Monthly Archives: July 2012

Summer Vacation: a stop in Chicago

After a week in the Pacific Northwest I arrived in Chicago and was directly whisked away to Mexican food and then the beach by my sister.

It has been literally days since I had Mexican food and I was starting to feel a minor urge to freak the hell out from being on the plane all day. I expressed to Lana that all I wanted was something vegan friendly where I could get a margarita. When we walked up to El Nuevo Mexicano I knew we made the right choice.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that vegetarian friendly sign became ubiquitous? It sure would make me stop walking down the street. The menu had quite a few well marked vegan options so it was tough to narrow down. I really wanted something kind of healthy… and then read the insane description of the chimichangas and I had to get them. These were decribed as “Flour Tortillas stuffed with Upton’s chorizo, mango, plantain banana, red & yellow peppers, onions, almonds & raisins. Flash Fried. Chipotle Peach salsa, spring mix salad with mango & jicama. Yams roasted with agave nectar, dusted with chile powder”. In other words they had a lot of sweet stuff going on with all those tropical fruits but I am a lover of the tropics and the sweet and savory combo. I enjoyed them quite a bit even though a bit sweet even for me. On it’s own I liked the peach salsa but I think a nice verde would have worked better. They were fried perfectly and were nice and crisp without being a bit greasy. My agave sweetened margarita was fantastic.

The next day we were meeting my dad for lunch down in the loop. I was excited to pick out a place but since my family did not want to go to the all vegan Native Foods I had a tough time finding a spot that sounded interesting. And my phone wasn’t working which for someone like me is basically being exposed to kryptonite. How did I ever get by without a smartphone? Was I just blindly walking down streets asking directions and restaurant reviews? We tried a couple of Thai places that were closed because it was late in the day and finally settled on The French Market which is both a green market and an international themed food court nestled underground. It was the perfect spot to get away from the heat and the speedy well dressed office workers all around.

They even had a raw vegan place. Instead I chose the bahn mi from the Saigon Sisters and some delicious dumplings from Bowl Square. 

The baguette was crisp and delicious and I got to catch up with my Dad who has finally moved out of New York City and back to Chicagoland. Both of my parents are undergoing some big moves; my Mom is moving to California in August after spending my entire life in central Illinois. So it was also my last trip down to Springfield to gather up all of my childhood things that have been in boxes for the last 15 years. I couldn’t believe how much Star Trek gear I had/have, including 5,000 next generation trading cards. Dan was thrilled that I brought home such CD’s as Color Me Badd’s single of “I wanna sex you up”. That’s right, the single! It has six different versions! I also started going through a million photos, here is my on the playground showing some serious attitude.

Are you impressed by how my shorts match the panda’s hat? You should be!

We also spent a lot of time in my mom’s pool, and that my dear reader, is what I will miss the most of all.

sigh.

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Summer Vacation: almost 24 hours in Seattle

I usually go to Portland at least once a year and every time I go I complain about how I really want to go to Seattle. This year my pal Claire was down to make it happen but because of conflicts our trip kept getting shorter and shorter and we ended up leaving directly from a weekend long lady party. The plan was to absolutely not stop in Olympia, where we went to school, and just drive right there. But, by the time we were rolling (slowly) past we were really thirsty and wanted to stop at the Artesian well…then I wanted to go by all my old houses…then we had to go for a scenic drive, visit Evergreen, and stop at the westside co-op. I loved every second. Those Oly-Raw Naimo bars are so delicious, I wonder if they ship…

We got to Seattle and then went directly to the Georgetown Liqueur Company because I have been dying to try the Picard sandwich pretty much since I heard about it. Seattle is truly a land for nerds. We were so hungry by the time we got there that I insisted on getting nachos too.

They were gigantic and I could immediately tell I wasn’t in Austin anymore by the absence of sprouts and ridiculous portion size. And I got to read The Stranger which made me seriously contemplate relocating. The waiter was such an asshole that it was kind of adorable. My friend asked him which of the specialty cocktails he would recommend and he looked at her with disdain and said “I don’t drink alcohol”. Working in a bar is such the perfect job for him! My sandwich came out soon, it was described as “Lentil-sage Field Roast, roasted red onions, fresh mozzarella, Tofutti cream cheese and roasted garlic spread, toasted on ciabatta. Served with vegan au jus dipping sauce.”

That’s real au jus! It beat all of my expectations and was easily the best sandwich I’ve had in…years. I just adore a toasty melty sandwich, and with a dipping sauce? And named after the greatest Captain in the history of Starfleet? It is tough to beat. I think I am going to have to do a post of my all time favorite sandwiches.

We checked into our really nice hostel and hightailed it down to the waterfront to watch the sunset. 

Seattle has a giant Ferris wheel now so we went for a ride we had to share our spot with two teens on a date. I am so glad I am not a teenager any more.The next morning, after some delicious coffee, we went to the EMP museum which is also the location of the sci-fi museum. 

The main museum was holding a Nirvana exhibit and I felt really weird about it and had to leave pretty quick. I was like what it would be like to visit a museum in the future. All the docents were wearing matching Nirvana shirts and saying things like “Kurt used to love breaking his guitars” to families of tourists as they looked at his sketches, receipts, and mix tapes under glass.

I fled the exhibit and went to the temporary horror film exhibit which I enjoyed so much more, the highlight being Buffy’s Mr. Pointy. Now there is something that should be under glass. After being disappointed by the sci-fi museum’s gift shop (hello not every nerd is a hetero male lusting after Princess Leia dressed as a slave girl) I was pretty excited to see Captain Kirk’s chair (but not get to sit in it) and see Uhura’s uniform. After that, we drove up to Mighty-O doughnuts where I got to experiance the total bliss that is an all vegan doughnut shop. We tried them almost every one of them, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the blueberry! But the french toast was our favorite…and the peanut butter chocolate. They were very different then Voodoo and Red Rabbit, they were the cake-y kind and the perfect breakfast.

It was around this time in the trip that I started to really realize that my friend was definitely not meant to be a navigator and I was not meant to eat so much junk food. We had a near disastrous time driving around the U district trying to find the “Sound Garden” which Claire had heard was amazing. We drove all through Sand Point but just got really terrible directions from park goers who I think were too happy enjoying the sunshine to be able to instruct anyone on anything.

After finally getting stopped by security, having a background check done, walking through a whole office park, and looking forever we got to the sound garden and just were in denial that that was it…until I saw the sign. 

the sound was kind of a low moan that you could easily miss. Probably it would be better if you were stumbled across it…

After that we drove over the same bridge 4 or five times and got down to Capital Hill to meet a friend. We were so late that it was already dinner time and I really wanted to try Plum Bistro. The place was kind of modern/industrial with a big wide open garage door window. It blows my mind that in northwest you don’t need screens. I can almost remember what that was like.The menu for the night sounded amazing. I couldn’t decide between Grilled Olive Pesto Tofu, scalloped King Trumpets (also with olives), and the Hazelnut crusted tempeh. I figured I better keep it local and go for the tempeh dish, which also had tofu and seitan, and mushrooms, talk about a hearty dish. We also got the cajun mac and cheese and the yam fries. 

After stopping to see Claire’s friend were off on our way again.

And then we stopped in Olympia again. We needed more water! 

Summer Vacation: Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley

If you are ever in the position of hosting a party for a bunch of ladies, might I recommend doing what my friend Hannah and her family do for such an event; rent a large house, a party bus, and have some of your closest companions go on a wine tasting adventure. I had never been through the lush rolling hills south of Portland before…unless you count the 8 bit version on Oregon trail. When we arrived at the house and poured some sangria I was impressed by the views, the weather, the garden and just about everything else. July in Oregon is like early spring in Austin.

Hannah’s sister’s really decided to mark the occasion in class, and nothing says class like these very nice hot pink koozies. The house we stayed at was beautifully landscaped, plus there were wildflowers, a koi pond, and graceful trees. I spent a lot of time looking at the stars in the hot tub and serenading the group with my, admittedly captivating, version of “The Greatest Love of All”.

 

After staying up most of the night I can’t tell you how excited I was for a 10 am wake up to head out into the party van for a day meandering around the valley. It was gorgeous. 

 

I had never been on a party bus before, I really like the champagne holders and the handy safety pole. 

The group tended toward contemplation as the day wore on but a picnic and some sprite revived our spirits. 

The whole day was lovely.

 

And when we got home I learned that I have a surprising level of skill at bocce ball even though I was never allowed to play as a child due to my female nature and some outdated Serbian gender rules.

An ideal weekend.

 

Summer Vacation: Portland in July

I just came back from a whirlwind trip and am already planning my next one. This time I swore I would blog every day but there was just no time. For example, I went directly from the airport to fireworks on Oregon/Washington border because it was the fourth of July.

We had a big bonfire and sang songs all night and the next day I woke up and went directly to the Flavor Sport for one of their delicious sausage and maple cream stuffed waffle tacos. Sadly, I was foiled just like the last time I went; this time they were out of vegan batter! I had to go back the next day. As in, I had to. I am powerless against the siren song of this crazy ass breakfast taco.

After the “we are out of vegan waffles” debacle all I wanted was a breakfast taco and I decided to check out El Nutri Taco, an unassumning vegan friendly truck on Alberta. The tacos didn’t sound too exciting so I got, what turned out to be, a GIGANTIC burrito. I didn’t even take any pictures ’cause you all probably know what a gigantic burrito looks like. At first, I couldn’t decide what to get so I just randomly ordered what the people in front of me ordered and got the “Super Gabby” which had tofu, chipotle soyrizo, button mushrooms, grilled onions, fresh jalapenos, cabbage, avocado, & chipotle aioli. It was fantastic and wayyy spicer than I thought I would get up in the Northwest. I worried that I couldn’t eat another bite.

But don’t you worry, I still went across the street to Back to Eden for some softserve because I needed to cool down after all that.

Another day I stopped at the Native Bowl which is in a PACKED food court off Mississippi. I remember a couple summers ago when they were just opening and it was an empty lot and now there are so many trailers it’s like the freaking state fair. Native Bowl, by the way is probably the cutest trailer I have ever seen, it’s so well designed calling it a trailer doesn’t even feel right.

I got the Mississippi Bowl only because I have head so much about it. It had Jasmine rice, ranch sauce, barbecue soy curls, two kinds of barbecue sauce, fresh crisp slaw, and scallions. It was pretty tasty and a very large portion but I think next time I would try something else. I didn’t even really notice the ranch and the slaw just made it taste like a salad which I have a life long aversion too. I’m trying to break out of it!

My last stop in the city was Green Papaya for Pho. I have been continually disappointed with vegan pho in Austin. It’s either way too much star anise or really bland broth and always full of vegetables that don’t make any sense…if you are lucky to get vegetables at all. Although it wasn’t the best I have ever had it was so much better than versions I have had here. The broth had flavor! The green beans were crisp and delicious! I was so happy.

So that’s the city of Portland portion of my trip, next up is Willamette Valley, Seattle, and then Chicago. Dang.

Mt. Hood

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I had the most beautiful flight to Portland, it was amazing. Then I landed here and went directly to bonfires with singing & fireworks. And I got to wear a hoodie for the first time in months. Happy happy happy to be in the Pacific Northwest.