Category Archives: Far Out

Want to Win a VEGAN VACAY?

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Ever wish you could get away? Why not take a vegan vacay to Philly? You can win one for only $5 from Baltimore Vegan Drinks this month!

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The prize pack includes dinner at Vedge Restaurant, a tour at Chenoa Manor Sanctuary, lunch with the Philly director of The Humane League at Hip City Veg Diner and late night pizza at Blackbird Pizzeria, as well as a two night hotel stay. This is valued at $575! Get your ticket today – it’s a steal,, folks! http://www.bmorevegan.com/events – winner drawn on 12/16, you do not need to be present to win!

Far Out: Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary

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It’s Thanksgiving, a day when we are encouraged to reflect on things we’re grateful for. One thing that comes to mind is animal sanctuaries.

Just beyond Asheville, NC is a very special place. And you need some good boots to get around there, because it’s on the side of a mountain. That suits the residents just fine, however. Most of them enjoy climbing. They’re goats, after all. Which is why the name of this sanctuary is Goat Mountain Ranch.

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Rob is the fellow who runs the Ranch. He took over the property from his mother many years ago – he moved to the country from the northeast, she moved from the country back into the city. Go figure!  Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary sort of happened gradually, though. Rob, a vegan and animal lover, saw a need for critters besides dogs and cats to be rescued. His unique property was just right for goats, sheep, potbelly pigs, small donkeys, chickens, turkeys and peacocks. Any medium sized animal that wouldn’t mind the terrain.

We had a wonderful visit with Rob and we got to meet some VERY cute new goat friends. The Dirty Hippy had a particular fondness for Chewy, a large Nubian goat.  That’s him on the top left in the pics below. Does he remind you of Chewbacca? The other three in the pics are residents, too – that’s Noel on the left and bottom right, Katrina. Isn’t the little pygmy in the feeder adorbs? That’s Wilson!

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Goat Mountain was so peaceful and scenic. The Asheville area is well known for its gorgeous mountains and breathtaking vistas. As you can see – the views at the Sanctuary were made even more spectacular by the animal residents. Mint grows wild all over the 25 acre property, too – and is regularly munched on by the goats. Can you imagine it? Goats with minty fresh breath! And – all the fresh blueberries – which grew wild there and were completely delicious – they were amazing, too!

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Below is Cassidy. He’s another Nubian goat and a handsome fellow. That’s Rob hanging out with him, and the goat on the bottom left is a sweet gal named Babee – she was kind of shy.RobAndGoats_lrButch (yes, like the counterpart name for Cassidy – and his actual brother!) was perhaps the friendliest goat on the mountain the day we visited. He liked having his beard scruffled and scratched! Seriously, does it get any better than scratching the beard of a Nubian goat?? The Bohemian Girl really enjoyed meeting Butch. ButchtheGoat_lr

Ozzy was one of the potbelly pigs at the Goat Mountain Ranch. His story was a tear-jerker; Ozzy was found in a private home, severely neglected. He was locked in a dark room and had so little space to move, that he was trapped in his own feces and a carpet had grown into his body. Rob has committed a lot of TLC (and funds for veterinary care!) to rehabbing Ozzy. And it was worth it – look at Ozzy now! He can walk and enjoy fresh air and root in the dirt. When you see this little fellow out, embracing life again, it’s almost enough to make you want to cry.

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Rob also has a number of rescued sheep on the mountain. It was the first time either of us had met a true black sheep in person! Her name was Darla and she was quite friendly; she even came and ate some grains from our hands.  Her friend, Bella, was a little shyer and sort of hung back. Bella was beautiful, though! A few of the other sheep had recently been sheared – they weren’t as outgoing as Darla either, but super pretty gals – Lucy and Ethel, pictured on the bottom images!

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If goats are the headliners at Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary, then Shrek the donkey is sort of like the emcee. He was with us the entire time  during the tour and wow – can he navigate the mountain side like a champ. We didn’t get a photo, but at one point, he had his face in our camera bag looking for snacks! Shrek was one smart donkey, and handsome too!shrek_lr

Rob has lots of other wonderful residents on the mountain. Turkeys, peacocks, more potbellies. If you are local to the area of Asheville, you can apply to adopt animal companions from Goat Mountain Ranch. Rob is (rightfully) strict about who can adopt from the Sanctuary – you need to complete lots of paper work, have the right kind of property, experience with pigs/goats/etc., and generally pass muster.  Oh – and these cuties below – the potbellies are Rosey and Buddy; the turkey is Henley. turkeynpigs_lrIf you can make it to the Asheville area to visit (they are just a few miles from Asheville in Leicester) , tours are great fun! Set it up in advance online with Rob or one of his volunteers. There is no paid staff at Goat Mountain, the entire place is operated by Rob and his volunteers. Can’t get to Asheville? You can still help. You can “virtually adopt” an animal, or buy one of Rob’s vegan cookbooks or a teeshirt/mug from the Sanctuary! Donations are also perfect for the ranch – the needs and costs of feeding, vetting and homing all the critters on the mountain is considerable. Any amount helps and donations are tax-deductible.

On this special holiday, we are thankful for Rob and Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary. It was a wonderful time to meet Butch, Cassidy, Darla, Chewy, Shrek, Ozzy and the rest of the crew. Thanks, Rob for showing us around your mountainside and introducing us to your furry family!

 

Far Out: Farm Sanctuary, New York

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Farm Sanctuary. When you say the words, it’s rock solid. It’s the baseline and standard for farmed animal rescues everywhere, thanks to Gene Baur and an army of dedicated volunteers. Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary is the largest animal rescue in North America. There are three locations, one in New York State and two in California. Our journey starts at the east coast farm, just outside of Watkins Glen, New York.

Yep, it’s our first video/photo combo on this blog! We’ve visited Farm Sanctuary three times, and all the images on this post are from a past visit, not when we went last week. But it looks the same – the rolling fields, the cheerful red barns and the perfectly happy critters.

Just before you arrive at the NY Farm Sanctuary, you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn. You find yourself winding back an unpaved road. Yes, there are signs… but still, you don’t think it could possibly be the place. And just when you are about to give up and call the visitor center, there is a break in the forest and you see the lush green pastures and bright barns. You’re there!

Inside the People’s Barn you’ll find a number of displays about the residents of the sanctuary, as well as a real battery cage, veal crate and gestation crate. There’s also a large gift shop with clothes, books, food and drink, as well as toys and goodies for children. In the gift shop, you also pick up your ticket for the tour.

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On this visit, we had a super tour guide named Ben. He was well-spoken and great at answering tough questions. Maybe we are naive, but thought only vegans, vegetarians and animal-lovers would visit a place like Farm Sanctuary. On our tour there was a cattle farmer, and he was set on arguing almost every point Ben made. Lucky for the animals, Ben was not rattled and had calm, factual answers for each comment made. We were impressed.

The first stop on our tour was a cow pasture. It was the closest I had been to a cow until that point, and their calm, gentle nature was a beautiful thing to witness. There are about 50 cattle living at the New York farm currently. Ben told us that cows can live to 25 or 30 years old, but most are killed by age 4 when they are in the factory farm system as beef or dairy cows.  That day, we met cows named Kirsty, Sammuel, Meg, Frankie and Thunder. Each was a sweetheart.

Farm2_lrNo one wants to admit they play favorites. But let’s be honest – there’s always a favorite. And for me, the favorite is goats. I’m not sure I can explain why. Is it their wiley nature, the joker-esque smiles, the ability to eat anything, the way they climb? Maybe all of the above. Maybe I was a goat in a past life. Who knows. But I just adore goats, and the goats at Farm Sanctuary were no exception. Yes, that is me, snuggling a goat.

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A large number of goats make their home at the New York farm. Many were dairy goats. Others were rescued from live markets, where people go to select the living animal they wish to have slaughtered for a meal. Ben explained that though many Americans don’t think of goats as usual meat, that they are used heavily for goat cheese, which has gained popularity and are commonly eaten in many ethnic cuisines, such as Jamaican and Middle Eastern.

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Next we met some chicks. There were loads of ’em, walking all around. Ben told us that of the 9 billion animals killed for food in US annually, 8 billion are chickens and the average chicken in the food-system has a 42 day life span. Considering that chickens can live to be  7 to ten years old, that’s pretty shocking. Of that number of chickens, many millions are male baby chicks in the egg industry. They have no use and many are tossed – alive – in trash bags and dumpsters, or worse – ground up while still alive and made into feed for other animals.

The chickens and roosters at Farm Sanctuary got lucky. They are living their lives out in peace. They get to truly free range, they can scratch at the Earth, run and play and roost. You can see by their beautiful feathers and bright eyes that they are healthy and serene.

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Though we’ve both seen plenty of wild turkeys (for serious, not the kind on the liquor bottle label), Farm Sanctuary was the first place we met turkeys rescued from the factory farm system.  As you can see, the Dirty Hippie took a particular liking to Antionette.

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Tour guide Ben explained that turkeys bred for food are always all white (wild turkeys are colorful or brown), because it’s considered more appetizing for consumers if there is no pigment in their skin. Also, factory farms trim off turkeys’ beaks and toes, because when in confinement, they become stressed and peak/scratch at each other. This is common practice and is done with no pain killer or follow-up vet treatment. Basically, imagine someone cutting off your toenails and the first bones of your toes, as well as the tip of your nose – with no pain killers. These mutilations have been found to shorten the lives of turkeys and are quite painful, as both the beaks and toes have nerve endings.

And yet, the rescued turkeys we met – despite the fact they were treated terribly by humans before – were friendly and happy to see the folks on the tour. Many walked up and wanted to be fed and petted. We were amazed at the turkeys’ general feeling of trust towards everyone in our group. It was encouraging to witness their contentment and know they were in safe place, where they were well cared for and loved.

Farm4_lrThe last stop we made on the New York Farm Sanctuary tour was a pig barn. And what a way to go out with a bang! These critters were fun, funny and super outgoing. Several wanted belly rubs and just laid right down to wait for the massage to begin.

Ben explained that pigs aren’t really dirty, like people always say. Pigs mud-bathe to keep cool in the summer heat, as they don’t sweat. Also, pigs can get sunburned, so the coating of mud can protect them from an uncomfortable scorch. While it’s well known that pigs are highly intelligent, we learned that they are smarter than dogs, and can perform better playing video games that young human children.

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This is barely a scratch into the surface of the facility at Farm Sanctuary. There were also sheep pastures and barns, areas with rabbits, and a large enclosure with ducks and geese, that also included a pond.

A lovely garden is planted as well, around the grave of Hilda. She was the first rescue made by Gene Baur: he was at a stockyard in Lancaster PA and saw a sheep on the dead pile that was still moving. With his companions, Baur picked her up and took her to a vet, assuming she would need to be put down, but with some simple fluids, Hilda the sheep was revived and perfectly healthy. Hilda lived with Baur on Farm Sanctuary for 11 years until she passed of old age. Her grave is a tranquil place, well-tended with flowers and a stone marker. Clearly Hilda knew love and was blessed to have Baur  pull her from the stockyard all those years ago. When she lifted her head towards him, she inspired a chain of actions that has since saved the lives of thousands more animals – both by actual rescue and by inciting other people to stop consuming animals.

The sign you see as you come and go from Farm Sanctuary in New York sums up beautifully…

Farm7_lrAnd – Want to know something incredible? Gene Baur got this whole thing going by selling veggie hot dogs from a van. No joke. What that means to me is – that if you set your mind to doing something good in this world, and you keep at it, amazing things are possible. Look at the smile on that pig’s face. I think what she’s saying is something like… thank you.

To visit Farm Sanctuary in New York, plan your trip between May and October. Tours are not given over the winter. Be sure to check their hours and available tour times online. The farm is located at 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY 14891. Their number for tour info is 607-583-2225.  Can’t make it to the farm but still want to help the mission of Farm Sanctuary? You can adopt an animal, buy shirts and gifts online, or just donate funds.

Far Out: Watkins Glen, NY

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Each year we travel to the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Normally, we stay in Ithaca and hang out there, after all Moosewood Cafe and the Ithaca Bakery are big attractions.  We even posted about it a few years back~ Far Out: Ithaca. Watkins Glen is the next town to the west, and it turns out to be a little slice of vegan heaven, from rescued farm animals to an all-veg B&B to vegan ice cream.

Come on, let’s check it out, starting with the scenic rolling views as you drive through the mountains towards your destination…

WatkinsScenic_lrOur Watkins Glen adventure started at the Ginger Cat Bed & Breakfast. Nestled in 15 acres of naturalized forest and garden, the B&B is truly a quiet, peaceful respite. It’s located at 2475 Altay Road, Rock Stream, NY 14878 and offers only two rooms, so it’s quite private and restful. Opening in 2008, the B&B hosts guests to the area from bridal parties to race car drivers to just those passing through who don’t even know it’s a vegan inn. Ginger Cat is also a certified green facility.

GingerCat1_lrThe inn is named after Wally, who is the famed Ginger Cat. He was super friendly and ready to pose for pictures.

GingerCat5_lrInnkeeper Gita Devi made wonderful vegan breakfasts! Which is a big part of the B&B experience and part of what you are paying for. We missed her much-loved weekend brunch, but the regular breakfast included a chocolate cake parfait with fresh local berries and soy yogurt and chocolate chip muffins, as well as a selection of apples, cherries, peaches, blackberries and pineapple. The spread was complete with wheat toast, your choice of peanut or almond butter, and of course, tea, coffee and juices. The breakfast nook was bright and cheerful and there was a communal fridge, as well a microwave, sink, coffee pot and toaster for guests to use ay any time of day. There was also a large selection of brochures for local attractions, including lists of vegan eateries and wineries in the area. The dining area opened onto a large deck that offers spectacular night time star gazing, as well as lovely sunsets.

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Upon arriving  at our room, we found two freshly-baked chocolate brownies waiting for us. Didn’t we mention already… this is a vegan B&B, so ALL the food is vegan! Score! Our room was the Zachary room. It’s the dog-friendly room and we found it to be sunny and pleasant. The other room is the Ariel room, which faces the sunrise and has a matching sunny personality. The rooms each boast a few of the innkeeper’s own original photographs, too. That’s her – Gita Devi with her beloved ginger cat, Wally. You know, it was Wally’s cute face that caught our eye in an ad in VegNews magazine – that’s the whole reason we discovered the B&B! There are not phones or TVs in the rooms, but we got perfect cell reception and Gita will welcome you into the residence to watch television if you are lost without your programs. She doesn’t have wifi yet, but if your laptop or iPad has its own link, you can connect easily – i.e., you’re not too far into the wilderness, despite how it feels. But honestly, we thought it was nice to unplug a while.

GingerCat3_lrThe other residents of the B&B are all quite purr-fect. (Hee hee… too corny? I couldn’t help it!) We enjoyed hanging out with Wally (right); Moses (top center); Hannah (middle center); Indiana Jones (bottom center); and Sebastian. Each feline had her or his own plan, personality and agenda during our visit. You can learn more about them here. The kitties stay in the main residence, though, and aren’t allowed into the B&B. We enjoyed seeing them prowl the windows and glass doors – watching us watching them. 🙂

Overall, we really enjoyed out time at the Ginger Cat B&B. We have recommended it to friends and plan to visit again soon. The room was clean and cozy, the other guests were pleasant and polite, and we loved talking with Gita and her pack of kitties about the area, recipes and more.  Call Gita at 607.535.9627 for more information or to plan your stay.

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Gita recommended that we try a nearby deli called Glen Mountain Market, at 200 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen NY, 14891. So we stopped for lunch. This place has lots of vegan options and we knew it was popular with other plant-eaters because when we arrived, they were already out of the house made seitan and vegan cream cheese because they’d sold over 40 of each that day.  So we tried the homemade tofu burger, called “Jackson’s Revenge.” The burger was nutty and fresh, and the spicy mustard really packed on the flavor. The deli’s fresh bread was a standout, too.

GlenMarket1_lrWe were delighted to find the pastry case had several vegan options, including sugar cookies, chocolate chips, oat bars and peanut butter cookies – all of which were solid and tasty treats. If you check the regular menu, there are a good number of vegan options, including a Healthy Hoagie, Veggie Chili, Vegan “BLT”, the “Sanctuary” Special and even a vegan breakfast bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and veggies.  Just don’t get there late! Cuz the other vegans in Watkins Glen are apparently ravenous and will beat you to the food at Glen Mountain Market. Basically, we are saying run don’t walk to this deli.

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One evening in Watkins Glen we decided we needed a cold, creamy treat. And Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor was calling out to us from  221 S Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. You see, Great Escape offers VEGAN ice cream. And sorbets. And ice cream sandwiches on fresh baked vegan cookies. I kid you not. There are toppings and everything vegan is clearly labeled, as well as gluten-free options. We just about peed our britches with happiness. They even have vegan soft serve in 27 rotating flavors. You really have to stop here when you visit the area. Everything wonderful you remember about being a kid on a hot summer night and eating ice cream – that sweet sticky stuff, melting down your fingers – it will come flooding back to you in a rush of joy. Great Escape is even open till 10pm every night in the summer.

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After all that eating, it’s time get your shopping fix. We stumbled upon a cute boutique called at Wags to Riches, 313 north Franklin Street, Watkins Glen. We adored this place! Not only was it a resale shop, so you are staying green by re-using or up-cycling old stuff, but every purchase benefits the local Schuyler County Humane Society and helps animals in needs. This was a win-win!  There were countless treasures inside, from men’s, kids’ and women’s clothing, dishes and glassware, books, purses and scarves to furniture, fine jewelry, sorting equipment, tools, and handmade items.

WagsRiches1_lrThere were tote bags made from re-used animal feed bags and hand-beaded bracelets and necklaces as well.  Really impressive at Wags to Riches  were the incredibly low costs and well-know designer names like Talbots, Tommy, Express, Guess, Express and more. I picked up a cute LBD by Anne Klein for less than $20 in like-new condition.

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At the register, you can see exactly where your funds are going: $10 covers a rabies/distemper shot; $25 pays for a cat to be neutered and $35 for a dog to be neutered; $45 pays for a feline spay and $75 for a canine spay. Everything in the shop is donated so that the Humane Society can raise money for their varied needs. And really, it’s a fun place to both browse and buy. We found not only the dress, but some jewelry, books & a book mark, a feed-bag shopping bag and some pretty dishes we brought home. Be sure to call ahead to Wags to Riches, as their hours can vary: 607.210.4263.

There’s more to do than this, even, in the Watkins Glen area. Farm Sanctuary makes it home here – and this place is so amazing, it needs its own blog (coming soon!).  The nearby Seneca Lake Wine Trail is home to many wonderful wineries, breweries and distilleries – some of which are vegan-friendly. There are lots of gorgeous parks – many with waterfalls in the area. And of course, there’s the NASCAR track for race fans. Need more places to eat? Check out this veg-guide to Watkins Glen from Farm Sanctuary (or just get on Happycow.net, which is always helpful!) and munch your way across the county.

You’re sure to fall in love with Watkins Glen, NY just like we did. Enjoy your stay and be sure to tell Gita and Wally we said hello!

 

 

 

Eat Vegan Treats

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There are many excellent vegan bakeries. Each one possesses skill, creativity and bakes little pieces of pure joy. But beyond that, hovering in a space all their own, is a shop in Bethlehem, PA. The sort of place that people talk about with the fondness of a beloved favorite lover. Vegan Treats. This vegan bakery has seen a lot of press – even American Express has recognized and named them one of the top ten bakeries in the world!

To call Vegan Treats “amazing” or “delicious” is  a dramatic understatement. My vocabulary hasn’t the reach to take you to the bliss you can experience with these confections. It isn’t just that non-vegans would be “fooled” by these creations. It’s so much more. I think ANY person who like sweets would DEVOUR the offerings from Vegan Treats.  Yes, it’s true. All those goodies you see are divine, sinful, VEGAN. Chocolate brownie chunk cheesecake, mousse cakes, chocolate-encased marshmallow cake. Yes, Vegan Treats truly is the 8th wonder of the world, just as their website claims…

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The shop is unassuming from the outside. A fun pink sign greets you and inside, you can feel the funkiness  with their animal-print decor and old-fashioned bar stools. The day we visited, the place was quiet, sort of like Bethlehem itself. But the gals behind the counter weren’t at all surprised to learn we drove from Maryland. They explained that customers pile in from Philly, New York, D.C., Baltimore – and even further!

We love that this bakery isn’t just vegan, but also committed to conservation. They source their ingredients with environmental responsibility in mind and explain the impact of animal agriculture on the ecosystem on their website, even how it extends to wildlife and the air & water all living things need.  Thanks for sharing this info with the world, Vegan Treats! We wish everyone knew these facts.

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It’s difficult to really pick a favorite item at Vegan Treats. But we have a few! The chocolate donuts are remarkable. They will remind you of your childhood and the boxed Hostess-grocery-store kinds. They called them “chocolate-glazed.”  Another item of true wonder: the vegan cannoli! You may have thought such and item could never convert to vegan, but alas, here it is. These can be made with or without chocolate dip. We like them both ways.  The DH adores chocolate and peanut butter. Like this chocolate PB-Cup cheesecake. And for me – I love cookies with my daily hot tea. So sign me up for the oatmeal banana chocolate chip! This cookie, by the way, was huge! The photo barely conveys the true diameter and depth. It was four portions for me.

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Really, though… it’s not fair to play favorites. Because this carrot cake is fantastic. And what about this sticky bun? It was the size of your head and slathered in nutty, gooey, cinnamon heaven. Don’t forget the blueberry crumble bars, either. They were magnificent.

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Death by Chocolate, anyone? This deep, dark, rich little guy was true decadence. Yes, you will need coffee or soy milk on the side, cuz the cocoa experience is intense.

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Browsing the cases, still? Well why wouldn’t you be? 🙂 Black-bottom cupcakes, petit-fours, cookies and candies beckon…

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And, yes – they do sell merchandise. You can proudly sport your Vegan Treats love to the entire world. Teeshirts, hoodies and bags are available – and these cute panties, which are wrappers for an entirely different kind of vegan treat. Ahem.

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If a trip to Bethlehem, PA is not in your future, you can find a selection of Vegan Treats at Busboys & Poets in the D.C. area or order online to have something shipped. They have a large menu, and additionally offer pies, brownies, wedding cakes, whoopie pies, truffles, custards, shortbreads and soft-serve ice cream – as well as gluten-free versions of many of their originals, including brownies, cookies and pastry.

Ready to make your pilgrimage? Vegan Treats is located  1444 Linden Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018. Their hours are posted online or give them a call at (610) 861-7660.

Far Out: Key West, FL

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It’s about this time of year when I start dreaming of warmer weather. Not just slightly warmer. I’m not talking a change of 12-degrees to a balmy 35-degrees. No. I’m talking warmer weather. Like crystal blue waters, palm trees, fresh coconuts. You know, like Key West, Florida.

Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately. When we told folks we were going to Key West (we went for work – yeah, yeah, I know, tough life), everyone said “Oh, it’s soo touristy,” and  “There are too many people drinking,” and “It’s not as nice as other tropical paradises.” To this I say REALLY? Cuz we were there and it wasn’t any more or less touristy than any other resort (maybe less than some places, actually); and sure there were folks drinking. But you can say that about Baltimore 365 days a year. And as far as Key West “not being as nice as other tropical paradises…” Hmm, all I can come up with is that those silly people were jealous because we were, in fact, going to wake up and go take photographs in a freaking tropical paradise while they went to an office in Maryland. Haters.

Key West was stunning, gorgeous, breath-taking and beautiful. Having walked the streets, felt the warm Caribbean breeze tousle my hair and sipped fresh coconut juice right from the shell, I totally understand why Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffet had strong ties to this idyllic island.

And the rumors are true about wild chickens. There are chickens roaming the streets and yep, they do wake you up pretty early. But gosh – why NOT get up for sunrise like this? (See first photo, above.)  The entire island of Key West is a bird sanctuary and it’s illegal to kill any bird. Which means there are several thousand birds, chickens included, hanging out all over the place. Definitely a bird-lover’s paradise. During your trip, why not plan to visit the Key West Wildlife Center, and learn about the birds and other gorgeous tropical critters there. (You know, if you can stop drinking and elbow the other tourists out of the way… joking – it wasn’t like that at all)

To make this even better, we found Key West to be incredibly vegan-friendly. Eating in this small resort town was seriously easier than eating in Ocean City, MD! No joke.

The first island eating we did was at The Cafe, located at 509 Southard St. Key West, FL 33040.  By the end of our time in Key West, we actually ate there several times… 🙂

We felt immediately relaxed at The Cafe. There were signs out front announcing their veg-friendly options (more than 20 on the menu – though it’s not a strictly vegetarian restaurant). Gotta love a place that posts “BBQ Unwing Dings” in the window.  The inside was quirky and arty, and our servers were very helpful. Our first meals there were a falafel pita and a curried “chicken” salad sandwich,  served with marinated bean salad. These were both super tasty and filling!

The falafel came on a toasted pita with hummus, tahini sauce, cucumbers and Israeli couscous. And the curried “chicken” salad was piled high with veggies on a ciabatta roll.  The “chicken” salad contained soy “meat”, toasted almonds, grapes, and shallots. In combination with the zingy curry sauce, these ingredients were a winner and the lettuce, tomato and sprouts were piled so high, it seemed like a side salad. Because our sandwiches were quite huge, we each only ate half, and packed up the bean salads as well. This made for a terrific snack later in the evening.

But we fell in love with The Cafe just that fast. And we came back. Wanna see a few more of the tasty treats we had at The Cafe? During additional visits we had Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce (served warm – they’re crispy and loaded with cabbage and carrots); Un-Wing Dings with BBQ Sauce, served with celery & Tahini sauce (one of The Cafe‘s signature dishes – very moist, chewy & yummy – a perfect late night snack!); vegan Coconut Layer Cake (this was fresh, tender and packed with coconut – we wanted to lick the plate); and another signature dish, Cafe Veggie Burger Bites (these are house-made with legumes, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, scallions and sunflower seeds).  A vegan feast, to put it mildly! Even better, The Cafe also served a variety of organic wines, homemade iced chai tea with soymilk, fresh juices and locally roasted coffees.

During our stay in Key West, we didn’t get to sample every vegan offering from The Cafe, which was a bummer. But you can. Be sure to try the Spinach Dumplings, Sweet Potato Fries, Wok-Fired Bok Choy, Grilled Tofu Salad, Colossal Veggie Sandwich, Baked Brown Sugar Acorn Squash and Peanut Stir Fry with Soba Noodles. They sounded so good! Again, The Cafe is located at 509 Southard Street, Key West FL; (305) 296-5515. They’re closed on Sundays.

On Duvall Street, we found a great little watering hole called lush, which was nestled inside a store called The Green Pineapple. Both were stellar. The deal at lush is that all items served there are certified organic, sustainable, recycled, compostable, biodegradable, renewable, socially & ethically responsible, and fair trade certified.

You can get tea, wine, coffee or chocolate. That’s what they serve at lush. Which worked for us. Some of our favorite things…

The espresso was smooth and rich, and the owner of lush, who was working the bar, suggested two bites of dark vegan chocolate, 70% cacao, to pair with the coffee. And if you’ve read this blog more than once, you know we LOVE chocolate. We also picked up a non-vegan milk chocolate bar as a gift for a friend. She later told us it was among the finest chocolate she has ever tasted in her life. Like all the chocolate at lush – exquisite and upscale.

For me, the drink of choice was chilled pineapple green tea in champagne glass. It was as elegant as it looked. Maybe the word was sublime. I could barely get up from the bar to go browse around the Green Pineapple, I didn’t want to leave my wonderful tea. But it was worth it, as the shop held many eco-friendly treasures: handmade jewelry, upcycled decor and other goodies abound. My favorite was a set of soy candles poured into vintage tea cups.

lush and The Green Pineapple are located at 1130 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040; (855)ITS-LUSH. Be sure to check their Facebook page, too, as they have regularly scheduled wine and chocolate tastings – absolutely worth fitting into your trip!

One thing we learned in Key West was that breakfast – vegan or otherwise – is not easy to find. Most folks like to sleep in, except for the chickens, of course. Our first few mornings, we were happy with fresh fruit for breakfast. But Help Yourself Cafe was our salvation. They open at 8am every day and had an excellent morning selection, including smoothies and a fresh juice bar.

For our lovely breakfast at Help Yourself Cafe, we tried the Sprouted Whole Grain Bagel with Cashew Cream Cheese, Tomatoes and Avocado. I have to stop here to add – they make these bagels and cashew cream cheese on the premises. They were so damn good. I could have eaten a dozen. Next we tried the Tempeh Breakfast Wrap. It was jammed with veggies and housemade salsa, and tasted divine. Finally, we shared a Power Bowl – which is slow-cooked oatmeal with flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and goji berries, finished with a drizzle of maple syrup. Talk about comforting and hearty! After this bowl of oats and seeds, we weren’t even hungry for lunch.

The juice bar is a new part of the Help Yourself Cafe and opened in April 2012. We tried a green juice, with kale and cucumbers and ginger, as well as some bottled fresh strawberry lemonade. Both were terrific and refreshing. Their coffee was fair-trade and organic – brewed to perfection.

One of the best parts about the Help Yourself Cafe was their green philosophy. Every item on the menu is made from scratch using non-GMO, organic ingredients. They don’t use refined sugars, refined grains or unhealthy fats. Plus there’s a great little store attached to the Help Yourself Cafe. You can pick up to-go meals & juices, eco-friendly toiletries, organic fruits & veggies, plus healthy snacks, tea/coffee, pantry items and more. While not 100% vegetarian/vegan, the staff here does know their stuff.

Sadly, we only got eat one meal at the Help Yourself Cafe. They had lots of enticing menu offerings though, including Indian Summer Salads with chickpeas, raisins, quinoa, and curried cashews over greens; English Garden Wraps with mixed raw veggies, garden herbs, pesto and mixed greens; Asian Zucchini Noodles and Hot Coconut Curry – available with brown rice, quinoa or udon noodles. Delish!

The Help Yourself Cafe is at  829 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33040; (305) 296-7766. Oh – and they have a parking lot with free parking and in Key West, this is seriously worth noting.

We had another wonderful lunch at  Sugar Apple Juice Bar & Veggie Deli. It was all vegan store and cafe, but sadly, we didn’t have our cameras along for this meal – we had left them at the job site where we were working. But the good news is that we had a great meal here, and you can too.  The Dirty Hippie tried their FLT sandwich – Fakin’ Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato on whole wheat bread with vegan mayo. He also got a side salad with this absolutely amazing key lime vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was made in-house and is totally worth taking time for on your visit to Key West. It tastes like someone just picked the key limes moments before handing you the salad. Heck, maybe they did. I tried a dish from the special menu, Pesto Rice. It was brown and wild rices with a tangy basil sauce and pieces of tofu. Again, this dish was hearty and flavorful – the vegan basil-pesto sauce was really complex. I’d eat it again right now.

The cafe at Sugar Apple had solid vegan offerings for lunch – stuff like Eggless Salad Sandwiches, Italian Veggie Sausage Sandwiches, Hummus Wraps and Tempeh with Tahini Sauce. Their food was filling and reminded us of home, somehow. Sugar Apple’s Juice Bar was also delicious – we had carrot-celery juice with spirulina. Yum.

We also did a little shopping at Sugar Apple, finding goodies we needed, like natural sunscreens, vitamins (duh, we left ours at home) and familiar vegan snacks like Larabars. You can find Sugar Apple Juice Bar & Veggie Deli at 917 Simonton Street, Key West FL 33040; (305) 292-0043. They also have a parking lot with free parking. Woo-hoo!

Alas, it came time to leave Key West. We had flown into Ft. Lauderdale and had hoped to stop at the legendary Sublime before leave town. But they were closed, so we peeked in the windows and left. All ended well, though, because we found Pizza Fusion. This small chain of pizzerias is devoted to sustainability (check out this eco-philosophy page!) and are PETA-approved! Pizza Fusion is proud of their vegan options, as well as their gluten free choices and show them off online.

We were impressed with the eco-friendly interiors – repurposed wood, recycling bins, compostable cups. This place was the real deal.

While we waited for the pizzas, we shared a Fusion House salad: arugula, romaine, cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, basil, carrot ribbons and crostini. The menu says that “No houses were harmed in the making of this salad.” Hee hee. Then we got to the good stuff…  A Greek Pizza with Kalamata olives, sliced roma tomatoes, tomato sauce, Daiya and parsley and a Very Vegan Pizza with Crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic, tomato sauce and Daiya. Holy awesome vegan pizzas, Batman. We seriously considered how we could order more and check them with our luggage.  The crust was so good – crispy and fresh. And there were many, many more options on the menu for vegans. It was hard to decide! Wish there was a Pizza Fusion in Baltimore!

We loved the house-made iced tea. It had subtle sweetness and was certainly fresh-brewed. They also had organic wines and our Maryland fave – Honest Tea!

One more thing needs props from Pizza Fusion. The vegan brownie. It was soft, chocolate-y, moist and gooey. It was everything a vegan brownie should be. Plus, it was gluten free and bigger than your hand. The server told us they sell out of these heavenly things pretty often. And no wonder… just look at it! Can’t you imagine sinking your teeth into that square of delight?

Pizza Fusion is located at 1013 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 (954) 358-5353. There are also branches in Colorado, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Saudi Arabia. (Huh – how does that last one fit in, anyhow?)

Sigh… at the moment I am looking out my window at bare trees and neighborhood children bundled up in scarves, mittens and thick winter coats. There are no swaying palms. No random chickens on my street and certainly no coconuts fresh from the trees.

Oh, Key West… how we miss you…

Far Out: Durham, NC

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It’s been a minute since our trip to Durham, NC earlier this year, but I think you’re still going to enjoy learning about this fun, irreverent town. You just gotta love a city that embraces the slogan: Durham. It’s not for everybody. But it was definitely for us. I hadn’t been to Durham in over a decade, having worked in Raleigh as an intern in 1998. We were working there in January  and had a few minutes to check out some fun local spots. And I must say – Durham is like a totally new place since I was there 12 years ago!

Our first stop of course, was food. Using Happycow.net we found Beyu Caffe. It was a chic, hip eatery in downtown Durham’s 5-Points area – with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. Beyu is a coffeehouse, bistro and bar – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We would not have minded eating there for all our meals, honestly! The location itself is super cool – the building is historic and feels like something out of a Batman movie. Inside the cafe was very modern and cool. There were tall ceilings, retro-style lights, black & white photos on the walls – oh – and a live jazz band. They offer live jazz every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Love it!

Being in North Carolina, the southern hospitality was tops. Really! Our server, Morgan, was friendly, upbeat and knew the menu very well. When we explained we are vegans, she knew just what items to suggest, as well as beverages to pair with them. She was fantastic!  We started with an appetizer: a Vegetable Small Plate. It contained rosemary potatoes; steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower; and wilted spinach. The entire dish was tasty – nothing was mushy or overcooked. But we both loved the wilted spinach. It was outstanding with a hint of vinegar but not too much acid, and a sweet, smoky undertone. It was soooo good!

For  entrees, we ordered Thai Veggie Saute and the Vegan Napoleon. The Thai Saute  was smooth and creamy, but not too soupy. It was chock full of veggies: red and green peppers, green onion, mushrooms, zucchini and squash, served with saffron rice. The portion size was ideal as well – not too much, not too little. Just right for dinner. And the spiciness level was complex and flavorful, but not overdone.

If the Thai Saute was very good, the Vegan Napoleon was over-the-top-awesome. The Dirty Hippie gave it his PFG seal of approval, which doesn’t really come out of the arsenal all that often. (In case you live in a cave, PFG means Pretty F&*king Good) The Napoleon is a stack of sweet potatoes, apples and bok choy with a curry sauce and a blackberry balsamic reduction, all topped with toasted walnuts. Drooling yet? This dish was really special – creative, tasty, and completely unique!

The overall effect of both dishes was truly vegan by which I mean, the chef has a good understanding of how to cook for vegans and vegatarians, unlike places where the veg offerings are lame-ass baked potatoes and frozen veggie burgers! Oh – and additionally, the chef even stopped by our table for a moment and asked how we liked the food. Which in a busy place like Beyu was a nice touch and very much appreciated!

Though we were ridiculously full already, we ordered a dessert to share: a luscious vegan chocolate mousse. It was perfect – the flavor was well balanced between sweet and chocolate, the texture was smooth and thick, and that coconut cream on top was outstanding! The fresh fruit and mint made it vibrant. Honestly – no matter how full we may have been – there is always room for a decadent, elegantly prepared vegan chocolate mousse like the one at Beyu Caffe!

Besides the dishes we sampled, there are a number of other vegan and vegetarian offerings at Beyu Caffe. They have salads, of course, as well as  and a hummus with salsa that sounds amazing. For vegetarians, they offer an oven-baked spinach and Gruyere dip, cajun cheese fries and a veggie pita with arugula pesto and feta cheese. There are also daily specials and a selection of pizzettes, too. We heard rumors of a vegan cake- but they were sold out when we visited.

The bar at Beyu Caffe also bears a mention. The DH tried several of their house cocktails, his favorite of which was the Cactus Flower Martini. It contained a mix of tequila, elderflower liquor, cucumber juice, lime juice, rose water, bitters and a custom house syrup. It was refreshing, tangy and sweet, with a hint of tequila – not like a margarita. The Caffe occasionally runs a special where you get a free dessert when you order a martini.

If you want to visit Beyu Caffe, it’s at 335 West Main Street, Durham NC 27701. The phone number is 919-683-1058. A great place for vegans and vegetarians for lunch or dinner!! (The breakfast menu is also good for vegetarians!) Beyu is closed on Sundays.

So, after eating… shopping! The kind folks at our Inn (more on that in a sec), told us we’d love Dolly’s Vintage Shop. And we did. It was super convienent that Dolly’s was right down the street from Beyu Caffe- literally about a block. You can park once and visit both places. Just look for the big pink flower!

The thing we loved about Dolly’s was that it was so crazy-funky fun! The shop sells men’s and women’s vintage clothing, with offerings that range from coats to formal wear to jeans.  They also have loads of accessories of all kinds to complete your retro look – wigs, tights, shoes, sunglasses, jewelry, bags, gloves, boas – some new, some vintage, all cool. And there are gift items too, like eco-friendly nail polish and locally-handcrafted soaps and lotions.  Shopping at Dolly’s is truly groove-a-licious – I scored a gorgeous black lace two-piece dress with a circle skirt for only $40.00! In the Balto/DC area, the same garment would sell for at least 3 times that price.

Aside from the great vintage at Dolly’s, the decor and openness of the displays were just terrific. The shop has true personality – it’s quirky, cute and easy to browse in.  A lot of vintage shops are cluttered and you end up having to rifle around to see the merchandise like you’re at a neighborhood yard sale. Not so at Dolly’s – everything is displayed creatively – and with plenty of room to take it all in as you shop. The gal behind the counter was also super sweet and helpful. She assisted in trying on clothing and was knowledgeable about the wares in the store. Oh – and fitting rooms were spacious and clean – another rarity for most vintage shops. We were very impressed.

A few of our favorite finds at Dolly’s Vintage: Aunt Jemima syrup bottles repurposed as vases; Elvis wearing a tiara; pony rides for fifty cents that goes to a local charity; and go-go boots! Sexy! On the eco-cool side: Dolly’s repurposes old baseball cards as price tags! Cute, cute, cute – especially in Durham, a town famous for their baseball team, the Bulls (anyone remember Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in that movie set in Durham, circa 1988? Classic flick!)

If you want to visit Dolly’s and pick up some adorable finds, they are located at 213-B West Main Street, Durham, NC 27701 or to call, 919-682-1471. Note that Dolly’s Vintage is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so plan your shopping accordingly!

So after you’ve shopped and had a meal, you need a place to rest and relax. In Durham, that’s gotta be the King’s Daughters Inn,  located across the street from the lovely campus of Duke University. To describe the King’s Daughters Inn as a simple B&B does it a serious injustice. The building is a completely renovated historic site – and its makeover was both elegant and 100% green!

The Inn reopened in April 2009 with 17 guest rooms. It was originally built in 1920, and was restored by innkeepers, Colin and Deanna Crossman. The couple’s green initiatives focused on both preserving the original site, as well as making the systems within more eco-friendly to reduce future impact.

Some of the green elements at the King’s Daughters Inn include  a 10,000 gallon cistern and a rain garden to collect roof storm water run-off and avoid using public water resources to maintain landscaping; a parking lot made of pervious concrete, so rain water is absorbed into the ground, instead of draining off the site; an ultra-high efficiency water heater and a gray water system that cleans and recycles the laundry water to flush the toilets; a fully integrated energy management system.

Their website details more specifics on the Green Renovation page  and the Sustainable Lodging page.

And the results of the Crossmans’ efforts… are stunning!! The renovated Inn is comfortable, upscale and luxurious. It is the kind of green building that gives green a good name.  Each room is different and absolutely breathtaking. Even the bath products are fab – and locally made for the Inn in a refreshing scent called tea olive.

As everyone knows, it’s the little touches that take a hotel – or any business-  from good to great. How about turndown service with organic port and locally-made chocolate truffles? Or a Mac Mini computer in every room, hooked up to a big-screen TV? Still want more? No worries – the entire Inn has book cases, full of great novels, cookbooks, gardening manuals – really something for everyone to read. And you can get in-room hot tea service delivered anytime while you read/surf the net on your Mac/watch cable TV. Or buy a bottle of vino from the wine list – it’s all either organic or biodynamic, of course. 

No Inn is complete  without a sumptuous breakfast and the King’s Daughters Inn delivers again.  We called ahead to request vegan breakfasts and were treated to tofu scramble with salsa, soy yogurt, almond milk and fresh fruit with coffee or tea. Filling, delicious, well-planned! This was a wonderful vegan breakfast! I could have hugged the cook. If she had come out of the kitchen, I would have.

For vegetarians, the list expanded even more: homemade muffins, scones with lemon curd, waffles and pancakes. Fabulous. Really, no one goes wanting for anything at all at the Kings Daughter’s Inn.  They do serve more traditional meat-based breakfasts as well, but as one of  the innkeepers is a vegetarian, everything is prepared with great sensitivity to food needs.

The service, the food, the atmosphere are all perfect. Staying here made our visit to Durham absolutely outstanding. Everyone we encountered at the Inn was warm and welcoming. Just a wonderful, wonderful place!

We know you’re ready to book your trip to Durham now, so to stay at the King’s Daughters Inn, call the innkeepers at 919.354.7000. The Inn is located at 204 N Buchanan Blvd., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

Even after all this, there was a good deal of Durham we didn’t get to explore. We heard tales of a tasty South American eatery with vegan offerings, called the Blue Corn Cafe. There is also a legendary vegan brunch on specified Sundays in the city, too at a music venue called the Pinhook. For spending the day, you shouldn’t miss Duke Gardens, either.  Guess we need to stick around longer next trip!

Meet the Chef @ Hobos

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Initially we visited Hobos Restaurant and Bar in Rehoboth Beach, DE as part of our “Far Out” travel  column on the town, but after our second meal there –and being granted time to meet and chat with the chef/owner Gretchen Hanson, we had devote an entire blog to the experience. After all, not too many award-winning vegan executive chefs stop to talk to us. It was pretty exciting stuff.

The first thing you notice about Hobos when you walk up is the chilled-out, eclectic vibe. It’s cool and chic and boho all at once. The restaurant is in a converted house about three blocks from the beach and one block off the “main drag” of Rehoboth Ave. It’s a pinch quieter back there – and the on-street parking is a pinch easier to find, too. Which was perfect for the outdoor dining area, where we are allowed to bring our dog. (As a sidenote: the staff at Hobos prepared a special “doggie bowl” for our hound and she was simply delighted!)

We also loved all the green touches to the decor as well. The design incorporated a lot re-used and upcycled elements, like the vintage bathtub garden and the lanterns created from old aluminum cans. Very eco-chic.

Though we didn’t take any photos inside, the decor there bears mentioning. It’s a cafe with exotic touches: long flowing curtains, low sofas, and candle light. Very, very cool and nothing like other eateries you will find catering to the beach crowd in Rehoboth. This place feels way more west coast. Even the bathrooms sparkle with personality – with images of old-fashioned bathing beauties all over the walls!

Though we dine out at least once a week, it’s not very often we get to meet the chef behind our meal. I’m talking chef, by the way, not the-gal-who-throws-together-a-sandwich-at-Subway.

Gretchen Hanson is the chef/owner at Hobos. She started the restaurant in 2009 with a strong and defining personal vision. Before she even developed her menu, Gretchen met with local farmers to source as many of her ingredients as possible. Her eco-mission was a big influence. Hobos food is prepared with care using lots of seasonal, local ingredients. The offerings change based on what is available. In fact, the menu even states “Ingredients are provided by local farmers. Sometimes God or they do not deliver. Please be understanding.”

Being vegan herself for the past 11 years, Hanson gets what it means to be able to comfortably dine with your loved ones. She had worked in professional kitchens for 35 years and wanted to create a safe space for everyone to eat together, no matter their dietary preferences or needs. The menu at Hobos has not only vegan and vegetarian specialities, but also seafood, poultry, red meat and gluten free choices. You can truly bring anyone here to eat and every server we encountered was familiar with what vegan food was.

“I had to open this place,” Hanson said with a laugh, “I had no where to eat.”

And her cooking style reflects her fun, light-hearted attitude. Hobos‘ menu is based on street foods from around the world. Hanson calls it “eco-global fusion cuisine” and pulls from traditions in Mexican, French, Middle Eastern and Meditearrean cooking.

How does vegan fit in? Quite nicely, actually.

“I wanted to change the perceived notion of what it means to be vegan, to feed people meals that taste so great, they aren’t missing anything,” said Hanson. “Vegan food doesn’t have to taste like health food. It can be comforting, too.”

Hanson went vegan “to help save the world,” she said. But part of that mission is finding a way to redefine the mass-mind’s idea of what vegan is. We all know that when you say vegan food, most non-vegans think you’re talking about eating twigs and nuts and “weird vegetarian stuff.” Well, Hanson has an answer to this too: She teaches cooking classes and gives away her recipes. Yes, you read that correctly. An award-winning chef who gives away her secrets. They’re online, too, on her blog. Hanson is very serious about breaking the stereotypes of meatless meals. She wants to share her love of excellent vegan food with the world.

And the world was ready when Hanson opened her doors. At her grand opening in 2009, 5000 people came and went through the doors at Hobos. By her fourth day open, every table was full. Maybe the world is ready for her vision. Or at least the folks in Rehoboth.

Hobos was a recommendation of our friends Kim & Bob. They’re local to the area and know we are always on the prowl for good veg food. This is one of the best restaurant recommendations we’ve ever gotten, ever. Hobos was really wonderful. We ate there twice during our week-long stay in Rehoboth Beach.

First we stopped in for dinner. Dh ate the Provence Quesadilla, which was a vegetarian offering with wild mushrooms, truffle cheese and truffle essence. It smelled heavenly. I ate the Hot Lil’ Vegan Quesadilla. It was stuffed with black beans, tomato, tomatillo salsa and Daiya cheddar. Both quesadillas were huge. We took our dessert to go: a vegan apple crisp with a pinch of curry spice. We warmed it up for breakfast and it was sweet and savory – really a dynamic and fun take on apple crisp. The crisp was a daily special.

Our second meal at Hobos – a rather large lunch – started with a daily special, which was a vegan Carribean Black Lentil soup. It had a slow heat that hit you after a second or two, and the lentils were cooked perfectly – not mushy or overdone at all. Each flavor was distinct – the sweet potato, the spinach, the coconut. We also tried the Greek salad, which was honestly big enough to feed a whole family. You could taste the fresh herbs and the pitted black olives were super – not those bland canned ones from the grocery store.

The buffalo seitan sandwich was as big as your head. Seriously. (We had so much food on the table, it was ridiculous.)  The sandwich was served with another huge salad and had a fabulous blue cheese dressing. But it was vegan! I have no idea how Hanson got that very distinct blue cheese flavor into the dressing, but she did. The seitan was perfect, too. Thick, moist slices dripping with tangy, spicy buffalo hot sauce. We ate this sandwich weeks ago, but I still think about it sometimes.

Also on our huge lunch table: Sweet Chili Tofu Buddha Bowl. These well-prepared little cubes were slightly crispy on the outside, and warm and soft inside. They arrived with a variety of dipping sauces and thinly sliced zucchini. The dish was simple and elegant.

We also need to mention the cocktail menu from Hobos. Their original cocktails are fun and light-hearted, and many use organic liquors. The drink on the left below is “Mommy’s Licious” and is a blend of blueberry vodka, organic pear juice and Fresca. On the right is the Hobos Bloody Mary, which blends Hobos’ homemade bloody mary mix, fresh grated horseradish, organic vodka, pepper and a secret blend of spices. Dh also tried the Cucumber Cosmo which was created with homemade cucumber-lemongrass-infused organic vodka, melon liquor and white cranberry juice, and another called Quite Simply the Best Mojito Ever that contained home-grown mint, fresh sugar cane, key lime juice and limon rum.

Our marathon lunch was finished off with vegan Pina Colada cake. It was sweet, moist and had big chunks of pineapple. Divine.

We can’t wait to get back to Hobos and try more of Hanson’s ingenious food. No wonder she got awarded “Best Area Restaurant” and “Best Chef” by Delaware Today. With 13 vegan offerings on the regular menu and 14 additional vegetarian items, Hobos is very veg-friendly in addition to sourcing local and seasonal foods. And there are always more specials than what you’ll find on the usual menu.

“My ultimate goal is to help people re-relate to food. To nourish their body, mind and soul,” Hanson said. “Once someone learns a few techniques and understands the complex flavors of vegetables, they see the depth in plant food in a new way.”

We’re with you, Chef Hanson. And we think your artistry in the kitchen deserves more awards and accolades. See ya again as soon as we can get back to the beach!

To visit Hobos, check their website for hours. They are located at 56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, DE. Call them at 302-226-2226.

Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine

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My little Palm Pre saved us again from another crappy “just-off-the-highway” meal when we were traveling from Nashville TN back to Baltimore MD a few weeks ago. Smart phones are amazing. All I needed to do was visit a website that all vegetarians and vegans should know about: Happy Cow. See, Happy Cow is an online guide to finding vegetarian food anywhere in the USA. You just type in the city/town closest to you and it will give you a list of possible grazing stations. They’re been online since 1999 and if you haven’t seen this site, go visit as soon as you finish reading this post.

Back to my story…. It was a Sunday night and we were about to pass through the college town of Harrisonburg, VA. Happy Cow showed several options – but only one was open. Turned out to be our lucky day. Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine was an exotic jewel. It was so good, we would drive there as a destination for dining.

Right out of the gate, the service was excellent. We called from the road to double check the menu. The manager answered and she understood what we were asking for (vegan food!) without any elaborate explaination. In fact, she had options for us and as well versed with vegetarian cuisine. When we arrived, it wasn’t long before close, but we were seated and served comfortably. There was no rush.

Inside Blue Nile was elegant and had a sophisticated touches like original work by local artists. We especially liked one large piece made by the bartender (!!) which was created from repurposed wood.

If we hadn’t been on the road, DH would have definitely had to try the Blue Nile Sunday special: $1 Bloody Marys. But instead we opted for the Ginger Tea and the house Ethiopian Coffee. The tea was made from peeled fresh ginger and toasted ginger zest. To call is refreshing and zippy is an understatement. The Ginger Tea was a peppery, perky cup of goodness. Perfect after 12 hours in the car. And the Ethiopian coffee was not your usual brew, either. It was smooth and had a hint of spiciness. The coffee smelled like a plate of warm cookies.

Next, we moved on to Shorba, which was a vegan peanut and lentil soup served with a slice of vegetarian Himbasha honey-bread. The Shorba was thick, creamy and decadent with a complex flavor that was both sweet and spicy at once. I was honestly pretty full by the time the soup was all, and we shared a good deal of it. But that was just the beginning.

DH ordred a lentil salad called Azifah Fitfit. It was a mix of whole lentils, green peppers and chopped onions, tossed with vinegar and house-made Ethiopian mustard, served chilled on a huge piece of Injera. The presentation on Injera bread was a show-stealer. Injera is made from barley, teff and whole wheat, and it looks like a giant pancake. The texture isn’t cakey though, it’s more chewy and soft. And tasty! The Azifah Fitfit was tangy and bright with distinct flavors from the veggies, lentils and mustard.

We both ordred an entree at Blue Nile, too ~ DH got Shiro Wat, which is Ethiopian comfort food consisting of ground peas and beans stewed with onions, garlic and Berebere – a pepper that serves as a spicy base. I tried the Tofu Keye Wat, which was tofu stewed with onions, garlic, ginger and Berebere. And while we were ready for more Injera with the main course – we were delighted to see seven sides! We got to sample two kinds of cabbage, a fresh salad with mustard dressing, more kinds of stewed lentils, potatoes, peas – and the BEST collard greens either of us ever tasted. Seriously. When we talk about Blue Nile now, two weeks later, we still mention the collard greens.

The range and layers of flavors on our plate can only be described as an experience – it wasn’t just a meal. It was balanced, elegant and exoic, but also earthy, filing, comfortable.  Really, you’ll just have to go try it for yourself.

Blue Nile has indoor and outdoor seating areas, as well as a nightclub on the lower level. While it’s not strictly vegetarian/vegan, Blue Nile is crazy veg-friendly. They offer nine vegan entrees, as well as the soup and a variety of salads, and six veg sandwiches on the lunch menu. Prices start at only $9.00 for an entree and soup/salads are available for $4.00 to $6.00. A steal.

They’re located at 181 N. Main St, Harrisonburg, VA. (540) 432 NILE. Whether you live near there, or you’re just passing through, Blue Nile is more than worth a stop. And try Happy Cow – it led us to this wonderful place. Who knows where you may end up for dinner, where ever you are…

Far Out: Rehoboth Beach, DE

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Several times a year, we find ourselves in the quiet resort town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We’ve been there at least once a year – sometimes as often as 4 visits in a year – since before we were married in 2004.

There are things we always love about Rehoboth: the slower pace, mild traffic, funky independent shops, peaceful walks on the beach. But now we can add to that… awesome eco-vegan stuff. Each of these places was introduced to us by friends, too, which makes them even better.

In the most unexpected of places, a sports bar, we found a good selection of vegetarian and vegan eats. Thanks to Linda & Jan for sending us to Arena’s Cafe. At first glance, Arena’s is like any other sports bar. There’s a wooden bar with televisions, dart boards and on the facing wall, a big chalk board with different beers listed.

Arena’s has both indoor and outdoors seating. In the patio area, you can bring your dog along for the meal. Which is cool for dog people like us.

The little sports bar is popular among locals for several dishes, but the most notable is their huge, huge, HUGE plate of vegetarian nachos. This is a mega-size portion of nachos piled high with layers of melted and not-melted jack & cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled jalapenos and house salsa for only $8.99.   The basket arrived warm and all the chips were incredibly crisp – even in the middle of the basket. The Dirty Hippie was not able to finish it in one sitting – he had two more meals from this one basket of nachos.

Arena’s magical mountain of nachos is not available with vegan cheese, but they are able to prepare it with no cheese/sour cream, and loaded with guacamole and salsa. It’s delicious.

The house salsa is definitely worth a mention. It was chunky and fresh – spicy with a tangy tomato flavor and a touch of cilantro. We would stop just to eat the salsa and chips at Arena’s.

There are lots of vegetarian offerings on the menu . From a fresh veggie plate, to a variety of cheese fries to an entire menu area with seven vegetarian lunch/dinner entrees, most of which can be veganized or are vegan already.

The Dirty Hippie could not resist trying Arena’s gooey Potato Skins. They were loaded with cheese but not swimming in grease. The potato part was thick and crisp, with toasty edges. A vegetarian treat! Oh – and this portion was also huge. One order contained six of these cheese boats. More than enough to share.

Vegans, don’t despair. Not everything was swimming in cheese at Arena’s. The House Salad Wrap was delicious and fresh. I ate two. It was loaded with the house Guac, which was smooth and garlicky. Their Famous Granny Smith Sandwich was a mouth full of layers – fresh and sweet, with apples, honey mustard and veggies on thick, soft whole grain bread. Very good bread. Both sandwiches are listed with cheese on the menu, but our server was a vegetarian herself and was extremely familiar with vegan food needs and questions.

Also available were coffee drinks from a full coffee bar-style menu; smoothies and desserts; daily drink & food specials and vegetarian-friendly breakfast offerings in the morning. They offer carry-out and delivery in the area. Arena’s is located at 4113 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach DE 19971; (302) 226-CAFE.

In the mood for something sweet? You gotta try Annie’s Banannies. It’s a shop that offers whipped up frozen bananas and is just like soft ice cream – but way better! Thanks Beth for sending us here!

Owner Annie works behind the bar personally serving up icy delish treats. Bannanies are vegan, gluten free, have no added sugar and are healthy beach food. Oh – and they’re served in compostable greenware!

The regular menu has such tasty offerings as The Nutty Bannanie (with natural peanut butter & chopped peanuts) and the Tropical Banannie (with mango, pineapple and toasted coconut flakes), or you can make your own from the a la carte topping bar. There are also seasonal offerings, like the Cider-Poached Pear Bannanie we sampled.

Annie’s hours vary over the winter, but in addition to being open at her Rehoboth location, a new shop is planned in 2012 in the Light Street Pavillion in Inner Harbor/Baltimore. We can’t wait.

Visit Annie and try Banannie at 9 First St. South, Rehoboth Beach, DE. 19971 ; (302) 260-9875

When you’re done eating, a little walk around downtown Rehoboth is great fun – especially when you visit vegan bath and beauty store, The Little Egg Harbor Soap Shop.

We love Little Egg Harbor Soaps and stock up every time we go to Rehoboth. It is a small, woman-owned business that’s grown – for fourteen years!

All of their products are handmade in New Jersey. The soaps have a cold-pressed olive oil base and there are no detergents, hardeners, sulfates, parabens or alcohol in any of the products.  You want variety? You’re in luck – there are 90 varieties of soap.

Once you have sampled all those fabulous soaps (we like cucumber, hot chocolate and wild watermelon), move on to the other goodies at Little Egg Harbor. You can also try their exquisite bath salts, bath fizzies, facials, sugar scrubs, body lotions and butters and organic hair care.

As you can see, even in the fall – which is not peak beach season – there is loads to enjoy in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Stay tuned… Rehoboth also boasts a very exciting restaurant called Hobos with an award-winning vegan chef! We got to interview her during our visit and will be posting soon!!