Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Juice it up

I remember my first time stopping by the juice bar inside Wild Oats.

At the time I had just moved to Cincinnati, and I had never seen a juice bar before. It was just one of those granola hippie things I had heard about but never seen in real life. I scanned the seemingly endless list of juice combinations, and I couldn't find a single thing that sounded even vaguely palatable.

I told the woman at the counter it was my first time.

She suggested something with carrots (ugh!) and ginger (weird!) and beets (ew!). No thank you. Then she had me try a few samples. Everything looked about the same shade of brownish-green, almost the color of moss or mold. I held my nose while I tossed back some shots of juice.

I left with a small glass of orange juice. That's it. Nothing else. Just orange.

Now look at me.

Only a few years have passed since then, and I am insane about juicing. Just about everything in the fridge becomes juice -- green beans, garlic, melon, cabbage, grapefruit, apples, fennel, spinach, parsley. Even that combo of carrots and beets and ginger, which I now love.

There's loads of produce out there, and I can't wait to juice it all.

My typical breakfast of champions now looks like this:

A hefty pile of kale, cucumber, celery, sprouts and broccoli stems.
Breakfast: Before

Within seconds it becomes this:
Breakfast: After

I swear I can feel the vitamins wooshing through my body after I drink it. It's like a million tiny electrical charges -- I call it "cells dancing," for lack of a better way to describe the sensation.

I love waking up to that in the morning.

Sometimes I even make orange juice. Funny that now it's a little bland for my taste.

Okura Japanese restaurant

Ninja pucker martini

Last night I attended a function at Okura Sushi in Palm Springs.

I thought the event would be a casual, buffet style meal, where I would be able to pick up some rice and veggies, so I stupidly didn't call ahead to let the host know I'm vegan.

When I arrived, I found formal place settings with a menu that listed the courses: Oysters, beef carpaccio, conch and scallops.


I pulled the host aside, apologized and explained what I needed.

And then success! My meal ended up as the following:

* A pile of chilled spinach drizzled with a delicious sesame sauce, topped with tomato and radish.
* Miso broth with two squares of fried tofu.
* Grilled vegetables.

Everything was delicious, especially considering that I sprung this on the chef at the last minute. It was also a true test of my veganism, since I used to really love seafood and sushi.

The meal was topped off by a Ninja Pucker cocktail, which started off with the sweet and slightly sour flavors of green apple, then finished with a punch of wasabi. It was fantastic.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chocolatey goodness

rainbow 075

This morning I stopped by Cafe Chocolat, a really cute, hip chocolate place in north Palm Springs.

When the store owner offered me a bite of milk chocolate fudge, I declined and said, "Actually, I'm vegan. But do you think you could help me find some chocolates without dairy?"

He walked around the entire store with me, reading labels and making suggestions. I ended up with the dark spicy Aztec bar from Lake Champlain Chocolates (so zesty!) and a big delicious dark bar from Nirvana Belgian Chocolates, made with blueberries and Acai fruit (antioxidant goodness!).

When I was about to leave, the owner said, "I'm so happy you came in. I've never really taken the time to read the labels before, and now I'll know what to say when other vegans come into the shop."

Hooray for supportive local shops! I'll definitely encourage my friends to go there.

It was an excellent morning. And then the rest of the day was filled with breathtaking rainbows, making a good day even better.

Cafe Chocolat is located at 515 N. Palm Canyon. Call (760) 320-8889.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Beginning

I'm not sure there's any one reason for why I became vegan again.

There were a lot of things pointing me in that direction. A book here, a blog there, a friend or two ... and before I knew it, there I was. Meatless, eggless, cheeseless.

Almost a month has passed already, and it has become something of a grand experiment. In a desert full of steakhouses and sushi joints, is it possible to live a fun, vibrant, happy vegan lifestyle?

We'll see.