Saturday, February 27, 2010

Last Weekend's Eats

As I've said, I was in Tahoe last weekend and it was wonderful. There wasn't any dining out, but I did use the time wisely and tested out a new (to me) product. Introducing Match Meats' "Italian Sausage".I've tried the Match "crab" before and used it to make their own crab cake recipe. That shizzle was amazingly good, and I'm not sure why I didn't blog it. Probably because we ate them all before I could take a picture. Next time.... Anway, this product comes in a flat tray like ground meat so I could have made links or patties or whatever, but I opted to make meat balls for pasta, a.k.a the perfect post-snow dinner. The sausage flavor was really authentic and delicious. In case you're wondering, I used my favorite Rao's sauce, and added in a big bunch of fresh spinach at the end. I just wish Match products would be picked up by stores near me so I can stop ordering it online!

I should also mention that before we left town last Friday, I stopped in a neighborhood cafe by my house for an early dinner. Jovino is a cute place with a few vegan options, like this Mediterranean platter:

Hummus, babaganoush, ezme, tabouleh, and some olives come served up with pita (don't have them warm it up though - it will go right on the flat top with the meat!) and make for a great light meal. I also got a salad of organic greens. Good place to pop in for a meal if you're in the hood.

This weekend is proving to be full of good eats, including a hands-on party with a personal chef, and a return to an old favorite. I may even get around to telling you all about the one food I can't seem to live without these days. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Scream for More Ice Cream!

As promised, my search for the perfect sugar-free and vegan ice cream continues. Recently, I tried some pretty decent stuff from a funnily-named company, NadaMoo!. This is a coconut milk based ice cream, and they use a combination of rice syrup and agave to sweeten things up. As you can see above, I tried their "Gotta Do Chocolate" and "Lotta Mint Chip" flavors. Here's the inside scoop (pun totally and cheesily intended):

The chocolate was just eh. Kinda chalky flavor - not as deep and rich as I like it. The mint, on the other hand was amazing. Just like the mint chocolate chip ice cream of my youth. Seriously, it was delicious and refreshingly minty. I would buy it again in a heartbeat. One caveat though: It's not entirely sugar-free. You see, the little chocolate chips flecked throughout are made with real sugar. Do I wish they used agave-sweetened chocolate? Hell yeah. Will I let that little bit of sugar stop me from getting more? No way. After all, I still drink kombucha, and that stuff is fermented using sugar. (Speaking of which, if anyone knows where to get good agave-brewed kombucha, hit me up!)

I think my ice cream testing has come to an end for now, mainly because my jeans are getting tight over here. The NadaMoo! mint is my favorite, though I think the best sugar-free ice cream overall is my old pal Purely Decadent Coconut Milk ice cream. Not all the flavors are sugar-free, but the vanilla sure is. Plus, it's divine, and can be used as a base to mix in anything you like (I like a combo of peanut butter, pretzels, and Uli Mana's truffle butter....yeah, it's ridiculously good).

Okay, it's Monday and I've got a real job, so I'm off. I'll tell the tale of this past weekend's eats pretty soon. Until then, have a great week everyone!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ubuntu is for Lovers

As you may have guessed by now, we enjoyed a lovely Valentine's Day dinner at Ubuntu. The quick run down in case you've been living in a cave: Ubuntu is Napa's only vegetarian restaurant. They are super vegan-friendly, use amazing local produce, and (here's the kicker) have earned a Michelin star. That means the food is good, people, vegetarian or not, and we got some damn fine fare.

We started with the crispy and amazing fried chickpeas with romesco sauce. I almost never eat fried food and this sent me into decadence overload right from the start. I remembered why I used to eat so many damn french fries in high school. Fried=yummy. Nostalgia=yummy as well, so it was a win win. Right along side those little poppers, we got some of Ubuntu's famous lavender sugar and sea salt almonds. These are a taste not to be missed - like eating salty crunchy flowers.... in a good way. Can't recommend them more highly.

We were then served soup and salads. The lemongrass soup, made with coconut milk, was smooth, creamy, and over-the-top flavorful. Definitely one of the highlights of the evening. We also had the whimsical beet salad with wheat berries and microgreens. The play on textures made this tasty dish really fun to eat. The broccoli and cauliflower salad was served atop a cheesy (made from nuts) sauce that was rich and savory and really complimented the sulfur-y crucifers.

For our main dishes we went with the savory and hearty and insanely scrumptious bean stew with kale and croutons. Sooooo good. This used to be my favorite dish at Ubuntu. I say 'used to' because the potatoes with sauerkraut we also ordered were the shizzle. It may be my Irish and Hungarian heritage, but I love me some sauerkraut, and the goodness they serve at Ubuntu is on a whole other level. The potatoes are creamy and dotted with a horseradish sauce to amp up the mouthwatering flavor.

After all that, there was no room for dessert (plus I had all that chocolate back at the hotel) but I am just here to say that if you haven't been to Ubuntu you must go. It's a really special place, and the perfect ending to a day in wine country.

Right now I'm sitting by the fire and watching the snow gently fall in Tahoe. No dining out this weekend, but I've got another sugar-free ice cream report to file soon. Stay tuned.... and have a fantastic rest of the weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

UliMana = Chocolate Heaven

I know I was supposed to tell you all about our great meal at Ubuntu, and I will, but I'm short on time today so I thought I'd get you up to speed on some of the best raw, vegan, and agave-sweetened chocolates around: UliMana.

For Valentine's Day, chocolate is a must have. However, since I've been trying to avoid sugar, my awesome husband got me all of the above. It's a hell of a lot of chocolate, but it's all so damn delicious! The truffle varieties I got were dark cacao, hemp seed, and peppermint, but they make many more. I think I like the peppermint ones the best, but I've always been a sucker for the mint and chocolate combo. They all have a deep, dark, luscious chocolate flavor and are pretty much amazing.

The truffle butter is just the cherry on top of this chocolate extravaganza. It is basically spreadable chocolate and I've been doing just that. Crackers with peanut butter and truffle butter is my newest dessert obsession. Amazing. How UliMana gets a texture, consistency, and taste so rich and delicious while using all natural ingredients is beyond me. All I know is you should get some. Now.

Ok, enough chocolate talk. Next up, I really will tell you all about Ubuntu. Promise.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Napa Part One: The Train!

The husband and I started off our long Napa weekend in style by kickin' it aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Having been to Napa countless times, we were well aware of the train, but had pretty much dismissed it as too touristy for our tastes. However, when a friend told us what a good time she recently had on board, I check it out online and was intrigued. Cool old train with refurbished interiors? Check. Good views of the valley and surrounding towns? Check. And, the kicker: Vegan-friendly, local, and sustainable food? Check and double check. I booked tickets for lunch on the spot.

The mustard was in full bloom this weekend, covering the whole valley in huge swaths of yellow, and watching it all go by from our table was so lovely. We reserved seats in the Vista Dome which is mostly glass and allows for great views, but this car also has the best (and, yes, most expensive) menu of all the cars. Immediately upon boarding we were served complimentary glasses of sparkling wine and the "good life" mentality continued on from there.

To begin, I got this vegan appetizer. Really it was just amusing. I mean, they were on top of their shit and knew I was vegan from the start and had already mapped out in detail my salad and entree before telling me "... and the chef will make you a special vegan appetizer". Ooh, special! Well apparently special means whatever the hell they have lying around in the produce cooler. Because nothing goes with olives and peperoncini like grapes and blueberries, right? Of course I ate it all.

Moving on to more traditional fare, the salad was up next. A yummy vinaigrette and walnuts candied without the use of butter (huzzah!) really stole the show, and I was happy to get some greens in me in such a tasty fashion. I should also mention that by this point I was also good and drunk and things just taste better in that state. Things like....

Butternut squash risotto! This was definitely the highlight with its super fresh veggies and earthy mushrooms. Plus, all that rice soaked up some of the alcohol (the bread they serve on the train is, sadly, not vegan) so I was able to wander around the train afterward without being a threat to myself and others. In between entree and dessert service, people are encouraged to check out the kitchen, the lounges and the deck, or just stick their heads out the windows and breathe in the wonder of the Napa Valley, so of course we did just that.

After an hour or so of wandering, dessert is served, which in my case meant cool and refreshing sorbet. My favorite was the tart pink grapefruit.

All in all, this is definitely something every visitor to Napa should check off their list. Now that I've done it, I don't feel any pressing desire to do it again, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. The food was decent, the wine was great, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming, even to vegans like me!

Next up: Our dinner of love at Ubuntu. Hope you all had a great VDay!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bake Sale!

I just finished baking some amazing white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies for tomorrow's SF Vegan Bake Sale. Don't they look yummy? It's because they are!

I was feeling particularly awesome, so I also made a tweaked (read: MUCH better) version of the sugar-free chocolate chip cookies I made the other day. Instead of using all brown rice syrup, which gave it a malty taste and chalky mouth feel, I went with half brown rice syrup and half agave. I also added some vanilla to balance it all out. The result is a much better - and still sugar-free! - cookie. Delicious:

If you want these bad boys, and about a hundred million other scrumptious baked goods, get your self to the bake sale on Saturday. I'll be lounging in Napa myself (don't hate), but my cookies will sure-as-heck be there for all to consume. Plus all the money raised goes to great charities... and you can get yourself an Ike's Sandwich to boot! It really doesn't get any better. So go....and if you have one of my cookies, let me know.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! I'll be back on Tuesday to tell you all about my Napa eats and adventures.... and oh yeah, Happy Valentine's Day. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Eats

I'm feeling much better these days and am almost fully recovered from the nasty flu I had.
And to what do I credit this miraculous recovery? Well, all the normal things like lots of water and rest... but also a large helping of the food of the gods: guacamole. It was the Super Bowl after all, so I whipped up a batch of my famous guac for me and all my friends to devour. It could just be coincidental timing, but after eating copious amounts of the green goodness, I woke up today feeling more like myself than I have in a long while. Thank you guacamole.

Also on my Super Bowl plate were some Gardein buffalo wings and Organicville Ranch. To be honest, I was not impressed with the wings. They had too much vinegary heat and not enough sweet to balance it out. The ranch, on the other hand, was pretty dang good. I will definitely use the leftovers on some salads this week.

For dessert, I decided to try yet another sugar free ice cream. This time around it was cashew and agave-based Freezees 'Fudgee Fudge'. For me, personally, this would have to have a LOT more deep chocolate flavor for the word "fudge" to be appropriate. That being said, it had a decent enough texture and taste. I don't think I'd buy it again, but it wasn't horrible either. How's that for a ringing endorsement? :)

In any case, this is shaping up to be a busy week, but one that will end with a delightful long weekend in Napa full of good food and wine, including a trip on the wine train and a visit to Ubuntu for Valentine's Day. A full report soon to follow. Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cool Solace in Times of Fever

A visual for you, dear readers, to sum up my physical state right now. That picture is actually from the last time I was really hungover, but I'm currently sick with the flu and am looking and feeling pretty much the same as I did back then. Well, I guess I'm not actually as nauseous as I was that day, and my fever now is way higher, but you get the idea. I'm achy all over, coughing so much it hurts, and (my personal fave) have a sore throat that won't quit. But when life gives you them for ice cream, I say! The best part about having a sore throat is an excuse to try some of the sugar-free vegan ice creams out there, and so I have. First up was Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss, above. I know people love this stuff but I found it way (WAY!) too coconut-y and not sweet enough. It was so bleh that, even with my sore throat, I ended up composting most of it. Oh well. Lesson learned.

Next up was a Chocolate Chip flavor by none other than SF's own Cafe Gratitude. If you like their nut-milk (love saying that) ice creams in their cafes, you can now bring home pints from Rainbow. My wonderful and amazingly kind husband brought this home for me last night and it's a real winner. The base here is almond and cashews and then agave and raw cacao nibs get tossed in. The end. It may not be quite as creamy as the coconut milk stuff, but it's sweet, cold, and delicious. As you can see, I managed to save half and can't wait to enjoy it later on. Highly recommended, especially for sore throats.

Speaking of which, I've also been using this time on the couch to try to get my homework done for a poetry class I'm taking. So, to end this post, a haiku:

eating yummy food
with a red and swollen throat

my personal hell

Have a good week everyone!