Friday morning's conference sessions started with a keynote lecture by Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone writer known for his polemical commentary and often-hilarious financial journalism. Anyone who can make Wall Street and ratings companies comical and remotely interesting is a damn genius, and Taibbi does so with ease.
After a few more morning sessions, it was time for lunch. Luther Campbell, better known as "Uncle Luke" of 2 Live Crew, presented a little Q&A session about the Crew days, censorship, and some thoughts on current events like the Zimmerman case (this was a few days before the tragic acquittal). This was a plated lunch, and you know how those typically go for vegans. But this was an alt-newsweekly conference, after all. And when you get a bunch of alternative reporters in the room (in other words, a bunch of die-hard liberals and old hippies), there are bound to be some vegans. So they had a vegan option!
It was a pretty tasty and surprisingly well-seasoned plate of Barley with Vegetables and Marinara. Not bad for a hotel catered plate lunch.
Oh, and there was a pretty Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
We attended some afternoon sessions on long-form journalism and "getting the story." And then it was time for dinner! My co-worker Hannah is a super-foodie (she's our food writer at the Memphis Flyer), and she wanted us to go somewhere fancy. So she made reservations for a place called Zuma that looked to have a few vegan options.
Now Hannah failed to inform me until an hour or so before dinner that this place was, like, super-duper-fancy. Like dress code fancy. I only brought tees and sundresses to the conference, but Hannah insisted that I wear one of her sweaters so I'd be classy enough for the joint. Now, had I been alone, I would have gone in my tee-shirt, and if that wasn't good enough, I'd have flipped off the host and been on my way (okay, maybe I wouldn't actually flip anyone off for real, but I'd totally do it in my head). I don't play by rules that mess with my identity. But for Hannah's sake, I sucked it up and threw on the sweater.
Thankfully, what Zuma lacked in casual ambiance, it made up for in tasty vegan food and good service. We ordered the Spicy Fried Tofu with Avocado and Japanese Herbs:
They make their own silk tofu!! And it was better than any silk tofu I've ever had. The texture was slightly more firm than the Mori-Nu I'm used to. And it was lightly breaded in a savory herb coating and fried to perfection.
We both ordered our own sushi. Hannah went with something fishy, and I had the Veggie Roll. Classic sushi.
But the real treat was this Rice Hotpot with Wild Mushrooms and Japanese Vegetables!
I've never had a hotpot, but I've always wanted to try one. I love the way it's served in a big wooden (very hot) pot and essentially cooked at the table. This was loaded with rice, tofu, miso, and a mix of wild mushrooms. Once the rice was stirred into the broth, it transformed into a creamy risotto. Each bite was like a buttery explosion of heaven in my mouth.
We had lots of hotpot leftovers, and we crammed them into the mini-bar fridge in our hotel room. That hotpot risotto was the best late-night snack ever.
Check back tomorrow for my last Miami post, in which I'll share pics from the only all-vegan restaurant I had time to check out.