Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ingredients for a Great Super Bowl

I love football. And yet, as I write that, I find myself wondering how many other vegans feel the same? Generally speaking (and I loathe generalizations) we are a peaceful people, us vegans. We're not exactly prone to head-butting, body-slamming, trash-talking, and touchdown-scoring. I blame my infatuation with the game on my high school marching band, which required I be in attendance at every single football game for 4 years. But even before that, I have fond memories of coolers of food and gathering with my friends and family to yell our heads off. Being from NJ, we are Giants fans. This has meant a fair amount of disappointment over the years, I'm sad to say. However, last year was one of complete redemption in which we actually won the big dance! (And against the Patriots of all teams, making for a victory sweeter than vegan icing). This year... well, not so much. But that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Sunday. This, my friends, is because the Super Bowl is about far more than football: It is about guacamole.

Guacamole is one of those foods I just can't get enough of, and paired with some chips (I like a combo of white and blue corn best), it is the perfect game nosh. Every year, I make my famous version of this dip, and I'll do it again this year. All 12 of those beautiful organic avocados in the picture above will make their way into a big bowl and meet up with fresh cilantro, red onion, garlic, lots of salt and lime, and a few other things I like to keep to myself. (Ok, you twisted my arm: cayenne and cumin).

For some people, it's all about the wings (for flying, not frying, imho) or pizza (death discs) but for me, it's the guac. All the others at my Super Bowl gatherings love it, and I highly recommend you enjoy some yourself this Sunday, preferably with a nice vegan beer. I toast to you, all those who like football anyway, vegan and others alike.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Haiku in Honor of Getting My Camera Fixed

giant pomelo
even your thick, verdant skin
is no match for me

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another Update

It's cold and rainy in San Francisco, which is not exactly ice cream weather, but I wanted to give you an update on Ciao Bella all the same. When I posted about their awesome chocolate sorbetto a little while ago, I noticed the nutritional information on the website did not match what was printed on the pint in my freezer. The web version had 210 calories and a ton of fat per serving, while mine only had 157 calories and was practically fat free. I emailed the company and received a response within 24 hours. Gotta love that. What's not to love is the news that they've reformulated their chocolate sorbet and the new version, to be hitting store shelves soon, is higher in calories and fat. The nice lady who wrote me back went on to suggest their Blackberry Cabernet sorbet as it's low in calories, vegan, and quite yummy. But the best part is that she sent me two coupons for free pints. Woo-hoo! What a great company....

In other news, my camera is still not back from the service center, but the only restaurant I've been to lately is DOSA. Nothing to update there: It still rocks. Hopefully I'll be hitting some new restaurants soon, camera in hand. I'm actually waiting to hear back from Manressa to see if they can accommodate a vegan on Valentine's Day. As soon as I'm done typing this, I'm going back to keeping my fingers crossed.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good Music for a Good Cause

Add Neko Case's "People Got a Lotta Nerve" to your blog, Facebook, or ILike and a donation will be made to the Best Friends Animal Society. Vegan or other, this one's a no-brainer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Night in Hayes Valley

I like Hayes Valley. It's got all the good stuff a neighborhood should have like shops and restaurants and walkability, plus it's close to all the Civic Center happenings like the opera and symphony, etc. This does mean, however, that restaurants there are often busy before and after shows. Knowing this I made our reservation at Paul K for 7pm on the nose. It was packed but, just as suspected, about 15 minutes to 8 the place cleared out. A little tip from you to me about Hayes Valley dining. You're welcome.

Anyway, I was sans camera (it's in the shop now) which is a real shame because Paul K and its food are both really pretty. I dug the orange beam over the bar and the grey walls and giant flower arrangements. It was modern but really inviting. Our server was super nice, and even though she may have known about veganism, I went with the old "I'm VERY allergic to dairy" line. It just seemed like my best bet for getting what I wanted, and it came very close to working.

Paul K offers two mezza platters. One is vegetarian, but not vegan, and the other contains (even the word grosses me out) riblets. I asked for the vegetarian one and to please replace the yogurt and feta and with the baba ganough and cucumber salad that was on the non-veg platter. What arrived was a beautiful dish of delicious bites presented on a rectangle as long as our table for two. From left to right we had baba ganoush (tasty but runny), pickled carrots (not quite as pickled as I like but still good), papadum (better than I've had in most Indian restaurants), hummus (garlicky yumness), olive-oil poached artichoke hearts (a buttery highlight), baby beets (sweet and cute), and cucumber salad (could have been dressed more). We also ordered a small portion of their citrus-marinated olives. They were so lemon-limey they tasted like they could have marinated in 7-Up. That is not a bad thing. All in all, it was a great start. Unfortunately it was downhill from there.

For entrees, they have nothing vegan or veganizable, so I just had the butter lettuce salad. It was good but I'm pretty sure the walnuts were candied with butter. They were easy enough to push out of the way though, so I didn't complain, but you'd think that the dairy allergy would have alerted our server to keep them off the plate, especially because she knew better than to offer me dessert afterwards. Oh well - a small faux pas considering it was a great meal.

I should also note that we brought from home (we're in a recession after all!) one of my fave wines to accompany the meal - the Coturri Albarello. It really opens up and gets spicy over the course of a meal. Great with Mediterranean flavors, IMHO.

Afterwards, we walked to Martuni's for some entertaining piano music. I'd never been before and I loved it. It seems so often in SF that for all our tolerance and acceptance, the gays and straights segregate for socialization. At Martuni's I was happy to see a mix of gay and straight couples all enjoying the mediocre musical experience together. It felt like a dark piano bar of yesteryear only everyone was invited. Good times... and the perfect ending to our mighty fine night in Hayes Valley. It won't be our last.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some Updates

Well folks, this is what happens when your camera stops working. No cool food pics to look at. Instead I bring a brief interruption to your daily life in the form of updates.

First up is Mission Beach Cafe. Just looked at their latest menu online. Not a vegan thing in site. I really liked it there the one time I went, back when they had a vegan entree. Oh well....

Secondly, Lettus Cafe has changed its name and is now The Plant Cafe. Why the change? I have no idea. Lettus is pretty lame, and I'm not sure Plant is any better, but whatever. The food straight up rocks and I'd eat there even if they called it "This is Not Vegan Cafe."

Thirdly, my love of Imagine's Tomato Soup, not to mention their butternut squash variety, caused me to buy another creamy-with-no-cream flavor: Acorn Squash with Mango. I hereby declare it to be weird. Not bad, just weird. The mango was more tart than sweet, or maybe that was the squash. In any case, I won't be buying it again. They make too many other yummy soups for me to waste my time on weirdness.

Lastly, I'm going to Paul K tomorrow. It's been on my list of places to try for a long while because I drive past it almost every day and they seem to have some vegan items on the menu. Stay tuned to see if it's any good for us animal-free types. Unfortunately there will be no pictures, so I promise to use my most descriptive language. :)

Have a great weekend everyone!Link

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Luna Park

Since moving to San Francisco in 2001, my route around town has often taken me past Luna Park. For whatever reason, I love their bright, semi-retro sign hanging over Valencia Street, and I've often wondered what yummies might await me inside. So why did I not go until last night? I have no idea. I suppose I thought they probably wouldn't have any good vegan food, or they'd be crazy crowded with hipsters (as they usually appeared to be), or it's close proximity to other restaurants I love dissuaded me from ever making it in the door. Boy did I feel silly to find out that they always have at least one vegan option, they take reservations via Open Table, and I am certainly hipster enough to eat anywhere in this town! With no more excuses, I grabbed some others and headed out.

I was first struck by the deeply maroon walls, and secondly by the fact that it was doing a brisk business for a Tuesday night during a recession. Many other restaurants in SF are not faring as well, so good for them. It led me to believe I was in for quite a treat. Soon after, I was even more psyched to see that in addition to the vegan entree, everything with a star next to it on the menu could be made vegan. It was only a few other items, but still, kudos to them for a well-marked, vegan-friendly, menu. I went for the vegan entree; Artichoke and farro cassoulet (thick stew) with kale and gigante beans and (oh hells yes) fried breadcrumbs. I have to admit that as much as I love artichoke and kale, it was the last ingredient that sold me.

When it arrived it was savory warm deliciousness, perfect for the season, if not for our current insanely warm weather. I think it lacked a little acid to cut through the gravy-ness of it, but other than that I really enjoyed it. In fact, I could have eaten more. And, for $14 I would have liked to. Small portion aside, I enjoyed my meal and would eat it again. Next time though, I think I'd sit at the bar and enjoy a drink with my food. The booths are so tall and imposing that it's easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not quite my thing - and that about sums up my whole experience at Luna Park I suppose. Glad I went, would send others in a heartbeat, but won't be rushing back anytime soon. Maybe I'm not quite as hip as I thought....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dinner At Home For Once

The husband and I decided to stay in and try to make some Indian food last night and the results were awesome. Since he is actually Indian, and grew up eating his mom's ridiculously good food, he is rather hard to please. I went for it anyway and got a big bunch of cauliflower, some naan, and a wonderfully flavorful Madras simmer sauce from Seeds of Change. I just threw it all together in a pan and the result was slammin'! Not all of these sauces are vegan, but this one is, and I highly recommend it. It makes for an easy and really yummy dinner. Afterwards, I remembered about a small bar of chocolate I got a while ago, and it was the perfect dessert. I was afraid this Vosges concoction would be too spicy what with its gaujilla and pasilla peppers, but the smooth and sweet Tanzanian chocolate mellowed it out and made it delicious. Another EatsWell recommendation. Try these yourself and enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brunch at Fellini

After a rather mediocre dinner at Fellini a while back, I was looking forward to going back for brunch. After all, all the vegans rave about it, and it's so rare that brunch food goes vegan at a mainstream restaurant. There were plenty of "other-friendly" foods available to be sure, and my companions filled themselves with omelettes and the like, but my Vegan Soy Scramble was off the hook. Savory and delicious crumbled tofu meets with soy sausage and bacon and it all gets spiced up and served with scrumptiously seasoned potatoes, some orange slices, and your choice of toast (I went rye) with vegan margarine and jam. Alongside one damn good cup of coffee, this is a wonderful way to start a weekend. Fellini might have missed the mark at dinner, but brunch was a bullseye. Me and my others will definitely be back.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sorbetto... yum

Time for a quick vegan favorite I reckon. So, remember when I went to DOSA the other night, and I raved about their Deep Chocolate Sorbet? Well, the waitress passed along the info that it was made by Ciao Bella. Silly thing that I am, I dismissed her as being clueless because Ciao Bella only makes gelato, right? Um, wrong. Turns out Ciao Bella has quite the line up of yummy sorbets. I went right out and got a pint at Rainbow (where else?) but you can buy them in a store near you. Yes, that includes the chocolate. Now, at DOSA, they up the anti by adding in crushed Valrhona dark chocolate and a sprig fresh mint to the mix, but this decadent Chocolate Sorbetto is more than fine on its own. Plus, it's got only 157 calories per serving and, like most sorbets, very little fat and no icky animal stuffs. Happy New Year to me.... and to you too of course!

The chocolate pint is the purple one on top should you go looking for it. :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Oh yeah..... New Jersey

I almost forgot to mention the yummy meals I had in New Jersey! I think this oversight was due mainly to the fact that I ate so much home-made food at my parents' house. In fact, it was all so good, and there was such large quantities of it, that the restaurant experiences paled in comparison. That being said, there were three big winners as far as my NJ meals went.

For vegans and others dining together, Caffe Galleria in Lambertville takes the vegan cake. The menu actually declares CG to be "the place where the unapologetic carnivore and the dedicated vegan dine together happily." Now, that's my kind of place! With a plethora of dishes for everyone to choose from, our entire party left happy. I ordered from the brick-oven menu and got a vegan pizza loaded with veggies and garlic, while my uncle went for the cornmeal-crusted tofu special. My husband and aunt got regular cheese pizzas, while my parents enjoyed some vegan pasta dishes I can't really remember. Vegan chocolate silk pie was ordered for dessert. I was too full, but my family all insisted upon the yummy-ness of everything we ate. Below, you can see us outside after our meal. Notice how content we look. :) Two tips: 1. It's Bring Your Own as far as alcohol goes, and 2. I highly recommend a walk across the bridge to New Hope afterwards. It's just a nice thing to do. I will definitely be back next time I'm in NJ.

In a close second place, I gotta give props to Pad Thai in Highland Park. I've been coming here for years and it's always amazing. Such bold flavors and beautiful dishes. Plus, everything is the vegetarian section of the (HUGE!) menu is sans fish sauce, egg, and all the other things you need to worry about with Thai food. Should you find yourself in central Jersey, PLEASE go. It's awesome.

Lastly, I enjoyed a really good Mediterranean meal at Sahara in New Brunswick. It wasn't the best I've had, but some of the dishes - especially the slightly sweet dolmas and the hummus with ezme (spiced veggie tapenade)- were outstanding. It's a great place for vegans in the area, as it's reasonably priced and you can bring "others" with no problem. Luckily, I went with Joselle (below) and we just ordered gobs of food and shared.

I hope your holidays were as filled with great food, family, friends, and fun as mine were. Here's to more good eating together in 2009!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Candle 79

Okay, back to my east coast ramblings. We awoke on Day Two in NYC to freezing temperatures and a gross rain/snow mixture. Luckily this did not stop our parents (both the husband's and mine) from trekking in from New Jersey for brunch at Candle 79. To be honest, I don't think anything could keep my parents from this place. It's definitely one of their faves, and for good reason! The food at this all-vegan restaurant is always amazing and the atmosphere is always inviting and friendly, so we were happy to start our time together with a meal here. None of us had ever been to brunch here before, and we were in for a treat.

I decided to keep it strictly breakfast and order the waffles with a side of sausage. They came out piping hot and sticky sweet, with fresh fruit, toasted pecans, and a strawberry butter to die for. The sausage was a bit dry and not as well-seasoned as it could have been, but still pretty good. Meanwhile, my companions were enjoying such offerings as nori rolls and garlic hummus platters. Those are all I took pictures of, but my husband wants you to know that he loved his pancakes too!

I must say that while we had a great time, the service on this trip was a bit lack-luster. Our coffee never got refilled, food was slow to come out, and there was a general feeling of chaos and apathy in the air. I almost forgot about it because at the end one of the owners came by to chat us up and was just so nice, but that didn't quite make up for all the rest. So, as good as it is, I'm ready for something different next time I'm in town (back to Gobo with me!). Until then, I'm back up and running in San Francisco and will be dining out soon no doubt. Stay tuned.