Monthly Archives: July 2012

When in Philadelphia…eat all of the vegan food

Greetings, folks! We returned yesterday from our eastern seaboard adventure. We decided to keep our summer vacation cheap and simple by visiting friends in Philadelphia. Driving the 13 hours and sleeping on our friends’ trundle bed proved to be the most fiscally efficient way to get out of town for a few days, and it made for quite the vegan adventure. Can I just say that I loved Pennsylvania way more than I anticipated? Largely this is due to the complete lack of research I did (I am a control freak and I plan our vacation itineraries to a T–but since we were visiting friends, I relinquished my inner control freak and got to do this crazy thing called “going with the flow”). The small amount of research I did do before we embarked on our journey was to scout out some restaurants along the way where we could pick up some filling vegan fare. Man oh man, did I luck out.

I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do on vacation, but what I lack in pictures I will try to make up for in vivid descriptions of the sumptuous fare I indulged in. Let’s start from the beginning: I packed a lot of vegan snacks for the road. Bananas, clementines, pumpkin clusters, cashews, and clif bars, oh my! Unfortunately that was where the healthy eating began and ended. I indulged in so much fatty delicious food that I fear it will take me a month to burn off all those excess calories. Point in case, I nearly croaked during my treadmill run today after my week of splurging.

Cleveland

Drew Carey would have you believe that Cleveland rocks, and while I can’t say definitively that it doesn’t, it was definitely the low point of our trip. We arrived in Cleveland at about 11:30 pm eastern time. We intended on waking up around 7 so we could make it to Cleveland Heights to grab breakfast at one of the few restaurants in the area that offers vegan breakfast substitutions, Tommy’s, but 7 turned into 8 and we didn’t hit the road til 9. By the time our not-so-trusty GPS navigated us to Cleveland Heights, it was already 9:30, and we didn’t exactly have time to linger over breakfast. We wanted to check out the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but breakfast took longer than we’d anticipated so we didn’t get to spend near enough time in the museum. I’d go back just to do the museum again, but there didn’t seem to be much else in town to warrant a second trip.

Tofu scramble with fruit and dry wheat toast at Tommy’s

The tofu scramble was okay but the broccoli was a little on the (monstrously) large side. It was a good, hearty breakfast before the second leg of our journey, though.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrance. I don’t know what the plaque below the guitar said, but the building is sort of reminiscent of the Louvre, no?

The line for tickets was crazy long and we sped through the museum like it was our job. We picked up some collectibles on our way out (a shot glass for him, a pint glass for me) and were back on the road by noon.

Philadelphia

I expected Philly to be dingy and gross, thanks to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, it wasn’t (at least, Center City wasn’t). The best part is how vegan-friendly this city is. Even the most carnivorous of restaurants has at least one vegan option, for the most part. I’m always surprised by that as I hail from a very un-vegan friendly suburb of Chicago. We arrived around 6:30 pm and immediately set out to one of our friends’ favorite restaurants, Wrap Shack. I ordered the vegan volcano on a spinach wrap (not pictured, due to my excitement and ravishing hunger) and DAMN was it delicious. Black bean hummus is apparently a thing, and a delicious thing at that. We shared a pitcher of Yuengling, which might not be a vegan beer, but I’m less anal about that. We needed a drink and we wanted to have an authentic ole time in Pennsylvania.

We wound up at several bars that night and drank all of the beer in sight. Center City at night on a Saturday is just lovely and we had a blast.

We ended up at a bar called BAR (insert hipster joke about how it’s so cool that you’ve probably never heard of it) where “pickleback” shots are the specialty. I was too chicken to try one but it’s just a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice. Our more courageous friends tried it and said it was delicious.

Sunday was my birthday and we spent it at a Phillies game, followed by a trip to a few bars and brew pubs. Monday, both of our friends were working so we spent the hot-as-balls day in Old City checking out all the historical sights, including the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin’s grave. But first! We went to Green Eggs Cafe, where I had the most delicious tofu scramble to date (not pictured) which was served with rosemary potatoes. I would go back to Philadelphia just for those potatoes. No joke.

We made a pitstop at an all-vegan pizzeria after touring Old City, which was kind of sketchy but hit the spot.

Daiya and seitan pepperoni pizza

Before leaving Tuesday morning, we stopped at Greens Eggs Cafe again and I had some delicious vegan french toast that rivals that of Herbivore in San Francisco.

This came with non-dairy whipped cream and strawberry deliciousness. (This one isn’t served with rosemary potatoes, so we shared an order, obviously.)

Gettysburg and Pittsburgh

We decided to stay in Pittsburgh on the way back to attend a Pirates vs. Cubs game. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but my boyfriend’s life goal is to tour every ball park in America. Every city we go to, we either attend a game or a ballpark tour if the team is traveling. We had great seats in left field, three rows up, and a home run was caught four people down in our row. So, I was even on TV! How’s that for exciting?

Before Pittsburgh, we stopped in Gettysburg for about an hour and toured the battlefield. It was interesting and I’m glad we made it there.

We didn’t have time for vegan food pit stops in Pittsburgh, aside from some game time food…

Don’t let the name fool you: these are just fries seasoned with Old Bay. We first discovered Old Bay seasoned food in Philly and apparently, it travels as far west as Pittsburgh. They serve the fries with a cheesey sauce that I obviously didn’t eat. I think I need to buy some Old Bay!

While we didn’t have a proper meal, we did hang out at a couple of bars after the game. Penn Pilsner is pretty delicious, I found out, and Iron City isn’t so much. As we were driving back to our hotel, we somehow ended up at a casino (my first time) and apparently, I’m pretty good at Roulette. We each decided to play with just $20 and we won $30. I said I’d never go to a casino but somehow, after a few drinks, I was convinced. When in Rome…

And that was that. Sweet home Chicago was ours for the taking again at around 4 pm yesterday, and I went back to work today. So much good food, so much great beer, and so much fun with friends. We can’t wait to travel again. It was a whirlwind!

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there’s a place up ahead and i’m going…

There’s a time and a place for CCR, and that time and place is the classic, all-American roadtrip!

We’re taking our third trip of the year and things didn’t pan out quite as they were supposed to. Flight prices rose and unforeseen bills popped up (like the $600 I had to spend to fix the A/C in my car). So, instead of flying to Philly to visit our friends, we’re driving!

Some cringe at the idea of driving for 13 hours, but I say bring it on! We drove the same distance last year around this time–to Denver–and it was the time of our lives. My boyfriend has never been much of a fan of the classic roadtrip, and unfortunately my vision for us (singing along to CCR) is never fully realized, and is instead replaced by reality (me humming CCR quietly to myself as he snores in the passenger seat), but that’s okay! The thing I love about a good roadtrip is a) I haven’t seen much of the middle states, and a roadtrip is a great time to pay those states a visit, and b) I kind of love anything I get to build a soundtrack for. I’m a HUGE music nerd and I get super stoked about making the roadtrip playlist.

As a vegan, the stress of traveling tends to develop a new dimension. Some cities are more veg-friendly (San Francisco, Denver…), but then we find ourselves hanging out at halfway points (Cleveland) and finding a suitable vegan eatery is a tad more challenging. Or, there’s always that pesky little problem of being outnumbered once we get to Philly (three omnivores to one vegan) so at least a few days of my trip will be spent foraging, and probably eating my fair share of clif bars. (…And french fries. and beer.)

We’re running short on time, as we’re leaving straight from work on Friday so we can make it to Cleveland Friday night as a stopping point. Clearly, as the resident music nerd, a trip from the midwest to the eastern seaboard wouldn’t have been complete without paying the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a visit. From there on Saturday, we’ll drive straight to Philly and spend two days there. Monday, as both of our friends are working, we have the day to ourselves, where we’ll be eating at a vegan pizzeria that I’ve already scouted out. Tuesday morning, we take off for Pittsburgh (possibly taking a detour to Gettysburg, because why not?). We’ll be spending a short while in Pittsburgh so we can catch a Pirates vs Cubs game and eat some more yummy vegan fare. Wednesday morning, we’ll take off for the last leg of our trip so we can be back at work on Thursday. It’s a whirlwind!

I’ve never been further northeast than Columbus, OH, so if you’ve been to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or Philly, I’d love to hear about your favorite vegan restaurants. Pittsburgh and Philly don’t seem to be too difficult–it’s Cleveland I’m worried about!

I hope to return next week with photos and stories of my travels. My birthday is this Sunday and drinking good beer with good friends in a new city isn’t too shabby of a way to celebrate.

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ideal running conditions

If I’ve learned anything during this short foray into running, it’s that my body and mind depend on a certain set of conditions to be met before and during my run. Those precise conditions are something I’m still trying to nail down.

I had a wonderful 3.15 mile run on a nearby trail this weekend. It felt effortless and smooth. I took a few very short walking breaks but only because there are a few very steep hills on the trail and I didn’t want to expend all my energy climbing them: the breaks weren’t a necessity due to fatigue or breathlessness, a fact I’m proud of. I’ve been anxious to get back on that trail, and I did so today after work. This run felt laborious, difficult, and I was absolutely exhausted. I only completed 2.46 miles and I took a few extra walking breaks that I didn’t take on Sunday (but I did complete a mental and physical challenge: climb one of the steeper hills).

Last week I ate a lot of processed junk and drank a lot of beer, so this week I’ve been paying special attention to my diet: clean eating, lots of fruits and veggies, no beer. I thought this would help my run today, but it didn’t. I started to retrace my every motion from Sunday. What made that run different?

On Sunday, the weather conditions were perfect. It was about 80 sunny degrees during my mid-morning run. About an hour previous, I’d downed two cups of coffee so I was probably still feeling a caffeine buzz. Let’s not forget that it was the weekend so I’d slept a delightfully long weekend sleep. Perhaps most importantly, I hadn’t spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working prior to the run.

Fast-forward to today: it was cloudy, humid, and buggy. I had spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working before my run. And, though I’ve been trying to eat cleanly, I did eat a clif bar around 1:30 (which was the last time I ate before my run) and my body could have been experiencing a sugar crash by the time I went for my run at 5.

I’m a very calculated person and I refuse to accept that one day, I can run 3 miles effortlessly and three days later, I struggle just to get through the first mile. I’d like to get a discussion going, hopefully from both the running novice and the running extraordinaire: what are your ideal running conditions in relation to diet, drink, time of day, weather conditions, mood, etc.? How do you get through the difficult runs, if you have them? Am I the only one that experiences such inconsistency?

On Sunday, I thought I could easily blast through a 5k and potentially shoot for an eventual (in a year or two) half-marathon. Today, I don’t even know if I could get through a 5k in under 50 minutes. Are these simply the growing pains of the young runner?

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me vs. me

Some days my brain conspires against me in ways I don’t quite understand. Yesterday, the massive heat wave that has been hovering over the midwest offered a slight reprieve. It was 80 glorious degrees and I never thought I’d say it, but 80 degrees is downright pleasant when your body is fighting to acclimate to 100+.

I decided to celebrate by going for a run outside on a trail near my parents’ house. I haven’t been on this trail in a few years because, well, I’ve never been much of a runner in the first place. Also, they found a body not far from the trail a couple of years back and my mother tried to convince me to never run on a trail (or visit a forest preserve) ever again (always the fear monger, that one is). Judging by how busy the trail was yesterday with bikers, walkers, and joggers, I’m going to venture to say the trail itself isn’t that unsafe.

I digress. My body has really accustomed itself to the treadmill and now I’m fighting to break the habit by introducing more challenging landscapes. To my delight, I handled it with the gracefulness of a gazelle (not really, but bear with me). I was able to crank out over 3 miles and it felt great. I felt like I was running on a cloud. This was my first time running outside that I didn’t feel like a giant failure. I vowed to repeat this today. That didn’t happen for two reasons (or three, depending on how you look at it):

1: I went for a walk during my lunch break and the flats I was wearing totally deceived me and cut up my heels very painfully, making it difficult to walk in shoes

2: it started to rain during my commute home, even though weather.com CLEARLY stated that there was only a 10% chance of showers, and…

3(ish): after the first drop of rain, I gave myself the permission to skip my run even though I knew the rain would pass.I do this a lot…grant myself permission I don’t deserve. And then that is usually followed by eating more than I know I should because I get into this mindset that it doesn’t matter anyway (which is a bad mindset to have).

I guess the only point I have to convey today is that I’m still here and I’m still struggling, but I’m owning up to my failures and keeping on track the best I can. I’ve been so sleepy and lethargic lately–moreso than usual–so it’s been incredibly easy to cut myself slack even when I know I don’t deserve it. I’m trying to find a motivating factor that I can use as a weapon against myself when sitting on the couch and eating cookies sounds better than putting forth effort to be a better and brighter me. I haven’t really found it yet, but I’m searching.

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run, sweat, drink beer

I’m down 17 pounds. I’ve finally (FINALLY!) run 3.1 miles straight through without a walking break in sight. I’ve been sweating my ass off both in the gym and in my car, whose lousy A/C decided to crap out during the biggest heat wave of…ever, as far as I’m concerned. And now I have two glorious days off (the weekend before the weekend!) and I’m going to drink some beer and get all self-congratulatory about meeting my short-term goals while still trying to keep myself in check so as not to deter myself from continuing on to the next leg of this journey: the long-term goals.

Happy Fourth!

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