Liquid Earth was my goal and I was going to cross land and sea to reach it. Well, really just land and maybe not so much sea. Really it was more like land and bay. Okay, it was just a tiny sliver of bay that was going to take about fifteen minutes to cross. But I sure was going to have to cross a lot of land. Anyone who lives in Baltimore, without a car, knows how much of your life can be eaten up by carnivorous bus stops while trying to traverse seven miles by public transportation. Even omnivores are not exempt from the insatiable appetites of Time and Unreliable Bus Schedules, who, rumor has it, have been working together for years. They don't call it MTA (Might Take Awhile) for nothing, which is why I rarely wait for it.
I decided to walk, at least part way. I set out from my home in Mt. Washington and hiked some seriously steep hills, up and down, for several miles. Luckily, it was an uncharacteristically cool August day (and anyone who lives in Baltimore knows just how uncharacteristic that is) so it was really no sweat. Having a bottle of ice water handy certainly didn't hurt and is, in fact, often essential in the summer.
After a few miles I stopped for the light rail, which also, fortunately, stopped for me. While this type of coincidence doesn't always occur, the light rail is generally more reliable than its evil twin, the #27 bus, which ambles downtown along a similar route, only about eighteen times slower, every forty-five minutes or so, if it shows up, at all . The light rail, however, runs every fifteen or twenty minutes, fairly regularly, as long as it's not too rainy, too hot, too cold or too windy. Since this was a just-right-day, it was apparently a just-right-for-the-light-rail-day, too.
The light rail covered another three miles, while I noticed a huge blister on my foot, the size and color of Mars. Well, maybe it wasn't quite the size of Mars, but it definitely resembled the Red Planet in hue and tone.
Fortunately, I was able to adjust my sandal strap in a labyrinthian and disturbing-looking manner so that it no longer rubbed me the wrong way.
I would look like a weirdo, but I would still be able to walk the many miles that awaited me in my vegetarian restaurant quest.
Why, you might ask, would I be willing to suffer such injury and indignity and wander so far a train-track and field to find this mysterious Liquid Earth?
Well, Liquid Earth is a favorite restaurant of several of my vegan friends, who have pretty much gushed about how good it is, and apparently with good reason. The restaurant uses local fresh fruit and veggies for its juices, smoothies and recipes, all created in-house. The eatery's mission is to create a relaxed environment for the exchange of art, music and ideas and there is a comfortable courtyard area if you don't want to eat indoors. Liquid Earth has won several awards for its food and drink. Six vegan sandwiches are on the menu and all seventeen vegetarian sandwiches, such as the Filly Cheese Phake and the Meatless Mufaletta, can be made with vegan cheese. As if that weren't enough, there are also a tasty variety of salads, and appetizers like the Stuffed Avocado which the menu says is filled with "an incredible blend of broccoli, pepper, onion and greens" and the Raw Taco which is made of two romaine leaves inside two collard leaves filled with a seasoned nut meat, sliced avocado, tomato, onion and cashew sour cream.
With edibles that delectable alongside rave reviews, perhaps you can understand why I was willing to walk a million miles to imbibe.
And morally speaking, if Liquid Earth was such a staple of Baltimore vegan culture, then I felt it was my duty to examine it.
In fact, I should have gone sooner. I meant to go last December. Really, I did. My co-worker Erin and I made plans. She was going to walk over to Liquid Earth from her house in historic Fells Point, just a few blocks from the restaurant and I was going to walk and ride to meet her.
Suddenly, Erin got sick. It was nothing serious, but it was an illness nonetheless. It was flu season, after all. We postponed for the following week.
At the last minute, my college-student-son, who I hardly ever get to see, wanted to spend some quality time with me, hanging around the apartment and having a heart-to-heart talk. I jumped at the chance and had a wonderful time with him.
So Liquid Earth would have to wait, once again. I called Erin to reschedule.
Finally, by the middle of August, eight months later we managed to make a date. On Friday, August 17, we checked Liquid Earth's lively website and saw that not only was it "Now Open 7 Days a Week," it was open now.
So here I was on my journey. Sandal thus adjusted with blister unabused, I exited the train to continue to walk another couple of miles. Almost immediately, I dropped my umbrella, pointy-metal-part down, onto one of my favorite and most functional toes. Cursing ensued, but I couldn't blame the MTA for this one and I was going to get to Liquid Earth for that vegan meal-of-a-lifetime, no matter what. I performed some perfunctory first aid, and limped on my way.
It was getting more humid, but I persevered.
After a while, my foot actually started to feel better. Possibly it was the anticipation of a good vegan meal - lots of yummy, tasty spices and vitamin-filled vegetables that I knew would go straight to my toe.
I perked up again and sauntered gaily the next two miles to the Inner Harbor. Once there, I waited ten minutes far a water-taxi to Fells Point, where I hadn't been in fourteen years. In fact, I hadn't been a regular Fells Point visitor (it wasn't exactly easy to get to) since I was a pre-parent college student bar hopper who, aside from lettuce and tomato, barely thought about vegetables, much less ate them. So this was exciting. I was going to Fells Point. And I was going to eat vegetables.
The ride on the water-taxi was actually quite fun and fifteen minutes later, it pulled into the Fells Point pier. I got off the boat and after that brief glide across the bay, I really and truly had a little trouble getting my land-legs back. I felt a bit wobbly for a few minutes. But I soldiered on.
Fortunately, Liquid Earth was only a few blocks away. I made a left off of Broadway onto Aliceanna Street and less than a block down was my destination. My much sought after goal. The object of my day's desire. Liquid Earth. I saw the sign. I lunged for the door.
It was locked.
"What?" was all I could think. I was shocked. I took a step back.
I tried again. The knob wouldn't budge. Maybe I just wasn't turning it hard enough. Maybe it was the wrong door. I looked up.
The sign above said "Liquid Earth," sure enough. But this time, I saw another sign, "Closed." Or more accurately, "Liquid Earth will be closed from August 15 to August 20."
The sign was still there.
"But August 20 is Monday," I said to myself. "And August 15 was last Wednesday. Today is Saturday, August 18 and yesterday the website said they were open."
I clapped my hand to my head.
"Will Erin and I never get to dine at one of Baltimore's premier vegetarian restaurants?" I asked myself.
Sighing, I got out my phone to call Erin. In the bright sunlight, I couldn't see the screen. After attempting many angles for better viewing pleasure, I gave up and entered the restaurant next door, Sticky Rice.
Once inside, I could see my screen. And my friend. She was sitting there at a table with her boyfriend, Doug.
"Hi guys," I said and sauntered over.
"Look," Erin said, pointing to a sign that looked much better than the one I'd just seen. "Sticky Rice is one of the top ten restaurants for vegan sushi."
Sighing with relief, I perused the menu, remembering, also, that Vegan Drinks has its meet-ups at Sticky Rice, sometimes.
The choice was difficult, though. There were several tempting options like the Garden Balls, The Hot Hippy, the Dirty South, the Santa Fe, the Cat's Eye and the Pink Dragon.
Finally, I picked the Santa Fe, which was tempura-fried sweet potatoes with agave jalapeno and sesame seeds. Despite the presence of the jalapeno peppers, the sushi was surprisingly unspicy. It seemed the agave and sweet potato overshadowed the jalapeno. The fried batter added additional flavor.
For "dessert," I had more sushi. Next up was the Cat's Eye, reminiscent of my last Fells Point adventure only in that it shared the name of the famous pub down the street. The sushi was reminiscent of a cat's eye only in that is was yellow-green at the center. This vegan sushi was topped with a spicy dressing and contained oshinko, asparagus, agave and vegan cream cheese inside a mini tempura-fried maki roll.
Even the omnivore across the table enjoyed this one. Doug, who had recently said, when he thought we were going to Liquid Earth, "What are we going to eat if there's no meat?" was surprised to find the Cat's Eye tasty.
In retrospect, I probably should have had the spicy Cat's Eye first and saved the sweet Santa Fe for dessert. But since most of the day had gone backwards, from the beautiful August weather to the locked Liquid Earth, this restaurant meal in reverse was certainly par for the course.
Throughout my eating experience, I enjoyed a hard cider that tasted almost exactly like apple juice, although Sticky Rice offers several specialty vegan cocktails created by Ginny Lawhorn. Lawhorn's libations include the Hot Mess Margarita, The Gin Sticky, the Cherry Blossom Martini, The Life Aquatic and VeeV's Vegan Purple People Eater.
Other vegan items on the menu include the Dirty Vegan, which is tofu and noodles tossed with a peanut coconut sauce and mixed vegetables. There is also a Mock Chicken Szechuan, a Veggie Tofu Medley and a Cold Soba Salad. I think I'll be back for more.
Maybe one day I'll also make it to Liquid Earth.