Road trip: Blackbird Pizzeria in Philly! »
I was in Philly again, because it seems I’m always in Philly again—it’s that dang Bolt Bus! So cheap and easy! I like my buses like I like my women. On the other hand, I like my men like I like my sandwiches: vegan and cheesy. Lucky for me, everyone in Philly was talking about this new vegan pizza spot Blackbird! And Blackbird, it turns out, has one of the best vegan cheesesteaks in the city. And you know I’m an expert.
My sis went to Blackbird with me and she got the chickpea salad sandwich (pictured left). She was totally into it! She said she might have to get it even when I’m not around—high praise from an omnivore. Back to the cheesesteak! In the parlance of my youth, it was BANGING! It comes with peppers, onions, and mushrooms so if you are crazy and don’t want that stuff, say something. Lately people in Philly keep serving me mushrooms that are clearly from a can! WTF? Don’t they know who I am?! Blackbird is not using canned mushrooms, I can tell you that. The seitan is sliced very thinly, like a real cheesesteak would be (or at least a quality one). And the cheese is Daiya,* which I have been down on lately, but this sandwich revitalized my taste for it! The Daiya was all up in there; it was a gooey delicious mess. I loved this sandwich! It gets 5 out of 5 Veganstaurs! I almost went back that night and got another but I took the bus to New York instead: WRONG DECISION.
Things I want to do next time: try their yukon gold pizza! It’s pizza topped with potatoes! PIZZA topped with POTATOES. Did I stutter?! Amazing. They also had vegan whoopie pies—pumpkin and chocolate—I’ve GOT to get one of those next time. And next time I will not let bus schedules dictate my dinner! Vegan cheesesteaks all around!
*Has everyone else heard this rumor that Daiya is releasing a pepper jack next month? Exciting!
Alice’s adventures cross-country! »
You know we love bunnies, and we particularly love the bunny stars of Potentially Nervous, best pals Bells and Nuage. Lately photo-updates have been terribly sparse, as they and their Alice move from New York to Portland, Ore. (a.k.a. Palm Beach County for vegan-hippies), but recently she posted some new ones, so we know they’re all still thriving.
Hello, rabbits! You do not look especially please to have your picture taken, but a bun’s expression can be awfully deceiving—has anyone known a bunny to smile?
Reportedly they are doing very well, and have recently reached South Dakota. You can keep track of them at Potentially Nervous blog.
Road trip: Vegan in Los Angeles! »
Two vegansaurs hit up Los Angeles this holiday season and lived to tell the tale, which is definitely your gain! Here, for your enjoyment, are our field notes, guaranteed to make you hungry.
I have a secret. You guys would probably never have guessed it, and I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this, but did you know that there are vegans in L.A.? Yeah. I know. It turns out they have about 80 billion vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants even! I was lucky enough to get to try a couple of these strange and new establishments this month on a whirlwind trip, and I’m here to share my findings with the good people of San Francisco.
First stop was a place called Pure Luck. PL is the kind of place that San Francisco is sadly lacking in (GET ON IT, VEGANS) - cheap, all-vegan food, and great all-vegan beer in a casual atmosphere served up by cute and highly capable servers. Pure Luck is famous for their jackfruit “carnitas” tacos, so that’s what I had. For the uninitiated, jackfruit is a tropical fruit that, when young, is largely tasteless and has a weird, fibrous-yet-tender texture, which makes it a perfect candidate to replace the gross-ass stringy meat that gets stewed down into carnitas or pulled pork or whatever. Pure Luck does jackfruit up right - the texture is perfect, and the flavor is satisfying and perfect with the corn tortillas, cilantro, onion, and salsa verde that make up the rest of the taco. Get a couple of these with some caesar salad (bomb-diggity!) for under $10. Add any of the hand-picked Belgiany-skewing beers that happen to be on the rotating beer menu, and you’ve got yourself a first-class A-1 meal.
If you’re lucky enough to spend the night in LA (or get there in the morning or early afternoon), then you are lucky indeed because you can avail yourself of the fine brunch options available to vegans in LA. Not to bash SF or anything, because I love the hells out of this city, but there’s a SERIOUS lack of fully-vegan brunch options here. Yes, we have some pretty great tofu scrambles at Boogaloos and St. Francis Fountain, but they don’t have vegan home fries, and that, that is a serious problem. So, if you’re one of the lucky jetsetters who gets to have brunch in LA, do it up right - go all out, and HAVE HOME FRIES. The place to do this that I recommend is Flore. Granted, it’s the only place I’ve had brunch in LA, but it’s cheap, the portions are huge, and they have great potatoes, so I don’t know what more you could possibly want. I had the tofu benedict, which was 3 big pieces of lovely bread with broiled (I think) tofu, tomato, kale, and a lake of hollandaise sauce. The benedict was so big they had to give me my potatoes in a bowl on the side. Also, the coffee was great, and I drank about 90 cups, so I suppose you should watch out for that, but there are worse things than spending the afternoon jittering running to pee every 20 minutes, right? Greatness comes at a price! Anyway, the service is a tad slow, but it’s brunch, so don’t go if you are in a hurry. Brunch is for layabouts, and don’t you forget it!
Finally, on my way out of town, I got to check out VegiSoul, LA’s vegetarian soul food place. I haven’t had a lot of soul food in my day (I’m from Canada, where neither soul nor food exists - kidding! But no, we don’t have soul food up there and certainly not vegan soul food), but I’ve had enough to know that I fucking LOVE IT. If I could eat only one meal for the rest of my life, it would probably be all the deep-fried-smothered-in-barbecue-sauce stuff with greens from Chicago’s SoulVeg, and I wouldn’t be unhappy at all. VegiSoul isn’t quite as mind-blowingly pants-wetting awesome as SoulVeg, but it delivers a very solid meal and has super nice people working there. I had the Fibs (fake ribs!), greens, and mac ‘n cheese. The mac was a bit different than the super creamy stuff I’m used to getting (and loving) from Souley Vegan in the East Bay. VegiSoul’s mac had tiny diced-up bits of green and red pepper in it, which lent a nice flavor to things, and instead of a super creamy sauce, their mac fell more into the greasy awesomeness camp. It had nice flavor and went really well with the fibs, which were meaty (kind of oddly so - not that I suspect they had actual meat in them, of course; they were just a different texture than I’ve encountered before, which is good!) and smothered with a tangy, not-too-overpowering barbecue sauce. The star of my meal was the greens, which were perfectly cooked and salted just right, which just serves as a double reminder that I can’t cook those kinds of greens at home for shit. Ah well.
Within the past few months, Native Foods has really been undergoing a lot of changes. Their Westwood location (by UCLA) opened up a to-go side of the restaurant, offering take-out orders for people on the go. They also changed their name to Native Foods Cafe and switched their logo. And they’ve also created a rewards card - rewards cards are awesome until you think about the big-brotherness of it all, how you’re acting as some guinea-pig for marketing purposes and then the company turns around and acts like they’re doing you a favor. But at the end of the day, Native Foods’ Scorpion Burger, in my opinion, makes it all worth it. They have an expansive menu full of burgers and bowls and salads and tacos, a dish to please any palette.
Whenever I make a trip back home to LA, I always manage to go to M Cafe at least once. Sure, they serve fish; I’m sad that it’s not an all-vegan establishment—though luckily its sister restaurant Seed in Venice is!!!—but the vegan stuff it does pull off, it really pulls off. I went to the 7119 Melrose Ave. at La Brea Ave. location. Parking there is reasonable, especially considering the area (curse you, West LA!!). Sadly, a previous visit to M Cafe got me a delicious $10 sandwich and a not-so-delicious $50 parking ticket.
The cafe is really casual. You order up front and you get your food delivered to your table a la a number card. Just so you know, your table does get bussed for you (just to ease any confusion… I always manage to forget this each time I go there!). One night, my friend and I had a lovely dinner there. Our appetizer? Mint chocolate cupcake. Fuck yes, we eat our dessert before dinner. Get over it. The texture was impeccable, the frosting perfectly piped. But the flavor was just not there. When I think “mint chocolate,” I think mint! I wanted so badly to have that punch, but it was sorely missed. The other flavors they had available were strawberry and chocolate—I wish we had gotten the chocolate :(.
For my main course, I got a teriyaki tempura bowl with tofu. I could have gotten the vegetables steamed or sauteed, but the tempura seemed just so tempting! I couldn’t finish the fried veggies though; the oil was just too much for my stomach. Luckily, my dining companion was more than happy to eat up my leftovers. The flavors and textures in this dish were incredible. The tofu even had adorable grill marks that added some much-appreciated char flavor. The bed of brown rice at the bottom completed my meal. It was so rich and satisfying, I could eat it any day of the week (except maybe next time with sauteed veggies instead of deep-fried).
My dining companion got a burger called the Big Macro. I had a bite and it totally hit the spot. As far as veggie burgers go, though, it was pretty standard. It scores some healthy points for being macrobiotic, but I think that overall it was exactly as it should be. If you’re in a veggie-burger-mood, this will totally fill you right up!! It also came with a yummy side of kale with spicy peanut sauce. I almost ate all of his kale, I swear. It was the most delicious, yummy part of the meal, in my opinion. I was half-tempted to get a side of it to take home it was so good! If you’re a kale-lover, you must get that deli item!
[photos by Brianna]
We’re enjoying the local climate* in Santa Cruz at the moment, including these homemade barbecue riblets from the hot food bar at Staff of Life. <3 <3 <3
*local climate = hella bountiful vegan food, honies in bikini’s lookin’ fly (and mad shirtless bros. Hotness of peeps in Santa Cruz outnumbers hotness of peeps in SF, 5 to 1), and delightful chill attitude (extends from richest yuppie transplant to nastiest homeless dudes). Minor complaint: What’s up with the dogscrimination here? Hazel has been kicked out of hotels, the boardwalk and Pacific Avenue. Please to explain, Santa Cruz! My dog is super chill and looks amazing topless…why you hatin!?
Road Trip THURSDAY (WHAT?): The Stanford Inn! »
This is a Road Trip Thursday because you need extra time to get to Mendocino and back, but you still have time to call in sick to work tomorrow and get away for the weekend. DO IT EVERYONE ELSE IS DON’T YOU WANT TO BE POPULAR?
Okay so. The Stanford Inn is pretty much heaven on earth. It’s heaven if you are healthy and active and want to wake with the sun (PSYCHO) and mountain bike and kayak (CARAZAY) and do partner yoga (I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN) and you’re everything I stand against in this world, BUT it’s also heaven for lazy asses who just want to eat and drink and hot tub and lay around watching premium cable in their enormous bed with billion-thread-count sheets and eat complimentary vegan cookies and bon bons and pet llamas. I call that Living and you can quote me on that. Actually, I think you can technically quote me on everything I put on the internet and kids who are posting nerkid photos of themselves on myspace OUGHT TO THINK ABOUT THAT ONCE IN AWHILE*.
The Stanford Inn is located in Mendocino, about three hours up the Pacific Coast from SF. If you haven’t been to Mendocino, it’s what we like to call “God’s Country.” That is because it is very beautiful and also inhabited mainly by bible-thumping hicks. Those seem to be the two qualifiers for “God’s Country.” Actually, I don’t know about the hicks…that might not be true. I’m mainly talking nonsense. Okay strike that, I’m talking complete nonsense. Mendocino is filled with charming retirees, artists, and hippies and their disaffected youth (aka HOODLUMS). They have several restaurants with more than one vegan option on the menu, and an almost all-veg co-op grocery in an old church. cool.
It’s a little pricey for people in my demographic (i.e. people who live in SF and spend all their money on rent and eating out) but they’re currently running Spring Specials that allow you a gorgeous room for $198 (Mon-Thur) and $228 on the weekends. All rooms include FREE BREAKFAST (and this ain’t continental, you can choose from the menu! Pancakes, waffles, tofu scrambles, amazing SCONES?!—who knew! scones are such a boring non-food but these scones are ridiculous!—also, I love that if you pay for breakfast they charge you extra if you want EGGS. THAT IS CORRECT. Vegan tax in reverse, I love you!) and free rentalsonkayaksandmountainbikesSNOOZE. They also offer this couples special where you get two nights, FREE BREAKFAST AND DINNER at Raven’s Restaurant (the onsite all vegetarian mostly vegan restaurant) and a free massage or facial for $685. Now, I’ve done the math on this and while I’m basically a math illiterate, I believe it’s a very good deal, especially considering that dinner at Raven’s, while not $$$, will set you back about $100 for two people.
Speaking of Raven’s Restaurant. It’s excellent and the chef has a really sassy blog on the Stanford Inn website. I strongly recommend you check it out. He is pissed! He is sassy! He is ONE OF US! The food is not at quite the caliber of Millennium but it’s still VERY good and uses a lot of produce from their own gardens. Very cool. I especially liked the tofu scrambles at breakfast and the pancakes! I love a vegan pancake!
A couple things to note: 1) You will be the youngest people there and if you’re not into that, this is not the place for you. The other guests aren’t stuffy or lame, they’re just hella old like the crypt keeper, you dig? It’s to be expected when you look at the price and then consider that younger people spend their money on strippers, coke and other fun-in-the-moment but ultimately super-lame shit. 2) They have a pool and hot tub that are open 24/7. Midnight slightly boozy underwater handstands? Yes please! They also have a sauna but Jonas couldn’t get it as hot as he wanted it, even after he threw water on the furnace. We are lucky to be alive. 3) Make sure to be around for tea time from 3-4pm when they serve up drinks and homemade snacks like brownies and wraps and crostini and hummus! FREE FOOD AND DRINK DO NOT MISS IT. 4) Head into Mendocino and walk around and then head up the road 10 miles to Fort Bragg and walk around. Apparently Fort Bragg is the place where the first tempeh was cultured in the United States. Hippies. Also, check out the raw food restaurant/raw foods culinary school!? in Fort Bragg. It was really good, especially the ice cream! 5) IF YOU ARE THERE DURING THE WHALE MIGRATION, DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE OCEAN. I never stopped staring at the ocean and now I think I have a lazy eye! Worth it! 6) Also, on the drive up, you’ll pass Anderson Valley Brewing Company. All of their beer is vegan and you can snack on free pretzels and excellent house-made mustard. Perfect rest stop on your trip.
I guess to wrap this bitch up, save your pennies and go to The Stanford Inn. Since it’s about a three-hour drive from SF, you’re going to want to stay more than one night to make it worth your while and that package above looks pretty good. When you consider that you’re supporting an all-veg business in a beautiful place, it should push you over the edge! YOU MUST GO. Tomorrow. So call in sick with ebola** and hit the open road!
*signed, prudy mccheckyourself.
**I actually did this once when I was in college. I got confused, I thought I was saying I had e. coli. Oops!
Road trip: Sweet Avenue Bakeshop! »
We don’t recommend you do this as a road trip unless you have a lot of time and perhaps a Winnebago, so you can travel Road Rules season one-style. For everyone else, New York City has three airports. Pick one! In any case, if you find yourself in north Jersey, as I have for the past two weeks, do check out Sweet Avenue Bakery in Rutherford.
I bought four cupcakes: plain vanilla with vanilla frosting, apple pie (apple cake with cream cheese frosting and apple pie filling), cookies ‘n’ cream, and strawberry fields (vanilla cake with strawberry frosting and strawberry filling). These are big, beautiful, voluptous cupcakes with a lot of frosting, so I recommend sharing or devouring very slowly, perhaps over the course of two days.
I ended up sharing with my highly critical aunt and mother, who were totally shocked when they enjoyed the very cautious bites they took. A note about my family: they are about as un-vegan friendly as you can possibly imagine. You know that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the girl brings her fiancé home and says he’s a vegetarian and her aunt says, “That’s okay, I make lamb!”? That’s us.
They simply couldn’t believe that this could be made with no eggs, butter, or dairy whatsoever. They also couldn’t believe that such delicious baked goods could be made from the hands of an Americano, or white person. They were truly perplexed.
All the cupcakes were amazing but our favorite was the apple pie, fall in pastry form. With a cup of spicy Silk Nog, this was the best midnight snack a girl could ask for. After that, I would say the cookies ‘n’ cream had my heart. The frosting was amazing and who doesn’t like chocolate cake?
Sweet Avenue changes their cupcake selection every day, which they list on their stylish website. If you’re in New York City and you want to visit the bakery, you can take NJ Transit from Penn Station straight into downtown Rutherford. The shop is a a few blocks away. If you’re in Jersey, surely you’re not too far from a car, so get your ass there!
[photos via Sweet Avenue]
Road Trip: Mineral in Murphys! »
Okay Bay Area fat-asses, time for a road trip!
Murphys, California is about a two-hour drive from SF, or maybe more if you obey the rules of the road. Not me! I drive like a bat out of hell because YOUR LAWS DO NOT APPLY TO ME, I MUST BE FREE! Also, I have no regard for human life, yours or my own. However, should an animal cross my path, I will cause a 10-car pileup to avoid hitting it. I am a total asshole. Murphys the quaintest, cutest, most adorable, pinch-its-cheeks-and-show-me-where-the-hookers-lived little Gold Rush town in all of creation. I seriously love anything and everything having to do with the Gold Rush. If I could be alive during any other time, I would choose to be Queen Victoria. After that, I would choose to live during the Time of the Unicorns. After that, I would choose to live in a gold-mining town in the Sierra foothills. I would most likely mine billions of dollars’ worth of gold and spend the rest of the day sunbathing and eating bonbons. In the evenings, I would do it with lots of hookers and have shootouts with my twin brother, who looks just like me but is EVIL. My name would be Wild Laura Quick Draw. Seriously, does anyone have a DeLorean?
Anyway, things you expect to find in Murphys are: antiques shops; things with “Frog” in the title (it’s Mark Twain country, baby!); Local Experts on the Gold Rush who might also be Skeevy Old Dudes Who Want to Do It with You; more antique shops; people who collect things like “Mountain Man Doll” (see photo—it’s great); wineries, a.k.a. FREE ALCOHOL; and more antiques shops. Oh, and a few cowboy/biker bars because rape was really big during the Gold Rush. Listen, I never said history was pretty.
One thing you might not expect to find is ONE OF THE BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS I’VE EVER EATEN AT. Jigga what? THAT IS CORRECT. Jigga who? YOU HEARD.
Mineral is an intimate (read: hella teeny tiny), super-cute vegetarian restaurant right on Murphys’ Main Street. Yes, it is called Main Street. I told you this town is fucking adorable. Inside, it gets even better. The lighting is amazing, even dogs* would look super-hot in this space. It has an exposed kitchen so you can watch the chef do his thing, and his thing is making the most goddamned delicious food you ever sunk your fat face into! Some of the food was so good, words failed me. It’s kinda like a fancified California Cuisine, I guess? My menu favorites were the Red Miso and Mexican Lime Bisque with House Made Smoked Tofu, Potato Coriander Seitan in a Hemp Fondue with Chive Oil, and Indian-Spiced FRIED CHOCOLATE. HELLO! Everything is vegetarian and most everything on the menu is vegan or can be made vegan. I went to dinner with some talkative bitches but I’m telling you, the entire meal was basically silent with the exception of a few “HOLY SHIT!”s. I don’t know how to grammatically work “HOLY SHIT”s out so I’m moving on.
Afterward, the chef and waitress/hostess/co-owner sat with us and shared some wine and we talked about how amazing they are. They are both completely down to earth and sweet and welcoming and fantastic. It’s not the cheapest place I’ve ever eaten but it’s on point with the other nice restaurants in the area, and when you see the quality of the organic, local ingredients they use, it’s more than reasonable. Apparently the lunch is off the hook too with the best homemade veggie burgers on EARTH. I tried to get back but didn’t make it out of bed on time and they close at 3 p.m. for lunch. WHAT? I WAS ON VACATION.
If you are a veggie or vegan or AWESOME in the Bay Area or Sacramento (it’s only about an hour from Sacto and don’t you want to get the fuck out of Sacramento anyway?!), I definitely advise a road trip up to this area with a must stop at Mineral for both lunch and dinner. Also, if you bring a lady friend, you will totally get laid. Just saying.
*ugly people, not real dogs, that is a health code violation!
[photos by the author]
Road Trip: Ubuntu in Napa! »
Sometimes you just want to get the fuck out of dodge. On occasion, we’ll feature different veg-friendly places to visit and dine that are within an hour or two from SF. Let’s start with Napa because I’m a classy drunk. LET’S GET WASTED! SHOW ME YOUR BRA! WOO!
I’ve been to Ubuntu three times and look forward to a fourth visit like it’s my job.
A really wonderful, super-romantic dinner. The food was delicious and perfect, especially the coconut watermelon basil soup. That soup is ridiculous. It will change your life. It’s better than the sex (that you have, most likely. Not me, I am amazing at sex). It is like drinking the blood of virgins. Eating it is what winning gold at the Olympics must feel like. The wine list is filled with sustainable, organic and biodynamic (wtf does that mean?) wines. The prices were totally reasonable based on quality of service and food. I didn’t see one heifer doing yoga. Just the thought of a Skinny White Bitch running around with a yoga mat under one arm and a little crop-top (YARG) that says “namaste” on it is enough to make me lose my shit/lunch so plus-multiple-stars for that. I cannot hang.
Holy shit, why am I impossible to take out in public? I did quite a bit of wine-tasting with my friends Maria, Ed and Suzanne in downtown Napa before (including one place that I thought was a free tasting room but was actually a bar! Oops, we have to pay for that?! Thank God I have fabulous slut friends who are willing to exchange numbers for many bottles of free wine!) and so wasn’t entirely prepared to enter a classy establishment for dinner.
DO NOT INFORM THE HOSTESS THAT YOU ARE DRUNK WHEN YOU ARRIVE. You will be rightly cut the fuck off. it went a little like this:
Laura: I’m DRUNK!
Hostess: OK, what’s the reservation under?
Laura: I’m DRUNK!
Maria: It’s under “Ed.”
Laura: HE’S DRUNK TOO!!! HAHAHA!
…and so on and so forth. Don’t worry, I hate me too.
Once seated, we were politely and tactfully informed that we were being cut off because of my outburst and the, you know, being openly intoxicated in a nice restaurant thing. the wait staff and management at Ubuntu handled it VERY well. They never made us feel unwelcome or called out or anything like that. and the food helped. I swear, everything tastes even more amazing when you’re drunk. That is, it tastes amazing until you want to die. I wanted to die right before dessert so I headed out to the car to take a power nap. It felt so good, I can’t even tell you. We then headed back to the city and don’t worry for my safety and for the safety of others, kind Vegansaurus readers, I didn’t drive! Ed was sober sister and is an excellent driver and made an amazing mix CD. if you’ve never seen Maria and Ed perform Usher’s “Love in This Club,” you are missing the fuck out. You have not lived until Ed has looked you in the eye and told you he wants to set you free, sexually, emotionally, mentally, physically. Or however it goes [Ed.: “physically, mentally, sexually, emotionally”]. It’s hot, trust me. I think they’ll be doing it tomorrow at Temple bar, in fact. You should totally be there.
To celebrate my friend Joel’s recent entrance into adulthood a good 10 years before his time (i.e., buying a house at 25. OVERACHIEVERS! UGH!). The food was equally as delicious this time and I remember it all very well. The soup remained the star of the menu—who knew that coconut and watermelon and basil and edible flower = magical magicallity. Well, I guess I do now and so do you. We had more of the delicious chickpea fries, the creamy polenta was delicious as was the farro (far less saltier this time, I wonder if they’d gotten complaints?) and finished it off with the super-tasty almond milkshake and yummy mini-vegan carrot cake cupcakes.
The cupcakes are not on the regular menu so make sure to ask for them—beg if you have to! Actually, they only have ONE vegan dessert on the regular menu and it’s some whack shaved ice shit. I mean, it’s good but COME ON. One vegan dessert at a vegetarian restaurant* isn’t enough. I guess that’s my only complaint. That and the soup isn’t endless, like at the Olive Garden (those people are geniuses!).
In conclusion: Ubuntu. Delicious when sober. Delicious when drunk. Delicious for dinner. Delicious for lunch. Please someone send that into the New Yorker poetry editor, kthx!
*sorry, “vegetables” restaurant! they don’t like the term “vegetarian,” I guess it turns off the snob foodies and the snob foodies LOVE this place. It annoys me that they don’t embrace “vegetarian” but hey, the New York Times named it one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country. I’m sorry but that’s fucking awesome for a vegetables restaurant.
UPDATE 10/5/10: Not so much enamored with Ubuntu anymore. We sad.