Monday, June 30, 2014

Restaurant review - Gracias Madre

Los Angeles is one of our go-to places for vegan cuisine. Since we go to San Diego often, we have gotten used to going to Los Angeles before or after a trip to San Diego. This summer is no different. The difference this trip has been being able to check out new places, new to us at least.

Meet Gracias Madre. "Our menu is vegan and 100% organic. Our mission is to celebrate and serve the presence of the mother which resides above us, within our hearts, within the earth, and in all those who nurture us. We serve cuisine inspired by the kitchens of Mexico sourced from locally organic ingredients. Welcome to a seat at love's table."

This is how you are greeted at Gracias Madre. Well actually, you are first welcomed by a smiling host and when you are seated you get a menu with the warm welcome quoted above.

Soon our server arrived and offered us drinks. Mike loves the smokey margarita. I tried one of the fresh pressed juices and also the horchata. Both were delicious. If you like beer, wine and/or tequila you have plenty of options.

Order a drink and also order the cauliflower starter. Don't even think about it, just order it. You will love us for this recommendation. We loved this creative appetizer and it was a wonderful way to start our dining experience.

For dinner, I ordered El Plato and Mike ordered Flautas de Comote. The second night I ordered the Enchiladas con Mole and Mike ordered the flautas again. Mike loved the flautas. Similar to a taquito and filled with sweet potatoes and carmelized onions, the flautas wil make you very happy. I enjoyed both my dishes, loving the mole but thinking the enchiladas were too filling, yet delicious.

While eating our meals we felt relaxed and very comfortable on the patio. Gracias Madre is gorgeous, and both times we were seated on the patio and that added to our already perfect experience.

Before we knew it we had finished our meals and it was time for desert. One word: flan. Yes, vegan flan. I ordered this both nights. The first night the flan was so creamy I couldn't believe it. The second night it was a little gritty but still delicious. Mike ordered the fudge brownie and finished it with a smile, loving the salted mezcal caramel and the orange coconut whipped cream.

The fire is going in the fireplace that is centered on the patio. It's darker out and the patio lights are on. It is just so beautiful and relaxing. Again, the perfect environment.

As we have been telling friends since our first night at Gracias Madre, we had one of the best dining experiences ever. Ever.

A few additional bits of information: We parked a few blocks away but there is valet parking. Make a reservation. Ask to be seated on the patio. I know the restaurant might not like this but the ambiance on the patio is simply the best.

Gracias Madre is perfect for a date night (like the two times we were there) or for a night out with friends. You might even make new friends there as we did.

I also want to say that on our second visit we had the HUGE pleasure of meeting Executive Chef Chanda Gilbert! She is amazing, and it was perfect to meet the woman whose dream came true with the opening of Gracias Madre.

Finally, and I just now thought of this, Gracias Madre is all vegan and it is packed! I know, this is Los Angeles, but still!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vegan (and gay friendly) Salt Lake City!

Our summer road trip took us in a different direction as we wanted to visit family on the way to California. So we ended up with a night in Salt Lake City and I am so glad we did!

When you think of Salt Like City, what do you think of?


Anti-gay people?

Well, we love Salt Lake City. If you ever have an opportunity to visit, I highly encourage you to take advantage of that and do it.

We stayed at the lovely Hotel Monaco. One of our favorite hotels in Denver, we wanted to give this one a try. It is right downtown, and convenient to several vegan dining options. They are dog friendly and Suga loves how she is pampered at a Hotel Monaco. We were not disappointed in the least. Great room, great service and the location rocks.

The Hotel Monaco also has bikes! Perfect. We rode them to our first meal, at Sage's Cafe.

In our short time in the city we had food from Sage's and their sister restaurant, Vertical Diner. At Sage's we both ordered the special, explained to us as carrot cake pancakes. It ended up being a carrot cake muffin lightly grilled.Quite tasty but not what we were thinking when we ordered. The menu is filled with items that looked tempting, but one can only order so much!

Back at the hotel we were able to order food from Vertical Diner and have it delivered to the hotel! Score! So we ordered the Chicken Biscuit, similar to a pot pie. We both loved this dish and have talked about it a lot since eating it. If you ever get to Vertical Diner I highly recommend it.

Any review of vegan food in Salt Lake City would not be complete without mentioning City Cakes bakery. Oh my. We went twice. Mike had three different scones and loved them all. I loved the cinnamon roll. We both really enjoyed the sausage potato burrito. The entire staff was so kind and friendly, and we especially enjoyed our conversations with Olivia. Definitely check out City Cakes!

Two places we did not make it to but heard very good things about are House of Tibet and Zest Kitchen and Bar. We will definitely check these two out next time.

Great food, great hospitality, a very friendly downtown and an overall progressive feel. Try Salt Lake City if you ever get the chance.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Three years of The Gay Vegans blog

It was June 16, 2011, my first blog post for The Gay Vegans.

I wanted to create a blog separate from the one I did for my work as a fundraiser, and The Gay Vegans was born.

As it says on the main page, this blog was created to build bridges amongst communities, to be a voice for the voiceless and to share our experiences being gay and vegan in the burbs.

The blog has become so much than that, thanks to those who have found it interesting, who read it regularly and who take action when we ask our readers to do something that we think will make the world a better place for all living beings.

Thank you so much!

I love corresponding with folks who write me about a blog post or folks who are considering going vegan. I love hearing back from people who registered to vote for the first time or who came out to an elected official, whether the coming out was about their sexuality of the fact that they are vegan and wanted to elected official to know.

Most of all, I love the hundreds of stories that have been shared with me about the actions of one person who decided that they wanted to make a difference, and they did!

I am sending thanks to everyone who has ever read a blog post and to all of you out there who have supported The Gay Vegans. I am super stoked when I think of what more I can do with this blog, and how much more fun all of us can have as we become a stronger voice for the voiceless and continue making this world a better, safer place for all living beings.

Let's do it!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Restaurant review - Pho Fusion in NW Denver

I have never written a negative restaurant review. I began writing restaurant reviews about two years or so ago when I decided that I wanted to brag about the places we love where we live and the places we discovered while traveling. Last year I decided to expand and started going to restaurants that I perceived as vegan-friendly and reviewing them.

Just in case this is your first time reading my blog here is important information on my review process: I have to have dined at the restaurant at least three times (I haven't always stuck to this, especially when traveling, but I do believe it's important to not review a restaurant based on one visit) and my review is based on incredible vegan food and amazing service.

Pho Fusion is an Asian restaurant on the way home from my work. I have dropped in a few times over the years. I have never been impressed with the food but dropped by once again recently out of pure convenience. I was in charge of dinner and had no clue, so just dropped in.

I have learned that Pho Fusion is Vietnamese cuisine. I learned this because once again when asking for vegan options I ended up speaking with someone who should not be in customer service, or who should have an owner-approved, kind message that lets folks know that they do not wish to have vegan customers.

I get it. I don't expect that every restaurant wants our business.

I was told that Asian cuisine was not vegan friendly in general after making the statement that I wished their menu was more vegan friendly. After my reply, the gentleman clarified that perhaps it was just Vietnamese cuisine that was not vegan friendly.

I should add that this guy was done with me the second I said that I did not want to order the two choices he gave me: hot and sour soup and fried rice (done vegan for me). I wanted dinner!

After acknowledging that the tofu they serve is vegan, and conferring with someone in the kitchen, he told me I could order the pad Thai with tofu. Done. I paid, tipped him (crazy, but I live up to the gay stereotype of being good tippers and I know I need to work on that) and waited for my to go order.

You can see where this is going. Well maybe not. I got my order, left, arrived home, told Mike how infuriated I was with this gentleman at Pho Fusion, and then we ate.

The vegan version of their pad Thai was delicious. We both enjoyed it. As I finished mine I realized there was a piece of chicken it, and as much as I dislike that I know mistakes happen in busy kitchens.

The bottom line for me is that kindness rules. If you cannot be kind to a customer then reconsider your employment in a job that puts you in front of people all of the time. And from a restaurant owner/manager perspective, if you don't want to offer vegan cuisine that's fine. Just say so. Let folks know that.

I would recommend to the folks at Pho Fusion that they incorporate a couple of vegan dishes, entrees, to their menu. They obviously have people in the kitchen who rock at making delicious vegan food.

I'm sure at this point of the post you are ready for the review. Here it is.

I won't go back to Pho Fusion. If I ever hear that they have embraced the idea of serving vegan food with a hassle then I might try it again. The deal for me is that there are so many restaurants that gladly and enthusiastically serve delicious vegan food that with better planning on my part there is simply no need to go to Pho Fusion again.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Be kind to animals

Videos of animal cruelty are a dime a dozen these days.

So are videos of the aftermath of such cruelty.

Even if one takes out the inevitable maltreatment of animals that become food, that are used in entertainment and that are tested on, horrific acts against animals happen so frequently that it can become overwhelming when I think about it.

And then I see a video like I recently saw.

No need to go into it. It was from overseas. I suppose it doesn't even matter where the video was from. It could have easily been from here in the U.S.

I was disgusted.

There is no way the question "why" can be answered. I have no clue why people torture animals. Perhaps it's because they can. They have the power.

It's easy to feel powerless. Yet allowing so much cruelty to make us powerless does no good for anyone, certainly not the animals.

We can promote simple kindness to animals. We can speak out against cruelty towards animals.

We can teach our children to be kind to animals.

We can make animal cruelty so unacceptable that people begin to think twice about inflicting harm on an animal.

Kindness rules. Just as I write about being kind to other humans, we can take the lead on getting more and more people to think about animal cruelty.

The more noise we make against cruelty to animals, the more change happens.

The animals in those videos can't be saved. The once about to be video taped tomorrow can.

Thanks for reading!

7 - 0 victory in Sterling Heights!

It happened around midnight in the City Council chambers in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The Council voted unanimously, 7 - 0, to pass an ordinance that will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. The ordinance will "apply to all persons seeking employment or housing in the city, but specifically would extend civil rights protection based upon sexual orientation and identity."

I am ecstatic.

7 - 0.

I had the honor of speaking with Mayor Pro Tem Mike Taylor before the vote. With allies like him and others on the Council who spoke about equality and prejudice, I feel even more hopeful about the future for those of us who do not fit into the heterosexual norm than I did before.

Said Mayor Pro Tem Taylor in a prior vote that brought us to last night, "“For those of you concerned that your ability to practice religion is being taken away, that is not the case. We can argue and debate many things, but this is not one of them,” he said. “The First Amendment is your shield and it protects you and your ability to practice religion, but it is not a sword to be used to strike down your fellow citizens because they do not agree with you.”

I agree.

I most likely won't get to speak with all of those on the Sterling Heights City Council who voted last night so will pass this message along:

Thank you. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. Thank you for shining light onto bigotry in any form. Thank you for doing the right thing and acknowledging all of your citizens and those who want to be part of the greatness that is Sterling Heights. As one of your citizens said "Discrimination is real and it happens every day. It is subtle, it is rarely overt, and it is laws like this that are necessary to protect LGBT people…Freedom is for all of us not just some of us who fit into a preconceived norm. Sometimes freedom for all makes us uncomfortable, that is the challenge of freedom."

I have a huge smile on my face and even more hope in my heart. Sterling Heights is where I came of age. I lived there during elementary school and junior high school, the years that I began to realize that I was different. It is a very special place for me.

Based on the vote last night, the City Council also thinks so.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Suggestions on being a vegan-friendly restaurant

I thought a bit about the title of this post. I kept going back to wanting to take the word vegan out of it. Most of my suggestions would make any restaurant more guest-friendly. As I am vegan and hope to have more friendly dining experiences at non-vegan restaurants, I finally decided to keep the title as it is.

We have our favorite restaurants and still find ourselves going to new places (new for us) as we find out about a place through friends or online.

If you own a restaurant, manage a restaurant, or have any interest in making a particular restaurant more friendly to potential diners, you might find this list helpful. These are obviously only my opinions, and they are based on how I want to feel when dining out.

If you don't care about vegan cuisine or about having a great place for vegan customers, or if your restaurant is already filled every day and night and you are already as profitable as you want to be, then there is no need to read this.

Here we go!

First, and this one is so important, please, please, please have your entire staff trained on the menu. If someone serving me food doesn't know what is in the food, I become concerned. If it is impossible for your entire staff to know if a dish is vegan or not, then I suggest an ingredients book that they can look at to see if a particular dish is vegan. This is also very helpful with allergies and folks who eat gluten-free. My dining experience becomes so much better when I can trust the server, and a server trained around all of the menu items is one I can trust.

Cream is not vegan. Nor is half-n-half. Training all staff on what is vegan is incredibly helpful. Even better is marking any items that are vegan or that can be prepared vegan. So helpful.

Keep your bathrooms clean. Seriously.

If at all possible, post your menu online. If you have an incredibly popular vegan dish on the menu, let people know that.

Back to training. I am quite comfortable being vegan. I don't talk about it all of the time. I mention it in a restaurant because I want to ensure I can get my dish prepared vegan. I'm not interested in if the server had been vegan, if the server loves cheese, or if the server can't imagine being vegan. This is my dining experience, not theirs.

Unfortunately many vegans have had so much bad luck with ordering vegan, being very clear, and then getting a dish with dairy or some meat stock in it. The result is that they tell the serve they are allergic to dairy, or meat, or whatever. I'd love a restaurant that because of a well-trained staff this was not necessary.

I am vegan. This simply means that I do not eat animal flesh or any by-product of an animal. Including honey. I do not have a restrictive diet. If asked by a server if I have any food restrictions I will typically say that I do not want any crappy food, that I prefer fresh, creative dishes. That's my only restriction. Of course for those folks who have a real allergy (Mike is allergic to almonds) then this is where one would inform the server of the allergy.

Kindness rules. Unkind people should not be hosts or servers. Period.

There you have it. I guarantee that if your restaurant considers what I have just written here, you will not only increase your customer base but you will inevitably delight those same people.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My second half marathon

This past May I ran my second half marathon. As I did last year, I ran to fundraise for the organization I work for which serves youth experiencing homelessness.

For those new to this blog, I have not been running for long. I began last March (of 2013) when I decided to try the half marathon portion of a local race in Denver, The Colfax Marathon. For me it was all about fundraising, a way to support a cause I believe in so strongly (young people living on the streets).

This year my training was a little different. Winter seemed to go on and on here in Colorado, and although I am good running in cool temperatures I don't like running in freezing temperatures. So my training was affected, or some might say I chose to train less.

I finally got some good runs in, paid attention to some vegan athletes I follow through social media, and started to build my confidence for the upcoming half marathon.

Since last year when I began running, I sure have begun to enjoy it. At first it was a task, a tough one at that. Now I feel in my comfort zone when running, a chance to think or not think, to just be and breathe. It's a pretty good feeling. I also feel, no matter the distance of a run, that I am doing something good for myself, my physical being as well as my mental being.

May 18th came quickly this year and before I knew it I was at the starting line. A cool morning, and I was super excited. A co-worker of mine ran with me, and that made a huge difference.

The 13.1 mile route is rather flat. All the better for me. By the fourth mile I felt rather good. As I pass each mile I do a check of how I am feeling: breathing, good; feet, good; legs, good. Up until mile 9 or so. By then the sun was in full force, I had to go to the bathroom really bad, and I felt that my whole body was giving up.

At the mile 10 station there was no line at the port-a-potties so I could finally go. I covered myself with water and drank water and Gatorade. I felt refreshed. After a good start from that station I felt better, back to being energized and excited.

At mile 12 some Colorado firefighters from the annual calendar were in the middle of the street shirtless and giving hi-fives, that was nice!

After 2 hours and 41 minutes I crossed the finish line. My goal, a goal I had though of at the race last year, was 2:30. Yet I beat my 2:55 time from last year.

And I had a blast. Not just with the race itself but with everything I did before the race to train.

It is quite a shock to me that at 48 I love running.

If you are interested in running, a great website and a great support system I have found is here: VegRunChat . I've met many wonderful people here and gotten some great inspiration.

If you are interested in just getting more active, perhaps doing something other than running or in addition to running, No Meat Athlete is a great resource. Of course both of these sites honor my plant-based life, and if you are not veg or vegan I think you could still get a lot out of them.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Headed to Salt Lake City

Mike and I start our summer vacation next week. Although our destination is San Diego (no surprise) we are making several stops on the way. After an evening enjoying the hot springs at Glenwood Springs, we head to Salt Lake City.

Why on earth would two gay vegans go to Salt Lake City?

I used to think the same thing. Then I went there about ten years ago for an Amnesty International conference. Loved it.

It's a pretty progressive city.

And way vegan friendly.

We are so excited. This will be Mike's first time. And in the last ten years I think the vegan scene has exploded. Plus, Utah's marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional and although wedding were stopped for the time being I know it is just a matter of time until marriage equality becomes the law of the land.

Have you been to Salt Lake City lately? Or do you live there?

We'd love to hear from you. Only one night so basically dinner and breakfast. We'll be staying at the Hotel Monaco which is downtown.

We love road trips. And we're so excited about this one coming up.

Thanks for reading! We'll keep you posted on any incredible finds during the trip!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gay pride and persecution

June is gay pride month.

It's actually more about pride. It's an opportunity to celebrate successes in equality, our families, our allies, and most importantly, to "fire up the troops" to work harder and stay focused on what is happening in regards to LGBTQ rights.

Mike and I try to make the gay pride celebration in Denver every year. I go so I can catch up on what I need to be doing in the fight for equality. Petitions, postcards, the new gay rights t-shirt. You get the idea.

It's the same thing I do when I go to a veg fest. What groups are rocking it for the animals? Where does my dollar go further in support of the animals? And of course the food!

This year I have been spending a lot of time paying attention to what is happening to gays and lesbians around the world. It isn't pretty.

In Russia, I am still blown away bu the intense courage shown by activists who face harassment, beatings and arrest just for gathering with a gay pride flag. Yet the activists keep showing up.

In Uganda, the anti-homosexuality act was signed into law this year. The death penalty was taken off of the table due to international pressure. Now it's just life in prison. In 2011, Daniel Kato, the country's leading gay rights activist, was murdered. I have read that Christian groups in the US have helped to fan the fires in Uganda, but that should be a whole other post.

Iran: executions, beatings, lashings, prison. If you are interested in a first-hand story, check this article out: Gay Iranian couple

In France, yes France, anti-gay harassment and violence has increased since gay marriage became legal last year.

I know we have a long way to go in the US. I also recognize that Mike and I can go to church without being arrested. We can walk through a park without being threatened (not all parks, mind you). We do get hate mail but we also put ourselves out there with this blog.

We do not fear being executed, or sentenced to prison for "perversion".

Ten of thousands of LGBTQ people around the world do feel that fear.

This post is for them.

We love you. We support you. We will be your voice.

If you would like to take action in support of LGBTQ people around the world, I have found that Amnesty International is a great organization to support and to get information from: Amnesty International

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Trying Air BnB

Last year at Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR I met some people who had booked a place to stay through Air Bnb. I don't know what world I had been living in, but I had never heard about this.

For those who are not in the know as I was, Air Bnb is a website where you can find a room, a studio, an apartment or a house to stay in all over the world. The main page offers a place to stay in over 34,000 cities in 190 countries. That covers a lot of choices for travel.

We are new to this, After hearing from another friend who had just booked places to stay during a cross country trip, I got onto the website and started looking at some choices for our upcoming trip to San Diego. We are taking quite the route to get to San Diego, which is typical for our road trips as we plan them around people we can visit and delicious vegan food options we have heard of.

I have to say it's pretty exciting. The profiles of places to stay are well written with plenty of photographs. They include information on whether or not dogs (or cats) are welcome, a map of the location, a way to contact the person offering the space, and reviews from others who have stayed at the property.

I found a couple of places that I thought Mike and I would like and emailed the folks listed as a contact with a couple of questions. For example, at first I didn't know if the dog and cat information meant that the person had dogs and/or cats or that we could bring Suga. The profile states the time frame in which the contact will get back to you and in all three cases I was contacted back well within that time.

So we are booked for our first Air BnB experience! I am pretty excited. A new adventure for us.

If you are interested in checking out a spot for your next trip, here is their website:

I'll let you know how it goes!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

We have more in common than not

I have always believed that each of us have more in common with one another than not.

It may not always be clear.

And many will have a difficult time acknowledging it.

But we do.

I can spend all day reading comments from people who despise gay people. People who think that gay people are deviants, individuals doomed to hell.

One woman on Facebook, in response to seeing the new pro-football player Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend after getting the news that the St. Louis Rams had picked him up in the NFL draft, said that the video made her almost vomit.


I have never understood the extreme hate that some hold towards gay people. It is especially unnerving when they use horrible words and then say they feel this way because of Jesus.

Name calling never really produces anything positive. Spewing hatred towards others, well what good can possibly come from that.

And yes, hate is spewed from our direction.

So we end up with a bunch of people calling each other names and hating on each other.

When the truth is, we all have more in common than not. Our differences tally up to a lot less than what we have in common.

I refuse to buy into the hate. I would rather reach my hand out in peace than hate on you.

I wish more people felt the same.