Exploring Burlington VT

After a short visit to Brattleboro VT, we headed to Burlington. We stayed in the area near the waterfront and Church Street Marketplace. The area seemed to have a large university crowd, which may be the normal scene or it was because we were there the same weekend that parents were moving their children into dorms and apartments.

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The Lake Champlain waterfront park is a fantastic spot. It has a boardwalk with benches, and a walking and bike path. We even stumbled across a few small beaches while walking on the path. The bike path also travels further around the city.
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We spent a bit of time in the Church Street area at restaurants and exploring the stores. On Saturday morning we went to the Burlington Farmer’s Market, which is held at the City Hall Park. They have fresh locally grown produce, crafts, sweet and savory snacks, coffee and juices, meats and cheeses, local restaurant vendors, and maple everything. I started with a cold brew coffee. I had to have something maple…so I purchased a habanero infused maple syrup from Benito’s. Seems like it would be amazing on tofu and tempeh.

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As we walked around I spotted so many stalls with hot vegan food, but not what many Americans would think of as typical breakfast food. I’d eat a bowl of curry or a warm grain bowl with beans and veggies any time of the day. We decided on the Tibetan Cuisine vendor and I am so happy we did. We shared a curried lentil and rice dish and vegan veggie buns. This farmers market seemed more like street fair than a farmers market. It’s a local Saturday morning staple in the community, grab breakfast, do some shopping and chat with the neighbors all in one space. I’m really glad we went.

For the most part, we went to restaurants that were walking distance from our hotel. A few of our local favorites – the Nepalese & Himalayan Sherpa cuisine at Sherpa Kitchen was fantastic.My favorite item on Sweet Waters menu was the lavender vodka lemon drop; it was delicious.

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Zabby and Elf’s Stone Soup was a charming organic café, they have soup, a hot and cold bar, but their sandwiches were my favorite. The vegan club and the vegan Reuben were tasty. We also stopped at a Ben & Jerry’s — a new thing for me now that they make a few vegan flavors (yummy). There was a line out the door.

Glad I researched the local breweries, both places we went to were winners. My preference runs on the darker side – English bitters, browns and German Dunkels, while my other half enjoys IPA’s and lighter beers.

We chose Zero Gravity and Queen City Breweries, both farther from where we were staying than other breweries but a better mix of options that appealed to both of us. They also happen to be across the street from each other. We decided to walk (half hour from our hotel). With all of the eating going on during this trip it seemed like a wise choice.

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I was definitely ready to sample some beer once we arrived at Zero Gravity. It was a welcoming space with inside seating and a patio. They serve a few food options, you can buy cans of some of their beer or fill a growler with what’s on tap.

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Next we headed across the street to Queen City – follow the arrows on the side of their building – their space is around back. It’s set up more like a traditional tasting/tour operation. Though they did have snacks. Queen City has some bottled beers for sale or the option to fill up a growler.

Pocky timed our brewery adventure so that we’d walk to the hotel post drinks while the sun was setting. So we made our way to the path that’s parallel with the beach and marina and enjoyed our stroll with similar like-minded folks.

At the end of our trip, we took a scenic route to Manhattan, NY. We drove through Ironville and Eagle Lake. One piece of advice – generally know where you are going before making a drive near the lake. There was a stretch of time where we had no cell service. It’s a gorgeous drive and worth the time. We stopped in Albany, NY to have lunch at Berben & Wolff’s Vegan Delicatessen on Lark St near Center Square.

Sandwiches were a trend on this trip…the tempeh chickpea salad sandwich was tasty and massive. Pocky had the wing burger – both came with chips and a pickle, as one would expect at a deli. I would eat there all the time if they had a spot in NYC.

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North East Road Trip to Vermont

Recently, Pocky and I went on a road trip to Vermont. The first day we left New York City and drove to Brattleboro, VT. We had both been there before, separately. Last year I visited with one of my girlfriends so I already had some places in mind that I wanted to hit up.

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Brattleboro is an eclectic small town. Main Street is a few blocks up from the Connecticut River and has antique stores, outdoor gear shops, bookstores, coffee shops, art and theater, a vegan café, Thai cuisine, and other restaurants and breweries. There is also a food co-op and the art deco – Latchis Hotel in that area. For vegans roaming around Vermont, Brattleboro should be on the must visit list. On this trip, we stopped at Whetstone Brewery, which has two decks overlooking the river and tasty food and beverages.

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We also stopped at Mocha Joe’s coffee – their maple latte is my favorite. Superfresh! Organic Café is another gem with vegan, vegetarian, and raw options. Their breakfasts are the bomb.

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That night we stayed overnight in Keene, New Hampshire (hotel points); it’s about a thirty-minute drive from Brattleboro. Keene’s downtown area has a similar vibe. It seems as if they turned a small area of older brick industrial buildings into shopping, restaurants and hotels. These few blocks though, are surrounded by a neighborhood with two story houses dating back to the 1800s. We decided to make the short walk over to Main Street and ended up having a fabulous dinner at Thai Garden.

The next day we drove further north to Burlington, our base for the next few days.

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One of our adventures while in the area was a trip out to the Shelburne museum in Shelburne Vermont – about a twenty-minute drive from Burlington. We were there for hours. The sprawling property began as a way to exhibit horse-drawn carriages. Over time, it transitioned into an amazing property full of historic buildings, trains, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga. They also have herb and heirloom vegetable gardens, spectacular views of the mountains, and a café. The property is also full of apple and other fruit trees, even in the parking area.

A massive round red barn, and two other barns house many types of carriages, including a hearse carriage.

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The train was definitely one of my favorite sights. The interior of the old train, including the sleeping compartments, was very ornate and had a 1920s esthetic.


The steamboat was also fun to roam around. It had the staterooms and the kitchen set up, and it was possible to walk around the mechanical areas and view the massive steam engine. The general store had cool old items – shoes, clothing, and food. There was an apothecary set up in the back with a ton of old bottles full of herbs and concoctions. Upstairs dental, medical and eye doctor offices with old chairs, and instruments were on display.

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Some of the other buildings contained paintings, sculptures, quilts, glass, china, toys and more. They even had a room with old creepy dolls. We ended our time there with a short break at their café.

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Art collage

The next blog will feature our time in Burlington and our road trip home. Click the links for more photos of the Shelburne Museum or Brattleboro VT.

2017 VegFest Charlotte

In years past, Vegfest Charlotte was held outdoors and had a street fair vibe. That sounds good but the unbearable heat was an issue. I would walk around and look to see which vendors were there, start to feel way too hot, find a bottle of water, feel marginally better, and then try to decide on food. After a bit of indecision I’d realize that I was too hot to eat, grab a fresh juice from a stall and whatever cupcake or other vegan treat looked good – and take it home.

This year Charlotte Vegfest was held at an indoor facility, aside from a few vendors set up outside, in Freedom Hall at the Park Expo and Conference Center. Parking was easier and the cooler temperature made lingering and sampling much more attractive. The fest featured sustainable organizations, the Humane Society, and food from local restaurants. Local vendors such as The Greener Apple and Pop Up produce were on hand, as well as known commercial companies Dr. Bronner, Renu Energy solutions and Food not bombs. A series of speakers including a vegan body builder and local chefs were on the line up, and there was also a speed dating session – I have no idea how that went…

Popular restaurants such as Nourish, Fern, Living Kitchen, Zizi’s, Viva Raw, and Lenny Boy brewery were on hand. In the Pop Up and Food Truck category local favorites Move That Dough Baking Co and The Masa Casa brought food and beverages for sale. Beverly’s Gourmet, a line of fresh prepared meals available at Whole Foods and other stores selling vegetarian and vegan food, also had a stall. Beverly’s makes a Persian barley soup that I must have whenever I am in town. Ben & Jerry’s was also there with their new vegan ice cream’s –- coffee caramel fudge is my new favorite!

Those who frequent food festivals know it requires stamina and some cash if you want to do a bit of sampling. My advice – go hungry with someone who will share food – that way you can sample more and maybe spend less. Pocky and I had a bit of a nom nom extravaganza. He and I tend to like varied flavors sensations and food from different regions of the world. That can be okay though, because we often want to order different items and then share or just try a bite if it doesn’t sound terribly interesting.

Unfortunately, we never made it to the extremely popular Soul Desserts becasue each time we made our way to their stall, the line seemed even longer. We did try JP’s Pastry, which is vegan and gluten free; their Vanilla cupcake was fantastic.

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Juice Bar makes fabulous elixirs – the “Fresh Greens” and “We Got the Beet” were refreshing, and the “Orange You Glad” was another favorite. I also grabbed a cold brew from Parliament Coffee roasters.

Vegganers Luck offered a Chick’N Waffles w/Fried seitan on an almond buttermilk waffle that was pretty good – seems they might have a food truck soon. Zizi’s had a tasty “CHICKEN” PARM-LESS SUB that was mock fried chicken, breaded, in a marinara sauce.

One of my favorite bites was the Pastel de yuka from catering company Soul Cocina. The roasted pocket was stuffed with spinach, brown rice and lentils. They also had tamales for sale. Next time I’m in town, I hope to find them at a farmers market.

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Another favorite – Nourish – a home delivery food service served up one of my favorite dishes, a Vegan Mac with buffalo cauliflower, yum! We also had their delicious sweet potato fries.

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My new favorite find though, is the artisanal plant meat line from Asheville based No Evil Foods. They fried up “The Prepper” (chicken-esque), and the Stallion (Italian sausage), and El Zapatista (Mexican chorizo) that can be grilled, marinated, and etc. El Zapatista was my favorite. Their products were really flavorful and spicy. I also like their throw back packaging – a butcher shop brown paper. They also had a few different types of jerky; the Chipotle Jerky is fantastic. Their products are available for purchase online and in some stores. Check them out.

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All in all, it was a great way to spend a few hours. Charlotte Vegfest had a great offering of plant-based food from local restaurants and caterers, food product producers, as well as interesting sustainable organizations. This was by far my favorite year that I’ve attended.

 

 

 

 

 

Indy for the Holidays

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Almost every year part of our holiday merriment happens in Indianapolis. It’s become a tradition. The visit is typically a winter wonderland filled with snow and single digit temperatures. Growing up in California, I did not experience that type of cold often, but since living on the east coast, I’ve adjusted my definition of cold. A secret about me – every time I emerge from a warm dwelling into the, let’s say, 2° weather, I automatically giggle. True story, no explanation, it just happens.

While in Indy, we visit family and friends for a few days, visit museums, theatre and other cultural events, and venture out on our own for a few meals. There are favorite restaurants we frequent with the family and those we frequent independently by form of habit and comfort. I’m a fairly adventurous person, though experimenting with food is not very easy because of my allergies. Though, every year it seems easier as vegan friendly options appear on menus and more vegan restaurants pop up outside of my metropolis.

This year the family outing was the Indianapolis Ballet performance of the Nutcracker at the Old National Center. The Nutcracker is one of my favorite ballets from childhood and it’s nice to see it when possible. Although I am grateful to live in NY where I have easy access to Broadway, dance, opera, and more, I love being able to take in and support local arts in other communities as well. Following the Nutcracker, we had a family dinner at Saigon Vietnamese restaurant, which is climbing my list of favorite Indy restaurants. It is a traditional menu but they always make sure my vegetable option is vegan.

While in town we also stopped at Cafe Patachou, which has a little something for everyone. It used to be a place we frequented for lunch but after trying their Vegan Cuban Breakfast, I’m always angling for a morning visit now. In the trying something new category – we went to the Sinking Ship for lunch. The website drew us in with its substantial vegan menu and the establishments snarky rules, including what will be playing on the TV and no kids allowed. They have a couple of locations, one of which might allow kids. The location we visited is a proper bar meant for adult beverages and adult conversations…It has a college vibe, good music and fantastic vegan comfort food. They do have a full menu for carnivores as well. Recommendations – chili mac, mac & tease, buffalo seitan wings, and star tots.

Until the next time…

Toronto Food Extravaganza

As luck would have it, a vegan food festival was set to take place during our visit to Toronto, Canada. Officially called Toronto food and drink festival, the producers of the festival also have an annual festival in Chicago (USA), the fest is held at Fort York, downtown Toronto near the waterfront.

Because it was extremely hot during our visit, combined with the reviews from 2015 festival that indicated food was running low by late afternoon, we decided to go early in the day. It was steamy by the time we arrived in the late morning, but it still ended up being a good decision.

The fest was set up like a traditional festival with food, drinks, textiles, and make up for sale with bands playing and a DJ. They also had a something I haven’t seen before, but very necessary…that all festivals should have — hand washing stations near the porta potties.

We started making our way around the perimeter to take it all in, and then decided what we wanted to try.

We started with Two Bears cold brew bottled coffee. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of flavored coffee but we were there to try new things. Their maple pecan cold brew was a winner, and decently priced. I hope they find their way into some NYC shops soon. We also tried Well Juicery, cold press juices – they are very tasty and were a Pocky favorite. Another drink favorite of mine — Tonica Kombucha. They were out of my go to — green tea, so we tried mango and peach flavors. It’s my new favorite Kombucha.

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After hitting a few stands the rains came which started cooling down the temperature a bit but also made it hard to eat as the only tents were over the vendors. So we just waited out the rains in between munching on snacks.

Next we tried Bunners bake shop. They make sweets and savory items. We tried the pizza bun. It’s a funky little snack. It had the consistency of a cinnamon bun with pizza flavor. Tasted great but if you have food texture issues it might take a minute to reconcile the texture and flavor sensation.

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Vegan Nom is a vegan taco truck from Austin (Texas) that was on my list to try. They had long lines and a wait time of 30 minutes after the order was placed. We tried the mock-fish tacos. It’s a breaded protein in a corn tortilla, which worked for me but Pocky wasn’t bowled over by the dish – probably because he still eats fish.

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We also stopped by the other Austin (Texas) vegan favorite, Arlo’s, equally as long of a wait. This was Pocky’s favorite stop. He had the cheeseburger, which he said was fantastic. Unfortunately for me, it had mushrooms (allergic) in it, so I had to pass. Next time I’m in Austin stopping at their curbside kitchen (food truck) is a must.

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For me, Doug Mcnish was a standout and I wanted one of everything but decided on just the buffalo wings. He has a popular restaurant in Toronto and I was a little sad we weren’t going to make it there, until I realized he was cooking at the festival. The wings were fantastic! He was also selling swag and cookbooks. We picked up his first book. For those looking for inventive, well-executed vegan food, try his place The Public Kitchen in Toronto.

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As I made my way to Thiru’s Gourmet, the next downpour of rain started. I grabbed a box with three different curried veg and tofu dishes but the rain was coming down so hard we couldn’t eat. Instead, we made our way over to Sweets from the Earth to pick up desserts to go. (We ended up eating them later in the evening. Their lavender cupcakes are heavenly and the whoopie pie reminded me of being a kid. Amazing flavors.)

The plan was to make a run for it to the parking garage but halfway there our box of food was collapsing from the rain so we stood under an over pass and and quickly shoveled it in…It was really good and really entertaining for those watching.

 

 

Vegan comfort food in Toronto, Canada

This post is overdue…but sometimes it is more important to be in the moment and enjoy life.

Toronto is one of my favorite spots to visit because it can go from busy and adventurous to relaxing in the span of about 10 minutes. There is a little something for everyone.

From restaurants to resorts, Ontario Canada offers options for people with a range of dietary needs. Honestly, it is far easier for me to find better quality food options outside of cosmopolitan areas in Canada than in the USA. But in once instance during this vacation, we planned ahead just in case.

A few years ago I visited Toronto and most of my restaurant hopping happened in the popular King Street and Kensington Market areas, but as with any bustling city restaurants come and go. Unfortunately a few favorites have gone, but during this visit, trying new things mostly led to positive results and exploration of a new charming neighborhood — Bloorcourt.

Let’s start with the food fail. We chose Sabai Sabai Thai on Church Street for its vegan menu. It’s a very popular place and we waited in line quite a while. Once seated, we ordered dishes and I requested that they take the mushrooms off a dish, because I am allergic. The server came back and explained that mushroom powder was in their spice mix for every dish. As an aside — it was super hot outside and we had been walking around for hours…(insert sigh and an eye roll). We got up and walked out, me with a pouty expression that quickly turned to laughter about the vegan who can’t eat a thing on the vegan menu…

So, we ended up at Golden Thai, also on Church Street, and they were able to make us lovely Thai food without any issues.

The next day we roamed around the once derelict Victorian industrial complex, now known as the Distillery, and we stopped in to shop at Soma chocolatemaker, Bergo Designs, Fluevog shoes and more. We took a chance and tried Mill St Brewery for lunch, as one can imagine pub food not always a good bet for vegans. However this place has a little something for everyone, including beer. Mmmn tater tots, pretzels with spicy mustard, Moroccan Falafel Salad, and a Southwest Veggie Burger. No, not all for me! They offer a wide variety of beer’s – Altbier and 100th Meridian, yes, please.

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Next we walked to St. Lawrence Market. Originally a wooden structure, this market dates to the early 1800s. A fire took out the original structure and the market was rebuilt using brick. This place is foodie heaven. For those who enjoy fish, meat, cheese etc. this is a great place to purchase food and there are a few super popular restaurant stalls as well. There are also venders selling bread, nut butters, oils, bulk foods, coffee, pastries, and fruits and veg. We decided to plan ahead for our trip to Niagara Falls, in case there weren’t vegan food options, and picked up fruit, olives and other fresh items that would survive a night in our hotel room and a trip to the falls. They actually do have food choices along the falls but I was happy to have a fresh snack on the drive back to Toronto.

One morning we stopped by Karine’s vegan breakfast. It’s a cool local spot in a food court. It’s a hidden gem (literally). If you aren’t a local it takes a minute to figure out where it is located. We chose amazing waffles and pancakes, with fruit and coffee. The food was dessert like and way too much for me to eat all of it, but I sure did try. Karine seemed to be feeding a morning rush of construction workers when we arrived. She is very sweet and the food was fantastic.

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On another night we stuffed ourselves at the: Hogtown Vegan on Bloor Street West. They are the kings of vegan comfort food in Toronto. We shared several large dishes —

mac n’ cheese, buffalo wings and chili cheese fries. I could eat that mac n’ cheese every day, but that wouldn’t be very figure friendly. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have calories…

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The final stand out was Bloomers, a vegan café on the same street at Hogtown. They serve breakfast and lunch – but they are known for their donuts, and this girl won’t miss the chance to nom nom an amazing vegan donut. We stopped on our way to the airport, basically as soon as they opened. The thing to know about Bloomers is that once you arrive you can relax with coffee or tea but you will need to wait about a half hour for the donuts to be ready. For the full brunch menu, you’ll wait an hour. The anticipation was palpable and watching them cool on the counter was torture. We chose strawberry and cinnamon options. Amazing – and on par with the Holy donut in Maine, USA. I wanted to take one or two for the road, but that just would have been gluttonous…

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Traveling in Liberia post-Ebola

Recently, I traveled to Liberia, Africa for work. This trip was supposed to take place in 2015 but the Ebola outbreak sidetracked the plans of our organization. The World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola free on January 14th 2016.

Before the Ebola crisis Liberia was experiencing economic growth and more children were receiving an education. Regrettably,  this progress was severely impacted, food prices surged, foreign investors withdrew and the border closed stopping women from selling goods and earning an income.

The combination of soaring costs for treating the outbreak, caring for the sick and limited resources shifted the focus of the government to ridding the country of Ebola. The positive momentum of growth and stability post-conflict (war) came to a halt. Yet, in the face of adversity the Liberian people remain positive and resilient.

The national and international responses to the Ebola crisis have resulted in a number of public health improvements within the three West African nations fighting outbreaks, including safer burial practices, earlier case detections, an increase in health workers and treatment facilities, public awareness campaigns and rigorous tracing of those who interacted with the ill. These responses have contributed to a lower risk of spread across borders.

Most of my time in Liberia was spent in workshops with government officials and civil society members working on local action plans that assist in better integrating women, peace and security elements from the Liberian National Action Plan (LNAP) and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 into local laws.

Monrovia is a busy city with numerous hotels, shopping and lots of traffic. Also, there is one main road to and from the airport, so no matter what day or time allot more time than necessary for the journey – it’s a good opportunity to see the countryside.

While in Monrovia, we stayed at the Bella Casa Hotel near the coast. There are a few grocery stores in walking distance from the hotel and the hotel itself has a lovely restaurant. We arrived from the airport the first night to find the restaurant closing but they kindly made me hummus, which was greatly appreciated. They have several additional vegetarian options including pasta and vegetable fried rice and a nice breakfast buffet. The Palm Spring Resort also has a good menu– and a casino — and is another good hotel option.

If staying at the Bella Casa make the short stroll over to the Golden Beach Restaurant, the seating is on the beach under palm trees — it’s a gorgeous view.