Team VVC recently took to Chicago for a research trip.
I decide to bring along my new friend, Marcel.
He came into life last month, when a date and I won him at Wunderland Arcade on Belmont. He’s little, and purple, and I think a frog. Or an alien.
Here’s the story of Marcel’s adventures in Chicagoland.
The Friday morning we’re set to leave, he wakes up early. He’s never flown before (what, he’s only 4 weeks old) but he’s excited.
He sleeps while I read a gorgeous Spanish novel on my Kindle and indulge in a little rum and OJ.
(My knee is way banged up from a bike accident, hence the bandages and cane I used all weekend.)
The book is called The Shadow of the Wind, by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It’s this beautiful haunting story set in post-war Spain and involves a cemetery of lost books and a boy who tries to solve an old mystery which brings him up to present day. There’s love and intrigue and murder and ghostly characters and beautiful girls and it’s the best book I’ve read this year.
He likes to cuddle while he sleeps. This is his favorite spot:
He sleeps with his eyes open, which is weird, but I let him do his own thang.
On Saturday, he can hardly wait to get into VeganMania.
He loves big crowds, and Chicago VeganMania does not disappoint.
The Vegan Black Metal Chef is a nice dude from Florida with a crazy amount of You Tube hits for his black metal vegan cooking. He writes his own music and makes his own videos. This is his first live cooking demo, and Marcel and I both enjoy it.
Marcel sticks close to me while we watch the demos. We share a coconut water.
Miyoko’s cooking demo includes almond ricotta (SO EASY—I come home to make 2 batches in my kitchen), nacho cheese sauce, and meltable Muenster
Marcel falls a little in love. I don’t have the heart to tell him she’s married, plus she lives in San Francisco. Long distance relationships rarely work.
The volunteers pass around pasta shells made with the ricotta and the Muenster.
Yurm. I want to eat this forever.
Team VVC, Marcel and I spend the next few hours checking out the rest of VeganMania.
After VeganMania Day, while Jess, Michele and I spend the majority of our remaining trip researching, checking out venues for Vida Vegan’s 2014 conference and gala, and sampling the fine vegan cuisine of Chicago, Marcel gets a kick out of riding the CTA with us and becoming a vegan epicurious alien-frog.
Riding the CTA like a boss.
Seeing the sights and swimming in vegan mimosas can really wear a little frog alien out.
Marcel gets excited when he sees the local flavors of Chicago. Ho’peps*!
*Slang for Hot Peppers. All the cool kids are saying it. Try it, you’ll like it.
Riding the train at sunset, Marcel asks for a window seat so he can see the sights. I happily oblige.
After a long day of riding the train all around Chicago, Marcel is ready for a shot.
It’s weak, but he’s a little guy and it goes straight to his head.
I’ve taught him well; he knows he needs to stay hydrated after a night of drinking.
On Monday, Marcel is craving coffee. Hooked on Intelligentsia, he is disappointed but settles for a Starbucks for his morning caffeine kick.
I can hardly bear the disappointment in his eyes.
Marcel, Michele, Tom and I walk trough the park. I hear Chicago has fall for like a week, and feel lucky that we get to experience it. It’s beautiful.
(Though I have to admit, I rather liked the ridiculous snow and cold and wet feet of Chicago when we were there in January.)
We arrive at the Field Museum for the day’s first appointment.
Marcel is such a tourist. He really wants his picture taken with me on the steps.
Once inside, while Team VVC is getting a tour of the event space, Marcel makes some new friends.
(Sue is the world’s most extensive and well-preserved T-Rex in existence.)
Feeling confident with the glass case between him and this new friend, Marcel agrees to get his picture taken.
Marcel and I are introduced to the marvels of MOLD-A-RAMA.
According to my native Chicago friends, I guess MOLD-A-RAMA is totally a thing. Michele and her husband Tom get giddy when they smell the hot plastic molding a fantastic new shape into creation. It takes them back to grade school.
I have to try it out. Two dollars is an insignificant amount for such a quality experience.
There are several different varieties of dinosaurs I can choose from, but naturally I’m drawn to the Brontosaurus (also unfortunately but accurately known as the Apatosaurus).
Within seconds, Marcel has a new friend. I already have a dinosaur named Emily Bronte-saurus; what should I name this one?
We also find a photobooth. I jump up and down with glee. Jess and I talk Michele into cramming into it with us.
After the Field Museum, we hop on the CTA out to Logan Square to look at a space for the 2014 Gala.
We’re 30 minutes early, so duck into a café for quick Wi-Fi usage.
Marcel takes after me and has quickly cultivated a fine taste for anything bubbles. We share a champagne cocktail with Campari and a gorgeous orange twist. The others drink coffee.
The event space is beautiful, though on the second story of a building and unfortunately lacking handicap access.
What’s the best way to end a day of venue viewing and appointments?
Vegan chocolate ice cream in a vegan cone.
Last day in Chicago. Marcel has fallen in love with the city and doesn’t want to leave.
I can see why.
It’s a beautiful city.
We view two event spaces, which are our favorite yet (stay tuned to Vida Vegan HQ for info as things slowly get finalized).
And then. And then. Whoo boy. We find a taco shop that offers vegan options in Logan Square, right off the Blue Line on our way to the airport.
These are the best tacos ever. Upton’s chicken, refried beans, avo, lots of lettuce, cilantro, onions, and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast (yeast was my own; I always have a little shaker in my purse. What, don’t you?).
Marcel enjoys the hot sauces and the weird grapefruit-ish beer-ish we try.
The beer thingy is weird, but we all enjoy the heck out of our tacos.
Then, a remarkably easy path through security, a quick glass of champagne before boarding, and we’re back home in Portland.
Marcel is exhausted, but had an action-packed trip full of good food and good company.
I have a feeling he’s officially been bitten by the travel bug.