Saturday, 27 August 2011

USA 2011: Portland Part 5

My final day in Portland, and I was looking forward to some brunch. Before brunch I needed a snack. Please do not judge me. There were things I had to eat up. I really should hide this part of my trip, but here it is.

Don't judge me!! *hides* Well, I had to eat these or they wouldn't get eaten. One was a vegan twinkie I had bought in Seattle that was getting a bit too smooshed from frequent travel. I've never had an actual Twinkie before, but to be honest I don't think I would miss them. Fakey-tasting cake with fakey-tasting-super-sweet cream. Sorry America, if I am dissing one of your great cultural food experiences, but there it is. The other part of my pre-brunch snack was a Rice Dream Ice-Cream Sandwich. This I liked! It was creamy but not too sweet.

Poor K had been sick during the trip, and had spent the night before coughing and getting not much sleep, so I headed out to brunch on my own with plans to meet up with them later. I hopped on a bus (by this point I was super awesome at getting around PDX on their awesome, cheap, reliable public transport - are you listening Brisbane??) and headed out.

On the way to the bus stop, I discovered and awesome store that sells vintage toys, and I could see some first generation My Little Ponies inside. Now, I love My Little Ponies. I have a collection of the first generation ponies. But the store was closed! Oh, how my heart did wail and weep in devastation. I have had dreams about finding thrift stores full of My Little Ponies, and now here was my dream so close to coming true, but denied! Woes! I took my shattered little heart off and tried to console it at this place.

I had heard so much about brunch at Blossoming Lotus, and their day or brunch had arrived, so I was there. I ummed and ahhed at the menu for a bit, before making my final decision.

This is the Lotus Benedict. The website seems to have a lunch menu instead of the brunch menu, so I will try and describe it as I can remember. An biscuit sliced in two (tasted like a nice scone, actually!), with maple-baked seitan (or something similar), tomato, steamed kale, homefries and a butternut hollondaise sauce. This was delicious and filling, and exactly what I needed after so many sweet breakfasts! I much prefer a savoury start to my day. Yum! One thing I had really wanted to get from here, but didn't in the end, was the peanut butter banana smoothie. I mean, it sounds amazing, right? But I was feeling pretty full and all that sugar for breakfast had made my stomach a teeny bit touchy, so I did did not. I am sure I can make a PB banana smoothie here in my kitchen, once the price of bananas drops down to at least pretend to be affordable!

After brunch I made my way back into town, going through a shopping centre with its own ice rink on my way to the MAX. I MAXed back in to go to the Portland Saturday Market, which is also open on Sunday. And meandered around until I was able to meet up with K and Toby.

Someone was walking their miniature pony! I went bought a necklace for a friend's birthday and looked at some cool cat toys that I couldn't buy because they all contained catnip (customs in Australia does not like dried herbs) and then met up with my PDX vegan buddies. A new Voodoo Doughnuts had just opened up near the markets (their soft opening), and the line out was huge. Honestly, PDXers are mad for donuts!

K hadn't eaten, and we couldn't find much in the way of vegan g/f food at the markets, so we went wandering. We had hoped that the Sonny Bowl food cart would be open, but no luck, so we ended up back at Prasad. I was still full from brunch, so I just ordered a peppermint iced tea. Refreshing!

I felt that I could not leave PDX without experiencing the Bye and Bye, a vegan pub. K and Toby were up for the trip (especially given that it would put us in close proximity to a little place called heaven), so off we went.

I ordered the Weeping Tiger sandwich - tofu cutlets, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeno, Sriracha and Vegeaise - after someone on the PPK said that this sandwich completes them. I confess, I got the chili stuff on the side so I could have just add a bit and have a wimpy, not so weepy, lunch. Remember that time I ate ice-cream and twinkies for breakfast? My stomach sure did. This was really nice, though I am not sure it completed my life, but I did enjoy it. Whatever they did to the tofu cutlets was delicious! It came with a choice of sides, so I chose some collards to try, as I hadn't yet had the chance to try these magical vegetables that do not seem to exist in Australia. They were nice, but I still like kale the best!

Toby ordered the Meatball Sub, which was also really nice. I would probably consider this above the sandwich next time. Noms!

K was still a bit full, and was saving room for heaven, so she snacked on some chips and salsa.

Toby also ordered a vegan white russian, because he could and he had to. There are lots of cocktails there, including vegan bloody marys and their signature Bye and Bye, which is pink and served in gigantic mason jars. Given that I haven't had a drink for over a year, I am pretty sure one of those would slay me, so I stuck to some water. There were lots of people enjoying a Sunday afternoon cocktail, though. It was a great atmosphere!

But not as good an atmosphere as heaven. *sigh* Toby went off to look at music or drink coffee or something... who could know when K and I had in our sights the most magical of places - Back To Eden Bakery. Have I mentioned that this place is seriously like a magical wonderland? I want to live there. I could eat croissants and cake and cookies and ice cream every day!

Last time I showed you loads of photos of their sweeties. Here are some photos of their savouries in the case.

K ordered a beautiful looking gluten free Hazelnut and Strawberry (I think?) cupcake, and also enjoyed a berry flavoured milk shake.

I had this gorgeous Strawberry Vanilla Tart. It was perfect. The pastry was just right, not at all gluggy or thick. The custard was smooth and creamy, and the strawberries were not to sweet and not too tart. It was heavenly! If I could marry a shop, I would marry Back To Eden. Seriously. I am so sad I didn't get to eat more there, and I never got to have a banana split! Oh, the humanity!

After our eating, we went back into town. K and I took a walk through downtown Portland. I wanted to see the Portlandia statue. We followed the directions on our map, but couldn't find her. We asked locals where she was and they didn't know. Eventually, we found her.

She was up above, looking down from a building! Our hearts skipped a beat, as from that angle she is kind of terrifying. Like she's about to swoop down and carry you off to somewhere not nice. I can totally imagine parents in PDX telling their kids to be good or Portlandia will come and get you! Once the initial shock wore off, she was pretty impressive though!

We had hoped to find some stores that K wanted to look in, but the maps seemed to lie to us and we could not find them. We ended up wandering around the streets a bit. There were lots of very cool statues and sculptures.

Predictably, I really liked the statues of critters, like these sweet little deer.

Afterwards, we split up and I went into Powells Books. This place is amazing and huge and has possibly every book ever. And cute stationary to boot! I had already spent some time exploring in here, as it was just down the road from our hotel, but today I had the intention to buy. I carefully selected some new vegan cookbooks to add to my collection - Heart Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites and Vegan Desserts. I am bummed I did not remember to get American Vegan Kitchen! I did feel pretty cool though, because I had a lot of the cookbooks that were there already. Vegan cookbook addicts unite!

I met up with K and Toby again to go out for dinner (K had already snacked on some g/d goodness from Wholefoods) at Sizzle Pie. This is an omni place with vegan options, that sells pizza by the slice. A friend had raved and raved about it, telling me to get there as soon as I arrived in Portland. I got there, though it was my last stop.

I got a slice each of the two vegan pizza's available in the cabinet. There was the special, which seemed to be some sort of cashew cheeze with onion, spinach and some sort of faux meat, and also the pepperoni and cheeze (Daiya), cutely named Thunder and Lightning. I definitely likes this one the best.

The slices were HUGE. Here is a demonstration, see the size of the slice compared to the size of my head. Americans like their pizzas gigantic! (Also note that I am actually wearing one of my three My Little Pony t-shirts, thus making the inability to buy vintage My Little Ponies even more tragic).

After dinner, with bulging bellies, we strolled across the Burnside bridge to get back to the south west, where our hotel was. It was a lovely walk. During our stay, we named each of Portland's four quadrants. SE was Serious Eats, home of Hungry Tiger Too, the mini-mall, Portobello, Gorditos, Potato Champion and so many others. NE became Nice Eats, Nothing Else, home of Native Bowl, Ruby Dragon, Bye and Bye, Vita Cafe, Back to Eden and Dovetail among others. SW, where our hotel, Home Grown Smoker and Prasad were located, was So Weird... I am not sure why. And the NW was No Where, because we had no reason to go there ever!

On the way back across the bridge from Serious Eats to So Weird, I noticed this nifty Portland sign for the first time. It kind of reminds me of a christmas reindeer. I am going to blow this photo up and make it the first page of the Portland section of my scrapbook.

Once back at the hotel, I had some serious packing to do as I was leaving at stupid o'clock in the morning for San Francisco. K and Toby came for moral support, peppermint tea and an ice-cream party! K and I had wanted to have an ice-cream party for some time. It ended up just being two flavours, the Cherry Nirvana that I had previously bought and also some Hazelnut Fudge from Luna and Larry's that K brought along. The second was definitely the winner. So delicious!

Eventually I bid K and Toby goodnight to get some sleep before the final leg of my journey. I am so thankful that I had these two awesome people to travel and eat my way around Portland with! Thank you!!

K and Toby have also blogged about their experiences on this day, as well as the two other days the spent in Portland afterwards, here and here.

So, final thoughts on Portland? The food is amazing, though I really found that was all there was to do. I loved Seattle more. I do want to go back to Portland for a couple of days though, so I can finally get the Macnocheeto Burrito from Home Grown Smoker, get another Mississippi Bowl from Native Bowl, get dinner at Portobello and spend an entire day, from open to close, at Back To Eden eating everything that they have! Oh, and buy My Little Ponies, of course!

Thursday, 25 August 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, 24 August 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.