I'm back from beautiful Newport Beach.
We stayed in a happy beach cottage with a raspberry door. It was literally 15 steps from the sand.
We spent all weekend biking until the sidewalks ran into the ocean.
We showered outside, which was excellent. I never want to shower inside again.
We spent hours in the ocean playing in the crashing waves, our hair tangled with salt, our bodies sunburnt and exhausted.
All that PLUS gorgeous Viking appliances!
As far as food goes, mostly we grazed on nuts, toast piled with avocado and tomato, salad, quinoa mixed with green olives and dates.
The first day we biked down the beach, took the ferry to Balboa Island and rode around there, came back and stopped for dinner at a small taco shack on our way home. My friend Leslie told the owner that I don't eat any animal products. "Oh, vegan!" the owner said. We asked if there was a word for vegan in Spanish. The woman shook her head sadly. "No crema, no queso," she said.
Before ordering I wanted to make sure the beans weren't cooked with lard. The woman said, "No! No lard. We make healthy food. No animal products. We don't want to kill people."
I had veggie enchiladas filled with peppers, spinach and mushrooms, with pinto beans, rice and a handful of chips. It was satisfying beach food.
The next night we stopped at A La Carte, a place that looked really promising. We were all on our bikes looking at the menu when the manager poked his head out the door and asked if we had any questions. When I asked if he had anything for vegans, he ushered me inside and introduced me to the chef/owner. Together we went through the entire menu together.
They told me about all their vegan friends and the dishes their friends love most. There were a number of really tasty-sounding options: Curried red lentils and rice, green salad, Korean tofu, spicy Thai noodles ... All vegan. I quizzed them on everything a second time. "No fish sauce No chicken broth? No cream? No butter? No dairy?"
"You must try the polenta," the chef urged. It sounded delicious -- soft polenta layered with eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini with a breadcrumb topping. But I said I was thinking about a salad and noodles instead. "Oh, the polenta is so good," the owner said. "You'll love it."
Well, how could I refuse? I ordered the polenta.
I didn't make it past the first bite before I tasted cheese. I asked the waiter if there was dairy in my meal. He got the chef.
"Oh, there's no cheese," she said, smiling. "I just use a lot of cream and butter to mimic cheese."
They gave me some veggies and noodles while I waited for something else.
It was OK. And then I got the tempeh burger.
Actually, the food was probably good, but the polenta tainted everything for me. They could have trotted out my very favorite foods and it still would have been difficult to forget how they disrespected me.
It was depressing. We had a contract of trust, and they broke it. It was like having a boyfriend cheat on me. I kept going over the conversation in my head: Did we not communicate? Why did this happen? Where did it go wrong?
However, that's the worst thing that happened during an otherwise glorious, relaxing weekend at the beach -- which makes me a very lucky girl indeed.