Hotel Dining: Vegan Quinoa Cakes in Seattle

I travel a lot for work, organizing and hosting corporate health fairs. Last week I was hosting my last event of the season in Seattle, Washington. My coworker and I just headed to the hotel bar, Jimmy’s on First, for dinner–we were tired, and I can usually find something to modify or change. Plus, I’m usually open to eating french fries and salad, because yum. Any excuse to eat fried food is a good one in my book.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a clearly labeled vegan entree. Naturally I had to order it.

 

“Mac and Cheese…wish that was vegan. Fish Tacos?! Where’s Gardein when you need ’em?….OH! Quinoa & Chickpea Cakes??! Don’t mind if I do.”

Quinoa & Chickpea Cakes with tomato cumin jam, chimicurri sauce, pine nuts, braised local greens & seasonal vegetables. Duh.

 

Don’t mind the vertical phone pic; this way you get the see the lovely black bev naps.

The cakes were really filling; I think this might be the veggie burger patty they offer on the menu, because they’re pretty substantial. I could only eat one. The tangy tomato cumin jam was a nice compliment to the straightforward taste of the cakes. The greens were a nice bright addition, and the roasted carrots were sweet and simply seasoned.

I love it when restaurants have a clearly marked vegan option, and I’m happy to report that this was filling, hearty and tasty. If I stay at The Silver Cloud Inn again, I’ll definitely head back down for dinner. The only downside is that it’s right next to Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, so apparently drunk fans regularly come in and pull the fire alarm. This happened while we were dining last week, with the alarm going steadily for 10 minutes until the Fire Department showed up.

No matter, a quick dip in the rooftop hot tub quickly dissipated any lingering irritations.

 

Epicurious Vegan in London

Well, hello.

I’m getting around to organizing my pictures from my trip so I can start really posting about it.  The thing is, I took photos mainly with my camera phone, because the Chromebook (my laptop I brought with me) doesn’t have an SD card reader; which makes uploading photos a giant pain in my bum. But then–I started taking so many pictures with my phone that my storage started dwindling and my pictures started disappearing. Whoops!

I figured this out and fixed it in The Netherlands. Which means that all the photos I took in London, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Valkenburg, Maastricht and Ghent (Belgium) are mostly gone. Nuts. I’ve got a few hanging around though, so I’ll share those with you. Some will be from Instagram, and some will be those that magically avoided getting deleted.

 

tower bridge

The Tower Bridge

 

London.  I’ve been in love with London since I was 10 years old. The first time I visited, in 2000 when I was studying in Belfast, it took my breath away. I loved everything about it. The crowds, the accent, the architecture, Tesco, the absolute otherness of it. I always planned on going back. In fact, I got accepted to grad school for library science in 2008 at a London school, but ended up deferring my acceptance because I ran into an issue with my social security card/an old name change (so much fun!). By the time acceptance rolled around again, I had decided to stick around in Portland and help my friends open Back to Eden Bakery on Alberta.

So when I started planning my mini RTW trip for 2013, the only thing I knew without a doubt was that my first stop would be London. I had to go back.

Flying to London

 

I arranged to meet my friend Gareth, from Belfast, in London. His girlfriend Amy works for the BBC and was living on location in London for 6 months. We spent the week together tripping around London before taking the train up to Edinburgh for the weekend.

 

London

 

And….I didn’t love London as much as I once did. The world has gotten so much smaller in the last decade. What I mean by that is London is just London. It’s a place that we have friends from, a place that we see in pictures and blog posts consistently. We can now read news from the BBC or The Guardian online every day. British tv shows get streamed on Hulu. It doesn’t feel as ‘other’ or as special to me anymore. It’s just another city in the world that has people and food and tourist sights and political problems and a cool history.

It’s like the only personality or character it has anymore (that I saw) is on the touristy stuff–the phone booths, the double decker buses, the taxi cabs, the Beefeaters. Manufactured atmosphere. I feel like that’s how bigger international cities are becoming, these days. I don’t know how much of my changed perspective is me getting older, and how much has to do with how much the world has really changed in the last decade. (I will say though that I still find visiting smaller cities and towns still lead to that magical wondrous feeling of being somewhere completely different.)

 

postcards2

 

I did have a blast in London because it’s still a cool place and I got to spend time with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We walked–a lot–and I got lost–a lot. Seriously, before I realized that GPS will work on my phone even without using a data plan, I walked the entire circumference of Hyde Park, with my big ol’ backpack, trying to find my dang hostel.

 

swans

 

I FINALLY found it, and just barely got the last room.

PHEW.

I stayed at the Astor Hyde Park and loved it. It’s super central, and easy to find (once you get your bearings), and affordable. Something I discovered on this trip: some hostels have age limits. This is one of them–you gotta be 35 or under. I don’t know how strict this policy is, but if you’re coming to London and want affordable lodging, I definitely recommend this place. There are three other locations, but I can only vouch for this one. And do I ever vouch for it! This hostel is a beautiful old Victorian town house on a tree-lined street located close to the Royal Albert Hall, and within walking distance to the Kensington Gardens. The hostel itself was clean and funky and modern and friendly.

Photo by www.todolondres.com

Photo by www.todolondres.com

 

The room I nabbed was a 5-person room with an en-suite bathroom, and lockers under each bed for valuables. Wifi was included, and I think there was a small deposit for a towel. I didn’t bring a towel with me because my backpack was valuable real estate; I didn’t mind paying a few bucks at occasional hostels to use their towels.

This is where I stayed when I got back from Edinburgh; it was a perfect base for meeting some vegan blogging friends. Quarrygirl and her hubby met me out one night for a pint, which was a blast. They had visited me when I worked at BridgePort a few years ago. They’re great; I’m sure if I lived in the same town as them I’d want to hang out ALL THE TIME. So it’s probably in their best interest that they live in London now.

I also spent a day touring London with Sean from Fat Gay Vegan and Kip from Messy Vegetarian Cook; Sean and I got a falafel at a delightful little shop (located next to the old BBC headquarters) before a 5 hour bus ride across town to Cookies and Scream where we met up with Kip. I ordered a vanilla milkshake with a whole peanut butter chocolate chip cookie mixed into the milkshake and proceeded to shove the whole thing into my mouth in a matter of seconds, before I exploded. All gluten-free and vegan. Lots of soy, but hey, I’m a soy-lover. Gimme tofu or gimme nothin’.

cookiesandscream

 

I also saw Kate Middleton (very pregnant) at BBC when Amy took me there for a tour. I was SO CLOSE, but didn’t want to embarrass my friends by taking a picture. The future Queen of England, and I was less than 5 feet from her! So now we’re best friends, obvi. That was exciting.

My favorite things I ate in London: FISH AND CHIPS.

 

fishnchips

 

I tried Loving Hut Camden‘s version (pictured above) which was outstanding, and also ordered them at Coach and Horses Pub (their website has been under construction since 1962 or something, I swear), which were also outstanding.  I didn’t have a favorite–they were just different enough to both be amazing. Loving Hut uses soy fish, a light nori wrap and deep fried breading; Coach and Horses uses tofu, nori, and a more traditional fish batter. Coach and Horses also came with mushy peas, which are MAGICAL. As Quarrygirl explained to me, mushy peas are like refried beans; just mashed up and salted peas. WHY DON’T WE DO THAT IN THE STATES??!

And if there’s a brewery around, I’ll make an effort to visit it. Gareth recommended BrewDog Camden, which had an awesome funky independent vibe. I know it’s now a chain–I think it started in Aberdeen and they have multiple locations now, but they hold on to their character/atmosphere well. The brewery, started in 2007, is one of the first craft breweries in the UK.

 

Beer in London

 

The last thing I want to mention is the vegan food scene in London. I wasn’t there for too long so by no means am pretending to be an expert, but my impression is this: London is great for vegetarians. But it basically got stuck in 1992, food-wise. I had a hard time finding (good) vegan food. I ate at a well-known Italian vegetarian restaurant one night, and it was one of the worst meals of my trip. A dry calzone with a few pieces of aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini) and mushrooms nestled inside and a smattering of bland red sauce on top. All the pastas on offer contained egg, and the calzone–modified to be vegan–was one of the only options. I couldn’t even eat half of it. I feel like this seems to be the case in much of London–the vegetarian scene took off, then got comfortable. I’d love to see more exclusively vegan options and restaurants next time I go back.

OK, as my last-last note, I have to share this picture. I was the biggest Beatles fan in the world in high school (seriously, it’s almost embarrassing. I would stay home on December 8th every year, wear all black, and mourn John Lennon.), so when I saw the actual Abby Road, I just had to do the tourist thing (which I don’t mind doing; I’m a tourist, for goodness’ sake! I think it’s so funny when people want to pretend they’re not tourists.) and pretend like I was the 10th Beatle. Whoohoo!

abbyroad

Vegan in Vietnam for Travel Indochina

Hi guys!

 

HAPPY DECEMBER!! I am having a hard time registering that 2013 is almost over. And as equally as hard of a time registering that 2013 only lasted a year–how is that possible?! I’ve been to Austin, twice (that alone feels like three years ago); I quit my job; helped put on international vegan conference Vida Vegan Con; sold or gave away most of my belongings; traveled through Western & Eastern Europe and SE Asia; and have been back in Oregon for two months.

Holy cow. Now I’m just lookin’ for one of those jobby-things and cat-sitting for friends while I work on Vida Vegan and get settled (though a small percentage of me is tempted to jet off to a small coastal town in Eastern Europe and drink all the white wine spritzers for the rest of my life).

Traveling was by the far the highlight of my year; I spent almost two years planning and saving for this big trip, and it has been a dream of mine for years. I got a lot of questions while traveling and since I’ve been back about traveling as a vegan.  Short answer: Yes, it was hard sometimes. It was also really easy sometimes, really delicious a lot of the time, and absolutely worth it all of the time.

While I was traveling, I was contacted by Travel Indochina about vegan choices in Vietnam. I contributed a piece to their site, and they incorporated it into a larger article on their blog.

The cruise in Halong Bay actually had some of the best vegan food I had in SE Asia.

The cruise I took in Halong Bay actually had some of the best vegan food I ate in SE Asia.

 

Vegan in Vietnam

A rare treat–labeling in English!

 

Traveling as a vegan in Vietnam led to a lot of spring rolls and spaghetti, but also some really unique tasty treats. This article marks the the first time I’ve been paid to write, and it’s all terribly exciting for me. Please head over to the Travel Indochina blog and check it out. And as more time goes on, I’ll finish going through my pictures and figure out how to summarize my trip in blog posts. It’s still a bit overwhelming for me, but I’m looking forward to sharing my favorite finds, gorgeous views and yummy food from my travels with you soon.

 

This lady's cart in Nha Trang had THE BEST vegan banh mi's for only 50 cents.

This lady’s cart in Nha Trang had THE BEST vegan banh mi’s for only 50 cents.

 

This is a huge tofu sandwich.

This is a huge tofu sandwich.

 

 

 

 

Riding Bikes in Valkenburg, Holland

Valkenburg

Valkenburg is a Dutch village in the Limberg province of South Holland. It is absolutely stunning and easily one of my favorite places I visited in my four-month, fourteen-country trip. The people are friendly, the countryside is unforgettably gorgeous, and the beer is cold and served with salty peanuts. Who could ask for anything more?

My friend Mireilla, who lives in The Netherlands, took me down to South Holland (and Ghent, Belgium) for a weekend while I was staying with her in June.

 

Valkenburg

Mireilla (left) and I, trying to figure out where to look into my smartphone for our selfies

 

On the morning after we stumbled onto an exquisite André Rieu concert, Mireilla and I decided to rent bikes for the day. After briefly considering biking to Germany (a possibility, but we’d have to get an earlier start), we ended up just riding around the hilly countryside of Valkenburg.

Though The Netherlands is known for being remarkably flat and therefore bicycle-friendly, this part of Holland is actually incredibly hilly. In fact, the Tour de France had a stage finish in Valkenburg in 1992 and 2006.

We biked somewhere between 20-30 miles (I can’t for the life of me remember, because we measured in meters, and now it’s been months. Let’s go with 30, because that’d be cooler.) and got real good and sweaty. We stopped for lunch and shared satay fries (fries with peanut sauce, the best thing I ate in Holland) and the hugest burrito-shaped spring roll I’ve ever eaten in my life.

Valkenburg

Valkenburg

 

 

Valkenburg

 

Valkenburg

 

 

Valkenburg

 

 

 

 

 

Valkenburg

 

Valkenburg

 

We stayed at the Hotel Lahaye, which I LOVED. It’s a family-run hotel that has been in operation for generations, and has a wonderful rustic quality. There is WiFi, but it’s a bit spotty, and though we requested a non-smoking room, you could tell guests have been smoking in those rooms for decades. But the owner was so friendly, and there’s a little bar that serves beer (with bar snacks, of course). Mireilla and I each ordered a gin and tonic, and each ice cube was placed with care by a small pair of tongs into our glasses. The hotel was just a quaint and lovely little place, and more affordable than the hotels closer in town.

Valkenburg

 

 

The room also comes with a complimentary breakfast.

Valkenburg

 

Speculoos cookie butter and chocolate sprinkles on toast. My perfect breakfast. (Note: I provided the chocolate sprinkles.)

This bike ride in Valkenburg is one of the main reasons I can’t wait to go back to The Netherlands. It’s such a stunning country with friendly people. And of course my dear friend lives there, so I imagine I’ll be back before too long.

 

Valkenburg