Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I will preface this by saying that I am prone to exaggeration, but holy crap, Osha has the best Thai food. Like ever. I should also say that I've been craving their pumpkin curry for about a week now, so finally having it tonight was like a bit of savory spicy creamy heaven. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I also split a bottle of wine with Sara, my awesome "other", so forgive me.

Osha, from afar, is everything I hate about restaurants. It's got hipper-than-though decor, overly-dim lights, and numerous locations throughout the city. However, the food is so damn good that it totally makes up for all that. Not to mention that the service is ridiculously fast and friendly. In fact, whenever I used to get the Thai food itch, I would drive across town to the Valencia location. Luckily for me, the Union Street locale opened in the last year or so, and now I can squelch my curry craving with a quick walk.

This evening, I started with my favorite of appetizers, the fresh spring rolls. This rice-paper bundle of tofu, mint and basil pairs perfectly with the accompanying peanut sauce. I really can't say enough about the mint/peanut combination. I can still remember years ago when I first discovered the complex flavors of Thai food, and this particular combo remains one of my favorites to this day. I love food that continues to impress!

Next up was the star of the evening - the pumpkin curry. Now vegans, you must be wary with Thai cuisine in that fish sauce can be found in most everything, even the "vegetarian" dishes. One of the reasons I love Osha so much is that, in addition to nailing the flavors every single time, they are also the only Thai place I've found to consistently execute my request of "Please, no fish sauce" with accuracy. On top of that, it's so damn good. The pumpkin and bamboo and peppers and tofu are blanketed in this reddish curry deliciousness that just has to be tasted to be appreciated. I first discovered this dish while actually in Thailand in 2005, and I'm happy to say Osha's version is just as good, if not better!

So vegans, grab your others, head to any of the Osha locations, peruse the extensive veggie selections, and then do yourself a favor and order the pumpkin curry. :)

Oh, and if anyone cares, I highly recommend a good pinot grigio with Thai food!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


There's been a lot of talk about hope lately, and yet I've been feeling more hopeless than ever. This week was particularly hard on my spirits as I watched people handing out eco-friendly light bulbs and biking instead of driving and planting trees and doing all the things we're supposed to do on Earth Day. All of these things felt like a show - a parade of deluded people who think changing a light bulb is going to do a damn thing, while not a single person was talking about the one thing that would really help. Consume less meat. I was especially devastated as I began looking up facts to share with my co-workers. It would appear that when the majority of the population dies from meat-related diseases, they will have left us healthy people with a planet that can no longer sustain life.

So, where is the hope?

Well, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to participate more actively in the animal rights movement as my schedule eases up soon. I'm hopeful that I can help get the message out because I really feel like once people have the facts, they'll at least think about what the hell they're doing. I was hopeful last night when Bill Maher (LOVE him), on his Real Time show, called the link between meat and climate change "the most under-reported news story ever." It was heartening that someone with such a large audience was trying to get the point across. And, lastly, I was hopeful while giving my 3rd graders a talk this week about vegetarianism and how it can help our planet. It made me hopeful that I was even offered the opportunity to do so by my colleague, and that I work in a place where it would be an okay thing to do so.

I mean, why should telling kids the facts - the TRUTH - be so damn controversial? Why, when we are told all the time to eat our fruits and veggies, do people freak out when we say to eat ONLY fruits and veggies? But here I start getting into health issues, and for this particular talk I wanted to focus strictly on the planet. (For more on the health benefits of veganism, please visit Dr. John McDougall's website.)

Here's the poster I used to help make my point. Yes, I am artistically disabled, and of course I passed out vegan cookies at the end to help make the point. :)

So, while things are still pretty dire, I'm making peace with what I can do to help, and I'm starting to do it. I hope you all do the same, no matter the cause. This concludes my rant for now. Look out for more dining soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day

Just a friendly reminder that the number one thing you can do for the planet is to stop eating meat. Better than hybrids, better than changing all your light bulbs. Try eating less of it this week to start. You'll be healthier, and so will the planet.

Monday, April 21, 2008


This may be a bold statement, but I make it without hesitation: Roti Indian Bistro is the best North Indian food in the city. Hands down. I know people love them some Indian Oven and Pakwan, but this place has them both beat. Never greasy, and always using the freshest ingredients, Roti is well worth the trek to West Portal. They use just the right amount of spice, and every time I've been, the servers have been wonderful about the whole vegan thing.

As most vegans know, "ethnic" foods (am I the only one who hates that term??) are often a great place to take their others because there will most likely be vegetarian offerings. Now, with Indian food, you do have to watch out for the ever-present ghee (clarified butter) but simply ask to have your veggie curry cooked with oil instead and it's all good. Also, watch out for the naan because it probably has some animal stuff like milk or eggs in it. Roti (I'm talking about the bread now, not the restaurant) is a good bet as long as you get it without the butter most places slather on.

Anyhoo, Roti the restaurant is a beautiful, warm, and friendly place. Yesterday, I started with the salad because I'm a fennel junky, and this gave me my fix. So good. My hubby ordered eggplant pakoras for his app, but needless to say I ate them as well. Savory warm circles of yum. Those were the only two things I got pictures of (and not very good ones at that) because it was getting dark and I didn't want to use the flash. If you want more, check out the website. Everything really looks as good in person as it does on the site, and tastes even better.

So vegans, drag your other out of that ridiculous line at Indian Oven, and head on over to the quieter side of town. (If gas is the issue, take the M!) Your taste buds will thank you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Visit; Last but (indeed) least

We were feeling pretty tired after our action-packed Friday and Saturday, but we still got up early Sunday morning and decided to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Such a touristy thing to do, but good exercise all the same, plus it was another gorgeous day. Afterwards we headed home for a simple fruit breakfast (a walk + fruit = the best hangover cure) and then just relaxed for a bit. Mom was having a major Mexican craving so I took her to my fave burrito spot, Papalote. Again, it's the well-marked menu denoting the vegan stuff (all the beans!!!) that I love about this place. I had had some granola with my fruit and wasn't hungry, so I passed, but she claims her burrito was quite yummy.

Realizing I should probably do some grocery shopping and that mid-day on a Sunday might not be a terribly crowded time, we headed off to Rainbow. My most favorite of grocery stores, it's also a good place to take any foodie in your life just to peruse the bulk bins alone. My mom got some organic powdered stevia, since she can only get the processed white stuff at home in NJ. She found it hard to believe it's actually a green leaf. Why we must make all sweet things look and perform just like sugar is beyond me. ANYWAY...

I stocked up, and we drove home to put it all away and relax some more. Mom actually fell asleep, but not for long since we had a mission to accomplish: Get my dad a new City Lights t-shirt, since his old one was worn out. I wanted to walk to North Beach, but that idea was vetoed by both my mom and husband, so we took the good old 45 bus and were there in no time. All of this worked out perfectly, by the way, because our dinner choice was in the neighborhood. So, after we picked up the shirt, we walked the few blocks (in now freezing weather, mind you. Good old San Francisco.) to Pena Pachamama. I've wanted to go here for a while, after reading their unique menu online. Heavy on the Bolivian-influenced tapas, they also have a raw food and vegan section. I was down to see what it was all about.

The place itself was mighty colorful and looked like Carnaval waiting to happen. This was made weirder by the fact that we were the only people in the place at 6:30 on a Sunday. They have performances every night, but we were too early. I can imagine it would be a much more fun place to go with your drunken pals to see the show. That would also make the fact that the food was just mediocre not really matter so much. For us, however, it was the main focus, and it wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't as exciting as I had hoped. We all started off with the organic green salad, from the raw menu, and this was by far the highlight of the meal. Fresh greens and veggies, with a little scoop of sweet fresh corn "hummus" (I believe our waitress said it was simply corn, agave, and cinnamon), it was unique and tasty. I kind of wish we had stuck with the raw menu the whole way, since it seemed promising. Instead, my husband went completely insane and got the fish (rolls eyes) and my mom and I then split a few of the vegan tapas - fried plantains with black bean reduction, yucca fries, corn tamale, and sauteed spinach. It was all just okay, and we could have used an extra order of spinach to balance out the rest of the heavier plates. All in all, we were satisfied, and had we had some beers in us and were enjoying a good show, I think it would have been much more enjoyable.

Vegans, try it for some new tastes, but don't expect to be wowed. If you try the rest of the raw menu, let me know. It could be pretty yummy.

PS. My mom is back in NJ now, which is sad for me, so make me feel better by suggesting some vegan-friendly places in the Bay Area to go. Maybe we can even go together!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Visit, Part Two

After the Ani concert, we headed back to our hotel in Santa Rosa, very excited to get up in the morning and hit some wineries. Waking up to a sunny day was a lovely gift, and with fuel in us from the Whole Foods salad bar, we headed off to Frog's Leap. My hubby and I have been to this organic and biodynamic vineyard before, but have never taken the tour. I now know that we were totally missing out. It was an informative, casual, and FUN romp around the grounds and I highly recommend it. I could live at this place, with it's huge gardens and sustainably-built and powered house. But, alas, if we wanted to taste more, we had to leave. I had intended to stop for snacks at Oakville Grocery, since it's the best place to do so IMO, but we weren't all that hungry and had to save room for our awesome dinner (be patient, it's coming). We ended up stopping anyway, and stocked up on some kickin' mustards, olive oils, and jams. Probably the other three things Napa is known for besides wine. All are calling my name from the pantry right now.... We also got some water since our sunny day was approaching 95 degrees. Yeah, time to get out of the sun.

For some shade, and more wine of course, we hit up one of my personal faves - Robert Sinskey. As far as my palate goes, his wines are the perfect compliment to just about any veggie dish. I love his Abraxas blend, and his 1999 Vineyard Reserve, a mostly Cabernet blend, was our wedding wine (we started dating in '99). In addition to making just damn tasty vino, the tasting room in Napa has a bar in which you are invited to eat the yummiest olives and sea salt/rosemary almonds. Can't beat it.

Okay, so we've had some fruit and Synergy at Whole Foods, some samples of mustards and olive oils at Oakville, some almonds and olives at Sinskey, and lots of wine. Definitely time for dinner. I was so psyched because of all the hype around my choice for dinner: Ubuntu. Write ups always claim that it is a "vegetables" restaurant, as opposed to a "vegetarian" restaurant. And, as is so hip and chic these days, most of these veggies come from their own biodynamic garden. Their short trip to the table is the ultimate in freshness, and it undoubtedly comes through in the food. Hearing about all this, and reading a sample menu online, had me very eager... and I came hungry.

From the sign outside which reads "Practicing Humanity Toward Each Other" to the clean and natural feel of the rather large interior, I was sold. Then, the menu came. Now, we all know I'm a sucker for a well-marked menu. In this case, all the vegan items have a nice little "v" by them and all the items with a star can be made vegan. They don't even mind, promise! My mom and I decided to split three small plates, and then get larger offerings individually, which turned out to be exactly the right amount of food for the two of us hungry ladies. To start, we split a salad of grilled strawberries, greens, and pistachio "pudding", a beet and avocado salad, and some lemon asparagus. All were ridiculous, the beets so much so that I was unable to snag a picture before they were devoured. Everything was fresh, joyously flavorful, and insanely pretty. Definitely the best start to a meal I've had in a long time.

For our entrees, my mom had a broccoli and farro dish in which everything was drowning in a technicolor broccoli-stem sauce. It was gorgeously green, yet it somehow managed to taste even better than it looked. As for me, I kicked it comfort food style and got the greens-laden pizza with their own vegan cheese. Oh man, was this heaven. Kale and pesto and spinach and almond cheese bliss. I can almost still taste it if I try.... Yup, there it is. Amazing.

Now, just for the record, we were totally full at this point. Maybe it was the Sinskey Pinot Blanc we were splitting, but we just couldn't say no to the vegan dessert. Plus it seemed so light and refreshing. Indeed, the sorbet in rose soda float was just that. The most beautiful and tasty sunset-colored ending to our day.

The verdict? Vegans, take your others by the hand, put them in the car, forcibly if you must, and drive the hour or so up to Napa. You won't regret it, and they'll thank you for it later.

My Mom's Visit, Part One

It's always a good time when my mom comes to town, but a few things made this trip especially fun. Like the fact that I got to take her on her first wine tasting in Napa. Or that we saw an amazing Ani Difranco concert in Santa Rosa. Or that we got to witness my silly, silly friends play "bar golf" upon our return to SF. But, of course, what I want to write about is the fantastic meals we experienced along the way - all at other-friendly establishments.

First up was the East West Cafe in Santa Rosa. I found this gem using the mighty Happy Cow, a must-use resource for all vegans. Now, here I should mention, rather, announce with glee, that my mom has been vegan for over a year now (thank you Earthlings) and is healthier than ever! So, while this place is other-friendly, it was so nice to be able to pick at each other's plates for once. But I digress.....
It was a hot day and the breezy high ceilings and eclectic mix of Native American and Asian-inspired art was welcoming. Wanting to avoid wine because we knew we'd be up to our gills in it the following day, we settled in with two beers and took a look at the menu. So many things sounded so good that I'm already looking forward to going back and trying more. My mom ended up going all out and getting the taco plate - a pile of veggies, rice, beans, and a unique walnut-basil pesto to go inside of the prettiest blue corn tortillas you ever did see. Yum. It was too hot for me to consider anything but a salad, so I went for the organic green one and ordered a side of falafel to smash on top. It was perfect with the vibrant lemon-tahini dressing, which was not nearly as heavy as I feared it would be. Hit-the-spot perfection. Upon inspection of the bakery case, however, I suddenly had more room for vegan chocolate cake. Funny how that happens. I only agreed to share with my mom because I know she has no sweet tooth. Good for me, because this was dense, gooey, fabulousness. I'm pretty sure I closed my eyes with every bite.
The perfect meal to send us into the night...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bourdain Update

One of my trusted friends sent me a link to a fantastic blog related to all things vegan and Bourdain. I love it, and must share it here: Hezbollah Tofu. It's such a brilliant idea and way more proactive than my simple sharing and ranting. Enjoy!

And, for those of you who are wondering, my mom is still in town. We've had some AMAZING meals that I can't wait to tell you about..... soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Anthony Bourdain

One of the biggest moral dilemmas I have faced throughout my life is my love for those who are not vegan. I suppose it's the fact that people are so much more than their dietary choices. Then again, veganism being something so central to my own person, you'd think I'd go out of my way to find and connect with others of like-minded habits. Well, for whatever reason, that just hasn't been the case. Maybe it's that my affinity for hip-hop, sarcasm, and David Lynch movies doesn't always lead me to those empathetic with our animal friends. In my own life, I find that having those things in common will keep a relationship together longer than a shared menu. Do I wish my husband were vegan? Of course! Maybe he will be one day, but in the meantime, he's always up for a Mos Def show, will debate the finer points of Lost Highway, and is one witty mother$%*#^$. Still,admitting to having an omnivorous husband has not relieved me of the guilt I feel for loving another, much more famous, non-vegan: Anthony Bourdain.

I know, I know, he is constantly searching out the innards of animals, sometimes killing them himself, and describing in great detail how wonderful they are for all the world to view. I am aware of this, and the fast-forward button of my tivo is well worn because of it. I still think Mr. Bourdain can teach us all a good lesson about going forth and learning about cultures through food. He manages to remain true to his ball-busting New York self while being humbly led through new culture after new culture with humility and openness. Now, it's definitely the Jersey Girl in me that loves a smart-alec New York boy, but I also love someone on a search for the "more" in life just as much. Does he make some broad generalizations about vegetarians while he's hosting? Yeah, sometimes, but I like to think it's just because he hasn't met me. A night of drinking and exchanging barbs and seeing just what all I have the pleasure of eating might bring him to a little more acceptance. Or not. And who cares anyway, right? His opinion is his, mine is mine. Just because mine happens to be right, doesn't make it better. :)

In other news, my mom will be here from the Jerz any minute, and I'm looking forward to 3 dining experiences we have planned - all at restaurants for "others." Can't wait to share with you after the weekend. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Good Life

Over the course of my life in San Francisco (moved here in 2001, and was here almost every other weekend for two years prior), I have been lucky enough to dine at some of the city's top restaurants. Even better? I haven't paid for any of it. By some wonderful twist of fate, I happen to be married to a man with a sister who is married to a man with parents that love fine dining almost as much as they love their son, his wife, her brother, and his wife. Get it? Okay, so it's not like we ask or even want them to, but they always pick up the check. With them we've been to Jardiniere, Michael Mina, and Fleur de Lys. We've also been to Masa's and the French Laundry thanks to my husband's sister (engagement present and wedding gift respectively). It's these dinners that really sparked my interest in food as an art form, and there is nothing I love more than sitting down for a 4 hour meal presented in the finest setting. Now, all of these restaurants are very accommodating when it comes to diet (CALL AHEAD!), and most already offer a vegetarian menu, so it's just a matter of altering a few things to make it vegan. However, even the best of the best can fall short in this area, so I'm here to let you know which places are a sure thing for you and your fine-tuned palate.

I know it's what I'm *supposed* to say because of all the accolades and awards, but the best meal I ever had truly was from the French Laundry. Yountville is beautiful wine country, and we were on our honeymoon, so my ridiculously happy mood didn't hurt, but everything from the moment we entered until we left, 3 hours and 9 courses later, was perfect. This was the first fine dining experience where I didn't notice the absence of dairy. Often when there is a vegetarian menu available, it can be very obvious that I got the same menu, only without the cheese, or without the poached egg on top, for example. But, here, everything made perfect, delicious sense just as it was. On top of the wonderful food and atmosphere, the bonus of this dining experience was our introduction to Armando Manni olive oil. Right off the bat, I was asked if I'd like olive oil instead of butter for the bread. Of course I agreed, and this olive oil was like no other. I've since spent the ridiculous amount of money to get a case of my own shipped direct from Italy. So worth it. If you can't afford a whole case, go in with some other foodie friends and split one - you won't be disappointed.
All in all, the French Laundry is my number one spot for fine dining as a vegan.

A very close second is Fleur de Lys. This beautiful and romantic restaurant knows how to do vegetables right. That being said, it is the bread service here that I adore. :) Not only are most of the breads vegan (just ask to find out which aren't) but as soon as you finish your piece, the bread guy magically appears at your side to offer you some more. Yes, please. That alone is why I will return again and again to Fleur de Lys. But oh my god the vegan meal is unbelievable. In this case there were a few times when I visually noticed what I was missing (I was dining with a vegetarian so we had similar dishes, only his with dairy or egg) but I never missed anything in terms of taste. This place gets my vote for best fine dining in San Francisco proper.

In third place, it's a tie between Masa's and Michael Mina. Both have really great food, don't get me wrong. As good as the French Laundry or Fleur de Lys? No, but very elegant and yummy all the same. I just don't like the vibe of these places very much. A little too stuffy and business-class, and at both places I got the feeling that they couldn't understand what I, a vegan, would be doing in their establishment. As though vegans only socialize amongst ourselves. Just a vibe though, nothing was ever said and I was accommodated and had a good meal. 'Nuff said.

Lastly, in no place, is Jardiniere. I can't rank this place because I went when I was raw, and asking a restaurant to accommodate something like that is just unreasonable I think. That being said, they gave it their best shot and I had a lovely celery root salad and some kind of raw soup if I remember correctly. It was all a bit oily and salty, but hey, they tried. I'll have to go back and check out what they can do for vegans.

I think the real moral of the story here is to not shy away from fine dining. The reason these places are so open to veganism is because the demand is there. So, vegans, grab your others, and a large chunk of cash, and try some of these places. You'll be amazed by what folks "in the know" can do with food. And, stay tuned, as a trip to Gary Danko is in my future... not to mention plenty of other everyday eateries for vegans and others alike.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Animal Place

Another post that is not about a restaurant. Forgive me. Some of you may know I care very deeply about this farmed animal sanctuary and that, every now and then, I actually drive out to Vacaville to volunteer there. It is an amazing place that cares for animals whom have had some very horrific lives. Unfortunately for me, and quite fortunately for them, they have the opportunity to move to a much larger farm in Grass Valley. It means I won't be headed out there as much, but it also means that they can help more animals, and I'm all for that! Currently they are trying to raise enough money for a deposit on the land, and I figured I'd pass along the link should anyone feel compelled to send a donation. I don't normally do things like this, but this organization is close to my heart. Check it out here.

So that this post doesn't leave out food entirely, here are some things to look forward to on EWWO: Best places to get vegan pizza, an open discussion about Anthony Bourdain, and the best of the best - fine dining establishments that do right by us vegans. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Hello, flavor! This place was awesome. From the herb and olive oil dip that came with the bread to my sweet ending of vegan knaffe, it was all delicious. But, I'm getting away from myself. Saha is inside the lovely Carleton Hotel. Great for me, as someone who likes to work for my dinner, because it's about a 25 minute walk away from my apartment. I've actually been trying to get to this place for a while with some friends when, lo and behold, my husband actually had some time to eat with me on a weeknight. Score. We got there for our 7pm reservation and there was only one other table with people. Never a good sign in my book, but after a while the place was packed, so I needn't have worried. The super-nice (and knowledgeable!) waitress showed us to our curtain-ensconced seats. Right off the bat, I was psyched to see they they have TONS of vegan options, and all well-marked. Have I mentioned how much I love a well-marked menu? Well, it gets even better because the menu also indicated a 3 course tasting for $30 (for the all veg; $40 if you want death). I went for it because I'm a little piggy sometimes. I ordered the fattoush salad with no feta, which taught me I need to be using sumac more often. Who knew. Next up was something called fouel, which is like a hummus made from fava beans and tomatoes. So yummy smoky smooth. My main dish takes the vegan cake though. I got the "Crispy Couscous Tower" and it was true to its name. Two couscous patties, lightly fried, are stacked upon each other, with some spinach in between, and then covered in this amazing sauce which seemed to be simultaneously red curry, saffron, and tomato. Amazing. Alongside the tower lay some perfectly cooked asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms. Now, normally, I like more veggies than grain (or sauce or tofu or dressing, etc) but in this case, I ate the whole thing. And I was full. But did that stop me from ordering dessert? Of course not. The "Vegan Knaffe" is a shredded phyllo, vegan cream cheese, lemony sugar godsend. 'Nuff said.

So, yeah, the food was good. But, being able to eat it alongside my husband while he thoroughly enjoyed his pistachio-encrusted scallops (which, by the way, are way up on my list of weird things people eat) was priceless. Oh, and before I forget, the Oregonian wine I ordered was so good I looked it up. Enjoy!

Vegans, if your others have adventurous palettes and appreciate good flavor, grab 'em and go!