Monday, August 10, 2009

Finding the big V in D.C.

As you may or may not know, a few weeks ago I traveled a wee bit south to Washington D.C., both to visit with one of my good friends who still lives there and to engage in the first try-on session of my Vegan Wedding Dress Mission. I had scheduled a session with Aria, a great little company which offers all of its dresses in satin, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

But poppets, was I going to travel to a major metropolitan area and then *not* search for fabulous vegan vittles? Doesn't seem very likely, does it.

As luck would have it, Aria's private boutique in Dupont Circle just so happens to share a building with an upscale pizza joint called Pizzeria Paradiso. According to the internets, this place would put vegan cheese on any pizza. This fact is one not substantiated by their website or menu, which I find rather silly. However, our waitress was more than happy to confirm.

So after the dress-trying-on extravaganza, Kimmy and I went on downstairs and stuffed our faces with crispy thin crust pizza piled high with veggies, and mine smothered in vegan cheese as well. (Once I realized that I actually can get into Aria's size 12 dresses - and heck, even their size 10s, without busting any zippers, I was able to eat with abandon.) I got the Siciliana - it's like they chopped up a whole backyard garden on there. Totally awesome. All in all it was a satisfying afternoon to be sure. It seems that vegan cheese on pizza is no rarity in D.C., and VegDC has been kind enough to list all proprietors of this delight for us, by neighborhood. Thanks guys!

After the pizza gorge, we went on the second mission of the day - and honestly, one that was much more my kind of mission than trying on fancy dresses. For a couple of years now I've been dying to try out D.C.'s own all-vegan bakery, Sticky Fingers. My chance had finally arrived! It was a harrowing ride on the Metro: they're doing some crazy maintenance on the signals after the accident that happened a couple of months ago, and as a result they're single tracking all of the trains on the Red Line. If you don't live in a subway town, let me translate: this means trains come about a fifth as frequently and creep along at about half a mile an hour. But eventually we made it to Gallery Place and transferred to the Green Line, and all was well.

So then. Sticky Fingers. First of all, that place is enormous! Maybe I've just gotten too used to the sizes of things in NYC, where every store is the size of a shoebox because even a shoebox costs about a million dollars a month to rent. But can D.C. be very cheap? I think not. Anyway, for a bakery this place is LARGE. The joint was also hoppin' - I mean srsly ppl, it was pretty packed. When I did finally decide what I wanted, I had to wait for about six people to put in their orders before I could get a word in edgewise. To which I say awesome! I love to see vegan businesses doing a bustling trade.

Upon entering, you're faced with two full sized glass cases full of baked delights - cupcakes, cookies, brownies and bars, sticky buns, cakes... the list goes on. To your right you'll find a nice big case full of sandwiches and other to-go meal type items, and of course bottled beverages. And also on offer behind the counter are hot dogs, chilli, espresso-type coffee beverages, and more. And of course it's all vegan all the time! In other words, it's kind of like heaven.

But that's just the first half. To your left, you'll see a sizable seating area with a nice big window facing the street for people-watching. The booths are upholstered in a deep sparkly pink plastic, and the tabletops are wacky boomerang patterned Formica. It's the perfect spot to enjoy your cupcake and/or cappuccino. The walls of the whole place are painted in a sort of dripping-chocolate motif, and there's a dash of kitch in the collections of old kitchen gadgets and knick knacks which makes it very homey. But they also have free wi-fi, which gives it a very modern (and useful) edge.

But I know what you really want to know. What did I eat? Well I'll tell you. Man, was it a tough decision! Kim is "not a sweets person" - so much help in so many places, but no help at all in a bake shop. I was traveling by train, and traveling light. I also wasn't going home until the following day. So it's not as if I could bring a dozen cupcakes home with me - but oh, how I would have loved to! So after thinking long and hard, I approached one of the very friendly counter staff, who had already endured about fifteen minutes of me taking copious pics of the shop. I stated my choice: the strawberry creme vanilla cupcake. Fruit flavors are not usually my thing, but this one just had something special. I mean, look at it! I also asked the girl helping me what she suggested - her favorite thing, and she said the sweet and salty cookie. So one cookie it was.

Naturally I sat right down to dig into my cupcake. And it was freaking amazing. Vanilla cake moist and perfect, topped with what can only be described as strawberry mousse. But not that fake sort of pink tasting "strawberry" that for some reason we feed to kids all the time. Real live strawberry. I mean, there were actual strawberries in there - you could see the seeds! Sure it was plenty sweet, but it also had that natural tartness that accompanies real fruit and makes such a nice balance in this kind of delicacy. It was so rich and fabulous that I think it took me a full fifteen minutes to eat. I'd say I got my money's worth.

Did I love Sticky Fingers enough to seriously consider buying a t-shirt? Yes, yes I did. If they'd been selling coffee mugs I would totally own one right now. And how much does it break my heart that they make wedding cakes? Really terrifically beautiful wedding cakes!? Somehow I don't think the thousand mile journey to New Orleans would suit a wedding cake... humph. But listen: if you're planning a vegan wedding in the D.C. Metro area, check this place out for sure! (They also cater!)

Oh, and that sweet and salty cookie? It was the perfect snack about halfway through my train ride home the next day. Still wonderfully chewy and soft. Thanks counter girl for that super awesome suggestion!

It being a short trip (36 hours!), that was the extent of my real vegan adventures. Sure I ate other things, but more of the "what can I find here that's vegan" variety. And that's not nearly as exciting. But honestly, if I'd had any more truly exciting vegan adventures I may have passed out - I'm easily overwrought.

And so, my loves, I bid you adieu.

Until next Monday,

Melissa Bastian


Siobhan said...

Thanks for the wonderful post, Melissa! I'm going to have to try a pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso immediately. And thanks for letting your readers know about I keep the printed directory in my bag at all times which you can get here: I swear I would be lost (and hungry) without it!

beforewisdom said...

If you are close to the Philadelphia area this place has been featured in a number of bridal magazines for excellence and makes vegan wedding cakes:

melissa bastian. said...

Siobhan - the VegDC website looked super useful. When I have a chance to spend more time down there I will have to spend more time on that website first! It's a bit like DC's answer to NY's SuperVegan. I spent my adolescent years in/outside of DC, but you approach a city very differently as a penniless teen than you do as a thirtysomething on a mission for an awesome vegan meal. :)

Beforewisdom - Wow, Lotus Cake Studio looks amazing! All these amazing cakes almost make me wish that the wedding was still on the East Coast. I have a bit of a tough challenge: finding someplace/someone to bake me a vegan wedding cake in New Orleans. It's not exactly vegan headquarters (though it's making progress!). I'm considering some options like cupcakes, but I'd really like to support a local bakery or baker and have a "real" wedding cake... just gotta find one that'll do the deed. If anyone has suggestions I'd love to hear them!

TheAwesomestPossum said...

Drooling, drooling, drooling...We were in DC for Obama's inauguration but amidst all the other activities didn't have time to go check out Sticky Fingers. Now, seeing the photos, I am even more sad about this than I was at the time, and even more determined that we need to visit DC again at a less hectic time! Thanks for the great info, Melissa! :)

beforewisdom said...

I've been reading this consumer advocates kick ass site on car buying tips. It turns out he also has one for saving money and avoiding scams in planning a wedding:

melissa bastian. said...

The best tip I've heard for saving money on a wedding is this: whenever possible, don't tell the vendors it's for a wedding. It pretty much doubles the price. This works well for venues, caterers, etc. You're having a party, a celebration, a reception, whatev - anything but a "wedding"!

veganessa said...

Sticky fingers- wow, wish i was there......