It’s done. The finals I had to take, are taken. The finals I had to grade, are graded. Assignments turned in. Wrap-up meetings wrapped. And just like that, my first year of graduate school is finished. Whoa.
And what better way to celebrate, than an impromptu trip to LA for a very special vegan pop-up dinner, thrown by one of my very favorite vegans?? Not many better ways, I’d say!
Here’s how the whole thing went – the very last day of my very first year of grad school:
It always starts the same . . . they all start the same. Black tea for me to drink while I’m getting ready, black tea for me to take when I go, and breakfast porridge for my baby boy.
Simple oats with strawberry preserves and fresh-picked blueberries.
I pack up our lunches while he eats.
A greens + protein smoothie is a major component of his lunch every day. Well, maybe not specifically at lunch per se, but he drinks one every day ad libitum. And me? I get to drink the leftovers for breakfast.
Kiddo lunch: leftover homemade mac, strawberry green smoothie, kidney beans with extra virgin olive oil and nutritional yeast, and for sharing snack, herbed popcorn. And water of course.
Waits finished up his oats and his oat milk while I got myself ready. Then we got him dressed, brushed our teeth, and were off!
First stop was preschool to drop him off, with a long goodbye because it was a daddy night. Then out to UCSB for me, and into my last class of the quarter. Macroevolution.
We watched a documentary about how Creationists repackaged Intelligent Design and tried to sneak it into the science curriculum, which was infuriating but fascinating, and not a bad way to end the year.
Afterwards, lunch in the UCEN.
A ginormous salad with shredded carrots and shredded beets, kalamata olives and green onions, mixed beans and mesclun. YUM.
And after lunch and some wrap-up work, I grabbed an iced coffee in my travel cup on my way off campus.
By then it was mid-afternoon and I was headed home to change. Jeremy and I had a quick business meeting (his, not mine) at a local winery, which timed up perfectly with our SB –> LA traffic-avoiding departure time. We stopped in at the winery on our way out of town, and that was that. Road trip!
We were bound for Venice Beach, where the pop-up dinner would be held at the G2 gallery, which specializes in nature and wildlife photography. The show that was up that night featured rare and endangered animals, and it was so beautiful. A perfect venue for this event.
The dining area:
And they had a photo booth for pre-dinner shenanigans! I am physically unable to resist a photo booth. True fact.
Finally, it was time for the main event. The overall meal was modeled in a sort of “surf n turf” theme, but it began, of course, with Ayinde’s super-famous, top secret family recipe (which is not in the book, unfortunately) . . . Mac & Yease.
This was, no lie, the best from-scratch vegan mac I think I’ve ever had – and that’s saying a LOT.
While we settled into the meal, Ayinde and Zoe introduced themselves and talked a little bit about their collaboration.
Zoe Eisenberg writes about love and lust, dating and mating, sex advice and veganism, over on her blog Sexy Tofu. I’ve been following along there for a little over a year now, so I was happy to finally meet her in person. Check it out – it’s a whoooole other kind of vegan blog!
Ayinde is a chef and entrepreneur, but to me he is a precious unicorn . . . because he’s been vegan since the day he was born! Vegan since birth, vegan for life. And such an inspiration for us mamas! You can catch up with Ayinde and all his many projects over at I Eat Grass.
And of course, together Zoe and Ayinde have penned The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Relationship Manifesto for Vegans and Those Who Love Them (that link is for pre-order; the book is slated for release this October). With the forces of these two combined, I seriously can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Ooh, also, shout out to my pal Geoff who did all the photography – he is amazing!
Okay okay, now I know you want to see the meal!
Second course was a citrus and salt pickled fennel salad, you can kind of see it here as Geoff was shooting.
Next up was a hearts of Baltimore crab cake served with garlic dill aioli, and this made Jeremy exceptionally happy. He’s a Maryland boy and this dish hit his nostalgia button like whoa.
And finally, a “fillet de soy” with blood orange and nappa cabbage slaw.
There was also a delightful dessert of fresh-made biscuit strawberry shortcakes with vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream, but I somehow managed to not get a picture of that. Maybe because it looked irresistible and I dove right in!
All in all, an amazing meal from start to finish, eaten slowly and savored, among friends old and new. By the time it was over we were due to hit the road back to Santa Barbara, which we did with full bellies and happy hearts.
Have I told you lately how much I love this dude? Summer summer, here we come!
♥ ♥ ♥