Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Summer tour: third communiqué: grand junction, co – Richfield, ut – hemet, ca

Smaller towns are a much bigger challenge to us oppressed first worlders with weird diets than cities are. Grand Junction proved to be one of the more difficult that first night when we pulled in at midnight and had no choice but to head for denny’s. I ordered the diner special (see an earlier post), and discovered somehow through a very bleary-eyed conversation that our waiter was vegetarian.

Let's pause, for a moment, to pity anyone who has the good sense to not eat animals but who, by some cruel twist of fate, has to work the graveyard shift at Denny's. Poor fucker. Probably he has or has had (or will have) a drug problem.

Lo and behold, however, that when the sun next shone on Grand Junction, we found a bagel shop called Main Street Bagels downtown. This place was great, considering the town. Fair trade coffee, homemade smoothies with spirulina and everything. I was really impressed. The bagels weren't that good, but the emphasis on organic ingredients and fair trade practices was encouraging, especially since before I discovered those elements of the business I was worried that the place was somehow secretly Christian, which, of course, would have been unforgiveable.

Also, maybe you're from Georgia and you find yourself in Western Colorado...well, fear not, friend, for that part of the world seems to be just as nutso over peaches as yours. That's really about all I can tell you about that.

Don't ever go to Richfield, Utah, if you can help it, because the people at the hotel there will tell you that you'll have wireless and then fuck you over with some ethernet shit that will require more reconfiguring of your computer than it's worth. The good news is that they'll give you twenty bucks off the next morning when you bitch to the cranky old know-it-all at the front desk - "well, I'm sorry, even though you should have been able to get it to work..." The further good news is South China Restaurant on Main Street. While nary a person of Asian descent was in sight, somehow these Mormons figured out how to fry some tofu. We had the Kung Pao and Szechuan, and both were great.

I guess small towns, occasionally, know how to rock some tofu, as evident by the even more unfuckwithable tofu at Hong Kong Kitchen or something like that in Hemet, California. This is also a place you should never visit, but with a million and one 55+ communities there, some older person in your life is bound to move there sooner or later, and won't you be glad I told you where to get some Chinese food?

Won't you?

More soon, I promise, with updated links and rockstar news. All I can say is, Rikki Rocket of Poison fame isn't the only rockstar vegan we can claim.

Keep eating, keep complaining. Love, the SV.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

intermission: messing with chronology

this is a short one, i promise:

i'm sorry for the lack of links...i promise to update all these posts when i have more time. it's difficult, you know, with all the eating.

speaking of, there are still many places to mention, and i'm afraid i'll end up glossing over the sweet shop in central city, colorado, complete with traveling-kid barista and soy lattes, but some things end up being kind of distracting...

...like VEGAN OMELETTES! YES! when i worked at a restaurant in minneapolis, i used to send mock orders back to the cooks asking for a vegan omelette or a tofu omelette, but i never before thought it possible. until today, that is, when we visited Follow Your Heart foods in canoga park (near topanga canyon, they're the people responsible for vegenaise). i promise more details about this place later on, but let me just say that vegan omelettes do exist, and they're fanfuckingtastic.

more later.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

summer tour 2005:second communique:denver, colorado

we're currently in denver, staying in a hotel that we'd never in a million years be able to afford if not for a minnesota rent rebate and the recent sale of a very troubled automobile. we took the free 16th street mall hybrid bus to the capitol, and from there it was only a short walk (on a cold summer night) to watercourse foods.

first of all, if it's all the same with you, i'd like to bust out of any sort of chronology here and say...holy shit, there are certain people whom i would kill if it meant i ended up with the recipe for watercourse's banana cheesecake, which, surprise, is vegan. now, i should let you know, i have had varied experiences with the amorphous delicacy known as vegan cheesecake. worst case scenario: sour tofu taste throughout. best case: watercourse's banana goodness, complete with carmelized pecans. quite possibly the best vegan dessert i've ever eaten, hands down. also, since we're throwing chronology to the wind here, let me add to this post weeks later that we also tried the boston cream pie and the strawberry shortcake cheesecake. all of watercourse's desserts are vegan, and, near as i can tell, they're all the best vegan desserts anyone has ever eaten. no shit.

but that's not what we had first. i ordered the jerk spiced tofu, and while i've never had authentic jamaican jerk spiced chicken, i have to say that the jerk spiced tempeh that i've made at home (recipe forthcoming - let me get home and figure out which cookbook it's in) was more exciting. i think that watercourse's version lacked complexity. it was too sweet, which wasn't helped by the addition of raisins atop the deep fried brick of tofu (which, i have to say, was fried to perfection). maybe there wasn't enough of an onion presence, i don't know. whenever i make it i'm in tears because of the onions in the food processor, but i'm kind of a sissy-ass motherfucker, so you be the judge. don't get me wrong, it was good, just not as exciting as i'd hoped. the charbroiled sweet potato was a pretty great addition, though.

my wife ordered the seitan fajitas, one of my favorite dishes at evanston, illinois' blind faith cafe. unfortunately, the refried beans were a bit bland, and there was the mysterious omission of hongos (mushrooms), but the seitan was out of this world, so i guess that makes it okay. one thing, though...what's up with healthy-type places serving brown rice with fajitas? that's not what brown rice is for, dudes.

i guess before i discuss our return breakfast trip, i'd like to speculate that maybe the higher altitude messes with one's constitution...i drank one beer, twelve measly ounces, before heading out to watercourse, and felt silly just from that. when i drank the st. brigid's porter and part of my wife's awful raspberry beer (both from great divide), i felt extra silly. messed up, even, if only a little. it's gotta be the altitude, right?

so yes, we returned for breakfast, mostly because of that amazing cheesecake (which we ordered more of to go the next morning), but also because we liked watercourse. the atmosphere was comfy and spacious, with no awkward or annoying hippy vibe about the place. we even liked the art, and usually restaurants, especially the vegan friendly variety, have horrible artwork hanging on the walls.

we both ordered mimosas because we're on vacation, and i ordered the amsterdam hash, which was a combination of turmeric-intensive tofu, really good gravy, and a whole mess of vegetables (potatoes being the most prevalent). my wife ordered a similar dish, the biscuits and gravy, which came arrived with a pile of the yellow tofu (if you've ever had a tofu scramble you know what i'm talking about) on the side.

watercourse turns out some wonderful breakfast food, which is why, i suppose, they were packed. i think there was something like a thirty minute wait for a table. here's the thing, though. we were very hungry, and thus prone to crankiness and insecurity, and then to be surrounded by hipsters waiting, like us, for a table, should have been intimidating or off-putting or something, but it wasn't. everyone seemed very down-to-earth, a quality that denver seemed to have in spades. we walked around the neighborhood, stopped in a jewelry shop next door, and i scanned the bike racks for a circle a i had seen the night before (no luck).

in the end, i have to say, denver is a pretty friendly town, watercourse foods is a municipal treasure, and if we'd known that a landslide in idaho springs was going to trap us right outside of denver on the freeway for six hours, maybe we would have spent another day in the mile high city.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

summer tour 2005:first communique:subway is not that sweet: minneapolis to omaha, points between

apologies to the thousands of readers waiting breathless for this first communique from the tour. wireless access is spotty through the nation's wesern states, and a combination of road fatigue and alcohol prevented more timely postings when such access was available. by the way, and this is directed to those of you working the front desks of hotels, maybe in richfield utah, wireless access is not the same as an ethernet connection, and the latter is not worth paying extra for. which brings us to the theme of the summer tour: "fuck you, fuckers!"

the first meal on the tour was awful. it was at horizons, a sort of gas station/food court in mason city, iowa. now, once upon a time i was in a band that played a show in a basement in mason city, and as a result made some friends from that unfortunate little hamlet, and i have to say, mason city is as depressing now as it was in 1998. it seems as though there are a lot of young people, which would be great, if there were any culture to speak of, but there isn't, so unless you're into ATVs or tall bangs or, i don't know, meth, you're pretty much fucked. we ate at subway, something we'd been anticipating for a long time (the road trip being the only suitable excuse for such morally questionable, if nostalgic, purchases), and it was nasty. too many jalapenos, not very filling, and would it kill people to not make a beeline from the urinal to the door, bypassing the sink altogether? is handwashing that reprehensible an activity? some people can't get enough of it, i understand, and that's a whole medical deal in and of itself, but to abstain entirely? i feel as though northern iowa could be covered in a thin layer of fecal matter and no one would ever know. no one but me. ick, dude.

onward.

we arrived in omaha late, eleven or so, and ate homemade spaghetti (sautee onions and boca crumbles in olive oil over medium heat. halfway through season with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and basil to taste. add a small amount of chablis or other cooking wine. set aside. add noodles to salted, boiling water, cook until soft. drain, rinse with cold water. return to pot. add fake meat and onions. add a jar of muir glenn pasta sauce in your favorite flavor. stir. eat. see how easy that was? that's because you're getting ready for a trip and feel like being lazhe
woke up hungry in omaha but too late for the continental breakfast the econo lodge was offering. made bad coffee in the room, ate some amazing (and expensive) fruit salad that my wife had packed, but still found ourselves hungry. unfortunately for us, the vegan resources we were able to find online for omaha suggested that there's no such thing as a vegan breakfast in that town unless you're eating it in someone's house (and, further sadness, we don't know anyone in omaha, not even the members of certain hipster bands that we like). so we swallowed our lumps and decided to drive to mcfosters natural kind cafe for lunch (they open at eleven).

mcfosters is the kind of place that would do really well in madison, wisconsin, and definitely has that whole hippy deal going on, maybe not so unlike the heartland cafe in chicago. and that's fine, right? but while i understand that certain life choices might cause others to view me as being somewhat hippy, let me go on record as hating that shit with a passion. especially if it means that i'm going to have to listen to an entire fucking dave matthews band album whilst eating.

our waitress was very friendly but rather inattentive, which probably seems contradictory but was the case nonetheless. i ordered the charbroiled eggplant sandwich, and it was fantastic. the eggplant had that yummy char taste to it, accented nicely by the presence of just the right amount of balsamic vinegar. the watiress was kind enough to inform me, upon my request, that mcfosters' soy cheese contains casein, a milk protein, and as such is not vegan, but probably very tasty and melty. in a dual blunder, however, she and i both forgot about the pesto, which turned out to contain parmesan. so, you know, hopefully you're better about asking about stuff like that than i am. i have assertiveness issues, which is why this blog suits me just fine.

oh, but before the food even came i started in on a cup of really great fair trade coffee, which, oddly enough, came courtesy of just coffee, a fair trade cooperative from none other than madison, wisconsin (it's an isthmus, which...nevermind).

mcfosters also has the perfect americana french fries, which were great in the westbrae fruit sweetened ketchup (catsup?), but even better in the remains of the balsamic with the addition of some chipotle tabasco sauce.

my wife ordered an avocado sandwich, which was nothing too dazzling or creative, but was very good all the same, and really, isn't that all anyone wants in a sandwich?

so, all in all, mcfosters is kind of an odd place, but a place i would return to when passing through omaha. it's just a shame that there aren't more vegan/vegetarian options available in that town.

UPDATE: a return trip to mcfosters on the way home revealed the excellence of both the mornay, which can be made vegan if cheese is omitted, and has a very strong wine flavor, and the curried tempeh with green vegetables. not only that, friends, but the onion rings are vegan. VEGAN ONION RINGS! it had been a long time since i'd enjoyed an onion ring.

Friday, August 12, 2005

vive l'omaha!

That's right, kids, the surly vegan summer tour 2005 begins today, and with any luck, we'll be pulling into omaha by nightfall, HUNGRY. then on to denver, southern utah, vegas, and los angeles. feel free to send any eating suggestions to thesurlyvegan.gmail.com or comment below. see you on the road...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

hey, easy there...

woah, did i sound a bit pissy just then? sorry about that. i'm not really sure where that came from.

i tell you what - just to prove that i'm a nice guy who enjoys seeing graffiti that says "stay posi," here's a recipe for parmesan-style eggplant from the vegan planet cookbook. i'll be out of town when all of our tomatoes and eggplants are ready to be harvested, so you can enjoy this dish courtesy of me while the neighbors enjoy the produce courtesy of my wife and i.

and i quote:

"PARMESAN STYLE EGGPLANT

Eggplant Parmesan has always been one of my favorite dishes, so I was determined to make a vegan version that I could enjoy. As long as I was cutting out the cholesterol and fat of the cheese, I decided to make this dish even healthier by baking the eggplant slices rather than breading and frying them, resulting in a decidedly lighter dish than Mom used to make, but delicious nonetheless. Since vegan cheese does not usually melt well, you may prefer to use homemade or storebought gomasio, a sesame seed and sea salt condiment, which adds a great nutty-salty flavor, as well as calcium.

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles or 3 frozen veggie burgers, thawed and chopped or crumbled
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves or 1&1/2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated vegan Parmesan cheese or Gomasio (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the eggplant on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake until tender, 12 to 15 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, burger crumbles, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
3. Spoon a layer of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 2&1/2 -quart baking dish. Top with a layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle with a small amount of the vegan cheese or gomasio. Continue layering until all of the eggplant slices are used. To finish, top with a layer of the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese or gomasio.
4. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4"

So, there it is. The gomasio is really key, though it might not seem like it. The author is right, vegan cheese doesn't melt, but we've been over that already. I don't know that I'd call this dish light, but it is about the best use I can think of for tomato sauce and/or eggplants. Enjoy.

Let me know if you'd like to see more recipes here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

veganism and cycling

i received an e-mail from someone curious about the relationship of veganism and cycling. well, it's true, on good days i'm something of an avid cyclist (though i'm taking a break to let my tattoo heal properly since it takes up a ridiculous amount of space on my leg), and it's true, i'm a vegan (unless we're counting honey and thrift-store leather, the latter of which i'd like to cut out).

i guess for me it's all part of an effort to tread as lightly as possible, as well as being engaged in the things that i do, whether they be for transportation or nutrition. unfortunately, that doesn't answer the question, which had more to do with a diet for an active vegan.

and i don't really know.

at my best i was biking roughly 15 miles a day, and while my legs have shown some extra muscle, i'm still fighting against a bit of chub around my middle. i've always had high metabolism, something i know a lot of people aren't as lucky to have. now that i'm in my upper twenties, and drinking beer fairly regularly, it hasn't been as easy to stay super thin. so we joined the ywca, and i've been trying to be more active. i notice that if i know i've been riding or working out (or i'm going to be), it's easier for me to justify large meals of protein or carbs or whatever it is, but i really don't have a workout regime, and so i don't really have a workout diet. lots of mornings my wife and i will have smoothies with protein powder in them, and i've been taking multi-vitamins, iron, and a cal-mag-zinc complex, but that's more the result of the vegan health study info i stumbled upon (see link in post about health is wealth products).

so i don't know. part of me would like to be more informed about those things, but most of me fears taking it very seriously. food for me is fun, and i want it to remain that way.

there was also a question about bike parts and their sort of cohesion with a vegan lifestyle. i'm not too knowledgeable on this, either. i know that brooks saddles are leather, and i think some selle italias are also, and i guess i steer clear of leather bar tape (or any bar tape for that matter, i'm pretty clumsy with it).

really, though, i'm not so naive to think that my tires were produced with the environment in mind, or the steel that made my frame, and i shudder to think of the working conditions of those who produced them. i guess for me, at the end of the day, i say do what you can, knowing that each of us can do quite a bit more than we would often like to. do what you can, and don't settle for less. tread lightly, and have fun.

all of that sounds corny as hell because of a hipster backlash towards giving a fuck, and that really makes me mad. i won't apologize for caring. if someone is threatened by my lifestyle, that's not my fucking problem. if you need clarification on this point, let me refer you to the title of this blog.

and thanks for giving a damn.

two things

i'll keep this short since i know that pizza deal was rather long, and since i also know that my audience is, shall we say, minute.

thing one) why is it so hard to find a vegan shaving kit in the old man cup-and-brush style? why? fucking lanolin. maybe if people realized they were lathering sheep fat all over their bodies, lanolin wouldn't be such a popular ingredient, but then, by that logic, brain tacos wouldn't exist.

thing two) i really love the triple rock social club, and if you're ever in minneapolis, let me invite you to love it as well. i recommend going early, for happy hour (4-7), when pints of good beer are only two dollars, you're almost sure to get a table, and the cook's revenge is always good. just remember to say vegan when you order it, otherwise they'll serve you a chili dog with cheese fries. don't ask me how i know, i just do.

i promise there will be more posts later on, but right now i'm very busy preparing for the surly vegan summer tour 2005, but you know damn well that after all that eating i'll have plenty to say about the state of the western half of our country for us pasty types.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

(partial) pizza roundup, part one

Pizza is, if nothing else, comfort food. This is a term that typically nauseates me, but in this context, I think it applies. As vegans, we've sort of voluntarily cut ourselves off from much of the pizza world, and at times this can seem cause for despair, or worse, the rationalization of the one-time exception for some cheese pizza. Well, I recommend listening to the words of our president: Stay the course, strengthen your resolve! And if you're still having trouble, make sure your stomach is settled, then click here for reminders of how you got into this predicament in the first place.

Sorry that was so disturbing, but remember, don't blame me, blame those who stand by and let these animals suffer. And before I sound all high and mighty, perhaps I should add that, over the years, I've been known to succumb to the temptation of a Wisconsin cheese curd or two. These labels are complicated.

Anyway, I promise that the following links will be much less disturbing.

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Pizza Luce is my favorite local pizza place by a long shot. They have three locations here in Minneapolis, with one more up in Duluth, where the temperature is currently a balmy 45 degrees below freezing. Pizza Luce, in addition to offering delivery and a full bar, offer many selections for us vegan types. I'll tell you right now, the spaghetti is pretty awful, but let me recommend a couple of sandwiches, namely the Vegan Muffaletta and the Special Spicy Mock Sausage Hoagie. Here are the specs on those two bad boys:

Special Spicy Mock Sausage Hoagie* (Vegan) your choice of bread, brushed in olive oil instead of butter, spicy mock duck bathed intangy red sauce, topped with onion, tomatoes and our very own 100% dairy free rinotta uncheese (*contains nuts), served hot 7.29

Vegan Muffeletta spicy mock duck and our very own 100% dairy free rinotta uncheese (*contains nuts)with our special blend of olives, peppers and garlic topped with barbeque sauce, onions, tomatoes, banana peppers, lettuce and italian dressing, served hot 7.29

I recommend the focaccia bread for both of these. In May there was also the Vietnamese hoagie, Bi Mha or something like that, which was an amazing combination of mock duck, fresh cucumber, sri racha sauce, and I don't remember what else. On that one you had to remind them to hold the mayo, which they neglected to do once when I ordered mine vegan. This might be a fun one to try making at home, and I would definitely use vegan mayo if doing so, as it cuts the spice nicely.

My favorite Pizza Luce pizza is by far the Rustler:

The Rustler: a zesty combination of barbequed mock duck, pineapple, sweet tangy banana peppers, red onions, cheddar & mozzarella 11.99 14.39 18.99

Obviously, you'd want to skip the mozzerella in favor of the Rinotta, a not-so-cleverly-named Ricotta substitute made from, among other things, tofu, nutritional yeast, and cashews.

The rinotta is also used well on the Vegan Un-cheese Toast, which I can't help but order every time. The red sauce is phenomenal, not too sweet, not too spicy.

I also have limited experience with the Greek pizza, again substituting rinotta for the real cheeses:

Greek: spinach, artichoke hearts, marinated calamata olives, feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella & greek oregano 13.19 15.99 20.99

The last time I went to Pizza Luce was last night, while in the middle of the Pizza Roundup. I'd been working on this thing yesterday right up until 5:00, when I had to run to the tattoo shop for a very involved cover-up. I came out of there almost five hours later, hungry as hell, and bleeding all over the place (well, there was a little blood anyway). Pizza Luce is so good that my wife and I have been eating it a lot lately, and so tried to come up with other late night food ideas instead, but in the end we ended up at Pizza Luce and tried something new, kind of a classic taste, the Fresh Veggie:

Fresh Veggie: generous amounts of tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, black olives & mozzarella 11.39 13.59 17.99

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Galactic Pizza
is a place that, looking at the website, I should absolutely love. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The music was bad alternative, and altogether too loud. Happily, Finnegan's beer was on tap. Be sure to check out their website, and drink their Irish Amber whenever you can. Truthfully, an Amber isn't the first beer I would reach for given the choice, but Finnegan's donates 100% of their proceeds to help at-risk youth, which is pretty incredible.

So I'm drinking my pint, feeling pretty good, anxious to try one of the seven (!) vegan pizza options. First, though, we ordered some vegan cheese toast, which took sort of a long time to arrive. When it did, we started to get nervous about the pizza. The toast was reminiscent of something you might make at home, something involving french bread, margarine, and garlic salt. The only difference was that shredded on top of the bread was this weird vegan mozzarella that, surprise, hadn't melted one bit. It just kind of sat there, all oily and strange looking. To be fair, it didn't taste that bad, but it was weird enough that one person in my party, not a fan of its texture, picked it off and deemed it "flavorless and without purpose."

This cheese was also on the pizzas.

Otherwise, the pizzas weren't that bad. They were thin crust, kind of cardboardy, like something you might expect at your local neighborhood real-deal pizzeria. (That cardboardy remark, by the way, is a compliment). We ordered the Shroomer and the Hipster, both of whose specs are listed below:

THE SHROOMER � Tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, portabella mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and button mushrooms.
THE HIPSTER � Tomato Sauce, mozzarella cheese, spinach, button mushrooms, red onions, roma tomatoes, and topped with feta cheese.
And like I said, the pizzas, minus the weird cheese all over them, weren't bad, but kind of expensive for how thin they were. I also found it odd that there was a pizza called the Alamo that seemed remarkably similar to Pizza Luce's Rustler (see below):

THE ALAMO � Tangy barbeque sauce, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, marinated chicken, red onions, button mushrooms, and red bell peppers.
I think the straw that broke the camel's back, though, came when we were told that they had run out of vegan cheesecake the day before. Excited by the website's advertisement of said deliciousness, we had even called ahead and been promised blueberry, at the very least. We were not happy.

When we got home, my wife and I asked each other why it is that the vegan food scientists can't get cheese right. Why isn't there a good, melty, non-chemical vegan cheese yet? I mean, really, it's 2005, for Christ's sake.

In the end, Galactic Pizza wasn't awful, but it was a disappointing experience overall. Despite its location in Minneapolis' Lyn-Lake neighborhood, Galactic felt somehow like a suburban teen hangout, like a coffeeshop in Anoka or something.

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Now, there is one other pizza place in town with the word vegan on their menu. Like Galactic Pizza, Spokes Pizza Collective is a wonderful idea on paper. Shit, organic ingredients, a truly democratic work environment, "wholesome and affordable foods", bicycle deliveries? It all sounds so great to me. And the vegan breadsticks are, in fact, pretty great, but for me Spokes is just another Minneapolis area collective that is content to do things kind of half-assed. It feels like a bunch of kids got together and said, "wouldn't it be fun to start a pizza place?" And, to their credit, they actually fucking did it, which is more than I can say about half of my hair-brained ideas.

The problem is that while the crust is pretty good, the pizzas themselvese aren't. Also, Spokes uses by night what is by day the Seward Cafe, the atmosphere is incredibly awkward, and you can read elsewhere my complaints about said establishment's griminess. This might be something I could overlook, but the pizza takes so long to arrive that you kind of end up noticing every speck after a while. All of this might be forgivable if there were a bar, and I understand that, when renting a space from another restaurant, things like liquor licences are probably a tad complicated, but the opportunity to knock a few back might make the experience a little better.

Spokes is a place that I think is a great idea, and I want it to work, but then it's kiddy-corner from Pizza Luce, and for me, it's a no-brainer. It's funny, too, because that Pizza Luce location opened up not long after Spokes established itself. I've heard people suggest that it was a conspiracy, but really, Pizza Luce has been so successful, I don't think they were ever feeling threatened by Spokes. For me, at least, the world is a little bit bigger than all of that.

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When I'm in Chicago I like to eat New York Pizza. That's what I was going to say, and it was going to be a clever segue, until a google search revealed that this mom 'n pop on the far north side had closed. Actually, if I remember the story right, son 'n son is more accurate. Two brothers moved to Chicago to care for their sick mother and, stuck in Chicago deep-dish territory, began to miss the gigantic foldable pizzas from their native New York. They had a vegan pizza that didn't even mess around with fake cheese or meat, and you know what? It didn't need to. I remember it having an insane amount of garlic on it, and I also remember being chastised for having no idea how to eat a New York slice (turns out you fold it, front to back).

New York Pizza will be missed by Chicagoans, and by me.

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I guess all you Windy City vegans will have to settle for frozen. Might I recommend Amy's Roasted Vegetable? The sauce is an ingriguing and addictive combination of agave nectar, balsamic vinegar and I don't know what else, but I love these pizzas. A caveat: they're kind of pricey, and not super filling. I've eaten one of these by myself before, and then I did get full, but that's kind of a lot of money for a meal for one at home. I'll leave it up to you. Maybe make a salad.

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As I'm writing this, Har Mar Superstar has come on the iPod, just one more reminder that, because of the Surly Vegan Summer Tour 2005, I'm going to miss the Pizza Luce Block Party, which Har Mar will be headlining.

I can hear you groaning already, so let me tell you that I wasn't a fan until I saw him live, and now I'm proud to be on board. So will you. You should really go.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Look at me!

In an effort to keep this thing from devolving (much further) into the egocentric "I did this and then this happened to me" sort of personal zine or whatever, I'm keeping this post short. But stay tuned, as the Minneapolis Pizza Roundup is next. Also, I'm open to submissions from all over. Quality vegan pizza is a rare discovery, so if you know where there is some, don't keep it to yourself. Look for the roundup today or tomorrow. In the meantime, maybe steam some veggies over rice, okay?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

no fish sauce, please/iowa city props

Well, it's been a while, but I decided to treat myself to some Thai food for lunch. I called up True Thai to see if they could make me some Pad Thai without fish sauce. I should mention before going on that I love True Thai, it's really one of only a handful of decent Thai places in Minneapolis. It's a short list, and I'm afraid Sawatdee and Royal Orchid aren't on it. (My all-time favorite Thai restuarant, and so perhaps my favorite restuarant, is Thai Classic on Clark Street in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. I think I got spoiled in Chicago, which is why I can't join my fellow Minneapolitans in singing the praises of Sawatdee, a place at which I routinely found meat in my food before quitting them once and for all).

Oh, right. So I'm on the phone with they guy at True Thai, trying to avoid the fish sauce. He puts me on hold to check with the chef, and when he finally comes back, it's to tell me that the chef "can't guarantee the taste." Now, apparently this means that the chef couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't taste like fish, because there were a couple of iffy bites in there, but I'm a nice guy, and I love True Thai enough that I'm willing to chalk it up to, I don't know, maybe they've got so much fish sauce back there that it's just splashing around all over the place. I feel like I should be more upset, but the food was good, and I did my part, and now that I know they're willing to make it without fish sauce (sort of), I feel like I can happily go back there.

Look, good Pad Thai is hard to find up here.

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I got another comment from SG, which you can read under the post entitled Summer Tour 2005. I have to say, I've had nothing but positive experiences in Iowa City (excluding the time they wouldn't buy my plasma and the time later that I went to the funeral of the friend whose plasma they did buy). Gabe's Oasis will always have a special place in my heart (someone told me that there is some Youth of Today graffiti in the men's room, but I gave up trying to find it), and I've had more than one good meal in that town. Most importantly, I think, is that everyone in Iowa City is so nice.

Be sure to check out SG's blog, as well. "Riding bikes and rockin' mics." That sounds a little better than "The Surly Vegan," doesn't it? Hey SG, was that scroll the manuscript to On the Road by Jack Kerouac?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

the surly vegan SUMMER TOUR 2005!

That's right, we're taking this shit on the road. The Surly Vegan Mobile (our car) will be pulling out of Minneapolis on August 12th for one day in Chicago before heading West to Los Angeles, where we'll be for just shy of a week, EATING. So if you know of a place in between here or there (even if it's out of the way, hell, I plan to hit up Pokez in San Diego again to test my theory about whether or not the name is a joke about how long the food takes) that you'd recommend, or recommend avoiding, don't hesitate to let me know. You can comment here or you can always drop a line at thesurlyvegan@gmail.com.

Greetings from Mock Duck, USA!

Did you know that Minneapolis is the Mock Duck capital of the US? Neither did I, officially, until I saw that PETA deal, but it makes sense. When I moved to Chicago about three years ago I lived in Uptown, near the Argyle stop, kind of a vibrant Vietnamese neighborhood. Being from Minneapolis, I associated Vietnamese food with mock duck, and while I was able to purchase those beautiful briny blue cans in the Asian supermarkets near Argyle, I couldn't find it in a restaurant to save my life.

So Twin Cities, you're quaint as hell, passive agressive as a mother-in-law (pardon the sterotyping, will you please?), but you've got mock duck going for you.

Now. To all you restaurants out there serving mock duck, and also to the Surly Vegan home audience, I can't stress enough the importance of pressing the brine out of your mock duck before cooking with it. I mean really press it. Don't stop there, either, because you need to marinate it in a good veggie stock or some other such concoction (that includes, among other things, a bay leaf, some sesame oil, maybe some white pepper and a little sri racha rooster brand hot sauce) for some time before you fry it up. If there's one thing I hate (Caravelle on Eat Street, I'm talking to you, though you're certainly not the sole offenders here) it's briny mock duck, and I'd venture to guess no one else likes it either.

If you want a restaurant that really knows how to prepare that shit, treat yourself to the mock duck and potatoes at Kinh Do. That's the first restaurant in which I ever dined with a large group of vegans, probably before I was even vegan, and I've been going back ever since. Since I love the hell out of some Thai food, I was pleased as a priest at a playground when Kinh Do added some Thai offerings to their menu. Now if only they'd deliver, I wouldn't have to mess around with Uptown...(for the out of towners, I'm complaining about Uptown Minneapolis here, not the aforementioned Uptown Chicago. In some bizarre twist, Uptown Minneapolis is South of Downtown. Go figure. I could complain about the gentrification of Uptown Chicago, but I fear it would be misplaced in this blog, and really, who's paying attention anyway?)

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Actually, I do know that one person at least is paying attention. That's right, kids, the Surly Vegan audience is growing by leaps and bounds to a confirmed one. Thank you, SG, for checking in. SG stumbled over from another one of my nerd haunts, www.bikeforums.net, and promised to keep reading if I keep up the current pace. Well, I should mention that I am a full-time student and a full-time employee, and unfortunately (?) I don't have a desk job, so I kind of pull this stuff out of my ass on the fly, but I'll do my best.

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This has nothing to do with veganism and everything to do with surliness. I live in a working-class neighborhood that has more progressives than it knows what to do with. I rent a unit in a four-plex, and today went over to the National Night Out event with my wife and our immediate next-door neighbors. We met some people, and they were nice enough, right up until they found out where we all lived. "Oh, I really hope they convert those to condos." "I love this neighborhood, but it would be nice, for stability, to get rid of the renters. Oh, not you guys, of course, you're good renters."

I made myself go over to this thing against my cynical nature, in the hopes that maybe a little community-building would do the neighborhood some good, but in the end I guess there's some people that aren't worth building with. Look, it's great that you could afford to buy and I can't, but why don't you go fuck yourself before you pass any more judgement on me and my lowly kind.

Anyway, Minneapolis can't sustain it's current housing boom as it is without another landlord trying to turn a profit converting an apartment building into condos, especially where we live. Here's what would happen: maybe people would buy initially, but they'd never get their money back out of the place, there would be a perpetual for sale sign out in front of this and the buildings on either side of us, preventing the appreciation of the nearby homes, causing everyone to think wistfully of the days when those nice couples lived in those apartments and talked shit on them in their blogs.

And who the hell puts meat in bean dip? WTF?

So we went home and staked up some tomatoes that were totally out of control, ate the first cherry tomato of the season, and ordered Pizza Luce, who are doing great thing with mock duck, by the way. Maybe I'll do some real cooking tomorrow.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Now, usually I hate the junkfood vegans.../HOLY SHIT! HEALTH IS WEALTH FAKE CHICKEN PRODUCTS CONTAIN EGGS (i.e. CHICKEN PARTS)?!

...but today was so fucking hot, the thought of cooking so objectionable, that somehow my stupid ass thought it preferable to hop on my bike for a trip to the co-op. Tonight's dinner? Cascadian Farms tater tots, Health is Wealth Chicken-Free Nuggets* (with barbecue sauce and Vegenaise), and beer (Lakefront ESB, New Glarus Fat Squirrel, and I'm thinking about going to the fridge for a Bell's Two Hearted, the best American beer, in my opinion, even if it is named for a mind-numbingly slow Hemingway story about killing fish).

*Well, I was going to link to these, but my google search revealed this instead. That's right, those motherfuckers couldn't leave well enough alone, why not throw some dried egg albumen in there? And the Chicken-Free Patties, too, which I also purchased tonight for some other lazy night? Well, apparently there's an e-mail campaign going on to try to get Health is Wealth to remove the offending egg parts, and you can find out more at the above link, but really, a big reason I'm against the junkfood vegans in the first place stems from my having read the Vegan Health Study. I can't recommend this study enough, as it gives infinitely more insight into the benefits and pitfalls of a vegan diet than any nutrition class ever will. Seriously, spend some time on that site. Maybe, like me, you'll decide we're better off without all that junkfood in the first place. Sure, I'm bound to have some weak moments in the future (not weak enough to eat dried egg albumen, thank you very much), but that's on me. I'm not sure I feel the need to e-mail Health is Wealth to ask for help facilitating my bad eating choices.

Besides, this is the way it always goes. I remember in the mid- to late-nineties, when I was a junkfood vegan, I was so mad that Golden Grahams and Tollhouse Softbatch cookies were no longer vegan. Now, looking back, it's like what the fuck? G(M)Olden Grahams? You know, it's not just about the animals...

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Uhm, if you're reading this blog at all, especially if you don't know the author, please please please don't hesitate to comment so that I know you're out there. I installed a counter, but I can't tell if the site's getting any traffic because I'm so frequently checking for comments. It's really a sad life I lead.

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Would it be so hard for them to have some veggie dogs at one of those hot-dog eating contests? I think I could give that Japanese guy a run for his money. I once saw him lose an eating contest to a bear on some completely objectionable Fox show...something about man vs. animal or some shit.

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Finally, in case you missed the news, the Atkins company effectively shit-canned itself today. One can only hope that this will make vegans look a little more normal, although (and I'm pretty sure this is a good thing) I don't think we'll be seeing the Vegan symbol on the menus of chain restaurants anytime soon.

ogallala burritos?

Day Two: I'm pretty sure no one's reading this thing yet, so I'm holding off on posts about corporate ownership of natural foods companies, or the all-important pizza round-up, but I can say that I spent the better part of an hour last night trying (in vain) to use google to locate a place in Ogallala, Nebraska where I had a great burrito in 2001 or so. I was on the Greyhound on my way to San Francisco, and I couldn't believe this place. It's been a while, so my memory is fuzzy, but it was right off the freeway, maybe a gas station? What I am sure of is that it was sort of a burrito bar, (like salad bar, not like biker bar), complete with spinach tortillas. Maybe not super authentic, but healthy, fresh, and vegan. An odd discovery in the middle of Nebraska on the 'hound.

Any insight into the name and location of this place would be appreciated.