Top | Views from the Carrot Condo
(post, Trista Cornelius)
For my birthday, I had a plan: a day for myself spent in shmancy Pearl District designed around food, yoga, and books. It didn’t go exactly as planned, but it turned out okay, and this, my husband says, may be the theme of my new year. The day started with a bus ride downtown for lunch at BlossomingLotus, a small, vegan and raw café housed inside Yoga Pearl, a warehouse refurbished as a yoga studio. It’s a funky arrangement, especially if you need to use the bathroom because this requires taking off your shoes, leaving them in a cubicle between the yoga studio and the restaurant, and entering the locker room where non-diner yogis shower and change clothes. It sometimes proves to be too much flesh for vegan diners. Walking up Davis Street from the bus stop, I closed my mind to the awkwardness of my last visit to Blossoming Lotus: unhappy couples seated on both sides of me, so close the hair bristling on angry arms brushed mine; a customer brought to tears by one of the staff; and a chef throwing apples into an empty tub with such force it sounded like a mighty billiard tournament. Inside, I spotted a couple of empty tables and went straight to the counter to order my lunch and secure my seat, “Live Pizza, please.” Live Pizza had never sounded good to me, its description on the menu, “buckwheat crust with basil pesto, cashew cheese and our daily topping,” not enticing. However, during my last visit, the melancholy man on my right ordered it, and it looked scrumptious, vivid and colorful, and not just because it contrasted his dining partner’s drab mood. To pay, I used a gift card I’d received from winning the “Prettiest” award at “NorthwestVEG’s" Vegan Valentine’s Bake-Off. I already had an ominous feeling about it, so was not surprised when the cashier told me their gift card swipe machine wasn’t working. She wrote down the gift card number and the $10 price of my meal and gave me back the card, “Well, this worked out well for you” she said. I didn’t know the amount on the card; it could have been less than the price of my meal or more. At the time, I didn’t understand that she would charge my gift card later; I thought the meal was free and I still got to keep the money on my card. So, I handed her back the card, “Let’s just assume there’s not more than $10 on here, and you keep the card. That seems more fair,” I said. “Okay,” she said with an annoyed expression that did not match my good intentions. It was only later that night that I realized I was supposed to keep the card so if it had more than $10 on it, I could still use it. To make it worse, while writing up this story, I found this-page that suggests at least $25 was on the card. This makes my stomach clench because of what happened after I ordered my Live Pizza. “It will take 20-25 minutes” the cashier said. “That’s fine,” I replied cheerfully; it would give me time to write my annual entry in a birthday journal I’ve kept since turning 30. “Okay,” she said again, her annoyed expression not complementing my easygoing attitude. She handed me a placard: #9. After writing my entire birthday entry and re-reading a few previous ones, I knew more than 25 minutes had passed. Guessing by my bus pass, it had been 40 minutes. I went to the counter holding my #9 placard. A woman with black hair turned to me. I said, “I just want to check on order number nine because--” After I said “nine,” the black-haired clerk said definitively, “We’ll bring it out to you” and turned to the next customer. She said this with such effortless force and finality, that I lost my voice when I tried to tell her the rest of the story—that I feared my order had never been entered because of the gift card problem. “OK,” I mustered and dutifully sat down, alone, and now feeling lonely, adjusting my #9 placard to make it more prominent. My eyes stung with repressed tears and a baffled little-girl voice whined in my head, “But it’s my birthday!” Eight minutes later (I had my cell phone out now and tracking time), the chef served a table on its second lunch guests since I arrived. Truth, facts, rationality on my side, I determined to return to the counter, hold firm, and speak the whole story even if Black-Haired Girl turned that vicious energy my way. At the counter, Black-Haired Girl ignored me. Two others kept their backs turned to me. I stood. I waited. Finally, the chef turned around. I heard the squeak in my voice, but I continued on, committed to telling the whole story, even though I considered leaving and abandoning my lunch and my pridefully-won bake-off gift card. “…she said 20-25 minutes…I’ve waited almost an hour-” Chef: “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Non-Mean Server at the same time: “What’d you order?” Me: “Live Pizza.” Non-Mean Server sifted through the receipts and gave up, “Oh well, we’ll fix it later. We’ll get that right out to you.” I saw the note with my gift card number on it curled above the cash register tray. “Take a cookie or a brownie,” the chef said to me, nodding to the shelves on my right. Confused, I said, “Oh, no, that’s okay.” “No, really, please,” he said. The contrast of his niceness to the Black-Haired Girl’s iron-clad indifference had my head spinning. Non-Mean Server: “There’s raw fudge. Do you want me to get you a piece of that instead?” she offered, perceiving that I might be 100% raw, since I ordered the Live Pizza. “Oh?” I said, “Well, okay, I’ll take a brownie” I said, mostly to get it over with so I could sit down and sort it all out. In spite of this tension leaving my stomach acidic with hunger and anxiety, I calmed myself down enough to pay attention to my raw birthday lunch. Delicious. Delicious enough that I knew I’d come back—some day—to get it again, even though I’d already decided never, never to return here, just like the mother of the crying diner at my last visit, “We were regular customers here, but not anymore. Not—any—more!” The bad vibe did not penetrate the thick, chewy cracker-like crust of my two pizza wedges piled high with shredded and marinated red pepper and zucchini. The Kermit-green salad with curiously smooth, cream-colored raw dressing made the meal satisfying. To my surprise, the small plate filled me up, leaving me feeling light, not heavy like I usually feel after a meal. Relieved to exit the bad vibe/good food café, I headed out for the next part of my birthday plan: yoga and books. Short story: none of that worked out either. So, a couple of hours after my delicious but emotionally wrought lunch, I started toward the bus stop, ready to prop my feet up at home and be done with all this birthday effort. A few blocks later, I found myself cutting across a parking lot to the shop I’d planned for my final birthday destination: “SweetMasterpieces", a boutique for fine coffee, wine, and chocolate. My feet resolved but my palate ambivalent, I entered the familiar café, drawn in by the black and white checkered tile floor and one of the owners smiling and waving at me as if he knew me and had missed my company. Maybe because I was the only customer there, the owner and one staff member pulled me into their conversation. At some point, as they told me about a new project at the shop and gave me a sample of a brand new creation, I blurted out, “It’s my birthday today!” I probably said this because behind me, directly across the street, was Blossoming Lotus, where my birthday outing began and went sour. The owner responded with exactly the right kind of regard for this special day. After I chose my treats, he seated me at a little table by the window, laid out a napkin and silverware with one hand behind his back like an old-school butler, and poured my tea like fine wine. “Stay as long as you like,” he said, “We can settle the bill when you’re done.” Now THIS is how a birthday girl should be treated, I thought as I looked across the street at the very table where I’d sat hours earlier, fretting about my meal and the mean Black-Haired Girl. I breathed in the juicy scent of my magenta colored wild berry tea, which proved the perfect match to my vegan coconut truffle and—get this—the boutique’s very first RAW CHOCOLATE CAKE! I don’t know how the chef did it, but a dark cocoa crust held a thick layer of rootbeer-foam-colored cream, smooth and rich and leaving a glossy feel on my lips. The coconut truffle, covered in dark, black chocolate, held pure white coconut and creamy chocolate inside. I ate each dainty morsel slowly, with appreciation, the sugar and fat oozing goodwill into my wrinkled soul the way a masseuse smoothes out knots in strained muscles. I drank the last sip of vermillion tea, folded my napkin, settled my bill, and headed home healed, soothed, and properly celebrated. Live Pizza photo found at my-zoetrope.blogspot.com.