Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It's a Fun Small World After All

I'm back. I survived Disney World. It was actually nice.

Okay, it was more than just nice. I had a great time with SKO at Disney World despite the withering heat and throngs of families. SKO & I always have a great time together, so I was not surprised that we had tons of fun. Well I should give Disney a bit more credit- the rides were really fun & kitchsy (we also lucked out by being randomly handed a super fast pass for most of the rides at Magic Kingdom- it was like winning the lottery, we cut tons of long lines and felt like rock stars with our special passes around our necks). Also, staying at a Disney resort & using Disney transport was a pretty efficient way to travel, especially since I do not drive. Bear with me as I post tons of photo mosaics of our trip...I just learned how to make the mosaics and overindulged just a bit (I will make it short & sweet because no one really wants to see vacation pics of SKO & I except, well SKO & I):

Here's our hotel- Disney's Coronado Springs- named after one of several gold driven, blood-thirsty, disease carrying explorers. SKO & I joked about how the decor of the resort should truthfully display in Disney fashion- cartooned carcasses of the Native Americans hanging on the walls of a hotel named after a Spanish conqueror. The hotel was pretty despite it's ill-fated name.
Tons of fun to be had at the Magic Kingdom- we went most of the rides and returned in the evening for more fun & fireworks.
My all time favorite: The Mad Tea Party from Alice In Wonderland complete with Dormouse peeking out of the teapot. SKO & I took turns spinning our teacup to sickening fast speeds. We both felt a bit queasy afterwards since we did go on after dinner, but it was all worth it.
Then there was the ridiculously hot day where we wandered through Epcot in a daze. We dragged our feet through The World Showcase (a glorified open mall of different areas simulating countries from Mexico to France) in the searing heat. We were delirious walking from China to Italy in search of lunch...My favorite country was Morocco- from the beautiful tilework to my first decent meal in a pretty restaurant complete with belly dancing performance and rosewater for our hands after the meal.

There was a particularly interesting ride at Epcot- The Land, where they took you through their hydroponics planting system- everything from millet to kale to Mickey Mouse shaped pumpkins grown without soil. They were also experimenting with aeroponically grown tomatoes- grown in air and systematically misted with nutrients. The one thing that did bother me on this ride: farmed fish & crocodiles. Sad.

There was the day spent at Disney's MGM Studios Theme Park. The park was very cute- kind of a replica of old Hollywood. There was a backlot for New York with fake subway stations, water towers on buildings. The disturbing thing was the paint graffiti on the lionheads & the dilapidated apt building with apts for rent- this is how they represent NYC? shameful and stuck in the 70's- they might as well have added dog poop all over the streets if they wanted to convey old scary NYC...Mine & SKO's favorite- a Star Tours ride based on Star Wars (we happened to watch the entire Star Wars dvds this summer). And yes, we did hum the theme to the Dark Side for some time on line for the ride & after- annoying perhaps to some. Judge me by my humming, do you? Ah Yoda, we heart thee.

Now, I'm sure you all want to know what a vegan can eat at Disney. Well, the good news is that there were a few vegan options for the most part- well really at least one definite at all the parks was the veggie burger, which I think might have been a Boca burger- very meaty kind of burger. As with all theme parks, there's tons of bad for you burgers & fries, but the nice thing at Disney- they list on their park maps which places carried vegetarian & healthy alternatives ( not a big selection, but always something to eat). So I went armed with Lara bars, nuts, cookies & Primal Strips as a supplement, but ended up being sufficiently fed. The two best meals that I had was a simple vegetable couscous dish in Morocco at Epcot and a surprisingly good tabouleh wrap with black bean salad at the ABC Commissary at MGM. The worst was lunch in Japan at The Yakitori House. The only veg options- iceberg lettuce salad with tomatoes and an order of mixed vegetables. Well I was so excited to hear mixed vegetables that I happily ordered that with a salad and a side of rice. The mixed vegetables turned out to be frozen peas, corn & carrot. That was the most disappointing meal. Overall though, it was nice to have at least one veg option at most places. Also, I learned to drink my coffee black because although they had non-dairy creamer, upon further reading of ingredients, I discovered that the non-dairy creamer contained caseinate derived from dairy. Some how defeats the purpose no?

My biggest pet peeve at Disney- in every theme park, there were people devouring giant pieces of flesh. Some turkey fleshmonger must have an in with Disney and was able to secure a contract to sell huge turkey drumsticks at all their parks. They must have some big connection to push these turkey drumsticks because it's not everyday you see people snacking on fleshy drumsticks. Check out the eerie correlation between guy's bare leg & turkey leg he's munching on. Why can't people make the connection? Turkey flesh, human flesh on a bone- no difference. Stop eating animals- flesh is flesh. Yuck.
After Disney, I was able to visit with my father's side of the family in Florida and have happily brought Tofurky Italian Sausages into their lives. My father's side of the family is Buddhist and the nice thing was how open they were to my veganism. My father & his sister- my aunt on separate occasions told me how proud they were of my veganism. My father loudly announced to all at the dinner table where we gathered that the sausages were free of all animal product. He said it twice. It was really nice that not only were they so accepting of my lifestyle, but that they were actually proud of me. What a complete contrast to the reaction from my mother's Chinese Catholic side of the family. I guess being Buddhists- veganism is not such a foreign concept. My father also loves the Purely Decadent mocha almond fudge that I put in his freezer. I may send them a care package soon so that they will incorporate more animal-free foods in their home. On that note, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. SKO is back home in Florida and the summer is coming to an end. One further note to SKO: See what happens when you give up your couch privileges and go home to Florida? Always someone ready to take your place...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Vegan Bloggers Unite- The Mega Post

Buckle up your seatbelts kids- it's been another action packed week with plenty of big surprises.

Let's begin with my first time having an authentic Ethiopian meal. Trust me, I gobble up the Ethiopian stew recipe from Post Punk Kitchen, but the spices in this meal were complex and subtle at the same time and it was simply an amazing meal. Fcat & I had decided to go to Queen of Sheba on 10th Avenue, right off Restaurant Row for our Ethiopian experience. The place was packed & busy. I expected service to be slow because there were only two waitresses for the whole restaurant. Thankfully, they were extremely nice (they were also beautiful as most Ethiopian women are) and the food was so good- it made up for the wait. We started with an appetizer of tomatoes mixed with injera, lemon & spices. As for the utensils, well they were right on the plate. See the two rolled up pieces of injera bread? That's how Ethiopians eat. You tear off some of the spongy bread and scoop up the food. Brilliantly simple, yet so efficient. They also serve the food atop a layer of the bread so that it soaks up all the juice & sauce and at the end you eat all that too. Injera is a sourdough type flatbread made from teff. Teff is high in protein, calcium & iron and very low in gluten. It's such a healthy, perfect utensil- I'd rather eat with injera than a fork any day.
We ordered the vegetarian sampler platter & we also got the Misir Wot (spicy lentil stew) that is right in the middle of the platter. The platter consisted of collard greens, chickpea balls (similar to falafel, but not really because they were much more solid), split pea stew, ground chickpeas, chickpea stew, cabbage & string beans in a most delicious sauce and a whole bunch of injera to eat sum it up- a vegan feast! We left the place happily stuffed, but because everything was so healthy & clean- we still felt good. I am definitely hooked.

SKO & I had a late lunch one day after running errands. We went to Agra on Lexington Ave bet 62nd & 63rd Sts, our favorite Indian restaurant. They always start us off with complimentary papadum, yummy cilantro chutney & onion relish. The owner, Jack & his son, Jason are the nicest people you will ever meet. We have been going there for the last six years.

Here's my loaded up plate of Alu Chana (chickpeas & potatoes), Naan bread, cabbage, dal, tamarind chutney, mango chutney and rice. Yum.
It's been so busy that I've only had a meal or two at home. I did make some portobello mushrooms, Tofurky Italian sausages, green apple slices, almonds & cranberries atop spinach which was extremely satisfying.
At the petfood store, a display of freshbaked dog cookies, some pups have all the fun...
Now, here's for the really fun part...I have always read with excitement and a bit of envy when blog friends meet up. The vegan blog world is such a wonderful place to be that it's especially nice when you see blog friends meeting up. It makes it all the more personal. It reminds us that our blogs are connected not just by links & comments, but that there a is real human connection. On that note, I start off with my first-ever blog friend meeting with the incomparable Bazu from Where's The Revolution.

Bazu had a last minute work trip in NY, so her & her husband, Daiku drove down and luckily, we all got to meet up for dinner at the beginning of the week. I was so excited. We decided on Red Bamboo. I had sent Bazu the menu for her to preview. It's a pretty extensive menu and had a good amount of faux fish which Bazu finds fascinating.

We started with the calamari which looked like a root vegetable, but tasted strangely sweet- like imitation crab made from fish. It was tasty enough.

SKO had to get her own roti, which is her absolute favorite.
I got fish & chips with vegan tartar sauce. Amazingly authentic.

I was trying to capture the fishy flakiness, but I guess you can't really see it in this picture. Trust me, it's eerily fish-like.
Bazu's lovely husband, Daiku had the philly cheesesteak. We agreed that the cheese had to be more melty.
SKO's sweet & sour chickn was really really good.
And here is Bazu & her unagi don- with nori as a stand-in for eel skin. And yes, when the food came out, we both reached for our cameras as SKO & Daiku patiently waited til we were done documenting the dishes...
By the end of the evening, having happily sampled all the dishes, there had been talk of family, work, food, other blogs & kitties that aren't really as cuddly as they look...Bazu & Daiku are a wonderful couple. SKO & I had a really great time and I am definitely looking forward to their next visit to NYC, unless I make it upstate sooner...

The whole way home, SKO & I couldn't stop talking about how cool & sweet Bazu & Daiku were. I enjoy Bazu's blog so much and she was as warm & as funny as her blog. I guess you always have a preconceived notion of someone, especially a blogger and when you actually meet them and they prove to be what you thought and more- you end up talking about them the whole way home. Until of course, you spot something horrific in a store window- like these whole chicken bags...why? another idea to reinforce the erroneous thought that animals are objects for us to do as we please? I know I'm overreacting, but not really if you think about it...why don't they make a bag out of the shape of a human baby then?
To make up for the horrible bags, our favorite kitty in the window is an example of interspecies love, kitty & stuffed dog- splendor in the grass.
After my exciting dinner with Bazu, I didn't realize that I would be blessed so soon with another blog friend meeting. But lo and behold, two days later- SKO & I meet up with The Village Vegan. VV is leaving for her year abroad in Germany, so I wanted to get together before she left. I invited VV to meet us at Candle Cafe for some coffee & dessert. I had the blueberry bundt cake with coconut soy ice cream.

SKO had the chocolate cake.
VV had the cutest dress on & an acai fruit smoothie.
Village Vegan was so sweet and I had always been impressed by her extraordinary cooking skills (spaetzle or apricot danishes anyone?), but even more so when I realized that she was still in college and still so young. We talked about working at fashion magazines and I truly hope I didn't come across as too negative & bitter, but Village Vegan is such a conscientious & intelligent person- I felt that her talents would not be appreciated in fashion publishing. Anyhow, I digress again. We left it at vegan networking. I always have different projects that I'm working in where I need assistant and why not hire a fellow vegan like Village Vegan?
It was another fun meet-up and am looking forward to meeting again in a year when she returns to NY.

Having already met two vegan bloggers that I admire in one week, I could hardly believe my luck when one other blogger informed me of a possible day trip to NYC. Wow, I was going from having never met any vegan bloggers to three in a week and actually, I don't have any vegan friends, so it has been an absolute treat.

And here she is, last but not at all least, Urban Vegan who happened to be in town and lucky SKO & I got to meet up with her. I chose Vegetarian Dim Sum House because I knew it would be fun & damn tasty. UV allowed me order us a spread: spinach dumpling, turnip cakes, rice flour rolls with veg ham, shrimp dumplings, mock roast pork buns, watercress dumplings and treasure balls (potato croquette like) and of course lots & lots of tea & hot sauce...

I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but SKO & I had a really wonderful time meeting UV. She is every bit as articulate & charming as her posts. I felt as if I have known her forever. Not to sound like some crazy loon, but UV was my first blog friend and I knew right away that this was a kindred spirit because her previous kitty was also named Booboo.
Here we are two urbane, happily stuffed vegans strolling off arm in arm into the proverbial sunset. This was SKO's idea for a picture and we agreed that it was cute.

But wait, there's more...well, no more blog friends meeting up, but as the three of us walked through Chinatown. We spotted the sweetest little face at a flower shop.

This little lovebug with the most gorgeous amber/yellow eyes came right over and SKO, UV & I started babying the little sweetie right there on the sidewalk. We were at it for some time. This little kittie reminds me of Booboo- same mid length fur and take a look at those giant rabbit feet- this is going to be one big kitty, like Booboo.

We could have been there all day- this kitty was just lapping up all the love. Rolling over, splayed out, but we had to pull ourselves away. We put kitty back into the store, but kitty came running back out and sat right on top of SKO's shoe. Kitty did not want SKO to leave and I am not quite ready for SKO to leave either. We leave for Florida on Monday and SKO will be back home & starting school the following week. Boo Hoo. Oh well, I take comfort knowing that she will be back for Christmas vacation and then permanently next year for college.
Again, I want to just say how wonderful it was this week to meet some of my fellow vegan bloggers. I have always thought that my fellow vegan bloggers were attractive & intelligent, but having met you, I now know it as an absolute fact!

There you have it- my mega post until I return in a week from Disney & Florida. Now that should be interesting, a vegan in Disneyworld...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Summer Weeks Flying By

Hello Boys & Girls, our summer adventures with SKO are nearing completion. The little sister has only one more week in NYC, then one more week off to a little fun & lots of sun and back to school she goes. As such, we try to squeeze in another veggie place. How about Curly's, I have only been to once, wasn't thrilled but was willing to give it another go....well, all for the sake of Suna. Suna is faux tuna and I have never had it and was looking forward to a Suna Melt. So Curly's Vegetarian Diner it is! It also happened to be down the block from Trader Joe's...
Inside Curly's is warm & inviting. There's a wall covered with crayoned place mat drawings from customers. I was ready for my yummy melty Suna Melt.
Visions of Suna Melts dancing across my palate and a soymilkshake to wash it down, I was brought near to tears when the waitress took our order- no more Suna until they find another vendor that makes it, blah blah distribution problems blah blah blah. All I heard was "No Suna for you!". Boohoo. Well, I could at least console myself with a soymilkshake which I have never had. Yep well no consolation prize there, the blender was broken and it was "No soymilkshake for you!" Disheartened, but resolute, I decided to go with the Sloppy Joe. It was not bad, messy, but not bad.

SKO went with the Chick'n Parm Hero, but she had it with real cheese. She said it was good.

In the end, there were a ton of vegan desserts like cheesecake to whet my appetite, but we were way too stuffed. Our final verdict delivered in crayon at our table: we heart Curly's- vegan & omni alike.

Fcat made a gorgeous lunch the other day complete with refreshing salad & chilled white wine.

He absolutely makes the most delicious pasta dishes!

A quick meal for me during the week was Trader Joe's Vegetable Masala Burger- um, can you say "Yum"? Basically a glorified hash brown, but really tasty with Indian spices. I had it with a mesclun salad, some Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange sauce & some fresh green chili hot sauce.
I also made a hearty tomato sauce which I cooked for about two hours to which I added portobello mushrooms, peas and my new favorite, Tofurky Italian Sausage. It was all so good.

And then Thursday evening, out of nowhere, I come down with a hateful summer cold. I am stuffy, sneezy, can't sleep- just plain miserable with a bad cold. The cure for this I believe is spicy food- lots of garlic...raw & sauteed served here with quinoa porridge, roasted nori & my favorite comfort food- a cube of stinky tofu (preserved/fermented tofu).
What actually might have cured my cold in addition to the porridge, nasal saline rinses, eucalyptus/sage steaming, lots of vitamins c might just have been chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting from VCTOW (to which I dressed in coconut flakes & crystallized ginger).
I guess I've been a little stressed out lately which is how the summer cold snuck up on me. Am in the process of figuring out the next couple of months & possibly renting out my apartment to get ready for closing on our new apartment. Anyway, being the creature of habit that I am- am starting to feel nostalgic about my place which I have only been in for 3years, but which I bought & renovated with blood, sweat & tears (have you ever spackled a ceiling- yes tears I say) and of course the help of family & friends. One of the things that I will miss is Booboo's litterbox hole. I had thought of cutting a hole out in the wall next to the closet (which was going to be my storage/utility closet) so I could put Booboo's box could be away and not so unsightly. My dear friend who helped me cut that chunk of concrete out of the wall has suggested that it be shaped like a mouse hole. I wrote Booboo's name at the entrance and she took to it immediately. Yes, after the wall was cut I wondered aloud if she would even go in there, but thankfully she did. Here's Booboo's special entrance complete with rug & painted kitty marker stone that SKO's friend's mother made which SKO had given me as a gift oh so long ago. Time passes so quickly. sigh.
The other night SKO & I decided to shut off the lights and watch the thunderstorm. It was so amazing, we then proceeded to take a million pictures to try to catch a pic of the lightning. Always a click behind the lightning, finally SKO gets this cool shoot, unfortunately, the rain on the glass is distracting, but still a great shot.
It's going to be a busy week- am heading off next week for a little work/vacation trip with SKO. Yes, there have been years where I went to St. Barth's and St. Tropez. Last summer, I took SKO & Grandma to Venice & Vienna. For SKO's Sweet Sixteen, I took her to Paris. This year not as glamorous nor as cultured a trip, but fun for sure, we will be going to Disneyworld. Yep, a vegan in Disneyworld- wish me luck. And so I plan to post one more exciting post before I head off next week- my next exciting post consists of a fun, first time meeting with a blog friend that you all know and love. Stay Tuned!
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