess today… I can’t get no satisfaction.
Taste, texture, frosting… all ummm, huh? It is great that they offer vegan options, but I think the recipe needs to be overhauled.
I think the record heat index is messing me all up. I decided on pizza chain Mellow Mushroom for dinner. You can veganize their pizzas with some effort. If you have time to wait a few tries for them to get it right.
This is the 3rd pie they had to make me. I appreciate them catching the errors, but would have preferred the pizza I asked for in a reasonable amount of time. They did comp it in the end, however.
And it still wasn’t what I asked for. They left off the tofu. And the other toppings were really sparse. What the heck today?
Ok, Charleston, you’re going to have to do better tomorrow.
Jacksonville, Florida has vegan credibility.
This I state enthusiastically in my head while the locals in Southern Roots Filling Station discuss New York City vegan eats. I could chime in, I suppose, and tell them that New York City isn’t all that spectacular. Well, I mean that the places they are naming are not all that spectacular. But I understand that it’s partly generalized New York allure. I see it all over the faces of people all over the country when they see my i.d. or ask where I’m from. It’s like having an overachiever sister who you know is super cool, but you also know that she is a pain in the ass most of the time. Anyway, this little counter spot has some great things going on. Like a ton of decadent vegan sweet treats and some sandwich basics that are perfect starts to the day.
And pretty coconut milk soy lattes.
And local made cheesy spread on the perfect slice of bread. Shakti Life Kitchen makes some of their nut cheeses, but I don’t recall of that is what I got.
So yeah, Jacksonville. And vegan credibility. Sweet Theory Baking Company. How about thee vegan best donuts? For reals. Better than San Francisco’s Pepples. Better than Portland’s Voodoo. Better than Seattle’s Mighty O. Better than Vegas’s Ronald’s Donuts. Better than Brooklyn’s Dun-well. Better than Cinnamon Snail. Minneapolis’s Glam Doll Donuts. Chicago’s Fritz Pastry. Atlanta’s Revolution Doughnuts. Better than all those round, frosted cakes with holes in other bakeries. Better than… wait–I forgot about Los Angeles’s Donut Friend. Sweet Theory has the best vegan donuts in every state but California. How about them apples? Let’s look:
The Samoa, the French Toast and a cinnamon bun. How do I drive with these things next to me?
That is donut perfection right there.
I’m now at 45 states reporting!
Yowzer. but I didn’t eat anything yet. It starts with a roadside attraction: The Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee, South Carolina.
Have to love these trees.
They’re so alive.
Such a rich history. Thankfully it is now preserved and protected.
So first eats in Charleston would have to be Gnome Cafe. I’ve fallen in love with the place via Instagram. And I think the Long Island baker from High Hopes Vegan Bakery started working here? Maybe that’s how I find out about them. I don’t remember.
I got the Southern Grit Bowl with geechie boy grits, sauteed kale, tofu scramble and portobello bacon. With a light sprinkle of nooch. Delectable! This is the meal I was waiting for. Flavorful, well-composed, outstanding.
Last but not least, my dinner in Columbia, SC. Sick of staying where there are roaming drug addicts and unnerving, prolonged stares from the day mayors, I shelled out a bit more for a room right smack dab in the city center. A 3-minute walk from this raw place, Good Life Cafe. I ordered pick up, avoiding the First Thursday festivities in the adjacent park, and watched the sun set from my tower. This is the good life.
#blessed #jokingnotjoking #jokingagain
Ok, here’s the mostly raw spread. And a cup of fiery, gingery kombucha from their tap. (Shuddering at landfill waste, however.)
Raw tacos: cashew nacho cheese, salsa, cashew sour cream, lettuce, walnut meat, and guacamole on flax taco shells. Walnut meat was a bit salty. Or it needed a sweet component… and some crisp crunch.
Spring rolls: kelp noodles, avocado, carrots, lettuce, mango, red pepper, herbs, cucumber rolled in a rice paper wrap. So good.
And the sunset in the buildings. And you can see the shadow of the capital building. Goodnight, South Carolina!
When I picked up my rental car in Charleston and started on Highway 17 south to start my trip, I saw these sunflowers–a bright smear of yellow. Happy faces peeking from a lush sea of green. I love sunflowers. There would be hardly much more pleasing than to frolic between rows of sunflowers with my camera.
But I’d only been driving like 20 minutes after a delayed flight and was eager to make up some time on the road. So I drove past, dismissing the notion of pulling over for a stop so soon. But I couldn’t shake the regret for the many miles that went by. Even though I’d be at Babette’s Seeds of Hope next week, I knew that there wouldn’t be blooms in Minnesota like this bloom down south and its sweltering sun. I kept saying the name of the farm in my head, or what I though was the name: “Chaucy Farms.” I said it similar to David Brent when he is mentioning Canterbury Tales to Tim. Then I remembered 17 (as in 17 south) by singing Winger’s Seventeen.
So on my way back into Charleston, I was hawking the side of the road, ready to pull in and inquire about whether I could take pictures. Long story short, I made it and was given permission to take pictures. So these are a few of my favorite things: a whole lot of sunflowers.
This reminds me of “God’s Coming, Look Busy.”
The sun was so powerful, most of the sunflowers were staring at their feet. Shoe gazers. This made me love them more. I imagine them as introverts trying to lessen the stimulations of their environment.
Some fresh ones
I want to photshop books underneath all their heads.
Some were completely burned out.
How wonderful that so much land would be used for these sunflowers, which bear no fruit or profit.
There is the sunflower seeds I suppose.
A long time ago, when the Earth was green, I swam with the manatees in Florida’s Crystal River, where hundreds of manatees flock to in the winter months when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are not as warm. It was time to see the manatees again, though the unusually warm temperatures would we see any? We made it to the dive site at the crack of dawn to find out.
The bay around Crystal River is a safe zone for manatee.
After a slow start acclimating to the snorkel gear and my underwater camera, I managed to get a few great shots of the few manatees we saw, as well as some other beauteous things at Three Sisters Spring, a remarkable crystal clear spring.
Getting some yummy bites.
Posing for a profile shot.
Just swimming by.
Schools of fish at the Three Sisters Spring.
This ethereal spring is a snorkeler’s paradise.
These posts coming from the springs ground are what remains from when Three Sisters was first used from manatee rehabilitation. The fence that it was part of was placed in order to rehabilitate a manatee who had been stuck in a sewer in Miami. The man spearheading the rehabilitation: Jacques Cousteau.
A huge turtle I followed.
Though the snorkel was beautiful, our wildlife viewing was not over as we headed back to land. We saw a dolphin feeding! It was similar to the bubble-net feeding I saw the whales do in Alaska. But this appeared to be only one dolphin, though a opportunistic pelican was always near to feast on the fish the dolphin worked out of the water. It was wonderful to witness a dolphin in its natural habitat, doing its natural thing. Especially in Central Florida, where that sickening SeaWorld calls home. Blackfish is one of most upsetting documentaries I have ever seen. I am delighted that the public has responded by not supporting their terrible form of entertainment, putting them in jeopardy of bankruptcy. However, they are behind a new exploitative venture called Discovery Cove that offers you a chance to swim with their captive Bottlenose dolphins.
After swimming with the manatees, we wanted to check out Weeki Wachee. It is home to a very unique attraction–an underwater dance performance from the city’s live mermaids. The kitschy show has been going since the late 40’s when a man named Newton Perry decided he wanted to see mermaids in real life. It only take a man and a dream, I suppose.
The beautiful resident mermaids are voluntarily captive. They train for over a year to be able to perform. They are very talented. I’m grateful to have joined the likes of Elvis Preseley, who also visited the tiny city to see the mermaids. The small city has an inspiring history and I was so glad we learned of it through word of mouth. Now, this is my word of mouth–check out Weeki Wachee.
A mermaid chugs a Coke while surrounded by turtles.
The mermaids use a breathing apparatus that is like a hookah, except it’s oxygen and they’re underwater.
Lovely live mermaids
After getting up at the crack of dawn to snorkel on the gulf-side, we hadn’t eaten the whole day. We made a b-line to Market on South, a plant-based shared market with the some highly anticipated vegan food offerings. It is home to Dixie Dharma and an outpost to Valhalla Bakery, an all-vegan bakery in the neighborhood. Ah, a chalkboard full of delicious choices.
Sammies ordered. I got the Pulled Carolina BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich with delectable jackfruit in a scrumptiously sweet barbecue sauce with fried onions, pickles, and a ton of fresh arugula. It had these amazing preserved lemon pieces that popped the sweet and the briney. It was heavenly, with a side of potato salad. In the background, a fried green tomato sandwich which was apparently equally impressive.
Little details rile, like the swirl on the bread. Or just the bread–damn good.
I got a s’mores bar from Valhalla Bakery that was a brick of blondie layered with marshmallow and chocolate. My ideal dessert–marshmallow, some chocolate and vanilla. These are a few of my favorite things.
The rest of the case.
After some rest, we skipped the Bernie-fest at Market on South and headed to the equally progressive Dandelion Comminitea Cafe, a more hippy-veg eatery house in a pretty green house that didn’t photograph well in the evening. We started with their Nachoes Libre, organic blue chips topped with their chili and their cheese.
I had to continue on the marshmallow theme and get their vegan Fluffer Nutter–almond butter, banana and Ricemellow Fluff, topped with a chocolate drizzle. I wanted to order it and take a picture of it more than I wanted to eat all of it, especially with my local-made strawberry kombucha and my choice in side, a salad. It all kind of clashed together but was yummy separately.
Lastly, we checked out Artichoke Red… because it’s an all-vegan store. Nice to see those things around.
The Sanctum has a fresh, vibrant vegan breakfast items that are the perfect start for a long day of sites. Any place with a mural like that is bound to deliver on plant-based goodies… equally important, kick-butt French press coffee equivalent to nine cups of hotel’s brown, hot water.
Normally I don’t buy into “wraps,” but this was all I wanted for breakfast in hand-held form. A spot on curried up tofu scramble, rosemary potatoes, roasted vegetables, fresh greens, tomato & red onion topped with cashew cream and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Oh wait, I also wanted avocado… so I got some avocado toast, too. Avocado toast is really in its hey day right now.
Oh, I forgot. I added their well-loved tempeh. Because tempeh is my favorite soy form.
The 7-mile Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, cuts through untouched marshes teeming with birds and other wildlife. My first encounter was this little alligator hanging out on the water’s edge.
Most of the other sitings were various slender-beaked beauties like this one, nibbling here and there for some sustenance.
The marsh has no trace of human life, besides the occasional placard and, of course, your automobile creeping along at 10 miles per hour.
Looking for food. I can relate…
This guy took off when I exited the car to photograph him… which made for an even better picture.
Then I saw a much larger alligator who was causing quite the stir among the other wildlife viewers.
My final alligator, a bit more shy than the others. What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon!
The Washington Nationals do there spring training on the Space Coast. Though I have always wanted to see a spring training game, the event lost its luster after 4 boring innings and not much action on The Mets side.
A quick lunch before heading back towards the Orlando airport… at Happy Healthy Human. With a name like that, how can you go wrong? They offer all-vegan raw food in an area with a dearth of vegan options.
I got the “Human Sandwich,” partially because I wanted to order something called “Human Sandwich.” Besides this, it was just what the doctor ordered: onion bread, nut cheese, taco meat, avocado, spiralized veggies,and a tangy hot sauce served with a side of baked kale. And a beets juice…
Raw food is deceptively filling. I saved half of this yummy sandwich for later in the evening.
Roadside attraction in Kissimmee.
Other ridiculousness outside of the Disney tourist catering Kissimmee.
Lastly, dinner at Toasted, a grilled cheese counter spot with two locations in Florida and an all-vegan menu with housemade cheese. That’s right. On the door it says, “Vegan Inside.” Yes!
Did I mention the vegan cheese topped truffle fries with rosemary. Absolutely heavenly. This place is fantastic and priced to please.
I got the Vegan Blackberry Melt with blackberry mash, that housemade vegan cheese, and arugula. Pinch me, for real. CP got Vegan 101 with cheese and tomato.
Ok, last thing I eat today. We certainly didn’t need to eat more but a bit of “when in Rome” struck when we learned you do not have to pay for Disney admission to join the slightly disturbing bustling throngs of people walking Disney Spring, Disney’s downtown. It is here that Erin McKenna of Babycakes fame has a bakery location. Yes, the all vegan and gluten-free bakery is in Orlando for some reason. The place was filled to the brim!
It is quite hectic to walk through Downtown Disney with American riff raff. So here is a map I wished I had brought along.
It seems the world gets more and more vegan-friendly everyday. As a vegan food blogger, the surge in vegan options near, kinda near, far and very far is overwhelming. From big cities to small locales, I can’t keep up. But I try… And I looove trying. It’s very delicious.
My most recent mission: New Jersey. A neighboring state with a lot of vegan activity teeming under a guise of… whatever it is New Jersey is known for. I’m on a mission to fine-tooth comb the state for vegan options. Partly because, there it is right next door, partly because I’m inspired by what I am discovering at each step, and partly because under the radar is way more exciting than the obvious.
So I headed south to continue he hunt. But distance from point A to point B has many in-betweens. The first was Papa Ganache, an all-vegan bakery in Matawan I first visited back in 2013. Ha, “Back in 2013” makes me chuckle.
Papa Ganache has an extensive spread of vegan delights. Eye candy in glass cases. I swooned for their rainbow cookie cupcake, topped with an equally bright and colorful cookie bite. It tasted just like rainbow cookies of yesteryear, which means, unfortunately, they kind of look better than they taste. But the vivid, pleasing aesthetic of those colorful layers compensate for a bit of chemically-tinged flavor.
I brought a bunch of flavors home for sampling later. In each, the cake was impressive but the tremendous solid mound of shortening was best taken off. And you could take it off cleanly with your hands with minimal mess, which was the weird part.
A quick stop at the beautiful historic home along that same stretch of road, and we were ready to continue south.
Can I just have this house?
But wait! A proper breakfast along the way and we had another in-between: Local Urban Kitchen, a warm and welcoming café in Point Pleasant that surely loads ’em in during the peak season. But at the time of our visit, it was peaceful.
We were there for their vegan option: The Vegan Boy. I love vegan breakfast so, I love a dish like this: tofu scramble, sausage, pancakes, and hash browns. Though we were not blown away by execution, we appreciated the option.
We made it to Atlantic City, our destination, with plenty of time to explore a few of the roadside attractions, like Lucy the Elephant in Margate City, a city fixture since 1881 with a fascinating history.
Ain’t she cute? Again, off-season is ideal so you don’t have to share with anyone.
The Jersey Shore’s Atlantic City, with her casinos in the distance.
Another water tower I wanted to go Gilbert Grape on.
So we made it to our destination, now it was time for the reason for this trek, as if water towers and boardwalk shenanigans was not enough. Los Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in Berlin and Atlantic City, has been hosting all-vegan 4 course tasting dinners in both of their locations. !! We were excited to experience vegan Mexican from Atlantic City. Because it’s vegan… it’s in Atlantic City… and this random discovery and ensuing adventure is the reason I love vegan travel blogging.
We started with a substantial Amuse—our own pile of chips with Spicy Salsa Macha, a ground peanut and sesame seed paste with chili “arbol,” and tequila. This had a welcome kick, but along with my cocktail and the shot of tequila it was served with, maybe too much? The sweet Horchata Aqua Fresca, made with coconut milk and not the traditional almond (I think), helped me keep going back for more.
The first course was my favorite, Smoked Eggplant Tostada. This handheld delight hit all the right notes: meaty eggplant, a fresh cilantro cabbage slaw, pickled onions, creamy avocado, and a smoky coconut queso on a housemade plantain tortilla. The sweetness from the plantain along with the other components was spot-on. I wanted another. Or two.
Next, the Mole Coconut Queso Enchilada. This was a very dessert-y tasting plate, with a very chocolate-y mole and a thick, sweet piping of coconut “crema,” which was custard-like. With a few fresh berries, you have the start of a great dessert. I craved savory, salty, and protein.
Intermezzo! A delicious cilantro mint mango margarita. Refreshing, bright and palate-cleansing.
The 3rd course was the Tamale Al Pastor, braised jackfruit in pineapple masa with a vanilla verde salsa. Inventive… and sweet.
Lastly, the Dark Chocolate Chili Orange Mousse–a true mousse that was creamy and set, loaded with chocolate orange flavor. A sweet end to a sweet dinner from two sweet vegans.
Here are the vegans responsible for spreading delicious vegan eats across Southern New Jersey. They are making New Jersey vegan-er, and this vegan delighted. Follow Trent on Instagram and be on the look out for their next tasting event.
Finally! Some Staten Island reporting!
Staten Island is a borough of New York City, but besides the familiar MTA bus signage and towering NYCDOE public schools, the Island is an island unto itself. The hilly land contains a city-suburb hybrid mix of residential spans and all the needed industries of a small city. It was time now to explore that space. And considering how many times I have traveled through Staten Island to escape New York City to further southern destinations, I had no idea what to expect from the borough. With slim vegan pickings, I might be able to name all pertinent spots in one singular blog post. Well, that was my intention. So let’s get eating.
We headed to San Rasa for authentic Sri Lankan food.
A pretty, bright space with attentive, friendly service–I was already pleased with the place before eating. The waiter helped me to identify dairy and egg-free vegetarian selections for the menu.
We started with Masala Wade, patties of crushed lentils mixed with onions, green chilies, and spices, and Vegetable Cutlet, bread-crumbed fried vegetable cutlets. Both were delicious and flavorful… and made our noses run, which is a very good thing.
The Masala Wade with thicker and heartier. The Vegetable Cutlet, smoother and potato-y.
Then this tower of yumminess arrived, the Kottu Roti, strips of “Godamba Roti” stir fried with onion, garlic, green chilies, and various vegetables. It was as delicious as it was beautiful with a variety of textures and tastes… and some spice relief in the form of cucumber and tomatoes. I am going to need to eat this again soon.
Eating the base of the pyramid. In the background, Vegetable Biriyani.
And file this one under Roadside Attractions, Lenny’s Creations is the gallery space for scrap metal artist Lenny Prince. Though the gallery was closed when we arrived, there are plenty of his sculptures outside to take pictures of.
A quick stop at Tastebuds Natural Foods for a perusal of their vegan-friendly stock. This place reminds me of the old vegan days, when a smallish health food store seemed a Mecca. And a vegan-friendly pay-per-pound, a world class meal. They had a great bulk section where I for 3 pounds of organic gluten-free rolled oats for like $3. Take that, Bob! (Just kidding, I love you, Bob.)
And finally: Jade Island, the kooky tiki bar in the strip mall, for a Polynesian cocktail.
I came for the decor and not necessarily the standard Chinese food options. Blowfish hung above us…
Large, lighted tropical light boxes…
The best pendant lighting.
And tiki totems
Wait, where am I?
Our zany drinks after our Staten Island exploration…
I officially love this place. Maybe Chef Daphne can work on the menu.
And you can go video game shopping afterwards. Only in Staten Island. Wait, can I say that after one day of exploration? Yes.
That’s it for now, Staten Island. I’ll be back at some point!
For as long as I have worked, I have always taken off my birthday. It’s a gift I give myself–to be under no obligations but my own. So I do the things I enjoy… driving and finding new places to take pictures of.
Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville has a shrubbery Rosary Walk and a Stations of the Cross exhibit. Both are nestled in the calm, peaceful woods. You can walk about, unbothered.
And an old favorite of a roadside attraction, “The Big Duck.” This quacker is a Long Island icon.
Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant in East Shoreham never really was a functional nuclear plant. Though its construction topped $2 billion, red tape and public outcry–especially after the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor breakdown and, later, the horrendous Chernobyl disaster–ultimately decommissioned the plant in the late 80’s. But the turquoise wonder still sits in Shoreham behind the trees of the now plentiful homes in the area. Its nuclear materials gone since the 90’s, the site is now a vessel of alternative energy, though I couldn’t see the turbines. But then again, I prefer the idea of roaming about a bright turquoise abandoned nuclear power plant…
The view from the trees of Creek road
Further west on Creek rd, next to some fancy homes and local beach access, is a docking area with a parking lot. Some old timer was clamming in the teal waters when I pulled up. I followed the foot path towards the plant. The surrounding creek was teeming with life… loon-y looking birds, a swan couple, and lots of aquatic activity.
In kind of nearby Riverhead, I ate lunch–looking out at the Peconic river. Turkuaz Grill has plenty for a vegan to choose from… and they know where the dairy is. I started with Acili Ezme, minced tomatoes, peppers, onions, walnut, spices, garlic, olive oil, and lemon. Delicious on fresh, soft pita.
Then, the falafel platter. My waiter made some substitutions to make it dairy-free, but I avoided the beets because I convinced myself they were covered in yogurt. It was a fresh, flavorful secretly-my-birthday lunch.
Smudgy window pictures of peaking foliage look like paintings. The power, phone and cable lines bisect the beautiful scenery, designating layers. And the rolling Catskills, blotted with orange, carry the cloud’s shadow spots. I love autumn in the east, where the trees give up for the winter. But not before saying goodbye beautifully.
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