Sunday, September 10, 2017

ProgDay Elf!

Sometimes the fickle finger off fate offers you an opportunity to enjoy North Carolina twice in as many weeks! Such was the case this past week, when, on the heels of our Asheville eating extravaganza, Your Elf was in the air to visit the Raleigh NC area. For the past 23 years, a Progressive Rock Music Festival has taken place at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill over Labor Day weekend and for most of those years, my brother has attended. Your Elf started going in 1996 but missed several years until getting back in the Prog-groove (isn’t that an oxymoron?) last year.
ProgRock is not Big Solid’s cuppa, so he was more than happy to stay home with the ‘fur’ kids. As always, the challenge is finding Plant-based/Vegan options in an area that is reminiscent of MS, meaning those options are not plentiful, especially in the smaller towns.
For those of you who do not know what ProgRock is, it’s short for Progressive Rock and can best be described as a genre with a multiplicity of identities. Best way to characterize Prog is to just offer up the names of bands that you may be familiar with as good examples. Most everyone remembers the bands ‘YES’, Pink Floyd, Emerson/Lake&Palmer, early Genesis—well, there you have it. It’s that TYPE of music but the bands playing at ProgDay are not household names. In any event, we have great fun, sell a few things from Jud and Suzanne’s store (Oak City Collection)
and see people we’ve known via music for several years. This year’s crowd actually sported several younger folks, which is nice to see. We managed quite well food-wise, so lets share our ProgDay weekend eating experience. This year, food was available on site via food trucks, which was a GREAT idea!! Both food trucks had vegan options and Your Elf was delighted. But first, on Thursday evening, we went to a little restaurant in downtown Smithfield NC called Simple Twist.
No specific vegan option but a veggie wrap that could be veganized by omitting the goat cheese, so that’s what we got along with an order of fries to share as an appetizer.
The wrap was quite tasty but we could only eat half of it. Got it ‘wrapped’ up for a second meal option, which we had on Friday. As we dove into the remaining wrap, we thought we tasted something different…lo and behold, a big hunk of goat cheese was there. So, sometimes it pays to make sure that all non-vegan items have indeed been omitted from an order. Friday being ProgDay Eve, we worked getting all the vending ‘stuffs’ together and then the bottom fell plumb out of the sky. Tornado WARNINGS and severe weather caught us  as we were enroute to a restaurant called Manning’s in nearby Clayton NC.

With some finagling with the menu, we were able to get a marinated/sautéed portabello served over angel hair pasta and a great salad. The original menu item had the portabello served on a bed of grits BUT the grits were cooked in milk and then all buttered up. NOT. We asked about rice but it was cooked in chicken broth…that’s when the pasta was suggested. It actually turned out quite nicely and Your Elf was a happy camper.
After their meal, Jud and Suzanne shared a Cream Brûlée that they said was quite good and definitely NOT plant-based!
The storms and rains went on for most of the evening, so once again (as last year), we were faced with the possibility of having the first day be moved indoors. BUT!! When we got up Saturday morning, the rain was gone and it was just foggy and cloudy. Off we went to Chapel Hill with the van loaded to the gills. A quick stop at a local Harris Teeter and adjacent Starbucks had us completely happy with mimosa fixin’s and a Starbuck's Flat White (extra shot)! We unloaded our stuffs and settled in for a day of cool music and seeing old friends. And, of course, the obligatory mimosa(s).
Needless to say, after the fog and mistiness cleared off and the sun came out, the day was PERFECT. The food truck, Chirba Chirba, even had a vegan option that was quite tasty.
Here’s the menu and link to their website.
And here’s the dish before it was gobbled up by a hungry Elf.
We took off for ‘home’ after the last band of the day and stopped on the way for something to eat. We tried to get into the new Babalu in Chapel Hill but it was packed with a 45 minute wait. Maybe next year!
We wound up at a kinda fast food place called Zoë’s Kitchen. It was ok for fast food. Your Elf had a Power Grain Bowl without the tzatziki. Passable and we were hungry! Sunday brought another spectacularly beautiful day and arguably the best music. The food truck of the day was The Merry Franksters and their food was awesome.
They had a ‘vegan hot dog' made from marinated carrots! Yes CARROTS!! See the Menu's Peter Rabbit!

Now, Your Elf has made these at home, initially on a whim. BUT, we are here to tell you, done right, you cannot tell the difference. We had ours over a great salad.
Really good stuff for vegans AND from the looks of the number of people in the almost constant line, the rest of their food was just as good; as was the Merry Fanskster folks’ connection with the audience/patrons. All good things must, you know, come to an end and ProgDay 2017 was over before we could get a good breath! We packed up our goodies and took off for home when we decided to go into Raleigh proper for dinner. There was a huge festival going on downtown, so it was hard to get to the original idea. We wound up going to a restaurant called Irregardless. It’s in a great Raleigh neighborhood of older homes and new apartments for a growing population of young adults. And, we are here to tell you, we have saved the BEST for LAST. This restaurant was FANTASTIC!! It has been in business since 1975 and has a great neighborhood vibe. The live music (open mike night, we think) was ok but y’all know Your Elf is a very noise sensitive elf. The Hostess seated us away from the music and that was great. Now, when we opened the menu, we were NOT prepared the the vegan options a WHOLE PAGE OF Entrées for Herbivores!! So, WHOA!! We were blown away! Apologies for the glare; most probably from the shine in our eyes!
We settled on the Wild Mushroom Polenta, but, gosh darn it, we wish we could eat there every night to sample them all. Your Elf’s brother had a Greek Salad (which was huge and delicious, he said) and Suzanne had the Poached Salmon, which she also said was really lovely. BUT, Your ELF LOVED her dish. It was delicious, tasty, beautifully presented, and just, well, what a vegan really loves…a restaurant that delights in preparation using local foods and doing it with a sense of adventure. Isn’t this lovely?
And here is Your Elf’s plate a bit later.
But WAIT!! We aren’t finished! We then asked for the DESSERT menu. This is typically where many vegans just have to sit back and watch their table mates slurp up something sweet, creamy, or egg-based. Well, here’s what our Little Elf Eyes spied on the Dessert Menu. Look at the LAST item.
Yep, the Chocolate Truffle. Even though our little Elf belly was about to pop, we ordered it.And here you go!
It was incredibly good. So, this restaurant puts to rest the concept that vegan eating is boring and limited. Irregardless of your thoughts on eating vegan, IRREGARDLESS is your find in Raleigh. From our server to the food to the ambience, it could not have been better. Here is the link to their website.
Our flight home was picture perfect with the exception of a rather long layover in Atlanta with no vegan options to be found on Concourse A. Big Solid was waiting patiently in the 'waitin' place for us to arrive; complete with a toddy on hand for Your Elf. Thankfully, we had our favorite vegan Thai dishes waiting to be picked up on our way home, making the ending of the day and the trip just right.
Now, we are looking forward to ProgDay 2018 and another gathering of Brother Elf; Brother's Girlfriend, Suzanne; Your Elf; and Brother's BFF, Dave.
We ended our last blog (8.27.17) with thoughts for all of the folks impacted by Hurricane Harvey and we end this one with thoughts for the folks now in harm’s way from Hurricane Irma. It's time like these that even the smallest kindness can bring monumental meaning and joy to others. So, like we always say,  remember to Look for the GOOD, be an EXAMPLE of the GOOD, and ACT for the GOOD as HARD as you can, in as MANY WAYS as you can, EVERY DAY that you can.
Your Elf

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