Monday 29 July 2013

Olympia and Cannon Beach

When we were looking into places to stop on our way from Seattle to Portland Olympia was top of my list. So much of the music I love came out of Olympia in the 90's and visiting the place that Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney hailed from was something I wasn't gonna miss.

Our first stop was obviously Sleater-Kinney Road!

We checked out the Happy Cow app as soon as we got hungry and we decided on Saigon Rendezvous, partly because Olympia's one veg place is closed Mon - Thurs and partly because it had a couple of good reviews and we do love a good plate of mock meat!

To start with we ordered the Vegetarian Teriyaki Beef on a Stick. We were slightly underwhelmed by the presentation of this dish as we'd imagined the skewers to be on a plate drenched in sauce but they were tasty nonetheless and the strange fire gel thing the skewers surrounded was quite fun!

I opted for the Vegetarian Almond Chicken main course because two of the reviewers on Happy Cow said that it was awesome. I love it when reviewers mention specific dishes, it really helps reduce my ordering anxiety and I hate getting it wrong when I'm only going to be visiting a place once.

The reviews steered me right and this dish was fantastic. It came with a side of steamed white rice and the deep fried mock chicken was covered with loads of perfectly thick flavourful sauce.  Nick ordered a cashew tofu and vegetable dish which wasn't bad, if you aren't into deep fried food I would say that it's a good bet but Nick is and he spent the majority of the meal swapping bits of his broccoli for my chicken. At least it wasn't bell pepper, that is not a swap I'd have been down with!

After lunch we swung by Oly Vegan, Olympia's very own all vegan store. Unfortunately even though we wanted to love this place we were unimpressed by their product range and later on a little annoyed by their prices.

We really wanted to support this indie vegan store so despite the sparse selection of products we grabbed a copy of Veg News and some Dandies and went on our way. As our trip went on we realised that $8 is not even remotely close to the $4-something Dandies seem to sell for everywhere else (including the Oly Food Co-op) and it left us feeling a little ripped off.

I was much happier with our post lakeside stroll and our visit to the zine section of Olympia's library!

We sat there reading zine's and using the wifi for ages and nobody hassled us, it was lovely. I love libraries!

On the way out of Oly we hit the Olympia Food Co-op and Trader Joe's to stock up on fun treats for out little beach cottage. At the co-op we grabbed some baked goods, I chose a Poppyseed and Blueberry Muffin and Nick picked up a Cinnamon Roll.

We also got some of these cookies.

I'd seen these around before but neither of us had ever tried them. The verdict? Yum! Surprisingly the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut was both of our favourites.

We also bought some Dave's Killer Bread, Gardein tenders, Tofurky tempeh, Veganaise, Amy's mac 'n Cheese, Earth Balance and some delicious breakfast treats.

From Trader Joe's we picked up this delicious selection to keep us going. The TJ's Maple Leaf Cookies are a definite favourite of ours and the Dark Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels have become my absolute favourite way to get chocolate into my system. Nick prefers the Dark Chocolate Truffle chocolate and we both looooooved the Cinnamon Rolls.

Of course we stopped off a few more times on our way to Cannon Beach to check out a national park and a couple of look out points.

We also stopped at the Astoria Food Co-op, we'd already stocked up on food because we weren't sure how big or vegan friendly this place would be but it was stuffed full of vegan goodies & if you're heading to Cannon Beach this would be a great place to buy supplies to see you through the weekend.

Once we arrived at the little beachside cottage we'd rented we made a pretty epic lazy person dinner of Daiya mac 'n cheese and Gardein Crispy Tenders with Veganaise and root beer on the side. It wouldn't be a trip to America if I didn't have root beer with almost every meal!

The next morning I went for a run on the beach. Now if you know me at all you know that I hate to run, I'm much happier working out indoors, but I couldn't pass up the chance to run somewhere this beautiful and unsurprisingly the cottage didn't have a gym. My main beef with running is that it's too hard on my hips and knees but running on the wet sand was actually pleasant, if only Brighton beach had sand. There were also SO MANY dogs at the beach which was pretty rad!

Anyway whilst I was out Nick cooked breakfast with some of the goodies we gathered from TJ's and the Olympia Food Co-op.

This was such a good breakfast. Seriously I find it crazy awesome that there are waffles and cinnamon rolls that you can just buy and mould / heat / serve in America. It really is a vegan wonderland!

Over the next day or two there were multiple TLT's on Dave's Killer Bread with Tofurky Sesame Garlic Tempeh (love!), avocado, tomato and Veganaise.

I could really do with one of these right now actually!

We also explored the town (and giggled about the separate Republican / Democrat benches outside of the store...we never saw anyone on the Republican bench!), hung out together and read books at the cottage, went for long walks on the beach, and watched the sun set every evening.

It was super lovely to spend some time together outside of the big cities we'd planned our trip around. Even when you're taking deliberate cafe breaks and time out to chill in parks big cities can be so frantic - especially when you're trying to cram all of the things into a short space of time! I'm glad that we always plan these more mellow sections into our travels and for two people with serious smart phone issues it's always nice to be somewhere with no internet connection at all!

Thursday 25 July 2013

Seattle: Bamboo Garden, The Highline, Plum Bistro.

This is the last in my three part series of Seattle posts, read parts one and two here and here!

We decided to eat at Bamboo Garden because I got crazy-person hungry whilst exploring the EMP Museum and it was the nearest restaurant. We hadn't planned on spending a tonne of time there but we got really into the Nirvana exhibit and stuck around for hours.

My favourite parts of the exhibition were the interactive listening posts dotted around showcasing bands that were also around the Seattle scene at the time. I mean how could anyone dislike a museum where you can just sit on the floor and listen to Fugazi and The Gits?! It was rad. It was also cool to see kids engaging with museum exhibits, I often see school groups going around museums and they just look bored, bored, bored. I remember those days and I know that I would have loved to visit somewhere like this.

Anyway, the food! I am not a fun person to hang out with when I'm hungry, I get a liiiiitle grumpy and it's best to feed me asap! Due to the mega hunger and forgetting how big American portions can be we totally over-ordered.

We got the Crispy Fried Spring Rolls...

...and the Fried Taro Cake Patties to start. We both enjoyed the spring rolls but were underwhelmed by the taro cakes. I thought they'd be like the the pan fried ones I'd tried previously in NYC but these were deep fried and I didn't enjoy them anywhere near as much. Next time I see taro cakes on the menu I'll ask because I love the pan fried kind.

I chose much better when it came to the main course and I picked the Sautéed Almond and Cashew Nut Chicken which came with a side of steamed rice and loads of delicious crisp veggies

Nick went for the Chicken and Mixed Vegetables which comes on a sizzling plate atop a bed of Japanese noodles.

This sizzling plate was super hot and almost as delicious as my plate of nutty chicken veggies. I love the mock meat heavy menus at Chinese and Vietnamese places and we were also lucky enough to check out Moonlight Cafe on our trip. I'd say that Moonlight was probably our favourite of the two places but we forgot to take any pictures because we went with a group and were too busy talking!

The next day we visited Twice Sold Tales in Capitol Hill, I love to browse in bookstores whilst travelling and this was the best one ever, okay, second best, Powell's is the best. Anyway this one's second best because it's full of kitties! Look!

It was brilliant!!

Before our trip I was super excited about checking out The Highline, I love vegan bars and we'd heard great things about the place. Sadly neither the food nor the service were great. Our food was left on the bar for 20 minutes before it was brought around to us, it was then popped down on the table with a sort-of apology and we were told we could exchange it if it was cold. Obviously it was stone cold and after I spent literally 10 whole minutes trying to find a member of staff to tell that we wanted a new order they seemed super shocked by our request.

Unfortunately the new piping hot versions of our orders weren't much better, soggy fries are never a-ok in my book and sadly we didn't get the chance to re-visit The Highline to give them a second chance. We did enjoy the punk rock atmosphere of this all vegan bar though and our choice of seats on the balcony area overlooking the street was a good 'un. I also spoke to some Seattleites and got the lowdown on what to order for you, apparently the sandwiches are where it's at especially the vegan tuna melt and when I'm next in Seattle I'll be trying it for sure.

*Update! You can check out the food currently being served at The Highline right here*

Later on in my trip Randi and I together with our lovely hostess Kirsten and Helen from Vegtastic scored a weekend night table at Plum Bistro.

My love of carbs drew me straight towards the Oyster Mushroom Fettuccini with kale, seitan, parsley & garlic. This was a truly delightful plate of food and you can just imagine how happy I was when it arrived with a chunk of bread on the side! I've since re-created this simple dish at home and whilst it wasn't quite as good I think I made a pretty decent go of it.

Next to carbs my other favourite food group is probably chocolate so when I spotted the warm brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce on the dessert menu I couldn't resist.

The version on the menu actually comes with vanilla ice cream but I'm an all or nothin' kinda girl and they were happy to switch it for chocolate for me. This was a lovely little sweet treat to end the meal and I would certainly visit Plum Bistro again as there are at least five other things on the menu I'd like to try.

In the next west coast travel instalment I'll be posting about Olympia and our all too brief stay at the beach so stay tuned!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Pizza in Yo Face!

You guys! Pizza Face got even more awesome! It's no secret that I loooove Pizza Face, they were the first company in town to offer vegan pizza that not only included vegan cheese but also delivered that shiz right to your front door. This is the stuff that dreams are made of people!

Pizza Face still deliver right to your door but now the vegan cheese is even better! The pizzas were great with Cheezly but with this new cheese (which I believe is this kind) they are next level amazing.

Monday and Tuesday are vegan days at Pizza Face meaning that they have six entirely vegan pizzas on the menu and there are plenty of mock meats available to make your pizza extra epic. On any other day you can still veganise six of the vegetarian pizza on the menu. We ordered last night, Nick had The Ozzy...

...and I chose The Pammy

The Ozzy has chorizo, bacon, pepperoni, smoked sausage, red onions and mushrooms. As you can see Nick removed all of the veggies to make it more like a classic meat feast. The Pammy comes topped with bacon, pineapple and sour cream and it's my absolute favourite. At first I thought sour cream on pizza sounded weird but really it just compliments the bacon & pineapple dream team perfectly.

Not content with a pizza each we always, always, always order garlic bread. Even when we decide not to as soon as we're talking to them on the phone onto the order it goes, it's just too good to miss.

We decided to go for the cheesy garlic bread this time to make sure we were giving the new cheese we'd heard about every chance to shine, and boy did it shine. I was freaking out about how damned delicious it was the whole time I was eating it which was probably kinda annoying as we were watching 30 Rock but, whatever, no regrets!

If you're in Brighton today I strongly suggest that you order Pizza Face for dinner, if you aren't I suggest that you come here asap and order Pizza Face for dinner. I've heard rumours that they even deliver to the beach!

Monday 22 July 2013

Seattle: Veggie Grill, Pizza Pi, Razzi's, Chaco Canyon.

Oh Veggie Grill, how I miss you, I wish you were somewhere, anywhere, in England. Nick and I first visited Veggie Grill in Seattle and I ended up visiting four times over my month long US trip.

On our first night we headed there because it was just around the corner from our hotel and it was a perfect first meal, we ordered a few things to share. The Steamin' Kale with ginger miso dressing and toasted sesame seeds, the Mac-n-Cheese...

...and the Chill Out Wings

We really, really loved the wings, the cool ranch dressing was the perfect accompaniment to the crispy mock chicken fingers which I believe are made by Gardein - something else I wish we had in the UK. The kale was some of the nicest I've ever had, the dressing paired with it perfectly to make a simple healthy bowl of veg. We enjoyed the mac-n-cheese, the gluten free pasta made it perfectly al dente but we were surprised that it had quite a lot of chilli in it given that it wasn't mentioned in the description on the menu.

The Crispy Chickin' Plate has to be my absolute favourite out of all of the things I tried at Veggie Grill.

This homestyle comfort foodie plate was perfect; beautifully creamy mashed potatoes, crispy fried chickin' and that delicious kale with rosemary infused porcini mushroom gravy to tie it all together. I wish I was eating this right now!

I really hope that Veggie Grill expand across the pond one day because the UK could use an awesome vegan chain, I'm pretty sure I said the exact same thing about Native Foods after eating there last year too - I'm not fussy, I'll take either, I just want there to be readily available, reliably delicious, healthy vegan food everywhere!

One place we were super excited about trying in Seattle was Pizza Pi, an all vegan pizzeria located in the U District. This place is run by some awesome punks and we were super excited to be able to order anything from the huge and varied menu.

For some strange reason Nick isn't a believer in the stuffed crust (I know!!) so we had to make an unusual request for a half stuffed crust pizza. They told us that they'd never tried it before but that they were willing to give it a go and it came out super well. I loooooved my stuffed crust half! Pizza Pi use Teese on their pizzas and we also threw on a huge selection of the mock meats. Whilst it wasn't the best pizza I've ever eaten it was pretty damned delicious and the novelty factor of the vegan stuffed crust makes it a definite winner in my book.

Pizza Pi are somewhat famous for there dessert calzones, or baked pie pockets, and because we couldn't agree on a filling we had to order two. Now for some reason I had expected these to be cupcake sized but nuh-uh they were massive! Like, bigger than a Cornish pasty massive!

I went for the Cherry flavour...

...and Nick chose the Chocolate Peanut Butter.

These were a ridiculously epic thing to eat after a huge pizza and they were awesome! I didn't try Nick's but mine was delicious, piping hot and stuffed full of cherry pie filling. Yum!

Seattle has a plethora of vegan pizza options which you can read about on this helpful page at Seattle Vegan Score, as well as Pizza Pi I managed to try Razzi's a traditional Italian restaurant with an amazing vegan menu which includes veganised options of almost everything on their regular menu.

I started with the garlic breadsticks which came with an amazingly delicious marinara sauce for dipping. I had intended to share these with Kirsten and Randi my lovely dining companions but erm, I'm a terrible person and I just ate them all myself. Sorry, not sorry!

Despite a slight pineapple allergy (don't worry it can't kill me!) I couldn't help but order the Stay-cay, Razzi's Canadian Bacon & Pineapple Pizza. Canadian bacon is actually ham to us non-Americans and that's always been my favourite pizza combo.

This was a truly excellent pizza, it was different to the floppy über thin crust Italian pizza's I'm used to eating, the crust was slightly denser I guess but in a really good way. It's one of the meals that I'm still thinking about on an almost daily basis and I will definitely be going back next time I'm in Seattle.

As well as a vegan menu Razzi's has a gluten free menu and a gluten free vegan menu so this really is a place you and anyone you're travelling with can enjoy.

At the other end of the scale from Pizza Pi and Razzi's is the mouthwatering menu at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe. This vegetarian cafe hadn't popped up in my Seattle research but Randi discovered it and I'm so glad she did. We went there for our last meal of the trip and I ordered the vegan quiche with a strawberry spinach salad.

This was a perfectly light, tasty and filling pre-flight meal. I wanted to eat something light so that I wouldn't feel icky on the plane, my last meal in Chicago was a hot dog and fries and in Austin it was a pizza with an apple fritter on the side, at any other time I loooove these meals but before a long haul flight? Nuh Uh, they make me feel crappy and I've vowed to stop doing it to myself! I felt the best I've ever felt getting off of the flight home from Seattle but it was a bit of an unfair test due to my cheeky points-based upgrade to Club World for the first time ever... we'll have to re-test the light meal theory next time!

The Zen Calm juice I ordered alongside my meal was the best juice I've ever had, the combination of apple, orange, spinach and mint was super fresh and delicious. 

I've genuinely been considering buying a juicer just so that I can make this but I think I'm going to try making a smoothie with the same flavours first!

If you enjoyed this post you can check out the first instalment in my Seattle series right here!

Friday 19 July 2013

Check out my package(s)!

If you know me at all you'll know that I loooove to get post, everything that comes through my letterbox from birthday cards to the free local paper puts a smile on my face. You can only imagine the levels of excitement when I get a package! Honestly sometimes I order stuff online just so that I can get fun post. I was over the moon when the people from Nutribox got in touch with me to see if I'd like to review their Vegan Nutribox Mini and I said a very enthusiastic hell yeah! Because I was travelling when they sent out June's boxes they actually had to make me up my own special box but it's very similar product wise to the box the To Happy Vegans bloggers received and reviewed.

The Nutribox Mini fitted perfectly through my smaller than average letterbox and I got home to find it waiting on my doormat.

I opened it up as soon as I got in the door and I was excited to see a great mix of products I already knew I loved and some that I'd never seen before.

This selection of bars was excellent, I'd only tried the Nakd bar before. The Trek flapjack, Braw Apple & Pear bar and Rude Health Beetroot bar were new to me and I enjoyed them all.

The Braw bar was my favourite and I hope that they become available outside of Scotland soon. You can currently buy them online but only in boxes of 30 which is a little much for me but I am pretty tempted.

I wasn't as excited about these next two snacks, I don't dislike nuts and seeds but I can buy them anywhere and I'd prefer the entire box to be full of new and exciting products. The tropical mix was actually not vegan, a mistake that Nutribox tell me has never happened before and was due to me having a strange mid-month mix of products.

It was nice to see a savoury option in the box, these spicy seeds weren't for me though - too spicy - so I popped them into my UK Vegan Swap package as an extra treat for my swap partner.

I was excited by both of these products, I'd actually never tried a Bounce energy ball despite seeing them every time I pop into Infinity Foods but now I'd definitely grab another. I already knew that I liked these raw chocolate mulberries, they're super dark so I can only ever eat a few at a time meaning that this little bag will last a while.

I would definitely recommend the Nutribox Mini, especially to someone who doesn't live within close proximity to a health food store stuffed full of new and exciting products. 

This is a fun, healthy, vegan (and gluten free) snack box and if you'd like to sign up for a Nutribox you can use the code VEGAN35 to get 35% of of your first box meaning that you can try it out for just £8.41.

Another great way for UK dwellers to get a package in the post every month is to sign up to the UK Vegan Food Swap. I opted out for the last few months because I knew that I'd never be able to pull together a great parcel of goodies and send it out to my partner in the midst of all of the travelling I've been doing. I'm back with a vengeance this month though and I put together a fun package of goodies from my travels for the lovely Ms Cupcake herself. I was even able to hand deliver it because I spent the day in London on Tuesday!

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a box sent by Lucy from the blog Lucy the Vegan.

Alongside a lovely note I was excited to find a great mix of sweet and savoury snacks and most of the contents were totally new to me. I'd never noticed the Salt & Vinegar Chiplets in M&S before, they were super yummy and I'll be keeping an eye out for them in future. I'd also never tried Jelly Tots despite knowing that they were vegan and I munched on them last night whilst catching up on Neighbours! The M&S After Dinner Mints are one of Nick's favourite snacks so I'll be sharing those which means that I wont feel too guilty about keeping one of my favourite treats, the adorably named Moo Free Bunnycomb Bar, all to myself.

I love the UK vegan food swap, it's such a fun thing to take part in and I get excited about every part of the process; from exchanging emails with my partner and shopping for treats to opening up the box itself. If you'd like to get in on the monthly vegan swap action you just need to click here and sign up, perhaps we'll be swap buddies in August!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Seattle: Wayward Cafe, Mighty O, Georgetown Liquor Co.

It only seems sensible to start off my Seattle / PDX / Vancouver posts in the place the trip started and with a few of my very favourite Seattle places: Wayward Cafe, Mighty O and Georgetown Liquor Company.

Nick and I started our first day in the city with breakfast at Wayward Vegan Cafe, this all vegan diner style place has one of the most ridiculous menus I've ever seen. There are pages and pages of all day breakfast and lunch options as well as dinner and gluten free pages. I thought that choosing what to order would be difficult but The Lumberjack really jumped out at me.

Not only do you get this epic plate of perfectly seasoned tofu scramble, hash browns, sweet and salty tempeh bacon, a sausage patty and a piece of Wayward's homemade vegan (s)ham for your 10 bucks but you also get this side plate of silver-dollar pancakes which, upon comparison, were nowhere near the size of a real silver dollar!

This is genuinely the best American breakfast I've ever eaten, ever, in my entire life. And I've eaten a lot of breakfasts! This next offering was a close second though, on our second visit I picked The Griddle Combo which comes with tofu scram, a sausage patty, tempeh bacon and your choice of a pancake, slice of french toast or a waffle. I went with french toast and it was deeeelicious. I haven't eaten much french toast in my life but this was awesome, up there with the best I've ever had for sure.

I squeezed a third visit to Wayward into my trip when Randi and I were back there just before we flew home. This time I went for a non-breakfasty option and picked the Tempeh Reuben from their lunch menu.

This reuben comes with fries and a delicious crunchy pickle. Yum! Honestly I've eaten better reuben's, the one from Chicago Diner regularly pops into my thoughts, but this was still a solid choice. I was also lucky enough to get to try some of Randi's biscuits and gravy and they were wonderful. I would certainly order them again, perhaps alongside The Lumberjack!

One of my other Seattle favourites was Mighty-O Donuts. This all vegan donut co' is based in North Seattle and they specialise in cake donuts, my very favourite kinda donut. Over the three visits I made to Mighty O I managed to sample quite a decent selection.

I think I managed to eat around 17 donuts in about a week and my three favourites were the Chocolate Raspberry, Sprinkles and Coco Loco. I could (and did!) eat these every day and I would certainly keep on doing that if I lived in Seattle. As well as being able to pick these up at the Mighty O store on North 55th you can find a smaller selection at the Whole Foods locations dotted all over the city.

Last but by no means least I loved my visit to Georgetown Liquor Co, everything from the dive bar atmosphere and fantastic company to the friendly staff and delicious food was perfect.

I was lucky enough to meet Anika from Seattle Vegan Score at Vida Vegan Con and she got a group of friends (including Dawn from Vegan Moxie) together for brunch and gave us a ride down south to Georgetown so that Randi and I could try the much talked about Picard sandwich.

Obviously it was brunch so there had to be booze. I actually don't drink that often (compared to most Brit's!) but I find it hard to resist a good cocktail and this Cranberry Crush really jumped out at me. A mix of vodka, cranberry and orange with a splash of gingerale this drink reminded me of a classier more delicious version of the Sex On the Beach cocktails I used to drink as a teenager, what a perfect start to a weekend morning.

The brunch menu looked so amazing that Randi & I decided to share two things, the famous Picard Sandwich...

...and Hogthrob's Breakfast Sandwich.

Both plates were delicious but I can tell why so many people (okay, mainly Stephanie!) rave about The Picard. This sandwich is made up of a toasted ciabatta bun stuffed full of lentil sage Field Roast slices, roasted red onions and creamy roasted garlic spread and it comes with an au jus dipping sauce that really elevates this sandwich to the next level.

The breakfast sandwich whilst overshadowed by the ridiculously epic Picard was also excellent and it would be a stand out dish at any dining establishment. This sandwich is veganised with a tofu egg and vegan mozzarella alongside the 'ham' or 'sausage', we went with ham. It was served on a perfectly toasted English muffin and we loved the roasted potato and fruit sides.

Next time I'm in Seattle I'll be heading straight from the airport to Georgetown so that I can eat The Picard again. I really enjoyed spending time in Seattle and I managed to eat my way around a fair few of their vegan-friendly dining establishments, look out for posts about Plum Bistro, Razzi's, Pizza Pi, Bamboo Garden, The Highline and Sidecar Grocery coming soon.