Monday, April 25, 2011

In the city of sisterly love….

Like I told you (you didn’t forget, did you?!), I spent a few days chilling with my sis in her new hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. My mom came with, so we had a full-on female bonding fest. Of course, food played a major role, and I made sure to document everything. We ate so well, I barely needed the breakfast bars and other snacks I’d packed.

Our first day, we stopped for lunch at Zada Jane’s, aka the cutest place I’ve ever eaten. (That website is happening, I tell you!) It’s not all vegan, but I had an excellent hummus wrap and roasted potatoes.

I took the second half home and ate it for dinner. For dessert, we made espresso shortbread with an Irish whiskey glaze:

My sister ran me to the Harris Teeter so I could grab some Earth Balance and veganize my shortbread. It was epically delicious.

The next day, after a bit of museum-hopping, my mom and sis were hell-bent on stopping at this one place for a snack that I thought was kind of gross, so I won’t tell you about it. The joint was not particularly vegan-friendly, but the fries were yummy. Why am I telling you this? You know how good French fries are. You’re probably eating some right now. If so, I wish I were you.

As we left the restaurant, we saw this sweet pup lounging just inside the doorway of his person’s store, greeting prospective shoppers:

Then, it was on to the #2 reason for my visit (#1 being the family quality time, of course): Lebowski’s! I tell you, I have never been so psyched to visit a bar in my life, not even in college when this one place would let us in without ID (their incredible house beers were two for $3—it was sweet, I tell you). Anyway, Red and I are proud Achievers, so the opportunity to geek out over The Big Lebowski in a bar devoted to all things Dude was unmissable. I even painted my toenails green in homage to the one movie that Tara Reid can be proud of appearing in.

Of course, any Lebowski bar is going to specialize in White Russians, and this bar offers them with soy milk! But I ran into a problem: five different varieties of White Russians, only one Burnout. The horror! Luckily, my mom and sister ordered theirs with soy as well, so I could taste them. They were all delicious.

Oh, the food, you say? Well, it was a bar, so it’s not like I was expecting vegan paradise. Still, I got my snack itch scratched with no problem:

Southern-fried vegan noms! Fried pickles are kind of a food group down there.

Yeah, I ate a lot of hummus that week.

There was plenty more paraphernalia scattered around the bar—I put all the pics here so as not to turn this post into a Lebowski Fest (which would be okay with me, actually).

Our schedule was a little tight, and we had just gotten our happy hour on at Lebowski’s, but I couldn’t bear to miss out on Zizi’s, Charlotte’s only 100% vegan restaurant. We scurried back uptown and grabbed dinner, even though we weren’t the least bit hungry. This is where takeout is super-useful!

After a soak in the hot tub and few cocktails on the living room floor, we were ready for a late dinner:

Mac-n-cheese, wings, and collard greens

BBQ tofu

Veggie stir-fry

Can I just say, SO GOOD! Zizi’s is a tiny little treasure tucked into a strip mall, and I think that when a town has only one vegan restaurant, it’s inevitably some variation on the earthy-crunchy, Rasta/soul food theme. I love that, because it makes me feel like I’m at home, and Zizi’s more than delivered. My sister’s boyfriend declared my tofu better, but I didn’t notice him turning his nose up at that BBQ deliciousness in front of him, either.

There is a full-length version of this photo, but I’m far too shy to post it.

The next day, we tripped over to Asheville to tour the Biltmore, America’s largest home®. I am not even being sarcastic; they totally trademarked that shit. Anyway. On the rather long drive through the woods to the parking lot, we saw a few wild turkeys:

It amazes me how different they look from their domesticated, genetically engineered cousins. They can walk and peck with ease, not falling over from mutilated toes or too-heavy breasts. It was wonderful to see them.

We couldn’t take pictures inside the house, but you know. You can Google it.

All the look-don’t-touch action took it out of me, so I was ready for lunch. Plus, we were planning on a wine tasting, and it’s a bad idea for me to do those on an empty stomach. At Cedric’s, a little pub on the estate, our waiter paled when I told him I was vegan. I was momentarily put out, because I had asked about the hummus platter (there is always a hummus platter), and how can you fuck up hummus? Anyway, it was vegan, and so was the gazpacho that came with it. Really salty and good.

After lunch, we did indeed get to our wine tasting:

My mom is so cool.

The Biltmore wines were good, not great. Nothing I couldn’t live without, but things really got going on our way out of Asheville, when we stopped at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

Yes. You heard me. CHOCOLATE. LOUNGE. If you are a chocolate-loving vegan, I have found your heaven. They call themselves “a sacred space for chocophiles,” and they do not exaggerate. I wanted to die of a chocolate overdose and stay there forever, but I came back to tell you all about it. See how selfless I am? We shared a glass of cold drinking chocolate, which was made with coconut milk and was decadently rich. We also dug into their Theros Olive Oil Chocolate Cake, which has convinced me to consider olive oil a baking ingredient. I can’t believe I didn’t snarf it all myself, but my mom and sister will attest to my restraint. Anyone who whines about vegan baked goods being gross needs to be force-fed a piece of that cake. I will do the honors.

I couldn’t leave without souvenirs, so I bought an expensive chocolate bar and a box of their vegan truffles. It’s called the Buddha Collection. Isn’t that cute? Ahimsa, and whatnot. Okay, only the Buddhists got that one. The yogis, too. What up, my tribe!

The French Broad is also very eco-conscious, as I found this in the bathroom:

Oh my Goddess, what did we do then? Drove the two hours back to Charlotte, sank into the hot tub again, and passed out.

The next day, we kept it simple because I had to fly home that night. My sister had a surprise houseguest in the form of Rein, a friend’s adorable pup. So, we spoiled her with snuggles and took her to a mega-dog park that is basically a fenced-in dog trail in the woods. She loved it, and I loved meeting all the other dogs who happily bounced around.

Strange pup likes to sit on the floor.

We had one final stop on our way to the airport: the Diamond. My friend Kate, a Charlotte native, told me I had to eat there during my stay, so we added it to the agenda. It’s recently reopened and I don’t know all the drama behind its previous incarnations, but allow me to say that the Diamond made me one of the tastiest Greek salads I’ve ever had. The menu is definitely not tops on anyone’s vegan-friendly list, but our waiter hooked me up. Oh yeah, we ate more fried pickles, too. They are yummy. Then I got hemmed up by TSA for forgetting to empty my water bottle, but what’s air travel without a little bit of bureaucratic bullshit anymore?

Well, there you have it. My time in Charlotte, as told through food. I had a blast and enjoyed some much-needed sister time, but I was equally glad to come home to Red and Lucy. I wish you all many delicious vacations, wherever you go!


  1. I'm so glad you took photos! It looks like a wonderful time- and fantastic food. How cool you got to try the other White Russians. Hurray for awesome families!

  2. She may not have posted the full-length photo, but folks, let me attest that it is SMOKIN' HAWT.

  3. Sounds & looks like a great time! There's a bar in Milwaukee that serves vegan bar food, including fried pickles. Mike really likes them.

  4. What a great trip! Thanks for sharing it. That chocolate cake looks way out of hand!

  5. I can't believe there is a Lebowski bar!!! That must have been so much fun! It looks like you had the best trip.