Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Vegan Eats on the West Coast

You should all be proud of me. I flew in an airplane and I didn't even barf. Not once.

I'm badass like that.

Seriously, though. Last week, I took my first flight ever, and I was somewhat mildly petrified. Luckily, I returned to ground unscathed, aside from a weird bruise I don't remember getting, but I remain unconvinced that human beings are meant to be airborne, let alone airborne en masse at 500 miles per hour.

But at any rate, I did the thing, and I survived and stuff, so it's all okay.

This trip was somewhat disastrous, to tell you the truth. Let me give you a quick rundown of my itinerary, and then I can tell you the 685 ways it ran amok:

On Saturday, I drove from my house to my brother's house to pick him up. I drove from his house (in VA) to Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland. In the rain. Then we hopped on a plane and flew from Baltimore to Portland, OR. On Sunday, I drove from Portland to McKinleyville, CA. That was about 12 hours. On Monday, I went hiking in the redwood forests of California. On Tuesday, I drove back from McKinleyville to Portland. On Wednesday, I hauled my exhausted butt out of bed before dawn to catch a flight from Portland back to BWI, and then I finally, finally, drove home to Virginia.

And as I mentioned, the whole thing devolved into a giant disaster. It poured on the way to the airport. My windshield wiper broke halfway down I-70. The airport parking lot was full. My brother got pulled aside by TSA because he had all kinds of random crap in his carry-on. The flight was turbulent. My GPS doesn't actually work in Oregon...and the list goes on and on. But disasters aside, I spent three glorious days entirely by myself, and it was the most therapeutic thing I could have asked for.

Also, there was vegan food.

We flew Alaska Air, and one of the things they offered was an in-flight vegan snack box. They called it Mediterranean Tapas. I called it a snack box.


Whatever you call it, this blurry box of goodies was bomb. It was $6, which was about $3 less than buying belly button lint from the airport newsstands, so I consider this a win. The box included dried apricots, roasted almonds, fancy chocolate, a packet of olives (which I promptly pawned off on somebody disgusting enough to eat olives), pita cracker things, and a mini cup of hummus. It was delicious, and I very much enjoyed the novelty of a boxful of snacks. For those of you who know my birthday is coming up, take note: I like boxes of food.

On Saturday night, I drove into Portland and stopped at Virtuous Pie, an all-vegan pizzeria. There was more tattoo ink on the 9pm patrons of that pizza place than there is in all of the tattoo parlors in my hometown, combined. But it was pretty awesome pizza, and the restaurant vibe was fun too. Being all alone and stuff, I didn't really get the full experience of sitting at a giant farm table (with a cactus in the middle) and having deep conversations about man buns, but I still appreciated the ambiance.

And also, the pizza.

You cannot prove that I ate this pizza in a Toyota Yaris parked on a side street in a spiffy neighborhood. You can't prove it even a little bit. But shoutout to the people of SE Spruce Avenue--your homes are lovely.

On Sunday, I ate an apple out of an Econo Lodge lobby for breakfast (I was staying there, I promise) and then I drove down the coast to the Tin Thistle in North Bend, Oregon.

They were closed.

I went to Taco Bell.

They make pretty good vegan food, if I do say so myself.

I also stopped at a Safeway for gas and Sour Patch Kids. In that moment, I learned two things: 1) It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon, and people will think you're super weird and possibly a criminal if you try to do it yourself; 2) These fucking Sour Patch Kids are the devil incarnate.

Seriously. I'm all about Sour Patch Kids. Sour Patch Kids are a glorious vegan phenomenon. They're the perfect road trip snack. I ate three of these and threw away the entire bag. They were that bad.

On Monday, I ate the vegan breakfast fixin's my Airbnb host left for me: fancy oatmeal and a banana.

Then I went hiking, like one of those outdoorsy people.

It was pretty fun.

I also stood in the surf of the Pacific. That was pretty cool, too.

For dinner that night, I decided to explore the local cuisine by venturing into a grocery store. This was a mistake. The grocery store I ventured into didn't sell instant rice. I didn't even know that was possible. But they really didn't, so I ate ramen and microwaved veggies instead.

It's all okay, though, because there were goats at my Airbnb, and they'll eat anything.

On Tuesday, I drove back to Portland, stopping at the Cornbread Cafe in Eugene, OR, along the way.

I ordered a reuben with fries.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'd never had a reuben before this. I went vegetarian when I was 12, and my 11 year old self had no interest in eating anything prepared with rye bread, so this was a brand new experience for me.

It was delicious.

After that, I drove into Portland proper for the sole purpose of visiting the vegan mini-mall.

I know, you're all waiting in suspense to learn whether I got a vegan tattoo.

I did not.

I did get vegan soft serve, though, and that's arguably way better.

While I was there, I explored the Herbivore Clothing Company shop and the Food Fight market, both 100% vegan and 200% awesome.

At Food Fight, I bought some vegan lip balm, because that's nearly impossible to find 'round these parts, and I snagged a baguette and some roasted red pepper vegan cheese for dinner.

It was awful.

I'm not usually one to knock vegan cheese. In general, I'm so appreciative that anybody tried to help vegans get their fix of cheesy goodness, I'll eat it and be happy even if it's mediocre. This was not mediocre. This was bad. It didn't taste like cheese at all. It tasted, no joke, like solidified hummus. I spent a lot of time debating on whether I wanted to try to bring the rest of it home in my luggage, and eventually I decided that weight restrictions were a good enough excuse to not transport 4oz of shitty cheese across the country, and I threw that crap in the trash. Next time, I'll stick with Miyoko's.

So now you're all caught up on my vegan ventures in the West. As tumultuous as they may have been, I still get to say that I ate at two all-vegan restaurants, which is certainly more than I would have been able to accomplish here in VA.

Do any of you have any top-notch vegan restaurant recommendations? Where should I journey next in my search for truly awesome vegan cheese? Let me know in the comments!