New brunch menu at Plant

August 5th, 2012
French toast at Plant

French toast at Plant

Plant introduced a brand new brunch menu today, and it is fabulous. If anyone else was unimpressed with Plant’s old brunch menu, make sure to go back and give them another chance. They have many more options that are gluten-free, and they are far more interesting.

The two best items, in my opinion, are the hemp bread french toast and the summer crepe (hold the soysage). The crepe falls apart a bit when you eat it, but it taste great. It reminds me a little bit of the vegan omelet that Laughing Seed use to have, but this is better. The french toast is made with a hemp bread and comes loaded with fresh berries, but the sugary vanilla-orange cream destroyed any illusion I might have had that this was a healthy breakfast.

Summer crepe at Plant

Summer crepe at Plant

Ironically, the one thing I really wanted to try on my recent trip to Montreal, was a vegan crepe. Couldn’t find one anywhere. Then as soon as I’m back in Asheville, I finally come across one. It’s good to be home.

Also, the mate latte, with coconut cream, was sensational.

Brunch at plant is every Sunday, 11am – 3pm. They are located at 165 Merrimon Ave. in Asheville.

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Vegan food in Montreal

August 5th, 2012
Mock duck at Yuan

Mock duck at Yuan

A couple of things to know about the restaurants in Montreal. (1) It’s expensive to eat here. Plan on spending about $20 per person, per meal. More if you go for desserts and appetizers. Don’t skimp – you’re on vacation. Just plan for it. (2) There is no early morning vegan breakfast anywhere that I could find. So pick something up at the grocery store for the morning. See my previous post for where to find the good grocery stores in Montreal.

Here are the restaurants in Montreal that I tried, in order of preference:

  1. Aux Vivres – Hands down, my favorite. We ate here more than any other restaurant. Weekend brunch is worth checking out as well. Everything is 100% vegan and they also have gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free options labeled. I tried a bite of the chocolate apple cake, which was sensational.
  2. Zero 8 – This restaurant doesn’t use any of the top 8 most common food allergens. This means that any vegetarian item on their menu is also vegan, including the desserts (which are amazing, by the way). They also ask you if you have any other food allergies so they can make sure not to let you order something that will make you sick. The food here was excellent. It was pretty expensive though. With tax and tip, and ordering 2 entrees, 2 drinks, 1 dessert, and 1 appetizer, we spent $70. Worth it, but be forewarned.
  3. Lola Rosa – A hippie Mexican style restaurant near the college. The food was very good, but they don’t have any kind of cheese substitutes. Our waiter, who I think is also the owner, was extremely nice and helpful. Not much in the way of appealing gluten-free options.
  4. Ming Tao Xuan - Actually a tea shop but it serves a few food items. Makes for a nice light dinner. I enjoyed this place quite a lot, but the limited menu kept me from going here too often.
  5. Le Commensal – This is a chain with several vegetarian cafeteria-style restaurants around the city. The food really isn’t very good, but they get points for variety and for thorough labeling of all their items.
  6. Yuan - Chinese mock meat kind of place. The food was decent. The ambiance could definitely be improved. If you’re having a fake meat craving, it’s a good place to go. They have a gluten-free mock duck that’s very enjoyable.
  7. Liquid Nutrition – It’s just a mall kiosk that serves smoothies, but it serves really good smoothies. And they have Vega brand protein powder available. They also have those Vega chocolate-saviseed protein bars that I am currently addicted to, plus other energy bars as well. Not terribly exciting food, but this place was a lifesaver for me when I was looking for something healthy to eat.
  8. Le Panthere – Soups and pita sandwiches. Not really my kind of place. I did have an good falafel pita, and the pita bread was really really good (which made my gluten hangover almost worth it). They have a few raw food snacks as well. I probably should have given this place more of a chance.
  9. Mikado – Sushi place that I went to with a couple of omnivores. I tried some veggie rolls. It was good, just like any other sushi place really.
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Advice for vegans in Montreal

July 28th, 2012
Old Port in Montreal

Old Port in Montreal

I was only in Montreal for 10 days, so I’m not an expert by any stretch. I’m sharing some advice that would have helped me, had I known. Even with Happy Cow, and other helpful veg websites, it’s hard to know in advance where the good restaurants and grocery stores are, and how to make sure you have access to them when you need them. If you’re a vegan planning a trip to Montreal, particularly if you like to eat healthy and/or gluten-free, here are a few suggestions for you.

Where to stay

Don’t get a hotel in the Old Port area. Sure, it’s incredibly charming, but there’s almost no food there. All the good vegan food is centered around Saint Laurent Blvd. and Rue Saint Denis, and west of Sherbrooke St. You might think you’ll enjoy the 30 minute walk, but it gets old real quick. And when the weather is uncomfortable or you have lots of things you’d like to do that day, you want your hotel to be close to your food.

Are you already stuck with a hotel in Old Port or other inconvenient area? That’s OK, so was I! Here’s the great thing about Montreal – it’s super easy to get around quickly if you’re willing to spend just a few bucks on transportation. Learn to love the BIXI bicycle system and/or the Metro subway system. After suffering through about 10 minutes of confusion, both offer affordable multi-day passes that allow you to easily hop on a bike or subway any time you like to get within a few blocks of wherever you’re going. Montreal has truly got public transportation figured out.

On a related note, think twice about booking a hotel through expedia.com. You pay in advance, and the hotel has no way to reimburse your payment if you want to switch hotels. Expedia’s policy is to give no refunds after your reservation has begun.

Where to shop for groceries

Happy Cow has quite a few “stores ‘n more” listed for Montreal, but most of them are not true grocery stores. If you like to keep some food in your hotel room, rather than eating out for every meal (good luck finding a vegan breakfast), there are 3 groceries I found that can get you through your trip. There do not seem to be any Whole Foods type stores here, so manage your expectations.

Tau on St. Denis has the best variety of groceries. If I lived in Montreal, this is probably where I would do most of my shopping. Take the Metro to Mont Royal and walk from there.

Le Couffin Bio at Sherbrooke and Park Ave. is a nice little health food store that has tons of breakfast cereal, frozen meals, energy/breakfast bars, bread, produce, and more. Tons of gluten-free food. It’s the most convenient store to Old Port, if you’re walking.

Rachelle Bery is a chain of health food stores. The one I went to is located at the corner of Rachel and Berri. It’s a bigger store with a lot of variety, but I didn’t find much more there that happened to be to my liking than I found at Le Couffin Bio. Very convenient by Metro – get off at the Mont Royal station.

Where to eat a healthy meal

Weekend brunch polenta at Aux Vivres

Weekend brunch polenta at Aux Vivres

Everyone’s definition of healthy is different, even amongst vegans. What I mean by healthy is a meal that is not a pile of carbs, and has little or no gluten. When traveling, I always seem to end up eating a ton of sugar and processed junk, so a few days into the vacation, I’m gittery and dizzy. The following restaurants were life savers.

Aux Vivres on St. Laurent is an all-vegan restaurant. Gluten-free food is plentiful and labeled. They have a nice selection of “bowls” that are healthy and very satisfying.

Liquid Nutrition is a smoothie and juice chain with multiple locations. They have Vega brand proteins available to add to any of their smoothies. It isn’t the most exciting meal, but I ate there a couple of times out of desperate need for a little protein.

Ming Tao Xuan is a tea shop in Old Port that also serves a few light vegetarian entrees. They have a really nice mango and greens salad that is great for a light healthy dinner. Sometimes they’ll put some unsalted cashews on top. The owners are wonderful.

Here’s a separate post listing all the restaurants I tried

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Decorative Gourds Take Over My Garden

June 26th, 2012
Freshly picked gourds

Freshly picked gourds

Last Halloween I had a few friends over. One of those friends brought a friend, who brought me a lovely decorative gourd. I’ve always loved those things for some reason, and it was just a very sweet thing for her to do.

After having the gourd displayed in my dining room for a couple of months, I started to grow a little tired of it, but I hate to waste, and I really hated to throw away a thoughtful gift. The gourd seemed like it would never decay, which would have made me feel justified in getting rid of it.

So instead, I gave it new life. I planted it in one of my garden beds. I buried it whole. I didn’t harvest the seeds or do anything else special. Just stuck it in the ground and forgot about it.

I didn’t think about it again until several weeks ago when a giant clump of sprouts popped up in my garden, like some kind of chia pet. Puzzled, I dug it up and was delighted to see that squash holding together the sprout clump. What the heck – I put it back in the ground and let it grow. It came this far, after all.

Garden bed

Garden bed - overrun by gourds

It has really taken over. It pretty well owns one entire 8X4 garden bed, and it keeps trying to work its way into the one next to it. I’ve had to pry it off of my kale and lambsquarters a couple of times already.

I picked my first batch of gourds. Not really sure what to do with them all, and there are surely so many more to follow. This has been a fun experiment, but one I don’t think I’ll repeat.

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Surprise Raspberries

June 3rd, 2012
Raspberry bush

Raspberry bush

Last spring, after having given up on producing my own blueberries, I planted a raspberry bush. Within weeks, it was dead….or so I thought.

Today, I finally got around to removing the little protective fence I’d put around it, and discovered that the bush was still alive. Not only that, but it has berries on it!

Perhaps the secret to success, at least when it comes to berry bushes, is to ignore them.

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Chai Pani kills off the best simple vegan meal in Asheville

May 21st, 2012

There are plenty of vegan-friendly restaurants in Asheville that I enjoy. Only one has – had – a meal that I frequently craved, especially on a particularly draining day. A vegan, gluten-free bowl of rice and daal from Chai Pani could always fill my belly, lift my spirits, and soothe my tired soul. Even better, it was a simple, healthy meal that I felt good about eating.

So naturally, Chai Pani changed their recipe so that their daal is no longer vegan. And I was told that while there was some talk of offering a vegan version, they decided against it. Thanks.

Don’t get me wrong – Chai Pani still has a couple of good items on their menu and their food is still good. But nothing I need to go out of my way for like that heart-warming, soul-soothing daal. That magic is gone from Asheville.

The next runner up for that kind of simple but satisfying vegan, gluten-free, healthy meal would be Laughing Seed‘s Harmony Bowl. I recommend getting the sauce on the side.

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Blueberry bush finally produces berries

May 6th, 2012
A little clump of blueberries

A little clump of blueberries

After 4 years of abuse, neglect, and incompetence, my blueberry bush has actually produced some berries this year!

I planted the bush 4 years ago around this time, following instructions and advice on acid-loving plants as best as I could. It looked OK for a few weeks, but it wasn’t long before I tripped over it and dragged the garden hose over it several times. The bush is still growing on an angle. A big bunch of its roots can be seen above the ground.

The following year, it didn’t produce a single flower. Nor the year after that. Actually, the third year, it barely produced any leaves. I thought it might be dead, but when I tried to break a branch, it didn’t snap like a dead plant. Always a sucker for the underdog, I decided to let the blueberry bush keep living.

Blueberry bush

My blueberry bush

I’ve been told by many people that you need to have a second blueberry bush for it to produce berries. I’ve tried to plant a second one twice now. Both times they died within the first year.

Don’t ask me how this “crop” of berries came to exist this year, because I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t anything I did on purpose. There are no more than a dozen little berries – 2 clumps. It’s very likely the birds will get to them before I do.

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Happy Birthday To Me…

April 27th, 2012
Red Tofu Curry at Plant

Red Tofu Curry at Plant

My birthday was this week. My “birthday season” is still going on. Here are a few things that have made this a fantastic birthday (and season), in no particular order:

  • A surprisingly good meal at Plant. Surprising only because I didn’t think “red tofu curry” would be a terribly interesting dish, but it was as unique and artfully designed as all of their food.
  • Chocolate truffles from The Chocolate Lounge, courtesy of a friend from work. I cannot believe I had never been there before. So good.
  • A full day of my phone buzzing from constant birthday messages on facebook.
  • I finally closed my crappy awful Wells Fargo bank account. Worst bank I have ever had, by far.
  • A very perfect bright pink cardigan sweater – a gift from my boyfriend. I have no idea when I turned into a girl who likes pink, but I seem to have a lot of it around all of a sudden. And it seems to fill me with joy – maybe because it seems so unlike me.
  • My favorite local swing band, Cry Baby, played at the Tuesday night Swing Asheville dance this week.
  • A very happy ending for many who have suffered for far too long. Laboratory chimps get a new lease on life

Happy days!

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Brother Wolf Run for the Paws 5K

April 22nd, 2012
A couple of runners not taking the race very seriously

A couple of runners not taking the race very seriously

The Animal Hospital of North Asheville gave away a registration to the Brother Wolf Animal Rescue‘s 5K, which happened this afternoon. I was the lucky “winner” of the vet clinic’s prize.

There was no time for training or preparation since I only found out I was running 3 days ago. Shear force of will and my desire to believe I’m still 20 years old got me across that finish line in just over 44 minutes. I managed to run for most of it, taking a walking break for about 1/2 mile in the middle.

Dogs were encouraged, and all seemed to be having a total blast. It wasn’t the most exciting event, but the weather was perfect, the people and dogs were friendly, and the race course was nice and easy. I thoroughly enjoyed the excuse to get outside and get some serious exercise.

If you’re looking for a new companion or a place to volunteer or donate, check out Brother Wolf. They’re a great organization.

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100% Vegan Bakery from Black Mountain visits my neighborhood

April 21st, 2012
Mixed berry pie by I Heart Veg

Mixed berry pie by I Heart Veg

Black Mountain has a new 100% vegan bakery, I Heart Veg! Jeannie, the owner of the bakery, brought her baked goods right to my neighborhood farmer’s market (not to mention a few others) this week. You can “like” their facebook page to find out the next time they take their baked goods on the road. The bakery itself is on demand / by appointment only – not for walk-in customers.

They don’t have gluten-free options, I’m sad to say, but they do have some spelt items for those who can tolerate a small amount of gluten. I didn’t get to try any of those this week, but Jeannie promises to bring some to next week’s farmer’s market.

I tried a sample of the banana bread which was sooooo moist and delicious. And I took home a little mixed berry pie. Flakey crust, not overly sweet, strong fresh berry flavor – everything one could ask for in a little pie. What really shocked me, though, was my boyfriend’s response to it. I was expecting something along the lines of “I wish you wouldn’t bring junk food home.” What I heard instead was a 5-minute soliloquy on how this perfect pie reminded him of a simpler, better time. Honestly, I’ve never heard him go on about dessert like that.

Perhaps just as important as the tasty treats, was meeting Jeannie. We spent a good while comparing notes on how open and welcoming the people of the Asheville area are, especially compared to where we each came from. And how much there is to do and enjoy here, especially for such a small city. Jeannie is my kind of people, and I Heart Veg is your and my kind of bakery. So go check out their goods with a couple of friends and give them your support.

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