Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vida Vegan Con, Part 2

Tired of my Vida Vegan Con posts yet? Too bad cause here's another! But it's the last, I promise. Tonight, I'll be sharing some pics from Saturday and Sunday, which were both full conference days filled with workshops and panels. But of course, we had time for crazy fun afterwards!

Saturday began with the VVC Portland Breakfast Showcase in the ballroom. Restaurants from across the city served up bite-sized menu items. Most were breakfasty foods (doughnuts, quiches, etc.). But of course, I had to go straight for the pizza and burgers table. Only in Portland can I eat pizza and burgers for breakfast and not feel a twinge of food guilt.

Sizzle Pie was serving "Eggs" Benedict Pizza with Ranch Dressing. Definitely my fave breakfast item of the weekend.

And I had some BBQ Jackfruit and Beet Burger Sliders from the White Owl Social Club's table. Yes, BBQ for breakfast. I'm a true Southern gal.

Everyone at my table was raving about these gluten-free Tofu Quiches from the Back to Eden Bakery table. Delicious! I couldn't even tell it was gluten-free.

And even though I was stuffed, I found room for this sample-sized Tofu Scramble with Meatloaf and Cheezy Sauce from A.N.D. Cafe.

After all those carbs, I was happy to see the Portland Juice Press folks were offering juice samples for balance.

After breakfast, the panels began. I attended a great panel on Vegan Community Building. Jason Das from Vegan Drinks was on the panel (along with Maeve Conner, Laura Beck of Vegansaurus, and Leigh-Chantelle of Viva La Vegan), and his words inspired me to get a Memphis Vegan Drinks chapter started here. More on that soon! I'm planning the first meet-up for July.

I didn't have any panels to speak on on Saturday, so I just hung out and attended lots of other peoples' very informative discussions.

Lunch was a Build-a-Bowl buffet! There were all sorts of goodies for bowl piling, and I think I managed to fit every one of them in this bowl — brown rice, quinoa, tempeh bacon, Upton's seitan, tofu, black beans, pinto beans, raw walnut meat, Galaxy vegan cheese, hummus, Nacheez, hemp seeds, lettuce, carrots, and garlic sauce. Oh, and Secret Aardvark habanero sauce and sriracha!

After lunch, Kittee Kake of Cake Maker to the Stars, Amey of Vegan Eats & Treats, and Mo of Mo Betta Vegan hosted the Vegan Battle Royale, a vegan trivia game show in which audience members were called to the stage to answer questions like, "What cookbook features Caulipots?" (hint: Appetite for Reduction) or challenges such as naming 15 blogs in a matter of seconds (The badass Ashlee Piper of The Little Foxes won that challenge, and Vegan Crunk was the last one she named!). There was also a blind taste test in which contestants had to guess ingredients in a mystery food. Isa Chandra Moskowitz won that one.

There were more workshops and panels after the Vegan Battle Royale. We had a short break between the conference and the Galarama, a fancy vegan gala to benefit the Chimp Sanctuary NW. It was held in a really rad venue with a model train track that spanned the inside and part of the outside of the building.

My friend Joel (whom I stayed with while I was in Portland) didn't attend the conference, but he did join me at the gala. Joel ordered beer, and I made a b-line for the samples of Miyoko's vegan cheeses. Miyoko Skinner wrote Artsian Vegan Cheese, and she's pretty much the world's greatest expert on vegan cheese. And she made these herself!! OMG! These were amazing! I wanted to eat this entire tray, but I had to be nice and share.

We had the local Bridgeport Summer Squeeze. Don't you love the tracks?!

And there were Vegan Jello Shots! They didn't set properly, but that didn't stop us.

Outside the gala, a couple of food carts were selling dinner. There was a taco cart and a hot dog cart. Joel and I both chose the Tandem Treats hot dog cart because their logo was a two-headed rainbow unicorn.

I got a Tofurky Hot Dog with Grilled Onions, Black Olives, Tomatoes, Spinach, and Jalapenos. Joel had the same but with a Tofurky Brat.

There was a silent auction at the gala to benefit the chimp rescue. And when I spotted these Viana Sunflower Spreads that I'd sampled (and fell in love with) at NOLA Veggie Fest a couple of weeks ago, I had to bid! And guess what? I won! $32 for 8 jars.

After the gala, a group of us decided to walk to the legendary Casa Diablo, Portland's vegan strip club. Yes, folks, a VEGAN STRIP CLUB!

All of the food served there and all the booze is vegan. One person in our group had a White Russian! I had Taquitos! There's actually a far more interesting shot of these taquitos with a stripper's boobs in view, but it's probably not appropriate for my food blog. Use your imagination.

Whew! Saturday was crazy! But Sunday morning came quickly. We awoke to another breakfast buffet at the conference. This one was all about cold and hot cereals. I'm not a huge sweets-for-breakfast person, so I was afraid I wouldn't find much I was excited about eating here. But thankfully, there was nooch (should I have ever doubted that there wouldn't be?) and Secret Aardvark habanero sauce to make Savory Oats. And there were Breakfast Potatoes. I added some Chia Pudding for good measure. And some fruit cause why not?

Lunch was another buffet, but this time it was all about building sandwiches! I made an Everything Sandwich with tofu, Upton's bacon, Tofurky slices, roasted veggies, hummus, greens, Nayo Whipped spread, and basically a little of everything on the buffet.

I also built a sort of Raw Taco using raw walnut meat, a romaine leaf, and some carrots. But then I made it un-raw by covering it in Nacheez spread.

There were more panels after lunch, including one on Inter-dietary Cohabitation with me, Dawn of Vegan Moxie, and Joni Marie Newman of Just the Food. My partner Paul, whom I share space with, is an omnivore, so I talked about how we handle sticky situations, like dinner, fridge space, and separate pots and pans. I also had some great news to report during the panel — Paul has decided to go vegetarian until dinnertime every day. Not vegan, because he wants to eat Morningstar Farms black bean burgers for lunch. But still. Progress. Baby steps. It only took 8 1/2 years.

And then the conference was over. Sadness! We said our goodbyes and snapped the last pics (I'll be posting many of those on Facebook soon). Until next time, my friends.

But wait, that's not all! After the conference, my friend Joel and his friend Scott and his girlfriend took me to Multnomah Falls, just about 30 minutes outside of Portland.

Wow! I've never seen a waterfall this amazing! It was lovely seeing some Northwest nature for a change instead of just stuffing my face (though I do really love stuffing my face).

After our waterfall journey, I met up with a few vegan blogger friends for one last meal at the appropriately named Bye and Bye (the same vegan bar where we ended out the conference in 2011). I had the Samurai Bowl (brown rice, nooch-covered tofu, slaw, miso-chili sauce, and avocado).

And of course, I couldn't end a trip to Portland without one more Vegan Bloody Mary! Sadly, I only had time for a couple of these because my flight left Monday morning at 6:55 a.m.!

Cheers to my vegan blogger buds! I'll see y'all again next Vida Vegan Con (or hopefully sooner!).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vida Vegan Con, Part 1

I spent last week hanging out with some of my favorite vegan food bloggers and speaking on panels at Vida Vegan Con II in Portland. I took about 600 pictures, so I've combed through and selected my faves to share in two posts today and tomorrow. I mean, I'm sure you'd love to see every single one of my 600 photos, but .... jk! I know you don't care about all that! Here are my highlights from Thursday night and Friday.

Vida Vegan Con didn't officially start until Friday around noon, but there was an unofficial meet 'n' greet at the White Owl Social Club on Thursday afternoon. I arrived early because I was on foot and got there sooner than I'd planned. Lucky for me, they had Vegan Bloody Marys!!! Jesus, Portland is a magical place. This Bloody Mary was the best I've ever had because it was super spicy and made with beet juice!

Also arriving early were Lydia and Mauro from From A to Vegan! I'd never met them before, and they were so fun!

We chatted for a bit, and then my old pals from Vida Vegan Con I arrived — Brit of Vegans Don't Bite, Dawn of Vegan Moxie, and Katie of Vegan Noms. We spent so much time together at the 2011 conference, and this year was no different. I was so excited to see my girls again!

I spotted Jojo from Vegan In Brighton right away! How can anybody miss this adorableness?

And I was thrilled to meet Dan of The Gay Vegans (and Dan was thrilled with this Cock and Bull beer!). He was such a sweetheart. We'd been Twitter friends for some time, but now we are real life friends.

On the way to the ladies' room, I ran into Sayward of Bonzai Aphrodite and Gena of Choosing Raw.

Of course, Erika of Sews Before Bros and Amey of Vegan Eats & Treats were up for some silly fun.

After all that socializing, I'd worked up quite an appetite. And it was happy hour at the White Owl, which meant the Fried Mac & Cheese Burgers were half-off. This burger was RIDICULOUS! Mac & cheese all pattied up and deep-fried. Glorious.

I mean, look at this. Come on.

The meet 'n' greet ended at 6:30 p.m., but Dawn, Brit, Helen, and I found a few minutes for a fun photobooth shot.

The next stop was the People's Co-op, a natural grocery, where we watched The Intrepid Herivores vegan travel show pilot. It was all about eating and ordering vegan food in Thailand. Then we were off to the Sweet Hereafter — a totally vegan bar — for more vegan drinks. I had a Vegan White Russian!

On Friday morning, I awoke to a couple of Voodoo Doughnuts, and then I left Joel's apartment to register for the conference at the Portland Art Museum. After registration, I had a few minutes to seek out lunch at a nearby food cart pod. I stumbled on this vegan-friendly cart called Savor.

They were offering Vegan Grilled Cheese and Vegan Split Pea Soup with Croutons. You can add all kinds of stuff to your grilled cheese, so I picked Marmite and tomatoes. Wow! I will always add Marmite to my grilled cheeses from here on out.

After lunch, it was time for the VVC panels and workshops to begin. I spoke on a panel about spirituality and veganism (with freelance blogger Gabrielle Pope and Nicole from Upton's Naturals), followed by a panel called "Path to Cookbook Author" with author goddesses Joni Marie Newman and Julie Hasson. So honored to be on panels with such amazing women!

After the panels were over on Friday, there was a VVC Veggie Grill reception in the conference ballroom. There was Watermelon Juice (delicious, but it would have been better with vodka).

And Vegan Chicken Wraps and Buffalo Wings.

And just to make sure we got some veggies in, they also served up a Kale Salad with Mango Dressing. Mind you, this was the most greens I got all weekend!

Just after the reception, I tagged along with Dan (from New York), Amber Shea Crawley, and her husband Matt for a ride to the Vegan Mini Mall, where a gorditas and s'mores pop-up shop was underway. Upton's Naturals was serving Gorditas inside Food Fight Grocery. Remember gorditas from Taco Bell? With the hard and soft shell combined? That was the business.

And for dessert, Herbivore Clothing Company and the folks from Dandies were roasting s'mores near the register.

The best part about these s'mores? They were made with Biscoff cookies instead of graham crackers! Glorious.

Here's a shot of vegans loitering outside the mini-mall with their gorditas and s'mores.

After the pop-up, a group of us went for local craft beers at Hungry Tiger Too. And then we headed to Lovecraft, a goth bar. Look at the ceiling!

And here's a group shot (of course, the lovely Miss Amber Shea "Goth Girl" Crawley was there!).

Well, that was all for Thursday and Friday. I'll be back tomorrow with pictures from the rest of the conference.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I'm back from Vegan Mecca, a.k.a. Portland! And boy is my belly full. I spent the last several days eating my way through Portland and hanging with tons of other vegan food bloggers at the second bi-annual Vida Vegan Con blogger's convention.

But I'll tell y'all more about that in posts on Wednesday and Thursday night. Tonight, I want to share some food porn pics of my pre-conference meals. I arrived in Portland on Wednesday, two days before the official start of VVC so I'd have more time to explore Portland's awesomeness. Lucky for me, my friend Joel moved from Little Rock, Arkansas to Portland last year. So I had a great (and very comfy) couch to crash on.

Here's Joel and I shortly after my flight landed on Wednesday afternoon. Ready for adventure!

Joel, his friend Scott, and I set out on foot from his apartment in Northwest in search of a pre-dinner snack. I found the iconic Portland sign that's featured in the opening credits of Portlandia!

We had no destination in mind, so long as what we found was vegan. And guess what? We stumbled onto one of the places on my must-try-while-in-Portland list — Veggie Grill!

Since it was happy hour, we ordered the Wings and PBR special — Buffalo Wings and a tall-boy can of Papst for $4.95.

And we also ordered some of Veggie Grill's legendary Mac & Cheese to split (best mac in the world, y'all!).

And we also ordered the Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes with Gravy to split. This stuff bears a striking taste resemblance to KFC mashed taters and gravy!

After our snack, we wandered around and did some shopping at thrift shops and the famous Powell's City of Books. We made 7 p.m. dinner plans for Blossoming Lotus with some more of Joel's friends. After our heavy snack, I didn't think I'd be hungry. But we quickly burned off the wings and taters while shopping.

At 7 p.m., we arrived at Blossoming Lotus, a fancy sit-down all-vegan restaurant. And it seemed that many other early conference attendees had the same idea. I ran into Leigh-Chantelle from Viva La Vegan, vegan cookbook goddess Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and John McDevitt from The Laziest Vegans in the World.

After a very long wait for a table, we started dinner with a bottle of August Cellars wine, a local vegan red.

For starters, we ordered the Live Nachos — flax crackers with raw nacho cheese and raw sour cream. So good!

And we also ordered the Live Cheese Plate — three raw cheeses (apricot chevre, cheddar, and pepper jack) with raw crackers and fruit. The chevre was my very fave!

For my entree, I couldn't resist the Southern BBQ Plate. You can take the girl out the South, but you can't take the South out the girl, right? This was amazing! BBQ Soy Curls, Mac & Cheese, Buttered Cornbread, Black-Eyed Peas, and Kale.

After dinner, Joel and I went to Ground Kontrol, a rad video arcade and bar with vegan bar food! Unfortunately, I was too full to sample the vegan pizza and corn dogs there. But we drank local beer, and I kicked Joel's ass at Mortal Kombat.

We also ran into my old pal Jack from Memphis at Ground Kontrol. He moved to Portland six years ago. We all played some pinball together.

After the arcade, I just HAD to get a box of vegan doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. Last VVC, I only sampled two doughnuts, and that made me sad. So this time, I ordered a dozen!!! All for me (because Joel doesn't like doughnuts).

I intended to eat several doughnuts every day while I was in town. But I have to admit that I left Portland with 4 or 5 doughnuts untouched in the box. A girl can only eat so many doughnuts. I gave it my best try!

The next day — Thursday — was mostly open until the afternoon, when the unofficial Vida Vegan Con meet 'n' greet was scheduled to happen at the White Owl Social Club. Joel and I spent the morning exploring Portland a little more before I'd be super busy with con stuff.

We ended up at Hungry Tiger Too —home of the world's best vegan corn dog — for lunch.

I ordered the Vegan Corndog (because I'd been dying to try it for years!), but I subbed out the fries that come with it for Coleslaw. I knew the weekend would be all about eating vegan junk food, and I figured it was best to get some veggies in early.

This corndog BLEW MY MIND! I've had vegan corndogs, of course. But nothing can top this one. The batter was crispy, greasy, and slightly sweet.

Joel ordered the Cougar Club, a massive sandwich with fried tofu, tempeh, vegan cheese sauce, and jalapenos. I took a bite, and it was so good!

After lunch, we walked to Portland's famous Vegan Mini Mall! It's a strip mall with Food Fight (a vegan grocery), Herbivore (a vegan clothing company), Sweetpea (a vegan bakery), and Scapegoat (a vegan tattoo shop).

Look what I found inside Herbivore! My book! They asked me to sign these copies!

Okay, I'm stopping here. Tomorrow, I'll share pictures from con stuff, like the meet 'n' greet at White Owl, the Veggie Grill reception, and a pop-up gorditas shop!