ohio adventures, continued

Berry Danish

Berry Danish and Soy Milk.

I recently traveled to Ohio for a second time. This visit, like the first, revolved around photographing food as well as affording me a long overdue catch-up with Kate. I traveled south by car with Lisa and Nicole, and what fun we had! We have a shared love of food, photography, and prop hunting—so deciding on what stops to make along the way was a breeze. The three of us, along with Kathy, stayed with Kate who generously hosted us. I hadn’t seen Kathy since last summer in Portland, so it was great to be able to give her a hug and catch up. On the night of our arrival, we dined in the garden—feasting on Lisa’s out of this world spicy Curry, Kate’s quinoa, and Nicole’s refreshing and filling Chickpea Salad. My contribution to dinner was dessert, of course: chocolate cake—made by the Irishman.

We spent a magnificent Saturday rubbing shoulders with a group of photographers who had come together to participate in a workshop run by Clare, hosted by Kate in her beautiful home studio. I love watching photographers do their thing—and it was fascinating to see how vastly different the work produced was despite the fact that the group was shooting the same food and using the same pool of props. I tend to like to take my time setting up shots, so for me the steady pressure of styling and shooting 7+ different dishes in the space of 4 hours was an excellent personal exercise. That’s an even faster pace than the one we set during the shoot for Jae Steele’s Ripe From Around Here. When I’m shooting or styling for clients, I will up my pace as needed. When I’m working for myself, I’m a little more mellow.

Kate baked nearly all of the entirely plant-based menu for the shoot herself, as well as a beautiful breakfast for everyone on the day consisting of vegan quiche, baked oatmeal, and berry danish. Even though my breakfast Danish (pictured above) wasn’t officially part of the shoot, it was the first thing I styled and photographed that morning and became one of my favourite images from the day.

The girls and I, wanting to take some of the load off of Kate with all that food prep, offered to help by making the tomato soup and quinoa salad which were on the to-do list for the shoot. We split into teams, with Lisa and I making the Quinoa Salad and Nicole, Kathy and Kate making the soup. The salad turned out extra delicious (under Lisa’s sage direction) and was really easy to throw together. All you need is cooked quinoa and some colourful, flavourful veggies to throw into mix. We used cherry tomatoes, chives, fresh peas, corn, and red pepper–seasoning it all with lime juice and salt. Fresh, simple and delicious—I plan on making it regularly.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad, à la Lisa et moi.

It was a delicious weekend filled with my favourite things: good food, friends, and cameras. I’m looking forward to having many more adventures with these talented ladies.

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hugs to allison’s gourmet

Artisan Vegan Caramels from Allison's Gourmet

Artisan Vegan Caramels from Allison’s Gourmet

Are you familiar with Allison’s Gourmet? You should be. Allison, maven of mmmm, is all about chocolate. Award-winning, artisan, organic, dairy-free, fair-trade chocolate. Oh, and it’s out of this world delicious too. Do yourself a favour and get acquainted. May I suggest the pure vanilla caramels? I’m a fan. Take a look at Allison’s site and feast your eyes. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices there—with cookies, brownies, toffee, brittle, fudge, chocolates, caramels, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate—there are endless gift-giving possibilities. Why not include yourself s a recipient?

A longtime admirer,  I had the pleasure of meeting Allison in person at last summer’s VVC in Portland–so when she recently asked if she could interview me for the Friday With Friends series on her blog, I was chuffed. Check it out here, blush. It’s short and sweet and focuses on my enthusiasm for vegan baking and my massive sweet tooth.

*photo used with permission from Allison’s Gourmet

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portland love + vida vegan con

Portland Walkabout

Portland Walkabout

If you’re at all familiar with the vegan blogging world, you know about Vida Vegan Conthe vegan blogger conference: explaining that one made for an amusing conversation with the customs officer at the airport! The first ever VVC was held last August in Portland. And guess what? The creative whirlwinds behind VVC recently announced the next conference: May 24-26, 2013, in Portland again—and this time the conference will be on for three days vs the inaugural two. Awesomesauce.

The thought of revisiting Portland makes my heart more than a little glad. Let me fill you in on exactly why.

I think back rather wistfully on my August in Portland. It’s a nostalgic sort of bliss that revolves mainly around food. Lots and lots of awesome vegan food. The restaurants. The bakeries. Oh my. Lots of them. All vegan. Grocery stores with large swaths of vegan real estate. A dedicated vegan grocery store, Food Fight!, situated in a vegan mini-mall. You heard me. That mini-mall also houses Sweetpea Bakery, Herbivore Clothing, and Scapegoat Tattoo. I did some shopping in that mini-mall. Okay, I did a lot of shopping. And no, I didn’t just by food—though I did buy a fair bit.

Apart from my Portland bakery trek (more on that below), my visit to Pie Footwear is worth noting. I had always fully intended on visiting them due to their reputedly large selection of cruelty-free footwear, but it was particularly apropos that my feet had taken a considerably severe beating leading up to said visit (from getting lost, er, walking all over the Northeast quadrant of the city in what was apparently unseasonably warm weather). I left Pie with a sunny pair of cute but sensible pale lime-yellow wedges. They looked super with the yellow dress I wore to the VVC cocktail reception.

Dovetail Bakery

Dovetail Bakery, Portland.

I mentioned the doughnuts, right? No? My gracious hosts, Dill and Nicholas, took me to Voodoo Doughnut on my very first night in Portland, treating me to an exquisite pink box and a full vegan assortment—and—they spell doughnut right, with all the letters it deserves. It’s a marvel I haven’t moved there yet, truly. To Portland, not Voodoo. Though I do dig all that pink neon. I had a carefully crafted list of places to visit, all of which involved food and half of which were bakeries. Sadly, I couldn’t see them all but I did manage a pilgrimage to Sweetpea, Dovetail, and Back to Eden, and brought a respectable bevy of samples home for the Irishman. There is so much more to see and taste—but hey, that’s what next year’s for.

Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut, Portland.

Ok, it can’t be all about the sweet all the time. Savoury sustenance is also required. To that end, there are vegan restaurants and cafés a-plenty in Portland. My very first pre-conference casual meetup was at Hungry Tiger Too for vegan diner food (!) with the awesomely talented and friendly Lisa of Panda With Cookie fame (separate post coming up about how awesome Lisa is). This super fun meetup also brought out Meshell, TraciPatrick, Lou, Kristen, JL, Fran (the queen of vegan desserts herself), Julia, Stephanie and Joni—such a friendly, talented, and spirited bunch! Of course I had to visit Hungry Tiger Too twice. Because you just would.

I visited the high-end Portobello, where I enjoyed the famed gnocchi. Yes, it’s as awesome as everyone says it is—especially when chased with tiramisu and three flavours of house-made ice cream. And no, I didn’t eat it all myself: Bethany went halfsies with me for dessert. I also visited Blossoming Lotus for what became my favourite meal of the entire trip: the Green Goddess Bowl with quinoa and crispy tempeh. The ever delightful Fran, part of our dinner group and sitting across from me, enjoyed the same dish, as did my friend, Kate. Great minds. I hear Blossoming Lotus has an amazing brunch. I will investigate next Spring and report back. Speaking of Fran, I finally had the opportunity to see her in action during the conference for one of her famed chocolate demos: Amazing. And speaking of food demos, I also got to watch the adorable Hannah make vegan meringue. It was really great to meet both Fran and Hannah in person finally, after much online interaction.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the food carts. They are everywhere in Portland—and if they’re not entirely vegan, most have vegan offerings. One such cart was on my must-see list: Julie Hasson’s Native Bowl. A pre-conference VVC meetup at said food cart facilitated an impromptu introduction to fellow VVC-er and photographer, Kate. Kate and I bonded immediately over our mutual love for Nikon and Anthropologie—a fast friendship that was permanently cemented by our shared appreciation for cookbooks, prop hunting, and New York. I also caught Kittee and Vee before they left! I had the Hollywood Bowl, incidentally—it was my second favourite meal of the trip. Not bad for a food cart.

Pssst. Kate and I have several photographic projects in the works, by the way. I’ll keep you posted.

Stumptown Coffee

Stumptown Coffee. I could spend a lot of time here.

Where there’s food, there must be drink. Being the appreciator of caffeine that I am, I’m always keen to scout out the best local coffee roasters a city has to offer—Portland does not disappoint. I first visited Peet’s Coffee & Tea (good), followed by a sojourn to Stumptown Coffee Roasters (awesome), and finally returned home with bags of beans from Courier Coffee Roasters which came highly recommended (and rightly so—it’s damn good). I watched the locals unwind and imbibe, first at the feisty Vendetta where I had a delightful conversation about veganizing Dobos with Bryanna, and then at the Bye and Bye and Sweet Hereafter—the latter two sharing the same owners and the same easy vibe. Friendly places. I got carded, giggle.

And then there was the conference itself, lest I distracted you with all that food talk. Wow. Words seem inadequate to describe what an amazing thing it is to be amongst so many talented, like-minded people. Empowering. Invigorating. Energizing. Quickening. Our savvy organizers worked so hard to put it all together, and it showed: it was an awesome weekend. There was so much to enjoy and take in from all the great sessions, demos, workshops, gala, receptions, swag bag (!), and get-togethers. It was infinitely fun to finally put faces to all the names I’d seen in the blogosphere and on Twitter, etc. I met so many amazing bloggers that I could dedicate a year of posts to telling you about them all. Highlights that jump out include Colleen Patrick-Goudreau‘s rousing speech about being an Ambassador of Compassion, Fran‘s chocolate demo, Hannah‘s meringue demo, the parenting panel, Isa‘s writer’s block workshop (where I met Allison and Jason), and the sneak peek of Vegucated (where I met Marisa and Demetrius). Some of the sessions I really wanted to see but missed because of scheduling conflicts (sniff), included Terry‘s storytelling workshop and the publishing panel—I hope they’re all back next year! My hat’s off to the girl army behind it all: Jess Scone, Janessa Philemon-Kerp, and Michele Truty. Thank you, ladies.

Many friendships were forged at VVC in Portland and for that I am especially grateful. Effusive thanks go out to my generous hosts, Dill and Nicholas, and to my awesome roommates, Megan and Samantha, the über talented bloggers who made my stay warm and fuzzy. Portland is a beautiful city. Scenic. Clean. Friendly—and they don’t call it vegan Mecca for nothing. I didn’t see nearly enough of it—something I plan to remedy next Spring.

Hold on to your ironic facial hair, Portland—I’m coming back, baby!

Portland General Electric

Even the utility covers are pretty in PDX.