Vida Vegan Con 2013: Day One

As I sit here, trying to organize my thoughts, memories, and impressions of the last week of my life, I realize that one can only do his or her best to translate a surreal experience into simple words on a screen. The best way to really understand what it was like to escape into a world of instant connection with hundreds of fellow vegans from across the world would be to be there - and so I will do my best to take you out of your seats and into this world, firsthand.

The trip will be separated into different posts:
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - Day One
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - Day Two
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - Day Three
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - Day Four
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - Day Five
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - Day Six
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - The Swag
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - The Panels
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - The People
Vida Vegan Con 2013 - The Takeaway

Let’s start with Day One of Vida Vegan Con 2013!

My plane arrived around 1pm, local time. That’s about 10-11 hours of traveling from little old Akron, Ohio... and the whole trip I kept thinking “Um, has this day really come?” Once the plane landed I was whisked away by one of my hosts for the week and then it really began to sink in - I’ve arrived.

I met the lovely Portland local, Dill, during the last conference and kept in touch in the following months via Facebook. She had offered an extra room in her house for VVC-goers to stay and I jumped at the opportunity. Other houseguests for the week were Brittany, whom I had also connected with at the last conference and her partner, Simar (both of Vegans Don’t Bite). Dill’s partner, Nick, graciously picked me up from the airport and took me to Blossoming Lotus for my first official meal of the trip.

I chose the Masala Bowl: spicy chickpea masala over brown rice with roasted root vegetables, ginger crema, steamed greens, and cilantro mint chutney. And a cup of hot coconut chai to warm me up while I watched the rain. This bowl was amazing. Of course, chana masala is one of my biggest weaknesses... but this bowl really had a lot of depth to it - the creaminess of the two sauces cut some of the heat and the heartiness of the root veggies and slight bitterness of the greens reminded me that I was treating my body right.

From there I unpacked my stuff for the week at the house and was dropped off downtown for some solo exploration. Knowing that, once the conference officially began, there would be endless social engagements and outings - about which I was definitely pumped! - I still wanted to allow myself some time for quietly soaking in the city. The first stop was Powell’s Books.

This place is truly nerd heaven. In a world inundated with social media and moving pictures, walking into a multi-floor, multi-block book store is something almost spiritual. Getting back to basics. Powell’s divides its offerings into rooms based on interest, all of which had to be explored! I remember spending a lot of time in the feminism and vegan cookbook section (which were still visited!), so I made sure to check out as much of the stores as possible, including the art and rare book floor. I ended up spending a few hours here, selecting a book for myself, some souvenirs, and sitting in the coffee shop reading from my Kindle. Definitely recommended to any Portland visitor - a must-see.

Becoming hungry once more, I walked through the drizzle to Veggie Grill - only having opened up in Portland in the last year or so. There aren’t any VG’s in my neck of the woods and the menu has lead to many drool-sessions as I planned my trip... simply had to go there!

Trying to stay gluten-free during the trip was, as I knew from the get-go, a bit of a challenge. Not because there weren’t many gf options on the menus I encountered, yet because the gf lifestyle is still pretty new to me and I didn’t want to be limited in what I could eat on my all-vegan, stomach-expanding food tour of Portland. So, I did include some gluten dishes here and there. 

At Veggie Grill I ordered the “crab” cake (not gf) with creamy tartar sauce and a side of the quinoa pasta mac-n-cheese (gf sans breadcrumbs). The crab cake was fabulous - rightfully seafoody-tasting and complimented well by the tangy tartar sauce. The mac? Um, I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but this is the best g.d. vegan mac I have ever had.  Granted, I do have a soft spot for Chreese with added cheddar-style Daiya, but... wow. Just wow! Going to dream about this mac for a long time.

Oh! And a sample of the rich, dark-chocolatey pudding in the background. Nom.

After my meal I was starting to feel the effects of my long day of traveling. I stopped by Ground Kontrol, an arcade serving alcohol and a small bar food menu. Sipped a hard cider while reading some more and then headed back home to turn in for the night.

Next post: vegan brunch, milkshakes, and reuniting with old friends at the unofficial pre-conference meet & greet!

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