I flew into Portland on Friday to attend this year’s National Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, OR. I visited the “Brooklyn of the West” to make my jeans fit tighter and attend conference sessions on issues relating to the criminal prosecution of animal cruelty, the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, the intersectionality between animal rights and human rights, and so on and so forth.
But, in honor of Vegan MoFo III, you want to hear about the food, right? For the first time in a very long time, I received a vegan meal on the plane. I stopped requesting them long ago, but my Continental Airlines frequent flyer profile still lists me as a scary, radical vegan. Much to my surprise, about an hour into the flight, a box containing a vegan soy patty with cheese on a whole wheat English muffin appeared on my tray table. It was surprisingly good. A partially frozen fruit cocktail, a Sara Lee “bagel”, Smart Balance (the vegan kind) and a packet of Mrs. Dash, which I’m still not sure of its intended use, accompanied it. Continental gets thumbs up on the English muffin sandwich and for getting me to Portland on time.
My first stop in Portland was La Bonita for some of the tastiest black beans to pass through my digestive track. For only $6.95, I procured a large plate with two soft tacos, a heaping mound of rice, a liberal portion of beans and chunky guacamole. Good job, NE Portland.
A few of my friends then piled into a car and we headed off to Seattle for the night. Inappropriate dinner conversation was shared at Teapot in the East Capital Hill neighborhood. I am pretty much a pro at consuming vegan Pan-Asian food, but Teapot introduced me to the Mandarin Crispy Tofu, a thickly battered soy fillet fried to golden brown perfection. Where can I find this in NYC, East Coasters?
The food at the National Animal Law Conference never disappoints. Coffee flows freely. As do the pastries, breads, Tofutti and Earth Balance. (Mom, yes, they serve fruit, too.) During the conference sessions, the snack room provisions are replenished by a mighty team of caterers. Saturday’s lunch included a choice of sandwiches (gluten free option available!). I opted for the butternut squash and caramelized fennel on a baguette, a fitting combination of flavors as we move further into the best season ever.
Equally as important as my attendance at the conference was spending time with my family of Portland friends. On Saturday night, we filed into Portobello, which is currently my favorite Portland restaurant. Chef Aaron makes the kind of Italian food that reminds you that pasta need not be relegated to a lazy weeknight dinner. Take one bite of his lightly pan fried gnocchi or pumpkin cappellacci smothered in cashew cream sauce and hazelnuts and you will become a believer, too.
Saturday nights in Portland should include a trip to Whiffies and Potato Champion. After standing in the carts’ lot at SE 12th Avenue and SE Hawthorne for about an hour whining about how full we were from our Portobello feast, someone who will remain nameless said to herself, “screw it,” and ordered a cone of always-perfect fries with satay sauce and Vegenaise from Potato Champion. Quickly, all of her friends became “a little hungry” and helped her finish the fries. Then her friends carried her home and put her to bed.
After grazing on more pastries and a faux bánh mì mushroom sandwich during Sunday’s animal law conference sessions, I rode a bus to the vegan minimall and filled my bag with such revered vegan staples as Tartex, Dandies marshmallows, Go Max Go’s Jokerz candy bars and Leahy’s Mac and Cheese sauce at Food Fight Vegan Grocery. I snuck into the all-vegan Scapegoat Tattoo and chatted with the über talented Brian Wilson while he made permanent markings on some guy’s back. (You are a strong dude, Scapegoat customer.)
Following a pit stop at Voodoo Doughnut to procure a small selection of vegan yeast donuts for the trip back to Brooklyn, we worked our way through gigantic, thin crust slices topped with seasoned tempeh at Bella Faccia Pizzeria. We then arrived at the counter in Back to Eden, the Alberta Arts District’s newest vegan bakery boutique. I ordered a cup of Temptation soft serve with white chocolate chips and homemade caramel sauce. One of my nicer friends permitted me to try a bite of her cheesecake, which was delicately flavored with Chai tea and thoroughly refreshing.
With less than half a day of non-conference time to spend in Portland, I think I made a valiant effort to visit the best new eating experiences, as well as the perennial hits the city has to offer.
And so, the 17th National Animal Law Conference has come to a close. I’m a little wiser, a little heavier, and a whole lotta motivated to run the loop in Prospect Park this week.