Monday, March 30, 2009


I love all (vegan) food from the Mediterranean portion of the globe. There is something about simply prepared greens and veggies, hearty breads, and good olive oil that just does it for me. Of course, the wine doesn't hurt either. So, when I went to Burma Superstar the other night and walked past Troya I was intrigued. Checking it out online later, I knew I had to go. The menu looked delicious, with many items being inherently vegan or easily veganizable. Saturday night, the hubby and I finally made our way there.

First off, I loved the warm lighting and our table in the window. Any time I can combine people-watching with good eats makes me very happy. Also keeping me happy was the HUGE basket of bread and the plate of olive oil and spices that hit the table right off the bat. Love means not having to ask for more bread, I say. We also had some beautiful warm olives. Note to self: Start warming up olives at home before serving them.

Second up were the spreads. Hands down the best hummus I've had a long while, but even better was the amazing Bell Pepper Walnut Spread. I don't really even like bell peppers, but this was sweet and earthy and just plain wonderful. If you go to Troya and don't try it, you're no friend of mine. The third spread was yogurt. Blech. But, the husband thought it was tolerable.

We also split a delicious eggplant salad, kind of like a caponata, as well as a super cute lentil salad. I say cute because the lentils were itty-bitty and adorable. No, mom, that is not my biological clock you hear ticking - it's my stomach growling just thinking of those tiny bites of goodness. The feta on the side went untouched, I'm happy to say. Who needs animal milk curdled with stomach lining to have a good salad? Not us!

We additionaly split some sides of greens and sauteed veggies, both of which were great. All in all, this was a fantastic meal, and I'll be back to Troya in the future. That bell pepper spread alone is enough to get any vegan or other through their door, trust me.

Oh, and if that weren't enough, I came home to have dessert:

My awesome friend mande me vegan peanut butter cups! Unfortunately, she made them while I was on my raw food cleanse, so I froze them (those are ice crystals, not sugar on top). Let me tell you, all peanut butter cups should be eaten this way. It was so damn delicious. Thanks, anonymous friend. :) Here's wishing your friends make you something sweet sometime soon too....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

A while back, I donned my food nerd hat and headed over the bridge to Tyler Florence's store in Mill Valley. I wanted to get little cheese knives to serve up some Dr. Cow, but more importantly I wanted to check out what all Mr. Florence deemed worthy to sit upon his shelves. I did manage to find the perfect little knives among the plates, servers, appliances, and other utensils, and I loved the library full of cookbooks (some vegetarian ones too!) in the back, but I was most intrigued by the food items. Almost a whole wall was dedicated to olive oils, spreads, mixes, sauces, and the like, and I had a great time reading labels and seeing what was what. Then, just as I was approaching the end of the wall, some Apple Cinnamon Pancake Mix caught my eye.
I read the label and couldn't believe my eyes - it was VEGAN! I read it again, and even made the husband read it just to be sure, but lo and behold, there, among the fine foods, was an all vegan pancake mix. This "just add water" treasure came home with me then, and I finally got around to making them this morning. All I can say is YUM. Along with some tempeh bacon strips, a pat or two (or three) of Earth Balance, and a generous portion of organic maple syrup, it was the perfect Saturday breakfast:

The moral of the story here is to read labels, folks. Not all vegan things are marketed as such, and there are some real treasures to be found. I hope your weekend got off to a great start as well. Now get out and enjoy it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Plant Cafe

It may have a relatively new name, but The Plant Cafe (formerly Lettus) continues to serve up sustainable and delicious food - a lot of it vegan - to Marina folks day and night. We went there last night craving salads, but then I remembered a friend telling me about the greatness of their veggie burger. I went for it and was not disappointed. Plus, it came with a side salad so I still got my greens.
The bright red color comes from the beets in the mix. Other ingredients include cashews, bulgur, lentils, and mushrooms. Topped with grilled onions, crisp lettuce and tomatoes, and a slammin' garlic aioli, it was really great and totally hit the spot. My only issue is that it didn't hold together like a burger. In fact, I opened it up and spread it around a bit, like it was a pate, to cover all the bread. Still, I would eat it again in a heartbeat and it will more than satisfy any burger craving. Of course, The Plant caters to all dietary habits, so both vegans and others (gluten-phobes too!) can share the love... and the yummy food.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to Herbivore

Just a quick reminder that there is no better place in the Bay Area for really yummy, reasonably priced, vegan food than Herbivore. I went with some friends who are visiting from Portland last night, and we all had way too much to eat and drink for not way too much money. Plus, they are one of the only places anywhere where a large salad is actually large!

As you can see, I got mine topped with grilled tofu (yes, the raw food cleanse is over) and their super good dijon dressing. Followed by a cookie and a scoop of Maggie Mudd ice cream, it was a perfectly decadent ending to a Tuesday. Here's hoping the rest of the week tastes as sweet!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I spent a wonderful morning out by the beach with a friend and her dog, and there is no better way to cap off a westside adventure than with a meal at Judahlicious (yes, it's on Judah). I really really like their Sherpa Sandwich, but since I'm still rawing it up, I got the Nahbo Taco today.

This fresh and delicious dish was put together with love by the nice people behind the counter and consisted of a sunflower/date pate topped with red onion, carrot, and cashew cream. Using collards instead of a tortilla is something I need to remember to do more often since I'm always looking for ways to eat more greens. Because the leaves are thick, they hold fillings really well and don't get all soggy. Anyhoo, this really hit the spot, and I would recommend Judahlicious to anyone, vegan or otherwise, who finds themselves out by the beach. Enjoy the rest of the weekend y'all!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Still doing the raw thing, so last night the hubby and I trekked out to Alive!. By all counts, Alive! fits the criteria for being among my favorites: It's within walking distance, it's all vegan, it's cute and eco-friendly. Still, there is something I just can't put my finger on about this place. Perhaps it's that for a restaurant called Alive! (yes the exclamation mark is included), the atmosphere is rather subdued. But more likely it's that a lot of the dishes just fall flat. Here's what we had:

The first course was by far the best - the raw carrot ginger soup. Mellow, though with a bit of warmth, the drizzle of olive oil on top really brought all the flavors together. I am pretty sure that every soup I've ever gotten here has been fantastic, so should you go, I highly recommend getting one.

Next up was the flaxseed flatbreads with marinated veggies. Really, all this dish needed to make it realy good was some salt. I enjoyed everything else about it and commend them for making a "bread" from raw flax seeds that wasn't too soggy or too brittle.

We then had the fennel, apple, and walnut salad. By now you should know that fennel is one of my most favorite things, so I was sad that this salad was more about the other ingredients. Still, it blended sweet and savory quite nicely, and won me over with a yummy vinaigrette and the surprise of raisins.

The one dish I didn't take a picture of was the vegetable ribbons with marinara and "meatballs." The flavor just wasn't there for me on this one, and it realy just looked like a pile of shredded veggies with little balls made from ground nuts. Nothing special, and we didn't finish it.

Luckily we ended on a high note by getting the coconut chocolate banana torte for dessert. If you like the combo of coconut and chocolate, this is the dessert for you. Topped with coconut whipped cream and raw cacao sauce, I quickly forgave the shortcomings of the other dishes and was transported out onto Lombard Street feeling fine.

So yeah, Alive is a nice place and has some winners, but for my money, the next time I'm feeling like some good home "un"cooking, I'll be heading to Cafe Gratitude, others in tow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ooh Baby, I like it Raw

Been doing a lot of eating and drinking lately, and decided it was time to lighten the load on my system a bit. So, since Monday I've been eating all raw foods. Those of you that know me know that I was 100% raw for 2 and a half years. I've never felt better... but I really missed the social aspect of food. Sharing meals with friends and family just wasn't the same when nobody was eating the same things as me. Plus cooked food is just plain yummy. That being said, whenever I feel the need to regain balance and gain some vitality, I go raw for a while. I love eating all the best fruits, greens, sprouts, nuts, and seeds out there, and I love to shop for those things even more.

One of the places I always head before a raw cleanse is Cafe Gratitude. This quirky bastion of all things uncooked now has 6 locations throughout the Bay Area, but I'm partial to the 1st - a tiny space full of love and happiness on Harrison Street. When I walked in the other day, I headed to the cooler in the back where the to-go items are, and got my two faves: The almond hummus ("I am Happy") and the olive tapenade ("I am Opulent"). Both are delicious. But then I saw the cutest bottle of raw almond milk and had to have it. This then prompted my decision to go for the raw granola ("I am Great"). Holy crap is that stuff good. Apples and coconut and sprouted buckwheat, oh my! Not only do I get to eat well, but now, whenever I open my fridge, a wonderful question awaits:

Now isn't that something to ponder in these rough and tumble times?

Cafe Gratitude is beloved by vegans, both raw and cooked, along with all the "others" out here by the bay. Next time you want to eat an amazing meal and feel good too, go on over and feel the love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I may have a new favorite restaurant, everyone. And I don't say things like that lightly. When I walked past the doors of Beretta a few weeks ago, the menu caught my eye, and when I saw that they offered vegan cheese on their pizzas, I knew they had the potential for greatness. I did not expect, however, that within this gorgeous spot I would find the best pizza I've had since going vegan. Oh my goodness:

This funghi pizza with vegan cheese tasted just like some of the best NY/NJ pizza of my youth, with a tomato sauce simultaneously sweet and spicy. The mushrooms were perfect, and I don't know what kind of "cheese" they used, but it was amazing. I will dream of this pizza until I eat it again.

But that's not all! They have a ton of antipasti that are vegan as well, including the herbed onion bread, and this divine eggplant caponata (just hold the burrata):

I am already trying to develop a scheme which brings me back here sometime soon. It's warm, welcoming, stylish without being to hipster, serves amazing Italian food, and, well, I just fell in love. All the "others" I dined with were enamored as well, so bring the whole gang. Only drawback is that they don't do reservations, but you can call ahead to get your name on the list. We called in about 45 minutes before we arrived and were able to sit right down when we got there because of it. My OpenTable love aside, Beretta is sitting pretty at the top of my SF fave's list right now. I can not wait to go back. Join me, won't you?

Monday, March 16, 2009


In putting together my forthcoming list of the best vegan eats in San Francisco, I've been hitting a lot of places that I've always wanted to go to but haven't. This week? Underdog.

Let it be known that the first meat analog I ever had was a veggie dog, but while they have a special place in my heart, I don't eat them too much anymore. This vegetarian has evolved over the years to prefer actual vegetables to facsimiles of the carnage of her past. That being said, every now and then, a hot dog, slathered with mustard and kraut is just what one needs to get through a cold and blustery San Francisco day. In that case, I suggest vegans and others alike head on over to Underdog.

This closet-sized treasure trove of all things hot dog (or sausage or kielbasa) serves up some of the yummiest vegan dogs in town, and the side of choice is tater tots. Not just any dogs and tots though: These are top-notch organic food items. In my case, I got the Vegan Beer Bratwurst on a whole wheat bun, which I covered in kraut and stoneground mustard, served alongside the most perfectly cooked and tasty tots I ever did have. Since seeing is believing:

Whenever the craving for a bread-enclosed, pipin'-hot, cylindrical, meat-like item hits ya, I highly suggest getting your booty to Underdog pronto. I guarantee it'll hit the spot every time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Arizmendi Bakery

I haven't been feeling 100% lately, but I found something to lift my spirits, if not my immune system: Arizmendi Bakery's Fig and Fennel Sourdough.

Being a touch under the weather, I almost canceled a walking date with a friend of mine on Friday, but as I was trying to figure out if I had it in me to go, I was also looking on the internet at some of the places in her Inner Sunset 'hood. When I realized that Arizmendi was an easy target, I knew I had to go. Friends have raved about the (mostly) organic breads here, but what really swayed my decision was that the Fig and Fennel bread was only available on Friday! This particular combination of sweet and savory is one of my favorites (hence my famous fig, fennel, and pistachio salad), and I couldn't wait to try it. I was also on my way to a meeting after our walk so I knew I could share the loaf, thereby eliminating all danger of me eating the entire thing.

Well... the meeting was canceled. Taking the loaf home, I tried to figure out things to do with it - a sandwich? toast it? olive oil and salt? slather with Earth Balance? In the end, I decided to try it plain. Instantly, I felt sorry for the other days of the week, for they do not get to contain the greatness of Friday's offering. So yummy. Figs, fennel seeds, a bit of sourdough tang - they all marry together perfectly. So, yes, the loaf is gone now, but I had some help from the husband, I swear!

Arizmendi is a definite winner. I mean, with breads like Kalamata Olive Sourdough (Wednesday), Molasses Spelt Bread (Thursday), and Sesame-Sunflower Bread (Saturday), vegans and others can rejoice in all things carbohydrate every day of the week. Except on Mondays. Mondays they're closed.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Last night I dined at COCO with Coco. Little did I know that one of my friend's favorite restaurants is also her nickname at work. And, no, the name has nothing to do with the restaurant.... Anyway, after an adventure involving the return of a cell phone left in a cab, we arrived at the accommodating (we changed the reservation twice while waiting for the phone to be delivered) COCO500 and settled in for some good grub. I've mentioned this before, but said friend is crossing off items from 7x7's Big Eat List, and the fried string beans here are one of the "must-haves." Sadly, something in the batter isn't vegan, so I went sans beans. I like a knowledgeable waiter though, so it's all good. I also like that when I suggested veganizing the flatbread, he assured me it just wouldn't be as tasty and then made recommendations for vegan items. What I ended up with was essentially a bunch of their veggie sides on a plate of quinoa, and it was hearty, delicious, and beautiful. Sadly, I left my camera at home, but I managed to snag this picture with the phone that was returned:

You're looking at citrus and herb beets, roasted pumpkin with chiles, and garlic-sauteed brocolli rabe. Everything was really delicious and hit the spot. I'd go back to CoCo for the understanding of all things vegan alone, but it also has a really great not-too-big-not-too-small, vibe that's cozy without being stifling. Definitely a recommendation for a date night. Gotta dig a place where love between vegans and others can bloom!

Two side notes:
1. On my OpenTable reservation I wrote "One of us if vegan" as I always do. The day before the reservation, I get a call: "Hello this is so-and-so from COCO500 confirming your reservation for tomorrow. I also see on here that one of you is a VIRGIN, so I'll notify the chef."
Hilarious, right? I listened to it three times, and had my husband listen to it too. She definitely says VIRGIN. I wonder what the chef thought....
2. Stay tuned for my own version of the "Big Eat" list coming soon. It'll be one for the ages. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vegan Soul Kitchen

Taking a break from eating to make a recommendation: If you and your others haven't picked up a copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry yet, you must do so with a quickness. My friend Joselle gave a copy away over at Vegans of Color, but I had to withdrawal myself from the running because my very own was on its way to my door from the magical internet. As soon as it arrived I knew it was a keeper. I mean, c'mon, a cookbook with a soundtrack? Making Johnny Blaze Cakes while listening to Method Man? Yes please. Not only that, but these tasty apps, meals, and treats are brought to you by a genuinely good person. Mr. Terry dedicates himself to food justice activism - something I hope to become more involved in myself - through his Southern Organic Kitchen Project.

My only gripe? I've read through a lot of the recipes, and so far, no Mos Def on the soundtrack. Seeing as how I cook almost exclusively to the sounds of Mr. Dante Smith, I'm gonna need to change my ways to get the full experience. Something tells me it'll be worth it though, so I'll crank up the tunes, put on a pot of collards, and grab some friends because VSK is a great book to bring together us vegans and all our others. After all, a little food can make a big difference.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mustard, Mud, and Music Festival

Right off the bat, you should know that we did not partake in the "Mud" part of this annual Calistoga, CA festival. We may have missed out on some mineral-rich relaxation, but we still had a fantastic time! The details: Every year the shops along Calistoga's main road (all 4 or 5 blocks of it) host wineries and/or jazz combos and you stroll along listening and drinking, or sitting for a spell. In early March the mustard flowers are in full bloom, so to celebrate their beauty, and the condiment which they will soon become, there are also mustard tastings along the way. As somone who LOVES mustard, this is draw enough alone, but paired with wine tastings and jazz (and some GREAT weather!)? I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Bay Area weekend.

We got into town around 1:30, after fueling ourselves with an awesome (as usual) lunch at the Oakville Grocery. That's my hummus veggie sandwich above. Grilled veggies, hummus, some olives, all on a foccacia bread full of olive oil and herbs. A great belly-filler - always a good thing to have before wine tasting!

After driving past some gorgeous fields of mustard, we checked into our room at the Mt. View Hotel and Spa. I picked this place for a few reasons. 1. It's right on the main drag in Calistoga, so it was hosting some wineries and jazz itself, 2. It's a green-certified hotel, and 3. It is home to JoLe - what appeared from my research to be the most vegan-friendly restaurant around. All in all, it's a really nice place. Bonus points for having a super-soft stuffed animal puppy (the "Mt. View Mutt") in the room. For each purchase of said mutt, PETA gets a buck. I didn't buy one, but still, it's a nice idea.

Anyhoo, our room was nice, but we soon took to the street to get us some drink tickets. We were wine-giddy in no time, and hearing some great tunes to boot. After a few hours of this, we headed back to the hotel for some hot tubbing before dinner. There are not too many things better than lounging in hot tub in the sun, mountains in the background, jazz music wafting through the trees, a tad drunk on good wine, in the middle of the afternoon. Needless to say, a nap soon followed.

When we awoke, it was off to dinner at JoLe. I had called ahead about the vegan thing, and our server was indeed informed. Sadly, while she was able to point out which dishes could be done vegan, she was also quick to inform me that they didn't have any tofu. No, I didn't ask, and no, vegans do not require tofu at every (or any!) meal, thank you very much. Ignoring this, I quickly ordered all the veggie dishes I could. JoLe's menu works ala carte, meaning you order your main dish (all animal protein here) and then add your own veggie sides. I was basically making a meal out of sides, but I have no problem with that. Especially since there was plenty of bread and olive out (and, yes, more wine) to go around. In fact, when a table looks like this before I've even ordered, I'm quite content:

On top of that, everything I got was seriously delicious. My sauteed escarole was silky and spiced with miso, my arugla salad with avocado and grapefruit was crisp and refreshing, and my brussel sprouts with capers and lemon were caramelized to perfection. However, the clear winner was a sublime dish of artichoke hearts, arugula, peas and capers that was earthy, nutty, and just divine. I'd eat it again and again:

For dessert, there was blood orange sorbet, and a night of more wine and music. We awoke the next morning, bleary-eyed due not only to the events of the previous day, but to losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time, managed to rally ourselves, and headed back out for a little more of the same. We had 4 tasting tickets left to spend, and some more mustard and music to enjoy! Sooner than expected, however, the afternoon arrived, and since we had a plan for an early dinner in Santa Rosa, it was time to depart. Calistoga is quite a charming little town, and I'd definitely suggest staying there next time you need a place to crash in wine country.

Once on the road, our stomachs started grumbling for something more substantial than wine, crackers, and mustard. Luckily, Santa Rosa is only about 30 minutes from Calistoga, and is home to East West Cafe. I've blogged this place before, and it's still vegan-friendly, reasonably priced, and super yummy, so I'm suggesting it again. We had the hummus and dolmas to start, and then I had a salad with baked tofu (the basil walnut dressing is amazing), while the hubby had a BBQ seitan sandwich. We were so happy:

After all that, it was back home to San Francisco for a wee bit more relaxation before the Monday madness. I hope you all enjoyed your weekend at least half as much as I did. You don't need a festival like M,M, and M to have a good time.... but it certainly helps!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nope, still no good....

In case you were wondering, there still exists no really good vegan mac and cheese. At least not the kind that comes from a box. When I was over at Cosmo's Online getting the previously mentioned white chocolate chips, I was thrown by the $10 minimum. Short on time but in desperate need of the wcc, I hurriedly decided to try some new mac and cheese, hoping that perhaps things have changed. Well, I just fixed it up, and I'm sad to report there has been no breakthrough in the vegan instant macaroni world. While this brand was the creamiest and looked pretty dang yummy (see above), there was just a weird sweetness I couldn't get past. I only was able to eat a quarter of it before I could go no further. And, trust me, getting me to stop eating is not easy, especially when I'm hungry. Still, if you want to give it a try, it's made by Leahey foods. My sources tell me they make some pretty banging soups, so I'll throw those in my virtual basket next time I need to make it to $10 at Cosmo's. Oh, who am I kidding - I'll just get more white chocolate chips. Those things are amazing.

Off to Calistoga for the Mustard, Mud, and Music Festival and I'll be gone all weekend. Fun drinking, noshing, and grooving shall ensue. A full report to follow.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Adventures of a Domestic Diva

Last night we had some friends over to celebrate their engagement, and I put together quite a feast, if I do say so myself. I'm not sure how it happened, but I seem to be really loving the role of hostess/cook/baker lately, and I'm not bad at it! We've had some great meals at home in recent days, but I'm definitely at my best when cooking for others. Here's how the day went down:

In the morning, I got started by chocolate-coating some marshmallows. I had some Sweet and Sara marshmallows in my fridge from a while ago that I wanted to use, so I thought I'd make good use of the husband's Valentine's Day gift of excessive amounts of chocolate. You see, the heart-shaped box of chocolates he gave me was actually made out of solid chocolate. Yeah. He really loves me. :) Anyhoo, I just chopped up half of it and melted it in a double boiler with a little bit of Earth Balance and hemp milk. Then the marshmallows took a warm delicious bath. Here they are getting ready for their journey to perfection, the chocolate melting (is there anything more beautiful?), and the final product just before they went into the fridge to set up:

Because one dessert is not enough, and because I had recently purchased some white chocolate chips at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe, I also made white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. These were amazing. Let me reiterate: AMAZING. I halved this recipe since it said it would make 40 cookies. I was all set to make 20, but instead decided to just make 9 really big ones, and it was a great decision. They were the perfect dessert size. If you decide to make these yourself, I recommend making them my way, which also includes using roasted/salted macadamia nuts, and then eliminating the salt from the recipe itself. Look at the yummyness:

Lest you think we dined on sugar alone, let's talk about the savory stuff. We started with a wine (Sinskey of course) and cheese platter. Included were some crackers, eggplant spread, olives, mixed nuts, and Dr. Cow almond cheese. Because my dining companions aren't seasoned vegans, I also caved and got two varieties of real cheese. Rainbow came in handy here. I pleaded cheese ignorance to the guy behind the counter, and he helped me pick two good cheeses that were organic, reasonably priced, and best of all, vegetarian. Most people think that cheese is veggie, but a lot of it is cultured using an enzyme from the stomach's of newly slaughtered calves. Yeah, gross. Luckily, Rainbow carries plenty that are made using a vegetarian enzyme. In any case, our guests were happy, though my favorite quote of the night was one of them saying, "I'm a nut cheese convert" after trying the Dr. Cow goodness. Success!

When we finally sat down at the table, my now famous fennel/fig/pistachio salad was served. This combo of my favorite flavors is rounded out by a raspberry vinaigrette and provided a nice sweetness after the cheese, crackers, etc.

The main event was a pizza with pesto and roasted veggies. I coated some portabellos, peppers, zuchinni, and onions with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, or until they were just about done. Then I spread the vegan pesto around the pizza dough, threw the veggies on, and let them finish roasting as the dough cooked. Speaking of the dough, I totally used a shortcut here and got some help from the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I learned it was vegan using this great list. It's not exactly healthy, but with so much other cooking, it was nice to not have to think about making a dough too. Here's a close up of the finished product, which was devoured in a matter of minutes. What can I say? The people loved it:

I suppose I should say that my day actually started at the gym. I work hard so I can eat like this, people! I suggest you do the same. Work hard, play hard, right? Speaking of which, now it's time to enjoy a lazy day watching the rain fall. Ahh....