Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vegan Things I'm Loving





Life's craziness and my relative absence from the blog-scene does not mean I'm not still experiencing awesome vegan-related things on a near daily basis.

I am continually overwhelmed by how much incredible vegan stuff and amazing vegan people exist in our world.

As much as I love sharing my own personal cooking adventures, I want to give some props to some of the super vegan things I have encountered in the last couple weeks.

First stop - this beautiful dish that was crafted for me by the chef at Chow in Bend, OR.

I had heard great things about Chow and convinced my mom to go there with me during our recent mini-vacation to Bend. When we got there, I noticed several vegan or vegan-friendly options on the menu, but I really wanted something, I don't know, inspired. So I asked our waitress to have the chef make something raw (which their menu specifically stated they specialized in) and vegan, more in the savory realm, and to take as much creative license as they wished. When my waitress brought out this avocado, walnut, mushroom stack over greens with blueberries and vinaigrette, paired with markedly fresh avocado and tomatoes, I wanted to hug her. It was so perfectly suited to the moment (and my appetite - I was starving after a full day of cycling) and oozed care and creativity.


In the vein of care and creativity, Chef Gregory Gourdet of Departure has put forth some pretty epic vegan offerings in recent weeks. Aside from being a bad-ass ultra runner, Greg has been strikingly influential in bridging the gap between the culinary/foodie world and the vegan one (worlds which, at times, seem mutually exclusive). Aside from creating bomb vegan and gluten free menus at Departure, Greg continually pushes the vegan edge in a variety of otherwise traditionally gourmet contexts, from events like his Electric Summer Bash (which was one of the more fun events I've ever been privileged enough to attend), to his coconut milk-based, chef-inspired flavor created for Portland Ice Cream behemoth Salt & Straw, to his frequent collaboration with vegan trendsetters like Blossoming Lotus and Sizzle Pie Pizza, Greg is doing some pretty cool stuff.
Aside from eating an entire pint of his ice cream over the course of two nights, I am blindly chasing after (stalking? ...maybe) yet another of Greg's creations - his Summer's End Vegan Dinner. For the third year in a row, Greg is teaming up with Blossoming Lotus to host this incredible vegan + paleo five-course meal at Departure. It's September 25th (at the tail-end of Portland's more meat-based Feast festival) so no insight yet to this food experience, but I can almost guarantee it will be magical.

 
 And on a completely different note, vegan bars are probably my favorite scene. This Sriracha filled love fest was photographed at NE Portland's totally vegan bar, Bye and Bye. This bar is always such a blast. We always end up chatting with some really interesting people, and although the lines can be long and the place can get super crowded, it's a quintessential Portland place to hang out with food good and strong drinks. Oh and the bar tenders are attractive - always a plus ;)


Jumping back to myself for a minute (sorry, couldn't resist posting this picture), I have been LOVING buying up the most random and unique looking produce I can find at the Farmer's Market (produce so beautiful it almost seems like artwork I could never create/grow) and finding the simplest ways to enhance the flavors for my own consumption. That being said, I had to post this picture of a seriously incredibly heirloom tomato paired with a steam purple carrot over market greens, topped with flake salt (of course).

Next in the line-up, I have to give a shout to to Sizzle Pie. With nine vegan pizzas on the menu, I always assumed the owners and staff of this super hip pizza joint cared about animal issues, but I really had no idea how incredibly awesome and caring they were until I emailed them about an event that my group, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, was putting on. I emailed them asking if we could potentially get a discount on purchasing a fairly large order of vegan pizzas from them and they almost immediately emailed me back and said they love supporting animal rights groups and would donate 12 pizzas, no problem. I mean, seriously! How awesome is the world we live in sometimes? It's that kind of generosity that makes you appreciate life a little bit more :) AND these pizzas are good. It is so nice to have such a variety of different vegan pizzas (not that they lasted long). How awesome, Sizzle Pie. If you are in the Portland area, go support them.

I've also been doing some vegan entertaining at my house which is always a total blast. Last weekend I had a potluck at my place for SALDF where I baked peanut butter cookies, made veggie gyoza, a spicy purple-cabbage slaw and put together a veggie tray. People showed up with a whole myriad of fresh fruits, veggies, hummus, salads and tons and tons of desserts. Plus lots of beer, wine, and good company. I love leading such a motivated, dynamic and compassionate group of people. Again, another one of those "so grateful" moments :)

Ignore the law school text books in the background :)
Speaking of wine and hummus. A couple girlfriends texted me last weekend and asked if I wanted to go out. I had literally been out with college friends all day (there was body paint and beer pong involved - yikes!) and so I suggested that they come over and bring wine and I would cook them dinner instead. It was beautiful - we all hung around in comfy clothes and talked and drank wine (they brought 4 bottles and we had 4 kinds of hummus - that's how I party) and had a super perfect evening. I made a kale and Beyond Meat chicken hash over sprouted brown rice and quinoa paired with roasted delicata squash and olive ciabatta bread from Pearl Bakery. They loved it - neither of them had eaten Beyond Meat before and it was fun cooking with it. Speaking of which, in other vegan news, Alton Brown wrote a review of Beyond Meat for Wired Science which is pretty badass. I like seeing stuff like Beyond Meat gaining popularity and edging its way a little bit more into mainstream society. 

So those are a few of the vegan things I'm loving lately. In general, I'm just trying really hard to stay balanced and appreciate the small things in life. When you work two jobs, go to school full time, run an awesome group and have a dog-child, life can feel overwhelming. But everyone has their battles and at the end of the day, the more we can appreciate the beauty in the world and follow the things that make us happy, the better of this planet of ours will be.


So that's it, lovers. Do what makes you happy. Surround yourself with people who contribute something to your life. Don't sweat the negatives and appreciate the positives. You only have one life so, as always, live long and prosper. 

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