Category: On travel


I Am Stuffed: Vegan dining at Café Gratitude

By Midge Raymond,

It’s been years since I’ve been to Café Gratitude, the last time in Berkeley, California, and so when visiting San Diego recently, I was thrilled to learn that this small, plant-based chain has opened a new restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy.

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This brand-new Café Gratitude opened just a couple of weeks before I visited, and it was packed. Yet already things were running smoothly; we were seated quickly, the service was great, and the food was delicious.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Café Gratitude, it’s a bit of a quirky experience. The menu items are affirmations (for example, if you want an eggplant parmesan panini, you order it by saying, “I Am Awesome”). This San Diego location is pretty mellow about this; in Berkeley, we were asked, “What are you grateful for today?” as soon as we were seated, and when I ordered a dish called “I Am Whole,” the server said to me with great joy, “You are whole.” Here in San Diego, the server just took our order and went on his way … so they’ve localized well for this customer base.

We began with “I Am Celebrating,” an order of two collard-wrapped spring rolls filled with daikon and wakame, carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado, pickled vegetables. The rolls were spectacularly flavorful and came with two sauces, sesame wasabi and Thai almond, which added even more flavor.

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We both had wraps as entrees … I was “Glorious” and enjoyed the caesar salad tempeh wrap, which featured blackened jerk tempeh, avocado, romaine, coconut bacon, tomato, capers, brazil nut parmesan, and cashew caesar dressing, all wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. On the side was  mixed greens with goji chipotle vinaigrette.

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My friend was “Extraordinary,” and said her meal was the same: a vegan BLT wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, with coconut bacon, romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and a lovely wild rice summer bean salad on the side.

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There is also a long list of beverages, from wines, beers, and cocktails to juices, elixirs, and smoothies. My friend tried the “I Am Immortal” coffee (a blend of three mushroom powders along with coffee, steamed almond milk, and cinnamon) — warm, earthy, and delicious. I had the vitamin-C shot otherwise known as “I Am Beaming,” a tangy and invigorating blend of orange juice, carrot juice, goji berry, camu camu, astragalus, acerola berry, and amla berry, served in a very tiny glass.

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We were too stuffed for dessert but didn’t want to miss out, so we picked a few items to go. Among them: “I Am Mighty,” a superfood energy bar made of hemp, flax, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds; almonds; goji berries; coconut butter; and cacao nibs. Half dipped in raw chocolate, it’s so decadent I’m glad it’s called a “superfood,” which makes me feel a little better about gobbling it.

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I also took home “I Am Kind,” a rice/quinoa crispy treat drizzled with raw chocolate.

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It’s equally decadent, and not at all fluffy like many crispy rice treats.

I’d highly recommend this light, airy cafe for its fresh, delicious food and abundant choices. Based on its early popularity — as well as our chat with fellow diners who work in the neighborhood and are on a mission to try everything on the menu — reservations might be a good idea. And while this location may not have quite the same vibe as Berkeley, you’ll still likely be grateful for having been here.

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Save the date: Ashland Book & Author Festival

By Midge Raymond,

Save the date, readers & writers!

The Ashland Book & Author Festival will take place at Southern Oregon University’s fabulous Hannon Library on Saturday, October 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Events include readings, workshops, panels, a book fair, children’s events — and raffles and drawings to win great prizes (i.e., books!).

Among the highlights…
 
At 11 a.m…
The SOU Women’s Resource Center and Alma Rosa Alvarez, Amanda Singh Bans, Marianne Golding, and Precious Yamaguchi present The Worlds of Women, a panel discussion exploring women’s narratives from multicultural perspectives.

Tod Davies presents Truths of Imagination: The Importance of Story.

The Southern Oregon Literary Alliance will make its debut appearance in the Rogue Valley literary scene. In this presentation, SOLA members will introduce the organization, take questions and suggestions from the community, and invite participation in a raffle to win books from local publishers.
 
At 11:30 a.m…

I’m presenting Writing About Place: A Journey for Readers & Writers, featuring readings and writing tips for turning journeys into compelling stories.

Evan Morgan Williams presents Publishing Your Story Collection with a Small Press, his strategy and tactics for winning a small-press book prize.

 

At 12:30 p.m….
Molly Tinsley presents Behind the Waterfall/Behind the Scenes, a reading from her debut middle-grade novel featuring twins, along with a talk about its crafting in consultation with twins.

The panel discussion Killer Crime includes Carol Beers, Sharon Dean, Michael Niemann, Clive Rosengren, and Tim Wohlforth.

 

At 1 p.m….

John Yunker presents Environmental Activism in Fiction — a reading from his novel The Tourist Trail, with a question-and -nswer session about environmental fiction in the age of climate change.

Ed Battistella presents Sorry About That, a short reading and question-and-answer session on Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology, and a preview of new material in the paperback edition.

 

At 2 p.m….
Local indie publishers present Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Publishing But Were Afraid To Ask (So Ask!). Speakers include Tod Davies, Midge Raymond, Molly Tinsley, and John Yunker. Moderated by Ed Battistella.

Michael Niemann presents Legitimate Business, a short reading and a discussion of gun smuggling.

 

Check out the full schedule for more event listings — and don’t forget to stop by to see us at the Southern Oregon Literary Alliance booth!

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Writing Conferences: A guest post by Jennifer Caloyeras

By Midge Raymond,

This guest post is courtesy of Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras, whose blog you can follow on her website. Enjoy!

What’s in it for you at a writing conference?

Each time I peruse the latest edition of Poets & Writers magazine, I see the endless amount of writing conferences offered across the globe, which got me thinking: Why should writers attend writing conferences?

I’ve attended a handful of these conferences (later this week, I’ll be at the SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – annual conference in Los Angeles), and I’ve compiled a list of benefits these conferences have to offer both seasoned writers as well as those just starting out.

What you can gain by attending a writing conference:

1. Networking: Conferences boast hundreds to thousands of attendees, depending on the type. Either way, you meet tons of people. You’ll find writers working in a similar genre, in a similar city, or perhaps you’ll meet your next writing group member!

2. Access: Most writing conferences have established speakers who are active members in the publishing world. Writers, agents, and publishers are all in attendance. Inevitably, one of the questions that is always asked by someone in the audience is, “Can I send you my query?” And I have to say, many agents and publishers will give you something specific to write in the subject line of an email to gain direct access to them so that you can forward them a query letter and they’ll connect it to your attendance at a specific conference.

3. Exposure: Most conferences have a designated time when writers can sell their work to the other conference attendees. If you’re a published writer, this is a great time to practice your sales pitch as well as answer questions about the writing process. And if you’re just starting out, you can walk around and speak with scores of other writers and ask them questions about their publishing experience and their books.

4. They’re valuable: The speakers at conferences have all prepared something very specific to talk to you about, such as character development, how to land an agent, how Excel can be used to track your submissions, and how to book gigs at your local library. There is always more to learn, and there are always new ways to reach out to readers. I keep all my notes from these various conferences and reference them often.

5. They’re fun! There’s plenty of time to socialize with other writers, and lots of conferences will have an evening out where you can leave the notebooks at home and just have a night of fun!

So, how do you pick a writing conference that’s right for you?

Check out the back pages of Poets & Writers magazine.

Go to New Pages for a list of upcoming conferences by state.

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Vegan shopping in Portland, Oregon

By Midge Raymond,

Tell any vegan you’re headed to Portland, and you’ll be asked, “Are you going to the vegan strip mall?”

But of course.

This little strip mall is home to Sweetpea Baking Co., a divine vegan bakery with a large seating area and a wonderful selection of pastries (you can also special-order cakes (including wedding cakes), pies, cupcakes, and cheesecakes).

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We got a chocolate chip cookie, which was nice though not outstanding (it was a bit dry), and a chocolate croissant, which was dry and had so little chocolate I thought we’d been given the wrong item.

The almond twist, however, was incredible beyond belief — it was gigantic, melt-in-your-mouth sugary, sweet, buttery, and smothered in icing and crunchy almonds.

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Just a couple doors down, is the vegan grocery Food Fight, which was wonderful to visit in person, since we usually order online.

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It’s a small, regular-looking grocery store, but the beautiful thing is that everything inside is cruelty-free.

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Food Fight has fresh foods and juices, as well as an abundance of dry and prepared foods — and an excellent selection of vegan junk food, from Earth Balance sour-cream-and-onion potato chips to rice-cereal crispy treats to caramel sauce. There’s also a good selection of eco-friendly and vegan household items.

And the vegan message is not just in the food and goods but everywhere in the store.

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There’s a wonderful selection of artisan vegan cheeses, and had we not been traveling we’d probably have purchased at least one of each. (Click here to see some of the options.) Since Food Fight doesn’t ship these perishables, next time we visit Portland, we’ll be sure to bring a cooler and head straight home.

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Don’t miss this vegan strip mall next time you’re in Portland!

  Category: On travel, Vegan
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Vegan dining in Ashland

By Midge Raymond,

Updated! Louie’s is more vegan friendly than ever! Below this original article, check out what’s new at Louie’s … 

We love dining out in Ashland, though as vegans it can be tricky, even in this progressive little town. Yet this afternoon we rediscovered Louie’s, with its veg-friendly new menu and an organic-mint mojito (it was five o’clock somewhere).

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We sat in a shady spot by the creek, which was lovely even on a 90+ degree afternoon, and enjoyed Thai Peanut Wraps, with both regular fries and sweet-potato wafflettes. Other vegetarian- and vegan-friendly items (which we’ll be returning soon to try) include the rest of the artisan wraps (all of which can be made veg or vegan), the gourmet sandwiches (again, all of which can be made with organic tofu), and the black-bean chili (we’ll wait until autumn for this one).

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Louie’s is right on the Plaza, and by the time we left, its air-conditioned bar and restaurant was packed and overflowing. Even on such on a hot day, the creekside seating was lovely and filling to capacity as well.

Those who love sports are likely already very familiar with Louie’s, which lately has been a major hub for World Cup viewers. Tuesday night is Trivia Night and Wednesday is Bingo Night (with half-priced beverages).

But we’re especially thrilled to see Louie’s making its menu such a veg-friendly one…between these delicious offerings and and the mojitos, you’ll know where to find us when we’re not at Ashland Creek Press HQ.

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May 2017 update: Louie’s has always been one of the most veg-friendly restaurants in town, and on our most recent visit we were delighted to see these colorful menus that make browsing and ordering so much easier.

Not only does Louie’s have an extensive vegetarian menu but they offer a “vegan cheat sheet” as well.

We loved this, as it not only makes clear what items can be easily be made vegan, but it makes it a lot easier to ask; thanks to this cheat sheet, the staff knows exactly what to expect, and you don’t have to feel as if you’re asking too much by excluding whatever non-vegan item might be in a vegetarian dish.

In fact, thanks to this ingenious cheat sheet, I was inspired to sample something new: the Mediterranean wrap (which I may not have ordered in the past for fear of having to ask to hold the feta cheese and the pesto), and it was delicious. We also had the Thai tofu canoes, and of course the kettle chips and fries are delicious staples here.

We look forward to returning to go through the entire vegan cheat sheet and try every last dish. It is easy to see why Louie’s is always packed with happy people…it’s one of those rare and wonderful restaurants that considers its customer’s needs and meets them.