Monday, June 27, 2011

Portland Pie Co.: A Slice of Vegan Goodness In or Outside the Office…Portland, Maine





Portland Pie Co.
Portland, Maine



Portland Pie Co. has become one of my favorite places in Portland. They have four locations, Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook and Manchester, NH and they deliver! Although I spend most of my time going to the Portland location, the last time my department had a strategy meeting our VP from New York said "Let’s order pizza, not vegan… and uh vegan.” So I responded “Great. I know the perfect place.”

MY Experience
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Portland Pie is a good sports, pizza, and dining place. The staff is always friendly and attentive, quick to answer questions and quick to let you watch the game. I probably watched about three or four Bruins games at the Portland location during the Bruins-Lightning and Bruins-Canucks series, and the only day that it felt like it was a bit crowded was the second game into the Stanley Cup finals (when it should be crowded).

For seating, they have a series of high tops and another dining area with multiple low tops, plus a bar that fits 8-10 people. I’m not sure about the seating detail at other locations. But, I do remember that the Scarbourgh restaurant seemed to be focused on more of a dining atmosphere. 

Portland Pie actually encourages custom orders, so on their menu you'll find the sections labeled Make Your Own Sandwich and Make Your Own Pizza. Perfect for vegans!

MY Food
Rating: 4.5 of 5
I like it. 

They have an extensive menu, so it's perfect to accommodate a diverse set of tastes. The menu lists salads and sandwiches and pizzas and calzones and pasta… It's large enough so that each employee in your  department at work could find something they like OR perfect for the group of friends that needs a vegan option, a gluten free option, and the classic meat and cheese choice.

APPETIZERS:
I don’t normally get the appetizers or the salads, but there is a hummus plate and a garden salad listed for your inquiry (I would just double check with the waitstaff that the pita chips are vegan).

ENTRÉE:
I usually order the Make Your Own Pizza, 10” on wheat dough, Vegan Cheese and a plethora of veggies. The waitstaff told me that the dough options are vegan, however I would stay away from the beer dough since it's made with Shipyard beer. I normally stick with the wheat dough. This was the first place I tried vegan cheese. Unlike a lot of people that give up dairy, I have no cravings for cheese and therefore never even think about buying the substitution. The vegan cheese is definitely a little sweeter than I expected, but I like it.

DESSERT:
Does beer count? But seriously, I don’t think they have dessert because people are too enamored with the pizza.

Yum.

The beer says Shipyard, but was actually a Long Trail.

Just as an FYI if you happen  to be traveling to Portland, Maine - Shipyard Brewery, unfortunately, does not offer vegan beer. Please see images below for your reference, taken from my "Is Your Beer Vegan?" App via my iPhone. If you're looking for local vegan beer I recommend Allagash Brewing Company, Geary's and, my personal favorite, Maine Beer Company.


MY Logistics
Rating: 5 of 5
It’s a two minute walk from my apartment, so I can’t really complain about parking or travel time. When ordering take out I would give a standard amount of time for custom orders. I know our administrative assistant ordered the pizza about 45 minutes before she needed it for the meeting and everything was delivered on time.

I think the price is reasonable for good pizza. For two 10" pizzas, one vegan, one meat extravaganza, and two-three beers, Joe and I paid around $30.00 before tip.

Overall
Rating: 4.67 of 5
If you're looking for a place that you can walk into with jeans and a sweatshirt, enjoy a beer and eat pizza, then Portland Pie is definitely the place to go. It's not in the midst of the Old Port, so you miss the crowds from downtown. 

It's also perfect for casual work meetings. I know the people that ordered food at the office genuinely enjoyed every bite. 


Thanks, 
Danie

Sunday, June 19, 2011

VEGAN @ WORK




It's been crazy at the office lately! So since this week only requires even more time and effort on work projects, I've decided to let you all talk amongst yourselves for the week without my banter. 

Don't worry, I'll be back next week with a 180 Restaurant Review and other fun things. Until then - feel free to print out these lovely Vegan @WORK signs I made. I couldn't chose which one I wanted to post, so I figured I could share them all. 

Happy Father's Day!

Thanks, 
Danie


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sponsor in the Spotlight: Ariel's Hummus

I believe strongly that advertising at it's purest form is to help the end consumer become more informed about the products and services they purchase. I am happy to post the second VCL Sponsor in the Spotlight post by Ariel's Hummus

Enjoy!

* * * 

Insight provided by Ariel, Owner

Ariel at his stand in Portland, Maine. 
Visit his Facebook page for contact information.


1. Why did you start making your own hummus?
Ever since I moved here a few years ago I’ve been looking everywhere for good Hummus, the authentic, creamy, and fresh kind I’m used to from Israel. Unfortunately, I came up empty handed. So I decided to do it myself. 

I started making Hummus at home for me and my wife. At some point friends and family started asking that we bring Hummus to dinners and others events. One thing led to another and now we’re in farmers markets and stores!  

2. Can you talk about the process of finding the best hummus recipe and any difficulties you had?
To make really good Hummus you need really good ingredients. In Israel and across the Middle East the right ingredients are quite easy to come by, but in the US and particularly in Maine, these ingredients are simply unavailable. What I did in order to overcome this challenge is tested an enormous number of ingredients that are sold locally, like chickpeas, until I found the right quality and flavor. As to chickpeas, let’s just say that unlike us humans, not all chickpeas are born equal.

What different types of hummus do you sell? Are they all vegan-friendly?
Currently, we sell 3 types of Hummus:
  • The Original: simply Hummus.
  • The Original with Extra Goodness On Top: Hummus topped with chickpeas and olive oil.
  • Chipotle Cilantro (aka C&C): Hummus with finely minced Chipotle Peppers and Fresh Cilantro - this is actually our invention.
And, yes, it’s all vegan-friendly!



3. What hummus flavor is your “best seller”?
Although many people are crazy about the flavor of our C&C Hummus, the best seller is “The Original with Extra Goodness On Top”. The reason I think people love it so much is because it is the most authentic tasting Hummus. Topping Hummus with chickpeas cooked in traditional spices and olive oil is the way it’s served in the Middle East.

4. Where can I buy Ariel’s Hummus?
Right now you can get it at local farmers markets and at Jordan’s Farm, a great little specialty farm store in Cape Elizabeth (see the Facebook page for exact locations). 

And please excuse me the blunt marketing effort, but if you want to get our Hummus at your local store please feel free to pass along our contact information. We’ll come by the store with a few samples and then, hopefully, you’ll be able to get it close to home.

5. Are you developing any other flavors to sell in the near future?
Of course. We have a few delicious and unique flavors up our sleeves, but we would like to keep it as a surprise for our fast-growing and avid customers. No worries though, we won’t be keeping them waiting in suspense for too long.

6. Do you have any favorite recipes or ways to eat hummus that you could recommend?
Traditionally, Hummus is eaten as a meal. It’s served in a bowl, typically topped with chickpeas, olive oil, and other garnish, and eaten with Pita bread and an assortment of vegetables or salads on the side.

Israelis are actually very particular about the way they eat Hummus, mainly about the way in which the Pita is dipped in the Hummus. This might sound silly, but there’s even a word for it in Hebrew. The word is pronounced Lenagev, which literally means “to wipe”. So the way one is expected to eat Hummus in Israel is to tear a bite-size piece of Pita bread with their hands, dip it in the Hummus while moving the piece of Pita clockwise in a smooth and almost circular motion, which constitutes the act of “wiping”, and then eat it, of course.  Then, when the Hummus is almost finished, Israelis use the Pita to “wipe” the bowl completely clean.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life Should Be Fun: The Daily Mood Cards

Life should be fun! That's why when I went to Border's this weekend to explore their Vegan Cookbook section I stumbled across some quirky office items.


I bought The Daily Mood cards for $8.00 so now I can communicate to all of my lovely office mates that I'm Splendid! or Emo or Hunky-Dory or Giddy or Managerial… There's 47 moods to choose from so have fun with it, or don't - either way there's a card for whatever mood you want to be in.






Other products I thought were neat from Fred and Friends.

Food Face 

"Excuse me you have something on your face"


Ninja Bread Men 

For all your vegan ninja gingerbread cookie needs
Photos Credit: www.fredandfriends.com


Happy Monday!


Thanks,
Danie

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Power Behind Brand Placement

Monday night while watching The Bruins game:
Me: Fun fact, the ad agency we work with helped name the TD Banknorth Garden.
Friend: Really? People think about that… I just thought they wanted to keep “Garden” in the name.

* * *

Clearly the Cleveland Jersey didn't know his place...

Now for all of us brand folk we might take this comment and laugh. Of course, silly, everything has been thought about: the logos on the ice, how large they are, what they look like from the first row, the last row and TV. How the logos face the fans as they look at the benches – or at the direction in which the game is most often filmed, making them legible from TV.

Everything you see has been thought about.

The details of the players' jerseys, what size the number is on the back compared to the last name and what consistent colors fit into the crafted brand color palette (all which will be included in marketing materials, signage and merchandise). Who will tweet every second of the match and in what context they should refer to certain plays like penalities, what player will stay for the media conference, what hat they wear and what sports drink sits in front of them on a table… planned, planned and planned.

If you’re seeing something at a sports game – live or on TV - it’s because you were meant to see it.

Advertisers are trying to give you a message about their brand. It’s cool. It’s fun, It’s what athlete’s drink so you should drink it too. No, you’re not going to see those exact words on the ice, thank God. But advertisers hope you can subconsciously make the connection for yourself. And if you can’t, don’t worry, there will be a commercial with lots of trained “lifeguards” in bikinis telling you to drink Miller Light – which I’m sure every kid under 10 watching hockey with his Dad is happy to see. 






Side note: Because I’m not the target market for this ad, which is most likely males from ages 21-35 and/or a college students, I thought this was a Bud Light commercial until I looked it up on YouTube. Proving that the brand didn’t stick with me – I only knew it was a beer commercial.

So why is all of this important? Because brand placement is important and you, as a member of society, have messages that reach you daily. And because there is a level to which one has to understand that everything is a business – even sports. Think about it, really good athletes get paid a really good salary because the value to their team surpasses their physical ability. They now are part of the team brand. They talk on behalf of the team, do community work, offer their name on a back of a jersey so the multitude of fans that love them can wear it to the game. 

I’m not saying go home and tell your eight year old son there’s no magic to professional sports. I actually love watching professional sports. I’m just saying be aware that if you see a McDonald’s goal came next to a Gatorade water bottle followed up by puck dropped just left of a Chipolte logo, you were meant to see it.

Everything you see has been thought about. Not only in sports, but also at a place like the grocery store. A place where us vegans visit quite frequently. Look around next time you’re in the grocery store. What items are eye-level as you walk through every aisle? Which items are clumped together? Do you spend most of your time in the health food section? If so, why is Newman’s Own Organic products eye level compared to others, maybe smaller companies? Why are Gatorade gel training snacks next to Larabar’s? My guess would be money. Some companies may have better ethics than others, but food is still a business and placement is important.

Look at the packaging. Why do you think Lunchables are bright yellow? To attract kids. Why does Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer recyclable bags with their on name it? To build their brand and help save the Earth as you walk down the street with your 365 paper towls.

I think as a society we just need to be aware of the level to which our lives are branded. Be skeptical, ask yourself why you’re seeing advertising in your environment and what interest a company would have in advertising to you as a consumer. If you see your favorite player wear a hat to a press conference, will you be more likely to buy that hat? If you see a name, or a logo, or a brand sponsor something, it’s probably because it aligns with their initiatives from a business or community standpoint.

Brand placement is important and how you view branding as a consumer can help to make you more educated about the intentions of great brands and great companies.

Thanks,
Danie

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Veggie Weekend in NYC: Guest Blogger - Erin

She's back! Erin, who also shared her account of being Happy and Healthy on a Plant-Based Diet, spent the Memorial Day weekend in New York City with her best friend and Matron of  Honor, Cait. Lucky for us, she was willing to share her photos and write a synopsis of her visit. 

Since I live in an area where vegan dining options are limited, I truly appreciate her enthusiasm in the post.

Enjoy!

* * *



Cait and Me in Central Park
   
     As my Wedding day is coming closer and closer and I see my single lady status drifting farther and farther away I realized that I had never gone on a vacation with my best friend and Matron of Honor, Cait.  Many people do this in college, go away for spring break together with their friends or plan a trip over the summer, But Cait and I were always working over breaks, seeing family or both.  
  So with that realization we devised a plan: We were going to go to New York City and spend a weekend exploring the city and eating all the vegan food we could find.  
  Coincidentally Cait had also recently switched to a mostly vegan diet which made this trip all the more enjoyable. If you are vegan and have ever traveled with someone who is not vegan there is nothing more uncomfortable than having to jump from restaurant to restaurant scanning menus and impatiently trying to find something you can eat somewhere.  
    We started off our eating extravaganza with brunch at Cafe Blossom at 466 Columbus Ave (upper west side) where we met up with our friend (and one of my bridesmaids) Colleen.  Here I experienced the first time I have ever been able to look at a menu and be able to choose ANYTHING I want. I was so overwhelmed that I needed to start off with a Pimosa (pomegranate Mimosa YUM!). Finally I decided to go simple, a grilled Tofu sandwich with tomato, avocado, lettuce, balsamic, and veganaise on multigrain bread with sweet potato fries.  It was delicious to say the least. Cait ordered the traditional country breakfast which included a tofu scramble and sweet potato hash browns that she said were amazing. And Colleen had a Southern Fried Sietan Sandwhich which looked exactly like fried chicken in a sandwich it was creepy. She also said it was delicious and hearty. Colleen is a tried and true omnivore and she was thoroughly satisfied with our vegan lunch, which I feel definitely says something about a place.  
   I find that a lot of Vegans or people who follow a plant based diet will eat just about anything that isn’t an animal product, we tend to love all things veggie and delicious.  But if a vegan restaurant can satisfy a non vegan customer I think that is huge plus.


Tofu Sandwich 
Outside Babycakes enjoying my lovely vegan donut!

Me enjoying my sangria!
Seitan Chimichurris
Seitan Piccatta
Strawberry rubarb pie with ICE CREAM!
    After Brunch we decided to meander along the streets roaming in and out of the different boroughs.  We found an awesome flea market, some cute boutique shops, second hand stores and antique stores.  We wandered through little Italy and into a street fair for some saint or another, and roamed through Chinatown but somewhere in between the two we found Babycakes and I squealed with delight!  Babycakes is a Vegan dessert shop that also only uses all natural sweeteners in their pastries and often creates allergen free pastries as well.         
   After basking in the glory of being able to choose anything I’d like I settled on a plain donut with chocolate frosting and also a plain donut with glazed frosting and sprinkles. The adorable ladies behind the counter said their favorites were the cookie sandwiches but I really had a donut craving. Everything was amazing! The shop was tiny and cramped but filled with quirky vegan love and laughter and after all that walking it really lifted my spirits.  
    Our final food destination was our much anticipated dinner at Candle79 at 79th and Lexington in the Upper East Side. This is the place for fine vegan dining.  Once again the menu was so overwhelmingly delicious cocktails were needed!  Sangria for me and Cait went with one of their Refreshing juices: Aloe, cucumber, and lime mixed with sparkling water!  She said it made her feel all fresh and clean!   
    For starters I went with a special of the day, chilled avocado and cucumber soup and Cait was instantly drawn to the seitan chimichurris. Both were delicious and a perfect pair, we shared and were practically full when the entrees came around. Our dashing server, Adam, helped us decide on our entrees.  Cait went with his favorite on the menu, the Enchilladas and I went with the house special, the seitan piccata with a lemon caper white wine sauce.    Both were out of this world delicious! The Piccatta I could have served to my picky meat eater and he would never have guessed it was seitan. It actually tasted so much like normal chicken piccatta that I had to pause and remind myself that it definitely wasn’t chicken.   
    After that enormous meal we got a brief respite with tea and espresso and then we had to try the dessert. Cait being the Italian girl that she is had to get the canoli, I on the other hand was reminiscent of my grandmother and had to try the strawberry rubarb pie with dulce de leche ICECREAM! I don’t even remember what the canoli tasted like because I was too busy inhaling my pie, I would have licked the plate afterwards had it not been totally inappropriate.  It was the best overall dessert I had ever had anywhere, far surpassing anything I had ever eaten in my non vegan days.  Now here is the good news!  If you can’t day trip out to NYC for some fabulous Candle Cafe goodness then you can make it at home!  Candle Cafe has a cookbook that you can get here so you can make your own vegan delights and soon they are coming out with frozen meals! Nothing will beat the real thing but this will definitely hold me over until my next trip to NYC.
    To sum it up, it was not hard to eat in NYC, especially if you know where to look. In practically every part of the city there was at least one vegan/veggie eatery if not a handful of them.  Even when we were walking around, not looking for vegan delights, we stumbled upon places that we just didn’t have time or the stomach capacity to try. But even though it was so veg friendly I still love that dirty water (bamp bamp bam) Boston you’re my home!


-Erin

Friday, June 3, 2011

Great Ideas: Inspiration for the Weekend or your Cubicle Wall

Happy Friday! 

As you're finishing up the last hours at your desk before the weekend I wanted to share this ad with you. It's an ad out of a magazine that I got from my first manager. Which magazine it came from I don't know, and what product or service it's advertising I have no idea (If you know I would love to find out!). I think it was originally part of a double-page spread. 

However, I know that every time I read the copy it actually makes me want to invent something amazing. So, here's to great ideas.

Thanks, 
Danie

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Three Things to Share

There are just three things this morning that I wanted to share.


1. Yesterday's post drummed up a bunch of support. Thank you!
2. I have a poll on the right-hand side that asks which Fortune 500 company you would like to know more about regarding the vegetarian and vegan options they offer their employees? VOTE!




3. Our new sponsor for the month is Ariel's Hummus! Keep a watch out for the Sponsor in the Spotlight Post later this month AND I will be updating the Ariel's Hummus logo shortly to link out for more information. 


Happy almost weekend. 


Thanks, 
Danie

Memorial Day Weekend: Enjoying Life


Too much Memorial Day Sun = No Fun


This was helpful and I laughed for like 20 minutes at my desk before leaving for the game.  Thanks @RedSox, thanks.
Walking down Yawkey Way