Xi’an Famous Foods, Midtown West

Xi'an Famous Foods, Midtown West

Xi’an Famous Foods is a well loved fast food joint specializing in the flavors of the city of Xi’an. This place has a hole-in-the-wall vibe, but the location on 34th Street is plenty spacious and even has a heavily air conditioned second floor. Believe me, you’re gonna need that AC blasting when you’re chowing down on spicy noodles. Their original location is in Flushing, but Xi’an is now all over NYC. Great option for a quick, cheap eats. It’s tempting to get your order to go, but the noodles are best enjoyed immediately so they don’t bloat.

For a long time, I kept seeing photos of the spicy lamb burger on Instagram, which lead me to mistakenly think that this place isn’t very vegan friendly. Turns out there’s a good selection of meatless options on the menu, and the FAQ page clarifies that all the vegetarian dishes (except for the dumplings) are completely vegan. Hurray!

We ordered two noodle dishes and two sides, while the couple directly to my left shared one noodle dish and one side. Hah, what can I say… we love our noods and foods!

Spicy Cucumber Salad, Xi'an Famous Foods

The spicy cucumber salad ($6) isn’t anything to get super excited about, but the combo of black vinegar, garlic, and chili oil is nice. We ordered it for a cool, crunchy break from the other heavier dishes. It does have some chili oil, but is quite mild overall.

Chang-An Spicy Soft Tofu, Xi'an Famous Foods

I love tofu and chili oil, so the Chang’an spicy tofu ($3) was a must order item. It’s a bowl of soft tofu drizzled in soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil. Simple, but tasty. I happily slurped up every last little piece of tofu. Is it wrong that I want to drink that chili oil mixture like a soup?

Mount Qi Vegetables Hand-Ripped Noodles Soup, Xi'an Famous Foods

The Xi’an Famous Foods’ website described their Mount Qi vegetable hand-pulled noodle soup as a “ratatouille of vegetarian ingredients.” Sounds about right. Colorful mixture of carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, and even some chunks of seitan. The noodles have an addictive bounciness. Even though it was a hot summer day, I have no regrets ordering it with the spicy and sour veggie broth.

Mount Qi Vegetables Hand-Ripped Noodles, Xi'an Famous Foods

John got the Mount Qi vegetable noodles too, minus the soup ($8.50). The noodles are tossed in chili oil, creating a nice slipperiness. The noodles are a little chewier when they’re not in the soup. You’ve probably seen a bazillion #liftingnoodles photos on Instagram featuring Xi’an Famous Foods’ hand pulled noodles, but here is John’s first noodle lift. Welcome to the club!

Mount Qi Vegetables Hand-Ripped Noodles, Xi'an Famous Foods

Xi'an Famous Foods Xi'an Famous Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

48 Hours in Pittsburgh, PA

Over Labor Day weekend, I took a trip back to Pittsburgh for a wedding. I feel like I’m still playing catch up on all sorts of things since that trip, and in a week, I’m doing another quickie trip to DC, also for a wedding. Anyway, my 48 hours back in the ‘burgh were very rushed, but here’s what I managed to squeeze in…

Seitan Wings, Double Wide Grill, Pittsburgh

My friend Liz and her husband Dan picked me up from the airport (thanks guys!) and from there, we went straight to Double Wide Grill for dinner. I came here on my last visit and was happy to be back as they’re known for having plenty of meatless options. The seitan wings were good although Cletus’ hot sauce was more heat than we had bargained for. Seems like they over fried a few of the seitan chunks making them way too tough.

Meatless Stroganoff, Double Wide Grill, Pittsburgh

Apparently, Double Wide Grill’s meatless stroganoff was chosen as the best vegan dish of Pittsburgh a couple years back. I decided to give it a try. The seitan strips and gravy were tasty, but the portobello mushroom had a very tart marinade that didn’t quite do it for me. Wish this came with pasta instead of rice and bread. Overall, an okay dish in my books.
Double Wide Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Goomba Cat, Pittsburgh

I stayed at Liz and Dan’s house that evening. They have two cats: Snuffy and Goomba. The kitties were shy and curious, but eventually warmed up to me. I am the cat whisperer after all. Isn’t Goomba a pretty lady? She’s named after the mushrooms from Mario.

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

The next day, I visited Carnegie Mellon for a quick stroll. Even though I visited Pittsburgh a couple years ago, this is my first time back on campus since graduating. I saw a kid wearing a “Class of 2020+” t-shirt, and boy, did that make me feel old. (The “+” means he’s an architecture major like I was. That’s how you spot fellow archis.)

College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

I also stopped inside the College of Fine Arts and the ceiling mural was just as I remembered. How are you, old friend? Fun fact: I once did a semester long project on this mural and the works featured in it. We have a love/hate relationship.

Conflict Kitchen, Pittsburgh

I visited my old stomping grounds in Oakland and made a pitstop at Conflict Kitchen for lunch. This little food stand features food from countries that the U.S. is in conflict with, and their goal is to raise awareness of and generate discussion about those countries and cultures. What better way than to start the conversation with food?

Kookoo Sibzamini, Conflict Kitchen, Pittsburgh

Conflict Kitchen is currently focusing on Iran. This was my first time having Iranian cuisine, so I can’t tell you much about it except that it is real tasty. I had the kookoo sibzamini pan fried potato and onion patties topped with a yogurt sauce. It’s served with torshi makhloot pickled veggies, grilled tomato and onion. The patties had such a smooth, satisfying texture!
Conflict Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Fairfax Apartments, Pittsburgh

Since I was in the neighborhood, I walked over to my old apartment The Fairfax for old time’s sake and caught a Lyft from there. My original plan was to change into wedding appropriate attire in a campus restroom (hah!) and go straight to the ceremony from there, but I was so sweaty (damn you, east coast humidity) that I decided to check in at the hotel and take my second shower of the day.

The Priory Hotel, Pittsburgh

The wedding reception was at The Priory Hotel over on the North Shore. It’s such a charming historic hotel, and I foolishly only snapped this one photo of the exterior. Cocktail hour was in this lovely courtyard, then we moved inside to eat, drink, and dance the night away. Here’s our gorgeous bride, Christina, on the dance floor!

 

Despite having six glasses of wine at the wedding, I woke up the next day hangover-free. If you think that’s impressive, my friend Zach who also had six glasses of wine went running the next day. Ugh, no thanks.

Allegeny Commons Park, Pittsburgh

I had the morning to myself and walked through Allegeny Commons Park before it was time to brunch with Zach and Cathy. We visited B52 Cafe in Lawrenceville for an all vegan, all delicious brunch. Hurray, I can eat everything on the menu! Everything we tried at B52 was great, and I always enjoy having a good vegan meal with non-vegan friends. #veganize

Vegan Brunch, B52 Cafe, Pittsburgh

The falafel salad was real pretty on the plate, and we took our server’s suggestion and added avocado. Turns out that was a very wise choice. The falafel had a great texture and the slaw was enjoyable. I don’t normally get excited about pita chips, but these were particularly tasty.

Falafel Salad, B52 Cafe, Pittsburgh

At B52, you can get a standard tofu scramble, which comes with potato latkes, greens, and shiitake mushrooms. Or you can get the kofta tofu scramble that has very yummy spicy seitan kofta, more of those great pita chips, and a delicious harissa smoked pepper hot sauce. Oh, that sauce! This plate is definitely the way to go…

Kofta Tofu Scramble, B52 Cafe, Pittsburgh
B52 Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After brunch, Zach drove me to the airport (my friends are seriously the best!), and I got to hang out briefly with his very handsome dog Sรธren, whom I haven’t seen since he was a puppy. What a dog, what a mane!

Soren Dog, Pittsburgh

Mother of Pearl, East Village

Cocktails, Mother of Pearl, East Village

Before saying farewell to NYC, I visited Mother of Pearl with fellow foodies The Dishelin Guide and Freaknut101. Finally. For me, this was one of the most anticipated meals of 2016, but the truth is, I was slightly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the food is good, but when you’re the sister restaurant of Avant Garden, and there’s so much hype around the recent veganization of this place, the bar is set pretty damn high.

Mother of Pearl is a Polynesian fusion restaurant featuring small plates and cocktails in a tiki bar atmopshere. Palm leaves, floral prints, breezy curtains… this place is channeling some seriously dreamy vacation vibes. The decor alone makes Mother of Pearl worth visiting, but based on this visit, I would recommend it for cocktails and snacks, not a full meal. Yes, the food is beautiful, but if you’re already familiar with these flavors, some of the dishes fall short. It didn’t help that our waitress seemed grumpy, and the space felt chaotic, not lively as the night went on.

Spring Tea, Mexican Summer #2 Cocktails, Mother of Pearl, East Village

At Mother of Pearl, they serve up gorgeous cocktails with delicate, balanced flavors that set them apart from the way too sweet tropical cocktails at many other places. The Spring Tea ($16) was a pink and green beauty with rhubarb, aperol, lemon, gin, matcha, and begonias. The signature Shark Eye ($15) is hands down the most heavily Instagrammed cocktail of 2016 and even comes with a drizzle of “blood” syrup. Everything we tried was enjoyable, but it’s a shame that every cocktail comes with so much ice.

Spring Tea Cocktail, Mother of Pearl, East Village

As soon as we spotted the fried guacamole ($12) on the menu, we knew we were getting an order. Looks like croquettes, but they, unfortunately, fall apart if you try to pick them up. Nice fried exterior, creamy guacamole interior on a bed of black bean puree. Tasty with plantain chips. The Dishelin Guide said this was like a deconstructed version of my sliders.

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We only ordered one item off the Cold section of the menu: the king trumpet mushroom crudo ($12). It’s nicely plated, but where are the shrooms? As a lover of king trumpet mushrooms, it was disappointing that there were only a few paper thin mandolin slices in this dish. Plenty of cucumber, avocado, hearts of palm, and fried vermicelli, but barely any of the title ingredient. The jalapeno vodka broth, if you can call it that, was a watery green liquid with a teensy bit of jalapeno flavor. Meh.

King Trumpet Mushroom Crudo, Mother of Pearl, East Village

There were two types of potstickers on the menu, and we opted for the lychee potstickers ($11) over the mushroom cabbage ones. Subtle lychee sweetness, not much Thai basil flavor, black vinegar sauce for dipping. The wrappers were very fried, which gets a little scratchy on the roof of your mouth. (At this point, my camera ran out of battery… or maybe it got bored and fell asleep. Thanks to The Dishelin Guide for capturing this one.)

Lychee Potstickers, Mother of Pearl, East Village

In case you missed the memo, jackfruit is the hot vegan food of the year. At Mother of Pearl, they stuff their fluffy buns with kalua jackfruit and shiitake mushrooms ($11). Great texture with plenty of ginger aioli and five spice ketchup. Great combo of ingredients, very nicely done. This was my favorite of the night. (Photo credit: The Dishelin Guide)

Kalau Jackfruit & Shiitake Mushroom Buns, Mother of Pearl, East Village

The rum fried rice ($12) is basically Mother of Pearl’s version of a paella. Cooking the rice in pineapple rum gives it an interesting flavor, and the entire bowl of rice had the addictive, crispy texture that you’ll find at the bottom of a paella pan. The dragon fruit and orange edamame spruce it up for photos and add a little sweetness to make it tasty enough. (Photo credit: The Dishelin Guide)

Rum Fried Rice, Mother of Pearl, East Village

Mother of Pearl Mother of Pearl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

Last weekend, John and I visited Out to Pasture animal sanctuary for their summer movie night fundraiser. It was about a 50 minute drive from Portland to the sanctuary in Estacada. In case you can’t make out the sign on the right, it says “a gated community.”

This was my first visit to an animal sanctuary, and I was excited to make some furry new friends, but you never know how the animals will react to humans as they’ve suffered abuse or neglect before winding up here in this caring forever home. That said, we encountered many friendly, gentle creatures, some of which seemed to be posing for photos. This is really a place “where a pig can be a pig.”

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

You guys know that I’m a city girl, and in case any other city folks are wondering, the farm smells were very minimal at this sanctuary. Here are some of the beautiful faces that greeted us when we arrived…

This handsome fella over here is Ike the goat. He was the friendliest of the bunch and strikes some majestic poses for the camera. Ike was previously bound for slaughter when his former caretaker got tired of him. Luckily, he was rescued and brought to Out to Pasture.

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

I’m normally not a fan of beards, but Ike is definitely nailing this look. At one point, he even let me stroke his beard.

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

If Ike likes you, he’s not afraid to get upclose and personal.

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

And it turns out that John is a goat whisperer.

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

I also met a sweetheart named Sweetpea, who came to the sanctuary after being abandoned. Such pretty eyes! Also, check out our matching highlights…

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

We chowed down on vegan nachos before the movie started. I almost asked for no sour cream, then remembered that all the nacho toppings are vegan! The movie “Harvest of Fear” is one of those B-rated slasher movies that’s more silly than scary. Budget film making at its finest. Turns out some of the scenes were filmed at Out to Pasture.

Vegan Nachos, Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

Here’s one more of our dear friend Ike who is wondering where everyone went. Sorry, Ike, everyone went to get nachos without you.

Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary

2016 Organic Beer Fest, Portland

2016 Organic Beer Festival, Portland

Another month, another beer fest! This time around, it’s all about two things that Portlanders are passionate about: organic beer and sustainable living. The Organic Beer Fest aims to be as earth-friendly as possible with over 50 organic brews, local food vendors, on-site composting, recycling bins, and reusable signage. The festival makes a huge effort to prevent as much event waste as possible ending up in the landfill. If you walk, bike, or ride public transit to the festival, you can get a free tasting token for helping the festival support its sustainability focus.

2016 Organic Beer Festival, Portland2016 Organic Beer Festival, Portland

If you want the fun of a summer festival, but get overwhelmed by crowds, the Organic Beer Fest was made for you. It’s $7 for a recyclable tasting cup and $1 for a tasting token, just like the last beer fest I attended, but the festival location in Overlook Park creates a more relaxed, neighborhood feel. Even as more people showed up in the evening after work, the festival never lost its laid back vibe. The giant Dutch Elm tree is a beautiful centerpiece in the park and perfect when you need a break from the sun.

Overlook Park, PortlandOverlook Park, Portland

By now, most people are aware that organic products are much better for you, but organic isn’t just about what’s going into your body. Organic ingredients are better for the environment and for the folks handling those ingredients too. Rest assured, all the beers are either certified organic or contain at least 70% organic ingredients. With over 50 beers available, it’s tough to decide where to start your tasting…

2016 Organic Beer Festival, Portland2016 Organic Beer Festival, Portland

With short or no lines at each tasting station, you have your pick of beers. Pictured above is the Two Kilts Manbun IPA and Lakefront Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout. I’m not a coffee drinker, but this stout had such an enjoyable rich, roasted flavor. John is normally way more into IPAs than I am, but they have been growing on me lately. The Double Mountain Clusterf#ck and Bison Organic Kermit the Hop both had a drinkable bitterness suitable for a hot summer day. If you want a liquid dessert, you can’t go wrong with Samuel Smith’s Strawberry Ale.

Vegimoto Vegan Food Truck, Organic Beer Fest
Vegan Cheesesteak, Vegimoto Food Truck

Where there’s beer, there’s gotta be food too. After a few tastings, we soon found ourselves eyeing the all vegan menu at Vegimoto. I’ve had plenty of vegan hot dogs, but this was the first time I’ve had one made of tofu. It was good, but nothing to wow about. We also tried the vegan cheesesteak, and they just fired up a new batch when we placed our order. So satisfying to chow down on that mountain of “steak”, and they’re very generous with the cashew cheese.

Dump Truck Dumpling Food Truck, Organic Beer FestDump Truck Dumpling Food Truck, Organic Beer Fest

The bright yellow Dump Truck (what a name!) was impossible to miss at the festival. We tried both vegan dumplings on the menu: the Down to Earth mushroom dumpling and the Potato Curry dumpling. The curry dumplings are a nice idea, but were too heavy for my taste. I enjoyed the portobello mushroom filling, but I wish the wrappers were lighter. The gingery flavor of the filling and the spicy tahini sauce were tasty though.

Down to Earth Vegan Dumplings, Dump Truck Food Truck

Note: I was invited to attend this festival and received complimentary beer tastings. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

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00 + Co, East Village

00+Co Vegan Pizza, East Village

In early 2016, Chef Matthew Kenney opened New York City’s first all vegan pizzeria serving personal pizzas, small plates, and nut-based cheeses. Some of you might remember Chef Kenney as the opening chef of Pure Food & Wine (which is now permanently closed), and he currently has several plant-based restaurants and one coming soon to Bahrain.

Before leaving NYC, we visited 00 + Co for a late lunch. There was a little bit of mix up as I had placed a 2:30pm reservation through OpenTable, but they didn’t open until 3pm. No big deal, and we hung out in the neighborhood until it was time. Hope they’ve updated OpenTable to reflect their new hours since then.

00+Co Vegan Pizza, East Village

00 + Co feels very Los Angeles, and I say that someone who hasn’t been to LA in a few years. The heart of the restaurant is the wood burning brick oven tucked away in the back, but your eye immediately goes to the wall of vegan wines. The interior feels open and relaxed with light wood communal tables, but the outdoor seating is the way to go if you’re dining here in a good weather. I’m hesitant to call this place upscale because it feels laid back, but I have a feeling that upscale is how many will interpret it.

The name 00 + Co, which initially comes across as random to some folks, comes from the type of flour they use for their pizza dough. The menu does a nice job at explaining this: “00 flour is ideal for pizza dough for three reasons: one, it’s finely ground; two, it holds up to the high heat of our wood burning brick oven; and three, it has a lower gluten content than most flours.”

Farro Fennel Sausage, Almond Cream Vegan Pizza, 00+Co

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t your greasy 3am pizza after a night of drinking. Come here for plant-based pizzas that that are easy on the eyes, palate, and stomach. They’ll leave you satisfied, and you’ll feel good about what you ate. I would have liked to try the cheese plate and some dishes from the “Not Pizza” section of the menu too, but two personal pizzas was plenty for two people.

The farro-fennel sausage, tomato, cashew mozzarella pizza ($18) doesn’t have any vegan faux meat sausage. However, the farro offers a meaty texture and all the right seasonings to justify having the word “sausage” in the description. Simple, classic flavors that work well for a pizza and go nicely with a medium-bodied red.

Farro Fennel Sausage Vegan Pizza, 00+Co

The almond cream pizza ($16) with sliced potatoes, shiitake anchovies, oregano, and baby kale looked like a salad on top of a pizza. Subtle sweetness from the almond cream, added flavor from the purple potatoes, and savory, chewy shiitake pieces. Even John, who does not like mushrooms, enjoyed the shiitake anchovies. I’ve had some really bad low gluten and gluten free crusts in the past, but this is one of the good ones.

Almond Cream Vegan Pizza, 00+Co

Both pizzas were enjoyable, but I wasn’t blown away. Maybe all the hype surrounding this restaurant is to blame. Next time I visit NYC, you can expect to see a followup post on some of their other dishes. For now, I’ll leave you with this: 00 + Co is tasty enough, and a welcome addition to the NYC food scene. Of course, there are other vegan pizza options in the city, but this is the first sit down pizzeria where you can make an occasion of it.

00+Co Vegan Pizza, East Village

00 + Co 00 + Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Totem Tea, Portland

Totem Tea, Portland

Some people don’t realize this, but quality tea is just like fine wine. Every tea has a story to tell, and that story doesn’t begin in your teapot. It can be traced all the way back to the tea farm where the care and artistry of the farm’s workers, as well as the terroir of the farm influence the tea’s scent, taste, and texture. As you sip and savor tea through each infusion, it evolves in appearance and on the palate.

I recently met up with the owners of Totem Tea, Phillip Sauerbeck and Dan Pappas, who are both incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about tea. Sourced from small tea farms in Taiwan and China, Totem Tea’s products are extensively researched and carefully selected. Only one in at least twenty teas make the cut. Their next trip is in October, and they’ll be visiting Taiwan before an oolong immersion experience in Fujian and Guangdong provinces of China.

Totem Tea, Portland

Phil and Dan consider themselves tea connoisseurs, not tea merchants, who enjoy sharing tea and storytelling through tea. During my visit, we shared a flight of three teas with distinct flavor profiles. It’s almost like a 3-course meal with an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. I realize that sipping hot tea in the middle of summer might not be appealing to everyone, but it was a very calming and zen experience.

For now, the teas are only available through their website, but fingers crossed… maybe a small tea shop with a tasting room will be in store for Totem Tea in the future!

White Jade Phoenix Green Tea, Totem Tea, Portland

We started our tea session with the anji bai cha ๅฎ‰ๅ‰็™ฝ่Œถ brewed in a clay kyusu with a no fuss, easy to use handle. Delicate with floral aromas, this White Jade Phoenix Green Tea had a subtle, barely there quality on the first infusion, but began to reveal its cooling green tea flavor on the next two infusions.

White Jade Phoenix Green Tea, Totem Tea, Portland

It’s fascinating to watch the tea leaves slowly uncurl themselves over each infusion. After the second infusion, there was a scent that seemed very familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until Dan mentioned steamed spinach. Ah hah!

Totem Tea, Portland

Brewed in a pure silver teapot, the Gui Fei Oolong ่ฒดๅฆƒ็ƒ้พ falls into a category of tea known as leaf-bitten oolong. No pesticides are used in the tea farms, and cicadas are encouraged to bite the leaves as the nibbling results in the plant releasing more sugar.ย  This trick to cultivating sweeter oolong was discovered by chance in 1999 after cicadas had overrun a tea farm while farmers had evacuated during an earthquake. Now the cicadas are an integral part of the tea production process.

Gui Fei Oolong, Totem Tea, Portland

This oolong is bold enough to pair with heavier foods, while its sweetness entices you to enjoy cup after cup. The first infusion was light compared to what comes to mind when I think of oolong, but the next few infusions offered a rosy, roasted mouth feel and sweet honey flavor. The lively smell reminded me of the Portland rose gardens.

Snow Honey Chrysanthemum, Totem Tea, Portland

Next up was a caffeine-free herbal tea, which is almost like a drinkable dessert. White and yellow chrysanthemum is most common, but this high altitude Snow Honey Chrysanthemum ้›ช่Š่Šฑ่Œถ is different. All the familiar chrysanthemum aromas and flavors are there, but this one is richer and bolder. Plus, there are earthy, peppery notes in mixed in too. Imagine pairing this tea with a summer berry tart!

Snow Honey Chrysanthemum, Totem Tea, Portland

Note: I was invited to meet with this business and received complimentary samples. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

Since moving to Portland, almost every beer I’ve enjoyed here was a locally made craft beer. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Oregon is known for being a happy place for beer lovers. Beeradise, beervana, whatever you choose to call it. If you’re in Portland during the last full weekend of July, the Oregon Brewers Festival is not to be missed and draws crowds from near and far.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

Five days, free admission, $7 for a tasting mug, $1 tasting tokens, and so many beers to choose from. We spent Friday and Saturday afternoon at the festival and barely made it through a quarter of the beers available. If you can, stop by on a weekday when it’s a little less crowded. I was afraid of spilling beer all over my Lumix so these iPhone snaps will have to do.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

It was hard to keep track of all the beers we tasted, but I will say that I didn’t have a single beer that I didn’t enjoy. I steered clear of dark beers as they seemed too heavy for such a hot, sweaty day. There was a strong showing of IPAs and lagers, but the most unique tastes I had were the Cucumber Berliner Weisse by Oakshire Brewing and the Lavender Ale by Oregon Trail.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

In addition to sampling beer, you can shop for anything beer related, from growlers to beer soap, at the festival. And of course, there was food! You guys know I like my carbs, and fries are always a winning food pairing for beer. If you’re lucky enough to grab a bench, you can catch some views of the Williamette River while you snack.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

You guys have seen me double fist giant vegan burgers, so here I am double fisting beer mugs and wearing a mini pretzel necklace. I don’t know why, but that eyebrow of mine has a life of its own whenever I get my picture taken. You should see what it does whenever I take selfies.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

John took a turn wearing the pretzel necklace too and became the victim of this hilarious photobomb. I think the necklace looks better on him as the pink string complements his watermelon t-shirt.

Some folks got dressed up for the occasion, and we even saw one guy with a large goofy looking hat covered in pins from every year of the Oregon Brewers Festival. Now that’s dedication. If you’re lucky you might even catch the Portland unipiper at the festival. Hope he didn’t get any beer on his bagpipes. I’m marking my calendar for next year’s OBF and so should you!

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District, Portland

I’m sure many of you are surprised to see me at a restaurant with the word “lobster” in the name. Despite the quirky crustacean name of this Pearl District restaurant, The Hairy Lobster offers plenty of vegetable-focused plates meant for sharing. I was recently invited to taste some of their vegetarian dishes, and as it turns out, The Hairy Lobster is right in my neighborhood. Howdy, neighbor!

Upon entering The Hairy Lobster, you’re greeted by a striking blue wall with an eclectic collection of metal knobs and fixtures. We briefly joked about how our neighbors might react if we changed our front door’s knocker to one of these unusual pieces before being whisked away to our table in the heart of the restaurant.

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District, Portland

At The Hairy Lobster, old meets new both in the ambiance and cuisine. I swooned over the medley of rustic wood, industrial accents, and mismatched vintage plates. We arrived for an early 5:30pm reservation and watched the energy in the open, airy space transform once dinner service was in full swing.

After many years of building impressive careers in the food industry, husband wife team David and Mellisa Root opened The Hairy Lobster together. The seasonal menu celebrates local and regional ingredients and is broken down into three sections: Water, Garden, Barn. I was here to sample some Garden dishes that the Roots had picked out in advance.

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District, Portland

First up, the blistered padron peppers ($11) with lemon, pimenton, sea salt, and parmesan squash. Lovely char on these peppers, and if you happen to get one of the bigger peppers, there’s quite a kick of heat. Blistered peppers are not an uncommon menu item, but the tasty squash puree makes this one stand out.

Blistered Padron Peppers, The Hairy Lobster

You can always count on a rustic-chic American restaurant to have good cocktails ($11). With rose, elderflower, honey, peach bitters, grapefruit, and cava, the Tea Rose was crafted for hot summer days. The chili pepper in the Thai One On is hot, hot, hot, but the mixture of spiced coconut milk, vodka, and lime balances the heat.

Tea Rose, Thai One On Cocktails, The Hairy Lobster

When you say “vegetable bread”, the first thing that comes to mind are stories I’ve heard from friends who have tried to bake juicer pulp into bread and failed miserably. The Hairy Lobster’s vegetable bread ($6) is a perfect example of veggie bread done right. Fluffy, savory, and sweet with a touch of spice. And that vegetable ash butter!

Vegetable Bread, The Hairy Lobster

I’ve never seen anything like this before: carrot fritto misto with fennel, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds ($11). The plating is stunning, the carrots are perfectly cooked, and the bed of goat cheese salad was enjoyable. However, I found myself craving a lighter, palate cleansing component that would cut through the fried and creamy textures.

Carrot Fritto Misto, The Hairy Lobster

Green beans are an American classic, so it was no surprise to see them here. In this salad ($10), cool and crunchy green beans meet a white soy and romesco dressing topped with shaved mushrooms. This was a refreshing take on green beans compared to the many mushy green bean dishes I’ve had in my life. This salad normally comes with anchovies, but the kitchen omitted them to make it vegetarian for us. Having an extra savory topping might bring it all together more.

Green Bean Salad, The Hairy Lobster

You guys know I absolutely adore gnocchi, and I think my heart beat a little faster when this beauty arrived at our table. Memo to self: pick up a couple serving bowls like this one.

Fresh Sage Gnocchi, The Hairy Lobster

The Hairy Lobster’s melt in your mouth gnocchi rests gently in a cream sauce with delicious notes of compressed lemon and crunchy fried sage. I learned that they puree turnips into the cream sauce so it’s rich without being overloaded with butter and cream. That and the bursts of lemon make such a difference. This is a must order item.

Fresh Sage Gnocchi, The Hairy Lobster

As if the gnocchi didn’t already take me to a happy place, our dessert was another gorgeous creation. Mellisa Root is a renowned pastry chef after all. Here is the razzleberry crisp ($11) with olive oil corn cake, stewed berries, rustic crumble, braised fennel, and brown sugar ice cream. Can we talk about how picture perfect this is?

Razzleberry Crisp, The Hairy Lobster

This summer dessert is layered, so you really need to dig in with a spoon. There may be a lot of elements here, but the flavors and textures are very complementary. When the brown sugar ice cream melts and flows everywhere, and the corn cake soaks up the berry juice, and you get that sweet crunch from the crumble… oh my!

Razzleberry Crisp, The Hairy Lobster

Note: I was invited as a guest to this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

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