Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Washington DC Greenfest 2010!

Greenfest is annual 2 day festival hosted by the partnership of Global Exchange and Green America. We spent most of this past weekend there.

The event features vendors, speakers, and organizations focused on community action, fair trade, responsible investing, organic food, and the green economy.

We attended this discussion on eating raw and vegan, featuring local nutritionists on the Green Lifestyle Stage:

And this talk about urban gardening hosted by GardenGirlTV.com gardener Patti Moreno in the Organic Gardening & Urban Farming Pavillion:

We just happened by Ralph Nader:

Many vendors were on hand, such as Twin Oaks:

Twin Oaks was there selling their hammocks, but we're more familiar with their soy products (more on them next week).

Also there was Calypso Organic Selections, a spirits distributor in DC that features many organic and fair trade wines, including some vegan.

And they've got a food court that was all vegetarian - mostly vegan. We got the raw platter from the Mojo Juice Club

The platter had a pistachio burger with hummus, wild rice pilaf, and a marinated kale salad.

The following day we had food from Nyota's ting Vegan Catering Services.

We sampled their vegan curry goat, spinach and mushroom salad, and raw jerk nut meat, plus the peach pie.

It was amazing. The spinach mushroom and the jerk nut meat tasted like something we could probably do at home, but the curry goat was unbelievable. It had a very smokey flavor and had a consistency that had me concerned they might have thrown the word "vegan" on their poster just to make sure us crunchy folks would buy it at GreenFest.

And no Greenfest would be complete without a trip to the Organic Beer and Wine Garden:

Calypso Organics provided the wine, and Peak Organic supplied the beer.

Many vendors sold pins, magnets, books, t-shirts, and such.
I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Letting the days go by...

To quote the Talking Heads song, Once in a Lifetime,
"You may say to yourself, My God!... what have I done?"

I've signed on to do Vegan MoFo - Vegan Month of Food blogging. I've agreed to blog every weekday during the month of November. That's 22 posts. My record thus far is 15 in a month - when I first started and quickly realized how much time writing a blog takes. Writing blog entries well takes even longer.

So, wish me luck and be prepared for a boat-load of posts next month!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ode to Wellington


A bit of a departure for this blog entry.

When I was a kid, my parents bought a small 8 acre farm just outside of Brunswick, Maryland. In addition to being an electrician by trade, my dad thought he'd try his hand at raising some pigs and cattle. After all the pigs and cattle came and left, we got another single heifer to be raised for slaughter. We named him "Moo". Yes, we named him. I'd go out and help feed him and play with him.
When it came time for him to go away to be slaughtered, my parents worried that I wouldn't be able to eat something that was practically a pet to me when he came back in neat packaging. When he was served on my plate, and I took a bite, I recall my mom asking how he tasted. "He's delicious!" I said, excitedly, trying to ease their worries and make a joke of it. Everyone at the dinner table gave a laugh and a cheer, and continued to eat.

Fast-forward 30 years. My parents divorced, and my mom married a professional cattle farmer. I've become vegan. Accepting my new dietary needs, my mother manages to make almost every side dish vegan on our holiday visits. Of course there is always meat served, and my girlfriend and I always feel a bit odd about that when we can look outside to see cows wandering around the pasture.

Last Thanksgiving at her house she had to walk up to the barn to bottle-feed a calf who's mother died giving birth to him. She asked us if we'd like to see him being fed. My brother, his daughter, and my girlfriend Marya went to watch. I didn't think I wanted to - the thought of seeing a living, breathing creature that will someday grace some brat's Happy Meal was too much for me. My mother had, once again, given a name to the calf: Wellington. Great - she named him after a beef dish.

Months later in a phone conversation, she mentioned how Wellington, used to regular feedings, had broken out of the pen to come down to the house to ask for his food. This made me very sad. I thought - there won't be any chance of my mother making the connection on how this creature had intelligence enough to know where the person who provides his food lives. Once out of his pen, he could have escaped. But he had trust in his caretaker. He went down to ask for his food as a child would ask his parents for food. It saddened me because I knew this was a one-direction bond. She had cared for this calf for months without seeing him as more than something that will be killed for food. He, oblivious to this, probably loved her for having cared for him. I bet Moo felt that way about me.

This past weekend I went out to visit my mother in Loudoun County, Virginia, to help her with some computer issues. Among them, printing pictures and sending enclosures. I looked through her picture folders and picked one at random - a picture of a cow. "That's Wellington", my mom said of the picture. "He went on the truck last week."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Milwaukee - Yes, it *is* vegan friendly!

Every year we try to go to the Farm Aid Concert - a benefit for the organization dedicated to helping small family farmers keep their farms, and fight the machine of big, faceless, nameless, and flavorless factory farms.

When it was announced this year that the concert would be in Milwaukee, I thought we'd struggle to find vegan food in the capital of cheese country. But thanks to the crack research branch here at Adventures in Veganism/Vegan Travel (thank you, Marya!), we soon learned there would be no shortage of vegan options at our disposal.

We stayed at the County Clare Irish Pub and Inn (more on them in a bit), which put us within walking distance of a few vegan friendly places, and easy access to bus routes to several other places.

After checking into the hotel, we walked the 1.2 miles to Comet.

Comet Café
1947 N. Farwell Avenue
Milwaukee WI 53202

Phone: (414) 273-7677

Aside from a very vegan friendly menu, Comet Café has a fantastic beer selection. They have quite an international selection, but being in a region also known for beer, I wanted to try some of the local microbrews.

Fixed Gear, according to the back label, is so named to honor a Milwaukee bike messenger who rides a fixed gear bike. That just bloody sounds insane to me. Anyway, the beer is fantastic.

I ordered the Reuben. The corned beef was amazing. I think they must have deep fried the whole sandwich, then pried it apart to put in Thousand Island dressing.

Marya got the Salisbury Steak.

The steak was made from hazelnuts, and came topped with a porcini gravy. Nom.

As a side, we got a full rack of deep fried beer battered ribs.

They came with three dips: wing sauce, barbecue, and chive (vegan) mayonnaise.

Odd coincidence: there was a couple next to us who ordered the exact same thing. It was a mirror image that looked like: salisbury steak, ribs, reuben, reuben, ribs, salisbury steak. Turns out they were also in town for Farm Aid, having driven in from Minneapolis that morning.

Here's the problem when I do this sort of food tourism - when I see loads of wonderful looking things on a menu, I want to try them all, not knowing if I'd ever have the chance again. The Reuben, ribs, the salad that came with the dish, and finishing Marya's dish proved to be a bit too much. I had serious heartburn that evening. I can't remember the last time I even had heartburn - perhaps decades. This was really bad, but I won't go into the gory details. I will say that I don't blame this on Comet Café - I think I just had way too much fried food. All the beer and double-shot of scotch I had back at the hotel probably didn't help. Thankfully Marya was spared the illness. I hope our new Minneapolis friends were also spared.

For brunch, we took a bus to the southern part of town to Palomino.

2491 S. Superior Street
Milwaukee WI 53207
Phone: (414) 747-1007

This was the place I was most looking forward to visiting in Milwaukee. As I like sampling the veganized wings wherever I go, I was looking forward to trying Palomino's famous "tufallo wings". Unfortunately we got there too early in the day to try the wings :-(

I asked one of the bartenders why the place was so vegan friendly. He said that the owners are trying to be more eco-friendly, thus they began offering attractive vegan options. They own around 10 restaurants, and are part owners of Comet Cafe. This partially explains why Milwaukee is so vegan friendly.

We started out with a bloody mary, featuring locally made Rehorst vodka, a pickle, both a lemon and lime wedge, a pickled mushroom, and a pickled brussel sprout.

This is the best decorated bloody mary I've ever had. And the first time I've seen a pickled brussel sprout, which turned out to be quite tasty. It comes with a shot of Palomino White - a white wheat beer from the local Lakefront Brewery.

Most of their brunch items can be veganized, including the Eggiwegs (a fun reminder of "A Clockwork Orange") , and the Velvet Elvis - a sandwich with peanut butter, bacon or facon, and bananas.

I decided on the Fake N' Eggs:

The seitan steak was nice and juicy, and came with a side of scramble and hash browns.

Marya got the Skillet-ton - a lovely scramble with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms,sausage gravy, and hash browns all mixed together:

We agreed that Palomino has among the best tofu scrambles we've tasted outside of our own kitchen. That's saying quite a bit.

Tempting fate after a horrible bout of ordering too much 2 nights before at Comet Cafe, I decide to try the whole lot of their fake meat sides:

This included ham slices, sausage, and facon. The sausage was good and the facon was tasty, but the ham was my favorite.

The place resembles a stereotypical road house, so seemed an unlikely place for an extensive vegan menu. It was very cool sit in what I'd consider a dive bar eating vegan food. There was a Packer's game on, so we got to cheer with the locals and get free shots of some mysterious green concoction every time the Packers scored (unmercifully often).

Our hotel was the County Clare Irish Inn and Pub - a surprisingly vegan friendly place.

County Clare Irish Inn and Pub
1234 N. Astor Street
Milwaukee WI 53202

Phone: (414) 212-5273

We could hardly believe it when we found this place: an Irish pub and inn with vegan Irish food options.

The accommodations are very nice, the hotel is nicely decorated throughout, and they've got a great selection of beer, Irish whiskey, and scotch.

My one quibble with County Clare is that their vegan options for breakfast are not too appetizing. We got a tiny cup of fresh fruit, toast, and hash rounds (coated and deep fried chickenless nugget sized hash browns). They have a fixed breakfast menu only for guests that is based around bacon and eggs, so I'm guessing we only got what they could pick off what we could eat.

But we came back for the lovely lunch/dinner options. You can see their vegetarian PDF menu here. They make all the chicken and corned beef seitan on premises.

We shared a plate of the Seitan Corned Beef and Cabbage:

We've made corned beef before, and it took hours to boil the seitan in beet juice and pickling spices. The house made corned beef at the County Clare had the pickling spices rolled into it.

With all the options in Milwaukee, we felt that it's more vegan friendly than our home of Washington DC.

We surely didn't get everywhere we wanted (including any breweries).
Here's a good list of the vegan places in Milwaukee:http://www.onmilwaukee.com/dining/articles/veganguide.html

I don't think I'd want to live in Milwaukee (it was quite cold), but I would certainly like to visit often. I hope to make it back to Comet Café and Palomino, plus all the other spots we hadn't gotten to. Yes, with all the souvenir fridge magnets featuring dairy cows (one had a cow standing on her hind legs exclaiming "Eat me!") and a dedicated cheese cooler at the airport news stand, you wouldn't have guessed we could survive there, let alone enjoy the experience.
So, Thank you, Milwaukee!!!

And here's a pic of the Jumbotron from the Farm Aid concert - an unlikely duet between Steven Tyler and Willie Nelson: