Posted on February 13, 2020
Hi, everyone! Happy 2020. I mean, it’s February, but I can still wish you a happy 2020, right? Time is a construct, go wild!
Yes, I know. I’ve been slacking on this blog quite a lot. But I’ve been busy, I swear! Cavorting around Western Washington, being a bon vivant, eating bonbons while lounging on a chaise lounge…you know the deal. It’s a tough life.
Anyway, I did want to share one of my favorite projects I’m working on for King 5 Evening. It combines my two favorite things- food and storytelling- to create something that I’m pretty darn proud of: Edible Education!
Edible Education, because alliteration is awesome. Even better when it’s Edible Education with the Ever Effervescent Ellen, but that’s way too long so we went with the first one.
Each episode, I interview a culinary expert to educate viewers about various foods and cuisines. It can literally be any food or cuisine that deserves further investigation, which- surprise, surprise- is every food and cuisine!
I have three goals for every episode- teach the viewer something new, entertain the viewer, and encourage the viewer to try something they might’ve never tried before. My goal is to demystify, welcome, encourage and delight. To me, food is a unifier. It can tell stories and bridge gaps in wonderful, unspoken ways. Not that I’m discovering world peace or anything. But, still, you know.
Which food/cuisine do you think I should tackle next? I’m always looking for new ideas.
And there you have it. That’s one of the things I’ve been up to recently. I’ll be back soon with other tidbits. I am writing a book right now, so…
Wait, wait, wait, ELLEN IS WRITING A BOOK?
And that, my friends, is what we call a tease! See you next time!
Posted on August 13, 2018
Oh, Canada! You’re so awesome.
I visited Vancouver, BC for a long weekend in July. I’ve been to Canada once before- I visited Montreal when I was very young. Unfortunately, my only lasting memory of the trip involves a shopkeeper angrily berating me in French. I forget why.
So, I was excited to return to our Northern neighbor- and Vancouver did not disappoint. Travel guides often describe Vancouver’s waterfront as stunning and “glassy”. I didn’t quite understand the description until I visited. The city’s wide waterfront sparkles with bright, glimmering buildings.
I feel like Vancouver is as close as I’m going to get to visiting a literal utopia. Or, at least, a city that looks like one.
Everything was clean. Everyone was polite and friendly. There’s a ton of fantastic food. It’s a diverse, multicultural city with incredible culture and a love for the outdoors. The waterfront sidewalk is split in two- one side for pedestrians, the other side for bikes. And people actually followed the rules! Which is truly a testament to the city.
Okay, I’m rambling. If my weird city-worship has convinced you to visit to Vancouver, the least I can do is give you some recommendations on what to eat, see and do in the fair city.
Seattle has Pike Place Market, Vancouver has Granville Island Public Market. This popular attraction sits across from Vancouver’s waterfront, on Granville Island. Hop on one of the convenient Aquabus boats and explore the public market.
Much like Pike Place Market, the market is colorful and loud and wonderful. Fruit and vegetable vendors wedge their stands together in narrow aisles, piling cherries in tiny pyramids to show off for shoppers. Bouquets of fragrant, blooming flowers at astoundingly low prices decorate florist stalls. And fish. Lots of fish!
I’d recommend getting there right when it opens to beat some of the crowds, especially on the weekend. Be sure to stop by Lee’s Donuts while you’re there, and get the Honey Dip donut. They’re almost always served warm, and they’re good for your soul. Your body? Debatable. But really, the soul is what matters in the end.
If you’re looking for incredible seafood and sushi in Vancouver, Miku is the place to go.
It’s a sleek, stylish restaurant right on the Burrard Inlet, a popular waterfront area. They specialize in Aburi sushi. Translated directly, aburi means “flame-seared”. The chefs take a blow-torch and a piece of coal to the top of the sushi, searing the fish lightly. What results is a really unique, rich flavor, complimented by the different sauces they use.
It’s an expensive restaurant, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. This is a distinctly Vancouver experience, and if you want to treat yourself to an amazing meal, go here. The food, the view of the waterfront- it’s all fantastic! The cover photo for this post is from Miku.
Bella Gelateria is world famous. I didn’t know that when I stopped by, though. I was just looking for the nearest ice cream shop, because I wanted ice cream and have zero self-control when it comes to food.
Bella Gelateria has won dozens of gelato competitions, been consistently voted “Number One Gelato/Ice Cream in Vancouver”, and even won “Best Gelato in North America” in the Gelato World Cup. The Italian Consulate of Canada has also given it their seal of approval, and it gets mine as well!
Their gelato is rich, creamy, fabulous stuff. And they have a host of interesting flavors! I got Black Sesame and Matcha Green Tea, because I’m a sucker for pretty food and unique flavors.
Boats are everywhere in Vancouver- little Aquabus boats zipping up and down False Creek, kayakers gliding on the water, houseboats hugging the side of Granville Island. So, it’s only fitting that you take a boat tour of a boat city.
Vancouver Water Adventures is a great option. I took the City and Seals Tour, an hour and a half tour that takes you past Vancouver’s most well-known spots. We swung around places like Siwash Rock, Lions Gate Bridge, and Vancouver’s nearby seal colony. And yes, there were plenty of adorable seals! They’re just so darn cute, I can’t get over it. They’re basically dog mermaids.
The company uses Zodiac boats, which is apparently the same type of boat used by the Coast Guard in Vancouver. I felt pretty safe jumping into one of those.
Stanley Park is 1000 acres of lush greenery, quiet beaches and beautiful views. It’s one of Vancouver’s main tourist destinations, and for a good reason. It houses Canada’s largest aquarium, as well as one of the city’s most famous icons, Siwash Rock. Pictured here! Ignore me.
The best way to see Stanley Park is on foot. A walk/bike path winds around the perimeter of the park, along Vancouver’s seawall. On a sunny, warm day, you’ll see plenty of people enjoying the weather- but even when I went on a beautiful Saturday, I never felt too overwhelmed with crowds.
You can get your exercise in, and see one of Vancouver’s most famous sites! Win-win.
Thanks for reading! If you can’t make it up to Vancouver, but can swing by Oregon, I’ve also got you covered. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in Eugene, as well as my favorite place to view waterfalls in Oregon.
Happy travels! Oh, and always remember–
Posted on March 6, 2018
The first few times I drove past Vengan Pa’ Ka, the name tricked me.
It’s a sleek food truck painted a glossy dark gray, posted up in downtown Eugene’s park blocks. The gold splash of a garlic bulb decorates the side, and over it, in thick white brushstroke, is the name.
VEGAN PA’ KA.
Vengan Pa’ Ka.
My curiosity grew with every trip past the truck. Was the name some kind of subliminal messaging? What did it mean? Was I obsessing over this too much?
Yes, but that’s just me. And thankfully, the owner of Vengan Pa’ Ka, Juan Umaña, didn’t think it was weird when I asked to profile his food truck on my blog.
So when I finally got to ask him about the name, I realized while I might be weird and obsessed, I wasn’t technically wrong.
The name Vengan Pa’ Ka is a trick of the eye doing triple duty, an optical illusion that represents the food truck’s diverse menu.
Juan explained the meaning behind the name when I visited the truck earlier this winter.
Vengan is a Spanish verb, meaning “to come”.
Pa’ Ka is Caribbean street slang, derived from the phrase para acá, meaning “over here”.
Hence the name Vengan Pa’ Ka– come over here, and try delicious vegan food inspired by Juan’s multicultural background. The name is a celebration of the life he’s chosen to live, where he came from, and the Spanish and Southeast Asian flavor of the menu.
Juan’s vision for Vengan Pa’ Ka isn’t just about the finished dish. He cares deeply about where his ingredients come from, trying to source his produce from local businesses and farms as close to the truck as possible. The truck’s slogan reflects that idea: “Street food with a conscience”.
“I wanted to make sure I had a menu that resembled seasonality and the produce that grows here,” Juan said, “showcasing unique and individual ingredients and letting them do the talking.”
Perhaps the best example of that is the Winter Stir Fry, a traditional rice noodle stir fry filled with almost every winter vegetable you could possibly think of.
Celeriac. Kale Sprouts. Cabbage. Rainbow carrots. Mushrooms. Sautéed red potatoes. Ginger red onions, a favorite garnish at the food truck. All tossed on the griddle, sizzling with sesame oil and tamari.
My soul felt a little warmer when I grabbed one of the offered eco-friendly wooden forks, popped open the cardboard take-out box, and chowed down on a delicious, filling stir fry that is completely vegan. To me, it’s kind of the “have your cake, eat it too” mentality.
And I know that’s a nasty stereotype following vegan food, no matter how many creative chefs defy it- the idea that vegan food is a leaf of spinach, or a single, tasteless block of tofu. It’s an ignorant, lazy stereotype that Vengan Pa’ Ka absolutely blasts out of the water.
The food truck serves lighter options, like mint-beet soup, but there are plenty of filling meals on the menu, like the winter stir fry. What doesn’t change is that all of the dishes are plant-based.
“The showcase always has to be the vegetables,” Juan said.
Juan usually doesn’t replicate animal products in his dishes, which is a vegan phenomenon growing in popularity- cashew cheese, seitan bacon, almond milk yogurt. But he makes an exception when he’s whipping up cultural food that relies on those dairy and meat-based components.
He has a few signature ingredients that make me appreciate how creative vegan cooking can be- like carrot bacon, made from thinly sliced rainbow carrots seasoned with tamari and liquid smoke, fried on the griddle.
But the one that impressed me the most was the cheese sauce.
Yes. Vegan nacho cheese sauce for vegan nachos.
For the nachos, Juan slices up a corn tortilla and throws the pieces into the fryer to crisp up into thick, fresh chips. While the tortilla chips are bubbling away, a mix of mashed, spiced pinto beans, mushrooms and celeriac go on the griddle.
The nachos are listed on the menu as a side, but for me, they’re big enough for a meal- and just as satisfying. Freshly made chips pilled with the pinto bean mix, cilantro, ginger red onions, and blistered pieces of Anaheim pepper. All smothered with a generous helping of the vegan cheese sauce, of course.
It’s what he calls his “smoked Goodahh” sauce, although it’s potato-based and features absolutely no dairy. It’s uncanny how close it tastes to actual gouda cheese. Witchcraft!
The last menu item I sampled is tough to photograph, I’ll admit. If you want a better view of it, check out the video at the top. For now, you’ll have to settle for my punch-drunk smile, doped up on badass vegan food.
Lovingly wrapped up in that wax paper bundle is the Vengan Pa’ Ka Portobello Melt, a sandwich that reaffirmed my love for giant mushrooms.
It’s a sandwich comprised of a sliced-up portobello cap, slow soaked in tamari marinade and sizzled up on the grill, resting on a mix of red veined sorrel and red mustard greens. The sandwich is topped with carrot bacon and ginger red onions, coated with the vegan cheese sauce, and served on toasted ciabatta.
In layman’s terms, Vengan Pa’ Ka is the bomb.com. Juan clearly puts thought and care into not just the dishes, but the ingredients themselves and the overall impact of the food truck. There is truly something about knowing you’re not just eating great food- you’re eating great food that’s locally sourced, that has passion behind it, that’s kind and sustainable.
But, that’s just my two cents. If you really want to find out what’s up with Vengan Pa’ Ka, you’ll have to try it yourself. What I’m saying is…
Vegan pa’ka to Vengan Pa’ Ka.
Got another food truck you want me to feature? Have other ideas for my blog? Comment on this post, or head over to the contact page.
Interested in other delicious foods in Eugene? I’ve got you covered.
Posted on February 4, 2018
January was a busy month- besides talking with Oregon Public Broadcasting, I watched a lot of movies, read a lot of books, and ate constantly. I thought I could put my winter hibernation activities to good use and recommend some reads, flicks and eats. Enjoy!
As an awkward tween with two missing teeth and an affinity for fanfiction, I wasn’t particularly discerning with what I read. If it was in front of me and had pages, I’d generally pick it up- although there was one book that never quite caught my attention. Sabriel, by Garth Nix.
That is, until I was perusing the internet one day and found a list of recommended audiobooks. To my surprise, the top pick was Sabriel…read by Tim Curry.
Sabriel never succeeded in wooing me, but Tim Curry sure did. I grew up with Muppets Treasure Island, okay?
I took the plunge, and I’m glad I did. Sabriel is now one of my favorite YA fantasy books, mainly thanks to Tim Curry’s amazing narration. Every character is lovingly captured in Curry’s voice, from the snarking sidekick cat character to the quiet, serious protagonist. Give it a listen!
This movie is about a human woman and a fish creature falling in love.
I wanted to get that out of the way ASAP, because a heartfelt movie about interspecies romance ain’t for everyone. Much like your peanut butter preference- smooth vs crunchy- this concept produces strong opinions. I like extra crunchy peanut butter and weird, whimsical movies about fish-people love. Some folks don’t. C’est la vie!
I’m also a diehard fan of the director, Guillermo Del Toro. He could make a movie about a potato and I’d see it.
That being said, if you’re a person with a mind for magic, an affinity for whimsy, and a tolerance for fishy love, please go see this movie. It’s an absolutely beautiful film with a huge heart. It’s one of my favorites of all time, which I guess says something about me, but, whatever. Fantastic score, immensely charming characters, and Michael Shannon insults my hometown. Wowza!
Similar to The Shape of Water in that it involves a forbidden, interspecies romance. Different in that it does not involve fish-people, and was lambasted by everyone you knew in the early 2000s.
But this YouTube video posits: perhaps everyone who snarked Twilight could’ve been a little nicer, more understanding of teenage girls’ interests.
Lindsay Ellis looks back on the dumpster fire that was book snobbery in the 2000s, and analyzes why exactly people hated the Twilight fandom so vehemently. Ellis’s video casts a much-needed critical eye on how we as a society view female interests, and what we choose to deem “worthy” or “silly”.
Frustration at systemic and deep-seated oppression of women, thy name is cinnamon rolls.
When celebrity chef Mario Batali was accused of sexual harassment by four different women, he (and his PR team) released an apology letter…
…that included a recipe for Pizza Dough Cinnamon Rolls.
Obviously, most people thought that addition was a little…thoughtless? Tasteless? But, no piece has so clearly shown the ridiculousness behind the letter and the fury one feels reading it, quite like Geraldine DeRuiter’s blog post.
DeRuiter takes it upon herself to actually make the cinnamon rolls, describing in loving detail how horrible the recipe is, almost as horrible as the vein of harassment that continues to run throughout culture and hound women.
Out with the old, in with the new. Rising from the ashes of the much loved Belly Taqueria comes a joint in downtown Eugene that knocks my socks off- Black Wolf Super Club.
Black Wolf comes from the same folks who brought you Buck Buck, another local favorite that serves deeply delicious, unhealthy food that fills both your soul and your arteries. So, when I visited Black Wolf, I knew to prepare myself for some damn good dishes.
Black Wolf serves up Southern cuisine, with a particular concentration on Creole and Cajun dishes. I’ve only spent a hot-minute in New Orleans, but their food (and drinks) made a lasting impression on me. So, at Black Wolf, I had to go for their andouille and fried chicken wing gumbo, and a massive frozen hurricane.
The gumbo was incredible. A rich stew filled with andouille sausage, sprinkled with bright green onions, crowned with a fried chicken wing. The hurricane was bang-for-your-buck-strong, but not enough to ruin the flavor- it was delightfully tart and refreshing.
I’m going to restrain myself from going back sooner, only because I care about my physical and financial health.
Got any restaurants, books or movies to recommend? Leave a comment!
And if you’ve got a story for me, or idea for my next blog post, head to the contact page. Thanks for reading!
Posted on July 7, 2017
I’ve spent summers in the Mid-Atlantic, the South and the Midwest. But in my opinion, the Pacific Northwest does summer the best. I think all Oregonians have a dreadful, creeping thought in the back of their heads…we only get 3 months of this, so we better enjoy it.
I hosted a local food show, Tasty Tuesday, which allowed me to sample lots of different restaurants and food trucks throughout Eugene and Springfield. Here’s a breakdown of some cool spots to check out during Eugene’s fleeting summer months!