Friday, December 27, 2013

Somewhere New: Cheat Lake, WV

I've long associated visiting my grandparents with water. Whether it was running through the sprinkler or bobbing in the ocean and now cruising on the lake in West Virginia. My grandparent's summer home is in the little lakeside suburb of Morgantown called Cheat Lake.
 Phil and I spent 5 summer days with my grandparents in July and we managed to pack quite a lot in: tubing on the lake, a lounge in the river at Ohiopyle, a visit to Laurel Caverns, a day in Pittsburgh at the Phipps Conservatory, a hike to a local swimming hole, and lots of long games of Mexican Train.
Unfortunately my camera images were lost from this trip so all I have is a few iphone pictures to share.

Laurel Caverns is the largest cave in Pennsylvania and is also the largest bat hibernaculum in the area. To preserve the unmolested slumber of the bats the caves are only open from May to October when the bats are on the prowl. Be warned - while it may be hot as blazes in July outside it will be cold and shivery inside the cave. Bring a jacket and don't be shivery like me. 

On our day in Pittsburgh we went to Kaya for lunch and had Jamaican Curry and a Peanut Plantain Sandwich. No pictures left of the food unfortunately but the tables decorated with magazine collages and old maps were super cool and the food was great. 

Phipps Conservatory was an awesome way to spend the afternoon. We are amassing a list of conservatories, botanical gardens and arboretums from our trips and this one sits close to the top of most impressive. The desert room and these dinner-plate sized hibiscus were some of the prize pieces.

It was nice to be back in the mountains for a few days and sleep quietly next to the lake.

Where to (Tr)Eat Vegan: Oh Yeah! Ice Cream & Coffee - Pittsburgh, PA

Call Oh Yeah! Ice Cream and Coffee and the phone will be answered with a sprinkle encrusted Koolaid impersonation of  "Oh yeah!" 
Ok, kinda cheeseball. Kinda reminds me of the corporate nonsensical naming of scoops at Coldstone but go to Oh Yeah! and you'll be far from corporate but you WILL find a healthy dose of the nonsensical. 

Part waffle and ice cream joint, part mini library and community computer space part bank. 
Wait - bank?
 Whalebone Intergalactic Cafe Banco to be exact. They also sell stamps and envelops.

To be honest I was just here to eat some ice cream on top of a waffle. Let us press on. 

Enter cinnamon waffle topped with soy chocolate ice cream. 

Two modest waffle irons pump out waffles and for a family of 500 like mine this requires some patience. Spend your time waiting by perusing the list of flavors and toppings. Vegans, you've got it easy with only a few of these to choose from but having options at all is a blessing!

They also sell organic coffee roasted at 19 Coffee Company so if you are into that fancy bean water check that out. 

Not everyone loved the idea of soggy ice cream waffles.

I will say that these waffles, as can be the case with many vegan waffles, felt a bit empty. Lots of cinnamon flavor but not much else to give it a full flavor to stand up to the richness of the ice cream. Perhaps because they were gluten free? I don't know. 
Overall satisfying but not a waffle that changed my life. Kudos for carrying Earth Balance and real maple syrup though!

In short this is a homey little spot for a treat, a book and maybe some off the beaten path banking.

232 S. Highland Ave

Monday, December 9, 2013

Where to Eat Vegan: Franktuary - Pittsburgh, PA

I went through a very long phase of my childhood where all I wanted to eat was hot dogs. Visiting my  grandmother was even more of a treat because she never failed to make my breakfast hot dog, much to my mother's fear that I would only eat hot dogs for the rest of my life. 

I grew up. My diet diversified and veganized and after a while hot dogs were no longer a part of my life. But the nostalgic, childish desire for hot dogs has kinda stuck around. Enter the grown up hot dogs served at Franktuary.

Veggie dogs and sausgages, piled high with potato sticks, kraut, veggie chili, gravy, mango salsa and all the darn mustards you can think of. Finish it off with a lemon mousse and you've still spent less than 10 bucks. 

These are no microwaved hot dogs on a potato roll from my childhood. The Negishi hot dog is piled with seaweed, pickled ginger, wasabi mayo and sesame. Or get a side of the pickle platter and pile your dog with kimchi and picked veggies. Or go Memphis style with BBQ and potato sticks. 

Hot dogs not your thing? Try the Beetballs made with tempeh, lentils and veggies on a bun.

In their most recent blog post Franktuary answered all the most pressing of veggie questions and even provided us with a list of all their vegetarian and vegan options. A surprise on the list: poutine gravy! 

Chipotle Vegan Sausage with Mango Salsa on the Whole Wheat Bun. 

What I loved most about Franktuary is that I could go out to dinner with my family and feel normal. I don't expect my family to all go to a vegetarian or vegan restaurant with me (though it would be nice!) so it's amazing to find a place that accommodates us all and our love of hot dogs. 

There are two locations for Franktuary plus a food truck. True to Pittsburgh style the two locations use repurposed spaces. One an old garage and one an old church. The Lawrenceville location is the one I have visited and found it open and airy with cool touches like the pressed tin bar and the food counter along the expansive garage door windows. 

3810 Butler Street
Pitt, Pa 15201

325 Oliver Avenue
Pitt, PA 15222

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where to Hike: Old Rag - VA

On a rainy, cold morning in November I roped Danny and Roger into a hike. We've hiked before. In fact the hikes we had taken together the summer before had been the very first hikes either of them had really been on. Since then we've made a pretty good circuit of the DC area hiking Great Falls, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Sugarloaf Mountain and even venturing out to Cunningham Falls. 

We chatted for the two hours out to Old Rag, passing through the tiny town of Sperryville Virginia where we realized we had lost service. Things get real when you suddenly don't have service. Minutes into our hike a light rain started. The humidity and the already mounting assent made us warm and we quickly shed our jackets and gave ourselves over to the rainy hike.

Old Rag is no Sugarloaf. The elevation gain from parking lot to summit is over 2,500 - topping out at 3,284 feet. As the rain streamed down on us and little by little we climbed higher the realization dawned on Roger and Danny. This was an epic hike. 

We sat down for a snack part way up. At this point the wind and rain had picked up. My sandwich was getting soggy in my hands as I took bites between blowing on my fingers for warmth. I had serious thoughts about turning back but left them unvoiced. The first to dissent brings the whole mood down - even if the mood is rainy and cold. 

We trudged on. The rock scramble is by far the most exciting part of Old Rag and as we got to this point the rain started to let up and we really got into it. The top looks so attainable and close from the scramble and a good 1,000 feet of elevation is covered in this portion alone. 

Danny surprised us by his agile ability to maneuver the rocks and we would often find him sitting on a rock waiting for us just a little ways ahead. 

And what do you get as a reward for your hours of struggle? 

Sunshine just peaking out of the clouds. 

What started as abysmal weather turned into one of the coolest vistas I've yet seen. The sun started breaking through the clouds and rolling towards us in patchy blankets. 

The clouds rolled so fast that soon they were gone and we were left with clear skies and the wind tearing at our jackets and ears. 

After lunch we started to hike down. If the side we came up was dark and rainy the side we came down on was the complete opposite. We felt like we had conquered the mountain and our rewards was warmth and sunshine. 

We hiked down through the Tulip Poplars and American Beech and made it back to our car in just under 5 hours. Record time for a 9 miles hike! Compared to the last time I hiked this - there were only two other people on the trail that we saw. We couldn't have picked a prettier time to go. 

Somewhere New: Assateague Island, VA

Sometimes the coolest places can be right in your own state. Sometimes you get too excited about traveling far away and forget that there is plenty to do right at home. 

For the month of June, Phil and I decided to take a quick overnight trip to one of the only places in the US that still supports a herd of wild ponies. There are 37 miles of beaches that you can hike, canoe or kayak to. For the adventurous you can camp back country - which was our original plan - or if you are feeling lazy - guilty - you can front country it too.

I took a few iphone pictures during the trip but mostly just enjoyed the sun and sand.

Collard Wraps and Wine for dinner

Iphonography credit goes to Phil Westcott for this one