Babymoon in Chicago and a Trip to the Iconic Chicago Diner

Last week, I reached the halfway mark of my pregnancy, which coincided perfectly with H’s and my trip to Chicago for our babymoon!
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For those who don’t know, a babymoon is basically a final trip you take with your partner where it’s just the two of you before baby arrives, and it’s a great chance to connect and get excited about the upcoming changes in your lives and relationship. Yeah, it’s kind of trendy, but H and I do love to travel and so we embraced it!

We stayed in the beautiful Swissotel overlooking the Chicago River (thanks, Hotwire!). Our room had a view of Lake Michigan (and some other buildings, obviously). It was amazing!
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I had never been to Chicago before and I have to say, I was blown away by what an incredible city it is.
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We packed a lot into three days, while still managing to build in plenty of time to relax in our lovely hotel. Here are some of the highlights:

We took a boat tour along the Chicago River with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (which I HIGHLY recommend).
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We walked through Millenium Park and stopped to take pictures by the famous Cloud Gate.
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We also stopped by the outdoor Goose Island shack for some refreshments and cornhole. I was happy to discover that they make their own (caffeine-free!) root beer and it was delicious!
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We visited Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.
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It’s a really interesting stadium. It originally opened in 1924 and underwent major renovations in 1978 and 2003. During the most recent renovations, the stadium was totally modernized, but they were required for historical preservation reasons to keep parts of the old structure intact. The result is a venue that, according to H, “looks like a UFO crashed into the Greek parthenon.”
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The really cool part is that you can walk around the entire outside colonnade area, even when the stadium itself is closed.
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We also visited Wrigley Field, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and went to a Cubs game!
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The Cubs lost, but I’m told that’s kinda what they do.

The biggest thrill of the trip (for me anyway) was our pilgrimage to the Chicago Diner, one of the oldest and most famous vegetarian restaurants in the U.S.
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This place exceeded all of my expectations. It was flawless.

I started with the soup of the day, a curried cauliflower soup (YUM):
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H and I also split the peanut butter cookie dough shake:
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This was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

And for the main event, I had no choice but to sink my teeth into the storied Radical Reuben:
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Oh my God. I devoured every last messy, succulent bite. The mac n’ Teese was pretty good too! It was my first time trying Teese and I give it a thumbs up.
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After we left, I actually started to cry a little because I was so happy that I finally got to go to the Chicago Diner, and sad because I don’t know when I’ll get to go back (that one I’ll blame on the hormones).

Our babymoon was everything I hoped it would be. Chicago is an incredible city and an absolute blast! It’s definitely a place I know I’ll be visiting again in the future.

A Mini Cook in the Making

Okay so after only posting 16 total times in the last three months, as well as dropping off precipitously from reading and commenting on other blogs, I am finally ready to provide an explanation for my whereabouts.
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H and I are having a baby!!!

Baby H is due January 6, 2015. We will not know the sex until then so you’ll have to stay tuned for that ūüôā

I am 18 weeks and 1 day today, so well into the second trimester by this point.¬† I’ve been feeling great the past couple of weeks, although it was quite a bit rougher before that.¬† While I luckily didn’t have violent morning sickness, I was pretty much constantly queasy for about ten or eleven weeks there, and TIRED beyond all belief:
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I miss you, Marty ‚̧
[Note: this picture was actually taken the night before we realized anything was up with me!]

Needless to say, it was sometimes necessary to stay away from reading some of my favorite blogs, because even the most beautiful recipes had the tendency to inspire bad feelings in my tummy (sorry!).
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Thank the LORD for no coffee aversion!

As for eating, well…let’s just say I haven’t exactly been a paragon of vegan eating recently.¬† I’ve tried hard to walk the straight and narrow but there were times when it was almost impossible to think of anything that sounded good to eat.¬† My meals have ranged from very healthy:
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Biggest salad of all time, constructed from the greens in my fridge + goodies from the WF salad bar

To decidedly un-:
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Grilled Daiya (Swiss slices used) with tomato and tater tots…call it a craving?

Same with snacks. Thumbs up:
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To thumbs…sideways:
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^These are magical for nausea, however.

In general I’ve just been trying to get lots of rest and a moderate amount of exercise in between my regular work schedule and planning for baby.
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Work has begun on the nursery!  Step one: painting, is complete.

In the past few weeks we’ve “come out” to everyone we see on a regular basis, which is fortunate because it’s becoming tough to hide!
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Resting with my boys

Anyway, I hope you can all forgive my absence (from here and from your blogs) as well as my delay in announcing this news–this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us and I wanted to make sure I could do it some justice!

Before I sign off, let me just say that by no means is my blog going to be all about pregnancy for the next few months.¬† However, hopefully now some of the weirder crap I’m eating can be put into context ūüôā photo BeyondMeat006_zpsbc7fbb76.jpg

Happy Hump Bump Day!

Adventures in RVA

I’m back, and I have tons to share! ¬†We packed a lot into two days and there are photos galore so enjoy ūüôā

As I announced in my last post, H and I got out of town for a couple of days last week and headed down to Richmond, Virginia.

After an EARLY wake-up and flight on Wednesday morning, we arrived in RVA.
RVA 002Since we couldn’t check into our hotel until 3 p.m., we decided to just drive into town, park, and take a look around.

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that I had a manila folder in my purse with all of our travel documents plus a map, list of attractions, and two lists of vegan and veg-friendly places I wanted to try (one in order of proximity to our hotel, and one in order of how much I wanted to go there).

There was one place on my list that I had noted made breakfast, and since it was still quite early in the day, we decided to head that way.  And this is how we discovered 821 Cafe.

It’s hard to describe how wonderful this place is. ¬†Let me attempt to show you:
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Beer. ¬†Excellent beer, and a wide variety at that. ¬†At 9:30 a.m., which is especially amazing to those of us who are accustomed to Massachusetts’ puritanical liquor laws.

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RVA 009Food.  Specifically, some of the best food I have ever eaten.  At top, the vegan breakfast burrito, and at bottom, their homemade salsa (I ordered a large side of it), which was TO DIE you guys.

H was also over the moon about his very non-vegan meal (a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on biscuits, covered with sausage gravy).  In fact I think I may have heard him talking in his sleep about it last night.

After we finished up at 821, we stumbled back to our car (seriously, walking was difficult given how full we were!) and headed over to Royal New Kent for our noon tee time.
RVA 013It was a beautiful course, and a nice chance to spend several hours outside without getting frostbite. ¬†Mostly I just enjoyed riding along in the cart with my Bloody Mary and watching H hit the ball, because seriously…I am SO BAD AT GOLF. ¬†Also I nearly broke my wrist on the 12th hole when I missed the ball entirely and just took a chunk out of the ground. ¬†So bad.

Not only am I pretty much a total beginner, but on the way over to the course I noticed in one of our brochures that the course had been rated the 16th hardest in the country by Golf Digest a few years back.   And then there was this sign hanging in our golf cart:
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I’ll just…have another Bloody please. ¬†VACATION!

After golf, we went back into the city and checked into our hotel.  We stayed at the Linden Row Inn, which apart from being haunted (a story for another time perhaps) was truly amazing.  I got an insane deal on it using Hotwire and recommend that you try to do the same if you are planning a trip to RVA.

At this point we ditched the car for the night and headed out to explore the town!  First stop was the Jefferson Hotel, the one place that everyone we know unanimously recommended that we go.  It was spectacular:
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We only stopped in for a cocktail, because believe it or not, even though it was getting close to 9:00 p.m., we STILL weren’t hungry after our massive morning meal at 821! ¬†By the time we left though, it was time to think about where to eat dinner.

I was excited to check out a vegan-friendly diner called Strange Matter, which supposedly also has an arcade with old-school games like Mario Brothers.  I thought it would be the perfect place for H and me to get dinner and have some fun.

But…I think we arrived there a little too late in the evening. ¬†Let’s just say we got some strange looks as we walked in the front door, where we encountered a heavily-tattooed doorman collecting cover charges for a punk band that was about to start playing. ¬†Pass.

Next we tried our luck a few doors down at Ipanema Cafe, the restaurant that actually had topped my list of places I was most interested in going.  From looking at their website, I thought it looked like a nice place for a sit-down meal, with a pescatarian menu (so H would have some options) and some great vegan options.

Again though, I think we just got there too late in the night (it was already about 10 p.m. by this point).  The scene was decidedly more hipster than romantic date spot, and it smelled strongly of incense.  But the menu looked good (though the fishy options for H were conspicuously absent), and so we decided to just grab a booth in the back and enjoy.

I had a chickpea tikka masala that was dynamite.  Unfortunately it was ultra-dark in there so I have no usable photo to show you.  But we did get a beautiful piece of chocolate peanut butter cake to-go, which happily I can post:
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After dinner, we walked over to a British pub we had noticed earlier, called Penny Lane, for a night cap. ¬†It was a super-fun and chill place that I’d definitely recommend.
RVA 015The next morning, we woke up to a frigid, windy day. ¬†Good thing our main objective for the day was sightseeing! ¬†We started the day with a late breakfast back at our fave,¬†821 Cafe. ¬†This time, I went with the Tofu Po’ Boy with a side of vegan chili:

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Normally I wouldn’t want to go back to a place I’d already been on such a short trip, but this place was worth it. ¬†Every single bite, penny, and calorie.

After eating, we drove to Capital Square (yes, they spell it with an ‘a’ for some reason) to check out the State House¬†and the Museum of the Confederacy.
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God, the sky looks so blue and gorgeous in this picture but all I can think about is how freaking cold it was!

We spent the better part of the day in our touristy pursuits and by the time we were done it was nearly 5 p.m.  We were sort of hungry so we stopped into the nearby Capital Ale House for some refreshments.

Their menu has some vegetarian options but not much in the way of vegan. The black bean burger sounded pretty good, but I had a couple questions about it, and found it pretty funny when I asked our waitress whether the ancho chili sauce was creamy and her response was “Are you vegan?” ¬†Apparently she was too! ¬†Turns out that neither the sauce nor the bun are vegan. ¬†So I asked her what she normally orders and she recommended this:
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It’s the black bean patty on top of corn salsa and tomatoes, with avocado. ¬†I chose salad as my side, which came topped with an orange preserve and chive dressing.

The salad (well really the dressing) was amazing but the rest of it was extremely disappointing. ¬†The corn salsa was fairly tasty, but the patty had almost no flavor (I have a feeling that ancho sauce helps a lot here), and the avocado looked really green but it was so underripe that it, too, had no flavor. ¬†Fortunately this was not going to be my last meal of the day…

After Capital Ale House, we drove back toward our hotel and ditched the car once again, before changing clothes and walking over to…you guessed it!…821 Cafe. ¬†They had a Green Flash feature going on and since we really like that brewery we figured we had to give that a whirl. ¬†So yes, we went to 821 Cafe three times in two days ūüôā

Our final stop on our Richmond tour was Postbellum, a very cool-looking spot that had been high on my list of places to go.  The interior is kind of rustic chic, with a great big gorgeous bar and nice, dim lighting.  Mercifully light on hipsters.  And get this: they have full separate menus for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free!

I got the Barbeque Braised Tofu and it was everything I hoped for: flavorful, perfectly textured, and beautifully presented. ¬†My photo is dark and doesn’t do it justice, but here it is:
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H got some frites on the side to nibble on, and I tried a few of those and they were awesome too. ¬†Postbellum is definitely a spot I’d recommend for a nice dinner, either for couples or a group. ¬†It’s very comfortable, the staff is friendly, and there’s something for everyone.

So that was that!  The next morning we flew out bright and early and were back in Boston before 10:30.
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Home sweet home ūüôā ¬†

More vegan travel adventures coming later this week…

Light Days

I am currently smack in the middle of a brief lull between what was a very indulgent weekend and what promises to be a very indulgent few days, as H and I head off for a mini-vacation in Richmond, Virginia.  So eating lightly for the time being seems like the way to go.

Meaning grapefruit:
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And salad:
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I cheapskated this one with salad bar greens again!  

Besides, I hate going away (even if it’s only for a day or two) with lots of food in the fridge, so the fact that these meals allow me to “use up” is a double win.

But about that vacation…

Perhaps you already know that Richmond has, like, TONS of vegan food (but if you don’t, seriously, HappyCow that shiz). ¬†Much of it is in the form of omnivore restaurants (like this one, for example) with plentiful and well-marked veg options. ¬†Love that!! ¬†It is a particular treat for an inter-dietary couple like us.

I cannot even tell you how much I’m looking forward to stuffing my face with abandon. ¬†But during those brief moments when I take a break from doing that, I also plan to enjoy walking around the city and historical sites, playing golf, and just spending some one-on-one time with my husband. ¬†And taking lots of pictures, of course!

I plan to blog a full recap of the trip next week, but in the meantime I will be updating Twitter and Instagram with plenty of food porn. ¬†So follow me if you don’t already!

Au revoir!

Winter Weekend Wind-down and Wrap-up

Well, the last February weekend is behind us and we are now officially less than a month from the first day of spring! ¬†I’ve enjoyed my quiet, indoorsy weekends but am not all that sad that they are rapidly winding down.

This past weekend was actually fairly busy though.  On Saturday morning, I got in a 5-mile run which I was actually able to do outside due to some of the first bearable temperatures in months!  All of the melting made for a bit of a squelchy course but it was an awesome run nonetheless.

When I got back, I got to work in the kitchen. ¬†A little recipe testing for Richa, and a little baking for H’s birthday (which was Sunday). ¬†I made Chloe Coscarelli’s Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with Irish Whiskey Buttercream:Bday Weekend 013Out of respect for dessert-lovers everywhere, I will not tell you how many calories are in these (remember that thing about how vegan food is not diet food?). ¬†I will just tell you to make them. ¬†Immediately.

Afterwards I went into Boston for a friend’s baby shower, and then met H in Brookline for dinner to celebrate his birthday. ¬†We went to Fugakyu, an incredible sushi restaurant in Coolidge Corner. ¬†I didn’t take photos because the light was really dim and everything would have just looked gross, but it was really delicious! ¬†Then we came home and ate cupcakes and watched Breaking Bad on Netflix. ¬†It was a good day.

On Sunday, I got up fairly early and went straight to work in the kitchen again.  I made a batch of hummus and did other assorted meal prep for the week, plus a little more recipe testing:
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Scrumptious dish with yellow split lentils and spinach.  And plenty of fresh cilantro of course.

And spent some QT with these loves:
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I went for a brisk walk in the afternoon to get some fresh air and a little active recovery (and also to budget a couple extra calories for dessert) before I had to get ready to go to H’s birthday dinner at his parents’ house. ¬†I brought cupcakes to share!

Bday Weekend 002These are definitely impress-your-omnivore-in-laws cupcakes.  But then again, what recipe by Chloe C. is not?

Also (and you can kind of see this in the picture), for some reason the cupcake wrappers I have tend to peel off the sides of the cupcakes after baking. ¬†It’s not something I relish. ¬†Does anyone else have this problem? ¬†Or know of a better cupcake wrapper brand that I could purchase?

Anyway, it was a nice weekend. ¬†Babies and baking and power walking. ¬†I’ve grown so domesticated in my old age.

I Finally Grow Up and Try Root. Also, Togetherness.

First, the food.

Yesterday I grew up and went to eat at Root in Allston for the first time since they opened in the space that used to belong to Peace o’ Pie (RIP). ¬†Well, to be more accurate…I did try the Root Burger (made with black bean and quinoa) from their table at the Vegetarian Food Festival in October…

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…but this was the first time I have been able to bring myself to visit them at their restaurant. ¬†I got the Cauliflower Po’ Boy with greens (instead of their herbed fries, which was hard to do):

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It was A LOT of food, and it was good and filling, but I thought the cauliflower needed significantly more seasoning.  Like, the actual florets should be seasoned before frying, and the breading needs more seasoning too (Creole seasoning or Old Bay would particularly rock).  But once I put the thing together as a sandwich and I was able to get bites with the remoulade, there was some good flavor.

As for the restaurant, I have to say, the space looks beautiful. ¬† I love that they have a water dispenser and Mason jars by the counter and that they provide real (washable) silverware and compost all food waste and napkins. ¬†And the food is good. ¬†It’s not great, but it’s good. ¬†They get bonus points for using Iggy’s bread, which is locally made and awesome. ¬†Bottom line: it’s a vegan place, and I will go again. ¬†[It doesn’t mean I don’t still miss Peace o’ Pie though!]

So now that I’m all grown up, here’s how I’m promoting togetherness!

Tina over at Carrots ‘N’ Cake recently blogged about how she and her husband are planning to do 24 Days of Togetherness, which she describes as a “holiday bucket list.” ¬†H and I have decided to follow suit and over the weekend we came up with our own list of activities we can do together each day leading up to Christmas.

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So far, we’ve checked off:
1) A full Sunday of football accompanied by junk food
2) Work out together to counteract some of the junk food
3) Watch Biggest Loser and temporarily swear off junk food

Decently boring so far, but it will get better as the month marches on, with activities like “work out in red and green” and “drink hot cider” and “decorate the tree” and “wear a Santa hat while watching Jeopardy”…and, of course, “reenact the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree dance from Home Alone.” home alone12 mj

Mostly I’m just glad we’re doing something like this. ¬†It feels like each and every day this month is going to be swallowed up by time we’ve already committed to family and friends. ¬†So, as silly and corny as it may be, I like that we’ll be setting aside a few minutes a day to just appreciate each other amidst the chaos and constant motion that will otherwise characterize the next 3 weeks. ¬†I love our family and friends; I also think it’s good to remember that the two of us (four if you count the felines!) are our own little family now, and take some time to enjoy that.

Thanks to Tina for the idea, and if anyone else is doing this list or one like it, do let me know in the comments! ¬†At the holidays I am more of a sucker than usual for cute, heart-warming couple-y things. ūüôā