Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Visit to Eugene

Last weekend I visited one of my favorite food places in the world, Pizza Research Institute (PRI) in Eugene, OR. I love this place for so many reasons and feel personally connected to the people who run it, even though we have barely talked in the many years I have eaten their fabulous creations. I hadn't been in for a year, but the owner still recognized my face and sincerely asked how I was doing. Many, many years ago, my picture showed up in the Eugene newspaper after my involvement in a fur protest in San Francisco. They cut out the photo and told me how they had it displayed on their home refrigerator, and did so for many years. The first time I saw them after the newspaper photo, I was given a free homemade soda as a reward for my involvement.

PRI offers the best a vegan could ever hope for. Their vegan "cheesy" topping is a tofu base which is creamy and tasty. I don't know any statistics, but I am sure they sell more vegan pies than ones made with cheese. The basic pizza comes with marinara sauce, spinach and more, so even if you did not want to splurge on additional toppings, you will still be happy. PRI is not afraid of trying new and different flavor combinations as well, although I am not always game to try it since I can only get down there every once in a long time and know what I like. Their "Chef choice" pizza is usually topped with more vegetables than imaginable and usually includes corn on the cob which looks really interesting in disks around the pizza surface. If you are in Eugene, you must go to this place. But I must warn you, you will be addicted!

I also visited a place with lots of amazing memories for me, Morning Glory Bakery & Cafe. It is hard for me to sit down and order from this place, because it is not the same as when the original owner had control over the quality of the food and service. I was the first employee that original owner first hired, when her business was a very popular bakery which delivered baked goods around town. I did order one of my old favorites, The Fushion. It is a potato omelet folded over an amazing array of tofu, tomato, onion and spices topped with a fabulous homemade sour cream. This was not as good as I remembered (and had way too much tumeric which I am not a fan of anyway) but even with these issues, it was still very enjoyable. Oh, and the Dill Roll that came with the breakfast was luckily, just like I remembered it. I was saddened when I looked in their pastry shelves, though. When I worked there the shelves were lines with the most surprising visual of scrumptious vegan baked goods including flaky croissants, gooey cinnamon rolls, muffins, coffee cake, cookies and so much more. This was the place where my vegan baking skills were developed and my life in activism was supported. I will always have very fond memories of the place.

Luckily Eugene now also offers The Sweet Life Bakery with many vegan options including cheesecake, cakes of all flavors, cinnamon rolls, cookies and more. I usually go for the cake. They had a Chocolate Pistachio Rum cake with layers of their vegan cream cheese frosting which was so delightful I didn’t want to share (but I did a little). I definitely had my fill of great vegan treats on my visit down to Eugene which was suppose to have little to do with food.