Sunday, September 24, 2017

Soul Vegetarian Is Delicious Down Home Comfort

Soul Vegetarian was my highlight, my gem, my favorite eating spot in Chicago.
The restaurant is separated in two parts-- the Eternity Juice Bar has their own separate menu with takeout hot bar (features yummy okra, cabbage, and more. The pot pie seemed to be a huge hit.
They also have prepared sandwiches, salads, and desserts.
On the other side is Soul Vegetarian. It was a modestly packed house with gorgeous framed artwork gracing the walls.
I loved the tantalizingly written menu descriptions.
Close up one of these insatiable battered cauliflower bites.
The sauce is a spicy sweet ketchup.
The sloppy joe (crumbled BBQ seitan) platter looking mighty scrumptious.
A tall brother with long locs passed by and mumbled, "mmmhmm mmmhmmm mmmmmhmmmm! That sure looks good!" And an afro sister asked, "what is that you've ordered?"
The bun is soft and pliant, a perfect compliment to the meaty sloppy joe, dripping oozing satisfaction onto the plate with each tender squeeze. The fries taste incredible-- light on salt and grease,
The Vegan Dream Coconut Cake was amazing. Originally, I meant to scarf it down on the plane ride, but ate my giant heavenly slice much, much later, alone in a dark place, devouring tasty sweet in the privacy of my own sanctuary.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Intriguing Late Night Taco Grubhub From La Vaca Margarita Bar

Take out from La Vaca Margarita Bar was definitely on the unique side of things. 
I wasn't in the mood for tacos.
In fact, I wanted sushi or vegan BBQ. Many restaurants were closed after a certain time.
I settled for returning to my host location and utilizing Grub Hub. The only vegan option was La Vaca's tacos and guacomole with hot and crunchy tortilla chips.
When I unwrapped my tacos, I thought they looked like fish and almost called the restaurant, but no fishy smell came from beneath the pink patties topped with avocado slices and sesame seeds.

These breaded filets are comprised of chickpeas, oatmeal, rice, and bell peppers. 
Flat patties were slightly crunchy on the outside with a delicate tender center, but needed more than avocado (which was unfortunately a little on the brown side) and sesame seeds to provide a real sense of flavor. It lacked salt and spice.
Funnily enough the guacamole was very salty. I added that to the tacos-- which helped just a bit. I loved the concept of blending these specific ingredients together and forming them into a cohesive vegan friendly taco insertion. It's the follow through that could use revision. Still, a commendable effort nonetheless. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Blues At Native Foods Cafe

Looks can be deceiving.
Native Foods Cafe, the nearest vegan place to Art Institute of Chicago, was where my friend (former PAFA classmate and one of the best painters/surface preparers in our graduate year) and I popped by to have lunch. My usual spot in Washington D.C. had the same familiar setup-- opened space, red and yellow painted features, and giant windows to let in natural light and downtown city views. Excitement and hunger bounced together, especially heightened by the sight of newest tantalizing desserts sequestered behind the glass case.

Sweet sweets.
The wait.
Lunch: nachos, macaroni and cheese, and that Native Chik'n, Bacon, and, Avo Club Sandwich.
Once the waitress delivered our ordered food to the table, my expectations grew tremendously. At first unsuccessful bite attempt, however, I realized that we had tragically plummeted into a giant rabbit hole of disappointment. The hard ciabatta bread was toasted to the point of inedible concern and the weak, chewy chik'in with limp flavored tempeh bacon wasn't up to par with my Philly addiction to Hip City Veg's terrific rendition. In addition to misery, at this point eating my meal like a salad, my companion didn't find their nutty cheese necessarily "a win on the vegan side." Plus, he thought there were too many jalapeños. I actually like their housemate cashew cheese and was disheartened to hear his disappointment. The macaroni and cheese, which I ate the next day, eased my despair.

Chicago has four Native Foods Cafe locations overall. Perhaps we came on a bad day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Amazing Kitchen 17 Where Vegan Deep Dish Pizza Awaits

On a cool Tuesday evening, after a sweet ride with a truck driving, storytelling Uber driver from down south, I met a fellow brown vegan sis for dinner at Kitchen 17, one of the best vegan spots in Chicago. The restaurant is currently renovating their new location-- a sleek muted light venue with lots of natural wood elements. 

We started off with buffalo cauliflower with ranch sauce. Very, very spicy exterior with the creamy, beautifully smooth ranch to cool down the taste bud flame for just a mild moment or so.

The gorgeous deep dish pizza came-- hot and steamy.

Speak to me, Tomato Sauce.

This was excellent! Hands down one of the best restaurant pizzas I've ever eaten. I loved the flavorful crust (that wasn't the least bit dry) and all the flavors of juicy tomato sauce and oodles of cheesy goodness. I barely could find the seitan sausage, but that wasn't a problem. With tantalizing pizza bliss overload, I was so glad to have wonderful conversations with the dear company. We talked everything from food to careers to Fenty Beauty (although cruelty free there are several products of Rihanna's launched cosmetics company that are not vegan).

Coconut chai cupcake for a later dessert.

This cupcake is super moist perfection with the right chai tea flavors of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Always appreciate a cupcake where the frosting isn't the only part executed well. The whole cupcake was delicious.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chicago Vegan Diner Brunch and Takeout

For years, I've longed to try The Chicago Diner, a place that has been meat free since '83 (a solid good year). This restaurant is on many vegan bucket lists. To go to Chicago and not eat there once would have been a great travesty. Straight from my plane ride and learning that my check in would be after 2pm, I took the train and headed off to sate my hunger. It was a short flight, but I hadn't eaten in hours.

A menu packed with choices. I struggled between the desire for a tall stack of pancakes with whipped cream, The Breakfast Combo (scrambled tofu, hash, bacon, sausage, and choice of French toast, pancake, English muffin or toast), Cinnamon Roll French Toast (which comes with strawberry coulis, hash, and seitan sausage), or the Monte Cristo (a French toast sandwich with vegan cheese, fried tofu, Creole mustard, and hash). 

I chose the Country Benedict-- fried tofu between herb biscuits with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, tomato, and onion, smothered in seitan sausage gravy. It also comes with slices of fresh melon. This dish was amazing! The biscuits were crisp and tender, with scrumptious tofu layered in tantalizing veggies, and that mouthwatering sumptuous gravy that featured meaty pieces of flavorful seitan.

This smooth and creamy carrot cake milkshake is definitely worth all of the praise. There were no chunks of carrot or walnuts squeezing through the straw. It was all pure carrot cake bliss emerging in sweet, yummylicious glory mixed in with the amazing, thick, whipped cream. What a splendid special treat!

I took their house made cinnamon frosted cinnamon rolls to go.

Tuesday morning: discovered that I had my cinnamon rolls upside down the whole entire time-- overnight in the refrigerator and everything. I ate my breakfast with a banana and cold water. But alas, headed off, happy and sugared up, I go lost for ten minutes looking for the train station. Woe is my middle name.

Wednesday morning: the last delicious cinnamon roll, all sticky sweet and dripping in early rapture on a rainy rise. This plump, pliant delight made me want to cuddle with my teddy bear and sleep until dawn.
That first bite is the one that tides one over, make them feel like this could possibly be the most wonderful last Chicago day. The rain had stopped after all. Of course, I found the train station and got off at the correct stop, but managed to get myself lost, finding certain landmarks. Sigh. I'm still utterly happy to be charmed and wooed by The Chicago Diner, all of their delicious foods linger on my mind.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Playing the Tourist

Another short little adventure to Chicago, Illinois. I haven't been to the Windy City in almost eight years or so. Back then, I was in Rosemont, rarely going beyond Wizard World Chicago. Now the times have changed. Birds fly into the photographs.
I had a splendid three days in majestic Chicago. Warm, pleasing weather (despite a mild morning Wednesday morning rain) added beneficial enjoyment to a city of profound art and historic skyscrapers. I walked almost everywhere and rode trains, taking in the majestic nature. I met up with former PAFA alums, including a classmate and explored highlights through their eyes. Plus, I ate a marvelous dinner with a fellow black woman vegan Twitter friend. My trip wasn't purely secluded mini vacation, but a time to fully interact and engage with people, to truly get to know them further. For that to happen among industrial backgrounds, famous landmarks, and delicious food (okay, there were bad food experiences, but I'll get to that later), made my short visit amazingly wonderful. I couldn't have asked for better company.

It took hours to find my temporal resting place. This wasn't the first instance of Google Maps steering me in the incorrect direction. Once my phone eventually bid me adieu, dying in the middle of my panic, I had a moment of sitting on the ground, watching the sun threaten to fall below horizon, leaving me a stranded mess on the other side of my location, Yes, I was almost half an hour away, having walked the opposite direction. A policewoman geared into the correct way. Her companion asked if I wanted to call a taxi. Of course not. Twenty minutes is nothing. I found my location, drank the free water, rested my head on a Frida Kahlo pillow, and smiled my relief.
The next day, I visited The Art Institute of Chicago, meeting a fellow PAFA alum (who recently graduated from the School of Art Institute's graduate program).

Inside Trip Advisor's Top Museum (love the independent film inspired insignia), you'll find famous works like Georges Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon At the Island of Grand Jatte," Edward Hopper's late night diner special "Nighthawks," and Grant Wood's iconic Midwestern "American Gothic." However, if you're like me, you would appreciate works by Beauford Delaney, Gabrielle Munter, and Cauleen Smith.

We visited the Africa section first, drawn in by elegant fabrics, compelling weaving, and commendable blacksmithing. The fabrics alone are remarkable.

Twine and painted wood with fabric.
This is a breathtakingly exquisite Royal Tunic and Coronet of Yoruba in Odo-Ona Iilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria that was owned by Oba (King) Dele Adeshina of Odo-Ona Ilorin. It's comprised of glass beads, cloth, and string, early 2oth century.

Moccasins fit for the king.

This is the back of the tunic-- just sophisticatedly detailed!

Posers posing in Jeff Koons' elaborate gold mirror.

It was such an honor to see the Marc Chagall stained glass windows of a serene, calming blue with little shards of color like magical prisms embedded into corner walls.

Marc Chagall continued. So as we sat in front of the gorgeous piece of art, I had charged my dying phone between two computers-- an artwork installation of some sort. I turned around for a moment, chatting with my friend. When I looked back, a man was holding onto my phone, clutching it while scrolling with the computer mouse. I had to let him know that the phone was mine, that it needed to be charged. He apologized and set it down. He and his companion leave, but not before the next couple sit down and shout, "Sir, you've forgotten your phone!" It was downright hysterical. I suppose that the better solution would have been to charge at a nearby café.

Views of Chicago skyline from my friend's automobile. We were on our way to see Jennifer Packer's show (she was a visiting critic to both of us).

Runners jogging on a supremely gorgeous day. The water was absolutely riveting, the beads of sunlight sparkling on the glittery river, a sight to behold with the many scattered yachts sitting atop.

Downtown Chicago at night.

The American Writer Museum actually exists.

The Chicago water taxi line was packed. One day, I'll get on and find a new destination.

Ohio and Michigan's old rivalry with Ohio coming out on top! Yay!

I would love to thank this stranger who took a bunch of lovely photos of me by the Buckingham Fountain, one of the several existing structures featured in one of my favorite films, Love Jones. I was soooo ecstatic to see it in person. Such an astounding sight to see.
Anish Kapoor's reflective "Cloud Gate" otherwise known as "The Bean" lets visitors see themselves in obscurity alongside the background of skyscraper glory.

Underneath "The Bean."

Seeing myself in the object itself.

Last glimpse of "The Bean," seemingly located in the pocket of the city.

Bon voyage, Chicago. I hope to visit again very soon.