The “Impossible” Dream

Traveling is always an adventure. But it can take different forms for different folks. One of the adventures is finding a great meal…a new beer…the perfect coffee shop. It isn’t just about food, but I’ve always loved good food and it is fun to try and find it.

These days there’s a new dimension to the search, however, that goes beyond just finding a good meal. It is about finding a meal. We have been vegan for the past 20 months and it is not as easy as it used to be to find any vegan options much less a truly good one. Vegan breakfasts are particularly tough to find, given that eggs and dairy and meat abound on breakfast menus. But, even tougher to find, is the vegan donut! It’s almost impossible.

Today was about the quest to find the impossible…the elusive vegan donut and, at least for those of us living in Virginia, the equally elusive Impossible Burger.

Early this morning we Uber’ed (I grudgingly acknowledge this as a new verb) to the Potholder Too Cafe in Long Beach. They had vegan breakfast burritos and a vegan tofu scramble. Not bad….and although we’ve had better, I have to say that when there are so few breakfasts options for vegans in Northern Virginia, it was just a pleasure to have a choice.

In the past months we have had great options in Asheville or Henderson NC, or in San Antonio, in Austin, in Dallas, in the Bay Area and now, in LA. How Northern Virginia manages to lag so far behind is a puzzle.

But back to the issue at hand. In Austin a month or so ago, we had hoped to find a special treat at Voodoo Donuts but, alas, when we arrived shortly after noon on a Sunday the vegan donuts once again had escaped us. Sold out. Not to be had. Things were getting desperate….our last fix had been in late September in Asheville.

So….this morning after breakfast we rented a car to drive to Riverside to see an old friend. But, before heading out, an internet search had offered a bit of hope…Sweet Retreats…a small bakery in Long Beach. They make vegan donuts but their site said that they close early if they sell out. It was only 10:30….we thought we had a shot. Google Maps tried to send us off course but after one missed turn we saw a sign…DONUTS…and could it be? Yes…Sweet Retreats in small letters in the upper left corner. A quick turn into the parking lot, out of the car and through the door and ….vegan donut nirvana.

Cake donuts and raised donuts. Glazed donuts, chocolate covered donuts , and donuts sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. There were donuts with hibiscus frosting and maple frosting. There were bear claws and apple fritters and cinnamon rolls. All vegan. A dozen were selected…the bakery threw in a cinnamon roll for good measure. We would not arrive in Riverside empty-handed.

The donuts were incredible. Light. Fluffy. And so tasty. Now….if only I were still an Ambassador with powers extraordinary and plenipotentiary I’d make the donuts perfect by removing the calories…I used to be able to do that, you know…but then I thought…what the hell…it doesn’t really matter because i have it on good authority I know that calories don’t count on holiday. I swear. It true, isn’t it?

In any event, it was a pretty day for a drive…especially when fueled with a shared hibiscus donut. And, knowing that the coming days will see plenty of water, it was nice to see snow-capped peaks as we drove. We won’t be seeing many of THOSE in the next few weeks. (Nor many hibiscus donuts either.)

In Riverside, it was coffee (almond milk lattes) and more donuts to be shared with our friend as we reminisced and caught up. Leija’s friendship with Nadia has spanned five decades and, even though contact has been infrequent in past decades, there are bonds that do stand the test of time.

When we left to return to San Pedro, we left behind the remaining donuts …(well….we did bring two home to have for breakfast). But…was finding the elusive vegan donut enough? No…the quest had to continue. Almost as hard to find as the vegan donut is the vegan burger that satisfies the primal craving for the burgers we have grown up loving. In Austin a year ago we had found a food truck that had incredible vegan burgers. Really, really good…I’m not sure what they used…but we hadn’t found one nearly as close since. The Impossible Burger, however, which I have found in one Virginia restaurant, is for me, part of the vegan holy grail.

The goal of its creators is to offer a plant-based alternative that will attract the meat-eaters and help us to continue the movement to a more sustainable and more economically viable model for how we will feed the world in the future. But that’s another story. The bottom line for me as a vegan is that it is tasty…very tasty. And here in California we hoped to top our day of quests by finding the Impossible Burger as well. (We originally were going to get a bite in Riverside where Monty’s Burgers offers an Impossible Burger but the donuts proved to be lunch as well as a treat.)

But…never fear…when dinner time came another internet search yielded promising options. “Black” …a small neighborhood bar….offered not only the Impossible Burger, but Buffalo Cauliflower sandwiches, or several other vegan options. The burger was so good. And French fries too. Vegan bar food. How the world is changing.

Vegan donuts and Impossible Burgers on the same day, in the same place. So…go ahead…dream the Impossible Dream….it can come true.

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