Monday, September 20, 2010


Escaping the blanketing fog in SF, we headed up to Napa this weekend and basked in the sunshine for a few hours. It was heavenly. So much so that we decided to linger north of the Golden Gate Bridge a while and have dinner in Tiburon on the way home. We'd scoped the menu at Mexican restaurant Guayamas last time we were in Tiburon and made a mental note to check it out sometime. The huge eatery sits right on the bay - the perfect place to pull up a chair, have a cocktail, and watch the water - San Francisco's skyline in the background. And that's exactly what we did, except food instead of alcohol and San Francisco remained hidden behind a wall of fog. A wall which, as you can see, was determined to sneak back into our lives over dinner. Luckily, the food was so yummy (and plentiful!) that we could have cared less.

Because if it's on the menu I have to order it, we started with guacamole. It was good, but lacked a full flavor punch. On the other hand, the house salsa that comes to the table for free is delicious. Full of onions and roasted tomatoes, it added the salt that was missing from the guacamole when paired up on one chip, which is my fave way to eat the guac/salsa/chip trifecta anyway.

Next up we each had a salad, and they both had the same jalapeno vinaigrette because it was the only vegan dressing. Still, these were very different salads, the one on the left consisting of greens with papaya, mango, and jicama, and the one on the right having potatoes, beans, and corn. Both were high quality salads, and I'd order either one again in heartbeat.

Between the salads and chips/guac/salsa we had already had enough food, but we'd ordered this huge entree as well, so we dug deep and had at it! This is the Platillo Vegatariano, and it's as tasty as it is hearty! What aren't shown are the pile of corn tortillas and huge bowl of some of the best black beans I've ever had. This dish normally comes with rice too, but they make their rice with chicken broth at Guayamas (lame). But really? Rice would have been overkill. As it was, the beautifully charred corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, and veggies nearly did us in. And by that I mean took me to my happy place. :)

All in all, we would definitely go back to Guayamas. We'd order less food and more margaritas and aim for a nice warm day to get the full effect, but even in the fog, this place hits the spot!

Next up: New-to-me eats within San Francisco's city limits. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zero Zero

In desperate need of a another wonderful bay area pizza to round out my Top 5 list, I headed to Zero Zero (named for the uber-fine flour used to make good pizza dough) last night. I had heard great things and had high hopes but, overall, this newish spot is only kind of a winner in my book.

The mixed greens salad gets high marks for taste despite its complete simplicity. Just goes to show the importance of good ingredients. It also served as a reminder that I should add parsley to my salads more often! It adds such a nice fresh bite. Alas, laziness....

Now for the pizza. First up was the vegan-by-default Marinara, which I asked to be topped with arugula because that's just how I roll. Crust-wise, it was tasty but kind of dry, and definitely no match for Pizzeria Picco. The sauce was pretty yummy too, but not as much as Beretta's perfectly sweet concoction. Still, it was a quality pie.

Next up we tried the Mission, which consists of broccoli rabe and a bit of chili flake. It also comes loaded with cheese, which we obviously did not want. I think this was my fave of the two. The spice from the chili pepper was really nice - not overpowering at all. And the slightly bitter broccoli rabe with the slightly sweet tomato sauce was quite nice.

So how does it fare among the best of the best I've had? Here's my official top 5 artisinal pies:

1. Beretta
2. Flour + Water
3. Pizzeria Picco
4. Zero Zero
5. Delfina

There you have it, folks. Next time I'm at Zero Zero I'll order the salad and the marinara and then put said salad on top of the pizza for harmonious consumption. But that's just me. Oh, and one BIG downer at Zero Zero. They have this awesome build-your-own-dessert sheet where you get a pencil and check off what you want. For example, a base of brownie (or cheesecake or a waffle...), with chocolate (or vanilla or swirl) soft serve ice cream, and a myriad of toppings. None of it is vegan though. Sigh.

Up next: I hope to hit some new local (read: in walking distance of my house) places as well as a new-to-me place up north a bit. Stay tuned and eat well in the meantime!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saha Revisited

Saha is, hands down, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. They completely embody the Eats Well With Others philosophy in that they serve enough meat to satisfy your omnivores friends (sigh) but have plenty of gluten free and vegetarian options, most of which are already vegan or can be made so easily. Needless to say, I've been back many times since my last visit, but I figured it was time again to bring along the camera and do a little update.

When I went a few days ago, this was the salad special for the evening. These golden beets were roasted perfectly and then topped with a really flavorful tabouleh, complete with some green olives for tang. At the pinnacle of the tabouleh pile rested two peach slices, both of which had a thin layer of sugar bruleed upon them. Like most things at Saha, it sounds like it totally won't work but then you take one bite and realize that, in fact, it's the tastiest thing ever!

We also tried the mushroom pate appetizer and were quite happy with it. The pate itself was slightly sweet, and the spicy harissa on the side made for a great addition, helping every bite achieve a sublime taste balance. My only complaint is that it doesn't come with quite enough toast points. Luckily, we had plenty of table bread left. See?

The bread that comes to the table is alright, but it's really all about that dipping oil. More herbs and spices than oil, it has a deep, rich taste that is surprising but super delicious. Let's move on to entrees.

Here we have the North African Couscous. I didn't try it, but word on the street is it's bangin'. And, really, what can be wrong with veggies, tofu and olives with couscous and harissa sauce? Um, nothing, that's what.

For my entree, I strayed from my favorite (the vegetarian bastilla) and ordered the Zahara. This dish is comprised of veggies stewed in a rich curried gravy and topped with a fresh pesto-y type sauce. The taste was spot on and I really enjoyed it. I missed my phyllo though, so it'll probably be back to the bastilla next time.

Sadly we were too full for dessert or the vegan Slap Ya Mamma would have been in my belly. I have no idea how this dessert has earned its silly name, but "roasted fruit, date & almond marzipan, and chocolate wrapped in phyllo and baked" (as it's listed on the menu) is one heck of a way to finish your time at Saha, and I highly recommend it

Up next: A trip to a new pizzeria/Italian place in SF means I may have to update my "best pizza in the Bay Area" list. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


As you know by now, last weekend we took a little trip to Los Gatos. It's a cute town surrounded by lots of natural beauty, and we enjoyed that, but really? We went to eat at Manresa. It is not vegan, but like most fine dining restaurants, they will be happy to accommodate you and I've wanted to go to this high-end joint for a few years now. Chef David Kinch is known to do remarkable things with vegetables, all of which are grown exclusively for him at the biodynamic Love Apple Farm. When your food is harvested in the morning and served in the evening, well, it's just better. But, in the hands of the crew at Manresa, what you get is not just good veggies, but food as art that comes at you in 14 different plates (15 if you include the bread!) over the course of about 4 and half hours. I promise to keep the writing to a minimum, but you still better get comfy in that chair because there's a lot to look at!

The first four courses (served with a champagne, if you're doing the wine pairing, which we did) are called "Snacks from Garden."

First up: A warm stone serving up 2 red pepper gelee squares. If you've never had a gelee like this, imagine the very essence of a red pepper (or whatever flavor they happen to be) cooked down into a soft bite size soft candy. It is surprisingly intense and I get a smile on my face every time I have one.

Next we had an herb granita (like shave ice, but better) in a carrot foam. Bright flavor and texture galore. Light and airy foam meets cold and crunchy ice. Such fun!

The fun continued with this strawberry gazpacho shot. This had such a nice combination of sweet and savory - not to mention a luxurious mouthfeel that leaves you wanting more.

Our last 'snack' was a lemon granita with lavender and mint. Perfect end-of-summer palate cleanser.

With the first of the non-snack courses, you get your first class of wine, as well as bread service. The vegan breads that evening included the whole grain (on the bottom), the black olive (on top) and an amazing sourdough (not pictured, sadly). Bread at Manresa = some of the best ever.

First savory course was this cucumber salad. It had tons of herbs and what appeared to be way too much pepper, but it was all so nicely balanced. A lovely mouth awakening for sure.

Our second savory course was one of my favorites. This dish of gorgeous carrots, edible flowers and herb oil gets a little hint of sweetness from those tiny berries. I would eat a lot more carrots if I could make them taste like this!

Up next was Manresa's famous "Into the Garden". Picturesque and delicious, I adored it. The name is quite appropriate as it contains the best of what the garden has to offer, and all the ingredients work in concert to create one heck of a salad.

In the fourth savory course, I was introduced to a vegetable I'd never met before: Celtuce. How I managed to go my whole life without eating this hearty green is a mystery, but paired with paper thin radishes (look, you can see through them!), silky potatoes, and truffle shavings, it really shined. I need to get my hands on some of this unique veggie and try working it into some dishes at home. Thanks for the tip, Manresa. Just for the record, we've been getting a half - 3/4 full glass of wine with each dish. It was around course 4 or 5 (gee, I wonder why I can't remember?!) that we were switched from white to red. Wine pairings are crazy awesome!

Savory course number 5 was a mushroom fest. "Hello, umami," said my happy mouth. :)

One of my other favorites of the night, savory course 6 was a bean dish with garlic oil. These were beans elevated to another level. Smooth, creamy, and wondrous, especially with the garlic oil and herbs. This dish just sang.

Our last savory course of the evening revisited the mushroom theme, but this time the little beauties were paired with fresh basil and pine nut "pudding". If it hadn't been for the fact that I was reaching capacity, I could have eaten a lot more of this dish. As it was, though, I was ready for some sweetness.

With dessert came a full glass of port. A full glass this time because it is to last you through two desserts and a post dessert 'snack'. Number one was this stunning strawberry ice. It was refreshing and just screamed STRAWBERRY. In a good way of course. I could have licked the bowl.

Real dessert (because, for me, "real" dessert involves chocolate) was this simply amazing dish you see above. First of all, I love the use of space on this plate. Definitely one of my favorite platings of the evening. But then the taste! Oh my god. The heavenly chocolate sorbet did a tongue tango with the coconut tapioca - so enjoyable to eat. The two slices of perfectly caramelized banana added just the right amount of warmth to the dish. Way to end on a high note! But wait, there's more....

Just when we thought the check was on its way, we got this dish. Confused at first, because it looked like we were starting all over again with the red pepper gelee, we then found out that this was instead a strawberry version. Flavor intensity and luscious texture was exactly the same, only this time sweet not savory.

All in all, I loved this meal. I even loved the freakin' coffee I got at the end (above). Superb coffee to cap off a superb meal! What I did not love was the price tag. Don't get me wrong, I knew it would cost an arm and a leg to eat here. However, most fine dining restaurants charge a lesser price for the vegetarian tasting menu than the regular tasting menu. * Not here. So, while it was amazing and I loved it, I don't think I could justify the cost again. Not when Fleur de Lys, right here in SF, will create you something just as fantastic for about half the price.

Phew, well I'm exhausted just remembering that meal. I hope you all got to eat well over Labor Day two, even if that meant good veggie burgers on the grill! Up next, I return to an old San Francisco fave and visit some new places too... so stay tuned!

*One notable exception would be The French Laundry, which is also more expensive than Manresa. However, the experience of eating there is unparalleled, which is why it is known as the best restaurant in the country, if not the world. Go if you can.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Los Gatos Brewing Company

In case you can't tell from the title of this post, we took a little trip down to Los Gatos over the long weekend. We went for the nature, the wineries, and for the promise of an epic meal at one of the country's best restaurants (more on that next time) but the hot weather called for a cold beer. So, after scoping the menu for vegan-friendly bites, we entered the Los Gatos Brewing Company. Happily, they made dinner on our first night in town a mighty pleasurable experience.

Pleasure number one: The garlic oil. This is on the table before you even meet your waiter, so you will have to send it back and ask for one without cheese, but this combo of roasted garlic, olive oil, balsamic, basil, and chili flake is very yummy, especially with their crusty bread. A nice start for sure.

Up next we split this mezze platter. We got it without tzatziki (because yogurt is curdled animal puss, duh) and it was scrumptious, not to mention perfect with my unfiltered LGBC Hefeweizen. The hummus was garlicky, the red pepper eggplant spread just spicy enough to make the tongue tingle, and the falafel were crunchy outside and soft in the middle. Perfect plate for whetting the appetite.

As you can see, there are lots of vegetarian entree choices at LGBC, many of which can be easily veganized. I, however, went for one that required no alterations. Gotta love vegan-by-default, right?

You're looking at the Tunisian Chickpea Stew. It was so light, yet so comforting and warm, and the butternut squash was cooked thoroughly without being mush. Love it. Plus, the fresh spinach made me really happy (gotta have my greens!). A real winner, especially as far a breweries go.

We were too full for dessert, but they did have some sorbets on the menu as far as vegan options go. I'd definitely swing in for a meal and a drink again should I find myself in Los Gatos, and you should do the same.

Next up: A 15 course, 4.5 hour meal to take your breath away. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


f you live in San Francisco and don't know about Burma Superstar, you are probably a shut-in of some creepy variety and, as long as you're not hoarding animals (have you seen those shows?!?), that's fine with me. All it means is one less person between me and my samusa soup. Point is, the food is, well, super at the Superstar. The wait on the other hand? Not so much. So, when I heard from a few different sources that the food at Mandalay, another (and, in fact, the original) Burmese restaurant in SF, was better AND (cue angels singing) they take reservations on OpenTable, I knew I had to go. And, in the spirit of trying new things, this is also the first time I tried out my spiffy new iPhone for picture taking. Let's look, shall we?

That right there is simply the pepper oil goodness they leave on the table should you want your food a touch hotter. It's really not as hot as it looks and was quite good. I used it on my tea leaf salad:In this close-up, the tea leaves are the darker green masses on the leftish side of things. If you're not hip to tea leaf salad, it is a mix of fermented tea leaves (don't hate - they're yummy!), lentils, peanuts, fried garlic, sesame seeds, and lettuce. Normally it has dried shrimp, but seeing as how that is NASTY we didn't get any. This salad was pretty good but, even though I couldn't figure out why, I think I like the one at Superstar better. I really wish I could put my finger on it. Maybe it is the tea leaves themselves? Who knows. Luckily the samusa soup was the bomb:

I love samusa soup, what with its rich onion and curry leaf broth and chunks of broken samusas (like Indian samosas meet falafel) throughout. Mandalay's version is just as good as Superstar's - aromatic, comforting, and delicious - so in this very important category the two are neck and neck.

I always have a hard time deciding on an entree at Burmese restaurants because what I really want is just more samusa soup. However, getting some greens sounded like a good idea and getting some greens paired with fried tofu sounded even better, so I had the aptly named Walnut Broccoli Tofu. (There were also some walnuts thrown in there.) The sauce was very tasty, though I did need to use more of the pepper sauce to give it the heat I wanted. Still, a solid dish and definitely as good as anything I've eaten at Superstar.

Verdict? If I feel up to a line, I'd still hit up Burma Superstar, but the convenience of making a reservation, not to mention the fact that the service at Mandalay is AWESOME, gives them the slight edge. Hooray for discovering new great places in SF. Love it.

Next up: A trip to Los Gatos where I'll throw back some cold ones and burgers and then put on my fanciest of pants for a trip to one of this country's great restaurants. And don't worry - I'll bring my nice camera and leave the iPhone in my purse. :) Hooray Labor Day Weekend. Have a good one, everybody!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Kapadokia

Good afternoon, eaters. I'm here today to let you in on a little secret: New Kapadokia is SO much better than old Kapadokia.* Ok, I'll admit it. I don't have a clue where or what Kapadokia is (a town in Turkey is my guess), but New Kapadokia Turkish restaurant in Redwood City, CA is pretty bangin'! Some of my fam live out that way and so we've been past this downtown corner spot a few times. It's always packed and always smells really yummy, so we finally made reservations and headed over not too long ago.

I checked out the menu online and knew there would be plenty of vegan things from which to choose. So, when we sat down (at a table with my name on it no less - nice touch) and saw the menu, I was confused. All the veggie small plates were missing. But then a wonderful man with a HUGE tray came around, plopped down examples of all the small plates and we got to pick and choose. I love when shopping and eating can be combined into one activity. :) We ordered a ton of food, but here are some of the highlights.

This eggplant dish is like baba ganoush without the tahini. Succulent roasted eggplant meets olive oil and spices and that's it. Such a deep flavor - and so simple! It went down easy with some of NK's fresh pita, that's for sure.

Dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs) are one of my favorite foods on the planet and NK makes some good ones. I even used that lemon wedge and gave mine a squirt. Delicious.

For a truly unique taste, you must try the muhammarah. This spread of ground walnuts, red bell peppers, and spices is rich - yet tangy - and truly divine. You'll want to spread it on everything from some pita to your entree. Which is exactly what I did with my entree...

...the stuffed eggplant. This beauty arrives in its cast iron baking dish and is crispy around the edges while still perfectly soft in the middle. It is filled to the brim with tomatoes and veggies, garlic and herbs, and it is just superb. Warning: It smells ridiculously good when it arrives but WAIT! It is crazy hot and if you are impatient like me you will burn your mouth. A burned mouth is no fun for eating. :(

New Kapadokia is a definite stop for eating well with others in Redwood City. Next up: The "other" Burmese restaurant in San Francisco!

*No offense, Kapadokians. I'm sure it's very nice there.

Oh, and check out my guest post over at Vegansaurus if you haven't already. Thanks!