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When I told my mom about our 2nd day in Paris, she was literally cracking up.  How could you not?  It’s pure ridiculousness.  Just wait and see…

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[Laura captures the sentiments of the day in one photo]

Allow me to preface this with some background deets.  After a generous amount of research Laura and I had determined the two day museum pass was definitely the most cost effective option for Paris sight-seeing.  It was 35 Euro and included nearly everything we wanted to do, including admission to the Palace in Versailles.  Seeing as Laura and I have been to Paris before (and done the museum & monument thing in excess), we figured this would be a smart (read: cheap) way for us to do everything quickly.  We could see the main sights, lickity split, and then bounce…and since we weren’t paying full admission prices, we wouldn’t feel guilty for spending less than 30 minutes at certain spots (I’m looking at you Rodin museum).  So that’s what we did.

We discussed a game plan the night before.  We had a loose schedule.  And it was going to be perfect.

Half day in Versailles.  Return to Paris in the afternoon.  Conquer the Louvre before it closed at 6 pm.  And lastly, hike the Arc de Triomphe on the late night for scenic PM Paris-scapes.

Pretty smart, right?

We got to the RER station (St. Michel) to get tickets at 8:15 am.  Not too aggressive, but still early enough to beat the weekend crowds.  The screen showed an 8:30 train.  Excellent!  The lady at the station’s ticket window was super helpful and we got our to and fro tickets no prob.

As soon as we entered the platform area the screen that had previously shown our VICK train on time changed, and now flashed “retarde” where 8:30 once was.

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Hmmm…get the translation book stat!

A 20 minute survey of fellow passengers and a French phrase book revealed confusing info.  All we could truly piece together was “retarde” was not good.  At least the next train was scheduled for 9 am, so all wasn’t lost.  We breathed a long sigh and simply decided to wait for the next train…lies!!!!  By 9:20 we were on our third retarde train.  At long last our VICK train pulled in and we boarded.  Finally, we were off!

Happily we chatted and the stops seemed to fly by.  Then we stopped and never started up again.  Were we already at Versailles?  It seemed a bit quick but none of us were really paying attention to the stops.  Everyone else on the train was looking similarly confused.  Then we heard an overhead announcement.  Again with the French!  They repeated the same thing several times, but seeing as none of us spoke French it was really no help.  Everyone else filed off the train.  Do we follow suit?  What’s going on?  Is there a shazam translation app?

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Cut to 15 minutes later we learn (through ever so reliable sixth-hand information) that the tunnel ahead of us is full of smoke and the train can’t go through.

[If you’re thinking “why does that matter, the cars are on tracks?” you are not alone, I still don’t get it]

So there we stood.  Freezing on the random station platform.  Just waiting.  Rad.

Once it became apparent things weren’t happening anytime soon we re-boarded the train to stay semi-warm and sit down.  Lazy AND dumb.  Such stereotypical Americans.  Being the only ones on the train didn’t last long though and soon another group of American dopes joined us.  More French announcements.  More waiting.

Then, after a new set of overhead (and again, incomprehensible) instructions, a lady in the American posse said she heard the word “garage.”  Her husband promptly shooshed and dismissed her assessment, reassuring the rest of his group (and us, since we were clearly eavesdropping) that we were fine staying put on board.  He claimed the word she heard was “voyage” not “garage” but literally 30 seconds later we heard the jerk and hiss of the train.  And without a single word spoken between any of us, we all made a mad dash for the platform.  As we bolted to get off, the doors started to shut, slamming the poor old man rivers like a mouse in a trap.  Karma, dude.  Next time, listen to your wifey.  He barely escaped the vise-like-grip of the train doors, but thankfully he held them open long enough for us all to slip out (read: his body took the blow for the rest of us).  No less than two seconds later we watched from the platform as the empty RER began chugging away (maybe it was going to the “garage” after all…), leaving our confused asses completely and utterly stranded.

Now what?

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Pretty sure the crowd was all wondering that same thing.  This is when Laura’s “Amazing Race” instincts kicked in.  Road block?  No problem.

[Please note: this is not an entirely accurate portrayal of the timeline as there was a good 45 minutes or so of iPhone/map consulting, crowd surveying, and even taxi consideration…however we had no access to any outside resources because we were stuck in the station…and leaving it meant buying new tickets…and don’t forget our communication was highly limited as English translations were offered 0% of the time]

Two transfers and an all out sprint later we had an alternate route before us.

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The transportation fees were multiplying like gangbusters, but at least we were actually getting somewhere!

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[We were still not entirely sure it was where we wanted to end up, but at this point the wrong direction was better than no direction]

The RER train we ended up on dropped us off a bit further from the Palace than our intended course, but we managed to get there nonetheless.  And it was before noon!  Success!!

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Our (small) victory went unacknowledged as we stood in awe, staring at the massive golden chateau before us.

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Holy decadence.  These Frenchies weren’t playin’ around.

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Our museum passes finally got their cherries popped and even allowed us to bypass the lines.  Things were picking up.  We grabbed (free) audio-guides and and started touring the place, room by room.

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Apparently mirrors were the latest trend.  And who doesn’t like reflections?

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This room was mirror central and went on for-eh-ver.

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After we finished inside, we headed for the gardens.

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I felt a bit nickel and dimed because each area seemed to have it’s own entrance fee.  As luck would have it, our passes were only good general admission to the chateau.  Either way, it was well worth it and we spent the afternoon amongst the fountains and shrubbery.

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It was gorgeous.

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Quaint no?

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For lunch, our options were minimal.  Either the restaurant in the gardens, or nada.

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Once again, the vegan choices were sparse (slash nonexistent).  Even my most flashy smile couldn’t help make things work.

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Door #1: veg and cheese baguette

The logical step here would be to ask for it sans fromage, but the French response to that was “no es possible.”  After the previous night, I was in no mood to argue.  Plus, it was a small place and they seemed to have the sammies pre-made, so I didn’t feel like pressing them too hard.  In hindsight, I realize I should have just ordered this and removed the cheese myself. 

Door #2: tuna sammie with mayo, lettuce, and tomato

This was actually my first choice, and I was prepared to remove the mayo myself if need be.  Unfortunately the tuna and mayo were already prepared together and so I was again met with the same “no es possible” response.  I detest mayo, so this option was ruled out immediately. 

Door #3: ham sammie

This time the “no es possible” response was from me.  I feel very strongly about this.

Instead of settling for one of these sub-par baguettes, I opted for a crepe sucre which I supplemented with an apple and Larabar I had stashed in my bag ‘o tricks.

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What can you do?  I had been wanting a crepe anyway (because you can’t go to Paris and not get a crepe).  Plus, I know how my GI tract works and I know which foods are disastrous no-no’s and which I can get away with in a bind.  So that’s that.

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To improve lunch (slash get our $ worth for the garden entrance fee) we decided to find the fountain show, which was why admission cost extra.  Nothing like lunch time ambiance.  Good thing it was a small garden with only one fountain…oh wait (that’s sarcasm for those of you only half reading).  It was like a wild goose chase.  Our map made it look so obvious, but by the time we finally found the damn fountain I had a cold crepe on my hand.  C’est la vie.
The fountain show was far from a Disney spectacular, but it wasn’t too lame.

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My view at first was a bit obstructed (see above), but my face was in the crepe anyway.

A brief word about the crepe: YUM.

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Post digestion, we were back to the garden wandering.  They seemed to go on forever and ever and yet once again we made the mistake of trusting our collective sense of direction enough to find Marie Antoinette’s section of the manor, called The Queen’s Hamlet (for anyone still reading this hoping for a history lesson).

I swear.  We are straight up losers.

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Once again we managed to get derailed forcing an off road “shortcut” to get us back on track.  I wasn’t wearing the right shoes for swamp hunting (shocking, I know), so I ended up with “un salade” in my shoes.

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Ethel had running shoes on, but didn’t fare much better.  Her yoga skills came into use as she emptied out her grass collection while balancing precariously on her other foot.  Shout out to Santa Monica YogaWorks?  I think so.

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My feet were nearing the end of their tolerance level, but I managed to keep going.  As we made our way through Marie Antoinette’s estate…and then the gardens…and then more gardens…it became very apparent that walking back was maybe not the #1 option for us.

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By the way, I should at least mention that the sheer size and beauty of these landscapes was blow-your-mind gorgeous.  It was like a fake movie set, that never ended.

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Finding our way out was more difficult than we expected.  And, like you may have anticipated, we chose the wrong route at first.  Not wanting to scale down a 20 foot moat, we retraced our steps (slash harassed a gardener) to help us get back to the front of Miss Antoinette’s pad.  Then, like a rainbow after a storm, we saw the most amazing thing.  A shuttle!  Praise be to the blister gods.  The additional price hardly phased me, I was just so stoked to get a ride back to the Chateau.

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Once the train started moving though, my opinion quickly changed.  Somehow the driver managed to creep along slower than an amputated escargot, while simultaneously jostling the bejeezus out of us.  I felt like I was getting 3 new vertebral disc fractures with each crack in the road.  I was flying off the seat as the tram took on every pothole in France…and still we were going so. friggin. slow.  Walkers were passing us.  Women pushing strollers were leaving us in the dust.  Confusing commute to say the least.

The moon was up by the time we reached the Versailles Palace.  Ok, not really, but it was almost 4 pm.  Meaning we had a mere 2 hours until the Louvre closed…and we hadn’t even gotten to the train station again.  Meaning we had to seriously book it.  Let the Amazing Race begin! (again)

Run, Lola, run.

We all zipped through the turnstile noting it was just four minutes until the next train departed for central Paris.

Then we see Ethel.  Stuck in the station.  Unable to get through to the platform.  In all the rush getting to Versailles, she somehow used her return ticket too.  This is actually highly understandable because we seriously used 25 different tickets getting to the damn city.  And it’s hard to tell which are already used.  So for the ride home, I just kept shoving different ones in over and over again until one of them went through.  Sadly, Ethel followed the same technique but none were good.

The problems:

1. Ethel had no more money
2. The train was about to leave
3. The line to buy billetes was loooooong

#1 was solved with a quick coin collection, passed through the gate to her.  #2 & #3 were less controllable though.  Once again we narrowly scraped by.  She sprinted aboard as the clock struck the hour.  Only no doors closed.  Instead we heard the ever familiar sigh of the engine and kssssh of the doors.  We were halfway out the doors before the overhead announcement even began.  Some might call us experts with unreliable transport.  Not the title I dreamed of as a little girl but we can’t all be Kate Middleton.

The next train we boarded was more successful and finally we were on our way to Paris.  On the train we devised a plan of attack for the Louvre.  We knew that the museum closed at 6 pm and so they stopped taking tickets at 5.  This left us 10 minutes upon arrival in Paris to get from the station to the museum.

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As per google maps, that’s a 1.6 km (or 1 mile) walk run.  One mile in 10 minutes?  Totally doable.

Unfortunately, arriving by 5 pm only left us with a mere 30 minutes to see whatever we wanted to see.

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[Note: I’ve been to the Louvre A LOT so seeing the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and the Mona Lisa in 5 minutes flat didn’t really break my heart.  Ethel, on the other hand, was a Louvre virgin so she deserved at least 10 minutes to soak it all in]

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Like Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, we tore through Paris to slip into the museum just in the knick of time.  Then, we proceeded to glide through the place – hitting all the key spots – with the precision of Olympic bobsledders.  We were a well oiled machine!

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Honestly, at this point, I was on a high from the craziness of accomplishing everything we had set out to do in the day.  The thrill of it all was exciting and the adrenaline junkie in me was loving every second of our adventure.  It didn’t stop me and Alene from taking up residence over an air vent on the floor though.  After the marathon race back to Paris, I was hot and sweaty and only just beginning to take the time to breathe and notice how much I needed something cool.  Like air conditioning…or a beer.

Pretty soon after we had made our way to all the main attractions the buzzer and closing announcements came on and we were ushered to the exit.

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Not without some cheesy sculpture imitations though.  (It’s a family tradition)
We all agreed that what we needed the most in that moment was chairs and cerveza (not necessarily in that order).

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As expensive as the Rue de Rivoli is, it’s location is unbeatable.  Prime people watching.  We took up residence in the corner table and got to ordering asap.  Five people at the mini table was not at all pleasing to our waitress and her expression let us know it.  Whatever.

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Beers all around!

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Like the last few dining experiences, our order got messed up but we simply rolled with it.  But when it came time for round two, Laura wasn’t messing around.  She got a liter.  The waitress thought she was loco and assumed the size of her drink wasn’t translating correctly.

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No my dear, you underestimate my sister.

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Once she saw we weren’t playing around, our waitress transformed into our #1 fan.  She brought food, joked with us, and chatted it up on her cigarette break.  When it came time to pay, Laura attempted French and requested “un poc minute” which definitely did NOT mean “a little minute” as she’d intended.  Nope.  Apparently she’d actually asked for “a pig minute.”  Because that makes sense.  Silly Laura.  No more making up French.  This isn’t a fake-it-til-you-make-it situation.  Good thing our waitress loved us and had a good sense of humor at that point.

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The crew, from left to right: Alene, Laura, me, & Ashley (Ethel was taking the photo)

Eventually all was settled and we headed to dinner near the Arc de Triomphe.

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SUSHI!  Mmmm…

M is for microwave, what is your favorite microwave meal/snack?

Sweet potatoes are one thing that I’ve always preferred to microwave over cooking in the oven.  It’s faster and yields a very similar (if not better) steamed tater.  [The exception to this is if you are making fries out of them]

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There’s also the matter of oats.  Although I prefer the stove top version (and always make them on the stove when I’m home), I do microwave oats when I bring them for work.

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It’s so simple, it’s hard to knock it. 

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N is for nutrients, do you likes carbs, fats, or proteins best?

This makes me think of Mean Girls.  “Is butter a carb?”  Ha.

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I live on carbs.  My diet is probably 50% bread, 35% fruit, 25% veggies, and 50% hummus.  What?  That doesn’t add up to 100%?  News to me.  So as far as I’m concerned, carbs are the best of the best. 

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Protein schmotein.  Carbohydrates for President!

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea though…I’m talking about carbs in the purest form.  Sprouted whole wheat bread and whole grains (like quinoa, millet, wheat berries, brown rice, etc.) are where it’s at!

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Best in the West baby!

O is for oil, what kind do you like to use?

I prefer Extra Virgin Olive Oil for almost all uses, but Coconut Oil is my favorite for baking.

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I wanted to highjack this truck on our drive to Madrid so badly.  Lifetime supply of olive oil?  Yes please!

P is for protein, how do you get yours?

Uhhh…through food? 

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Beans, grains, nuts, seeds, ‘fu, nutritional yeast, Bragg’s liquid aminos, etc.  One of these days I’m going to actually track the amount of protein I eat in a day just to prove vegans can easily obtain adequate amounts of this macronutrient without giving it any extra special attention.  I bet I eat a day’s worth from hummus alone. 

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Q is for Quaker, how do you like your oats?

I think this is an unfair question.  I eat oatmeal on a nearly daily basis, and I pretty much enjoy it a new way each day.  Most of the time I follow the following guidelines for add-ins:

  • nutbutter/nuts (peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, cashew butter, coconut butter, etc.)
  • dried/fresh fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, strawberries, pears, etc.)
  • sweetener/spice (stevia, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, etc.)
  • extras (shredded coconut, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin puree, cacao nibs)

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R is for roasting, what is your favorite thing to roast?

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Squash.  Especially butternut squash.

S is for sandwich, what’s your favorite kind?

I made a BBQ tofu sammie the other day which will be making an appearance soon…

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T is for travel, how do you handle eating while traveling?

I try and eat as much traditional cuisine as possible (provided it’s not meat or dairy laden). 

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Go big or go home. 

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Kebabs.

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Chocolate con churros.

Of course, we all saw that I had some petite problems with my recent trip to Paris.

U is for unique, what is one of your weirdest food combos?

Hmmm…what do I combine that others think is weird? 

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Well, I can’t think of anything off hand, but I do know that very few others love Kombucha the way I do.

V is for vitamins, what kind do you take?

I don’t take vitamins regularly but I do take herbal supplements (these ones).

W is for wasabi, yay or nay?

NAY.  Very very nay.  My grandpa dared me to eat a marble sized ball of wasabi when I was little and I never quite recovered.  Pickled ginger, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of. 

X is for XRAY.  If we x-rayed your belly right now, what food would we see?

Let’s ignore the medical problems with this question and just pretend X-rays worked that way…you’d see hummus. 

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Lots of hummus. 

Y is for youth, what food reminds you of your childhood?

Where, oh where to begin!  My mom’s quick curry is a classic.  I could list so many, but that dish holds the top spot. 

Z is for zucchini, how do you prepare it?

Kyle detests all things pickle related, which includes zucchini (as well as cucumber, dill, vinegar things, and basically anything resembling a pickle in appearance or flavor). So I rarely prepare zucchini because I have to eat it solo. 

That said, I like it roasted as well as raw (spiralized into noodles).  Hmmm…that reminds me…I should dust off my spiralizer and make some raw pasta for dinner!  

Oh night shift, how you disrupt my sleep cycle.

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How’s that for a cluttered night stand?!  The ear plugs are the latest addition to help with my daytime snoozing sitch. 

Ugh.  Again, I slept minimally after noche dos of nursing. 

Side note: I’m always hesitant to use that word when talking about night shift because I get weird google search terms…sorry to all the moms nursing their newborns all night long searching the internet for nursing related advice…only to click on my blog and not find anything helpful. 

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My packed food was perfection.  I’m completely obsessed with this saladCaprese Caesar pasta salad has made up approximately 87.4% of my recent diet.  Yesterday Kyle had it for back to back meals.  After having it for lunch, he said he couldn’t stop thinking about it all day and knew there was no way he was having anything else for dinner.  That’s how I know it’s a winner.  It’s already gone now and I’m considering making it again in this very moment.

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The rest of my packed up food was typical late night snack fare: apples, nuts, & dried fruit.

When I got home, Kyle wasn’t there…I managed to track him down and decided to meet up with him for a decaf coffee before heading back home to snooze.

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Like I mentioned above, I wasn’t able to get much rest.  Around 11 am I got up to make breakfast. 

Two things I’m in love with at the moment: organic light soymilk and fresh apricots in my cereal

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The first part of the raisin bran has a disproportionate(ly low) amount of raisins.  I find I have to dig to get them because they are all at the bottom.  Annoying, but worth it.  And like any cereal addict, I didn’t stop after my first bowl…but I did manage to limit myself to two of the above servings. 

Because breakfast was (a) more of a brunch, (b) rather generous, and (c) not followed by any activity whatsoever, I wasn’t hungry until way later in the afternoon.  I literally sat in my PJs on the couch for hours on end.  Marathon TV time.  Mega internet action.  I wasn’t even trying to fight it.  Eventually I am going to have to start some kind of training plan for this triathlon in July…and I’m still waiting for the motivation to start that plan.  Until then, pajama-rama!

Around five I started craving food again, so I tried to brainstorm some dinner possibilities.  What I really wanted was sushi, but I had zero interest in leaving the apartment, so I tried to see if anything on hand could mimic the flavors and satisfy my hankering. 

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Let’s break it down now.  Sushi rolls are made of rice, veggies, and avocado.  Ditch the roll and you have this masterpiece…

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Rice –> Quinoa

Fish –> Seitan

Avocado –> Extra avocado

Soy Sauce –> Bragg’s liquid aminos

I also threw in chopped carrots & cucumber and edamame and then drowned the whole thing in more Bragg’s. 

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In other words, I made a deconstructed sushi plate…with some vegan alterations.  It was amazing.  Avocado was most certainly the star of the meal.  But the Bragg’s, seitan, and quinoa combo was a veryclose runner-up.  I’m going to have to make sushi out of the roll more often. 

And in the spirit of deconstructed things…

Old table.

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Broken down.

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New table.

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Now we can have dinner parties…for four?

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to honor my inner chocolate monster.

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My salt tooth has rebounded in a major way and I am in the middle of intense sweet tooth marathon. 

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Dark chocolate plus candied ginger are a hard-to-beat combo, but if there’s one thing that can trump the dynamic duo, it’s Annie’s chocolate grahams

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Annie’s Bunny Grahams are superb on their own, but once you start dipping them in almond butter…

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My friends, it’s indescribable. 

Mmmm…choooooocolate.

There are a few things I rarely crave, pasta being one of them and cheese being the other.

As you can guess, I’m not a very big fan of Italian food. 

But chilled pasta salads are quintessential summer fare, and I’m all about welcoming June with open arms…and a vegan summer salad that is sure to please the masses.

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This dish was born out of my random desire to veganize a Caprese salad, which then got tweaked along the way, and morphed into a pasta dish with a Caesar salad twist.  My mind works in mysterious ways I tell ya.

Caprese Caesar Pasta Salad (vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry pasta
  • 1 tomato, cubed
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 1/2 block tofu, cubed
  • 1/4 cup Follow Your Heart vegan Caesar dressing

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I opted for all organic items, from the pasta (you can buy the six packs at Costco) to the tofu and Caesar dressing

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After cooking and draining the pasta, I let it cool while I chopped the veggies.

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Then I added them all together in a big bowl.

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Meanwhile, the tofu (which was taking the place of the buffalo mozzarella in the Caprese salad), was draining.

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Once most of the liquid was pressed out, I cut it and added it into the pasta.

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Then it was dressing time.  Follow Your Heart makes such awesome salad dressing, even if you aren’t vegan you should start buying these. 

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I’m obsessed with the vegan Caesar, which is why I decided to add it into the pasta.

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Douse and stir.

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This dish is light and hearty at the same time.  Definitely a great item to bring to a picnic or summer get together.  It’s simple enough to complement almost any other food and since the flavors are mild but tasty, it will please every palate.  And did I mention it’s vegan? 

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Either way, you don’t have to tell anyone it’s vegan and they’ll never know that they’re actually doing their heart a favor as they’re enjoying it.  They may even be tricked into thinking the tofu chunks are cheese. 

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In addition to being super quick to prepare, you can make it ahead of time and then throw it in the fridge until it’s ready to be consumed. 

Chilled or warm, it’s delicious.  And the longer you wait to eat it, the more the flavors will meld together. 

Enjoy!

Tasting Box

One of the perks of being a food blogger is you get to try new things that you may not ordinarily try.  For free. 

While I was in Europe, I received a Tasting Box by Foodzie

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It had all kinds of goodies including:

Dried Pineapple from Peeled Snacks – Brooklyn, NY
Traditional Alfajores from Sabores del Sur – San Francisco, CA
Lemon Poppyseed & Almond Biscotti from Biscotti Bari – Petaluma, CA
Pure Southern Iced Tea from Pluff Iced Tea – Bluffton, SC
Assorted Fresh Herb Sea Salts from Woody’s Gourmet – Campbell, CA
Classic Seaweed Snack from Sea Snax – Los Angeles, CA

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The peeled snacks were the first to go.  For 12 hour shifts I’m always looking for easy on-the-go eats that are healthy and practical (meaning portable and not messy).  These caught my eye because they were both organic and pure.

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See that ingredient list?  Just one thing, organic pineapple.

You see, when it comes to dried fruit, there’s often some additives involved (sulphur dioxide) and occasionally extra sugar sneaks in, too.  Dried pineapple rings used to be my favorite snack, but the out of control sugar content actually got to be too much for me.  In my opinion, fruit doesn’t need help in the sweetness department, it’s naturally perfect on it’s own.  And as far as preserving the fruit’s color (which is why other companies use sulpher dioxide), I actually prefer eating food that don’t look like it has been plucked from the Land of Oz.  No offense to the Lollipop Guild.

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I was nervous the pineapple chunks were going to be a bit tougher, given the natural state of the fruit, but I’m happy to report they were soft and flavorful.  I could easily see myself snacking on them all day (and night) long without breaking my jaw from chewing. 

Peeled snacks also offers mango, apricot, apple, banana, fig (!!!), and cherry flavors, which I’m pretty excited to try as well.

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As for the rest of my work food…I was on night shift, so it was more snack heavy than my day shift eats are.  I had roasted almonds, candied ginger, Hersey’s special extra dark chocolate, dried apricots, two apples, and a big salad.

My salad was bit of a beast actually.  It had spring greens, roasted butternut squash, bell peppers, edamame, carrots, and those crazy addictive sesame sticks.  I’m 100% certain I could put those sesame sticks in every meal and I’d love it.  Why is salt so good?

After I got home from my 12 hours, I failed at falling asleep right away, so instead I made oats.

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I kept adding more and more ingredients to the oats…

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Unmeasured amounts of:

  • almonds
  • shredded coconut
  • carob chips
  • diced apple
  • mashed banana
  • raisins
  • cinnamon
  • Sunbutter

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Just throw it in the bag…uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.  [Son I’m from Brooklyn, what it look like!?]

Anyone else thinks of Fabolous when adding multiple ingredients to a pot?  No?  Just me?

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FYI, I don’t cut corners when it comes to nutbutters. 

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Normally I’m not an advocate of food induced comas, but after all-nighters, you gotta do what you gotta do.  And this girl needed to zonk out. 

This bowl (followed by a second one) helped me get into the very necessary sleep state. 

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Because you can’t do a second night shift when you’ve only slept two hours.  Oh wait.  Yes you can.  [It sucks, but it’s doable]

Sadly, I woke back up before noon and had no success napping the rest of the day.  And then back to night shift I went…

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I’m not even sure what meal I’d call this since timing is irrelevant in zombie-night-shift-land.  This combo is a staple for me – carrots, seitan, quinoa, and Bragg’s liquid aminos.  I rarely take pics of it anymore because it’s such a basic meal, but I love it immensely. 

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I also love these caramel dark chocolate almond clusters immensely.  And since they cost FAR too much for the rate I’m downing them (is a box not a single serving?), I’m going to have to learn to make them myself.

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I don’t think it’s overly complicated.  I don’t know if you can mess up chocolate and nuts.  And even if you do, the “mess up” will probably be delicious too. 

Super random question: When you buy a new product, what do you think is the most important thing that determines if you purchase it or not?  Does the cute package catch your eye?  Do you put the nutritional info first?  Are you more likely to buy from recognizable brands (that you’ve gotten other items from) before other lesser known ones?

I used to think that the cuter the package, the more likely I was to buy something.  But nowadays it’s an item’s price and ingredients that dictate what goes in my cart.

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After our picnic by the Eiffel Tower, we geared up for a post-lunch workout.  And by that I mean a session on France’s most scenic stairmaster.  The line to walk is way shorter than the line to go up by lift, plus, the stairs weren’t all that bad!  We learned interesting facts at each level, a new addition to the climb, which Laura and I appreciated since I accidentally grabbed the informational brochure in Greek/Italian.

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Seriously, I couldn’t have picked a worse one to try and decipher.  I told Laura it was practice for the next leg of her journey…nothing like renting a car to drive through a country with characters as letters.  Glad I’ll be far far away from that.

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So up we climbed!

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After reaching the first level, we stopped to take photos and do a few laps.  There’s a cafe there now, which I definitely don’t remember from the last time I went up.  Pretty cute.  The prices weren’t as insane as you may have expected.  They reserve those for the restaurant at the top, 58 Tour Eiffel.  The main courses on that menu start at the ever reasonable price of 73 Euro.  I’m pretty sure it’s where Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes.  So clearly you have to be on the richer side to eat there.  Anyway.

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Several selfies later, we finally began the next climb.

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The trek to the second level offered the same educational exercise.  Did you know other countries have imitated the Tower in numerous ways?  Oui!  Oui!

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More photos from an even higher vantage point.  This level had all the photos describing what you were looking at, so Laura and I took our time figuring out the lay of the land.  What we learned was that pretty much every single monument was constructed for the World Fair.

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Even the most ridiculously obvious facts came in handy later as we recited them to our friends.  I’m not sure if it made us sound smart or pretentious.

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And then we were off to buy billetes to the tippy top.  It took a few minutes (ok, more) for us to figure out where and how to get these tickets.  The level was packed with people and we did a full lap before discovering we were directly next to it at the start of the search (typical).  Once we got in line, it was a fairly short wait.  It helped that four different Asian tour groups had to leave the line after getting to the front and realizing you were already supposed to have purchased your lift tickets.  I will refrain from saying something rude here because I could easily see Laura and I doing the same thing.  Maybe if there were more signs…not in French…haha.  Kidding.  Of course any reasonably intelligent person could figure it out.  We are just on the cusp of that group of people.

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At the top we did another lap, trying to see Roland Garros and the further edges of Paris.  And Laura risked her camera’s life to do this…

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[Do not try this at home]

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Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…

And then we headed back down.  Down down down.  Oddly, the descent seemed longer, even though it wasn’t nearly as arduous as the climb up.

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Back on land, we headed to the Arc de Triomphe.  It was as if we were trying to tackle Paris in a single day!  Really we were just doing research for our next few days (more on the 2 day passes we bought later).

We only spent a second there because by then it was 5:15 and we had to be back to meet the rest of our group at 6 at the hotel.  As a former New Yorker, I should have known better, but I grossly underestimated the subway situation during rush hour.  I’d liken our position to sardines.  Smelly and smooshed.

We strained our ears to make out the announced names of the stops, but what I discovered about French is the following.  Words sound a LOT different than they look written out.  Add in the accent…aaaand the announcements were basically pointless.

As soon as we saw St. Michel we got off and walked the rest of the way.  It was 6:45 by the time we arrived, gasping for air, hoping they were still waiting for us.  Punctuality fail.

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Now a group of five, we went to get our two-day museum passes so we’d be ready to rock the next day.  We picked them up at the Louvre, which was the only place open at the time (but I think most museums sell them during normal daytime hours).  They cost 35 Euro and were good for almost every touristy thing you’d want to do in central Paris (and even a few things on the outskirts of town).

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Next thing on the agenda was dinner.  We walked back to the Latin Quarter for some strolling.

As a group, it’s much harder to pick places that accommodate everyone’s dietary needs.  It’s just simple math.  The more opinions you add in to the mix, the more difficult it becomes to please everyone’s palate.  Even people who don’t have actual restrictions (meat, dairy, gluten, whatever) still have cravings that they want to honor (not to mention foods they definitely don’t feel in the mood to eat either).  And thus began the process…

To-go vs. dine in options
Outside vs. inside eating
French vs. non-French

And so it continued…

For the record, three of the five of us were unable to eat dairy (although Ethel seemed to ignore this for most of the trip, so I’m not really sure about how strong of an intolerance hers is).  Alene and Ashley were the easiest to appease, as they were willing to eat whatever.  By contrast, I was the most limited.

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In the end, we kinda settled on the idea of a gyro type of place.  The first one we went to didn’t have falafel, so we moved onto the next which did.

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We got a table in the back and ordered.  I (attempted to) order a falafel gyro without tzatziki sauce and extra salsa.  The rest of the girls got meat gyros (without tzatziki for the other lactose intolerant folk).

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When my plate arrived, I was surprised because there were fries in it.  Not the end of the world.  I picked almost all of them out and then dug in (fried foods are rarely a good idea for my GI tract, especially in a foreign setting).  Holy hell the salsa was hot!  My mouth was on fire.  In order to preserve my taste buds, I scraped off as much of the salsa as I could and forged ahead.  A few bites in I tasted the falafel and immediately noted the presence of cheese.  In the ball.  Weird?  I went back and forth in my head trying to decide if I should simply ignore this and eat the gyro anyway or not.  I decided to simply remove the falafel and continue eating the gyro – now with just lettuce and tomato.  My plate looked ridiculous.  With the fries, salsa, and falafel on the side, there was more removed from the gyro than in it!  I had to say something.  As much as it pained me to take issue with a French cook (is there anything worse in life?), I deserved to eat something that I wanted.  And this was not it.

This was where the night started to unravel.

[For entertainment purposes, the rest of this post has been both exaggerated and edited.  If you are going to leave a comment telling me I’m the reason the French hate Americans, don’t waste your breath.  I agree and I am equally as embarrassed by the entire affair.  So please don’t get all up in ma biz over it.  M’kay?  We all have times in our life that we aren’t proud of.  I’m merely sharing this story because it’s a part of my travel adventure and I think other vegans can relate.  And to those who will attempt to eat in not-so-veg-friendly locales – maybe you will be able to learn from my experience.  Thanks.]

My goal in taking my plate up to the counter was NOT to start WWIII with the French.  However, my approach was greatly stunted by my inability to speak the language.

“Fromage?” I said, pointing to the falafel.
“No.” the man responded.

Hm.  Interesting.  [FYI, one worded questions don’t exactly say I’m-cool-with-your-style-of-cooking-but-just-don’t-want-to-spend-the-night-on-the-toilet]

I thought how to proceed tactfully (then pushed it aside and repeated again) “Fromage?”

This time he (rightfully so) looked at me like I was a lunatic and maintained his stance that there wasn’t cheese in the falafel.  Certain he was wrong, I ignored his response and asked if they made a different falafel without cheese.  Or at least, that’s what I wanted to ask.  I’m sure my sentence actually translated to “blah blah blah cheese, blah blah blah.”   However, my tone most clearly translated “hey ass hole, why are you trying to murder me with dairy.”

At this point, homeboy was over my cheese questions and simply decided to walk away.  As I stood at the counter with my destroyed meal and look of confused devastation, I began to get a bit upset.

I was SO determined to not turn into the asshole American (but damn was it hard).  At that point a girl ordering (who seemed to be a regular customer based on her knowledge of the menu) was kind enough to inform me that there was cheese in the falafel.  And she spoke French.  Lightbulb!  I shall use her to assist me, I thought.

Five minutes later, she was gone, and I had made zero progress in my effort to get a vegan gyro.

I retreated to the table and decided to make the bread basket (and beer) my dinner.

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The girls weren’t having that though.  Ethel encouraged me to stand up for myself, and damn it, I wanted a friggin’ meal!  I asked the server for a menu to reorder something different.

Translation book in hand, I approached out server and said in my best French accent “I would like a salad.”  Please note, it took me a solid ten minutes to put this sentence together, 8 minutes of which were spent trying to find the word for salad in the translation book (which is simply “salade” in case you were wondering).

He told me he was the busboy and I should go to the counter.  [Note: he said none of that, but I guessed that was what he meant because he actually ignored me altogether]

Friggin’ great.  Those dudes HATED me.  I stood there unacknowledged for ten more minutes, as they all spoke in French around me (most definitely about me), before I finally butted into their conversation to repeat my most amazing salad sentence (can you tell how proud I am of my mastery of the French language).  I think I added in hand gestures too, because at this point I was already the American idiot, why not just complete the stereotype?

Later on, I got my salad.

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The rest of the girls were finished with their meals at this point (obviously, since it had been almost an hour just to order mine), but I still couldn’t start mine because I had no utensils.

Get the book out!  How do you say fork!?

Ethel bursts into laughter and shouts FOR-SHIT across the restaurant.  I’m actually pretty surprised we hadn’t been kicked out at this point.  We didn’t believe her, and passed the book around the table as, one by one, we all repeated the word for fork, fourchette.  Can you even imagine?  I would bet my last Euro that nobody more obnoxious ever set foot in that restaurant.
Flagging down the busboy was another group activity, which also took far longer than it should have.  Ethel asked for a fork, but when his response was only a puzzled look, I turned to the most primitive (although highly effective) method of miming.  If you thought the worst had come and gone, now you know the truth.  Acting out the process of putting food in your mouth with imaginary utensils is truly rock bottom.

We were repaid for this ludicrous behavior.  Not only did the busboy continue to ignore us, but he then brought a fork to the table next to ours.  They received the utensils with confused expressions since they were already eating (with silverware).

Ethel took maters into her own hands and went to the counter and got the damn fourchette herself.

I’m not even going to bother explaining how traumatic this restaurant experience was.  I was both mortified and frustrated.  I hate being that girl.  I was trying my best to not be that girl.  And yet, I was most certainly that girl.  You win some, you lose some.

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On the way home, we finished planning out the next day (which was interrupted at the restaurant due to all the hype around the fromage falafel and for-shit).  We had an exciting day trip to Versailles on the agenda and we all agree that after the night we just had, there was no place to go but up.  [Foreshadowing]

When you are brought something different from what you ordered, what do you do?  Whether you’ve sent a dish back or eaten it incorrectly prepared, have you ever regretted your decision or reaction? 

I know Gena recently touched on a similar topic, so I’m interested to hear any horror stories and how people handled them.

True Food Kitchen

A few months ago my parents went to this restaurant in Newport Beach.  And when they told me about it, I was actually kinda jealous…until I found out a Santa Monica location was coming soon.  Hooray! 

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Kyle and I went to celebrate him being done with finals.  One year down!  Since the weather was gorgeous, we walked to Santa Monica Place.

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The menu has a variety of options, from vegan to meat courses.  They even indicate which items are vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free to assist the diner.  Also, the staff is super knowledgeable about why certain dishes aren’t vegan (the panang curry has shrimp paste that can’t be left out).  And they are able to help you make certain non-vegan dishes animal-free…which is what I did.

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Tuscan Kale Salad made vegan.  But first we had shared some starters.

Kyle and I both brought our appetites, so we got two different appetizers.

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This is the Herb Hummus with pita bread, tomato, onion & feta.  It was savory and delicious.  I navigated my way around the feta and olives, but hogged all the tomato and cucumber which were marinated to perfection. 

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The second app we chose was the Shiitake & Tofu Lettuce Cups with ginger, cashew, and toasted garlic. 

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If you’re familiar with P.F. Chang’s version of this dish, you know taste-wise what we’re dealing with.  Now imagine all that flavor, but with fresh, local produce.  It was stellar.  All of it.  Even the lettuce was amazing.  I could easily order twenty-four plates of these as my entree. 

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Pretty cool that we could watch them in the kitchen the entire time. 

Foodie that I am, I scoped out the menu before we arrived.  But, true to myself, I changed my order six more times before finally choosing the Tuscan Kale Salad.  Despite the fact that there were several vegan items on the menu, the kale caught my eye.  I asked if they could leave the parmesan off and add tofu for some extra oomph.  They were perfectly happy to oblige and voila!

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Look at this beauty!!

The salad was topped with a yummy lemon based dressing and breadcrumbs.  So good.  Also, there was quite a bit of tofu, which was totally awesome. 

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Kyle got the Roasted Chicken with basmati rice, English peas, and Indian spices. 

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He moaned (literally moaned) out loud the entire time he was eating it and swore it was the best chicken he has ever had.  And he repeated this to me multiple times.  Aside from the perfect preparation of the chicken, he couldn’t get over how flavorful the rice was.  He thinks the spices were chimichurri, which calls to mind one of the dishes I miss most from NYC

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Kyle’s beer was from Weed, a tiny town we passed on our I-5 drive up to P-town.  I tried a sip and loved it.  I’m picky with my beers, and this had delish flavors with no bitter aftertaste. 

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As you can see, the restaurant is quite spacious.  I love the open feel with the views of the staff prepping the food and the chefs cooking.  It also felt down to earth and casual without feeling cheap.  It is definitely going to be a new favorite spot. 

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What’s especially cool is how much they support local farms and emphasize the produce in their cooking.  On the wall in the back of the restaurant is a list of their favorites, along with the items they purchase from them. 

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Oh, hey there Alana…methinks I’m gonna have to seek out this roasting coffee soon.  All in all, I loved True Food Kitchen.  I’m planning on returning frequently.