Bird and Belle's Adventures in Marriage

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List 5: Best Food Experiences During Our Holiday Travels

Confession: I am ripping this concept off from a guy I went to college with. Roach keeps a “List 5” blog where he lists five of a topic and then invites folks to leave comments listing their five. Although in a slight state of neglect, I love his blog concept and am going to gank (yes, I used “gank” in a sentence) the idea to use occasionally on Bird and Belle’s Excellent Adventures in Marriage. Emulation is the No. 1 form of flattery, right???

No. 1: Chickpea Picatta

Chickpea Picatta

Jay and I always cook at least one meal for our hosts when traveling. This can be tricky, though, when you have a diet like mine and are staying with a family consisting of omnivores with gourmet palates as was the case in San Fran. The meal made would require a big flavor, simple preparation, and be nutritious and filling. I have fond memories of a woman making Chicken Picatta during my meat-eating days. It was so delicious that I immediately flagged the vegan version in Appetite for Reduction as a prime candidate for our hosts.  Jay and I tested the recipe before leaving and were quite impressed. So savory, so delicious, so everything an omnivore would want! I prepared this on our first full day in San Fran and Jay made pork tenderloin as a safety net. We served the Picatta over mashed potatoes on a bed of spicy raw arugula. I am pleased to report that not only did they like it, they had seconds, and then we used the left over portion for breakfast. In three days there was no more Picatta, and still some tenderloin!

No. 2: Tony Tutto’s Pizza

Vegan Pizza

Once you give up cheese pizza is not the same. I know, I know, all the hardcore vegans scoff at this and say pizza is so much MORE without the dairy topping, but I just can’t get on board. In my experience, vegan pizza has to be overloaded with toppings to create enough flavor and even then it lacks the richness that cheese creates. I’m pretty die-hard about my lifestyle, but I still miss cheese pizza.

For lunch our San Francisco hosts took us to Tony Tutto’s Pizza which features an equal number of cheese and vegan pizza options. I selected the puttanesca with tomato sauce, mixed olives, capers, fresh garlic, Calabrian chili oil, oregano and basil and then sat at my table, sipping fancy beer and watched as Tony himself tossed the artisan crust and later served us the piping hot pies. I looked at my pizza – there were NOT a lot of toppings on this cheese free-creation. Sigh. Another bland pizza w/o cheese. I picked up a slice, took a bite and was surprised to find a pizza that was brimming with flavor. It seems Tony had found the solution to bland, cheese-free pizza – a quality sauce with minimal powerful ingredients. I was shocked and delighted!

No. 3: The Chutney Mistake-Turned-Great

As is becoming our tradition, Jay and I again prepared the bulk of Christmas dinner for our hosts. The menu consisted of a roasted rack of lamb seasoned with fresh garlic and lavender salt (prepared by M.A.), marinated roasted tempeh (terribly disappointing), roasted beet chutney to top the meat and tempeh, vegan wild rice with sautéed oyster mushrooms, and roasted radishes and Brussels sprouts. Originally the chutney recipe called for beets, red onions and green apples to be roasted and puréed with soaked currents and seasonings. I roasted the goodies, then puréed and completely forgot about the other seasonings and currents until I was putting the beautiful red stuff on the dining table. Blast! Actually, it was the best mistake I had ever made as the currents would have made this chutney way to sweet for our liking. Instead it was so amazingly rich and flavorful that we all ate it as a side dish instead of a chutney. A Very Merry Christmas Accident, indeed.

No. 4: Flying Apron Bakery

The most amazing Ginger Wheel on earth.

Bakeries in the south are not the place for me. Even when they offer a dense, dry vegan option it almost always contains nuts. I have accepted this with only moderate whining. Sometimes all a girl wants is one fresh cookie that she does not have to bake herself. You know? Jay did a little research before we left and identified several vegan bakeries in San Fran and Seattle that we could visit. We hit a few of them, and they were good, but none were as good as Flying Apron Bakery in Seattle. Here I found an entire building full of organic, all natural, vegan and gluten-free baked goods that actually looked and smelled delicious. During our three days in Seattle I consumed 3 ginger wheel cookies, one chocolate cupcake and several bites of Jay’s chocolate cake and every single bit was worth the extra calories and fat! So amazingly good!

No. 5: Café Flora

Happy New Year's Lunch From Old Farts Bird and Belle!

Instead we chose to have our posh New Years Eve celebration with a fancy lunch at vegan-friendly Café Flora. Tucked in the Madison Valley neighborhood, Café Flora serves up vegetarian and vegan cuisine with an eye towards sustainability. Meals are prepared with local organic produce and reflect culinary traditions from across the globe. Our lunch was leisurely, the service was superb, we each had a delicious adult beverage and the food was outstanding. This will be the first stop the next time we visit Seattle, for sure!

What were your five best holiday foods?