Category Archives: US

The Top 5 Cities in the US to go on a Taco Cleanse

1) Austin Texas

Smoked Brisket taco with Cabbage Slaw from Rockin Vegan Tacos

I’m sure this will come as a surprise to no one but Austin Texas is both the place where the taco cleanse was founded and the city that has more delicious tacos than anywhere in the country. With restaurants trying everything from brisket tacos, to jackfruit bbq, terrayaki soy curls, Vietnamese tofu tacos, puffy tacos and of course hundreds of breakfast taco spots, Austin Texas is the place to be if you are going full on FUEGO.

2) Los Angeles California

corn battered zucchini ranch tacos from seed kitchen

Even though the taco cleanse was invented in Austin Texas if there is any town that knows how to cleanse it’s LA home of celebrities and some of the best tacos around. Like Austin they also have tons of taco trailers so you don’t have to look far to find Baja Avocado tacos, portebello tacos, and even raw corn tortilla tacos.

3) Chicago Illinois

El Nuevo Mexicano

If you haven’t been to Chicago lately book a trip soon, they have some of the most wonderful decadent food around so it’s the perfect place to go on a taco cleanse. Places like Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur have traditional carnitas and asada de soya tacos and old favorites like the Chicago Diner keep it real with pulled pork tacos and Handlebar’s Fried avocado tacos. I loved El Nuevo Mexicao which has amazing Tacos de Proteina Estilo San Pancho and it’s the perfect spot to get your margaritas in as well.

4) San Francisco and the Bay Area


flaco’s tacos by Erika Larson

Gracias Madre has the best California style Mexican food I’ve ever had but the tacos don’t stop there. Erika Larson tell me that there is also “Flaco’s is an all-vegan Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, CA. They make their own corn tortillas (which you can also buy) and the taco topping is seasoned soy protein ‘carnitas.’ Not pictured are their world-famous and habit-developing taquitos.” Although you can’t enjoy taquitos on a cleanse you can certainly get them any other time.

5) Pa’ia on the island of Maui

Even though Maui is pretty far from Mexico tacos have made their presence known. Maui Tacos is a chain that is throughout the islands and California that has plenty of cleansing options. Pa’ia is also home to a tex-mex restaurant,  cafe Mambo  with many tofu options and one of the greatest grocery stores in the world Mana Foods. It’s a short drive anywhere else on the island where you can find plenty of raw food restaurants and health food stores as well. Plus tacos on Maui are better than tacos in the other 49 states because it’s Hawaii.


Drove to Chicago…

The dogs love summering in Illinois and now that I have a functional vehicle we decided it was high time they get a vacation away from their hard life of snoozing and standing at open doors deciding if they want to go in our out.

After the long car ride filled beagle antics we finally got to the city late and went to Handlebar for some nachos and fried pickles to share and I got the buffalo po’boy.

I think the garlic mashed potatoes were my favorite part, The next day after discussing where to brunch FOREVER I finally said the words “Chicago Diner” enough times to make it happen. Once I got there I was a like a vegan at the Chicago Diner and my sister kept telling me to calm down. We went to the new location in Logan Square and I was thrilled by the new digs, plus it was easy to get to and no wait!

The first thing I did was order a shamrock shake because HEAVEN!

Then I tried to decide if we needed poutine and wings. I am glad we got both cause they were so freaking good. The wings at the Chicago Diner are the best I’ve ever had, everyone loved them.

It was my first time trying poutine and I was so excited that I just took a blurry picture that I will only link too and dug right in. Your imagination will be enough anyway, french fries, cheese sauce, gravy, and bacon will either sound disgustingly awful or disgustingly awesome depending on where you fall on the spectrum but I loved it! When I found out a food truck in Austin called Potato.A just just opened I even wrote them and asked for a vegan version so we can have it all the time. It turns out they are super nice and are going to look into it! Poutine for everyone! I think I had a chicken sandwich too but I couldn’t eat more than a bite at that point before wrapping it up to taking it home. We went shopping on Milwaukee and I picked up some new galaxy leggings only to find out that my Star Trek wine had simultaneously arrived to match my outfit!

The next day I was so tired that the most I could do was Native Foods takeout. Lucky for us Lana lives just a couple blocks away so I got the soul bowl again. It’s totally become my go to after partying too hard in Chicago. It’s the perfect take out! Rice and beans, lots of veggies, and ranch, barbecue, and chicken skewers to make the whole thing exciting.

The next morning we went out to Hash Chicago and I asked for the Humboldt veganized-  hashbrowns, hominy, black beans, soyrizo, salsa, fried plantains, and avocado. I have to make this combo into a tofu scramble at home because it was great. I love hominy and I think I only ever use it in posole.

Later that day we had the thrill of taking the dogs to Dog Beach! I had been telling them about it for ages but they are dogs so they didn’t know what I was talking about. It took forever  for us to find parking but when we did and Dinger got on that sand and started running my heart melted. He loved it!

He ran right up to the water to get a drink and then the wave came at him and he JUMPED BACK. He was not happy about that at all it was so funny.

Dog beach is pretty much the most hilarious place on earth. I think it’s the most dogs I have ever seen at one place and they are all having a blast. Unfortunately so many people were enjoying food on the beach that there was no way I could let the beagles off leash even though it is fenced off. If there is a scrap of food my dogs will find it, even if they have to go through your bags to get it.

On our last morning in the city I walked down with Dan to get coffee at Wormhole– where he had gotten coffee every single day- and snapped the requisite smurf & succulent instagram which then someone later informed me on that Wormhole has vegan doughnuts! I didn’t know, they aren’t labeled!!!! What a complete and total nightmare, to have doughnuts that close and not even know, it kills me.

I stopped at Native Foods one last time before hitting the skyway to Indiana and tried the Indo Bowl, I really liked the seasoned tempeh, fresh vegetables, peanuts and rice noodles. I wish Native Foods were along every interstate in the country.

Dinger and I stopped to visit my Dad and we took a little trip to the Indiana Sand Dunes where Dinger was no longer impressed by the beach- been there done that. My Dad showed off by climbing on the lifeguard chair.

They took us to a cute restaurant in Valparaiso, Meditrina Market Cafe where I got a really nice Mediterranean pita pizza.

I learned that Valpariaso is also the home of Orville Redenbacher 

Dinger and I drove to Merrillville to visit more family and then down to Springfield to reunite with Willow and Dan and stop at our favorite Thai Restaurant.

The next day we were off again headed west.

In a couple of weeks I’m flying back to California so if it’s quiet around here that’s why. I really want to bring Dinger on the plane, I hope I can figure out how to make it happen!

Portland, Astoria, and the Oregon Coast

Whenever I travel north I check the weather and try and pack accordingly. Somehow I always end up with sandals and sundresses and have to borrow clothes from everyone I know. Lucky for me, I know a lot of people in Oregon that can both lend me clothes and somehow put up with all my whining. The same people drive me around the city and the countryside, build forts for me to relax in, and lounge around spas with me.  It’s no wonder why it’s hard to come home. I planned my trip to Oregon by way of New York thinking that surely ten days would be enough time. It never is. My first food stop, as usual, was the flavor spot for a dutch taco, for those uninitiated that breakfast sausage and maple cream folded into a perfect waffle.

Also as usual we finished the waffle and immediately wanted another one because they are so damn delicious but instead we headed over to pick up another friend for our trip to the Oregon Coast. Leesha wasn’t quite ready yet so Hannah and I waited for a nearby bar to open and came in with the other Tuesday morning regulars.

the open sign as a lie AT FIRST

After the beautiful drive and seeing the sights of the coast in the laziest way possible we made it to the Ft. George Brewery in Astoria for some much needed drinking. It was, after all, really cold out.

The best part about drinking at a brewery is you can just say, “one of each please” and you can try it all. “One of each” actually became a theme later in the week with food as well. After drinking we wandered around Astoria a little more.

The shops all closed at 5 so we really had no choice but to head to another bar, this time on the docks where I could keep my eyes peeled on the water searching for whales. When a sea creature finally did breach I yelled “a walrus” but later learned that Oregon is not in the actual arctic and it was indeed a sea lion.

Since I was sharing pics on Instagram I kept getting tips on other places to go and we got to see the goonies house.
And while we were up there we could hear the barking of more sea lions below and I soon found myself breaking onto private property with two random little girls to come and take this shot.

It was amazing.

The next day, I spent a long time laying in bed looking at the weather outside, too scared to get out of bed. Watching Joanna’s Instagramming made me want to check out Junior’s cafe and my friend Claire picked me up and we went..

We had an awesome sassy waitress and I definitely enjoyed the Vegan potatoes with vegetables and tofu sauce. And toast with marionberry jam. I love that every single place in Portland has homemade jam and secret aardvark sauce. Also, I learned that all servers in the state of Oregon are happy to tell you what is vegan and gluten free. Even if you don’t ask, they intuit that you are omitting dairy products and suddenly say, “hey that bread has milk products in it”. Here you can’t even ask about bread at places like Whole Foods without getting the ole “girl you be crazy” eyes.

After filling up on an excessive amount of food and coffee Claire and I headed to the Loyly spa for some much needed heat and lounging about. It was here that I decided I needed to open an inexpensive lounging spa in Austin, but what would be the hot weather equivalent of a good steam? A fancy walk in freezer? Super cold cucumber misters? I have to figure the details out, I can promise there will be hammocks and a swim-up bar. Loyly was lovely, vegan friendly and, I think 15 dollars to hang out in the steam room, the dry sauna, the showers, and the lounging area. Masks and massages were extra. I was able to raise my core temperature enough to make it through the day.

Later that night my Vida Vegan week unofficially started when I met Jojo, Randi, and Mandi at Portobello where we ate pretty much everything on the entire menu.

Everything was amazing, I love their gnocchi 

But the potato pizza might have been my favorite. Or the beet tartare. Or the salted caramel sundae with homemade coconut whip and toasted pine nuts. It’s hard to say.

So that’s my pre-con fun, stay tuned and be amazed by all the things I ate in the following days. I still can’t believe it.

New York: The City So Nice They Named It Twice*

When it’s been summer for a while in Texas it’s hard to remember what it’s like everywhere else. “No pants” kind of becomes a way of life. To put it succinctly, I packed all wrong for my trip to the north starting with upstate New York. Swacket totally lied to me saying that I’d be comfortable in jeans and a hoodie when I would have been happier with snowpants and a heavier jacket than I own. I mean, it’s the end of May! Also, I never learn. The nice part about the change in temperature was that it was just the starting moments of spring and everything was in bloom. We got off the plane at Newark and made our way to Ethiopian food at Lalibela‘s as soon as was humanly possible.

We had such warm service and it was a cute place but even though there were more vegetarian options, I have to say I like the Ethiopian places in Austin better. Lately it seems like they have just been popping up everywhere. We must have at least five by my count.

We headed up to Hudson on what I thought would be a two hour car ride, 6 hours later found us checking in to our sweet Air B&B house and meeting with our friends to start celebrating the next days wedding which was to be at a beautiful spot right on the Hudson river.

In the morning we drove across the river, through the town of Rip Van Winkle, and onward to the Love Bites Cafe which I thought was particularly apropos on a wedding day. (PS, lately I have been totally overusing the word apropos. It’s really fun to say. PPS I always totally overuse the word totally even though I’m not an 1980s california valley girl. I totally don’t know where this comes from.) We arrived in Saugerties, an adorable town with a ridiculous name, and settled in for another very expensive meal. Why is everything in New York so expensive? I mean, I get it in the city but every place we went was pricey and nothing was Texas sized.

I got the sweet potato hash which was pretty rad, although I could have used more greens…and more potatoes. 

We trucked back over the Hudson to Hudson to get ready and found the beautiful wedding spot.

Jen and Ian are so in love and I am so happy for them! If you live in New York and are interested in placenta encapsulation she is totally your girl. We had fun with masks and they had a delicious Mexican spread with tons and tons of vegan options so it didn’t end up mattering that my breakfast wasn’t lumberjack style.

The next day I had breakfast at Earth Foods and I still wish I could take it back. I know better than to order a tofu scramble that is described as having ginger, tamari, and sesame. Having tamari listed on the menu immediately signals that you are somewhere with a 1970s approach to veg food. Surely, you can put those items in a tofu scramble, but clueless restaurants try it, it’s always kind of… disappointing. Anyway we weren’t there for the food in the first place so I wasn’t even thinking of this as an “eat everything in sight trip” until my instagram friend Dianne reminded me that Lagusta’s Luscious was right on the way down to the city. Holy shit. The Motherland.


I instantly turned into a vegas style high roller and I said to Dan, get whatever you want it’s on me. It was overwhelming. They had baked goods.

Chocolate bars, and things covered in chocolate. 

And so many handmade chocolate truffles.

We got the chocolate pyramid, the apple carmel, the croissant infused carmel, the furious vulva and more.

I think the chocolate turtle was my favorite.

Lagusta is in New Paltz which seemed like a serious hippie town. But maybe that’s just because we went to Karma Road for lunch.

Imagine friendly dreadie types, quotes from the Dali Lama, pictures of farm animals, and magazines about the healing power of flowers, with the dead softly playing and you will have a good idea what this place is like. We were really confused about the ordering process and ended up with a smattering of warmed up deli food which ended up being ridiculously expensive but luckily VERY tasty.

Then it was onward ho to Manhattan to meet up with some old friends at a micro falafel place called TaïmTaim

When I saw they had green olive falafel I think my heart skipped a beat. It was delicious.

We stayed the night with another friend in Brooklyn who took me to Bagel World in the morning. Bagels are one thing you just can’t really get in Texas so I was stoked for a New York bagel. When I saw the hand written sign; “this way to bagel paradise” with all the tofutti I knew I was in the right place.

I opted for scallion cream cheese on a poppy seed with olives aka what I would eat every single day of my life if I lived in New York. This blog would be about bagels then instead of breakfast tacos.

As much as I loved this bagel I’d rather be in Texas. Our food carts would never have a line like this.

That’s right, I went to the Cinnamon Snail, and after waiting in the line that seemed to last the better part of the day I learned that the cart was cash only and I only had seven dollars. In Austin this would be enough for a meal but in New York the best I could do was a couple of doughnuts. It all sounded so good. Maybe we can get them to drive down for Texas VegFest somehow? I doubt it, they probably make a killing. (not literally because they are so vegan) The doughnut was good and I was glad to have it on my cross country flight to Oregon which will be the next post. For now I will go back to enjoying New York on the screen.


vegan cream PUFFS OF DOOM

A while back one of my oldest friends told me she was starting a small cream puff business in Chicago called Puffs of Doom. When she told me she was going to have vegan cream puffs I was really excited and thought there would be a token puff I would one day get to try on a trip to my home state. I followed her new company on twitter and on the facebook and I watched her business grow and get recognition from all kinds of fancy foodie press, even the Today Show covered them! The many different kinds of vegan puffs all sounded unique and delicious, she has creamy chocolate ones and noochy savory ones like potato curry. Seeing the puffs filled me with longing but it wasn’t until last spring when my other friend was having a bridal shower that I finally got to try them.

I was blown away.

So was Amanda who ended up having them at her wedding (along with a cake from Capital City Bakery)

I started begging Becky to ship some out to me but she was only selling them at farmer’s markets and coffee shops in Chicago. Finally, this Valentine’s day it happened, I got a giant package of puffs in the mail.

I wanted to save them to eat with Dan when he got out of work late but I had to take photos while it was still light out… and then I couldn’t resist. I tried the Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso and I had to close my eyes and let the world just stop. It was kind of like a cross between a Boston cream pie doughnut and a rich flaky croissant. The best of both worlds.

I thought, “I should really bring some to Kristen she would love these” quickly followed by “That would mean less puffs for me” and “I wonder how many I could eat before Dan noticed some were missing”. And they were his Valentine’s Day surprise!

The puffs brought out the worst in me!

And in Dan too. He tried them late when he got home from work and then, the next day told me to leave work early so we could eat them together. I mentioned our friend was coming for the weekend and he said “hide them!”. When I got home he told me I would love the chocolate peanut butter…and I did.

He said, “I didn’t think I’d like the Strawberry Champagne but it is amazing and has, like, a whole strawberry in there”… it does…

And the Oreo…oh the Oreo

and, oh yeah, Espresso Chocolate

We talked about joining the “puff of the month” club and knew that would never be enough. Maybe a Puff of the week club? We talked about moving to Chicago. Dan said they were the best dessert he ever had. And this kid loves his dessert more than just about anything.

I recommend you try them.

Or, maybe be better off for never having known true puffed out bliss.

I’d rather have the perfect moment.

Chicago, you win this round.

Everyone’s your friend in New York City

Last week I suddenly took a trip to NYC to stay with my Dad in the hospital after his heart attack He’s doing really well. We are already talking about kale and yoga and all the other things that he is excited to integrate into his life. I was totally surprised that the hospital served him fried chicken, roast beef, and ice cream. What the hell? Isn’t that, kind of, the OPPOSITE of what you should be eating?

It was a tough trip for me, I was pretty stressed out already before this happened and being worried about my Dad was just adding to the anxiety. Also, I am not a big city girl. Lately you can hear me complain quite often about the fact that the pace of life in Austin has gotten too dang fast and that it just isn’t as chill as it used to be. What happened to slackertown? This trip sure put things in perspective. In New York it’s like you are always in the middle of a sea of humanity. I spent way too much time underground.

I bet I was at this station 96 times

On the other hand, I hadn’t been to New York in quite a while and I was 100% stoked to go to the most vegan friendly city in the ole USA. Even more than that, I was excited to be reunited with my old breakfast bff; the bagel. The first one I had with hummus and kalamata olives was all that I could ever hope for. I also love that in New York the small coffees are actually small!

I got to stay with one of my most favorite people and his super adorable fiance in Brooklyn and they took me to the hipster part so I could compare and contrast Williamsburg with Wicker Park and East Austin.

They also went with me to Wild Ginger which I had heard many good things about but found pretty so so. I’d compare it more closely to Austin’s Veggie Heaven than Portland’s Lucky Strike. We shared the fried tofu skins which were pretty good. 

Then I got the Citrus Seitan because it had kale and sounded good. I like that it came with an orchid, it was like being in the tropics! But the seitan was a little gummy and the dish was over sauced Chinese take out style. It was fine, just not what I was expecting.

The next morning I got off the train at the hospital just as my lovely sister was getting in to town and I immediately dragged her to Absolute Bagel, which was only a block away. There was a line down the street! She immediately wanted to leave but I figured if you are in a city that has, probably over a thousand places to get bagels and there is one with a huge line, it must be worth the wait. It was vegan bagel heaven inside. Fresh bagels were coming in like popcorn at the movie theater. There were, like, ten flavors of tofutti including green olive. *swoon* This is the very bagel that I made at home, poppy with green olive cream cheese. I have to go to two stores and my kitchen to make it happen. 

As I did the day before, I spent most of my time with my Dad. But his procedure was such a success that they let him go and we spent the afternoon helping him to Staten Island. The fun part of New York is that everything seems familiar. 

And you can’t help but see the sights as you go from A to B. Well, as long as you are above ground. 

After getting my Dad settled I somehow convinced my sister to go to Moo Shoes and look at vegan boots and then we went to an adorable bar Casa Mezcal for fantastic cocktails. We had the cutest hobbit bartender and we loved the drinks. Then we headed over to Candle 79 for a fancy vegan dinner. We ordered the mushroom fricassee to start and I liked it’s earthy simplicity. My sister tried the butternut raviolies which we actually giant whole wheat raviolos. We liked my entrée a lot more. I went for the famous seitan piccatta and it was all it’s cracked up to be. Oh the creamed spinach, the mashed potatoes, and that glorious tangy lemony sauce. It was addictive. It would be hard to order anything else there. 

To finish I wanted cannoli but Lana wasn’t nearly as excited about the novelty of vegan cannoli and was dying for the peanut butter mousse. 

It was delightfully smooth and rich. I want to make both recipes from the Candle 79 cookbook which I have at home and haven’t made one thing from yet. I have no excuse either because it is a gorgeous book and I want to make everything. After all that fabulous dining, wine, and mezcal I had to get up at 5:30 am to catch a flight. It was strange getting on the train in the middle of the night and emerging at the airport in the light of day. 

I was so happy to be home and so happy my Dad is doing so well and that I got to see my friends and my sister.


Please god, no more trips! No more family emergencies! No leaving Austin…until our upcoming trip to Mexico.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Camp Swisher and another trip to Portland OR

My multiple trips to Portland have gotten almost ridiculous. People say things to me like “Oh I forget that you don’t live here” and “Will you be back for…?” and “You missed Star Trek in the Park?”. I never get tired of the Northwest though, my friends, the trees, the rain and the sausage stuffed waffles, the chicken fried tempeh, and of course the donuts. Oh, I ate so many donuts. 

I tried some places I’ve never been to before. I absolutely loved the Kung Pao Tofu and the Braised Spicy Ginger Eggplant at Lucky Strike and will go back next time to try more. Their tofu custard had these lovely little roasted soy nuts but otherwise was a total bust. Down the street I also got to try the El Beardo Scramble at Jam on Hawthorne. I had never been there before and I loved it. God those hashbrowns, the red pepper sauce, and the homeade JAM! The best part was the service, I think I had the most vegan friendly server in my history of being vegan. She just asked every question you could ever fathom. It made me so happy. She even let me add olives. And gave me a vegan english muffin with earth balance. It was breakfast bliss. 

I tried a little cart called Sonny Bowl downtown and had such a Portland ibowl: rice, barbecued soy curls, yams, kale with tahini sauce, and chow mein noodles. I wish I could go back in time clean up the sauce on the side of that bowl though. It’s just not worth photoshopping. Then I’d get to eat it again too, blogging makes me so hungry you guys.


While downtown I got to see all kinds of different art and I finally got to go to Ground Kontrol. They had a Star Trek TNG pinball game!!! We were so excited to play but the game just wanted to steal our money. The guy came to fix it and then he got so sucked in we didn’t even get a chance to have at it. We just watched him for a while and then went to find another one! I felt like a little kid. 

Another place that I finally got to check out was the Sweet Hereafter, a super styley vegan bar is southeast. I loved my pretzels with noochy sauce. They made me want to try everything on the food side of the menu. On the other side, I was a not a fan of the gigantic cocktail which feels weird to even type! What the hell? It just wasn’t mixed right, maybe if I’d been drinking all day it would have been better but that’s not much of a recommendation, tasty cocktails if you are wasted!  I’m sure it was a fluke.


After spending the weekend freezing my Texas ass off on the coast all I wanted for my last day was to get back to town, soak in warm water at the Kennedy school and get some delicious Vietnamese noodle soup. This time I tried Got Pho on Sandy blvd and it was tasty enough to completely satisfy my craving. The broth wasn’t anything special but once I got all the toppings and condiments mixed in I was slurping like crazy. The best part was the fried garlic and roasted peanuts for a topping. And also the totally compostable coconut water. The perfect spot for the hungover. 

And why was I hungover you may ask? Well the truth is I didn’t just go to Portland to stuff myself silly but actually went to see two of my most favorite people in the universe tie the knot during a camping wedding on the coast. I’d never been to the Oregon coast before and it was stunning, it almost looked like Hawaii.

A much colder version of Hawaii. My friends spared no expense and paid such attention to detail that we were totally overwhelmed with love all weekend. After taking a boat to the island campsite we all got flashlights, and Camp Swisher T-Shirts and souvenir pint glasses and walked through the sand to get to our cabins before the first of many meals. 
It was summer camp to the point that Friday night we had a talent show so Dan & I worked on our Biz Markie megamix for the first part of the evening which ended up going over really well. There were toasts and songs and s’mores and they even had sweet and sara marshmallows which I’d never had before but now will get every time I go camping. The next day the ceremony was right on the beach and it was just perfect. Then we went for more drinking and toasting and of course it was super vegan friendly because even though I was the only vegan there my friends are the shit. Plus look at them!!! They are the cutest.

I might have over did it on the wine just a tad. I was not a late night super star this time but I just had the best time. I was all set to move back to the northwest and open a vegan breakfast taco stand. Then we landed in Austin and I felt that sultry September air embrace me and I knew I could never leave forever. But I’ll think about you Portland every day. I love you all and your doughnuts.


Sacramento- the City of Trees and vegans

After driving up the coast for a while we made a sudden turn into the central valley of California and I got to see where so much of our food in this country comes from. We passed so many tomato and garlic trucks that I started to crave marinara sauce. In fact, I later had a tofu scramble covered in marinara sauce in Sacramento. I would not recommend it. I had never been to the capital of California and when we finally got there I was really surprised by how beautiful it is. They call it the City of Trees I think probably because they are in the most perfect spot in the world where you can grow every kind of tree. Redwoods grow alongside orange trees and there are sprawling sycamore trees behind stately rows of pines. I’ve never seen such a mix mash of trees, it was wonderful. Sacramento also has lots of beautiful old houses and one even contains a vegan restaurant. 

Sugar Plum vegan cafe was just a few blocks from my Mom’s new place and it’s an adorable spot. Plus they are totally dog friendly. We sat on the front patio and I had the tacos. I tried three different kinds, barbecued tofu, chipotle mushroom, and the spicy greens and I liked all three of them. They were spicy and delicious and the only drawback was the tortilla. But I guess I have become a total tortilla snob.My mom ordered the Reuben and was happy too.

The Whoopie pie was a disappointing end to the meal. I’m pretty sure it was a day old at least and that a fresh one would have been great. 

Another day we went to a Mexican restaurant also in midtown called Zocalo and I  had some delicious vegetable enchiladas. It was a nice spot to go with my mom who was a good sport about going to vegan restaurants but was definitely getting over it. They brought out the most giant molcajete of guacamole which I later slathered on my vegetable enchiladas. Overall it was a great meal and I’d go back for sure. 

I think I was most excited about trying the vegan doughnuts at Doughbot which are apparently made by someone who used to work at my beloved Voodoo donuts in Portland. I really enjoyed them but was so disappointed by the vegan selection. All the really exciting flavors were dairy and they don’t even have chocolate donuts! For shame Doughbots! I had the glazed, the peanut butter and the pink lemonade and all were floury and delicious. Doughbots is just walking distance to the Sunday Farmer’s Market which I whole heatedly recommend. It seemed like miles and miles of stunning produce. 

I also got to try Andy Nguyens which was probably my favorite spot in Sacramento that I went to. The exterior doesn’t seem particularly encouraging and then the menu was filled with menu items like “Inner Peace Noodles” (Vietnames Bún) and “Limitless Compassion” (Mongolian Beef). Despite the shtick everything I had was fabulous. 

These coconut bathed noodles with fried tofu and shallots were so comforting and delicious. My mom’s meal was tasty as well and a really good deal for a lunch meal. I’ll definitely be back.My last night in California we crossed over the bay to San Francisco where I finally got to try Millennium with one of my favorite people. 

We tried one of everything and the only thing I can even remember now is the fried green heirloom tomatoes. This is what happens when I don’t take pictures! It was a beautiful meal and I’m sure to go back when I go back to California. Next time I’m flying. 

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.


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!