Cloud Cakes Vegan Coffee Shop, The Chic, Cute Dessert Haven

Be ready for a few posts in Paris, France and Amsterdam, Netherlands as I travel through food, art, and culture. So far, the experience has been quite grand despite having gotten lost every single day, it’s easy to be swept away by phenomenal architecture and sophisticated fashion.
Although, I have been in Paris since Thursday afternoon, I didn’t have a full out vegan dining experience until yesterday– at my first pit stop, Cloud Cakes Vegan Coffee Shop. It is a lovely, quaint space with pretty chairs and sofas. The desserts display is outrageously decadent, like incredibly sumptuous works of art. Plus, the peeps are very, very friendly.

I loved-LOVED- loved this amazing cake!!! The whipped cream layers are light and airy with bursts of cherries in between like a delightful surprise and the chocolate cake is moist and rich. I cannot believe it’s vegan.

Vegan Mofo Post #23: Happy Halloween & 7 Philly Treats Under $7

Hello all! Happy Halloween and welcome to the final post of Vegan Mofo October. Thank you so much for stopping by and celebrating a whole month of birthday joy. I have had many wonderful milestones happening as I plan for huge November treks– the Janet Jackson concert in Atlantic City and a week in Paris, France.

Here in October, however, I had a blast volunteering at the 26th Annual Philadelphia Film Festival, watching films and meeting amazing fellow volunteers as well as very kind visitors. I think this may have shaped my future in a way that wasn’t foreseen.

Without further ado, other sweet treats under $7 and a Halloween end.

Vegan Mofo Post #8: Birthday Brunch at Delice & Sarrasin

Brunch was a posh affair at Greenwich Village’s vegan and organic French restaurant, Delice & Sarrasin. I felt transported to an exclusive look at how my Paris trip would be inside this illustrious tiny cafe. Among the French music, the whispered chatter and delicate clings of forks touching dishes.

It was a tough decision between an array of savory and dessert crepes including the La Suzette (a flambé crepe with Grand Marnier, orange, butter, and sugar), artisan cheese plates, and French toast. They have a raw vegan foie gras, tartare steak made of pea protein, beets, and coconut oil, gluten free creme brulee, and raw chocolate mousse.

Delice & Sarrasin is small and charming, with flowers and brick walls, and accents that transport the hungry guest to another culture. However, I feel guilty for not attempting one ounce of French, conducting poor American etiquette (pointing at the things on menu). I solemnly swear to be as sophisticated as the couple sitting next to me, swinging in from our tongue to polished French articulation in a single, eye/ear-envying moment.

This is Gaufres Noisette Chocolat– almond milk waffles with chocolate hazelnut spread, sliced succulent strawberries, and luscious coconut whipped cream. A Belgian waffle meets crepe feel, these refined beauties have dense, moist, and crunchy turns. Components, when all glazing fork together, weren’t overly sweet, relying solely on pure elements to make for a sophisticated end to an otherwise charming brunch.

Vegan Mofo Post #10: Pumpkin & Black Lentil Soup

The frequent rain is granting cold temperatures that chilly momentum and not just because it happens to be Friday the Thirteenth, in special October of all things! Before I fall asleep to the scary, funny, weirdly entertaining Hallow’s Eve classic, “Hocus Pocus,” it seemed best to get this seven ingredient soup recipe out in the open. I chose to add VeganMozz as opposed to Chao or Daiya because Miyoko’s has a mild and pleasant flavor that goes well with pumpkin and lentils.

Pumpkin & Black Lentil Soup Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth or stock
2 cup black lentils ( I used Westbrae Natural Organic Black Lentils)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup Miyoko’s VeganMozz (optional)

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, combine pumpkin, almond milk, broth, lentils, turmeric, and cinnamon together.
Stir continuously as to prevent beans from sticking. Also cover. The worst thing about making soup is the bubbling factor that tends to messily bounce onto the walls and the stove.
After ten minutes or so, a little after boiling, add in optional VeganMozz, melting it in.

Chicago Vegan Diner Brunch and Takeout

For years, I’ve longed to try The Chicago Diner, a place that has been meat free since ’83 (a solid good year). This restaurant is on many vegan bucket lists. To go to Chicago and not eat there once would have been a great travesty. Straight from my plane ride and learning that my check in would be after 2pm, I took the train and headed off to sate my hunger. It was a short flight, but I hadn’t eaten in hours.

A menu packed with choices. I struggled between the desire for a tall stack of pancakes with whipped cream, The Breakfast Combo (scrambled tofu, hash, bacon, sausage, and choice of French toast, pancake, English muffin or toast), Cinnamon Roll French Toast (which comes with strawberry coulis, hash, and seitan sausage), or the Monte Cristo (a French toast sandwich with vegan cheese, fried tofu, Creole mustard, and hash).

I chose the Country Benedict– fried tofu between herb biscuits with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, tomato, and onion, smothered in seitan sausage gravy. It also comes with slices of fresh melon. This dish was amazing! The biscuits were crisp and tender, with scrumptious tofu layered in tantalizing veggies, and that mouthwatering sumptuous gravy that featured meaty pieces of flavorful seitan.

Tuesday morning: discovered that I had my cinnamon rolls upside down the whole entire time– overnight in the refrigerator and everything. I ate my breakfast with a banana and cold water. But alas, headed off, happy and sugared up, I go lost for ten minutes looking for the train station. Woe is my middle name.

That first bite is the one that tides one over, make them feel like this could possibly be the most wonderful last Chicago day. The rain had stopped after all. Of course, I found the train station and got off at the correct stop, but managed to get myself lost, finding certain landmarks. Sigh. I’m still utterly happy to be charmed and wooed by The Chicago Diner, all of their delicious foods linger on my mind.

The Amazing Kitchen 17 Where Vegan Deep Dish Pizza Awaits

On a cool Tuesday evening, after a sweet ride with a truck driving, storytelling Uber driver from down south, I met a fellow brown vegan sis for dinner at Kitchen 17, one of the best vegan spots in Chicago. The restaurant is currently renovating their new location– a sleek muted light venue with lots of natural wood elements.

This was excellent! Hands down one of the best restaurant pizzas I’ve ever eaten. I loved the flavorful crust (that wasn’t the least bit dry) and all the flavors of juicy tomato sauce and oodles of cheesy goodness. I barely could find the seitan sausage, but that wasn’t a problem. With tantalizing pizza bliss overload, I was so glad to have wonderful conversations with the dear company. We talked everything from food to careers to Fenty Beauty (although cruelty free there are several products of Rihanna’s launched cosmetics company that are not vegan).

The Blues At Native Foods Cafe

Native Foods Cafe, the nearest vegan place to Art Institute of Chicago, was where my friend (former PAFA classmate and one of the best painters/surface preparers in our graduate year) and I popped by to have lunch. My usual spot in Washington D.C. had the same familiar setup– opened space, red and yellow painted features, and giant windows to let in natural light and downtown city views. Excitement and hunger bounced together, especially heightened by the sight of newest tantalizing desserts sequestered behind the glass case.

Once the waitress delivered our ordered food to the table, my expectations grew tremendously. At first unsuccessful bite attempt, however, I realized that we had tragically plummeted into a giant rabbit hole of disappointment. The hard ciabatta bread was toasted to the point of inedible concern and the weak, chewy chik’in with limp flavored tempeh bacon wasn’t up to par with my Philly addiction to Hip City Veg’s terrific rendition. In addition to misery, at this point eating my meal like a salad, my companion didn’t find their nutty cheese necessarily “a win on the vegan side.” Plus, he thought there were too many jalapeños. I actually like their housemate cashew cheese and was disheartened to hear his disappointment. The macaroni and cheese, which I ate the next day, eased my despair.

Chicago has four Native Foods Cafe locations overall. Perhaps we came on a bad day.

Vedge-ing Out: Meeting Wonderful Vegans At Philadelphia’s Number One Elegant Vegan Restaurant

The story of fancy upscale Vedge in photographs and minute description.
First of all, I do appreciate my vegan friends Amanda and Sawyer for allowing me to be a part of their trip to Philadelphia having driven all the way from my beloved Ohio. It meant the world to not only meet them outside of cybersphere (Twitterverse), but into the realm of reality, breaking fourth wall dimension. There is always something special, endearing even to feel kindness sparking between conversations of 140 character limited spaces. To meet people in person and feel beyond scope of that cordial experience is overall amazing, especially when those very people are vibrant and kind.
Amanda and Sawyer not only treated me to a delightful city gem, but to the pleasurable gift of their time and company. Time and company are gifts that we must not waste.

So, one day, in the middle of fresh falling snow last Saturday, after day one workshop with a renowned artist, I caught the subway. Vedge. I had heard so much about it. Read the reviews. Heard the presses. And for the first time ever, I would be eating there among great company. Just had the best vibes on the train and knew things would be swell despite the roaring snowfall. I almost passed it by. Until I heard my name being called from a charming bricked building atop stairs.
Among inviting intimate interior atmosphere of Vedge Restaurant, dimmed lights and muted tones, were awaiting dear friends having an incredible meal and indulgent conversation.
From “The Vedge Bar,” we started off with unbelievably incredible rutabaga fondue served alongside rutabaga salad, charred onions and pistachio and soft pretzel; pickled avocado stuffed with pickled cauliflower, romesco, “fried rice,”  and black salt; and salt roasted golden beets with side of smoked tofu, rye, capers, and creamy cucumber sauce.
The fireplace was charming, enhancing euphoric mood. Very wonderful quiet against our enchanted conversation, warming and healing us from Jack Frost’s mild snowfall. I felt like we were tucked inside a Vermont cabin, blanketed from cold, feasting on divine food and splendid conversation. That was rich sophistication all in itself.  Although we ended Vedge on a wonderful note, our conversations and enjoyment came to heed at the nearby Barnes & Noble. Nothing like being surrounded by books to burn off the calories of a rather fine meal. Thank you so much to Amanda, Sawyer, and Vedge Restaurant for making a snowy near blizzard Saturday a beguiling memorable evening.

What Happened In Toronto Just Cannot Stay In Toronto

“Time is the most valuable thing a man (woman, etc.) can spend.”-Theophrastus

Sunday was a comic’s dream. So many cracked jokes. So much addictive fun. Time, however, was most wonderful gift bestowed. That people sacrifice a brisk weekend for charity giving, spending hours with fans, and simply hanging out around a fascinating town touched sensitive bohemian spirit. I don’t think one hundred repetitive “thank yous” expresses length of gratitude flooding through my veins.

I found myself dazzled and overjoyed about coming to Kate Linder’s Young and the RestlessTea Event– funds raised to support March of Dimes, a 63-year-old organization committed to offering people with disabilities advantages, showing them deserved human decency, gracious patience, and amiable respect. Kate (Esther) would be co-hosting and actors– Sean Carrigan (Stitch), Bryton James (Devon), and Toronto native Mishael Morgan (Hilary) of fictional Genoa City came along to freely support her as well as engage with dedicated fans. If you must know, I am a new found fan of the Hevon pairing– portmanteau of Hilary and Devon characters flawlessly played by Mishael and Bryton. I came because of them, in hopes of them. Kate and Sean were just cake frosting. And cake frosting is addicting.

First of all, I took the roaring, exploring 11:30 PM Megabus up to Canada, on top deck seats. I had forgotten red lipstick and my copy of Morris Micklewhite, a little bummed. Yet wheels rolled round and round and we escaped Philadelphia’s rain showers. Sky happenings started unveiling beautiful imagery. One must take ample advantage of the clear rooftop windows– never know what might dazzle eyes. Rather enjoyable lying on back, watching steadfast moonlight follow in hot pursuit, shining on mystical white clouds swirling about. Either Big Dipper or Little Dipper revealed itself. Brightest story element sat on constellation edge, sparkling prettier than most expensive diamond. I wanted to make a wish on it, but the trip was already at a corny phase. Didn’t want to push it further.

By morning, everyone had to go to U.S. Customs. Lo and behold they ask for passports and reasons for leaving the country.

“I’m attending a soap opera convention.” Yes, I tried sounding normal– keeping excitement to hushed minimum. Because a compulsive fangirl going to afternoon tea trying best not to act like crazy Mad Hatter was going to be laughable. Agent had the straight, non expression face like a London guard, but his blue eyes sparkled mischievously. It wasn’t a secret that he probably found daunting “excuse” quite funny and would laugh about it later once out of earshot.
“Have a good time,”  he said.

Once hitting pass Canadian border, my phone went into Roger Wireless Status, meaning “you’re on your own! I help you no further!” It was like Frodo leaving Sam at the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Frodo left Sam the Shire and bounced off on trotting horse, never looking back. My phone left me a shell devoid of its functions. Darn it AT&T it’s Canada. Not across the glittery Atlantic. So rude.

I was happy to discover a Starbucks near the exit stop. Hot Gingerbread Soy Milk Latte calmed frustrated nerves and warmed chilled spirits. I passed time drawing pictures and listening to various dialects and languages. From time to time, I commiserated over fabulous downtown architecture, reveling in the Momotofu dragon out front.

Alas, it was nearing two– time of the tea hour. I left rather late, feeling sugared rushing anticipation slowly dying on the cold walk towards 1 Harbour Square. Confidence coffee didn’t perform well. I should not have gotten decaf. When I finally reached destination, after entering wrong building and taking short skywalk, I stood in the lobby twiddling anxious thumbs, too freaking nervous to burst through closed doors. Kind, gentle custodian lady, with sweetest thick accent, lured me into reality and convinced me that there was nothing to be scared of. Yes, sometimes with abyssal self doubt it is far too easy to stay deeply latched inside complicated butterfly knots. Its both oceanic uncertainty and nonsensical turmoil brewing erratic beans together.

Hello Cincinnati, It’s Been A While

First semester is over. It’s been grueling and heartbreaking. Little joys weaved between struggle, fear, and anxiety. Broken laptops, late nights making nonsensical travesties, losing sleep. Life of an artist, writer, foodie enthusiast. I’ll never forget one of my critics saying that 24 hours a day isn’t for someone like me. My MFA review was Wednesday– thirty minutes of hardcore tough talk from four critics familiar to my ideas. I had friends help me set up sculptures, photographs, watercolor with typewritten text, and the Nappylocks and the Three Combs installation. Foursome liked the drawings and writings, believing them to be strongest components. The large rubber duck sculpture was something enjoyable as well as a braid composed of pieced Brillo scrubbers. However, argument is that my writing is more considered, more special than any shown art. Writing is more articulate than a piece. These are criticisms to take towards both painting and lithography classes come spring. I’m already sketching ideas for my litho stones, thinking of profound ways of having writing and drawing intersect successfully.

Another positive aspect of my MFA Review is one of the coolest people at PAFA, Greg Martino, Career Services Director. Actually came to see work and hear critics. Extremely thoughtful considering it’s last days of the school year and what must have eaten thirty minutes out of a busy schedule! Few days prior, he showed me magnificent jewelry work of Samira. She also lives in Philly and attends University of the Arts (another Center City art college). I highly recommend visiting her site– Arimas Jewelry Box. So many wonderful items to purchase from reasonably priced to pieces I’ll have to sell a few paintings to get. If you sign up for her emailed newsletter, she offers $5 off first purchase and opportunities to win free jewelry every month. It’s quite special supporting small businesses, especially artist run businesses that one can understand and appreciate. Seeing as my own work is about my heartfelt longing for African Diaspora and cherishing ancestry, kindred kismet to find someone creating beautiful attainable art to be worn and displayed. I’m quite excited about wearing fashion statements bound to strengthen my own.

Speaking of packages, check out my artist/vegan pal Jolyn’s 31at31 post on winning the AfroVeganChick Pacifica Giveaway. Just adorable and sweet to read! Plus she’s included a short video of unwrapping.
Now with holidays coming fast, I needed another vacation– an extended one away from Philly. Home of course. However, I took a little pit stop on the way en route to Dayton– to its larger populated sister city Cincinnati. I have many memories here- good and bittersweet of course. Nice to reflect on old history, revisit places formerly frolicked or passed by.

I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in drawing at Art Academy of Cincinnati. I hadn’t been since former drawing professor Gary Gaffney’s retirement party in summer of 2011. That mural by Kim Krause (Painting I and Drawing Seminar II teacher) wasn’t always there. Funnily enough, I ran into him (still dressed in all dark gray and rounded glasses) and said “hello.” Plus Joe Fisher (admissions director), Anissa Lewis (admissions coordinator), Kim Wheeler (the security head), Sue Hutchens (registrar), Mark Thomas (Foundations and Illustration I instructor) and Jay Zumeta (Art History I and Aesthetics professor) happened to still be around. Great to see them all.