Chicago VVC Research Trip

 

Last week, Jess, Michele and I woke up bright and early and headed to the PDX Airport.

Destination: Chicago!

 

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In January!

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Our four goals were simple:

 

1. Eat Chicago Pizza and Chicago-style Hot Dogs.

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Chicago unfortunately has a severe shortage of deep dish vegan pizza (Really, Chicago? Not one place?) but luckily for us, our friend The Snarky Vegan put out a call for best vegan pizza place and we all decided on The Boiler Room. Ian’s, the other options that came up, didn’t carry Daiya, and that’s what we were jonesing for.

The Boiler Room has the coolest bathrooms on the planet (see Get Sconed’s Facebook page for a little video tour), a rad cocktail list and Upton Natural’s bacon. None of us had tried bacon on pizza before, so we had to check it out. This pizza is basic—red sauce with mozzarella Daiya, Upton’s bacon and basil. Yurm.

Could have used more basil, but I’m a basil fiend and could always eat more basil.

 

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The Whole Foods in Lincoln Park has two unique distinctions:

1. It is the best place in the world and one can drink bubbles while grocery shopping and I want to live in the aisles forever.

2. There’s a little diner called River View that offers vegan Chicago-style hot dogs for $3.50.

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Michele stuck with the classic hot dog. I opted for one with sauerkraut and mozzarella Daiya.

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It looks gross, I know. When I saw the picture, I seriously questioned myself as to why I would eat that. But guys, it was really good. I ate about half the kraut/cheese topping, and a few of the fries. YURM!

 

Oh, and we had milkshakes in Chicago, too!

 

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Milkshake at The Chicago Diner.

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Jess and I split the small one, and between the two of us, we almost finished it.

 

Jess ordered a cookies and cream milkshake at the fine River View café in Whole Foods.

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This is Michele, with her glass of bubbly and Jess’ milkshake in the background.

We came, we ate, we conquered.

 

 

2. Meet up with awesome Chicago vegan peeps.

 

Dan and Nicole from Upton’s spent a few hours with us on Saturday. They’re the nicest people. They picked us up at our Travelodge and drove us through Boystown to The Chicago Diner. We had a fun chat over lunch.

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Nicole, me and Jess outside the Chicago Diner

After lunch, we checked out a few other places on the (un)official Upton’s Driving Tour. Dan and Nicole were the perfect welcoming wagon to us VVC ladies in Chicago. Thanks, guys!

 

The magnificent Kelly Peloza (who is my younger doppelganger.) came up for dinner and shenanigans with us on Saturday night. She’s so talented and peaceful and fun. I love her.

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Kelly and Jess at Native Foods.

 

On Sunday, we had a small meet up at the Boiler Room. Marla from Chicago Vegan Mania, Julia from The Snarky Vegan and Michelle (Jess’ friend—not sure if she has a blog?) got together for pizza and talks about Chicago locations and probability of a future event here.

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This is what we did all weekend. Bloggers gotta blog.

 

 

3. Research potential venues for 

Vida Vegan Con 2013.

 

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We saw several spots—ranging from UIC which would be big enough to host everything except the Galarama, to Loft on Lake (perfect for Galarama??) to Pulaski Park to Roosevelt University. We loved all we saw. While some locations had drawbacks, they each had a lot of singular benefits. We will be weighing out the pros and cons this weekend.

Decisions, decisions!

 

4. Get familiar with the feel of Chicago, the public

transportation, and the vegan food options.

 

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This is the view from our hotel room. Chicago is a pretty city.

 

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The public transportation was ridiculously easy to understand, navigate and afford.

 

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Jess and Michele will probably kill me for posting this blue-light bus picture. But I love it.

 

I’m not sure why, but I really like this picture.

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We had coffee at Intelligentsia, Chicago’s famous coffee shop.

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My soy cappuccino was alright. It looked beautiful, but (*puts on coffee snob hipster glasses*) notes of banana overwhelmed the flavor of the cup for me.

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I call this “The Jess Collection”.

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<3 <3 <3

 

We ate lunch at Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur, an all-vegan soy-saturated taco place.

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I loved it. I tried three different tacos and a bite of Jess’ Cuban Torta. I wish there was a Quesadilla location in Portland, but failing that, I am just getting more and more excited for El Nutri to open its Brick and Mortar location (Anyone know when that will be?)

 

Walking around in the cold. Brrrrrrr. I loved the weather. I don’t know how I’d feel after five solid months of bone-seeping cold, but four days wasn’t so bad. Plus, it was snowy. <3

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Fresh warm bread. Never say no to fresh warm bread.

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I enjoyed this Ebel’s Weiss. It tasted like a floral Hefeweizen.

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The Handlebar, a crowded vegetarian restaurant, offered an  excellent beer: Blueberry Stout. My new favorite. Wow. This was so good. I had two. I don’t think I could do more than two—it’s so rich—but two was the perfect amount.

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And, just look: rosehip liqueur? Want.

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Further down on the cocktail menu was a beermosa with White ale and orange juice. Super intriguing, but stuck to my baby, the Blueberry Stout.

 

We visited the top of the John Hancock building.

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96 stories up, our ears popped and our whistles wetted, we would have had a stunning view of Chicago, I’m sure, but all we saw out of the windows was fog and shadows of falling ice. It was so cool.

Downtown Chicago at dusk.

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Whole Foods bubbles for shopping. Two of my favorite things: grocery shopping and sparkling wine. I am going to move in to this Whole Foods.

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I brought all this back on the plane with me.  Soul Vegan Mac and Cheese, Ste Marteen pepperjack cheese, cucumber dill hummus, and a vegan gyro wrap from Upton’s. Not pictured: cookies from the Chicago Diner purchased as gifts for a few of the vegan staff at my day job.

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The mac and cheese was decent, the hummus is nice, I’m really enjoying the cheese so far and I want those gyros wraps available in Portland.

 

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Overall, it was a fun, busy and successful trip. We haven’t made our final decision yet, but this trip definitely answered a few questions for us.

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I love Chicago.

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Vida Vegan Con Wrap Up

 

Welp, here we are. A week after Vida Vegan Con wrapped up, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what just happened.

I’ve been silent over here on my end because I’m still processing how much smaller and more intertwined and connected and inspiring the world just got. The conference itself was amazing, and to see what has been happening since—the community that has been building on the Facebook page, on blogs and at nation-wide impromptu meet ups—is overwhelming. I haven’t said anything because I don’t know what to say.

Michele  and Jess wrote beautiful, touching and perfect recaps here, here and here. Oh, and here. I basically want to plagiarize what they wrote because they each so eloquently put into words what I cannot.

At this point I would normally throw my hands in the air and exclaim “Photo Essay Time!” but I just looked through my pictures of the weekend and I took exactly 10 photos and it is all food.

So I will say this: Thank you. Thanks to those of you who agreed to speak, thanks to those who registered and attended, thanks to our sponsors, thank you to my friends and family who have heard me speak of nothing else for over a year, and thank you to Jess and Michele, who kept me motivated, supported and sane.

For in-depth recaps, here are a handful of the blog recaps I’ve loved catching up on:

Gena from Choosing Raw (3 parts)

JL Goes Vegan (8 parts!)

Kyle from Vegan Vagrant (1 action-packed post)

The Cosmopolitan Hour Podcast (2 parts)

Our Hen House Podcast (featuring the lovely Jess)

 

And you know that if I took pictures of nothing else last weekend, I took a picture of the taco bar and the Champagne Reception.

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(photo courtesy of Isa Chandra. From left: Janessa, Michele and Jess.)

Oh My Gosh Oh My Gosh Oh My Gosh (also known as: It’s Vida Vegan Con time!)

 

Oh My gosh.

YOU GUYS. Have you heard? There are a whole bunch of vegans in town. AND I’M SO EXCITED!

I just want to fill this whole page with superlatives.

Like this: Amazing, wonderful, exciting, thrilling, unbelievable, ohmygoshwhoa, fantastic, inspiring, mind-blowing, the best thing ever, etc.

I can hardly believe that earlier tonight at Vendetta there was a courtyard filled with 40+ vegans from around the world. As different as everyone was, they all have one thing in common: they’re here in Portland because they’re excited about veganism, they’re excited to meet one another, and they’re each so inspiring to all of us.

I don’t know why I say ‘they’; I’m one of them! Sometimes I have a hard believing that I, who started a nerdy blog called EpicuriousV*gan.Blogspot (*groan*) three years ago (my first blog post was a Sangria recipe, tellingly) actually knows other vegans and other bloggers. I’m plain giddy that people whose blogs I’ve been reading for over three years and cookbook authors who write recipes I’ve devoured for longer, and magazines I’ve subscribed to longer still, are all in Portland this weekend.

And that I get to talk to them.

And BE FRIENDS WITH THEM.

HOLY MOLE.

I need to keep pinching myself.

I’m rolling on a fun mix of sleep deprivation, giddiness, pure excitement, and a tiny bit of Sophia Coppola champagne. (<—Well, I was rollin on bubbles when I started this post around 830 tonight. By now, 1:45am, after a 5th consecutive night of SWAG BAG STUFFING {eeeeee!} it’s coconut water, exhaustion and excitement)

(PS I promise I will find to time to shower sometime before I meet you.)

(PPS I apologize for the quadruple parenthesis. I know not what I do.)

Michele, Jess and I have been working hard for over a year to put this conference together and here it is, all coming to fruition RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK. Excuse the overzealous cap locks, I’m just SO FRIGGIN EXCITED! Michele wrote a beautiful and punch drunk post early this morning, if you haven’t read it yet you should, it’s the best. My post is more punch drunk than beautiful, but it’s equally as heartfelt, I promise. The three of us have had a blast working on the conference together and I am so incredibly lucky to be working alongside two such genuinely rad ladies.

This weekend will be nutty and brilliant and memorable. I’m sure there will be a few snags, but no bigs, we’ll all move get through ‘em them together. From the bottom of my heart, I’m incredibly thankful and super happy to meet everyone who’s coming into town (and who already lives here!) for this first ever Vegan Bloggers Conference.

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This is a super dorky picture, I love it! Look how happy we are! It’s THE PROGRAM! Whoa!

Alright folks, goodnight! I don’t know if I can fall asleep, I’m so excited.

 

Sauvie Island Berry Tripping

I’ve been to Sauvie Island before. Lots. To the pumpkin patch for Fall Shenanigans, to the orchard for late summer peaches, to rogue off-road blackberry picking, even to the beach for sunning (never to the nude beach that’s out there though—not yet).

I’ve never been to Sauvie Island for raspberries and blueberries though. Beautiful beautiful berries. My favorite berries. That changed last week, when I head out with Michele from Vegtastic Voyage  (and of course one of my witty and pretty co Vida Vegan Con directors), Michele’s husband Tom and their out-of-country guest Kati, who was visiting from Spain.

There are several farms out there for u-pick; all the ones I’ve been to have equally helpful staff and are equally bountiful. There are charts explaining what fruits, vegetables and flowers are in season and handy signs at every row of produce.

I will let the pictures do the talking from here on out. Because I took one billion and you need to see all of them.

Rustic Signs:

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Beautiful flowers you can take home:

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I found a breeding ground for these guys:

 

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….Didn’t find any little kids with “Xavier Roberts” tattooed on their bum though.

 

And of course…. BERRIES!

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Now I just need to figure out what to do with them. I froze a small batch of raspberries the minute I got home from Sauvie’s for summer smoothie fruit gazpacho madness. I still have probably 3 pounds of blueberries and a pound of raspberries. Ahhhh the possibilities.

I’m definitely headed back once peaches come in—and I think it will be just in time for Vida Vegan Con if any of you out-of-towners happen to like picking your own fruit.