Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weekend in Chicago

Friday was Mairin's last day of school, and as soon as school was over we loaded up the car and headed up to Chicago for a little get-a-way,to visit friends, and to attend the Green Festival. We had a wonderful time walking around the city, hanging out with our friends, and wandering around the festival vendors. Chicago has tons of vegetarian restaurants, a few of which are strictly vegan, so we did lots of good eating while we were in town. It's so exciting for me to go into a restaurant and order practically anything off the menu.......and not be looked strangely at when I ask for no cheese, or if the pasta is made with eggs!!

We rode into town just about dinner time on Friday night, so we unloaded our car at the hotel and hit the street to find some dinner. We ended up at Karyn's Cooked. Unfortunately, they were reservation only, so we didn't get a seat. We did however, decide to place an order for take out and head back to the hotel so we could kick off our shoes and relax (if you've ever eaten at a restaurant with a toddler, you'll know it's not exactly relaxing!!).

Karyn's is totally vegan, except for one pizza that is topped with rice cheese containing casein. From Karyn's we ended up with Hummus and Pita as a starter. Not the best hummus I've ever had, but good none the less. For dinner the girls shared the Spaghetti and Meatballs, I had the Classic Lasagna, and Rob had Jenny's Pizza (the one with the casein). It was all very good, the girls really liked the "meatballs", and Rob's pizza smelled incredible. He said the cheese was very close to dairy cheese (more so than the FYH cheese we've been using). We were all extremely satisfied, and excited for the vegan eating of the next day!!

We started Saturday in our room with some cereal and soy milk that we brought along with us. We also purchased a fruit cup from the lobby coffee shop. That, along with a few snacks held us nicely until lunch, which we ate at the Green Festivals food court. The entire food court was strictly vegan and their were options from so many local restaurants we had a tough time choosing.

Our lunch ended up being these incredible vegan sausages (which you can barely see peeking out from under all of those grilled veggies). We also all shared some macaroni and cheese from Soul Vegetarian restaurant. They make their own soy cheese, and it was phenomenal. The girls also had some vegan cornbread from Soul, which I didn't taste, but they put it away pretty quickly so I'm guessing it was pretty tasty!! Can you even imagine what it was like to eat a food court, and be able to choose anything you wanted!!

We finished the Green Festival with these out of this world Temptation Vegan ice cream cones. Temptation ice cream is perfect, it was creamy, and it didn't have that "soy" taste that most commercial brands have. They make it in small batches in a dedicated vegan and nut free facility. Ice cream heaven for sufferers of nut allergies!!! I found out that they sell it at my WFM and couldn't wait to get home and buy some. I went immediately to WFM on Monday, only to find 4 pints left in the freezer and a "discontinued" sign hanging above them. I got the 4 pints for a steal, but 4 pints of ice cream won't last long around here!! My WFM is definitely going to get some complaints from me!!

Saturday evening we headed out to Chicago Diner for our dinner. This is apparently a pretty well known veg restaurant in Chicago, so I was super excited to try it. And it didn't disappoint. It's not 100% vegan, but every dish can be made vegan (I'm assuming....they use soy cheese, but I didn't get cheese on my dish so I didn't ask if it had casein or not).

I didn't get any photos at Chicago diner, so you'll have to use your imaginations. We started with chips and guac, because we know the girls will always eat it. The girls had quesadillas and mashed potatoes with gravy. Rob had the Enchiladas with soy cheese, and I had the Chicken Ranch Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries. The sandwich was incredible. It was a very thin piece of seitan, breaded and fried, served on a bun with some veggies and an out of this world ranch sauce. Ranch is one of the things I've been missing since I've been vegan, I'm definitely going to have to learn how to make it!! The girls didn't eat well, so we skipped dessert.

Sunday we got up and met our friends, Jesse and Holly, for brunch at M. Henry. It's not vegetarian, but it does feature seasonal, local and organic food whenever possible. Again, I have not pictures, so just imagine. I had the Vegan Epiphany, which is a tofu scramble with peppers, spinach and onions. I've been wanting to try tofu scramble for quite some time now, but for whatever reason, I've been afraid. Well, on my trip to WFM I picked up a ton of tofu, and we'll be having scrambles very soon. Even Stella loved her tofu scramble!! Rob got the Stuffed Poblano Pepper. It's stuffed with scrambled tofu, and vegan chorizo. He said it was incredible, and his favorite meal that we'd eaten so far.

It was his favorite until we went to visit our other friends, Chris and Anne, for dinner. We were having dinner at their home which always makes me a little nervous. I hate to dictate to people what they can cook, and I hate to be a PITA when I'm visiting someone. I haven't been vegan long enough that everyone knows, no long enough to speak up for myself yet, so I swallowed my pride and resigned myself to eating whatever they served (they knew we were vegetarian, so I knew it at least wouldn't have any meat).

Well, let me tell you, we have the BEST friends in the world!!! Chris prepared an awesome vegan meal for us (apparenlty Rob had told him a while back that I had gone vegan)!! We had vegan enchiladas that were just stuffed to the gills with veggies and beans (black beans, corn, eggplant, onion, and I'm sure a lot of other stuff too), and the enchilada sauce was just fantastic. Along with the enchiladas we had a Jicama-Mango salad that was dressed with this crazy good lime vinaigrette. There was also a really nice, and really beautiful beet salad (that I unfortunately didn't get a photo of apparently).

As soon as I can get the recipe off of Chris I'll be making these enchiladas, then maybe you guys can enjoy them too!!

We had a wonderful weekend, and are already looking forward to heading back to Chicago to finish scoping out the vegetarian/vegan eating scene.


Jenny said...

Glad you had a great trip! Sounds like you got to eat at a lot of great places. And how nice of your friends to make you a vegan meal! That's really sweet!

Chessa said...

Wow, that trip sounds awesome! I'm going to have to look for some of that ice cream, yum!