Wednesday 8 August 2012

The road trip comes to an end: Chicago.

Our road trip sadly had to come to an end but what better place to end it than Chicago? It's a city that neither of us had ever visited before but we'd both wanted to go there for ages. Unsurprisingly after our long drive we were starving so as soon as we'd checked into our hotel we headed out to find food. We accidentally stumbled across Cloud Gate, more commonly known as The Bean!

We took a lot of pictures! It's a really cool sculpture and we loved watching everyone interact with it.

We were heading for Native Foods Cafe because it was the closest place to eat to the hotel we were staying in. I ordered the Chicken Run Ranch Burger.

Can you spot yet another root beer in the back of this picture?!

The burger came on a wholewheat bun and I ordered a side of Crispy Sweet Potato Fries to go with it. The burger was great, I loved the crispy battered burger and the ranch sauce. I wish we'd had time to go back here but I'm sure we'll be back in either Chicago or one of the many other places Native Foods Cafe has locations one day.

After dinner we went up to the top of the Willis Tower to check out the Skydeck and their super fun glass balconies.

 We went up just before sunset so that we could look at the city in daylight, at sunset and in the dark!

Afterwards we went to check out the Buckingham fountain. We managed to time it just right and arrived just as the multicoloured light and music show started. It was pretty cheesy but in a good way!

The next morning after I managed to fall over a speed bump in a pretty epic way we made it to Karen's Cooked for brunch. We both ordered the Homestyle Breakfast...

...which came with scrambled tofu, veggie sausage, crispy potatoes & a side of toast. This was an excellent start to the day, we loved the thick sliced toast and the crispy potatoes were great.

After spending the day at The Art Institute of Chicago we had a very late lunch at somewhere I've wanted to go since I first heard about it, The Chicago Diner. I ordered one of their classic dishes with a twist, the Reuben with Coleslaw and Cheese.

There seems to be a Root Beer in the back of this picture too!

This Reuben came with a side of truly excellent Mac 'n' Cheese and the sandwich itself was one of the best I've ever eaten. I'd never tried a reuben before and whilst this Sauerkraut-less reuben isn't a classic it did come on marbled rye bread with beef style seitan and cheese so it was kinda similar!

We liked The Chicago Diner and the area it's in so much that we headed back there for brunch the next day. I started my day with a mimosa which was perfect because it was already far too hot that day.

We both decided to go for the French Toast Combo Plate which comes with 2 wedges of French Toast, Scrambled Tofu, Seitan Sausage & a Fruit Garnish.

This was one of my favourite ever brunches. The french toast was perfect and I've really grown to love the combination of sweet and savoury on one plate which is something a lot of us Brits aren't down with yet!

On our last night we decided that we couldn't leave America without having one last pizza. We'd heard of Ian's Pizza and so we planned to head there, then we heard that it had closed, then we picked somewhere else, and then we heard that Ian's Pizza had actually turned into Dimo's Pizza and that Dimo's Pizza has impressive vegan pizza too. Bloody hell. It was a bit of a roller coaster of pizza emotions but eventually we were in Wrigleyville gazing at a list of vegan pizza options.

We eventually decided to get a whole Teese covered pie to share and we split it half and half with vegan sausage on Nick's side and vegan sausage and mushroom on mine.

Yet again we forgot that sausage can mean something different in the US! This was a great pizza though, plenty of melty Teese and toppings and just look at those crust bubbles! 

Unsurprisingly I also ordered one last root beer. 

I kinda wish that we could get root beer here but on the other hand it's probably a good idea for me to save it as a fun holiday treat!

Sadly the next morning was our last and we started it off with a leisurely breakfast in bed...

...followed by a trip to the huge Lincoln Park Whole Foods store to stock up on all of the stuff we wish we could get at home. We bought loads of Tofurky Slices, Yves Bologna, Go Max bars, Clif bars, Field Roast Sausages and Veganaise. Towards the end of our shopping trip we realised we were pretty hungry so we stopped at the stall cooking up vegan hot dogs!

We definitely couldn't pass up the chance to eat lunch in the middle of a supermarket and I ordered the Irving Park dog.

As the menu said the Irving Park dog comes with cheese & onion but I wasn't expecting anything this spectacular. The onions were beautifully caramelised and the cheese was meted on top of the dog right on the grill giving it awesomely crispy edges.

This was a ridiculously perfect end to an amazing trip. I can't wait to get back to the US which is good because we just booked a trip to Austin! We'll be there for 10 days at the end of September, so, see ya soon America!

Sunday 5 August 2012

The one with five different places!

We hadn't really planned on heading North after our visit to Northampton but we were super glad we did. We ended up driving along beautiful tree lined roads...


...and we ended up in this tiny town. 

I couldn't tell you exactly where in Vermont this town is or what it's called (If you reeeally want to know I could probably find out!) but they had a cute tourist information office and the lovely lady inside gave us a map that directed us towards a beautiful picnic spot by a lake.

We spent most the day here eating, reading, and dipping our toes in the water. It was perfect.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to drive to Syracuse where we'd arranged to meet my buddy Bazu for lunch at Strong Hearts Cafe. Bazu and I "internet met" on the Post Punk Kitchen and we first met in real life in Brighton back in '08.

When I visited NYC in May 2009 I got the Megabus upstate to stay with Bazu, her husband, and their kitties. Before this mini meet up we had last seen each other when we travelled together in Vienna, Bratislava & Budapest in late 2009. Wow, that seems like a crazy long time ago! I love hanging out with Bazu & I was super excited to get to see her again.

I loved the Egg Trick Muffin and the Home Fries at Strong Hearts last time I was there but I decided to branch out this time & I ordered the pancakes. With a root beer of course!

These were ridiculously huge pancakes and for once I was actually into the accompanying banana! Weird! It was far too short a meet up but Bazu gave us the gift that just keeps on giving, Stretch Bread and Tomato Garlic dipping oil.

Stretch bread is a local speciality, it's kinda like ciabatta but the dough is more elastic, hence the name! The tomato garlic dipping oil was bloody brilliant, I loved the pourable packaging and how intensely garlicky it was. Bazu said that this combo would make the perfect road tripping dinner & she wasn't wrong. Nick is actually still totally obsessed with stretch bread & Tomato Garlic Dipping Oil, I'll ask what we should get for dinner and he'll sigh dramatically and say "Stretch bread & oil", he's ridiculous!

The next day started with another morning of waking up bright and early to head to Niagara Falls. We weren't sure whether to include the falls in our road trip, we'd heard that the American side wasn't as good as the Canadian side and that it'd be horribly touristy but as with the Top of The Rock in NYC we were totally glad we went.

None of my pictures do it justice but we thought it was super cool! We loved that you could go & stand near the bottom to really get an idea of how massive it is and we were pretty into the tacky souvenir shop - I love tack! One day we'd definitely like to go & check out the Canadian side, we contemplated doing that this time before we realised that our car hire agreement said a big old N-O to that idea!

We spent that night in Erie, Pennsylvania...

...eating these delicious Divvies cookies & watching movies. Divvies cookies are without a shadow of a doubt the best store bought cookies I've ever eaten, I think they cost something a little silly like $5.99 but they were definitely worth it.

The sugar cookies were better than any I've ever made and the Choco-Lot Brownie Cookies had a really deep chocolatey flavour without verging on bitter.

Using the wonderful Happy Cow app again we found that we were near The Whole Foods Co-op and their in-store Co-op Cafe. We headed there for breakfast and whilst we waited for my Tempeh Bacon and Cheese sandwich to be ready we browsed for snacks for the road. We ended up picking up a delicious Eggless Salad...

...and a Whoopie Pie to share.

My sandwich was SO awesome, it was certainly challenging to eat in a moving car & I hadn't expected the Daiya to be unmelted but wow, it was brilliant. I loved how much salad there was and the tempeh was perfectly smoked & fried.

It was around a 2 hour drive to that days destination and appropriately we spotted this truck ahead of us. Can you guess where we were headed?

That's right! The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame! It was Epic!

They had Joe Strummer's Fender Telecaster!! SO COOL!

After spending hours wandering around this surprisingly huge museum we headed into Cleveland to find the slightly oddly named Flaming Icecube cafe. There were so many great reviews of this place on Happy Cow that we just had to go there and as soon as I tasted this Raspberry Lemonade I knew we'd made the right decision. I never thought a lemonade could be so amazing but it was perfectly tart and incredibly refreshing.

I even insisted that Nick had to try my lemonade even though he pretty much only drinks water and after one sip he ordered one of his own! I wasn't feeling particularly hungry, either because of the heat or the whoopie pie, so I ordered half a chicken salad wrap which came with a side of macaroni salad.

The wrap was great, I love vegan chicken, tuna or egg salad on any kind of bread product so this was always going to be a winner and I don't think that you can go wrong with macaroni salad either. My appetite miraculously came back after I spotted one of my favourite flavour combo's, chocolate mint, in the cupcake case.

These were great cupcakes, I loved that they made a fancy chocolate swirl on the plate and that the icing was really green.

We hadn't really planned on spending long enough in Cleveland to go out to eat but we were really glad we did, Flaming Icecube is a great chilled out lunch spot. The food was good, the staff were lovely and it made me realise that I really need to learn how to make my own raspberry lemonade.