05 October 2009

For Las Vegans

This weekend brought a reunion of many sorts, fueled by a Saturday night show of reunited Seattle hardcore bands. There were so many familiar faces in the crowd and so many awesome memories of music and hanging out and falling in love (this is the scene that united Nate and I in the first place).

Also, so many memories of how to keep vegans from going hungry.

A tenet of the straightedge scene, in which I spent most of my late-teenage years enmeshed, is vegetarianism. Nearly everyone I knew back then was vegetarian or vegan. I myself didn't give up all meat until college (and have since reintroduced fish, dubbing me a "vegaquarian"), but during that era, the majority of my friends shunned meats and cheeses and eggs and dairy. I counted some of these folks among my finest friends, so I quickly learned to adapt recipes (applesauce for eggs, soymilk for cowmilk, oil for butter, and so on).

While it wasn't ever too difficult to eat (even in large crowds, on a strict after-school-job budget), being vegan now must be wicked easy in comparison. It's especially simple to fill a grocery cart, and a stomach, with veg selections from stores like PCC or Whole Foods. But now there are also a multitude of soy-based "meats," a wide selection of faux cheeses, and a swath of desserts to be found even in mainstream grocery stores.

Anyhow, a couple friends, one of whom is vegan, came into town for the reunion weekend, prompting me with some homework. I won't lie - this gave me a great excuse to drum up a list of veg-friendly restaurants to scope out. We ran out of time to try most of the places on my list (there are only so many meals in a weekend), but we did hit up a few highs and lows.

We ate a great brunch at Cafe Flora -- a classic (and probably my favorite restaurant -- vegetarian or otherwise -- in the city). There, I finally tested Cafe Flora's vegan cinnamon rolls, which were a hit (and didn't seem lacking in the least, even without swimming in cream and butter).

We also finally ventured to Teapot on Cap Hill. People have been telling me for ages that this is the best vegetarian restaurant in town. I have to resolutely disagree. Our almond "chicken" was more than mild -- flat, even, in a sea of pale, barely nutty faux gravy. The drunken tofu pot held an interesting mix of textures and colors, but again was as bland as our side of unbuttered brown rice. The restaurant's signature "jewel box" was tasty - chunks of zucchini and cashew resting in a hand-made box that looked forged out of seaweed - but it didn't make up for the rest of what was a disappointingly drab dining experience.

I think we should have gone to Plum Bistro, instead. Next time.

I didn't hit up the store with them, but my friends visited Sidecar, an all-vegan store on the Ave, and brought home a bag full of vegan goodies, including a new widely touted cheese product called Daiya that I'll need to try. There's also some soy-based ice cream sitting in my freezer waiting for a taste; I'm quite sure it'll be much better than the old staple of Mocha Mix ice cream we used to devour. (Incidentally, next to Sidecar is a vegan pizzeria that also sounds promising.)

I didn't get a chance to cook for the lads, but had I, I'd have made my favorite tortilla soup (sans sour cream; add faux cheese). Another for next time!

All in all, it was an awesome weekend that showed me how much has changed (recipes, dining options) and how much has stayed the same (especially the love for all my old friends).

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