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…

Hearty Chipotle Chili and Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie

Hello friends! ¬†I’ve only been away 3 days but it feels like longer. ¬†The snow day in the middle of the week totally threw off my schedule work-wise and blog-wise. ¬†I’m back though and eager to share with you a recipe plus one of my favorite ways of re-purposing leftovers!

In the summer of 2008, prior to starting law school, I spent some time living with a local family in Boquete, Panama.  One night my host mom wanted to cook something together and I suggested chili (something they had never heard of!).

Vegetarian chili is a total vegan staple, is it not? ¬†It’s cheap to make, it is a total canvas for whatever you have in your kitchen, and I love that it makes such a large amount because there is so much you can do with the end result. ¬†So, we made chili, and everyone really liked it. ¬†The day before I was to return to the U.S. (via Bocas del Toro…Bocas es loca!), my host mom asked me to write down my recipe.

I was kind of at a loss because in my mind, chili doesn’t need a recipe. ¬†You just wing it with whatever you have, which makes every batch of chili slightly unique. ¬†Obviously I did my best to give her a “recipe” that replicated what we’d had for dinner that one night, but I secretly hoped she would understand that it was more of a “method” and she didn’t have to follow it step-by-step.

Fast forward 5 1/2 years (has it really been that long?!) and I actually have developed a “recipe” for chili that I adhere to somewhat closely nowadays because it is so damn delicious that I don’t want to change it. ¬†Since I was home all day on Wednesday I decided to use the time to make a big old pot of it.

Hearty Chipotle Chili
Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free option
Yield: 10-12 cups

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Ingredients
1 tbsp. olive oil OR water/broth (just enough water to thinly line the bottom of the pot)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cans (or about 6 cups) beans of choice–my favorite combo is 2 cans (3 cups) black, 1 can (1.5 cups) kidney, and 1 can (1.5 cups) chickpeas
1 cup frozen corn
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can of tomato sauce
¬ľ cup water
1 tbsp. finely chopped chipotle in adobo
2 tsp. adobo sauce (omit to make it less spicy)
¬Ĺ tsp. oregano
1 tsp. chili powder (use chipotle chili powder for even more heat and flavor!)
¬Ĺ tsp. cumin
¬ľ tsp. cinnamon
¬Ĺ tsp. red pepper flakes (omit to make it less spicy)
Generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. sliced baby portabella mushrooms (optional)
Salt to taste

Directions
In a large stockpot, warm olive oil or water.  Add onion and garlic and saute for 5-7 minutes until tender.  Add pepper and saute 2-3 minutes more.

Add beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce if using, oregano, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes if using, and black pepper. ¬†Stir well to combine, bring mixture just to a boil, then cover and let simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. ¬†[If using mushrooms, add them about 10-15 minutes before the end of cooking time, stir well, then cover pot and continue to heat until they’ve cooked down.]

Taste and add salt and other spices as needed.  Serve with cornbread, on top of rice or baked potato, or with tortilla chips!

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As chili recipes are wont to do, the one above makes a ton of leftovers. ¬†You can freeze some, obviously, but one of my favorite ways to use leftover chili is in a dish I call Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie, which has the added bonus of utilizing¬†another common leftover, mashed potatoes.

Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 4-6
Vegan, gluten-free, can be soy- and oil-free (depending on how your mashed potatoes are prepared)

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What You Need
3-4 cups leftover Hearty Chipotle Chili
3-4 cups mashed potatoes (the ones in the picture are red bliss)
4-6 ramekins or small glass containers (such as Pyrex) OR a 9 x 13 glass or casserole dish

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400F.  Add your leftover chili to whatever baking vessels you are using and top with mashed potatoes.  If using a 9 x 13 baking, you may want to lightly spray or oil the dish before adding the ingredients (I find this is unnecessary when using the littler guys for whatever reason).

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until potatoes have a golden crust.  Add whatever toppings you like!  Diced avocado, or a tablespoon of chopped green onions or cilantro are great choices.

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What are some other ways to use leftover chili and/or mashed potatoes?

Have a great weekend!!!