Restaurant Review: Homegrown Smoker [Portland]


There is a small, obscure, sea-foam green food cart tucked into the corner of the Mississippi cart pod.  To the untrained eye, it is yet another cart slinging hipster chow.  To the vegans of Portland, it is a shining beacon of real-deal, home-smoked, vegan BBQ.

The little cart that can. And does.

And it is amazing.

I have been a fan of Homegrown Smoker (HGS) since they had a spot down in SW Portland.  Ever since those early days, Homegrown has been a pinnacle of the vegan scene in Portland and is one of my Top 5 spots in the US.

My favorite used to be the Loafaroni, a “meat”loaf sandwich made up of a slathering of BBQ sauce, a heaping scoop of mac no cheese, meatloaf, and two buttered, crispy buns.  It is still my favorite, but I accidentally read the fat content of the Field Roast meat loaf they use, and well….the nutrition facts were a little startling.  Even for vegan food, it was a little “rich.”

Slow Smo Mo Fo with a side of Mac.

HGS also revised their menu and the Loafaroni took a bit of a sabbatical.  During that time I became pretty enamored with the SlowSmoMoFo, a BBQ sandwich of seasoned soy c urls, cole slaw and maple bourbon BBQ sauce.  Order it with a side of Mac no Cheese and you have a winner.

The menu at HGS is a collection of southern-esque BBQ fare; with offerings such as the Carolina Chicken Sandwich (BBQ and Beyond Meat together in a sammy), Smoked Tempeh Burger, Sweet Potato Fries, and a Combo Platter.

The menu at HGS.

The menu has a decent variety of food for the regulars, but the specials are really where the tough decisions need to be made.

With specials like “Another Good Burrito” (A grilled wheat tortilla filled with psstrami, sweet potato fries, Daiya, Mac No Cheese, Broccoli, Grilled Peppers, onions and mellow yellow sauce) and the “Buff Burrito” (Tempeh Facon, smoked Beyond Meat, Buff Sauce, Mac no Cheese, french fries, tomato, raw greens, and creamy ranch), it can often be hard to choose your lunch.

Today’s special: The Buff Burrito.

There really aren’t any complaints with HGS.  Their food is top notch, vegan BBQ comfort food.  Their hours can be a bit flimsy, but that is to be expected with a food cart operation.  If you are traveling in from a distance, be sure they are open (the cart life seems to be plagued with closures for many issues).

My personal goal is to try more of their options, and not the same ol’ slow smo mo fo.  Honestly, though it is really hard when you have an absolute favorite!

Homegrown Smoker is a pillar of the vegan food scene in Portland.  I hope one day to see them mature out of the cart and into something more permanent…so I can sleep better at night.

Road Trip Day 3: Utah to Oregon [Donuts, Donkeys and Being Home]

The morning started early, with the crusty frost on the grass and the long morning shadows on the ground.   The Wasatch mountains were cloaked in beautiful colors, and tiny birds filled the sky.

The Wasatch Mountains overlooking the Jeep.

After a conference call for work, some free OJ in the hotel lobby and a repack of the Jeep, we were on our way at 10:30AM.  We hit the first Starbucks since Ohio, and celebrated our familiar caffeinated favorites with a cardboard clink and a toast for the road.

A quick stop at Starbucks – the first since Ohio.

Today would be the home stretch, a blessing in disguise.  Knowing it would be our last day on the road was bittersweet, but knowing we had to push on – no more breaks – was a bit daunting.

We made our way out of Utah very quickly, the Idaho border arriving as a surprise.  Following signs for Burley, I was able to calculate distance and time with the familiar scenes from our recent Moab trip.

The wide open expanses of Northern Utah.

We ended up stopping for a gas up at a small gas station just off the highway, in the middle of nowhere.  As we pulled in, a lone tumbleweed tried to warn us of the potential “Hills have Eyes” situation about to unfold.

Welcoming committee.

However, while we were never burned to the stake, we were greeted by some friendly donkeys and llamas as well as entertained by a very well laid out store ripe with western jokes and cold drinks.

OK, some were funny.

We stopped in Boise for a lunch break and to see an old friend for a cup of tea.  Brandon suggested a vegan-friendly joint called the Shangri-La Tea Room and I was impressed with their vegan goodies. Right when you walk in the door, a display case teases you with a beautiful array of vegan donuts.

Vegan donuts. Yes and yes.

I ordered the vegan burger which was really good, and my sister got the tofu scramble (which she said was amazing).  Brandon made it a tea-only affair.  After lunch, I ordered a ton of donuts for the drive, and to take home for Melanie.

Ribbon of roadway.

These last 7 hours would be the longest of the trip.  Idaho soon blended into Oregon at the Snake River and the Wallowas soon greeted us.  Eastern Oregon has to be one of the most beautiful arid, stark places I have ever seen and it continues to astonish me each time we pass through.

Eastern Oregon

The headwind as we approached the Columbia gorge were unbelievable.  The little Jeep still pushed 70-75 where possible, but the noise with the soft top was often unbearable.  My Bose noise-canceling headphones proved helpful.

We left I-84 in Hood River, opting to circle Mt. Hood for a shorter drive home.

The dark, snowy (read: very snowy) drive was a beautiful end cap to our adventure.  As we descended through Government Camp, Rhododendron, and finally home, we pulled in the driveway at about 10:30PM.

It was so great to be home.  Being greeted by the dogs, seeing Melanie, and sleeping in my own bed was so amazing.  But being on the road in a 15 year old Jeep was also amazing.  With plenty of silent time to think and recollect it was almost more meditation than road trip.

Music Review: Amy Ray’s “Goodnight Tender”

The Indigo Girls have always been the core of my life’s soundtrack.  There is something between the relevant, beautiful lyrics, the acoustic harmonies, and simplicity of their music that fits.  In a world of committee-written, commercialized, and plastic music, the Indigo Girls are a welcome respite.

But this is not about the Indigo Girls, but more Amy Ray and her recent solo release, “Goodnight Tender.”

The album sits precariously on the very tip of twangy-country music with it’s gritty, organic, mountain influences and the acoustic harmonies Amy Ray is known for.  But when the twang of Appalachia is revealed, it is a welcome addition to the story in the music and not a distraction from her age-old folkiness.

As is always the case with Amy, her lyrics really hit home.  Of all the tracks, the one that really resonates with me is “When you Come for me.”  As I roadtripped from Vermont to Oregon recently, I could not help but think of my grandmother’s passing while listening and pondering this track.  I may even ask that it be played at her memorial.  My sunglasses have hid many an errant tear during the 4 day drive as memories of Nana streamed in.

Oyster and Pearl is more Indigo than Amy, but this is what qualifies it for my second place fav.  A hint of banjo pulls in the country, while the immersive lyrics tell a fascinating story that lets you drift off into a smoky, local, leaf-stripped and frigid mountain life.

My Dog is an upbeat, acoustic offering that ties banjo, bass, and guitar together into a toe-tapping, steering-wheel slapping, ear-worming track that will stick with you all day. The speedometer will increase while humming down the interstate, so be careful.

Overall, this is an illustrative, story telling album, speaking of snowfalls, coyotes, and ramblin’ rivers…purity and darkness.  Of man’s best friend, and man’s worst enemy.

There really are no detracting fillers in this album. Perhaps the only downer are some of the tracks, notably More Pills which, while more twangy, is a bit depressing of a song.  But that is part of the album story so it works.  Goodnight Tender (the track) leans into minor key territory on occasion (is that a slack key I hear?), which does help paint the dreary aspects of the story.

This is organic, country music that tells both sides of the story.  The good days and the bad, the My Dog and the More Pills.

As Amy’s sixth solo album, Goodnight Tender brings out her best.  Two parts Americana, one part twang, and one part Indigo blends all the beautiful elements of this album.  Add in a pinch of I-80 truck stop.

Pop this in your Jeep, hit the open road (or trails) and slip back into a simpler time and place.

Road Trip Day 2: Nebraska to Utah [Wind, Coffee, and Starry Nights]

We started in Lincoln, Nebraska after an amazing night’s rest and a break from the Jeep.

We filled up on gas, OJ and truck stop coffee before heading out on 80 West.  It was a beautiful morning in Lincoln, with bluebird skies and warm temps.

Starting point for day 2.

Nebraska, while actually a really cool state, was my nemesis on this trip.  The sheer size of this state, when coupled with the rather drab scenes, makes it a monotonous drive.  There is, however a beauty in the stark flatness, combined with what seems like “small town” America.  I want to visit Nebraska more, as long as I don’t have to drive across it.

Truck stop coffee: Actually not that bad, but no soy creamer 😦

The mile markers passed rather quickly toward Wyoming with little issue.

Toward the Western end of the state, the winds began to pick up, and pretty strong.  Signs warned of empty trailers with 50+ MPH headwinds.  The Jeep is not very aerodynamic, and the soft top made conversation and music pretty pointless.

Once we entered Wyoming (finally!)  the winds were howling pretty crazy.

The I-80 corridor will always hold a special place in my heart.  Melanie and I had plane tickets on 9/11 to attend her brother’s wedding in Iowa.  With United rebooking us repeatedly and the FAA eventually restricting all flights, we had no more options.

Until I found a car to rent.

So we drove that little Mazda from Palo Alto, CA all the way to Burlington, IA.  It took us 40 hours of straight driving and early relationship building.  If two newly-dating people can survive that much time together in a car, well…maybe that explains our 11 year success with our marriage.

I-80 will always be a cool road for me.
Sidney, Nebraska. Nowhere indeed.

The sun slowly slipped behind the mountainscape as we progressed through Wyoming.  Looking out my driver’s side window I could not help but be mesmerized by the starry night sky.  It was absolutely amazing.

The sun slowly sinking.

Making our way into Utah, we found a great place to crash for the night for our final push into Oregon.

No matter where you are, Jeeps are nearby.


As we head further West there are more Taco Bells when in a pinch.  Along this corridor, that is honestly the best bet.  We did not have time to go into supermarkets, so I have no idea what those were like, but I will remain pessimistic.  Some truck stops have bananas and other goodies.

Road Trip Day 1: Vermont to Nebraska [Death, New Beginnings, and Old Friends]

There are a few moments in the life of a family that are foundational, concrete changes.  These include deaths, births, new jobs, new homes, and moving out.  This past week, our clan experienced two of these.

My grandmother, Hilma May Clark, passed away after a long and healthy life of being a beautiful grandmother.  I remember picking fresh blueberries in the rainforests of Alaska, and bringing them to her to bake us some Swedish Blueberry Bread.  She was the absolute matriarch of our family, and she leaves not a vacancy of loss but a vacancy of just being there.  She was a constant person in my life since I was born, even sneaking me behind the bar at the restaurant she worked at to steal me some maraschino cherries when I was a toddler.

As I made travel plans to fly home and support the family with her passing, I also found out my little sister (who was planning on moving to Portland anyway) needed a co-pilot to drive her 1999 Jeep Wrangler from Vermont to Oregon.  Everything lined up perfectly, and we left Saturday morning at 9:30.

The Jeep, ready to roll.

Saying goodbye to my parents was especially harder this time, as I left with my sister.  With my grandmother gone and now Jess, they would truly experience an empty nest for the first time.  Maybe it was just a release of the compounded emotions of the week.  Either way, tears were flying as we all said our final goodbyes before the trip.

Google Maps was our guiding star, leading us into New York and through the Adirondacks.  The snow was beautiful and I was surprised to find us passing through Speculator – the same town I went to summer camp in as a little boy.  The town has hardly changed.

A quick stop for coffee in Rochester, NY was not nearly enough to catch up with an old friend.  Ryder and I were buddies when growing up and the last time we saw each other we were blowing dust out of Nintendo cartridges.  It was great seeing him again, and we look forward to seeing him on the left coast soon.

Time for old friends.

We then made our way through Pennsylvania and Ohio. The initial plan was to stop off in Cleveland for the night but the area was under a winter storm warning. We could stop and spend the next day in a blizzard, or keep trucking and skip it all.  We opted to skip it.

The snowy roads of Ohio.

The Jeep continued through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

We did pull of somewhere in Ohio for a couple of hours of “sleep” (the seats can’t recline and the 8 degree temps were far from sleepable).

Wathcing the sunrise from the driver’s seat: Morning in Illinois.

I did however manage to break my personal best record for longest driving without a break (the 2 hours of sleep is being reviewed by the judges) but I am happy with a 26 hour stretch.

No sleep til this point: Brooklyn, Iowa.

Pulling into Lincoln, Nebraska we decided to take it easy and get out of the Jeep.  With a quick visit with family and some delicious local beers, we headed back to the hotel and got a great night’s sleep.

Getting gas somewhere in Iowa.


I have been living off a giant bag of pretzels and Clif Bars with the occasional stop at Subway.  We did find a Chipotle in Ohio (but with no Sofritas!) Less than optimal, but we hope to make Salt Lake tonight (the US’ #1 vegan city as names by VegNews!) and as we move West the options will open up.

I have noticed the larger truck stops (Loves, Flying J, TA) have a large selection of seeds, nuts, and vegan snacks.  They will work in a pinch!

Restaurant Review: Zabby & Elf’s Stone Soup [Burlington]

Oh good ol’ Burlington.

Portland is just like B-Town, except we have mass transit.  And more people.  And more bikes.  And, sadly, much more vegan stuff.

I have been so frustrated when visiting my old mother land, as the vegan options are so, so hard to find.

But there, on the horizon, Stone Soup shines for all the wayward vegans searching for something deelish to eat.

Looking out into Burlington’s snowy, frosty streets from the warmth of Stone Soup.

Stone Soup is my personal Mecca when it comes to chowing down in this small city, and on this visit I could not wait to get my grub on.

The ambiance is always warm and inviting.  While lunch seating can be a real challenge, later meals offer a lot more room to stretch out.  While their menu is not all vegan (they even serve meat), they are VERY accommodating and everything is well marked.  The staff is intelligent about veganism and always aims to please.

They have a series of pre-baked goodies from cookies and scones, to muffins and crisps.  Most everything has a vegan option, but the selection for us egg and milk free folks is much smaller.  Plus, I would LOVE a vegan blueberry muffin here, they always seem to have odd, complex vegan muffin choices.

A nice selection of vegan baked goods. I am still waiting for an amazing blueberry muffin!

You have two primary options when it comes to your meal – choose and build you own plate from the hot bar (which seems to always change based on seasonal offerings) or an old time standard from the chalkboard menu behind the counter.

Vegan and non-vegan options united!

Last time, I built my own plate but the price was pretty steep.  As it goes by weight ($10+ per pound) you may want to skip the rice and other staples, and focus on the new and exciting offerings.

Salad bar is fresh and clean.

When it comes to ordering off the board, I can never afford to deviate from one of the best vegan reubens I have ever had.  Their “Seitan Reuben” is made of thinly sliced (and ever so slightly crispy-on-the-edges) seitan that is perfectly seasoned.  The vegan cheese offeres a nice creaminess to the whole sammy, but it can get messy.  So grab a stack of napkins.

Quite possibly, one of the best vegan reubens. #notkidding

What good is an amazing vegan meal without some dessert?  I opted for the Strawberry-peach crisp on this cold 15 degree day.  It was warmed in the oven and tasted absolutely brilliant.  The oat topping really gives it some heft, as my sister wasn’t able to finish her helping (easy enough for me to lend assistance).

“I wonder how much for the whole bowl” I thought to myself. But only ate a cup.

We ended our meal with a cup of coffee and some great conversation.

If in Burlington, be sure to make Stone Soup a stop.  Leave yourself enough time to  try a bunch of their goodies, and take some for the road.  And just maybe they will have a vegan blueberry muffin waiting at the counter.

More hot bar goodness!

The Vegan Fast Food Conundrum

In a recent Facebook vegan group, someone asked, “If McDonald’s came out with a vegan burger, would you eat it?”  The responses were pretty much split down the middle between “Yes, but only in emergencies” and a resounding “No.”

But I feel the answer is not as black and white as these two ends of the spectrum may lead us to believe, so I wanted to share my thoughts based this “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” conundrum.


1. Fast Food empires are evil corporations that exploit animals (and people/environment) for profit.

This is, sadly very very true.  However, as corporations, the only language they  speak is dollars.  So to have a say at the table, vegans must pay to play.  By voting with our wallets and supporting chains that offer vegan options, we are proving to them that vegans are a substantial portion of their audience.  Even one vegan item at a place like McDonalds can translate into millions of animals saved per year, as a result of reduced meat consumption.

This could turn into a win for the animals and for us.

2013-12-28 07.41.46

2. This would be convenient for the vegan community when traveling/roadtripping/etc.

Score one for the vegans!  I can attest to this very fact as we travel quite a bit.  While probably not the healthiest option, I always can find a Taco Bell somewhere for a seven-layer burrito fresco style.   This is essentially beans, rice, lettuce, toms, and the damn tortilla.  It is not a fresh, organic salad (it’s probably full of GMOs) but it is also not a box of Clif Bars or other vegan standbys.  If more places offer vegan options, driving through places like Burley, Idaho would not be as difficult.

Some people that responded claimed it was a lack of proper planning that resulted in a need for vegan fast food.  And this is true.  But constantly planning is also tiring and sometimes it is just nice to pull up to the little window and get a bag of vegan burritos.

Let me go change so I can start cooking the vegan burger.
Let me go change so I can start cooking the vegan burger.

3. I don’t trust that the vegan burger wouldn’t be contaminated in the kitchen/on the grill.

This is probably the one thing that would totally weird me out. Just like it is hard to come out of a hospital and not be sick, it’s hard for a vegan patty to make it out of a place like McDonald’s without some animal residue on it.

I will say that on many occasions I have asked Taco bell management about their food handling practices and have been pretty impressed. Mostly because of liability with allergens, they have a very robust protocol for handling and avoiding cross contamination.  I would hope that other companies in the future would share that same level of concern.

Imagine "VEGAN" all over this puppy.
Imagine “VEGAN” all over this puppy.

4. A vegan option will help “normalize” veganism.

Any way that we can show the world that veganism is here to stay, is important.  When large chains start carrying, promoting, and selling vegan burgers, people will start to hear more and more about veganism and will perhaps give it a shot.  Not all vegans eat salad and rice for dinner, and it is important to appeal to all diet types in order for veganism to be widely accepted.


In the end, we do not need to eat at these places every day.  Whether road tripping, working through lunch, or just seeking a sinful dinner, vegan fast food options can be a good thing.

Personally, any way we can get veganism into the mainstream will only help to further our cause and help educate others on the reality of vegans and veganism.

We can also show companies that our market share is growing, and we will soon be a force to be reckoned with.

Help answer the question.  Would YOU eat a vegan burger if sold at major fast food chains like McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger King?

Recipe: Vegan Lasagna with Basil Cashew Cheese

This recipe is from one of Melanie’s fav blogs, Oh She Glows. Photos are mine from tonight’s cooking session!

Tonight Melanie whipped up some amazing vegan lasagna and I thought I owed my vegan friends a yummy recipe to get us through this cold, snowy snap in Portland.

This lasagna is amazing!

First, whip up your cashew cheese:

Yield: ~1 cup

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 30+ mins
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water (or more as needed)
  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (gives the cheese flavour)
  • 3/4-1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste) + freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)
Blending everything up for the cheese.

1. Drain and rinse soaked cashews. With the food processor turned on, drop in your garlic cloves and process until chopped. Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Always wash your basil!

Preparing the Lasagna

2. We used 2 jars of Muir Glen Garlic Roasted Garlic organic spag sauce to save time.

3. Her recipe also calls for sautee’d veggies, we skipped this step and went with a more traditional lasagna.  If you want to include veggies:

Her recipe calls for chopping 1 sweet onion, 1 large red pepper, 2 small zucchini, 1 cup of cremini mushrooms, and minced 3 garlic cloves.

4. Boil the lasagna noodles.

5. Layer your lasagna as you wish.  We went with sauce, noodles, cheese, mozz cheese, sauce, noodles, cheese.  Our local store was OUT OF DAIYA so we gave Follow Your Heart a try and had to shred it at home.  Not too bad, but I am a Daiya snob so next time I will be sure to use that.

Building the lasagna!
Shredding your own

6. Bake in the oven at 400 for 40-45 minutes.

Before the baking part

7. Allow to sit, uncovered for 5-10 minutes.

After the baking part

8. Enjoy!

Trail Day: Tillamook State Forest [Oregon]

February 1, 2014, 7:00AM

I always get excited the night before a big Jeep day.  I meticulously pack all my recovery gear, load up the ARB with my vegan goodies, check under the Jeep, check the fluids, and try my best to get some sleep.

As I lay there in bed, I think about what the next day will hold – will I break anything?  Will anyone do something awesome (i.e. will they break anything?) Will we all have an awesome time?

The answer to the latter is always a resounding yes.  And this day was no different.

My morning began by speaking into this lovely box. On the other end? A Soy latte!

I departed Rhododendron early, in time for a mandatory coffee stop and to pick up some veganaise at Fred’s.  Once on the road, I made my way to our typical meeting place in North Plains.  I arrived about 30 minutes early.

Once the group was finally fueled up, we departed for Tillamook State Forest (TSF).

On the open road.

We pulled into Brown’s Camp to air down and plan our route.  I was always interested in Little Rubicon (I mean, I did ‘Big Rubicon’ how hard can this one be?) so we headed off in that direction.

The early morning sun had not yet warmed the rocks of the Little Rubicon. Click to enlarge.

We all decided to walk the hardest part of the trail, choose our lines, and determine who would be the crazy one to go first.  As Robert had the best rig for the job, we decided that he would be the guinea pig.

Jeff, claiming the best spotter’s spot. Click to enlarge.

After climbing the initial trail segment, Robert soon hit some of the famous TSF mud.  Even his well-equipped JK with Tera Grapplers could not tame the mud, and we all decided it was in his (and his Jeeps’) best interest if we save this trail for another day.

Robert navigating the Little Rubicon. Click to enlarge.

After a regroup, we decided it was time to hit the famous Firebreak 5, similar in it’s intimidation to the Vonnegut namesake, yet lacking the intellectual depth.  Nevertheless, we were off to sling some mud, do some good ol’ American cursing, and eat some Beyond Meat.

The lower sections of Firebreak Five. Click to enlarge.

The initial segments of FB5 were fun yet uneventful.  At this point, the early morning clouds were burning off and the sun was filtering through TSF’s majestic pines.  Of all the things I love about Jeeping in this forest, the smells are my favorite (and no, not just the burning rubber). Sadly, I was amazed at the timber harvest along this famous trail – it was unrecognizable.

GoPro Still: The rocky sections of FB5.

We stopped for a quick lunch break, and I busted out the Beyond Meat, giving everyone a try.  My trailing buddies also got free Beyond Meat coupons and recipes to make their own goodies at home.

Vegan goodies on the trail!

After lunch we continued up the hill.

The one spot that we all struggled with (even Robert spun his tires once, I think) was a short muddy section with just enough of a mud/rock ratio that we needed to winch.  Robert was the only one in our group to make it on his own.

Jesse hung up on the muddy rocks. Click to enlarge.
Even Jeff with his 37 M/Ts struggled in the slop. Click to enlarge.

We all (except Robert) got stuck and needed to be strapped and winched.   And, before my friends blame me for not putting photos of my own recovery, well I was driving…

GoPro Still: Jeff getting tugged by Robert.

Once past this section there were a couple of small hang ups but for the most part we made our way along.

The final section saw us punching through the snowline for a nice change in scenery.  The white forest was a stark contrast to the brown, mucky slop we had been fighting with.

Jeff navigating the tight trees on upper FB5. Click to enlarge.

The forest changed her challenge for us in this upper section, from mud to tight, narrow trees.  These trees threatened to take off mirrors, fenders, and door handles, and could really make a mess of a nice JK hard top.

We all made it through this gauntlet without issue and soon popped out into a beautiful sunny opening that signaled the end of our day in TSF.

The required group photo at the top of Firebreak Five. Click to enlarge.

My day ended where most days should end – in front of a Buffalo Bomber wrap (with mac, of course) at Veggie Grill!

Frank, parked at Veggie Grill.


I struggled mostly in the mud on this trip, so most of my recommendations would focus on ways to get me the traction I needed in the slop.