Thursday, August 25, 2011

USA 2011: Portland Part 4

The next day dawned with plans for meeting up with K and Toby to explore the North East quadrant of PDX, which seemed to have a trillion vegan places there. Alberta Street was in our sights.

A girl needs some fuel before she goes exploring, though! Putting aside my usual dislike of sweets for breakfast (hey, I was on holiday), I ate one and a half doughnuts. The first doughnut was chocolate with chocolate cereal puffs on it, it was actually not as sweet as I was concerned it would be. The next doughnut was chocolate with icing and some sort of orange sweet stuff on it. They were OK doughnuts, but I don't really see why one would choose a chocolate doughnut when you could have a normal one instead.

Our first stop was Queen Bee Creations, a beautiful shop that creates their own all vegan bags and wallets. I bought a really cute bag (except in mine the flap is grey and the birds are pink and purple) and K bought a wallet. I love my Queen Bee bag, I use it all the time now!

While we were shopping, Toby went off to get some coffee. As we went off to find him, we found Lodekka, an awesome vintage shop in a double decker bus. I found a super cute summer dress that I am very happy with, and a nifty necklace.

Our first food stop was the food cart collection at Mississippi and Skidmore. As we walked up, I saw this lovely kitty. Even just basking in the gaze of a cat for a few seconds was kitty contact I would take. Must. Have. Kitties.

The Ruby Dragon is an all-vegan food card that serves a variety of breakfast and main dishes.

I was compelled to try out some Griddle Cakes. Cornmealy pancakey goodness. I was a fan! They were very filling!!

K was keen to try out their gleegan pancakes, complete with berries, nuts and chocolate chips! These are quinoa pancakes, and you could definitely feel the quinoa in the texture. They were good, but the Hungry Tiger Too pancake is much more the authentic pancake you would expect.

I also tried out Native Bowl, the food cart of Julie Hasson.

I had the Mississippi Bowl. Peppercorn ranch, BBQ Soy Curls,two kinds of BBQ sauce, house coleslaw, scallions and jasmine rice. It was AMAZING! So delicious. I wish I could have this all the time.

There was also a sushi cart there, The Sushi Tree, and Toby arranged some vegan and g/f sushi to try. There was tofu and umeboshi types. Both were good, but I do love me some umeboshi!

One of the things we were worried about was what else to do when in PDX other than to eat vegan fuds. Someone had mentioned to walk up Mississippi and then down Alberta for cool things. They lied. It was a long, long, long walk, that was essentially pretty boring for the vast majority. We did pass this awesome veggie garden. KALE! I wants it.

One of the first places on Alberta St we stumbled across was The Bye and Bye, the famous vegan pub. We went in, but were so full still that we soon had to walk out again (don't worry, stay tuned for part five!). At least at this point on Alberta there were some interesting little shops along the way that we enjoyed.

Finally we reached our next destination - Back To Eden Bakery. Back To Eden is something special, something magical, and something that everyone should get the chance to experience. Back To Eden is like entering a wonderland. It is everything you would hope and dream a vegan bakery and ice cream shop could be. Let me demonstrate.

The beautiful menu board.

The amazing display cases, packed full of beautiful and delicious food. Oh goodness, it makes me weep to look at it!

K and I both had a root beer float. Another vegan blogger/twitterer who had recently been to the US had raved about them, so it had to be done. A float is kind of like a spider. Except instead of just a dollop of ice cream, she filled most of the glass with delicious vegan soft serve! Oh so good. But oh so filling! It turns out that root beer is OK in small doses, thankfully Toby was there to drink the rest of the root beer in my bottle. I also really should not drink fizzy drinks, and was a bit uncomfortable in my stomach afterwards. But worth it for the experience!

Even though I was full from food carting (and not yet realising the magnitude of the float), I could not resist getting this Rosewater Sugar Cookie. It is pink and it sparkles! It was lovely, so delicately flavoured. I love it so.

The good thing about Back To Eden is that they have lots of g/f options as well. K got this chocolate almond toffee bar. They also have some savoury options. Toby had a quiche, but no photo, I'm afraid.

Afterwards we strolled a few blocks down to Dovetail Bakery, the third of Portland's three vegan bakeries that we visited. We were full. There was some nice looking stuff in the case (not much g/f, though), so all we could manage was some tea. Here is a crappy, blurry photo of a delightful Lavender and Rose White Tea. I should have got something to takeaway.

After this, we managed to coordinate ourselves on public transport (thanks to Google Maps) to get back to Mississippi Street, where Toby was keen to check out a music store. K and I spent the time wandering in and out or some cute vintage and other quirky shops.

We also came across Ruby Jewel Scoops, an ice cream shop that has some vegan sorbet flavours. They had Pineapple Ginger and Salted Lime when we were there. I was super keen on the salted lime, even though K had a taste test of pineapple ginger and said it was good. This is the salted lime. Should have taste tested first, and then got the other one. It was just... not. The lime was so astringent it kind of took a layer of skin off your tongue, and there was not much salted flavour in there. K and I shared this scoop (the single scoops in the US are really about three scoops crammed into a little cup - huge), but couldn't finish it.

For dinner it was back on the bus and back out to Alberta Street to try Vita Cafe. Be careful, because there is also a coffee shop called Cafe Vita on the same street, so it might get confusing if you are meeting people there and none of you have been there before!

Toby started with some Thai Coconut Soup. It was served with some onion bread, which I tried a bit of and it was amazing!

K and I shared a starter of Buffalo Things. The buffalo was at perfect heat level here, and these were amazing little crispy tofu strips with fantastic flavour.

To satisfy my need for fresh vegetables, I had a small sized Green Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing. The salad was large and fresh, though the dressing was a bit sweeter than I was expecting.

For my main I tried their 'Mac and Cheese', which is actually spiral pasta. I got it with the optional extras of tempeh and broccoli. The cheeze sauce was fairly disappointing, very thin and not very cheezy. Thankfully there was a nooch shaker on the table for liberal sprinkling.

Toby ordered the Savoury Seitan Stew, he was happy that it had some beer in it. And IPA... that means something. I tried a little bit and it was warming goodness.

K had a tough decision between 'Chicken' Fried Steak or 'Fish' and Chips. Ultimately the fried steak won out.

At this point we were feeling pretty full given our day of gluttony. But K mentioned she had seen some salted caramel vegan g/f truffles in the case, and she coerced me into having one. Totally against my will. It was delicious! A little odd, because the salted part seemed to be salt sprinkled on top, but once it was all smooshed up in your mouth the flavours mingled into bliss.

After all that I came home to have some peppermint tea to soothe my belly. And a cream filled doughnut. This was pretty delicious, I must say. Nom.

And then I watched some trashy TV and fell into a food coma.

K and Toby also had a food coma. See more photos and stories from the day on their blog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

USA 2011: Portland Part 3

Hello strangers. I am sorry I stopped blogging for so long. Things have been happening. My girl Gizmo got really sick with a kidney infection and was in hospital at work for nearly a week. She is home now and back to her old self, but is still too skinny and her kidneys were damaged. She already had Stage II IRIS renal disease, but now she is in Stage III. This makes me sad. I am happy that she is happy again though. I have also had a huge document to put together for my research masters confirmation that will be next week. So let's get back to Portland.

After my garden adventures, I went back to the hotel to meet up with the awesome K and Toby from In The Mood For Noodles. By crazy random happenstance, these Melbourne vegan bloggers were also in PDX at the same time, and we were at the same hotel! Thus began the start of a fun and food filled three days.

Thanks to Google Maps, we navigated the bus system over to the SE to have lunch at Hungry Tiger Too, which is an omni place but that has a whole vegan menu. They also have lots of g/f options, which was important as K is g/f. Toby and I are gluten full. Thankfully there were so many delicious options to choose from for everybody! Insane amounts of food were then promptly ordered. I got to try a little bit from K and Toby's dishes too. We share the love.

Toby was excited to try some (non g/f) biscuits and gravy. US gravy is creamy and chunky, but good!

K was intrigued by vegan and g/f Chicken and Waffles, which seemed to be very lovely seasoned tofu served upon these magical waffles. It was a hit.

K was super excited to try the GIANT vegan and g/f pancake. It was all about getting that pancake. This was truly giant. And tasty! It was a great pancake!

Also a small greek scramble. This was good, but could have had stronger flavours.

I decided to try the buffalo thing again, with a small Tofuffalo Salad. The buffalo was a lot hotter on this one then it was when I had the wingz in Denver. Thankfully the creamy ranch dressing and lettuce cooled it down a bit. Still, my nose ran a little. So classy.

I also got the South East Club with a side of fries (I upgraded from chips... I just don't get eating potato chips with your sandwiches. Sorry America). This was HUGE! The fries were huge! The sandwich had tofurkey, tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato and vegenaise.

Afterwards, we rolled out of there clutching out full bellehs and took a short stroll down to the famous vegan mini-mall.

It exists! And we were there! None of us were up for tattoos (I am so needlephobic it's kind of funny. Especially seeing as I am a vet), but we were up for food and clothing! Toby went to get some coffee, leaving K and I to do the hard business of shopping. We suffered so.

First stop, Food Fight! Vegan Grocery, where we spent lots of time stocking up. I got lots of yummy chocolates and some lollies, some cookies, some soy curls and all sorts of yummy things! I bought a big red Food Fight bag to put it all in, like the great big square that I am. I did see some vegan marshmallow fluff there, but talked myself out of buying it because I wasn't sure how it would survive the journey home. Of course I am now kicking myself, because I have several new recipes that require it and I cannot get it here. If the jar of queso made it home, surely the flimsy plastic container of fluff could have?

Next door was Herbivore, for some clothes shopping. I got two tops, and also picked up a copy of Yellow Rose Recipes, which is apparently out of print but is talked about so much on the PPK that I grabbed the chance to own it. K and I both bought the same top, but we live in different states. We are waiting for the weather in both states to be agreeable so we can wear it on the same day and be Super Awesome Vegan Twins In Different States (SAVTIDS for short).

The final stop at the mini-mall was Sweet Pea Bakery, the first of Portland's three vegan bakeries that we visited.

I was still pretty full from lunch, but I found room for this lemon slice. Sorry, I couldn't get a good non-blurry photo for some reason. Anyway, this was good! We must have been there towards the end of shift or something, because there was not that much in their cases. Not many g/f options either.

I also had this delightful iced tea, which has some sort of clementine base. Yummy and refreshing!

We were still pretty full, so afterwards K and Toby agreed to my request that we take a stroll up to Voodoo Doughnuts. Unlike my beloved Mighty-O Donuts in Seattle, this is not all vegan, but does have a large vegan selection. This place was packed. The line was to the door and snaking through the shop and it took about half an hour to get served! Apparently PDX is addicted to donuts. Most people were getting a dozen donuts each. Hard core. The building is BRIGHT PINK! How awesome is that? Also, you got your donuts in an awesome pink box. So cute.

I just got a box of half-a-dozen assorted vegan donuts. There are only five in the box here because one was for Toby. Sadly they did not have any of my beloved cinnamon donuts.

Once we made it out of the shop alive, we caught a bus back to the hotel. We were still pretty full from the days eating, so I took K and Toby back to Prasad for some light and healthy eats.

This time I tried the Ganesh Bowl,and tried the Bhutanese red rice instead of the quinoa. This had steamed greens, a mild yellow curry, lime, sesame seeds and cilantro. This was really good. The Dragon Bowl still wins though. I also had an iced ginger tea, which just seemed to be huge chunks of ginger and was kind of odd.

Then it was back to the hotel for some planning and then rest before another exciting day.

Along with my nightly peppermint tea (or two) I tried my first donut. The girl at the shop had just randomly selected for me, so I wasn't sure what to expect. This little voodoo cutie is their jam filled donut. He was yummy!

Here is the box that the donuts come in. See, very cute! Francesca the travel cat is showing that indeed good things do come in pink boxes!

In the next post, we will eat even more than we did today! Hurrah!

See more photos and read about it again over on In The Mood For Noodles.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

USA 2011: Portland Part 2

Warning: This post is pretty light on food, but does include the three actual non-food activities that I did in Portland. Think of it as a small break for gentle digestion before we move on to the next three days, which involved hardcore extreme eating. Of course if you just want food, just scroll down to the food pictures in this post and then wait for the next one!!

I ate my pie while walking to my next destination. On my way, I went by many cute coloured houses. This house is pink! As much as I love pink, I am not sure I would want to live in a pink coloured house.

My destination was the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) for a little break before dinner. It ended up being a longer walk than I bargained for - the street I had planned on walking down was closed due to roadworks (seriously, there were so many roadworks going on in PDX...) so I had to backtrack. At this point I had been walking for ages so I was super happy to see OMSI at last.

The sky was ominous, but it didn't rain so I was glad about that! OMSI is essentially a science centre, I like science centres and this had been recommended by a friend. It was pretty fun, with all the usual gimmicks these things have. Lots of activities and puzzles to do, though I think they are more fun if you have someone with you. I also went to the planetarium (my first planetarium visit that I can remember) and watched Journey to the Stars, which was very pretty. It was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg though, and her voice kept reminding me of her hyena character from The Lion King. It needed someone more soothing.

Outside they had a Doppler On Wheels, which is something that people use when chasing storms. It's all very Twister. I went inside and had a peek at the screens. According to my storm chaser friend Beth, this is super cool.

After OMSI I started my walk to my dinner destination. The thing about PDX is this, everything is kind of spread out and just randomly sprinkled through the neighbourhoods, so most of the time I never was 100% sure I was going to the right place until I was suddenly upon it. I was walking past blocks of houses, and some industrial type set ups, starting to panic a little bit when I finally stumbled across my destination.

Portobello Trattoria had been highly recommended on the PPK Forums. It was pretty crowded when I got there, but one of the plus sides of being the single traveller is that you will often get seated pretty much straight away at the bar. They had a comfy bar too.

The best thing about sitting at the bar was Lauren Fitzgerald, the totally awesome bar person. She was super nice and super chatty, and kept me so entertained that I bearly had my Kindle open at all. Lauren is the creator of all the drinks at Portobello, right down to her housemade soda flavours. I'm not a drinker, so I selected a mocktail. This is Blossom. Blossom is delicious, but I cannot remember everything that was in it and it is not on the current menu up on the web (they have seasonal menus). I do remember it had lemon juice, black tea and some kind of flower-flavoured stuff. Anyway, it was delicious! Plus it had an edible flower. Cute!

Lauren was full of helpful information about serving sizes and the like to help me get the most out of my dining experience. The dishes come in a small and main size, so I decided to have two small dishes. To balance out the richness of my other choice (see below), I chose this amazing Spinach and Strawberry Salad that had strawberries, spinach, almonds, pickled red onions (OMG could eat these forever) and a black pepper dressing. It was sensational!

I had checked out their website before I arrived, and knew that this was going to be on my list. It is Thyme-Potato Gnocchi with Fresh Morels: gnocchi with morels, leek, asparagus and cashew cream. Oh my goodness, this was good. Rich and delicious. I loved it!

For dessert I had seen a coconut creme brulee on the website that sounded amazing, but was not on the menu at the restaurant. I had to spend some time perusing the dessert menu, because there were several amazing options. In the end I chose this Chocolate Rosemary Torte and oh wow. So rich and decadent and so amazing!

I loved eating at Portobello. It was fun sitting at the bar chatting with Lauren and watching her mix drinks. She has previously lived in San Francisco and worked at Millenium, so she wrote out a list of a few places that I should go to for eating when I got to San Francisco. The couple next to me were also having a great time, so it was a really fun atmosphere in general. Plus I got to see every single dish that came out of the kitchen, it was like a food p*rn parade! On the way out I passed by the lovely Melbourne bloggers K and Toby from In The Mood For Noodles. In a twist of fate, we were all in PDX at the same time and staying at the same hotel! K and Toby were meeting up with a friend for dinner at Portobello, so we made plans to meet at the hotel the next day for vegan fun times. They also shared with me the bus route back to our hotel, which I was grateful for because I had already walked so much during the day.

As a side note, Portobello is across the road from Los Gorditos, which has vegan and gluten free options. I didn't make it there during my trip.

The next morning I rose early to head out to Washington Park and the Rose Gardens that PDX is famous for. Did you know that it only costs $4.75 in PDX for an all-day all-zone public transport ticket? And that the public transport is reliable and well coordinated?? ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME BRISBANE??

Anyway, the Rose Gardens are very pretty. There were lots of people there, including families, and it was lovely to watch people strolling about literally stopping to smell the roses! I took loads of photos, because there were so many beautiful flowers there, but here are just a few for you.

This last photo is my favourite. This variety of rose is called 'Walking On Sunshine' (I want to quit my job and become a professional rose variety namer! So many great names) and inside you can see this cool little spider friend. I keep imagining him strutting along signing out 'I'm walking on sunshine.... whooooooo'. In my head he is a musical spider.

Of course, what trip to nature would be complete without SQUIRRELS! The rose gardens look out over Washington Park and have lovely views to the city. Just over the wall of the rose garden was this family of SQUIRRELS! enjoying a little sunshine and grass. I'm sorry, but as long as I live I will never stop being in love with SQUIRRELS!

Washington Park is also home to the Portland Japanese Gardens, and as I had time spare and I love Japanese gardens, I went for a look.

I really loved it here. It was beautiful and so peaceful (except for when there were kids screaming around). I took a guided tour and there was so much fascinating information. The garden is actually made up for five different styles of Japanese gardens, and has created this beautiful setting out of plants native to the Portland area. I highly recommend it.

Then it was back on the bus and the MAX and back to the hotel. I had some people to meet and some serious eating to do. I hope you enjoyed this brief interlude, come back next time with your comfy pants on!