Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
You see, I have been in love with Form and Fauna shoes ever since being introduced to them by Swanky Veg. Lucky me, my husband gave me a hand-made gift certificate for a pair on my birthday. He had tried to locate some in San Francisco to no avail, but found two stores in Portland that carried them. I heard that one of these stores, Olio, was having a local designer rummage sale while I was in town, so I knew I was in for a good shopping experience. When we arrived at the store, I was so distracted by all the pretty clothes that I almost forgot my objective. That is, until I spotted out of the corner of my eye the cutest shoes on earth. And right next to them? The hottest shoes on earth. Since I am both cute and hot (and both were majorly on sale!) I decided I needed two pairs that day. Ladies, these shoes - aside from being adorable - are so well-made, so recycled, so cruelty-free, so dang terrific, that I get happy just looking at them in my closet. I hope that F&F keep on expanding and that everyone can have some on their tootsies soon.
With shoes in hand, we finally met up with our friends and had a lovely time catching up before heading to dinner at Nutshell. I had been thoroughly looking forward to eating here ever since I heard about their bread/olive oil/salt bar. Turns out it's not so much a bar as a service. When you sit down at your table, there is a checklist and a pencil. You can pick from foccacia or naan, 5 or 6 different olive oils, and about a million (ok, maybe 20) different salts. We went for both types of bread, 2 different oils, and three salts. People, I would have been content just eating this all night. The breads were fresh and delicious, the olive oils smooth and buttery, and the salts were outrageous. My favorite was a really smokey gray salt, but the Hawaiian black salt was a close second. Eventually we ran out of this holy trinity of food and had to move on, but I recommend Nutshell based on this part of the meal alone.
Next up, I had the Mizuna Greens salad - a heaping pile of greens for only $5. Not too shabby, and quite delicious. Not to mention I just feel better with lots of greens in me. My entree was the pizza. I had to take the close-up shot because it was the freshness of the ingredients that really came through. I loved it.... but I must say that one of my friends had the Jamaican platter and it looked really fun. She let me try the "Marley Family Drink" that it comes with and it was fantastic, unlike anything I've ever had before. Next time I'm there, it'll be my choice.
Quite full and happy, we all took a stroll around the block to walk it off. As were were talking, my friend informed me of a new all-vegan bar in Portland. It didn't take long before we were belly-up at the Bye and Bye. I really like this place, you guys. From the deep red walls, to the long beer list and unpretentious attitude, it's a winner. Top it all off with an all-vegan menu (see photo), and well, I'm smitten. Unfortunately, we were all too full to eat anything, but my organic IPA was delicious, and both of my friends swear that the "meatball" sandwich is the best vegan thing in Portland. Time to start planning my next trip!
We finally called it a night, with plans to meet up for lunch the next day at Blossoming Lotus Cafe. After some sleep and a quick session in the hotel gym, hubby and I (after another lengthy wait at check-out) hit the town. We stopped at Whole Foods for some Synergy, and before we knew it, it was lunch time. Blossoming Lotus is both a vegan restaurant and yoga studio which gives it a very serene atmosphere. I was pretty hungry, and totally forgot to take pictures while we were there though, so you'll have to use your imagination to picture my "Lebanese Salad" with kalamata olives and tofu feta, and my husband's big giant burrito with cashew cheese. Talk about hitting the spot. I knew I wouldn't be eating again until we were home in San Francisco, so I also had a cup of the sweet and refreshing strawberry soft serve. Everyday BL has a special flavor of vegan soft serve ice cream, and man is it good.
After lunch, I was debating whether or not to go back to Whole Foods to get some Mighty-O Donuts. I've always wanted to try these Seattle-based treats since you can't get them in San Francisco, but my stomach won out and I passed. However, all the talk of donuts caused my friend to insist that we at least stop by Voo-Doo Doughnut to see the place. It's not an all-vegan donut shop, but they do have some creative vegan (and even more creative non-vegan) donuts going on. Seeing the shop itself is worth the visit as it's not lacking for character, but even if I had wanted a donut, the line was out the door, and we had a plane to catch.
So, while there were no donuts for me this trip, it was still a sweet trip to Oregon, and it left me relaxed and ready for summer. Our next trip is to Florida, but I have vegan foodie friends coming to stay soon, so stay tuned for plenty more San Francisco dining experiences (supplemented by my faves of course) in the near future. For now, it's just good to be home.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
We started our time in Portland in the long and slow line at Hertz. Who knew renting a car could be so painful. This was all quickly forgotten, however, as we made our way out of the airport and into Portland itself. Our destination was Cannon Beach, a small town on the Oregon coast where we would spend Friday and Saturday nights, but like the good vegan couple* we are, we decided to stop off in Portland for lunch and provisions. That, of course, meant Food Fight Grocery, Sweet Pea Bakery, and Veganopolis.
Food Fight is basically a vegan 7-11, which means lots of snacks and junk food. These were exactly the edibles we wanted for our drive west. We stocked up on chips and cookies, and my hubby discovered a new-found love for soy jerky. For the record, I also got some bananas, trying to remain at least slightly health-conscious. As we were checking out, I asked the kind fellow behind the counter what his favorite thing to get at Sweet Pea Bakery might be. He surprised me by saying that he LOVES (his emphasis, not mine) the bacon and scallion cream cheese. Yeah, you read that right. Unfortunately, I did not get to try it. We had no way to keep things cool, and we were stopping for lunch soon anyway, but I know that that cream cheese will be in my belly next time I head north. What we ended up getting instead proved to be one of the highlights of the whole trip... but I'll save it for later. On a side note, the vegan mini-mall that hosts FFG and SPB is also home to Herbivore and I got myself the cutest little mug emblazoned with the word "vegan." You know, in case I ever forget. :)
Okay, after being surrounded by food, and with the stale plane air finally out of our system, it was time for lunch. Veganopolis came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. This order-at-the-counter cafeteria style joint has an amazing menu of salads and sandwiches, all of which sounded delicious. My "Black-Eyed Betty" salad had the smokiest tempeh bacon and the basil and rice wine vinaigrette was out of this world. It was just what the doctor ordered. My husband went a tad heavier and had the "Portland Cheesesteak." He claims that while it was nothing like a real (dead) cheese steak, the soy slices on ciabatta were delicious and satisfying. Veganopolis gets my vote for Restaurant I'd Most Like to See Franchised. My fingers are crossed...
Satisfied, and getting giddier as it sank it that we were really on vacation, we put our grinning selves back in the renter, and headed out to the coast. This drive is so pretty and so damn green, that any visitor to Portland should put it on their list of things to do. After only about an hour and a half on the road, we checked into our room at the Hallmark Resort and plopped ourselves down on the balcony to enjoy the amazing view of the ocean and Haystack Rock. Relaxed, we decided it was time for our first real treat - the one we saved from Sweet Pea Bakery: chocolate mint cupcakes. Oh yeah. These little devils had made the trip with only the slightest bit of smooshed icing, and this did not effect the taste - dark, rich chocolate paired with refreshingly minty icing - at all. After debating about what to get from Sweet Pea (everything looked amazing) I was quite content with our choice. They were wonderful bites of sugary yum. That's the Sweet Pea delirium talking. :)
Now, as a vegan, it can be hard to get good food along the coast, especially where we were in Cannon Beach. It's mostly got seafood restaurants and mom & pop stores without any fresh produce. However there is a shining light in the fog: The glorious bastion of hope that is Sweet Basil's. Our reservation was for Saturday night, and after spending Friday night consuming some of the yuckiest Thai food ever (the place only had two items they could make without fish sauce!), supplemented with our Food Fight snacks, we were very ready to get some nutrition in our systems.
A lovely coastal rain was falling as we settled into our booth, and we immediately got to the task of scanning the menu for vegan items. Luckily, there were quite a few AND one of the specials that night was vegan. I opted for the latter - a stuffed zucchini with eggplant and Italian rice, and the husband ordered the vegan sausage and pepper hero. Mine was warming and scrumptious, with true eggplant and basil flavors bursting out of the fresh zucchini. I was really enjoying it when I decided to try a bit of the hero. It may not have been pretty, but man, this thing was scarily good. Let's just say it was all I could do to not finish the rest of it. My husband loved it too, and I hereby declare everyone in Portland should go get some coastal fresh air, enjoy the beach, and have one of these sandwiches. Sweet Basil's is by far the best place for vegans and others alike in Cannon Beach.
After returning to the resort, we polished off a bottle of local unfiltered/unfined (read: vegan) wine, sat by the fire, and played Scrabulous. The perfect evening. Next up: We hit the not-so-dusty trail back to Portland for more eats, more drinks, and the most fabulous shoes I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Stay tuned.
*Hubby went vegan for the trip. Hooray!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
In other news, I'll be in Portland soon, and depending on connectivity and inclination, I may or may not be posting for a while. You can look forward to tales from Food Fight Grocery, Nutshell and Veganopolis, as well as the hunt for Form and Fauna shoes. See you soon!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Well, needless to say, I finally did try that recipe I created in my head* and these delectable cubes were perfect. This was a while ago, and I had completely forgotten about all of this until I walked into my local Real Food Company yesterday and saw that they are now carrying the S&S line. Woo-hoo! Please everyone, vegans and others alike, try these marshmallows. They are a bit of heaven here on earth... and my favorite vegan thing of the day.
* Cut a marshmallow in half. Sandwich some strawberry slices between the halves. Stick the whole thing together with a toothpick and dip into some melted dark chocolate. Or, even easier, just dust with cocoa powder. Yum!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Before we get to the food though, let's just take a minute to ponder the name. I had no idea what "sciue sciue" meant so I looked it up and found that it means something along the lines of improvised or quick and simple. If the long list of specials on Saturday was any indication of how they normally do things, I can see how the name would apply. Everything on the list sounded so...well.... improvised, that I just had to try one.
I had the salad of escarole, fennel, and apple to start. It was light and refreshing, with the perfect combination of bitter and sweet, and got my stomach ready for the main dish. I chose something from the regular menu - the Spaghetti alla Pizzaiola - which is a simple dish of spaghetti (I made sure the pasta had no egg beforehand of course!) with tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. As hard as it would be to make this dish really badly, I argue that it would be even harder to do it as well as Caffe Macaroni. It had the perfect saltiness from the tomatoes, and fruitiness of the olive oil, and just enough garlic. I was in heaven. Meanwhile, my hubby had one of the pasta specials, and even kept it veggie (thanks, babe). He claims his bucatini with peppers, garlic, and other veggies I can't remember, was the best pasta he's had in San Francisco. A successful meal all around. Of course, being an Italian joint on Columbus, there was the requisite loud Italian speaking and great people watching... but not nearly as in-your-face as some places a few blocks away.
Vegans, grab your others for some lip-smacking Italian that will have your whole party exclaiming, "Delizioso!"
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
This is one of our favorite vegetable soups. It makes a wonderful meal with a loaf of fresh bread. It also reheats well and we like to have it for several lunches during the week.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 hours
1 ¼ cup red kidney beans
8 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
6-8 fingerling potatoes, chunked
1 ½ cups fresh green beans, cut into 1½ inch pieces
1 cup tomato sauce
¼ cup parsley flakes
1 ½ teaspoon basil
1 ½ teaspoons oregano
½ teaspoon marjoram
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 zucchini, chopped
1 ½ cups shredded cabbage
½ cup uncooked whole wheat elbows
Place the beans in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, turn off heat and let rest for 1 hour. (To eliminate this step, soak beans overnight.) Drain off water. Add onion, garlic and 8 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 1 hour. Add celery, carrot, potatoes, green beans, tomato sauce and all the seasonings. Return to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes. Add the garbanzo beans, canned tomatoes and zucchini. Cook for another 30 minutes. Then add the cabbage and pasta and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Happy weekend, everyone! ;)
Thursday, June 12, 2008
For starters, we split the wilted spinach salad. This pile of spinach with warm olive oil, onions, olives, and crostini was the perfect start to our meal. So enamored with my surroundings, I totally forgot the name of my entree. It was essentially two skewers of veggies, tofu, and even corn, in a sweet and savory sauce that slightly resembled red curry. They were so delicious, but the side of rice with pistachios and cherries stole the show. My technique was to mix everything together, and I think it was a good call. Yum!
We were content and satisfied, but when the dessert menu came, I knew I must make room. The one vegan dessert was a banana chocolate layer cake.* Considering my recent cravings, I went for it, and was so happy I did. It was the perfect combination of the two flavors, neither one overpowering the other, and the dusting of cocoa powder, along with the two scoops of banana sorbet, made this vegan treat the perfect ending to our lovely meal. Greens, I will be back, and hopefully more often.
Vegans, bring your others, preferably around sunset, and watch them forget their meal is meatless.
*Technically, if you ordered the sorbets without the cookies, that dessert would be vegan too, which makes for another option.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I'm off to eat soon, and will blog about that tomorrow, but wanted to give a quick shout out to Novacas, maker of great vegan shoes, since I'll be wearing their Molly to dinner. Fashionable shoes are pretty late to arrive on the vegan scene if you ask me, but things are looking up these days, and this line is one of the reasons. Gone are the days of hunting for cheap uncomfortable pleather at Payless, thank god. And, now I'm off to dinner in my stylin' shoes!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
*In case you're wondering, I'm off to Portland, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, New Jersey, NYC, Boston, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, and Monterey this summer. I am one lucky gal!
Monday, June 9, 2008
Meanwhile, my favorite vegan thing for today is being dictated by my PMS: Allison's Gourmet Chocolates. I got these for my parents as a Christmas present last year, mainly because I wanted to try them, and they are heavenly. Next time I order from AG, I think I'll be getting some peanut butter cups too. They look too good to pass up, and you can't go wrong combining chocolate and peanut butter, I say. Okay, I better get off the computer now before my uterus coerces me into spending my entire salary on chocolates. You, on the other hand, should do just that.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Most folks don't know that a lot of beer, and wine for that matter, isn't vegan because it's filtered with isinglass, a gelatin-like substance made from fish bladders. Yeah, NOT delicious. That being said, it's pretty easy to obtain vegan beers. (Check here for a good list.) Anchor Steam is one such easily obtainable, and quite yummy, beer. Pairs well with a hot sunny day.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Sweet Nothings Fudge Bars. These guys are only 100 calories a pop, are mostly just fruit juice and carob, and manage to taste like pure chocolate. It can only be food magic - enjoy!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I'm so thrilled that she's gone vegan (it's been over a year now and she ain't lookin' back) and am delighted with the effect it's had on her health and well-being. She was pretty great before, but now she just plain rocks. Go mom!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
My vegan fave for today has to go to something I've been craving lately: The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Okay, so I haven't been craving the book itself, but rather the chocolate chip banana muffins that are featured therein. They are the most moist, wonderful creations your sweet tooth has ever come across. Those, and the amazing cakes, pastries, cookies, breads, and other baked goods that this beautiful book dishes up make it the greatest book on vegan baking ever. Hands down. Get yourself a copy and get baking today. Oh, and if you make any of those muffins, send 'em my way. :)
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
So, for today, my item is...drum roll please... Soy Feta by Sunergia. I'm trying to eat less soy these days, but this is a tough item to give up. A relatively new addition to my fridge, it has given me back my long-lost love of Greek Salads. Crumble it up on some greens with kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and some oil and vinegar, and you're good to go. Plus it's all non-GMO, organic, low-fat, and the whole darn package only has 240 calories. Sunergia, I love you.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
My birthday was Sunday, but I started celebrating on Saturday, mainly because I had a school picnic to attend on my actual day. The plan was to go hang gliding to kick off the weekend, but the weather was not cooperative and it got canceled. Boo. I wasn't too sad though because it just meant a little more lounge time for me. I had to rest up, for mine was to be an evening of dining delights at none other than Fleur de Lys . This culinary extravaganza was something I'd been looking forward to for some time. They always have a vegetarian tasting menu and - with advance notice - are more than happy to alter it to be vegan. You may recall that I've called this romantic high-end spot the best place to get an uber-fancy meal in the city, and they did not disappoint. We also went with the wine pairing, so by the end we were practically glowing. I only felt brave enough to take two pictures, and neither with flash, so forgive the bad quality. What you have here is our appetizer (first of 4 courses) and our dessert (aka the 5th course). The app was 2 purple potato dots, a mushroom "cigar", and a shot of the yummiest butternut squash soup ever. I would have been content eating nothing but a pile of the cigars for the rest of the meal, but that's mainly because they involved crispy phyllo dough. So good.
In between these pictures, there was an beet salad with celery and green onions, a polenta cake, and a ragout of veggies with the most sublime truffle sauce and crispy "truffle chips" on top. Every bite was a little more amazing than the last, and that counts dessert too. The sorbets atop that popcorn cake were unreal. The coconut in particular tasted so much like eating fresh coconut that it had to have been magic. As for the wine, the only one I wasn't a huge fan of was the Pinot Noir. Our waiter described it as "young yet elegant" and I think it was just a little too young, and not enough elegant.
It should also be mentioned, as I've written before, that the bread service is unbelievable. As soon as you finish your piece, the bread guy is there with more. The olive loaf is my favorite, while my husband digs the baguette. The fig/pistachio bread is also fantastic. Their bread makes me swoon. Needless to say, I slept well Saturday night.
Sunday morning I awoke to a beautiful day so I got up and went for a long walk down to Crissy Field and back, stopping at Real Food Company and got some peaches and strawberries for a light breakfast. When I arrived home, my loving hubby gave me my present - a gift certificate for a pair of Form and Fauna shoes. I am so psyched and can't wait to get those beauties on my tootsies. After I composed myself, we were off to the picnic. Though there was food, we saved our appetites for another oft-mentioned eatery on this blog: Papalote. Ever since the "not quite" experience of Green Chile Kitchen, I've been craving my favorite burrito, complete with vegan black beans, rice, guacamole, and the world's best salsa. Paired with a Corona, it's the best a Sunday afternoon can offer.
Back at home, it was birthday cake time, which in my case meant a decadent vegan cupcake from Whole Foods, with some insanely good Purely Decadent "Chunky Mint Madness." Oh yeah, Happy Birthday to me. As I write this, I'm in food coma and have been lying on the couch for about 4 hours - something I NEVER do. Tomorrow, it's back to the gym and work, so I'm off to enjoy the rest while I can. After all, it's the last year of my twenties, and I plan on living it the the fullest!
Coming Attractions in June: A trip to Greens to celebrate the end of the school year, and a long weekend in the vegan haven of Portland. I am truly blessed.