What a day! Not only filled with quality time with friends, but also brimming with delicious, vegan and raw foods. I’m one lucky traveler.
If you haven’t been tuning in in the last few days, I’m here in New Orleans, which is home not only to my bestie, Chloe, but also to a growing number of vegan friendly restaurants! As I mentioned yesterday, my experience as a New Orleanian tourist has changed dramatically in the last few years. Whereas Whole Foods once seemed to be my only reliable food source in town, I’m now aware of countless vegan dining options, from Middle Eastern and Korean food to superfood-inspired raw bars. Welcome to life in 2012, folks: the era of a shifting food zeitgeist.
This morning started very much like a morning at home: I woke up, and as Chloe made some vegetable juice, I had a pre-workout snack of raw energy balls and some peanut butter. Then it was off for a run in Audobon Park—one of my favorite places to jog! I’m sure you can see why:
Southern beauty at its finest. I’ll admit it: I’m not really an outdoor exercise person. I know that this will strike indignation and horror into the hearts of my runner friends, but seriously, I like the convenience, neat timing, and options afforded by gym workouts. Sorry! That said, I do love outdoor runs when I travel, if only because it’s a great way to see new cities. Audobon Park also has little workout stations throughout the course, so I stopped at nearly all of them to do some leg lifts, sit ups, jumps, and pull ups. Except I didn’t actually do the pull ups. I’m not superwoman, folks.
I jogged the loop leisurely just over twice—about four miles—which, along with some post-run squats and lunges, was a lovely workout in the sun. Then it was home for breakfast with Chloe, who had just finished some weight training herself. My morning meal? Chloe’s fantastic ginger orange chia seed pudding, made with agave rather than honey, along with a sliced banana and a bunch of berries. On the side, I had some Vega Shake N’ Go in the chocolate flavor. Funny that Chloe recently purchased it without realizing it was Brendan’s brand!
A few hours later, it was time for lunch. Chloe suggested we hit up Superfoods Bar, one of New Orleans’ only (perhaps the only?) dedicated raw, vegan restaurants! One look at the menu, and I was sold. Check it out, and you’ll see why: smoothies, soups, kale wraps, and salads galore, not to mention hard-to-find ingredients like young coconut meat and blue-green algaes.
When we arrived at the bar, we were greeted by the very amiable chef, Amy, who walked us through the day’s options. We were sorry that the full menu wasn’t available, but I was pretty excited about the options that were. I decided to order kale wraps with cashew cheese, avocado, and carrot stuffing, along with a salad of beets, chard, kale, coconut “bacon,” cherry tomatoes, and a lemon dressing. It was fun to watch Amy prep the food!
That there in the front is the bar’s fantastic, house-made graw-nola, featuring hemp seeds and cinnamon overtones. I know, because I snacked on some as we waited!
It’s always fun to watch raw food prep, as I know the rhythms and movements so very well. It was also nice to hear Amy’s story, which is much like mine. She didn’t really set out to be a raw foodie, but when she got the job at Superfoods bar, she started eating what she was making, and felt so fantastic she made life changes. Some of the best raw foods stories happen precisely like that: organically and unexpectedly. I should know—that was me, only a few years ago!
Kale wraps in action:
Chloe also ordered the wraps, but she ordered them along with a pineapple, kale, and vegan protein smoothie. It was a little on the icy side (in hindsight, one of the coconut shakes would have been better), but we both thought it was tasty and that the green graw-nola on top was fantastic.
For my part, I really enjoyed my meal. I wish there had been more veggies in the wraps, but they were light, bright, and tasty. And the salad was also very good.
I’ll definitely return to Superfoods Bar on my next trip! I’m excited to try other menu items.
Not long after lunch, I strolled along Magazine St. before meeting up with my friend Nat for coffee.
Along the way, I dipped into Velvet coffee shop to examine the offerings and scope it out as a potential meet up spot.
I became highly distracted when my eyes fell upon this!
Vegan, gluten free pop tarts! I was shocked. Not at the idea of a vegan pop tart, because those exist, but because they were so readily and randomly available at this corner coffee haunt. In my many years as a vegan, I’ve sort of grown accustomed to never having baked goods at coffee shops, because they’re rarely ever made without eggs, milk, or butter. Nowadays, it’s increasingly likely that I can stroll into a small bakery/coffeehouse like this one, and be confronted with hot, freshly baked, and cruelty-free pastries. Velvet even features vegan scones!
In addition to all of this, the environment is cozy, congenial, and the coffee smells amazing. Velvet is a great find, and it’s also on the “must return to” list.
Not long after this, I met up with Nat a little further up scenic Magazine street:
Nat and I became friends when he was working at The Paris Review and I was working at FSG. He’s a wonderful journalist and writer, and I’m so excited for his next work of fiction, which will ironically be an FSG book (bummer that I can’t be in house to watch it all happen!). It was so good to catch up today, and compare notes on our new lives outside of the NYC publishing and media bubble.
For coffee, we went to Hey! Café.
Once again, I wasn’t expecting vegan options. But vegan options were exactly what I got! Organic soymilk for all coffee drinks, and look at this:
That is Daiya grilled cheese, people!
And look at this:
Earth balance, tofutti, and hummus as bagel toppers. Goodness! It seems that, everywhere I turned today, a wealth of vegan options were waiting for me as if I were in my own kitchen. I already had a pop tart in my bag, though, so I opted for a simple espresso with a dollop of steamed organic soymilk:
Perfect afternoon treat.
Changing careers is a funny thing. While most of my publishing friends supported the post-bacc decision, a few simply didn’t get why I’d want to leave the written word for the lab coat—it was too different, too unexpected, too difficult to do at my age. A few even seemed hurt or confused by my choice. Nat was one of the friends who seemed to understand what I was doing instantly—not surprising, given that he has always applauded my ambitions and pursuits. I can’t imagine a more supportive friend. And I am likewise always so impressed with his dedicated and creative career as a writer. It was so, so good to catch up!
Soon enough, it was time to head back to Chloe’s for some dinner. We had plans to got to Wandering Buddha—an all vegan Korean restaurant—but we were a little tired and not totally in the mood to go out. Instead, we prepped dinner at home using our leftovers, and saved a little cash while we were at it. Totally the right call. We even managed not to watch a horror movie. For us, this is a major accomplishment (Chloe and I have probably seen almost ever thriller, suspense, and horror movie made in the last decade.)
Plus, staying home gave us a little more time to play with Frankie, Chloe’s new companion!
For dessert, I had some of my pop tart. It was very tasty–the pastry was deceptively authentic, and the filling was orange marmalade. Nice work, Velvet!
This trip has truly reminded me of how far restaurant culture has come in terms of providing vegan-friendly options for travelers and locals alike. Daiya, hummus, soymilk, vegan pastries—these items are now fully represented on menus all over the country. In the past, I simply took a philosophical approach to travel as a vegan, and accepted its challenges. Even when I was eating mostly Larabars and fruit and ho-hum salads, I accepted that travel is truly about the experiences you accumulate, the people you see and meet, the things you do. A few lackluster meals never ruined my good time.
That said, for most people, food is also a big part of the travel experience. It’s wonderful to be able to travel and also experience a wealth of interesting and tasty dishes. And while travel challenges never deterred me from sticking to my veganism, I’m sure that our changing restaurant culture is making veganism feel a lot more accessible to a lot more people. So, aspiring vegans, take note: you will not have to choose between rich travel experiences and maintaining a compassionate lifestyle. Today is the day to take the vegan plunge!
See you back here tomorrow with my final NOLA recap!