The problem with the Vida Vegan conference is that there are just too many things going on at any one time that I want to do. It was kind of like SXSW except there wasn’t also a bunch of stuff I don’t care about and a zillion extra people. There were so many friends to see, friends to make, things to eat, classes to go to, panels to argue about, privilege to recognize, people to hug, cocktails to drink, shit to talk, #westagrams to take, and places to go that it was just overwhelming. I was so excited that my energy level was higher than it’s probably been in years and I was fluttering about like a hummingbird.
And I am terrified of hummingbirds.
It seemed like every couple hours someone said, “Do you want to go eat some amazing food with me?” and I think I always said yes. Lesson 1: If you see something eat something became the motto of the week. For example, after eating nearly everything on the menu at Portabello with friends one night, I ate an entire pizza there -by myself- with other friends the next night. That was after eating stuffed baked potatoes and a gigantic beer at the White Owl Social club and squeezing in a show Star Trek into Darkness.
This was also the point in my life where I learned the very tough Lesson 2: the so-called “Laziest Vegan” is a complete sham. Well, I guess he isn’t a complete sham since he’s vegan but apparently the “laziest” part was never supposed to mean him. John claims he doesn’t even watch TV because he’s too busy running and doing god knows what else. I can assure that some of us in the lazy vegan community take the moniker very seriously and you won’t find any of that kind of tomfoolery here.
The next day I drove Kristen and a couple of Lauras to the A.N.D cafe via the most convoluted path possible through the city and topped it off with what was probably the worst parking job of my life. Driving in Portland is actually really fun because everyone drives so slowly and friendly that just a bit of aggression gets you everywhere super fast. After embarrassing myself in front of the entire cafe which had large windows facing my parking spot we all had variations on bennedicts, the waffle bennedict, the hot mess, the bennies in a mess and I think the meatloaf bennedict.
I had the straight up bennedict but immediately wondered why I didn’t get the waffle. Ordering at such vegan friendly places can be confusing. Lesson 3: when presented with a waffle option never waffle, get the waffle!
After the conference we headed to Departure for Laura’s birthday. I had never even heard of Departure but Isa said it’s the best and as vegans we are required to listen to her. Lesson 4, obvs, Isa is always right so it worked out. We pored over the amazing vegan menu forever but in the end we decided to just have Isa order for everyone. Except I demanded the free edamame that was coming to me from checking into foursquare.
I needn’t have worried about going hungry.
The waiter told us to get 2-4 items per person so we rounded that up to four and suddenly a massive amount of food was coming out of the restaurant. I mean, the kitchen staff and waiters were coming by our table to check out who the fuck was eating so much.
I remember getting the Asian Pear and Apple Salad, the Sweet Potato Tempura Roll, the Udon Noodles, the Kimchi Fried Rice, and maybe Brussels Sprouts? Bao? The whole experience is kind of hazy like something out of a dream. Each plate we tried seemed better than the last. Then we had three waiters come to make us three orders of bibimbap simultaneously.
There were BBQ tempeh buns
and then the killer, especially at an omnivore restaurant: Noochi Sushi.
Lesson 4 Nutritional Yeast can belong in the most unexpected places.
How could something seem so wrong but taste so right? When they brought some bananas tempura or something as a birthday treat I could have cried and it wasn’t even my birthday. Really one of the best meals ever. We were planning on going out for Karaoke afterwards but I think almost everyone had to go directly to bed. I know I did.
The next day I went to more panels and then at lunch I finally got to try the Veggie Grill, I opted for the country fried chicken, greens, and mashed potatoes.
It was the best veggie chicken I have ever had. I started to wonder, why does Portland Oregon have such better southern vegan options? After some discussion I started freaking out about the time and walked quickly back to the convention center, I was terrified that I would miss the game show. I found my way to a table in the front row where I hurriedly put my name in to be a contestant and win fabulous prizes. Waiters were walking around with so delicious ice cream bars and just as I got mine my name was called. That was what the whole weekend was like. Lesson 5: You don’t have to run to get ahead.
As far as the game went I sucked but my team, “The Mother Forking Destroyers” totally won. Probably because we intimidated the hell out of the other team. There is a picture of me on the lil foxes challenging Ashlee to name 15 vegan blogs in 30 seconds…and she did. I tried do it later on my own not even on stage and I couldn’t! 30 seconds isn’t a lot of time! Anyway it was super fun and the rest of the afternoon was filled with more panels (yes folks I did go to panels) until we ran off to the Homegrown Smoker for vegan barbecue.
I can kind of get how Portland has good Southern food, we do have some good options here in ATX as well. But what truly blows my mind is that I live in the so called “most vegan friendly city in the country” AND home of the best barbecue in the world and I have to go to the PACIFIC NORTHWEST to get some authentic vegan barbecue. This is a problem Austin. I mean, I know it’s tradition to kill animals but you can smoke some freaking tempeh, it’s not going to kill you, or anybody else for that matter! (Unless, I guess, there is some sort of freak smoker accident but that could happen no matter what.) Lesson 6 Austin isn’t the best at everything. The whole menu at Homegrown is amazing but half our table stuck with the infamous macnocheeto.
I tried the buffalo soy curls because I love soy curls and Molly had already had a buffalo sandwich earlier and promised herself she wouldn’t get another one. She did give me a STFU puppy and for that I will always be grateful.
After filling up on vegan barbecue we headed over to the central industrial eastside district for the gala benefiting the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. Laura went to go sleep behind a warehouse while Kristen got her brownies ready and Molly and I made our way to the Portland Brewing Company.
The gala was great, Mo was dancing, items were auctioned, sundaes were eaten and westagrams were taken.
We had planned to go to karaoke the night before and never made it so a plan was put into action. As soon as I got to the karaoke bar I was proud to see the Texas delegation in the front row wildly applauding this guy:
I got to sing Yoda and witness a million brilliant performances from, what seemed to be, most of the conference attendees. It was super fun but I ended up sleeping in the next day and waking up just as Hannah and Ryan were leaving for breakfast. I had wanted to go to the Body Acceptance panel, which is all anyone talked about the rest of the week, but instead I embraced my body’s request for fried tofu and waffles at Hungry Tiger Too. (refer to lesson 2)
Don’t worry, I made it back to the Portland Art Museum just in time for lunch! After the afternoon sessions I couldn’t believe it was all over. I really don’t understand how Jess, Janessa, and Michele put on such and amazing event but they should be applauded wherever they go.
Lesson 7 the organizers of Vida Vegan Con should probably run everything.
After the con a bunch of us went to Dovetail Bakery to work on our new instagram skills and eat more food. Lesson 8 When trying to stage food photos it helps to go to a super cute restaurant that has tons of props that you can just stick in your photos.
And then we finally tried the super modern bowl restaurant, Canteen, which everyone was blogging about.
Lesson 9 a famous swatch and natural light will make all the difference in your food photography
Canteen might be the most truest expression of modern vegan cuisine in that everything is simple, delicious, nutritionally balanced, and in bowl form. And the only condiment around was a nooch shaker. After that we went to yet another vegan bar, The Sweet Hereafter, where more and more vegans kept showing up, from the Texas delegation to the vegan chamber of conference. The Fat Gay Vegan sat down with the ubiquitous pink box of Voodoo doughnuts and I got to shove yet another treat into my belly. Lesson 10: Always make friends with people carrying pink boxes.
Then we headed to the PPK party where Mo was still dancing, Panda was absconding with a towel, and Jess and Julia were ready for dreamland. I covered them up with my official swatches and headed into the night. Lesson 11: No matter where you go at Vida Vegan con, Mo will probably be dancing.
The next day was spent in a questionably constructed but fully functional fort watching Arrested Development. Lesson 12 Always factor in a day of relaxation after any event.
It was a good trip. #VVC2013!
If I put your picture in the blog and you would rather I didn’t let me know on Facebook or twitter or in the comments and I’ll take it down. I feel weird about it but whatever, I have been writing this post for way too long!