Hip City Veg’s Burger Is Worth Two Hours on a Bolt Bus

vegan burger

But really, though. It’s that good. One of my favorite things to do is eat. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling is eat more than I normally do. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling to see DMB is eat more than I normally do when I travel since I’m burning off all those calories dancing at concerts (I’m sure the added calories from booze don’t matter…).

This June, my friend Jess and I (I’ve known her since 2006 when I was in high school and she was 23 and not so tired of life….I think we met via IM through a DMB message board…), embarked on our annual when-we-can pilgrimage to DMB at Camden. As per usual, I made a detour to the incredible Hip City Veg, a take out, entirely plant-based not-quite chain in Philly (and DC too). Sure, I could be drunk and cheat with pizza or grilled cheese. But with a burger THIS good (the Ziggy Burger is made with organic smoked tempeh and special sauce)…why?

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My Best Moment In…Columbus, Ohio

If you know, me, you know I have an obsession with life’s little moments. In fact, I’ve had a one-sentence diary for the better part of a decade where I write down my favorite moment of the day. It’s a good reminder that on crummy days, there’s always a silver lining (like that friendly M102 bus driver waiting for you in the pouring rain), and on your best days, it’s often the tiniest of interactions and/or feelings/sights/sounds that mean the most.

At the start of March, I spent a great week in Columbus, Ohio. I soaked in (the views of) crazy, awesome waterfalls spilling over snow-capped peaks. I took a trapeze class where I flipped upside down enough times to fill every ad page in an Amtrak magazine. I yoga-ed, museum-hopped, ate, drank, shopped, hiked and concert-attended my way through town. I even ran into a few no-neck body builders in town for The Arnold Classic.

My absolute favorite instant? Settling into a bar stool at Denmark on High, watching the elegant tango of a wildly talented bartender, smoke, muddle, shake and stir our cocktails to perfection. I may have only arrived five hours before, but New York City and my ever-expanding inbox already seemed but a fuzzy concept, ages away. The bar was alive with suited fellas mingling with organic cotton tote bag touting locals. Tourists exchanged eager conversation with retired locals (or was it a fellow conference attendee?) as the bar lit up with a happy, carefree din. I was buzzing on just three sips of my delicately-designed (local, obviously) whiskey libation. It was 4:47pm. On a Tuesday. FullSizeRender (3)

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A Not So Vegan (Or Sober) Time in Cabo

This past week (ahem, two months ago by the time I found a moment to publish this), I got back from an absolutely unforgettable time in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where I probably had some of the best meals of my life at Hilton Los Cabos. From romantic beachside barbecues (no hot dogs and hammies here, folks) to elegant wine tasting dinners and tequila pairings with experts whose palates can detect things like tobacco, peach, and leather, leading me to believe that I’m the most unsophisticated food writer I’ve met, given that I only could detect the delicate nuances of, well, tequila-tasting tequila, every meal suddenly became the best meal yet.

When I’m home, I’m pretty strict about eating vegan: I don’t buy anything that’s not plant-based to cook with in my own home, I’ll eat dinner before going out to meet a friend if I know vegan pickings will be slim, and I’m  sometimes guilty of being that girl who asks the waiter “Were those string beans sauteed in olive oil or butter?” before ordering. On vacation, my rules (and belt buckle) loosen up a bit. I realize some (most?) vegans would probably gawk at this, saying I’m “not a real vegan” (I don’t claim to be) but I’ve been doing this for the better part of five years and it works for me, so oh well.

The trip had way too many highlights to recall (Just ask me about the time I put on a harness and zoomed across a zipline dangling thousands of feet above sea level between canyons…), but here are a few of my favorite edible memories and for good measure, dolphin photos.

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Okay I swear this post won’t be all dolphin photos. Enter: Food coma. Photos courtesy of me and Hilton Los Cabos, the swoonworthy resort where we stayed.

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Did I say food? Clearly I meant margaritas…back to food. I mean farm…

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to table…(AKA that time Jake ate an entire display table of sushi on ice…)

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Until next time I’m met with infinite margaritas and pools…

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How to Eat Vegan at Any Restaurant (Yes, Even Steakhouses)

It may involve some creative thinking, or, gasp, calling the restaurant ahead (many chefs are amenable and excited to cook for plant-based folks. it gives chefs an opportunity to experiment and a fun challenge), but I promise you it’s easier than you think.

Image courtesy of Juicepresso 

Here are my tried-and-true tips:

1. Befriend the “sides” 

But be wary. Roasted Brussels sprouts may sound delicious but are they dotted with prosciutto bits? That baked broccoli rabe sounds good too, but is it doused with butter? Restaurants should have no problem omitting the animal portions of the sides (unless they cook it up in big batches ahead of time and just reheat…but do you really want to eat KFC baked beans anyways?) and simply request that your veggie side be cooked in olive oil. It slashes fat and helps out dairy cows: win-win. A veggie side or two along with a side of brown rice (okay, okay, french fries) or beans rounds out a filling and satisfying meal.

2. Stock your purse. 

Sounds a little crazy, but a quick sprinkle of nutritional yeast on a vegan-friendly house salad goes a long way. If you know you’re ordering coffee but not sure they’ll have non-dairy milk substitutes, bring along your own creamer (So Delicious Dairy Free Creamers will enchant any kind of caffeine aficionado). Bloody Mary addict? Tote along some Annie’s Natural Organic Worcestershire Sauce. I guarantee you someone at your waiter and table will learn something new when you tell them conventional versions are made with anchovies. Feeling risky? Many restaurants offer awesome-looking salads that become more than a little drab when you hold the cheese or shrimp. Sneak a packet of chopped walnuts or pecans into your bag and toss them with your greens for a heartier meal and satisfying crunch.

3. Make a DIY entrée.

See spaghetti and meatballs on the menu? How about a side of sauteed spinach and garlic? Chances are they have the materials to make you a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce and spinach. Does the veggie burger (double check that it wasn’t made with eggs!) look tantalizing but the spicy aioli and melted cheddar cock block you from ordering? Most places should be more than happy to let you skip the sauce and cheese. They may even let you replace it with a hearty topping like avocado or caramelized onions free of charge. Yes, you risk annoying the waiter with a “picky” request, but carnivores do it all the time too, you know. And with the whole gluten-free craze and vegetarians and vegans becoming more mainstream, I promise you they are used to getting these kind of inquiriu es.

Tomorrow I’m excited to be eating at renowned Bill’s Food & Drink. Their menu is heavy on the steak and Reubens. Am I nervous? Not at all.  For a starter, I look forward to the Field Green Salad with shaved fennel, radish and raisins. And for my main, either a Grilled Portabella with roasted pepper and arugula (hold the cheddar and pesto, unless the pesto happens to be vegan) or a platter of delectable sides like red quinoa and citrus, broccoli rabe and yes, french fries with rosemary and sea salt. And for dinner? I have no doubt New York Yankee Steak‘s cuisine will be just like my favorite baseball team: nothing but stellar.

P.S. That delectable soup photo above, yes you can make it with a juicer. And yes you can make a creamy squash soup vegan (just swap milk and cream for non-dairy versions of your choice!). Recipe here.

This Butterfinger Milkshake Sent Me to The Moon

I have a confession. I don’t even like Butterfingers. Or I thought I didn’t. Okay, real confession: They are my least favorite candy and when I was trick or treating growing up I used to trade all of mine for Crunch bars. Until:

BOOM! You’re starting at a Butterfinger (left, and on the right, mint chip, if you’re curious, also delicious, and my friend Angie and I referred to it as our “palate cleanser” between sips, well, gulps of inhaling the Butterfinger delight) milkshake from the amazing  Cafe Blossom (We went to the one on the Upper West Side). First-class Butterfinger shakes as a vegan are hard to find (let alone omnivore), but this one exceeded all expectations. My culinary school friend told me “Take it to go, it’ll be even bigger,” and man do I regret not doing that. Would have been the perfect breakfast. Cookie dough crumbly goodness with sweet chocolate drizzle and every sip explodes with goodness I couldn’t imagine from my least favorite candy bar.  They won’t divulge their secret, but I did find out it had something to do with Temptation ice cream, beyond that, and short of crack cocaine, I’m not sure what they put in it to make it so mindblowingly good, but man, all I have left to say is:  Run, don’t walk.

Easy Vegan Fast Food Meals You Won’t Even Notice Are Missing Meat

I try to cook as much as possible, but when I can’t, there are plenty of easy vegan meals to grab when you’re on the go and fast food is your only option.

Here are three of my favorites:

1. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Flarbreads, Wraps or Salads

I only wish this incredible fast food chain (those smoothies!) had more locations. It’s got 300-something sprinkled around America and the first major chain to offer my plant-based protein obsession, Beyond Meat.  Tropical Smoothie Café has a variety of delicious combinations you can create with Beyond Meat Chicken Free Strips.

2. Chipotle Burrito

Load it with peppers and onions, black beans (FYI: their pinto beans are cooked with bacon), rice, salsa, corn salsa, medium salsa, hot salsa, lettuce, guacamole…or whatever combination of those items that your heart desires. It’s incredibly filling and so full of flavor you won’t feel like you’re missing out. And currently available in select west coast locations, their Sofritas,shredded, organic tofu brasied with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and aromatic spices is 100% vegan and we hope coming nationwide in the near horizon.

3.  Subway

It may not be ideal Vegan-a-vore heaven, but when you’re in a pinch, The Veggie Delite at Subway may actually pleasantly surprise your taste buds. They’ve got a good mix of veggies and I like to fill up a 9-grain hero with olives, jalapenos, peppers, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, spinach and avocado. Just make sure you pick a bread without any milk or cheese, like their flatbread (milk) or any of their cheesy breads (Read the full list of bread ingredients here)

4. Juice Generation

How could I not include Juice Generation? Currently only in NYC, this juicer’s haven has turned my meat-and-eggs body building boyfriend into a Joyful Almond aficionado. We always add spinach for an extra nutrient-boost (you don’t even taste it), but you can also add kale to any of their smoothie creations. In their cooler, they’ve always got dishes to send me over the vegan rainbow like cashew cheese ravioli (drool times twelve), maki rolls with microgreens, live pizza, and chia seed tapioca or young coconut cream pie for a sweet finish.