El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

Portland gets pretty gray and gloomy for a good part of the year. If you need a little pick me up, it’s worth stopping by El Cubo de Cuba on Hawthorne Boulevard. At Cubo, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, the Cuban food is down to earth, and the rum cocktails are plentiful. When you think of Cuban cuisine, I’m sure that classics like ropo vieja and lechon asado come to mind, which aren’t veg-friendly at all. But this is Portlandia, the happy vegan land, so naturally Cubo has vegan and vegetarian options available too.

I was invited to Cubo to try their vegan options and learn more about the restaurant. I had never had Cuban food until I met John, who is half Cuban and grew up with this type of cuisine in Florida. It was good to have my resident Cuban food expert tag along for this visit.

El Cubo de Cuba, SE PortlandEl Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

Even though I visited Cubo during off hours (when it’s better for photos), the space was filled with energy thanks to the pops of color, delicious smells from the kitchen, and the cheerful owners, Emily and Milko.

Born and raised in Havana, Milko moved here from Cuba in 1995, and his recipes are based on what he remembers of home cooked Cuban food. Milko explained that he tries to keep the food authentic, but recognizes that you have to adapt to what Portlanders want. For example, traditional Cuban food is not spicy, but due to demand from customers, there’s hot sauce available for the folks who insist on adding some heat.

El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

I also learned that Cubo, like many other Portland restaurants, started out as a food cart, and there’s a framed illustration of the original food cart over by the picnic tables. The cart made its debut in 2010, and by 2013, Cubo was ready for a brick and mortar restaurant.

El Cubo de Cuba, SE PortlandEl Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

At Cubo, you order at the counter, then grab a table. Whether you’re looking for a small snack or ready to wolf down an entire plate, there’s something for everyone. We tried the full range of vegan dishes at Cubo, and overall, the flavors were simple and approachable. No frills, no nonsense here, just good homey Cuban food.

Vegan Cuban Dishes, El Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

Cuban food is good with beer, but make sure you don’t miss out on Cubo’s rum cocktails. Better yet, make your cocktail a double for an extra $4. The Havana Sunrise momentarily transported me to somewhere tropical. The Sangria has refreshing notes of citrus, and if you’re lucky, there might be some mango and guava in the mix too. If you stop by for happy hour, cocktails are only $5, and you might catch Milko on the drums with his band.

Havana Sunrise, Sangria, Cocktails, El Cubo de Cuba

One of the newest additions to the menu is the empanadas ($2.50 each). If you don’t eat meat, there’s a vegetarian guava and cream cheese empanada and a vegan soy picadillo empanada. Look at that golden color! Nice crust, not too heavy or greasy. The soy picadillo filling was warm and juicy. Give me a couple of these, and I’ll be very happy.

Vegan Cuban Empanadas, El Cubo de Cuba

The Caribbean salad ($6) is loaded with cucumber, mango, red onion, and avocado. That’s a lot of avocado, but I have no complaints about that. For a side dish, this was a pretty large salad. The lime juice dressing doesn’t seem like much, and there’s some flavor from the pickled cucumbers. If I were to get this salad again, I might add on some guava sauce.

Vegan Caribbean Salad, El Cubo de Cuba

For all of Cubo’s bowls and plates, you can choose between white rice, brown rice, or spiced yellow rice. I opted for yellow rice for my vegan Portland bowl ($7.50). The black beans, mango, and avocado were enjoyable, but the maduros and tostones were the best parts of this bowl. The plantains used for the maduros were perfectly sweet and soft, but not mushy. And those tostones… such a good crispy fry on them!

Vegan Portland Plate, El Cubo de Cuba

The Picadillo de Soya is Cubo’s vegan alternative to the traditional beef stew with tomatoes, olives, and raisins. Using soy in this dish is not unusual as beef wasn’t available to everyone in Cuba in the early 1990s, and picadillo made with soy became a household staple. Cubo’s version is delicious, and it is definitely worth coming back for.

Vegan Picadillo de Soya Plate, El Cubo de CubaEl Cubo de Cuba, SE Portland

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.

El Cubo DE Cuba El Cubo de Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monk’s Meats, Smorgasburg 2016

BBQ Seitan, Monk's Meats, Smorgasburg

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Smorgasburg. It’s the most popular food market in NYC, and the crowds will test even the most patient person. On top of that, with all the meat heavy and dairy-ful options at Smorgasburg, it’s not exactly a happy vegan land. It’s gotten more vegan friendly over time though! Lots of Smorg vendors now have a vegan/vegetarian option on the menu, but I’m here to talk about my favorite all vegan vendor: Monk’s Meats.

2016 seems to be the year of vegan BBQ and vegan butcher shops. There are only a handful of them across the country, but they’re gaining in popularity and hitting the foodie news regularly. In NYC, the vegan BBQ scene is lead by Monk’s Meats, a Brooklyn-based team that makes seitan from scratch, then smokes and grills the seitan like you would like traditional meats. Their market menu features burgers and sliders, but keep an eye on social media for specials.

You can catch Monk’s Meats at Smorgasburg on weekends, and they’ll be moving to the indoor market in November. You can also find them at vegan popups and events. This summer, they earned a well deserved 2016 People’s Choice in the Vegan category of the Vendy Awards. THIS JUST IN, FOLKS! Yesterday, Monk’s Meats launched a Kickstarter to help make Monk’s Vegan Delicatessen & Kitchen a reality. Fingers crossed, hope there will be a Monk’s brick and mortar next time I’m in NYC!

Bulgogi Seitan, Monk's Meats, Smorgasburg

In this post, I’m focusing on the two burgers I tried on my last visit to Smorgasburg. Out of the four options on the menu, I was most excited about the bulgogi seitan burger ($10). Surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve seen someone take seitan down the bulgogi route. Thinly sliced, nicely seared, juicy seitan packed with flavor. The gochujang mayo is tasty, and the kimchi and pickled daikon are refreshing toppings. The burger fillings are definitely a knockout.

BBQ Seitan, Monk's Meats, Smorgasburg

Our other pick, the BBQ Seitan burger ($10), was made for BBQ lovers. This one features mesquite smoked seitan slices with maple BBQ, cabbage slaw, and whiskey sour pickle discs. Another great combo of satisfying flavors, and the seitan had the meaty texture.

In both burgers, the seitan is clearly the star of the show. The veggie accompaniments are enjoyable, but the tuscan roll is pretty hefty. Just a matter of personal preference… I’m not a big bread person even though I love other carbs. Probably should have gotten sliders instead, but sliders wouldn’t look as impressive in this photo below, right?

Giveaway: Plum Deluxe, Portland

Plum Deluxe Organic, Fair Trade Tea Blends

Portland is well known to be a big beer and wine city, but what I didn’t realize until I moved here is that Portland has a strong tea culture and community too. Andy Hayes, the owner of Plum Deluxe, recently introduced me to his online shop of organic, fair trade teas. Andy’s tea company is a lovely tribute to his mother, who lost a tough battle to cancer, but never forgot to enjoy “the little things” in life. Tea is one of those little things that’s best enjoyed when it’s sipped and savored, and the Plum Deluxe collection is all about creating those great moments.

All of Plum Deluxe’s teas are hand blended in small batches here in Portland, but of course, they ship all over the country. Their most popular item is the $10/month tea club subscription, which includes seasonal teas, surprise samples, and access to their online tea lover’s community. If my tea box wasn’t already so full, I would consider joining the tea club for a few months! If you’re interested in trying out Plum Deluxe, check out the giveaway and special promo further down…

Plum Deluxe, Oregon Breakfast Black Tea

Andy sent me few of Plum Deluxe’s signature teas to try. Before I even opened the purple envelope, I already caught a whiff of the fragrant contents. The moment I opened it, a medley of floral aromas danced out of the envelope. What an entrance! And what a great opportunity to bust out this cute little teapot that I received as a gift recently. With loose leaf teas, I prefer to use a teapot as the little tea ball steepers don’t always work well.

Plum Deluxe, Oregon Breakfast Black Tea

As some of you know, I’m an avid tea drinker who doesn’t drink coffee. So how do I get going in the mornings? With a little help from my friend black tea. Basic store bought black tea has a solid kick of caffeine, but is pretty flat when it comes to flavor. This Oregon Breakfast Black Tea is nothing like that. Earthy black tea blended with orange and hazelnut creates a rich, multi-dimensional flavor that wakes you up without loading you up on too much caffeine. In fact, I had a cup of this tea to help me get in the right mindset to write this post.

Plum Deluxe, Portland Rose City Chai Tea

I have yet to come across any type of food or beverage that says “Welcome to Portland!” quite like this Portland Rose City Chai. In this blend, the vibrancy and spiciness of chai meets the delicate sweetness of rose petals, and it is as delicious as you’re imagining. With just a little caffeine, this tea is a good one for an afternoon pick me up. Throw in a splash of agave to sweeten it slightly. This is my favorite of the three, and I’m planning to make a rose city chai sorbet soon. Stay tuned for the recipe!

Plum Deluxe, Pomme Blossom White Tea

The Pomme Blossom White Tea is a tea club exclusive that screams summer party. The white tea and jasmine base is light and bright, while the pomegranate and other fruit flavors liven things up. The little chunks in there that look like tofu are dried apple pieces. Imagine how refreshing it be would be to serve this tea chilled on a hot summer’s day! The gentle flavors and low caffeine make it good for afternoons and evenings where you want to unwind, but you’re not quite ready for bed yet.

Plum Deluxe Organic, Fair Trade Tea Blends

GIVEAWAY: Win two 1 oz bags of Plum Deluxe organic, fair trade tea!
Interested in trying out Plum Deluxe? To enter, leave a comment on this post and tell us who you would like to share a pot of tea with. For a bonus entry, tell us which teas you would like to win.

Don’t forget to include your name and email address when you enter so I can contact you if you win! To earn more entries in this giveaway, head on over to Instagram and follow the directions there. Open to U.S. residents only. Contest ends October 15, 11:59pm ET.

PROMO: Bonus 1 oz bag of tea when you join the Plum Deluxe tea club!
Join the Plum Deluxe monthly tea club, put “Let’s Nom Nom” in the “how did you hear about us” box, and you’ll receive a free bonus 1 oz bag of tea in your first month’s shipment. Promotion ends October 15, 11:59pm ET. Valid to new members only.

Plum Deluxe, Pomme Blossom White Tea

Contest submission period ends at 11:59pm ET on 10/15/16. To earn a qualifying entry, entrants must complete all criteria outlined here or on Instagram. Each entrant may receive up to four (4) qualifying entries total: two (2) qualifying entry by commenting, two (2) qualifying entries on Instagram. The winner will be randomly selected and will be given the choice of two 1 ounce bags of Plum Deluxe tea. The winner will be contacted by 10/25/16. Open to residents within the United States. There is no purchase necessary to enter or to win. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Thanks hypersweep.com, super-sweeps.com, sweepsmaniac.com, infinitesweeps.com, justsweep.com, online-sweepstakes.com, ilovegiveaways.com, contestalley.com.

Note: I received complimentary tea samples from Plum Deluxe. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Dove Vivi, NE Portland

Dove Vivi Cornmeal Crust Pizza, NE Portland

Located in the Kerns neighborhood of NE Portland, Dove Vivi serves up deep dish pizza with cornmeal crust. It’s cute, homey joint that has been around since 2007, and it is very Portland. The crust is made from locally sourced, organic cornmeal that is stone ground at Bob’s Red Mill, which I recently learned is here in the Portland area. (I use Bob’s products all the time, so I take this as yet another confirmation that I moved to the right city.) Everything at Dove Vivi is cooked to order, so don’t come here hangry and be prepared for a bit of a wait.

John and I visited with Morgan aka PDX Foodie Chick who is a fellow veggie eater and one of the first food ‘grammers I’ve connected with since moving here. Two whole pies was plenty for three hungry people, and we went home with leftovers.

Dove Vivi Pizza, NE Portland

I tried both vegan pizzas on the menu. First up is the vegan corn cashew pizza. The cashew cheese base with roasted red pepper mixed in is quite good. There’s plenty of sweet corn and fresh chives to make it tasty enough, but I wanted more from this pizza. Maybe some real caramelized onions (not just sweated onions) or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar… something to take it up a notch. That said, the cornmeal crust was delicious and satisfying. Such a great texture, and I normally prefer my pizza with thinner crust.

Dove Vivi Vegan Corn Cashew Pizza, NE Portland

Below on the left is Dove Vivi’s goat cheese pizza. I did not taste this one as I tend to steer clear of dairy these days, but I will say that the gooey appearance of the cheese will probably appeal to most cheese eaters.

Over on the right is the vegan della salute pizza. Creamy herbed tofu ricotta, roasted eggplant, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. Not every restaurant knows how to do eggplant properly, but this was very nicely done. Definitely the stronger of the two vegan options on the menu. A winning combo of flavors, and the toppings complemented the cornmeal crust well.

Dove Vivi Vegan Della Salute Pizza, NE Portland

Dove Vivi Pizza Dove Vivi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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 SΓΈren, 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 The Social Pause. 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.


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

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.