Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White (Food Free) Christmas

After a tooth whitening experience at Brite Smile the other day (I know, I know, but I've always wanted to try it and then Groupon had an amazing deal, so shut it) I had to eat nothing but white food for a day and a half. I thought this would be easy and stocked up on parsnips, cauliflower, potato soup, fennel, bananas, and hummus. Yummy stuff, for sure, but man was I craving some COLOR when everything was said and done. As I write this, I just had a big salad and some kombucha for lunch and am feeling much more human. Eat the rainbow, my friends. (And that is more than just a plug for Skittles, which happen to be vegan btw.)

Before the whole white food extravaganza, I tried a new-to-me vegan product, the mushroom and tofu pate pictured here. Made by Alexian, I got it at Rainbow after spotting it in the cooler by the hummus. I was psyched because it looked yummy and the whole block only had like 75 calories. I should have known from that number alone (I mean, is anything low calorie ever super yummy?), but it was pretty bland. I ate it with some Mary's Gone Crackers (a fave) and honestly I only tasted the crackers. Blandness aside, I think I will try the tomato basil flavor that Rainbow also carries. I'm just a sucker for things you can eat on crackers or with a toothpick. Verdict in the future.

Meanwhile, I'll be leaving for NJ and NYC at the end of the week and all sorts of good eating will be happening. I'll be heading back to some old faves and trying out some new places as well, so stay tuned. Here's wishing you all Happy Holidays, and good eats for you... and all your others.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Last night I had the pleasure of joining a big group of friends for some tasty bites and drinks at the brandy new Delarosa in the Marina. It was packed (of course) but the service was decent and the food was, well, kind of like de ja vu. I don't speak Italian, but I'm pretty sure delarosa translates to "grey and orange Beretta."

Don't get me wrong. Beretta, Delarosa's sister restaurant, is one of my favorite places to eat in all of San Francisco. I just didn't expect their menus to be so dang similar. I was thrilled to find some familiar treats to ingest, but I guess I was just hoping for some new things as well. Luckily, the food is amazing so who cares. There are lots of vegan-friendly options, including the inherently vegan spicy marinara pizza, and a slew of items that just need cheese removed. Here's what I had:

One of my favorite things available on both menus is the herbed onion bread. It is soft, fluffy, and has just the right amount of onion to match well with its fruit olive oil companion. Bread perfection... and I take bread seriously.

Another dish you might remember from Beretta is the eggplant caponatina. I get mine sans burrata, obviously, and it is downright delicious. Perfectly charred eggplant with roasted tomoatoes, olives, pinenuts, celery and capers is served room temp and practically dancing on the plate it's got so much flavor. I could eat bowfulls.

I also had the arugula and fennel salad because arugula and fennel are 2 of the best things to eat on the planet and because at Delarosa they come dressed with olive oil and sea salt to pretty much form salad utopia.

Overall, I just felt like something was missing at Delarosa, and I don't just mean the vegan cheese and sausage items. (Honestly though, what gives? Vegans live North of Market too, ya know.) Yes, they just opened and yes, we were a huge party, but the food just wasn't quite there. Hopefully as they get more in the swing of things, it'll all come together because I know I'll be back. Especially if those rumors of the vegan cheese arriving shortly are true.... You know I'll keep you posted.

Also, for those of you wondering about our Sunday dinner at Roti, I decided not to post about it because I stupidly forgot my camera. Just for the record though, that place is still my fave for North Indian food in SF. Hands down. Go. Try. Eat well.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The SF Vegan Bake Sale (as part of a pretty darn great Saturday)

So yesterday was the SF Vegan Bake Sale. It was friggin' fantastic and we raised more than $4200 for Save a Bunny and The Food Empowerment Project! Big love to all the bakers and to all the folks willing to part with their hard-earned cash in the name of sugar overdose... I mean, charity.

Here are some things I learned in the process:

1. Do not underestimate the degree to which marshmallows will expand in the oven. I don't know what I was thinking, but as you can see, my s'mores pie idea went to hell pretty quickly. Next time, I think I'll bake the brownie dough in the graham cracker crust until almost done and then put a layer of marshmallows ON TOP. Duh.

2. Everyone loves their Sugar Beat Sweets T-Shirts. Here I am with SBS ladies themselves, Melisser and Jennifer. Good times.

3. It's not just me who loves my white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies! All 4 dozen sold out pretty quickly. Hooray! (And double hooray for me who has a ton of organic macadamia nuts leftover in her kitchen.)

4. Bunnies are really cute. Like really. Next time you see "angora" on the label of your sweater, think about this guy and how he really isn't into giving up his hair for you.

5. People will pay top dollar for vegan treats. Also, people love to pose with lots of money.

After the bake sale, the hubby and I hopped on the bus (check out our stylin' vegan shoes we got at MooShoes) and met up with some pals for dinner at possibly the most vegan-friendly of mid-range eateries, California Pizza Kitchen. I love their Smashed Pea and Barley Soup as well as their Grilled Vegetable Salad. The soup is especially hearty and warming on a cold SF night, and the veggies on the salad are grilled nicely, accompanied by sundried tomatoes and avocado, and served atop a bed of romaine. What's even more awesome is that you can find all their vegan options clearly listed on their website.

We chose CPK because of its proximity to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. If you want to see high-caliber musicians on the cheap, a concert there can't be beat. Last night, the orchestra tore up some Brahms. Bravo, college kids!

All in all a terrific Saturday. Tonight we're off to an old fave for dinner, and tomorrow we're hitting up the brand new Delarosa. I can't wait to try it because if it's anything like its sister restaurant, Beretta, I'll definitely be eating well with others. :) Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Last Day of the Long Weekend

I meant to blog this sooner but somehow this week is just flying by. So, long story short, we hosted a brunch for some pals last Sunday. I made a kick ass fruit salad:

Isn't it beautiful? Mangoes and grapes and berries and bananas, all with the juice of half an orange squeezed on top (it's my not-so-secret fruit salad trick). Yum. But of course when you also have the bestest most wonderful cinnamon rolls in the world, nobody gives a crap about your fruit salad:

Seriously guys, Sugar Beat Sweets has mastered the vegan cinnamon roll. In fact, one of my brunch guests was heard saying, "Those cinnamon buns are amazing. There must be like a stick of butter in each one." To which I replied, "Gotcha - they're vegan. No butter at all!" Silly omnivores.

Want to get some of those sweet yummies for yourself but are too lazy to special order and can't wait until their storefront bakery opens? Come to the SF Vegan Bakesale this Saturday at Ike's! All the proceeds go toward Save a Bunny and the Food Empowerment Project. Yours truly will be there from 2 o'clock onward hawking my S'mores Pie and White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies. More than 50 bakers are coming together to give you the best treats in the Bay Area all while supporting some fantastic causes. Be there!

Coming soon: Trips to three restaurants. 2 old faves and 1 brand spankin' new... to me and to SF!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend.... the Eating Continues

After our trip to Loving Hut, we of course came home and ate more pumpkin pie and ice cream... I mean, it's (the days following) Thanksgiving after all! You'd think with all this crazy eating, we would have woken up on Saturday and decided to take a breather. Um, no. Since we had to go to the farmer's market to get some things for a brunch we were hosting on Sunday, we decided to go have a leisurely late breakfast at The Plant beforehand. Such a brilliant idea. I mean, you know a weekend is good when right after brunch you go and shop for the next day's brunch.

On windy and chilly days, Plant's Pier 3 location breaks out the clear plastic windbreakers and heat lamps, which actually make their awesome deck quite pleasant, and that's the view from our table there on the left. Below, you have the perfect antidote to that overfed yet malnourished feeling sometimes associated with Thanksgiving eats: A 2oz. shot of wheatgrass.

The Plant's wheatgrass is sweet and refreshing, but not so much that I didn't really appreciate that orange slice chaser. Nourishment imbibed, I felt safe to move on to heartier - and significantly less chlorophyll-laden - food.

Here we have my favorite of the Plant's vegan breakfast offerings - the tofu scramble. Served up with perfectly toasted sourdough, delectable (and never greasy!) potatoes, and a serving of seasonal fruit, it can't be beat. Add some Blue Bottle coffee and you've got a great start to your weekend, folks. And, with this little addition, it gets even better:

I asked for some hot sauce for my scramble and got this tasty bottle of just-hot-enough goodness. In reading, I found out it is made by the Huey P. Newton Foundation and that proceeds go toward funding numerous community programs in Oakland. I love when tasty things do more than just sate my appetite!

On Saturday night we actually slowed down a bit and made veggies and polenta for dinner. Good thing too, because brunch the next day was another eating marathon. More on that next time, my friends.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day After Eats

While everyone else is busy eating leftovers from their Thanksgiving feast, those of us who dined out on the big day have the pleasure of tasting all new tastes... and so we did!

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the tree in Union Square was lit and we were there to behold it in all its glory. Meh. This outing did allow us, however, to finally try a restaurant I've wanted to go to for a while: Loving Hut.

Obviously, it's an all vegan place. But it gets way weirder than that. There are a ton of these pan-Asian joints all over the world and they all promote veganism by way of Supreme Master TV. This channel is running while you eat, and there is literature available, as well as pictures of the "Supreme Master" herself (a woman named Ching Hai, described as a spiritual teacher) with "dignitaries" such as a "member of the Slovenian parliament." Yeah, it's weird shit people. But I could have given a crap as long as the food was good.

Sadly it was hit or miss. The rolls above? A fresh and tasty hit. The yellow curry below? A watery, no-taste-having miss.

My husband had the orange "chicken" and it was pretty good.... but what isn't good once you deep fry it and top it with sugary sauce? On the other hand, the rice was some of the best I've had. Go figure.

So, while I woudln't out and out refuse to eat at Loving Hut again, I don't think I'll be heading back anytime soon. I like my food without the side of indoctrination, thanks.

Plenty more good eats were to be had this weekend and I'll tell you all about it soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the last few hours of this long weekend, folks. I know I will!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because it's all about the food. It's also the one time a year that my husband and I stay put and see as few other people as possible for the whole weekend. We become tourists in our own city, reconnecting with each other and with our love of San Francisco. We've had some great meals already this weekend, with more to come, but I thought I'd tell you about the main attraction: Thanksgiving's 5 course vegan feast at Millennium. We came in very hungry and were VERY stuffed afterward. Stuffed with deliciousness. Let's begin:

First course was the "Cornucopia Medley". This was one of the yummiest plates of the evening in my opinion, as the caramelized onion butter was to die for, and the pimento pate and pear mustard combo were unlike anything I've ever tasted. Add in some black eyed pea chow chow, roasted chestnuts, and house made walnut bread and you have an opener of epic proportions.

I was psyched for the "Apple-Fennel Salad" as I'm a fennel addict, and this did not disappoint. The ginger-orange miso dressing brought the whole thing together in a scrumptious way. The "Smoked Leek & Parsnip Puree" was also tasty, though not as much as I'd hoped. This may have been because I ate a ton of parsnips this past week and was kind of parsnipped out. I will say, however, that the wild rice and sage relish dolloped on top was delicious.

Pictured above are the two entrees of the evening. Both have the same sides; An amazing maple pecan sweet potato pie, perfectly roasted brussels and brassicas, and the most wonderful cardamon-scented cranberry-quince relish ever. Ever. So on the left you see the kabocha squash with smoky tempeh. Now I love squash and I love smoky tempeh, but this was just on a whole other level. Oh and there was saffron barley risotto too. I mean, c'mon. The husband had the other entree, on the right above. This mushroom torte was savory, earthy, and moan-inducing. We both paused and gave thanks to Eric Tucker (chef).

And then there was dessert. Holy goodness Batman. On the left there is a slice of chocolate marbled pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite things in the universe, and I was a little wary of combining it with chocolate. In the able hands of Millennium, however, the combo is sublime. Oh, and the huckleberry compote underneath added just the right amount of light freshness. So good. The pecan tart was supposedly also heavenly. I wouldn't know since my husband ate all if his before I could get a bite!

Deliriously full and quite thankful, we headed out into the night and remembered a hookah bar on our way home that we've been meaning to try. Turns out it was the perfect way to end our evening. Some jasmine tobacco and Moroccan mint tea at Casablanca Cafe was the perfect digestive after all that food. I think we have a new Thanksgiving tradition people.

Speaking of traditions, my own involves having pumpkin pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving. When a restaurant provides the day-of meal, however, this means getting a pie separately. This year I trusted In the Mood for Food catering to provide said pie, and I am so happy I did.
Perfect crust and a not-too-heavy filling with plenty of spice makes this pie delectable. Top it with a squirt of Soy-a-too Whipped cream, and breakfast is served.

Like I said, there have been plenty more good eats this weekend, and I promise to report on those soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of this long weekend, everyone. Give thanks.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Located down an alley (Claude Lane) off of Union Square, Gitane is the perfect place to take out-of-towners you want to impress. Easy to miss, it'll make you look like you know all the hip spots and hidden gems, but it's the Parisian sidewalk seating, eclectic decor, fun bar, and yummy yummy food that make it a real winner. It's also a great place to eat well with others.

We went last night and, sadly, I forgot my camera. Luckily I was able to snag the exterior and interior shots from yelp. Apparently none of the camera-toting yelpers ordered the vegan entree though, so no pics of that. You'll just have to trust me that the vegetable tajine was beautiful and delicious. Filled with fennel, carrots, potatoes, chickpeas and prunes that have all been stewed to perfection in Moroccan spices, and served with some couscous and slivered almonds, it is a treat for all the senses. I also got a side of sauteed spinach with raisins. Also amazing. Oh, and the bread and olive oil they serve up once you order is top notch.

I will definitely go back to Gitane in the future - and I promise to bring my camera next time. Meanwhile, check it out yourselves. And don't forget to go hear the live jazz across the alley at Cafe Claude when you're done. Good times.

Now it is a rainy cold Sunday and we're lounging around doing nothing (my favorite!) but dreaming of the awesome Thanksgiving meal we'll be having at Millennium on Thursday. Can't wait to tell you all about it. Have a great Turkey-free day everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fantastic Fraiche

I had the pleasure of a dessert date with Melisser of Sugar Beat Sweets last night, and contrary to what you might expect, we did not ingest baked goods. Instead, we went to our mutual obsession - Fraiche. Best soy frozen yogurt ever. Best toppings ever. Last night I kept it patriotic and topped the tartly sweet goodness with strawberries and blueberries:

Light, creamy, and delicious. Speaking of sweet treats, mark your calendars folks. The SF Vegan Bakesale is back and better (and bigger!) than ever. This time around proceeds are going to Save a Bunny AND The Food Empowerment Project. These are wonderful causes, so you better get your booty on over and grab yourself some treats on Decemeber 5th. For your extra added pleasure, yours truly will be baking white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies as well as making rice krispie treats with mint chocolate chunks. Yippee!!!

I'll check back in over the weekend, y'all. Until then, eat well!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Herbivore Ritual

Is there anything better than dining at Herbivore in the Mission and then heading over to Ritual Roasters for coffee and dessert? Um, no. No there isn't.

When I went on Friday I decided to try something I've never had before, so you're looking at the coconut curry udon noodles. It was good, but I think I'll be sticking with my go-to large salad with grilled veggies on my next visit. Still, it was tasty, and you get a huge portion for a paltry $8.50.

The coffee at Herbivore is always cold and nasty (seriously, I've tried many times and it always sucks - what gives Herbivore?) but when Ritual is a few steps away who the hell cares. You will get the best cuppa joe in town plus the yummy addition of vegan pastries. Our recent chilly weather had me in a fall mood so I went for the sweet potato bread. I'm pretty sure this was the first time in my life I've ever had my beloved sweet potato in bread form and it won't be my last. Delicious, and just the right amount of sweetness with my rich decaf.

Not a bad way to kick off a weekend, eh? Hope you had a good one!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Smart Alec's

I used to go to Smart Alec's in Berkeley when I first moved to San Francisco almost a decade ago. Back then I was a broke musician and teacher and could easily pass for one of the students in my midst. These days, I rarely make it to Berkeley, and when I do I feel old as dirt and mighty cynical. It's enough to kill anyone's appetite... until I see the Smart Alec's sign. Next thing you know I'm as peace, love, and happiness as can be and digging into a most delicious (and cheap!) lunch:That there is the Supreme Chef Salad. Vegans will have to order it sans egg and croutons, but you can pick from the addition of either fresh hummus (my choice) or grilled tofu. This massive pile of greens and sprouts gets topped with tomatoes, edamame, chickpeas, and wheatberries and is super huge and yummy. For $7 you can't get a better deal! Serioulsy, SA's is worth a trip over the bridge if you're jonesing for the perfect weekend lunch.

Bonus: The air-baked garlic fries at Smart Alec's are also amazing.

Happy Monday everyone! Stay tuned for lots more local eats soon....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Michael Mina

I've been to Michael Mina before, but it was a long time ago, so I was thrilled when a friend decided to treat everyone in our little group to dinner there last night. They have a vegetarian menu always at the ready, but they will happily create a vegan tasting menu with advance notice. Even better is that it is 6 courses of goodness and the wine pairings are brilliant. Not only that but their unflappable service and creativity in the kitchen know no limits. Take a look:

First up was an amuse bouche of curried carrots and lentils. Honestly, it was one of my favorite bites of the evening, and definitely lived up to the "amuse" part of its name. Those little balls of carrot danced on my tongue. A very nice opener. Next was the caramelized fig salad. I worship figs and was seriously looking forward to this dish, but in the end I found the crazy amount of herbage to overpower, rather than balance, the sweet figs. The parsley, in particular, was way over the top. Oh well.

My less than stellar figs were soon forgotten when I got to eat my chanterelle mushroom soup. This was salty, smooth, and downright sublime. It may very well be the best soup I have ever eaten in a restaurant. Yum. Next up was a beautiful dish of sunchokes, sorrel, and (oh hells yes) truffle. My only complaint here was that there wasn't more of it.

The fourth course was my favorite dish of the evening; Crispy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with shaved celery, farro, and frisse. The savory, earthy mushrooms and farro were slightly crispy and warm and the complimentary cool and slightly bitter salad on top created a complete dish with a big impact on the palate. High brow comfort food at its finest. This dish was followed by a main course which fell just short of my expectations. The light tomato sauce on this pasta was delightful and the beans and veggies perfectly seasoned. However, the orecchiette itself was chewy and distracted from the overall experience of the dish.

And still we went out with a bang. This lemon cake with roasted strawberries, pistachio puree, and strawberry sorbet was so wonderful and proved that even light foods can have serious depth of flavor. That puree, for example, was like pistachio concertrate, and the slight bitterness it provided was the perfect partner for the sweetness of the strawberries and cake. Just a wonderful way to end the meal. In addition, I have no recollection of the dessert wine specifics but it was my favorite beverage of the evening... and pretty, no?

All in all, a fantastic meal. I will say that the veg-heads at the table ended up with substantially less food than the omnivores and, since we didn't get any less wine, this made us a little tipsy. Still, the portions were sating and delicious. I've got no complaints and would definitely go again. Thanks, MM, for a great night!