V is for Victory

ImageThis is something of a post about how cool my parents are. And something of a post about my recent trip to Oakland. It is also my attempt to take my mind off the fact that I am creeped the fuck out because I just spent the better part of an hour reading a Reddit thread about creepy things kids say and most of them are references to ghosts or past lives and I have one of those over-active imaginations anyway, so…

Anyway, the smiley people above are my folks. I got to see them last Tuesday when I was in Oakland for a coalition meeting. I learned that my affinity for red wine and french fries most definitely comes from my mom. I also learned that even people you think you know as well as you could possibly know a person can surprise you. In a good way. More on that later, maybe.

Image

Veggie arepa: grilled plantains, sliced avocado, smoked marinated tofu, tamarind-coconut chutney and slaw. Holy balls.

Traveling in California is heaven on earth for me personally, but also for gf vegans everywhere. This is my gluten-free tofu arepa from Victory Burger in Oakland. Fact: an arepa is a South American street food, served primarily in Venezuela and Colombia. Arepas are corn-based and traditionally gf and vegan. Fact: this is one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my face. In the background there are french fries and some deep fried veggies that were not my scene, but my BFF was all about them. Not pictured: vegan chocolate milkshake.  Fact: Victory Burger came to exist thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. Fact: the arepa means that any of their burgers can be made gf (although their veggie burger isn’t gluten-free). When I move back to California, I will eat here every. day.

There were some less successful moments of the trip. All of my meals were provided during the coalition meetings, but their caterer seemed really confounded by breakfast at the intersection of gluten-free and vegan. On day 1, they served some kind of egg dish with a layer of cheese on top, vegan (but not gf) sausage, fruit, granola and bread (not gf). I ended up eating a couple of pieces of the sausage out of desperation and hoping for the best. I had some stomach pains and I felt kind of tired for the rest of the day, but I survived. The other meals were easier, but starting the day hungry – especially a day-long meeting – kind of blows. ImageFor day 2, I was up early anyway and I used the coffeemaker to make oatmeal in my hotel room. I have definitely shared this tip before, but it remains the most useful IBS/gluten-free travel tip I have come across. If I had a nickel for every cup of oatmeal I have slurped out of a hotel coffee mug with the aid of a coffee stirrer…

The other thing I LOVE about California in general and Oakland in particular is the abundance of quirk. DC doesn’t really do quirk, and that’s okay with me. But sometimes I crave some goofy-ass West Coast irreverence. So far, the only place I have found this on the East Coast is Gainesville, FL, but I am open to suggestion. If you want to see what I am talking about, get yourself to Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave). The best way I can describe the decor is: it feels like you are inside someone’s brain. It’s kind of dark and there are really random things on the walls and everywhere that probably had meaning when they were stuck there, but to the casual observer, not so much. They specialize in greyhounds made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice (literally squeezed on the bar in front of you with these ginormous old-fashioned press thingies), well vodka and a quarter of a grapefruit. ImageI took a picture of it for you which did not come out at all. But you should go and see it for yourself. You will need: a high tolerance for hipsters and cigarette smoke; cash or a willingness to spend at least $10 on your card; companions who will silently gawk with you, because you could spend a couple hours just looking around the place. (Full disclosure: I used “anyway” at least four times in this paragraph. I just edited out all the ones I could find, but that’s a little scary.)

ImageI usually take more photos when I travel, but you’ve pretty much seen them all at this point. So I will leave you with DC trying and failing at quirk. I took this on 9th St on my way home this evening. I think they are indicating that something will occupy this retail space in June 2013. Based on the silver painted branches, stripes and assorted cups(?) I’m assuming a Zonko’s Joke Shop franchise, but it will probably turn out to be another fucking “gastropub.” Go home, DC; you’re drunk.

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