Weekend in LaLa Land Part 3

 

On Day Two of Veggie Grill weekend, I woke up bright and early (830am) due to my early retiring the night before. I took a picture of the apple that magically appeared on the mirror shelf (right before I ate it for breakfast) and said goodbye to my room.

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Goodbye, bed.

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Goodbye, snack kit that was too expensive and too adorable for me to snack out of.

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Goodbye, fancy bottle of Evian and fancy red glasses.

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Goodbye, in-room Martini bar. *tear* I wish I could have known you better.

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After I said my goodbyes, I introduced myself to the coffee bar downstairs in the lobby.

Hellooo, coffee bar.

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Then the girls and I made it upstairs to the rooftop pool to see what all the fuss was about.

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I could kick back here for a few hours for sure. Waiter, where’s my bottle of Dom Perignon?

We met this handsome fella, but had to say goodbye too quickly to him and to the SLS Hotel so we could make the Hollywood Farmers Market.

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We met with Ray White, chef and co-founder of Veggie Grill and Therese, Manager of Administration for Veggie Grill, to walk through the Farmers Market before heading to lunch with the two of them.

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Valet parking for the Farmers Market, naturally.

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Webly, Ray and Therese:

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We hightailed it over to lunch, as Michele had to make an earlier flight than the rest of us and we wanted to get her some good food first.

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Here are the nachos again. Guys, these are SO GOOD. I can’t even get over it. I ate all of my share plus Jess’ too, I’m pretty sure.

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Just look at the cheese. *Swoon*

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The chili cheese fries made with sweet potato fries. They’re similar to the nachos, but without the guacamole and jalapenos. I don’t love chili cheese fries (I know, I know), but these were popular at the table.

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One more peak at the soon-to-be-famous-in-Portland cheese sauce:

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Next up, the Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap. I asked specifically to try this item. For someone who’s never eaten a classic anchoveyed-up Caesar salad, I sure do love my vegan Caesars. This wrap is one of my favorite items on the menu. The chicken is blackened, lending a smoky taste throughout the wrap that really complements the lemony Caesar salad.

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The chicken fingers with a side of sweet potato fries and two dipping sauces—ranch and sweet and sour.

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I am a sucker for fake chicken. Look at the insides: it’s chewy and flavorful and completely plant-based. The only thing that would make these better were if they were bite-sized little nuggets.

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Oh, what have we here? Chicken nuggets. YES. They are so friggin’ adorable. These came with chipotle ranch (YUM) and bbq sauce.

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Next up in our Chickenstravaganza lunch, the buffalo chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun. Simple, spicy, perfect.

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This is one of my favorite pictures of Jess ever ever.

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Next up, the new knife-and-fork (or fork-and-knife? I dunno. How do YOU say it?) entrees Veggie Grill will be rolling out soon.

Chicken fried steak with caulipots (mashed potatoes and cauliflower) and steamed kale, topped with mushroom gravy and miso dressing.

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RIGHT?

I was so full at this point (probably from stealing everyone’s nachos and chicken nuggets) that I only had a bite. That bite was worth it though.

Next—and final entrée of the weekend, let me dry my tears—is the Portobello steak on top of tempeh with kale, miso dressing and a fresh tomato caprese salad.

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Again, I could only get down a bite, but the tomatoes were exquisite. I love that they’re working on more gluten-free options.

New-ish dessert. The chocolate pudding with a sweet sour cream topping and oreos.

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This was really good. The tanginess of the sauce mixed really well with the sweetness of the pudding.

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We had fun talking about childhood pets, rooftop gardens and local and seasonal produce among a host of other things.

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After a long and delightfully funny lunch,we said our goodbyes and on the way to airport, Lonny stopped at Venice Beach for us to get out, feel the sand between our toes, and say goodbye to Southern California.

Oh, you should know, I have the same ratio of beaches with palm trees to amount of photos taken as I do to flowers and sunsets.

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I like this guy.

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And this guy.

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After a tearful goodbye with Lonny (ees joke, I make joke. No tears shed.) we had a remarkably easy check-in to LAX. Well, Webly and I did. Jess had a problem with her huge book looking like water in the scanner. Hilarious. Back home to Portland and the long work week and starting to plan the weekend in Chicago.

I had a great quick weekend in LA. I admire Veggie Grill for their authentic and personable business style and am excited to see them grow. I plan on devouring the nachos, kale salad, chicken Caesar wrap and chicken nuggets as often as possible once they land in Portland.

 

Did you miss Part One or Part Two?

Veggie Grill in LALA Land, Part Two

 

Read Part One here.

 

After lunch at Veggie Grill in Santa Monica and a view of the kale machine (perhaps it’s not so revolutionary as we thought, Karla. But it was still cool!) we headed out with Lonny to the Getty Museum. Fun side note: Just as we left, Alyson Hannigan (Lily from How I Met Your Mother, one of my favorite sitcoms) came in. I didn’t get to see her, but I’m content with an almost celebrity sighting.

Onwards to the Getty!

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I had been to the Getty Museum years ago with my friend Jordan, but that was back in the day when I had a disposable camera and the only pictures that turned out were a few off-center self portraits and a foggy picture of LA. This day was sunny and the museum was crowded and the exhibits I saw were striking.

Look, a bug in the museum.

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I really dug the exhibition called Narrative Interventions in Photography. <– No pictures allowed, but this link will take you to pictures on the Getty’s website. I encourage you to click through—there’s great photos of words/narrative interacting with nature in the most peculiar and striking ways.

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Anyway, since I couldn’t take pictures inside, I focused on being outside in the gardens as much as possible.

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Such a gorgeous day for photos. Lots of pretty flowers, too.

And I can’t help but take pictures of pretty flowers. It’s a ratio; the prettier a flower or more striking a sunset, the more photos I am required to snap—and share with everyone I know (including you guys).

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Pomegranates!

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Remember when I traveled through Turkey just over two years ago and drank fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul? That was so awesome.

 

See the bee??

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My favorite picture:

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My second favorite picture:

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The most adorable flower in the flower garden:

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<3

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And LA was sort of smoggy—go figure—but still looked cool.

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Jess and I tried for a few cute shots together. I tried on her glasses for fun, but I just looked like her dorky little sister.

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As the sun started to set, I wandered back to to tram. We had walked the 1/2 mile up from the parking garage, but I was certainly feeling the tram ride down would be warmer.

 

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Once we made it back to the car—and Lonny—and regrouped, we drove back into the city, through Rodeo Drive and to the hotel.

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So much bling to make this city go round.

We made it back to the hotel just in time for cocktails at Bazaar with Greg Dollarhyde, CEO of Veggie Grill, and Heather, director at Blaze PR. No time for changing, straight to drinks. Such is the life.

I was woefully unprepared to order and settled on two of my current favorite go-to’s both times I ordered: Gin (Hendricks for me) Martini straight up with a twist and a classic Negroni (not pictured, but served on the rocks at Bazaar).

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Jess branched out to try a crazy deconstructed olive foam martini thingy (Whoa.)

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Michele and Webly tried crazy nitrogen-y drinks.

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The magic!

 

A few requisite group shots:

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(You can spy my beloved Our Hen House bag under the table.)

Note: the couple in these group photos also came down from Portland for the weekend. They jointly write a food blog and spent parts of the weekend with us.

After cocktails, we took a brief respite in our rooms to, you know, breathe. And because with fancy rooms with turndown service, we had to spend a little time in there, using up the q-tips, fantasizing about the martini bar and doodling on the stationary. Well, that’s what I did.

We met in the lobby and waited for the BMW (value: One hundred thousand dollars. I would write that in numerical form, but I don’t even know how. It’s too big.) to pick us up and drive us to dinner. While waiting, Jess and I had a glass of expensive bubbly in the lobby. As we do. Michele and and Webly stuck with water.

Cheers!

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Once our driver picked us up, he regaled us with more stories than I thought possible on a 1.8 mile drive. He had been at Hyde the night before (to my knowledge, Hyde is an uber-Hollywood club with celebrities and expensive people drinks). I sat shotgun, so he showed me a picture on his phone of him downing a bottle of Dom Perignon at the club.

Whoa. LA life is crazy. I love hearing stories, but I think it’d be a bit much for me to actually live. Not the Dom Perignon part though. I could easily chug bottles of champagne at clubs every weekend. Vegan Thug For Life.

I just looked up what kind of BMW SLS Hotel has. Here’s the info:

At SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, guests can experience BMW’s new ActiveHybrid 750Li – the world’s fastest, street-legal hybrid – providing a chic and exhilarating ride underscored by a custom musical playlist curated by SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.

Yep.

We got to our destination, Mao’s. Cheap Chinese food? Nothing sounded better. Michele used to walk here for dinner back when she lived in LA (I know, she’s glamorous!!).

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We started with a freshmade Ginger Lemonade and complimentary fried wonton chips with dipping sauce.

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Next up: round of appetizers: spring rolls ($1 each. Food for the people, friends, food for the people), green onion pancake thingy and little mushroom veggie pot stickers.

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Fried Rice. Michele knows how to order.

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Green beans and tofu. Webly knows how to order too.

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Chow Mein with soft and chewy noodles. Jess and I shared this and liked it, but still had a lot of leftovers after eating so much all day. This ended up on the inside of my bag after my flight home. Now we know why it’s a bad idea to place an unwrapped takeout container of Chinese food on the plane in your new orange bag. I should have left it with Lonny.

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After dinner my new friend Denny came back in the BMW to pick us up. It was after 10pm by this point and though we had tossed out the ideas of going to a comedy show or back to Bazaar for crazy deconstructed drinks, we were wiped. We all just kind of looked at each other and our eyes said to one another, “Yeah, I’m fine just tucking in for the night.”

One elevator ride up with our fancy and attractive 1-dimensional friends (they didn’t talk much, and never seemed to leave the elevator), I ended up back in my room.

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See, they won’t even make eye contact with us.

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Ha.

 

Anyway, I dorked out over actually having a tv to watch Saturday Night Live on. I climbed into bed, turned on the mirror and fell asleep before the opening monologue was over.

This is how the tv worked—I swear, it felt just like turning the mirror on. Also, I swear I’m wearing pajamas. It’s a weird angle.

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And that sums up Day One! I’ll post the third and final post this week, before I head to Chicago this weekend. Jess, Michele and I are headed there to do location scouting for Vida Vegan Con 2.0 in May 2013. From sundresses to snow shoes, this is a travel-heavy month, and I’m loving it!

Veggie Grill in LaLa Land, Part 1

 

I don’t know what I did to deserve such an opportunity, but lo and behold, me and a fewgalpals recently booked it down to LA for a whirlwind weekend with Veggie Grill. Veggie Grill, a fast casual meat-free restaurant, is planning on four (!) Portland openings in 2012. Veggie Grill serves up fast and affordable (nothing over $10) plant-based food to the lucky people of LA. That’s about to change. The Beaverton location is opening in two weeks, the downtown Portland location (!) is opening in May, and the other two are yet to be announced. And Seattle, you’re next.

I want to preface this by saying that while Veggie Grill covered almost all expenses for the weekend, every single person I met who works for or with them are genuine, friendly, honest and welcoming. The whole weekend felt authentic and educational.

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(Webly, Jess and I are bookended by Therese who works for Veggie Grill and Ray, the animated co-founder and chef)

 

We met the man that was to be our driver for the entirety of the weekend waiting for us at the airport.

His name is Lonny.

 

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(photo courtesy Jess)

 

I love him.

 

What was waiting for us in the car?

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Oh, just soft chocolate chip cookies with walnuts.

 

The girls get excited in these next two pictures:

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After a quick tour through fascinating LA, we arrive at our modest little hotel.

 

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Flowers in the lobby, a horse with a lampshade and a pig with apples in its head. No big deal. It’s just LA.

 

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The SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills is fancy and has nice pillows (hypoallergenic or organic cotton? you choose!) and a martini minibar and Blue Ivy’s daddy Mr. Beyoncé in the private billiards lobby and a pretty pool and celebrities (Hellllll-ooo, Dolly Parton!) and tiny little touches all over to make you feel extra special.

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I felt extra special.

 

After a brief respite and a quick costume change, we headed back downstairs and met Heather and Daniela, the two gals who work for Blaze PR and who coordinated this trip for Veggie Grill.

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After taking pictures in the lobby, we hopped in the car with Lonnie and headed to the Santa Monica location for a menu tasting.

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We were starving.

 

I love food. I also love the intention behind food. If I don’t love the food itself at a restaurant, but I can tell they mean well, I’ll still be a loyal customer (unless there’s also bad service. Then I will be scarred for life and boycott the shiz out of your establishment).

Luckily, I didn’t need to worry at Veggie Grill. The intention behind the food is admirable (healthy, fast, convenient, affordable, no animals harmed in the making of this buffalo chicken sandwich, etc etc) but guys, the food is also good. Everything I sampled tasted fresh. I love the small touches—whole grain buns; sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for fries; a friggin’ kale salad.

I also love that they serve craveably-good Peach Iced Tea and have a small beer and wine menu.

 

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We sampled a little of almost everything while chatting with the co-founders and owners Pillan and Kevin. (Lunch the next day included meeting Ray, the third founder and chef.)

 

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These nachos were so good I ate more than my share both days. The cheese sauce is supremely good, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t typically like nacho cheese sauce.

The only improvement I could see here is fresh jalapeños instead of pickled. Yurm.

 

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Wings. These are perfect—coated in buffalo sauce and served with celery and a side of creamy ranch. Just how you always wanted your vegan buffalo wings to be. These are what I have been looking for all over Portland.

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Did someone say kale salad? With agave roasted walnuts? Urm, YES PLEASE. This salad was one of the most popular dishes at the table. So good.

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Bloggers gotta blog.

 

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Jess is too cute. <3

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Sandwiches and food galore:

(See Jess’s blog post for more sandwich pics. I was too busy sucking down Peach Iced Tea at this point to try for a good angle.)

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(Psssst: the mac and cheese—gluten-free—is even better dipped in the fabulous chipotle ranch. Indulgent, sure, but DELICIOUS.)

 

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Dessert! Swoon.

 

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Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, and this one did not disappoint. So moist (secret is pineapple juice!) and sweet and nutty and perfect.

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The gang, with co-founders Pillan (far left) and Kevin (far right):

 

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Guys, I saved the best for last.

 

Kale.

 

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Machine.

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Stay tuned for Post #2, where I show you pretty pictures from the Getty, fancy and ‘spensive cocktails from Bazaar and our wicked cheap Chinese food dinner.

 

 

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(Sneak Peak: Venice Beach on Day Two)