on the road: london

london towerI was in London. There was rain. I walked on bridges and ate biscuits and watched “the darts” on TV.

Tom had almost a week between his seminar in London and his course in Nepal, so I flew over and spent as much time as possible touching his face with my face, and the rest of the time looking at old buildings, perfecting my left-side-drive jaywalking, and pinching pennies and pounds.

felafel lunchWe stayed at Think Apartments, basically a hotel where housekeeping only comes in once a week and they have full kitchens. It was about the same price as other hotels, but we got to save a load of cash on food, making our coffee, toasted-breadything breakfasts, and the odd lunch. Trips to Tesco and Whole Foods netted us our vegan margarine, bagels, OJ, falafel, coffee…even coconut creamer. Unfortunately, in the freezer section, pretty much all the vegetarian meats had egg. Except the vegan fish fingers! They were soy-based, shreddy fakey meat, and if we’d been smart enough to pick up some lemon it would have been aces.

While vegetarian is super easy in London, vegan was a little tougher. I kept getting my hopes up, only to have them dashed. One day, in Leadenhall Market, the smell of baked potato lured me into a shop—baked potatoes, especially on a cold, rainy day…well, to be met with the words “only dairy butter” was a real bummer. But I steeled myself, put up my hood, and moved on to what was the only entry on my London to-do list: vegan fish & chips.

coach_and_horses_barOn word from my pal Janessa, I found two versions, the first at The Coach & Horses, London’s first vegetarian pub. What you need to know: You can grab a table in the small street-level bar and your food will come through a (what?!) dumbwaiter. But a bartender can grant you access to the upstairs dining room-slash-bakery. It’s also small but very cute, where cute chicks in cute aprons make scones and pretty cakes.

coach_and_horses_vegan_fish_and_chips

Forgive the candle-lit cameraphone shot!

The vegan fish is a sizable slab of tofu, wrapped in seaweed and battered up but good. My only complaint would be the same one I’d have all over this city: Salt!!!!!!!! I should have carried some with me, because if there’s oil, I need salt. The chips were chips (lightly salted), and the final component was minted peas. I have never eaten peas on purpose, but I was doing as the Londoners do and dug in. Guess what, mint and peas go really well together. Neat and O.

loving_hut_vegan_fish_and_chipsOur second round of fish & chips was at Loving Hut, in Camden. This fish was more of a fakey meat, sitting on a layer of seaweed, then breaded. Overall, this was way more fast-foody, with not-so-exciting chips and (sigh) mintless peas. But it was also half the price and still totally edible and vegan and what I needed to fuel another day of walking and exploring.

cookies_and_screamJust about a half mile from Loving Hut was Cookies & Scream, tucked away in Camden Lock Market, a labyrinth of buildings and awnings jam-packed with vendors of all sorts. I would give you more precise directions, but this is not the way. You must quest for your sweets, and if you are strong and wise, you will be rewarded with vegan milkshakes.

cookies_and_scream_shake

Tom earned an espresso shake and it was a salted caramel for this gal. Sugar. High. And the chocolate doughnut I got was so moist and chocolatey that it was almost a brownie.

canalGoogle Maps won’t tell you this, possibly out of an aversion to long, skinny boats, ducks, and joggers, but a stroll along Regent’s Canal will lead you to Vegan Cross, the vegan grocery/sandwichery/shoe store/t-shirt emporium that is a lesson in small spaces.

vegan_cross_shelvesWe loaded up on Field Roast, cheaper-than-in-America Cheezly, Secret Society of Vegans shirts, and other snacks. I wish I’d been hungry because their (albeit compact) deli was bustin’ with sweets and savories.

And before I knew it or wanted it, the time had come to deliver Tom to his gate and head to mine so we could fly off in opposite directions. Semi-vegan in-flight meals (read the labels, folks), Book Three in the Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) series, and sleep deprivation would carry me home to my little mewing coffee beans.

coffee bean kitties

London, I will be back. I will be armed with my own nooch and salt, I will tour your Tower, and I will remember to put the fancy insoles in my shoes so my feet don’t get all hurty.

finalemofo: cocktails and the quest for the tater tot taco shell

bnb_victrolaHappy last day of VeganMoFo!

It’s been, as is the case with VeganMoFo, a month of successes, failures, and inspiration. One accomplishment I’m very proud of is finally making my own giardiniera…and using said giardiniera on Italian seitan “beef” sandwiches. One failure I did not share with you was the vegan s’mores waffle, a waffle topped with way too much chocolate and marshmallow. I ate it, but the sugar made me so crazy that my cats hid from me—I just didn’t think it was right to put that sort of destruction on the Internet.

And one task I have set up for myself, which I really wanted to perfect and share with you by the end of MoFo, is the Tater Tot taco shell, or the totilla. My Vida Vegan partner Janessa mentioned it and I figured it couldn’t be too tough, so I accepted the challenge. And I’m getting closer. Experimenting with different binding recipes and cooking methods, I expect to figure it out before too long—and believe you me, you’ll know when I do! It’ll be the breakfast tacos to end all breakfast tacos.

But when my latest attempt failed this evening, after a very long day, I told Tom that I could really go for a cocktail, so it was off to the Bye & Bye. Pictured up top is the Victrola, tart and smart.

bye_and_bye_cocktailThe rest of these photos are going to be a bit grainy, and I apologize. We were in the very dim back patio, and all I had was my phone.

Here’s the signature Bye & Bye, which Tom started off with and I chose as my second cocktail. Anyone who has never ordered one of these, it is deceptively sweet and delicious. It will knock you on your butt if you are not careful.

bnb_meatball_sandwichWhile I almost always get the grilled cheese (rarely straying), Tom has 100% always ordered the Weeping Tiger tofu sandwich. Until tonight. He went with the “meat”ball sub and was not displeased. It normally comes topped with almond parm, but that could potentially kill him (nut allergy!), so they swapped in some Daiya.

empty_bye_and_bye_cocktailAnd, finally, empty glasses on a rainy night, bringing a delightful end to a very long, very stressful day. Good company and good food—I just couldn’t be happier with where I am. (Thank you, Tom and Portland and the Bye & Bye.) A pretty nice end to the Vegan Month of Food.

onionmofo: monster bialy for breakfast

bialy_coffeeOnion. Poppy seed. Olive oil. Bread. Plug that into your food pyramid.

This morning I could not get out of bed. I felt like I was falling, I was being pushed down so hard into my mattress—gravity was way more on its game than I was. But Tom knew what to do: “If you drive me to work, we can stop on the way and I’ll buy you a bialy.” Where are my pants?!

What is it that’s so special about the bialy? It’s not just a flat bagel with onion stuffed in the hole. It’s stretchy and chewy and airy, like focaccia, and come on, onion and poppy seed? Oops, my European heritage is showing.

I keep meaning to make this at home, but every recipe I’ve read mentions that they’re only good when they’re really fresh. I’ve only gotten them in the morning, and obviously, they don’t lay around too long. Maybe I could shape them and store them in the freezer, baking only what I need when I need it.

And as for coffee with onion, I take it as a sign I’ve finally grown up. Coffee alongside hot peppers, onion, and other savory treats feels so damn adult. Coffee and cake is easy; only a mature coffee drinker can handle such a pairing. Either that or I’m just an addict and I’ll drink coffee with anything. i thank you in advance for your withholding judgment.

 

fundingmofo: austin’s capital city bakery is growing up

capital_city_bakery_buildingI got to visit Kristen Davenport’s Capital City Bakery cart on a Vida Vegan scouting trip to Austin—after drooling over her Instagram photos, I’m happy to report they would not disappoint.

In the short time it’s been open, Capital City has won all sorts of awards, been featured on TV, and has reached the point where she just can’t keep up with demand, doing what she can during off-hours in a rental kitchen. Girl needs her own kitchen!

So she’s building one. Kristen found a space in East Austin, which is super cool and home to some vegan neighbors, and she’s running a Kickstarter to help equip the kitchen. And it’s almost over! As I type this, she’s got just over a day and a half to go. Don’t you worry for a minute she hasn’t made her goal—of course she has—but every dollar above this helps.

image-317232-fullEven if you don’t live in Austin, there are backing perks for everyone, including a T-shirt designed by Herbivore Clothing‘s Josh Hooten. Personally, I went with the 6-pack of cupcakes…which I will just have to pick up the next time I’m in Austin. Because there will be a next time. This city is so fun, with loads to do, and plenty of vegan treats.

So do consider helping. Kristen’s laid out a few stretch goals, including one that’s already been made: the recipe card. With enough backing you could end up with a bonus brownie. (Read: Please give. I want a bonus brownie.)

trustymofo: thanking the stars for pad thai kitchen

house_curry

Tom’s house special curry with tofu, basically a red curry with peanut sauce.

Some days you don’t want to cook. Some days you barely have the energy to pick up food. (Insert sigh here over Portland’s lack of food delivery.) Some days you just have a hankerin’ for Thai.

I’m so lucky to have a nearby Thai restaurant that I can rely on, Pad Thai Kitchen. I first went there for a lady-lunch meetup—maybe it was someone’s birthday, I can’t remember—but it was a bunch of local-for-longer-than-I vegans, so I felt reassured. The one older woman in charge shouting, “Vegan! No egg! No fish sauce!” at the younger staff further reassured me. Someone was on top of things.

This chant would grow more familiar, as she repeated it during each phone order. Me: “I’d like vegan basil fried rice with tofu, medium spicy.” Her: “So vegan, no egg, no fish sauce.” Exactly. I’ve heard too many horror stories about other Thai places around town, friends finding shreds of something or other or tasting that taste and not wanting to eat it because they were pretty sure that was shrimp paste or oyster sauce or maybe it was made in a not-very-well-washed pan.

Reliable vegan food wouldn’t be worth much if it didn’t taste good too (to me—obviously even the blandest vegan food makes a huge difference for animals). No issue here. Everything tastes fresh and made to order. And they know heat: Medium spicy has that slowly building tingle, perfect for me, while Tom goes for very spicy—which is actually very spicy. Huzzah! True, the menu is your standard Thai menu. They’re not breaking new ground, not seeing where they can take Thai, but they do what they know and they do it consistently. And when you get take-out, it’s at least two meals’ worth. At least.

So thank you, Pad Thai Kitchen.

(Don’t get me wrong. I will forever hold a place in my heart for Vegan Glory, my L.A. go-to vegan Thai place…which delivered.)