Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oregon Part One: PDX to Cannon Beach

At long last, our trip to Great Northwest finally came to fruition this past weekend. It was a time of too much food, drink, and fun, and it was all fantastic. Well, mostly....
We started our time in Portland in the long and slow line at Hertz. Who knew renting a car could be so painful. This was all quickly forgotten, however, as we made our way out of the airport and into Portland itself. Our destination was Cannon Beach, a small town on the Oregon coast where we would spend Friday and Saturday nights, but like the good vegan couple* we are, we decided to stop off in Portland for lunch and provisions. That, of course, meant Food Fight Grocery, Sweet Pea Bakery, and Veganopolis.

Food Fight is basically a vegan 7-11, which means lots of snacks and junk food. These were exactly the edibles we wanted for our drive west. We stocked up on chips and cookies, and my hubby discovered a new-found love for soy jerky. For the record, I also got some bananas, trying to remain at least slightly health-conscious. As we were checking out, I asked the kind fellow behind the counter what his favorite thing to get at Sweet Pea Bakery might be. He surprised me by saying that he LOVES (his emphasis, not mine) the bacon and scallion cream cheese. Yeah, you read that right. Unfortunately, I did not get to try it. We had no way to keep things cool, and we were stopping for lunch soon anyway, but I know that that cream cheese will be in my belly next time I head north. What we ended up getting instead proved to be one of the highlights of the whole trip... but I'll save it for later. On a side note, the vegan mini-mall that hosts FFG and SPB is also home to Herbivore and I got myself the cutest little mug emblazoned with the word "vegan." You know, in case I ever forget. :)

Okay, after being surrounded by food, and with the stale plane air finally out of our system, it was time for lunch. Veganopolis came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. This order-at-the-counter cafeteria style joint has an amazing menu of salads and sandwiches, all of which sounded delicious. My "Black-Eyed Betty" salad had the smokiest tempeh bacon and the basil and rice wine vinaigrette was out of this world. It was just what the doctor ordered. My husband went a tad heavier and had the "Portland Cheesesteak." He claims that while it was nothing like a real (dead) cheese steak, the soy slices on ciabatta were delicious and satisfying. Veganopolis gets my vote for Restaurant I'd Most Like to See Franchised. My fingers are crossed...

Satisfied, and getting giddier as it sank it that we were really on vacation, we put our grinning selves back in the renter, and headed out to the coast. This drive is so pretty and so damn green, that any visitor to Portland should put it on their list of things to do. After only about an hour and a half on the road, we checked into our room at the Hallmark Resort and plopped ourselves down on the balcony to enjoy the amazing view of the ocean and Haystack Rock. Relaxed, we decided it was time for our first real treat - the one we saved from Sweet Pea Bakery: chocolate mint cupcakes. Oh yeah. These little devils had made the trip with only the slightest bit of smooshed icing, and this did not effect the taste - dark, rich chocolate paired with refreshingly minty icing - at all. After debating about what to get from Sweet Pea (everything looked amazing) I was quite content with our choice. They were wonderful bites of sugary yum. That's the Sweet Pea delirium talking. :)

Now, as a vegan, it can be hard to get good food along the coast, especially where we were in Cannon Beach. It's mostly got seafood restaurants and mom & pop stores without any fresh produce. However there is a shining light in the fog: The glorious bastion of hope that is Sweet Basil's. Our reservation was for Saturday night, and after spending Friday night consuming some of the yuckiest Thai food ever (the place only had two items they could make without fish sauce!), supplemented with our Food Fight snacks, we were very ready to get some nutrition in our systems.

A lovely coastal rain was falling as we settled into our booth, and we immediately got to the task of scanning the menu for vegan items. Luckily, there were quite a few AND one of the specials that night was vegan. I opted for the latter - a stuffed zucchini with eggplant and Italian rice, and the husband ordered the vegan sausage and pepper hero. Mine was warming and scrumptious, with true eggplant and basil flavors bursting out of the fresh zucchini. I was really enjoying it when I decided to try a bit of the hero. It may not have been pretty, but man, this thing was scarily good. Let's just say it was all I could do to not finish the rest of it. My husband loved it too, and I hereby declare everyone in Portland should go get some coastal fresh air, enjoy the beach, and have one of these sandwiches. Sweet Basil's is by far the best place for vegans and others alike in Cannon Beach.

After returning to the resort, we polished off a bottle of local unfiltered/unfined (read: vegan) wine, sat by the fire, and played Scrabulous. The perfect evening. Next up: We hit the not-so-dusty trail back to Portland for more eats, more drinks, and the most fabulous shoes I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Stay tuned.

*Hubby went vegan for the trip. Hooray!

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