Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mineral: Vegetarian Paradise in the Sierras

As you know by now, I spent the past weekend in the charming town of Murphys. I wanted to go for the wine tasting, the natural beauty of the farms and mountains, but also because I'd heard wonderful things about Mineral. This vegetarian restaurant (most things can be made vegan) would seem much more at home in a big city, as it is producing some mighty high quality food, but I love that it is nestled into this little town in the mountains and thriving.When the mint-infused water (left) hits the table, you get your first glimpse of the thoughtfulness behind all you will ingest at Mineral. This is well-conceived food, every ingredient chosen carefully for the full enjoyment of your palate.

Just look at the warm olives, breads and chutney. So simply delicious because of the organic herbs used in just the right proportions. I could have been happy sitting at Mineral's bar and just eating this all night. But it just got better from there.

This asparagus with a lemon olive oil emulsion was just sublime. Cooking asparagus when it's in season and fresh must be an exercise in restraint, and the chef really let the asparagus sing in this dish. Just wonderful.

Our other starter was this fanciful pear soup. I fully expected a thick stew, like potato soup only with pears, but this was an ethereal broth infused with pear essence. The sweetness was the perfect partner for the smokey blackened tofu with which I fell in love. The smell of the fireplaces in town (the nights are chilly in the mountains!) had left me intoxicated since we arrived, and this tofu managed to taste like that smell - warm, homey, and comforting. Along with the little crunches of black sesame seeds and the lightness of the fresh herbs, the tofu and broth create the best soup I've had in a long time... if not ever. It was really that good. This bowl of yum was the highlight of the meal for me, and though I've been dreaming about it ever since, the rest of the food was fantastic as well!

For example, the Mineral Burger - yet another creation you'll be dreaming about. The patty is hearty, the bun is homemade, the veggies are crisp, and the vegan cheese is gooey, savory, and delicious. Hands down the best veggie burger I've ever had. A must-eat should you ever find your way to Mineral. Plus it comes with just-fried potato chips, and curry-pickled cauliflower for a burst of palate-awakening freshness. Stellar.

Lest you think my husband somehow convinced this veg eatery to make him some scallops, let me introduce you to Mineral's "Land Scallops". Created from tofu crusted in nutritional yeast and served with a veganaisse-based sauce, he insisted they had the same texture as scallops and were even more flavorful than the real deal. I can't vouch for the similarity between this dish its underwater doppelganger, having never eaten a scallop, but I can say that this was one tasty entree. Again, so much thought and attention to detail. The trend continues into dessert as well.

First up, empanadas! Nothing much is better than fried dough, and when it's light and sweet and served with bananas and dark caramel sauce (not pictured - the wine was getting the better of me by this point in the meal) you have the most delectable ending to a meal you could ever hope for...

... that is, unless you like chocolate. Here we have a dessert to beat all desserts - Mineral's "PB&J". On top of tiny toast crusts sit dark chocolate truffles filled to the brim with peanut butter. The plate gets a shmear of jelly and a path of peanuts to lead you to your happy place. At least that's where I went. So good.

In case you couldn't tell, Mineral is officially on my short list of happiest places on Earth. I wish so badly it was in San Francisco, but then again, I love knowing that if I decide to drive 3 hours into the Sierras, I will be greeted with a full glass of wine and an amazing meal, courtesy of the town of Murphys. I will definitely go back.

Meanwhile, it's all SF eats for a while, but I'll be hitting up some new and new-to-me places soon, so stay tuned. Enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

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