Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | October 13, 2010

I’ve Decided to Stay Vegan…

After the three month challenge, I have officially decided to stay vegan. I haven’t written in the blog for a couple of weeks, mostly because I will be leaving my job as a consultant and I wasn’t sure if I would have enough content to sustain a blog on vegan travel. Looks like I won’t be traveling much less though since I’ve already planned trips to Atlanta, New York City, and Ithaca with other trips in the works to Kansas City and Miami before the end of the year. I’m also planning a couple international trips in January and February to Israel, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina. Looks like I’ll have some stories to write about!

Here are some reasons why I’ve decided to stay vegan after the three month challenge:

  1. I love how I feel
  2. It forces me to eat healthy
  3. I end up trying restaurants and menu items that I otherwise wouldn’t try
  4. I feel like I’m part of a group, like an insider
  5. It gives me the inspiration to cook and learn how to make healthy vegan meals
  6. It gives me an excuse to turn down food that I don’t want but would otherwise have to eat (like at a pizza party, etc.)

I hope you enjoy the continuation of the blog. Even though I won’t be a traveling consultant, I will definitely still be a vegan traveler.

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 27, 2010

Vegan City Spotlight: Houston, Texas

There is something for everyone in Houston, even vegans. I decided to spend the weekend in Houston and check out some all-vegan restaurants that are outside of my usual client-hotel-client-hotel driving and dining route. So here I am, sitting in a restaurant called Field of Greens Healthy Cuisine in the River Oaks area and absolutely loving this place. I’ll admit this is the second time I’ve been here this weekend and the fact that they have free Wi-Fi makes it even better. Fields of Greens is an all vegetarian/vegan restaurant with lots of great healthy food (most of their vegetarian options can also be made vegan). The first night I came, I tried the Vegan Macrobiotic Platter which was a medley of steamed vegetables, kale with miso sauce, organic brown rice, daily beans, a tofu quiche and a side soup (vegetable was the soup of the day). It was so much food; I didn’t even come close to finishing it all – especially since I wanted to try one of their five vegan desserts. It was so hard to pick just one dessert but I went with the Warm Apple Maple Granola Crumble with vanilla soy ice cream. I think this was the absolute best vegan dessert that I’ve tried so far. It really tasted like just like a non-vegan Apple Crisp and vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

Now that I’m here for a second time, I decided to try the Zucchini and Squash Quesadillas on a whole wheat tortilla and with vegan cheese. Of the two dishes I tried, I definitely prefer the quesadillas. Other interesting menu items include: Vegan Fish Taco Platter, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan, and Vegan Grilled Vegetable BBQ. They also have a pretty extensive kids menu too. This is the first time I’ve seen an all-vegan kids menu. The first time I came, there was a family of five with three little vegan boys enjoying their meals. I absolutely love this place. Here is their website: http://www.fieldofgreenscuisine.com/.

The other great thing about Field of Greens is its location. It is right next to a Whole Foods and right across the street from Ruggles Green, another great Houston restaurant for vegans. My co-worker Faiz took me to Ruggles Green last week. It’s not an entirely vegetarian place but their “environment-friendly” theme, you can imagine that there is something for vegetarians and vegans to choose from. Since Faiz knew the manager, and told him I was vegan, the manager immediately suggested a quinoa and vegetable dish that was great. He also brought out a bowl of berries after for dessert. Here is their website: http://www.rugglesgreen.com/.

Also I visited my first all-vegan chain restaurant this past weekend called Loving Hut, which was in the Westchase area of Houston. This Asian-themed fast casual chain has a lot of outlets all over California and in a few other cities, but I had never heard of them – unfortunately there aren’t any in Boston. The website says: “Loving Hut is currently the fastest growing International vegan fast food chain in the world with branches in Milpitas, Palo Alto and San Francisco. Internationally, branches are currently open in Formosa (Taiwan), Au Lac (Vietnam), Singapore, Indonesia, Tokyo and Hong Kong. More branches will be opening in various locations all around the world in the coming months.” I ventured out to the Houston Loving Hut for lunch on Saturday and ordered the Chow Mein and Banana Cake for dessert, both of which I would order again. The Chow Mein consisted of wheat-noodles, lots of veggies, and tofu in a light soy sauce. Check out their website: http://www.lovinghut.com/index.php.

Two other restaurants in the Downtown Houston area that I would recommend are Guadalajara and Bombay Pizza. These are my two favorites near the Hilton Americas Hotel, where I stay when I’m working here. Guadalajara is an excellent Mexican restaurant with a completely separate vegetarian menu with lots of vegan options. I’ve tried the Vegetarian Fajitas (but make sure to ask for them without cheese). Bombay Pizza is a small pizza joint on Main Street and they make vegan pizzas if you ask for it! I’m happy I have these two options very close to the hotel, especially since my co-workers frequent both pretty often.

I’ve only had one negative vegan experience in Houston so far. This past week, I went to Ninfa’s Restaurant on Navigation (near the client site) with some co-workers for lunch. When so many of my co-workers had told me how amazing it is – that it’s good Houston Tex-Mex – I was excited to try the real deal. We were handed huge menus but I couldn’t find anything vegetarian on the menu. I decided to ask the server if they had anything veggie. If they didn’t, I planned to just get a tortilla with rice and guacamole (and maybe beans if they weren’t made with meat or lard). The server told me that they don’t have anything vegetarian. When I tried to order the tortilla with rice and guacamole she responded, “Our rice is made with chicken stock.” Fail. She recommended the Caesar salad, but I told her that I don’t eat cheese either, or anchovies for that matter. I ended up getting some plain lettuce with two slices of avocado and two pieces of cucumber. Uch. Their website is really not worth going to if you’re vegan but here it is: http://www.ninfas.com/index.html.

Other than that one disappointing experience, I have had a very easy time being vegan in Houston and have tried some amazing all-vegan and vegetarian restaurants. I only have three more weeks working here so hopefully I’ll get back to Field of Greens one more time before I leave.

Field of Greens - Vegan Macrobiotic Platter

Field of Greens - Apple Granola Crumble

Field of Greens - Zucchini & Squash Quesadillas

Loving Hut - Chow Mein

Loving Hut - Banana Cake

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 23, 2010

Vegan Challenge: Questions and Reactions

The past three months have definitely been more rewarding and exciting than challenging. I’ve really enjoyed my experience as a vegan, even if I was labeled “difficult” or “of concern” at times. I have definitely gotten some very funny questions and reactions over the months which I will share.

When I first told people about the challenge and my reasons for doing it (and I don’t think my reasoning was entirely consistent to everyone I spoke to), I got some very different reactions. When I told my Bostonian mother, her immediate reaction was, “does this mean you’re not going to eat lobster for the rest of the summer?” I’ve definitely missed Portsmouth lobster and the amazing $16 lobster rolls. When I told my Dad, his reaction was, “that’s fine, but you’re going to have to learn how to cook some good vegan meals.” This was a pretty typical response since my Italian father takes cooking to a whole new level.

When I told one of my consulting colleagues, his comical reaction was, “Vegan? Wait, is there a cure for that?” Another consulting colleague asked, “How do you handle all the amazing food smells?” Some of my friends had some lifestyle questions: Can you smoke hookah? Are condoms vegan? Can you drink alcohol?

I think my favorite reaction was from one of my co-workers/good friend on my consulting project in Houston who said, “That’s cool, I’m going to try to be vegan too.” Then each morning he would tell me that he woke up vegan and tried it out, but then broke it at some point in the day.

After reflecting on some of the reactions – most of which have been positive – I have a very big decision to make: should I stay vegan? I really do love being vegan and feel much better because of it but is it worth the hassle, planning, and explaining? I have one more week of the challenge to decide…

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 19, 2010

Best Ethnic Cuisines

After being vegan for two and a half months now, and having experienced many different restaurants and cuisines, I’ve finally determined my favorite ethnic cuisines (or ones with the most vegan options). When someone asks me, “So what type of restaurant do you want to go to tonight?” My first reaction is usually, “do you like Middle Eastern?” Middle Eastern cuisine has so many vegan options, which might be because many Muslims are vegetarian. Typical vegan options on the menu include: Hummus, Baba Ganouch, Falafel, Israeli Salad, and Grape Leaves.

I’ve also always been able to find something to eat at restaurants with Mediterranean, Indian, or Asian cuisines. I find it hardest to find vegan options at American and Italian restaurants, which I am embarrassed to admit, considering I am an Italian American.

Here are some common vegan menu options by cuisine that I’ve tried:

  • Mexican: Veggie burrito or taco with black beans, Mexican rice, veggies, salsa, guacamole
  • Chinese: Broccoli and tofu with rice; bean curd (any style) with rice
  • Japanese: Edamame, vegetarian sushi rolls (asparagus, cucumber, avocado), ginger salad, seaweed salad, avocado salad
  • Thai: Pad thai (vegan), tofu stir fry
  • Indian: Aloo palak, chana masala, vegetable biryani
  • Greek: Dolmades, lentil soup, Greek salad (without feta)
  • Italian: Pasta (no egg) with marinara; salad with vinaigrette dressing or olive oil

I’ve noticed that most upscale restaurants can usually prepare something vegan, even if there isn’t anything on the menu. However, if you’d like to grab dinner someplace quick with a vegan and there aren’t any vegan or vegetarian-friendly restaurants around, definitely go for Middle Eastern or Asian cuisine.

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 14, 2010

Farmers’ Markets and Plant Cafes

I’m convinced that September is the absolute best time to visit San Francisco. I barely saw any of the summer’s lingering morning fog, or the chilly gray days in the middle of the fall, my weekend in San Francisco was sunny and warm all around. I woke up early on Saturday morning, despite getting into the city pretty late the night before – the BART isn’t known for its evening train frequency. My friend, Yael and I were up and out and ready to take on the markets.

The Saturday farmers’ markets in San Francisco are nothing like any market I’ve ever seen. At the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market each “station” had a different food category (seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.) and pretty much all stations wanted you to try what they were selling. At the seasonal fruits stations we tried peaches, white peaches, nectarines, white nectarines, a few different types of plums and pluots, and figs. When Yael was picking out the perfect mixed greens for a salad, I found a vegan juice station close by and ordered their veggie juice called The Vegetable Medley. I drank it as we walked to the next market. Delicious!

Our next stop was the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Building. It was about 10 times the size of the first market. This was the mother of all farmers’ markets, and the coolest part was, the stations were right on the Bay. As I was tasting yet another pluot, I had the amazing view of the Bay Bridge and the water. I felt like there was a station for everyone at this market: stations had a variety of nuts, smoothies and juices to try (vegan of course), baked goods, and hummus, salsa, honey, coffee,   and soda samples. After admiring and tasting for about two hours that morning, I felt like I had eaten an entire meal. Then we went inside the Ferry Building and away from the market to find lots of food specialty shops. We ran into a little place called Pepples Donuts and Yael told me they are a small all-vegan chain. There were about 12 different donut flavors on the counter and the server said, “Which one would you like? They are all vegan.” Wow. What a nice surprise! I ordered the coffee donut, and couldn’t believe it tasted so similar, even better than the regular donuts I used to have.

That evening Yael and I met Brandon at a restaurant right on the Bay, overlooking the Bay Bridge, called The Plant Café. Before we got there, Yael was a little concerned that they wouldn’t have any vegan options. I just said, “Yael, it’s called The Plant Café, I would be concerned with any other restaurant before this one.” And sure enough, The Plant Café had a vegan-filled menu and it was so hard to pick just one item! I took Yael’s recommendation and ordered the signature plant burger which is mostly made of beets (or at least it looked like it) and other vegetables. I loved the uniqueness of this veggie burger. It had a spiciness to it that complemented the other veggies. Everyone at the table ordered the plant burger, and I was the only vegan! At the end of the meal, I was able to try a bite of the vegan strawberry cheesecake as well – vegan desserts are so damn good.

During the Mason Jennings concert we decided to go for a second dinner at the concert venue, Yoshi’s. I ordered my usual at Japanese restaurants: edamame and cucumber/avocado sushi. Something nice and light at the end of the day.

For brunch the next morning we walked to this restaurant called Pomelo to check out their late summer brunch menu. There were many vegetarian options, highlighted with a green dot on the menu. I decided to go with the tofu scramble with avocado and a side bowl of seasonal fruits. I felt like I could pinpoint every single fruit in my mixed bowl, I knew I had sampled every one of them the day before. I loved the spices they added to the tofu scramble: the saltiness tasted great with the avocado. On our walk back, we decided to go into Yael’s favorite ice cream place. Sure enough, they had two flavors of vegan ice cream! I couldn’t resist, I just had to try the coconut chocolate vegan flavor. It was unbelievable and tasted just like milky chocolate ice cream with a hint of coconut. We sat in Dolores Park eating our ice cream, people watching, and talking about the future.

I felt so at home in San Francisco. The restaurants actually expect vegan customers and have prepared menus and food options to accommodate them. After traveling to New York, Ithaca, and San Francisco these past two weeks, I was relieved to have never felt like an inconvenience in restaurants, the way I oftentimes feel in Boston and Houston. I’ve been a very happy vegan.

Plant Burger at The Plant Cafe

Brunch at Pomelo

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 9, 2010

Vegan Food for the Planet in Ithaca

I was excited to be back in Ithaca for a few days, to visit my alma mater (Cornell University) and to experience the vegan additions to the area where my vegan interest began. I tried two restaurants that I had never been to, surprisingly. My trip started with a birthday dinner for one of my friends at Bandwagon Brew Pub in the Commons. This underground pub has a wide variety of menu selections with multiple vegan options. Only in Ithaca would a brew pub have over five vegan options. They even had a note at the bottom of their menu that said any menu option that doesn’t have meat, can be made vegan. I ordered Zucchini cakes… and then the Spinach Salad as my main course (without the cheese and with the raspberry vinaigrette on the side, of course). I rarely order salad but I wasn’t very hungry so I took advantage of the protein-filled spinach leaves.

The next morning, I went back to the Commons for Sunday brunch. I found out that an all-vegan restaurant opened in Ithaca just months after I graduated, so I had to try it. The restaurant is called Food for the Planet serving dinner from 5:00-9:00 Thursday-Sunday, lunch from 11:00-2:00 Monday-Friday and brunch from 10:00-2:00 Saturday and Sunday. The brunch menu included:

  • Tofu Scramble – scrambled, local tofu, vegan cheese and a side of potato kale hash
  • Breakfast Burrito – rice, beans, tofu scramble, vegan cheese, salsa, pico de gallo, cilantro sauce and sour cream
  • Crepes with Fruit and Soy Cream – filled crepes with creamy filling, fruit topping, a drizzle of maple, and a dusting of cinnamon
  • Stack O’ Pan Cakes – comes with earth balance and maple syrup
  • French Toast – multi grain bread dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Comes with Earth balance and maple syrup
  • Soy Yogurt Parfait – with fruit and pecans
  • Raw Crepe with Cashew Cream – comes with fresh fruit

Dinner options include: Lasagna, Burrito Deluxe, Mac Un Cheese with a variety of starters and salads. The lunch menu is pretty extensive too with sandwiches, burgers, wraps, salads, etc. Since I visited the restaurant during brunch, I tried the Breakfast Burrito (picture below) which was unbelievable. The vegan cheese tasted just like cheddar cheese and the tortilla was nice and sweet. I wouldn’t say the tofu scramble tasted exactly like scrambled eggs but the consistency was similar and it was pretty tasty – and I’m picky with tofu.

At the end of my meal, they offered me a variety of vegan desserts (including Chocolate Crème Brulee, Raw Pecan Pie, Lemon Cheese Cake, Brownie a la Mode, and a variety of cookies), which all sounded amazing, it was hard to try just one. I decided to go with the Chocolate Crème Brulee which tasted just like chocolate mousse with a crystallized top. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the Ithaca area: vegans and non-vegans alike.

Other meals in Ithaca included a Falafel wrap at Stonecat Café in Hector and an Avocado and Tofu wrap at Mate Factor in the Ithaca Commons. I also tried a carrot, ginger, beet, apple, and cucumber juice at Matte but it was a little too strong for me. Maybe I was too used to Green Juice.

I still have never been to Moosewood Café – Ithaca’s famous vegetarian restaurant. I even own the cookbook! My next trip to Ithaca will have to include a Moosewood visit. I’m dying to go back: Ithaca is the most vegan-friendly small town I’ve ever been to.

Breakfast Burrito at Food for the Planet

Chocolate Creme Brulee at Food for the Planet

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 6, 2010

New York City is Definitely the V Spot

Last week I decided to visit some friends and eat vegan food in New York City and I was incredibly impressed. I had written an earlier post about how New York City is far beyond any other city with the number of vegan restaurants at 42 – but wow, there seems to be something vegan to try everywhere I look.

The first breakfast I had was at a place in East Village called Café Mogador. Traditionally Moroccan, they had a wonderful fruit bowl with melon, bananas, kiwi, and berries. I also tried their freshly squeezed orange juice. After doing a little apartment searching with Allison and Mikayla, I took the 4 train down to Borough Hall in Brooklyn. I met up with Lindsey for lunch and she took me to this incredible Japanese restaurant called Ozu in Brooklyn Heights. I tried an Avocado Salad (which I’d never had before), and complemented it with a cucumber sushi roll. Lindsey and I were craving something sweet after the salty soy sauce, so we decided to go on a quest for a vegan bakery; we hopped on the 3 train and took it from Clark Street to Bergen Street.

Park Slope in particular is filled with great vegetarian and vegan food places. Right on Bergen Street, just a block away from the subway is an all vegan restaurant called Sun in Bloom. They offer a variety of vegan menu options including a bakery! Since Lindsey and I came for dessert, we had the hardest choice picking just one of the various cakes, cookies, and muffins. I decided to try the Blueberry Cheesecake (picture below) and Lindsey got a Chocolate Chip Banana muffin. The Cheesecake was delicious; I particularly liked the blueberries in the middle and the crust made of walnut and almond shavings. We then continued our walk around Park Slope and ran into another all-vegan restaurant called The V Spot. I know vegans can be hippies, but apparently they can also be pretty sexual! We were completely full at this point but still went inside to check out their menu. I have never seen such an extensive all-vegan menu at a restaurant: I’ll definitely have to go back.

That evening, back in Manhattan, I dragged my friend Carey to a Lebanese restaurant called Naya Mezze & Grill in Midtown East since I knew they had a wide variety of vegetarian options. Middle Eastern food usually has some great vegan items to choose from. We decided to order a bunch of small plates to share: Hommus, Falafel, Grape Leaves, and Loubie (green beans in a tomato sauce). Carey is a pretty picky eater, but I enjoyed every one of them.

The next morning, Carey took me to her favorite local bagel place called Pinnacle Deli & Bagels. She was convinced that I would get the full NYC bagel experience, but I was pretty skeptical: when I think vegan, I don’t think bagel and cream cheese. But sure enough, their bagels aren’t made with egg and they offer about five different flavors of tofu cream cheese! I topped my whole grain bagel with vegetable tofu cream cheese and it tasted like a regular New York-style bagel breakfast. This was an excellent way to end my fabulous New York City weekend.

I will have to go back soon – there are still so many restaurants I want to try. Does anyone have any vegan favorites in New York City for my next visit?

Blueberry Cheesecake at Sun in Bloom (Brooklyn, NY)

T-Shirt at The V Spot (Brooklyn, NY)

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 3, 2010

BluePrintCleanse

Since I’m on “vacation” for two weeks and get to spend a couple days at home, I thought I’d kick off September with a two-day cleanse. I decided to go with the BluePrintCleanse (BPC), mostly because my friends have talked about it and because I know their juices are 100% vegan.

On Wednesday, September 1st I slept in and woke up ready to cleanse. I decided to do the most intense cleanse of the three that BPC offers, the excavation cleanse. Straight from the website: “Excavation is designed to flood your body with chlorophyll, restore your alkaline balance, and seriously rest your insides so they can finally unearth those crayons you ate when you were three.” I felt like I could handle it since I’m vegan already and as one of my friends noted, “isn’t vegan a cleanse in itself?” The cleanse consists of six juices per day. I started the first juice at 10:30 in the morning after weighing in at 122 lbs. The first juice is called Green Juice, which is 120 calories, made with romaine, celery, cucumber, green apple, spinach, kale, parsley, and lemon. This tastes very similar to the Jungle Juice I had at The Juicery the other day. At noon, I did a Power Hour hot yoga class; I might have had the first juice a little too close to class, I definitely felt a bit nauseous about fifteen minutes in, but it subsided quickly.

After yoga I had the second juice, another Green Juice at 2pm. I went out and ran some errands, and then at 5:30pm I had half of the third Green Juice and decided to save the rest for later. At 7:00pm I had the fourth juice – Spicy Lemonade, 110 calories, with filtered water, lemon, agave nectar, and cayenne. I was a little worried that the cayenne would irritate my empty stomach, but all was good. Then at 9:30pm I had the sixth juice – Cashew Milk, 300 calories, with filtered water, raw cashews, agave nectar, vanilla bean, and cinnamon. It was amazing and tasted like dessert. I ended up not drinking half of the third juice and the fifth juice: I just wasn’t that hungry and pretty sick of the green stuff.

On the second day, I was not looking forward to more Green Juice. I finished by first Green Juice by 10:30 then had the second at 12:30 and the third at 2:30. I really didn’t schedule two-hour juice increments, it just kind of happened that way.  I was hungry for the Spicy Lemonade pretty quickly and finished it by 4:00. In the afternoon I wanted real food so bad. Everything looked amazing. I even dreamed of eating cereal. I then had my last Green Juice at 7:00 on the train to New York City and the final Cashew Milk at 9:00. I was starving by 11:00 but suffered through it and went to bed soon after.

After the experience, I’m really happy I did it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. I missed real food so much! After doing it, I’m now more conscious about what I put into my body. In general, I’d like to incorporate more green juices into my diet. I managed to lose 2 lbs. over the two days but I’m sure it will come back quickly. I recommend any type of cleanse for anyone who is interested – and definitely do a vegan one!

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | August 31, 2010

Nervous About First Dates

I’m not sure how I feel about dating as a vegan, especially with guys I don’t know very well. I met a guy at a bar in Portsmouth about a month ago (who I will call Portsmouth boy for the sake of this post) but didn’t get to talk to him very much that night, since we were sitting diagonally at the table and could barely hear each other with the loud music from the live-band behind us. At the end of the night, he asked for my number and I gave it to him, but mentioned that I’m not in Portsmouth much – just a few weekends here and there over the summer. After some texting back and forth for a few weeks, I finally told him that I would be in Portsmouth for a few days starting August 29. So August 29 rolled around and I received a text early in the day saying, “Hey, are you in town? Would you want to do dinner and drinks tonight?” My immediate reaction was, yeah sure, it would be nice to get to know someone in Portsmouth. But then thought to myself, oh man, I’m going to have to explain the vegan thing.

I decided to go on the internet to Google vegan-friendly restaurants in Portsmouth, thinking maybe I could suggest a normal restaurant but know ahead of time which menu options I could eat, without asking the server a hundred questions. The last thing I want to do on a first date is come off as difficult or demanding. I noticed that The Portsmouth Brewery has both vegan and non-vegan options: it would have probably been a good restaurant suggestion. I quickly realized though, that there would really be no way around it. My dinner selection would indicate that I have abnormal eating habits.

About mid-way through my search, my Dad walked into the room and told me he was making my favorite eggplant/swordfish dish and that he’d make some of it without fish. I just couldn’t resist: eating an amazing vegan home-cooked meal at home with my parents was much more appealing than going on a first date with someone I barely even knew. I sent Portsmouth boy a text back saying, “Hey, I’m in town but committed to my parents for dinner,” and then told him that it probably wouldn’t work out this time, since I was leaving for Boston the next day.

During my search for vegan-friendly restaurants, I noticed that Portsmouth has one all-vegan venue: The Juicery. I decided that I had to check it out while I was in town. The next morning, my Dad and I ventured into downtown Portsmouth for some vegan juice. Right on Hanover Street, behind Congress Street (the main drag in Portsmouth), is a little shop with just enough space to order and wait for your juice. Alex, the juicer, said he’d been working the shop for three years and was happy to report an all-vegan shop, even though he isn’t even a vegetarian himself. You can order an All Natural Smoothie (thicker drink with frozen fruit and juice) or a Fresh Organic Juice (vegetables and a little fruit put into a juicer) for a beverage. They also offer a wide variety of wraps for a meal. All wraps are made with whole-wheat tortillas and organic and local produce.

I decided to order the Jungle Juice, consisting of celery, spinach, cucumber, apple, and parsley; and my Dad ordered Life Blood, consisting of carrot, apple, beet, lemon, and ginger. I would definitely recommend adding some ice on a summer day. We also split the Mexican wrap with seasoned brown rice, homemade zesty black bean salsa including bell peppers, corn, tomatoes & red onions with avocado & romaine. Delicious! Check out their website: http://www.portsmouthjuicery.com/.

As we were walking out of the Juicery, enjoying our juice late in the morning, I got another text from Portsmouth boy saying, “It’s pretty slow at work, would you want to grab lunch?” I had to turn him down again unfortunately, the juice and wrap left me content for most of the day. It’s safe to say though, that I’m a little nervous about dating people who don’t already know I’m vegan…

Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | August 28, 2010

Hesitation in Houston

I was hesitant to start a project in Houston as a vegan, especially since I was meeting an entirely new client and project team. Would they think I was weird? Would they never want to go out to lunch or dinner with me? Would I be labeled as difficult? Now, after six weeks on the project, and having gotten to know my team pretty well at this point, I am confident that every answer to those questions is a resounding “no.” In fact, my project team – about four other co-workers – has been more supportive than I could have ever imagined.

I started this new project in Houston during my third week as a vegan. I tried to hide the subject during my first week. It’s easy to be sneaky in a corporate cafeteria because everyone goes their own way and picks out their own food. I chose the vegetable soup one day, a veggie wrap the next, and a veggie burger the day after that. On the fourth day, as I was walking into the corporate café with my team, my project manager (Joey K) said, “So are you straight up vegetarian or like vegan?” I said, “Actually, I’ve been eating vegan recently.” “Cool!” he said in front of the rest of my team. Cool? That was not the reaction I was expecting at all. Granted, Joey K is from Denver so he might have a slightly different and more liberal perspective than the average Texan.

When we sat down to eat that same day, Nicki Shoes (a manager on my team who was born and raised in Houston) sat next to me and said, “You know, I was vegan for a year and vegetarian for 15 years.” Wow. It was great to hear her stories and challenges with the vegan lifestyle and to have someone on my team who really understands. Shoes has been unbelievably supportive: recommending vegan-friendly restaurants, bringing in vegan snacks (snack bars, nuts, and fruit), and most recently, bringing in a vegan meal from My Fit Foods. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team.

Does that mean that everyone I tell will be as supportive as Joey K and Nicki Shoes?  Should I mention my vegan lifestyle to others or wait until they observe how I eat and say something to me?  I do not want my eating habits to become an issue for my team members or my clients, so I will probably only talk about it if others bring it up.  This is a lifestyle choice for me and I am certainly not on a mission to convert or convince others to follow.

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