Yard House Opening

Hello again!! Nice to see your handsome little faces back here.  I took a little blog hiatus for a few months (helloooo, attention span! Nice to see you again.) and when I came back, an update completely dismantled my blog. Whoops! It took over a month and the kindness of a knowledgeable friend to help me get it back up and running. So now things are back to normal, I’m stoked, and ready to blog again!

 

Last week, I received an invite to the Yard House‘s grand opening at Pioneer Square in Portland. Color me intrigued! Gardein features prominently on their menu, so the assumption was there’d be some vegan munchies to try. Of course I was also looking forward to trying their beverage offerings. Yard House is primarily known for the beer selection; the Portland location has over 130 beers on tap. Whaaaat?! That’s my idea of heaven. Gimme all your beer.

 

A small sample of the beer selection

A small sample of the beer selection (I tried the Avery White Rascal.)

Yard House drink menu

Yard House drink menu

 

The drink list was extensive with pages and pages of beers, beer cocktails, mules, bubbly cocktails, martinis, mixed drinks, wines, and more.  The excitement!   When my guest and I arrived, we were handed two drink tickets each and ushered to a table reserved for us. We quickly found out that there were not any passed vegan appetizers; there were several vegetarian items, but nothing vegan as is. Disappointed, we made the decision to at least try several of the cocktails from the drink menu if we couldn’t eat anything. It didn’t hurt that we were given a handful of extra drink tickets. Party time.

 

ALL THE DRINK TICKETS

GIVE US ALL THE DRINK TICKETS

 

We tried many, many, many cocktails. For science.

 

A Manhattan and a Beer

A Manhattan and an Avery White Rascal. And a butt.

 

Hendrick's/Aperol cocktail on the left, and Heaven on the right: Hendrick's Gin, St Germain, Lillet Blanc, citrus agave syrup and orange bitters

Hendrick’s/Aperol cocktail on the left, and a French Gimlet on the right: Hendrick’s Gin, St Germain, Lillet Blanc, citrus agave syrup and orange bitters

 

My favorite was the French Gimlet (pictured above) and the Moscow Mule. I love it when bars serve Moscow Mules in traditional copper mugs.

Our server was great, and sent out one of the managers, Sean, when she realized we were interested in sampling vegan food, not the vegetarian options. He explained that a lot of the Gardein products are prepared using non-vegan methods; egg wash or buttery sauces, for example. Sean promised to look into this for vegans dining at Yard House in the future, and mentioned they’re looking into allergens listed for all the food their vendors provide. In the meantime, he was able to put together a dry Gardein sample with baby corn and bok choy.

 

Gardein samples

Yard House veganized Gardein samples

 

Sampling the Gardein

Samplin’ the Gardein

 

Not very exciting on one hand (the orange sauce wasn’t vegan); but on the other hand: vegan chicken! At a chain restaurant! That tastes good!

I’m always a bit surprised in Portland when chefs and owners don’t realize the pull of bringing in vegan and health-conscious customers with ready-made menu items, and it’s especially odd when a restaurant has an entire section devoted to a vegan product and then goes out of their way to unveganize it, but I do have hope that after being settled in Portland a bit, Yard House will be able to offer a few vegan options.

 

** Yard House invited me as a guest to sample their food and drink, but I received no compensation and it did not impact my review.

Vegan Mofo: The Hummus Bar in Budapest


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Hi, welcome to snacky Tuesday! Last week I confessed my powerful love affair with Mexicorn. This week it’s….. HUMMUS.

 

It’s sort of strange, because hummus is such a default vegetarian/vegan option in the States that I get bored of it quite easily. But after eating across Europe, I started missing that creamy lemony chickpea spread. In Budapest, at the suggestion of my Instagram friend Huggy29, I tried The Hummus Bar.

OH MY GOD, I forgot how much I love hummus. And chickpeas in general. And pita bread. And fava beans. And everything that is good and beany and creamy in this world.

I sort of got confused when ordering, so ended up with a bowl of hummus with chickpeas as my side. Never fear. The more chickpeas the better. The salads all looked good; I ended up ordering a tomato/cucumber/onion delight that went into my little pita pocket of wonder with the hummus and chickpeas.

Magical Chickpeas

Magical Chickpeas

GIMME CHICKPEAS OR GIMME…. well, mexicorn or thyme chocolate or wine spritzers. I’m not picky.

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The Slide Inn

 

Hi guys! Have you heard of The Slide Inn? It recently opened in Portland (right next door to the Jade Lounge, on 23 and Ankeny). It’s got a German-theme going, so I wasn’t sure about it at first. (Vegan German Food? What would that entail?)

My friend and I had plans to get together yesterday for happy hour, and all the spots we wanted to check out happen to be closed Mondays. Of all the rotten luck. So when she suggested The Slide Inn, I hopped online, saw they were open Mondays (thank God), and their Happy Hour is from 530-7. PERFECT.

 

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The menu had quite a few vegan options. We weren’t terribly starving, but we decided to share a few things.

 

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The warm spinach salad with tofu, carrots and red bell peppers was good. It was sweet and slightly spicy. It was slightly over-dressed, but the flavors were spot-on. I would totally order it again.

 

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The salad rolls were a favorite of both of ours. The wraps were light on the rice noodles, heavy on the non-romaine lettuce, and served with a thick peanut dipping sauce. I will totally be back for these.

 

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The Yam Fries with horseradish ketchup were so good. I mean, how can you go wrong with horseradish ketchup? You can’t. I like that the fries are hand-cut. I LOVE that they’re served with horseradish ketchup. There’s also whole grain mustard available that goes splendidly with these little guys. I preferred the skinnier crunchier fries, but the thicker big ones sure got eaten too.

 

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The whole spread

 

The Slide Inn is the perfect spot for summer people watching. (All the single ladies: my friend and I conducted a scientific study and that corner sees A LOT of cute boys.)

It’s a quiet street, with families and friends walking around, bicyclists going by, and the occasional car whizzing past. For ever car that drove by, there were 5 bikes. (<—This one was not a scientific count.)

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I already have plans to  go back next Monday. White wine, boy-watching and vegan food on a sunny sidewalk? Color me perfectly pleased.

Departure: Summer’s End Vegan Dinner

 

Departure: Home to sushi, steak cooked on a rock, and hot girls rocking purple dresses.

While having a beautiful view of Portland, I’ve never been drawn there for dining reasons, other than a short-lived Exquisite Dinner attempt with Jess, a year before Vida Vegan Con. (Long story short: the then-chef wasn’t interested in featuring vegan menu items, and the idea was nixed almost from the get-go.)

That all changed when Gregory (follow him, he’s amazing!) took over the reigns as Chef and recently decided to throw a fancy-schmancy vegan dinner with Wes Hannah of Blossoming Lotus  (and Vegan Iron Chef contestant, year one)and Lisa Clark of Petunia’s.

At $50 a head, this dinner wasn’t cheap. But I can say, having just come from there, it was better than any vegan dining experience I’ve ever had out. It was amazing. The food was superb, the service was on point, and the view was beautiful.

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The company wasn’t bad, either.

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(me and Grant Butler)

The menu looked exquisite.

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And at my table was the super duper awesome Alison Jones from Portland Monthly Magazine and Twitter, Alison’s gorgeous fiancé; my good friend Shelley who works at Departure; Grant Butler; and another couple who seemed to know everybody and were beautiful and well-spoken and the epitome of perfect dinner company. I only wished I got to talk with them more.

 

We started with a salted chickpea bread and peanut sauce.

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The chickpea bread was crunchy and salty. When dipped in the creamy and sweet peanut sauce, it was an amazing way to start a meal.

 

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Mmmm Peanut Sauce.

 

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Shelley and I enjoyed a bottle (okay, two) of white wine throughout the coursed meal.

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The wine, imported by Kermit Lynch (who coincidentally make one my favorite sparkling non-sparkling white wines) was dry and a bit smoky and absolutely a perfect accompaniment to our dinner.

First course:

Vegan Charcuterie Board

A selection of Asian Inspired Vegetable Terrines, Nut Cheeses, Savory Pate and Live Seed Crackers with Early Autumn Pickles

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From left: raw seed crackers, cauliflower pickles, broccoli terrine, hazelnut cheese, tempeh spread, and carrot pate.

 

Holy Heck. Do you see this? The broccoli (or ‘blockoli’; get it? It is a block of broccoli) was amazing. It was like a condensed cube of broccoli, with the flavors jamming out into perfect cruciferous flavor. Loved it. The hazelnut cheese was amazing, and when combined on a cracker with the other samplings, delicious. There was a lot there for a course, and I could only eat about half. The tempeh spread; same. Rich and savory with a hint of depth, it was great on a cracker and I could eat this all day long as a spread. The carrot portion was beautiful. It reminded me of a couch from the ‘70’s, and while phenomenal with presentation, was more beautiful than delicious. It was tasty, for sure, and would score major points at a restaurant not doing other amazing things, but tonight it was more aesthetically pleasing than palette pleasing. This says more about the overall quality of all the food than it does about this dish though; seriously,this meal knocked my wool-free vegan socks off.

Second Course:

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup with Sunflower Seed Cream, Sunchokes, Asian Pear, Crispy Ginger and Spicy Oil.

 

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Wow.

This soup was amazing. It was sweet and savory and with the crunchy sunchokes and sweet asian pear, this course blew me away. The full-flavored sunflower seed cream and the spiciness of the oil, mixed with the cilantro (a flavor I LOVE), was the perfect balance of flavors. I could have eaten twice this amount and declared this the best autumn soup I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

Third/Main Course:

End of Summer, Fall Begins, 3 Ways:

Tempura Figs, Roasted Grapes, Candied Walnuts, Spicy Greens, Ginger Vinaigrette

Sweet Corn Custard, Grilled Romano Beans, Local Sea Greens, Pickled Shallot-Sesame Dressing

Maple-Soy Glaze Grilled Tempeh, Smoked Heirloom Tomato-Peach Marmalade, Tomato Crisps

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(From left: tempeh, corn custard and tempura figs)

Did you just read that? Didn’t you want to eat it all right away?

I don’t like figs, and despite Allison and Shelley’s enthusiasm for the little weird things, I wasn’t excited.

I should have been though.

Apparently when you deep fry something, even figs, they turn out delicious.

The grapes, candied walnuts, and ginger-dressed greens complimented the tempura figs perfectly. I ate the whole thing. It was tangy, sweet, chewy and all-over a fantastic fall dish.

If you cook tempeh in maple-soy glaze and use tomato crisps as a garnish, you absolutely cannot go wrong. I’ll leave it at that.

The corn custard—oh, the corn custard. Though I assume it was supposed to come out a touch warmer than it did, this was still my favorite dish of the meal. The saltiness and tanginess of the sea greens and romano beans offset the sweetness of the custard in the most supreme way I could ever even begin to imagine. Beautifully done, exquisitely prepared, I’m in love with this dish.

Fourth Course: Roasted Early Autumn Mushrooms with Wild Ginger, Spruce, Sake-White Soy Glaze, Crispy Hempseed Cake, Pumpkin Seed Condiment

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Okay, who says vegans don’t eat amazing food?! Oh my gosh. The meatiness and earthiness of the mushrooms mixed with the nuttiness and creaminess of the hempseed cake and the spicy savory taste of the ginger and pumpkin seed condiment blew me away, for the fifth time tonight. I ate almost all of this dish (couldn’t finish the hempseed cake), then dipped into Shelley’s for another bite. As Grant said, the hempseed cake would be spectacular as a crouton, with the crispiness of the cube taking center stage. Yum.

By this time in the evening, I was full and a little tipsy, but super-duper excited about the dessert. I could live off desserts if my dentist and doctor didn’t know what they were talking about.

Fifth Course: Coconut Crusted Pistachio Tart and Coconut Cardamom Ice Cream with Candied Plums and Crystalized Ginger (Bonus: Pomegranate Soda)

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I think I was the only one at the table to finish this one. I can always finish dessert. The ice cream, while too cardamom-y for some folks at my table, was just right for me. I love foods where the herbs and flavorings come out swinging, and this ice cream was perfect. The coconut cake with pistachio on top was sweet and caramelized and ooey-gooey and when enjoyed with a bite of spicy and creamy ice cream—absolutely perfect. The soda was just perfect and a nice little cap to the dinner.

 

We were all so full by the end. Gregory, Wes and Lisa came out at the end to say hello, and we each received this cute little take-home pumpkin chocolate cupcake as a surprise ending to the dinner.

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I haven’t eaten mine yet, but look how sparkly and cute this little thing is. Adorable.

Dinner at Departure cost 50 bucks, not including beverages or gratuity. Expensive? You betcha.  Would I go again? In a heartbeat.

The food was immaculate—simple, colorful, gorgeous and innovative. The view is spectacular, the service impeccable, and the atmosphere lovely. I heard a rumor that Departure will start featuring a vegan menu in the next few weeks, and you can bet your booty that I will be back to partake. If you didn’t get a chance to come, you should come check it out. It’s worth the price and the journey up to the 15th floor.

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