portland love + vida vegan con

Portland Walkabout

If youre at all familiar with the vegan blogging world, you know about Vida Vegan Con—the 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. Its 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 didnt 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, 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. Its a marvel I havent 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 couldnt 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, thats what next years for.

Voodoo Doughnut, Portland.

Ok, it cant 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, Traci, Patrick, 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, its as awesome as everyone says it is—especially when chased with tiramisu and three flavours of house-made ice cream. And no, I didnt 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 didnt mention the food carts. They are everywhere in Portland—and if theyre not entirely vegan, most have vegan offerings. One such cart was on my must-see list: Julie Hassons 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. Ill keep you posted.

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

Where theres food, there must be drink. Being the appreciator of caffeine that I am, Im always keen to scout out the best local coffee roasters a city has to offer—Portland does not disappoint. I first visited Peets 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—its 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 Id 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-Goudreaus rousing speech about being an Ambassador of Compassion, Frans chocolate demo, Hannahs meringue demo, the parenting panel, Isas writers 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 Terrys storytelling workshop and the publishing panel—I hope theyre all back next year! My hats 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 dont call it vegan Mecca for nothing. I didnt see nearly enough of it—something I plan to remedy next Spring.

Hold on to your ironic facial hair, Portland—Im coming back, baby!