Sunday, September 7, 2014

Trip to Portland (w/ Food Itinerary!)

Portland has never been on my radar until Portlandia came out. After that, I was anxious to check out the weird, quirky city that was shown as being ridiculous and hipster, yet liberal and eco-conscious. The only other things I've heard about Portland is the abundance of vegan food, so with all of my favorite things in one place, I booked a weekend trip on labor day weekend. Here is a run-down of my impressions and some itinerary items (especially food, beer, and coffee spots) to hit up!

Overall first impression:
My first impression was happy when I flew over the forests of Oregon to reach our destination. Oregon looks like Sweden from above with their lush forests and water. I'm a big fan of nature and I love that I don't have to fly through a cloud of smog as I do when I come back home to LA. My second impression is "Where is everyone?!". I mostly felt like downtown was a ghost town. I expected hordes of people on a Friday night, but it mostly seemed like a scene out of 28 Days Later when the whole world has died from a zombie attack and no one is around. This place is QUIET and compared to other cities, isolated. But that is good and bad, as I come to enjoy the quietness of the city. With only 500k people in Portland, it is really small. However, this created a very relaxing, pleasant weekend where traffic, smog, long lines, and crazy people were not to be seen (mostly). 

Food:
Some of my favorite restaurants are here, and also has to do with the cheap prices and no sales tax. Food is cheap, brunch is king, and vegan is EVERYWHERE! Being vegan in Portland is so passe I feel. No one cares if you want to ask for soy milk because they offer soy, almond, hemp, rice and whatever else they come up with. Vegan brunch was standard and weekend brunch lines are where are the people are hiding. Friday night drinking is so over! Brunch lines all day long are in! Here is a run-down of must eats for the vegan traveler:

Paradox Cafe - Cheap, tasty brunch. Two people with huge breakfast plates with tip = $14. What?!
Vegan strip mall - Food Fight! and Sweetpea Bakery: There are three vegan places all in a row. I really enjoyed the almond croissant at Sweetpea, and the selection at the small grocery store Food Fight! was actually pretty great. Portland is known for supporting their community and it shows with the made in Portland selection. There are a lot of items I have never seen before, and I've been to the largest vegan grocery store in the world.
Back to Eden Bakery - This is a MUST (see my full review). They have my favorite biscuit sausage gravy bowl and soft serve banana split of all time. Don't ask, just go.
Sweet Hereafter - This is a vegan bar! Super good food, surprisingly. I expected low-quality for a bar, but they have fresh, healthy food that is really flavorful. I loved the bowls. The beer was great too, and a ton of local brew options. The wait here was insane, it took about 1 hour to get our food order.
VooDoo Doughnuts - Seriously, the best doughnuts in the world. Try the Portland Cream Doughnut and the Voodoo Doll doughnut. Half of them are vegan, half not - just ask.. Worth the trip to Portland just for this. If you want me to bring you a doughnut to LA next time I go, comment on this post!

Beer and Coffee:
The beer here is really great. Sweet Hereafter and Rogue were my two favorite spots. Rogue was by far the best and I loved their fruit salad cider. Portland has the most microbreweries of any city in the world, so check one out!
Local coffee shops are abundant here, and you can't go wrong anywhere. I went to Stumptown, the hipster spot. I still like Blue Bottle and Intelligencia better, but you can get your hipster coffee fix at least.

Hiking:
Forest Park is a 15 minute bus ride from downtown, and it is a lush forest perfect for a nice, relaxing hike surrounded by water and huge trees. You can go for a mile or 10, whatever you're up for. Definitely worth the short trek.

Final opinions:
The good - 
I love Portland for the food, amazing transit system, forests, bike trails, and push for community and local businesses. There are no fast food chains here, you will see the entire city promotes locally made and really sticks to it. Every store supports a local artist or business owner, and it is really refreshing. I also love that you can go to a forest in 15 minutes, but be back in the city for lunch. The houses are cheap and the times slowly crawls as you relax for your second plate of brunch on the weekend. I felt fully relaxed and we really enjoyed our time here. I would love to live here someday, except for....

The weird/bad - 
Portland is 80% white. It is one of the least diverse places I've been in America. It's oddly liberal, yet not integrated. I saw one Indian family and a few Asian people while I was there. That's about it. People are hipster, but they are 90's hipster like it is 1995 and no one told me. Tie dye is cool here still and Soundgarden is still a band for some reason. There are also a lot of hippy-homeless that hang around and pan handle. They swarm VooDoo doughnuts all day. I definitely prefer them over the LA homeless that have actual mental problems though. 

So, go to Portland for a trip. Eat your heart out, get drunk, and bring back some doughnuts. Then, head back home to a city that respects diversity like LA or SF and enjoy the high prices of good weather and at least a few more races. 

Back To Eden Bakery Review

Back To Eden Bakery in Portland, OR is my favorite bakery of all time. They have great  lattes, baked goods, breakfast, and amazing soft serve ice cream. I went there twice for the weekend I was there and got one or more of each of these categories! Everything is vegan and gluten-free and homemade!

In order of amazingnes:
The sausage/biscuit breakfast bowl: This consists of all homemade ingredients including a biscuit, sausage, and gravy. It was extremely good and there is nothing else like it.

Soft serve ice cream banana split: I got the banana split with chocolate/vanilla ice cream, marshmallows, and caramel. This was the best dessert and ice cream I've ever had!

Baked goods: everything is good here from the savory to the sweet. We had the tempeh broccoli quiche, tempeh bacon scone, and some type of nutty donut. Everything was seriously amazing again.

I've been to vegan bakeries everywhere, but they just do it better here. Plus, when you're on Alberta street, check out the cute stores and other delights in the neighborhood. Next door is the grilled cheese truck that makes homemade cashew cheese grilled cheese and mac and cheese that is also worth the trip from LA!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Guilt-Free Pancakes (Vegan Oat Flour Pancakes)

I'm not gluten-free, but when I can find a pancake without flour to indulge in my pancake love without gaining 50 lbs, I'm in! Also, these are by far my favorite pancakes and I've tried every vegan recipe out there! Usually, the arrowroot kills the pancake with its stickiness. Flax pancakes have the benefit of many bathroom breaks, but these banana/oat pancakes are healthier, fluffier, and a huge favorite at my house!
I veganized a regular gluten-free pancake recipe and even added another 1/2 banana with good results. These pancakes taste like the real thing except they are much healthier and use natural ingredients. The banana makes them not fall apart, and it doesn't give a banana flavor if you don't like that. Enjoy!
Ingredients
  • 1¾ cup oats 
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cup soy milk
  • 1½ tablespoons grape seed oil
  • 1 ripe banana smashed
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
Directions
  1. Pre-heat a non-stick pan on med-high heat
  2. Put oats in a blender and pulse a few times until they have a flour texture
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together in one bowl.
  4. Mix all the liquid ingredients together in a second bowl
  5. Mix dry and wet ingredients. Optional: Fold in some blueberries, nuts, or chocolate chips!
  6. Spray the pan with a little grape seed oil 
  7. Pour about 1/2 cup into pan, cook until brown on both sides
  8. Top with maple syrup and enjoy!





Sunday, June 22, 2014

Minty Mocha Frappuccino

Ingredients:

  1. 12 oz. almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
  2. 1/2 cup cold brew coffee
  3. 5 cubes of ice
  4. 2 drops peppermint extract
  5. 4 tsp. Intelligentsia hot cocoa mix (the best!)
  6. 1 tsp. agave

Directions:

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. This will be a liquidy version of a frapp, more like a frothy iced latte. So, if you like a thicker version, add ice or reduce the milk. Enjoy!



Monday, May 26, 2014

Tuno Sammies (Vegan Tuna Sandwich)

Tuno Sammies

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15oz) chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup veganaise
  • 1/4 cup red onion diced
  • 1 celery stick chopped
  • 1 TB relish
  • 1 TB dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp umeboshi plum vinegar
  • 1 TB dried dill
  • Butter lettuce
  • Sourdough bread
Directions:

Put the chickpeas in a bowl and smash with a potato masher (or food processor quickly). Next, put in the veganaise and mustard and mix with a spoon. Finally, add the rest of the ingredients and mix in with a spoon. Put tuno mix on toasted bread and place some lettuce on each sandwich. Enjoy!



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Meeting My Norwegian Family in Drobak, Norway

I have been searching for my European roots forever, it seems like. Since I was a kid, the connection to the Europeans was very vague and I always felt like I didn't really know who I was and where my family comes from. After searching through Ancestry.com for years and trying to ask family members what they could remember, I used 23andme.com.

23 and Me is a website to test your DNA which gives you ancestry information and used to give you health information. I got my results one day, and I jumped on the map view to see if I had family in any of the places where my ancestry is supposedly from. There was one distant cousin in Norway! He was supposed to be a 3rd - 5th cousin. I decided to message him to find out if I could find a link. I didn't hear anything back from three months, but I had my trip planned anyway. I planned to end my European vacation in Norway and stop by Drobak to take it all in - with no clear direction or idea where to go.

2 weeks before I left for Europe, I got an email back from the cousin. He was willing to help and was more than helpful through the process. He is an amateur genealogist that was able to translate all the Norwegian documents that lead me from my roadblock of only great grandparents names, to people from the 1600s. He also got me in touch with a living relative in Drobak! He hit a roadblock when going through the path of my great grandmother's brother's side. He found a grave, and called the graveyard to see whole bought the grave. That led him to my 2nd cousin who is still alive. We contacted each other and I excitedly flew to Oslo a couple weeks later.

Eddy, my 2nd cousin, was absolutely amazing to us. He picked us up from the airport and drove us to Drobak with the 3-5th cousin. The four of us took a drive through the scenic and beautiful seaside town of Drobak, 20 minutes south of Oslo. We saw the grave sight (minus the missing graves) of my great grandparents. We then went to the original house that my great, great, great grandpa Olaf built. We were able to walk into the house and see the same view that my ancestors have seen for 150 years.

Vegan in Paris Sucks, and My Thoughts on Paris

Paris in my head is a romantic, majestic place that mimics all the cuteness of the cartoon Madeline, the perfect uniqueness of Amelie, and the Eiffel Tower all rolled into one. The reality doesn't add up to that impossible equation, but I still have a small part of it in my heart.

Paris is not romantic. It has the most beautiful and planned architecture I have ever seen, but the attitude of the people make it outright annoying. The crowds of tourists and the irritated feel of the customer service makes it less and less romantic every second I'm there. Being vegan made them even more irritated and confused which was just...splendid. They thought we had a disease basically, but mostly they were offended that we were rejecting their way of life: bread, wine, cheese, meat, smoke - repeat.

I do have to admit that I am spoiled to live in America where customer service is 'the customer is always right'. You can take anything you can buy back to the store or restaurant. Most people are helpful and will smile at strangers. I guess in other countries they think that is the "dumb American helpfulness" but after enduring the fake kindness my whole life, it is hard to deal with the irritated French.

But all complaining aside, when we found amazing vegan restaurants and nice people - it was all the more exciting and wonderful. The daily markets are truly remarkable. We stayed in an Air bnb in the 13th Arr. on Rue Broca which was the best location to be in. You can wake up, take in the beautiful architecture, take the subway to the Eiffel Tower, Seine, Louvre, or just stroll through a park. Pick up some organic, flavorful food and have an impromptu picnic on the water.

My overall experience was not great. The French are cold to outsiders, which makes it not a very welcoming place. I could get used to the amazing health care, view, and food - not to mention location to every European country you could visit in a weekend. Also, Lucas' family and friends were really nice and hospitable to us. But maybe I can try the south of France next?