Monday, October 19, 2009

Portland, Oregon: A Vegan's Paradise

Many thanks to all who asked... I will finally write about my Portland trip. My husband Dan and I were there in late September following a few days in Reno, which I wrote about here. On a personal note, it was an especially important trip because, as I mentioned before, it marked our 10th wedding anniversary, and, it was a much-needed week of complete relaxation, total avoidance of computers, and no child (who, by the way, had a ball at home with his grandparents).

Portland was incredible. The weather was perfect, the people were welcoming, and the vibe was outstanding. We took a lot of pictures but the memory card got corrupted, so unfortunately a lot of the photos are gone. But we do have some from another card. I was going to blog all about the trip but I never got around to it after coming home!

Portland is the most bike-friendly city in the US. We arrived in the late afternoon, took a train to the hotel, chilled out, and then the next morning we walked to City Bikes Co-Op and rented bikes and a bike map (very useful -- showed the best bike routes around town. Thanks guys!). We basically biked everywhere the whole week we were there! We stayed east of the river so we biked across the bridges most days; the bike paths are everywhere! One day we biked along the river going south, and it just kept going for miles and miles along a train and beautiful woods.

We tried 6 or 7 veg restaurants; all of them were great. It was a vegan's paradise.

My favorite day was when we biked into town on a Wednesday, when they have an amazing Farmer's market right in the middle of town.

We got some fruit and walked around, then biked to the university area. We got on the train, hung our bikes on the hooks (can you believe they have hooks for your bike?), and went 1 stop up the mountain to Washington Park.

We took the bikes up the elevator and out, and coasted down the hill for some time, then stopped where there were hiking trails.

We locked up our bikes, hiked and ran on the trails (PERFECT packed dirt trails, and I got to break in my new trail running shoes).

Eventually we ran into the Japanese Gardens, so we decided to take a tour. They were beautiful.

Then we hiked back up, got on the bikes, and rode back into the city. We headed straight for Voodoo Donuts and had a glazed and some other concoction with about 83 toppings.

Then we rode back to the hotel, showered and changed, and went to dinner at Portobello, our fanciest meal there. We indulged in Pate al Tartufo (pate with bread, figs, mustard), polenta, and gnocchi. And dessert. If only I could remember what. I just remember it was good. Everything was scrumptious.

Here are some of the other vegan and veg-friendly restaurants we visited:

Vita Cafe: This was a favorite of mine. We biked there for breakfast several times. They have a ton of comfort food and the feel of the neighborhood is great. We even got to know some of the staff pretty well. (Hi, Dave.) If you go, the morning potatoes are a must-try. And if you're gearing up for a day of hiking, do try the porridge; it kept me going for hours. Dan loved the chicken-fried steak. We both loved the corn cakes and scrambles. Across the street they have a place with vegan pizza. In fact at least 3 pizza joints have vegan pizza. I can't recall the names; do the goog before you go, to see what's in the neighborhood you'll be in.

Paradox Palace Cafe: Ok I can't stop thinking about their BBQ Rib & Peanut-Sesame Salad. I cannot remember anything else about the place. Order that.

Bye-and-bye Bar: Vegan bar food? You bet! We had a grilled cheese for goodness sake! And I had the Bye and Bye drink... served in a quart-sized mason jar, I kid not. And they don't skimp on the alcohol. That night we traveled by hotel shuttle, rather than bikes, in case you're wondering.

Blossoming Lotus: Raw food! Loved it. The Nachos were seriously one of the most delectable things I've ever eaten. We also tried the live sampler platter (highly recommend); my favorite on the plate was the cashew hummus. It's only been a month but I cannot remember what else we tried!

Sweatpea Baking Company: More than a bakery! One morning we got bagels and GLOBS of "cream cheese" -- it was a taste of Long Island out west. Their cinnamon rolls are terrific. Everything looked good but we only have 2 stomachs between us so we couldn't try everything we wanted to. Of course, this bakery is part of the Vegan Mini Mall, so we also spent a lot of time (and cash) at Food Fight and Herbivore. In fact last night I made beef stroganoff from the mix I got at Food Fight.

Planning to visit? Make sure to check out Veg Portland before you go!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Christina Cooks Vegan

Do you ever have a realization that something has been there right in front of you, and it totally relates to you and what you love, but you never knew about it? It's surreal, right? Here I am, a vegan, foodie, and dietitian, and I am ashamed to admit I never knew about Christina Pirello. Do you know who she is?

The other day I came home from a jog and plopped on the sofa with my mom, who was visiting for the day. She had the tube on in the background, and there on PBS was a cooking show called "Christina Cooks." The word "tofu" caught my attention so I started to watch. This lovely woman Christina was making 3 recipes containing silken tofu, and ALL were vegan! I thought, how lucky, I stumbled upon "tofu day" on this show, but not only that! I stumbled upon a cooking show that is ALL VEGAN! I couldn't believe it. My mother was very amused by my reaction, I am sure. The show ended with singer/songwriter Jon Michaels playing his guitar and singing right there in the kitchen, which was a nice touch.

I went to Christina's web site, checked out the recipes, and read her story. Christina is the author of the newish book "This Crazy Vegan Life," which I actually have heard of (and flipped through at the bookstore), along with other books. I never knew she had a cooking show too. A Philly native, Christina is a TV personality, talented chef, cancer survivor, and health guru. She's had her show going for SEVEN years! Plus she gives cooking demos and classes, mostly in Philly, but in other cities as well. After spending several minutes on her web site, reading her story and watching her video, I felt as though I've known her for years. Check it out!

I am so thrilled that her cooking show has gone mainstream. Her angle is health, and the "V" word is used sparingly (actually, I don't think she used it at all in this particular episode), so omnivores are her main audience. As such, what a service she is doing not only for her viewers, but for the animals and the environment. Her recipes look delicious and simple; I learned a thing or two about making perfect pan-fried tofu (something that I always manage to mess up, usually due to it sticking to the pan) and other quick and easy delights. She obviously inspires her fans to eat better and get excited about cooking, which is so important for people to include more plant-based meals in their diet.