Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mi Lah Vegetarian, Philly

While I was back in NJ last week, I also had the pleasure of meeting up with vegan pals of mine at Mi Lah in Philadelphia for lunch. They had been for weekend brunch before, and loved it, so I'm happy to report that weekday lunch was pretty good too!

First up I had this amazing mango and avocado salad. The dressing is a "Spicy Caribbean Lime" but it wasn't really that spicy or lime-y. What is was, however, was delicious. This was really one of the tastier salads I've had in a long time. Mi Lah was off to a good start.

Next, I tried the olive, sun dried tomato pesto, and spinach flat bread. Super yum! I love this Mediterranean flavor profile anyway, but this was above and beyond yummy. The pesto was more of a relish consistency and super flavorful. Crisp dough with some of my most favorite edibles on top? Winner.

One of my pals had the veggie burger with sweet potato fries. While I did not try the burger, he seemed to enjoy it, and I can attest to the awesomeness of those fries. I love a thick-cut fry and these were crisp yet pillowy slabs of sweet potato goodness.

My other friend had the Vietnamese hoagie. She gobbled it up and was impressed with the flavors. So there you have it. Mi Lah is a great little spot for vegan eats in Philly. Cause we can't be big spenders and go to Horizons every time, you know? :)

Up next: I'm back in SF and trying out some new eats, so stay tuned!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The New New Jersey

When I was growing up in NJ, vegan options were few and far between. In fact, most people had never even heard the V word, let alone knowing what it meant. Hence, my vegan life was one full of veggie dogs (thank goodness for a nearby food co-op), chips, and cheeseless pizzas. Sigh, lament, shake head. Well I am happy to report things have changed. Like really changed. And, I had some great food in NJ this time around, starting with the all veg Maoz.

This is a chain with only 6 locations in the U.S, and one of them happens to be in my hometown of New Brunswick, NJ. Yay! College (in this case, Rutgers) kids like veggie food, and this veggie food is bangin'. The deal at Maoz is this: You either get lettuce and falafel in a pita pocket or in a salad bowl. You can add things like hummus and eggplant, and then you top your creation with as much of the salad bar (above) that you can fit on that bad boy. Oh, and then you MUST order the sweet potato fries because they are the best you will ever eat.

That's my salad on the left and the amazingly crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside fries on the right. So good. Try them with the tahini sauce. Oh man, I have just given myself a Maoz craving. Luckily for us Bay Areans, there's one over in Berkeley. To be visited soon!

On the more fancy pants end of the spectrum, I take you to Eno Terra. First of all the feel of this restaurant is so wonderful. It is like eating in a very fancy old barn somewhere and it's super eco-friendly. It's not an all-vegan place by any means, but they are committed to using local products, and specifically as many heirloom varieties as possible when it comes to their produce. They always have a few veggie options on the menu, and are happy to make stuff up on the fly, as was the case with our not-on-the-menu bruschetta sampler:

As is often the case in fine dining establishments, the lighting really blew for pics, but I hope you get the idea. Each one of these poppers was sensational - from the earthy sauteed mushrooms to the light and vibrant chickpeas with lemon. Such a fun way to start the meal!

I didn't a picture of my salad, but it had roasted cherries and toasted almonds and was amazing. Seriously, so good. Still, the entree (above) stole the show. This is Eno Terra's seasonal veggies and quinoa and, while it may not look like much in my picture, I assure you that the quinoa was light and fluffy, the veggies seasoned and cooked perfectly, and the whole dish just sang with flavor. Hooray for vegan food at fancy places... in NJ!

Back on the budget-friendly tip, we have another chain - Pizza Fusion. I would not mind one bit if this place, complete with their organic crusts, plentiful veg toppings, and Daiya cheese, made it's way out to SF (my lucky SoCal readers - go!). This was some of the better pizza I've ever eaten actually. Above was my mom's large pie with tomatoes, black olives, and spinach. For me?

I went for a small (I also had a tasty salad) pie with spinach, artichoke, and roasted garlic. Really really delicious. Lastly...

Here we have the massaman curry from Pad Thai in Highland Park, NJ. Their list of vegetarian options is longer than the regular menu at most places and they are in-the-know about sneaky fish sauce. For my money, the massaman wins for its rich flavor and the combo of pumpkin and peanuts. Yum. Hands down the best Thai food I've eaten outside of Thailand and a must-stop every time I'm back east.

So there you have it. Some good NJ eats, right? I also took a side trip to Philadelphia while I was home, so stay tuned for that next!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Another trip to NYC, another post about all the amazing eats there. Seriously, visiting New York is like drowning in a sea of palate pleasing vegan food, only you don't suffocate and die, you ingest and emerge victorious (read: 5 pounds heavier)... or something. Anyway, here's what we ate on our whirlwind tour:

On our first night we went to our old Lower East Side fave, Pala. Since we go every time we're there, I didn't bust out the camera, but I swear to you it gets better every time. Try the vegan etna pizza (eggplant, basil, cherry tomato sauce, daiya) which you will find on their separate vegan menu. Love that about Pala - such a great place to eat well with others. And it's so dang delicious!

Now for food I did photograph. The above is the bread and garlic oil which started our meal at Candle Cafe. It may not look like much but that oil is packed full of roasted garlic goodness. Definitely something you and your date (or husband in my case) should both eat lest the eater be shunned for the rest of the evening.

Next up I got the house salad with tahini dressing (on the side). It was good, but not spectacular. I just wanted some raw greens. Mission accomplished.

Now for my favorite thing to order at Candle Cafe - the 4 sides plate. Basically you just pick 4 sides and 2 sauces from their extensive list and call it a meal. Here I got 2 sides of steamed kale (love those greens!), a side of grilled tempeh, and a side of quinoa. For my sauce, I got 2 sides of spicy peanut sauce. It is simple pure tastiness. All the sides at CC are great, so your meal can be a different combo every time!

For dessert we headed across town to Lula's Sweet Apothecary because they make the best ice cream on the planet. I had 2 scoops of chocolate-chocolate chip with chocolate sauce, peanuts, coconut whipped cream, and a cherry. Yes, I like chocolate. Yes, it was fantastic. Yes, I miss Lula's already. Sigh.

The next day we went to brunch with the fam at Teany and I had the chicken-less salad salad (as opposed to the chicken-less salad sandwich) and it was the bomb. Teany does right by all things sweet too, but since it was so nice out, we went on a very short walk to Babycakes to sate our dessert cravings. I had the oatmeal cookie sandwich, which is really more "cream" filling than cookie and which made me very happy:

See? I'm delighted. After this, we headed back to NJ to hang with the fam for a few days. More on NJ eats soon. We did eat in New York once more before heading home though because right by our gate at JFK there was a ZPizza! I've always wanted to try their Berkeley Vegan Pie, so I did:

My favorite part was the veggie burger crumbles, but really it was just ok. As far as airport food goes, however, it was the best! If the ZPizza San Francisco ever opens, I'll definitely hit it up. Of course the site has been saying "Opening 2010" for more than a year and I kind of doubt it'll happen....

I'm already dreaming about my next trip to NYC, but it remains just a dream for now. It's no surprise that there is great vegan food there, but I was very impressed by NJ this time around too. Stay tuned to see what I mean!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Jerusalem

I've wanted to try Old Jerusalem (way fancy website, not so fancy restaurant) after reading good things in both vegan and non-vegan write-ups alike. Sadly, when it came time to dine, I was feeling jetlagged and icky and didn't have much of an appetite. I ordered a salad and a side of hummus and between those two items, and the olives, pickled radishes, pita, and sauces that come free to the table, I was quite sated and happy with the flavors. Since the husband was left at home for this meal, I got him the Vegetarian Combo to go:

I also left my camera home, so this was taken on my coffee table. Gotta love it when food still looks good after crossing the city, no? I think this plate of hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, ful, arabian salad, and eggplant still looked quite beautiful for having made the trek, and my husband confirmed it was equally as delicious. The sauces in the back were the same ones from the table at the restaurant and the one on the left was spicy sweet and very tasty. The one on the right we didn't taste because it appeared to be dairy-based. For all I know it was pure tahini, but I don't take chances!

In any case, I would totally go back to Old Jerusalem and get a veggie combo myself. The food is authentic and yummy. 'Nuff said.

Off to NYC soon, so stay tuned for some amazing Manhattan eats. Some fall weather will be nice after this 90 degree heat wave in San Francisco. Can't wait to dine and share!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Love Those L.A. Eats

I was in Los Angeles this past weekend for my college reunion and, as usual, I was blown away by the vegan options in the City of Angels. Seriously, there is so much good vegan food in L.A. it kills me. That being said, I want to fit all my weekend eats into one post, so I'll try to be brief. Let's go!

First up, Fatty's. If you're anything like me, this Eagle Rock restaurant's name conjures up vision of all things deep-fried and sugar-coated. Not the case. Instead, you will find an ambiance-rich dining room (twinkling lights, high ceilings, garage door front) serving up some very high-end vegetarian food, most of which can be made vegan. We started with 3 apps:

This is an appetizer after my heart. Simply called "Oils" it consists of 3 fresh-baked rolls and 3 different oils. In our case, there was California premium EVOO, pumpkin seed oil, and white truffle oil. I'm partial to all things truffley, but my favorite was actually the rich and nutty pumpkin seed oil. Go figure.

Fatty's calls their mushroom and rice balls "Cleopatra Balls" but I just call them tasty. The tomato, caper, and olive relish makes these little poppers irresistible.

Our last app was the potato tacos - a truly ingenious idea. Mini potatoes are hollowed out and the skins get fried to become taco "shells" before being stuffed with some of their original potato insides, corn, veggies, salsa and avocado. Addictive!

Wanting to save room for dessert, I had a nice light entree: The Farmer's Market Roasted Vegetable Salad. These were some beautifully cooked veggies, y'all. And I do so love a balsamic reduction. Highly recommended salad.

Speaking of dessert, meet "Fudgey". Anyone who knows me knows that there is no way I could resist a dessert with such a great name, and boy did it live up to expectations. Warm chocolate cake with a molten center, covered in toasted coconut and pecans and served with a dollop of chocolate frosting and strawberries? Um, yes. I'd eat it again and again. I'd also dine at Fatty's again and again if I lived closer. I so badly want to go back to try the vegan chocolate fondue. Sigh...

The next day, I went to Real Food Daily for lunch. I've been there before so I didn't break out my camera on this trip but, like everything on the menu, my salad with tahini dressing was super yummy. RFD is one of my faves. For dinner, I was still in Santa Monica but I wanted to try something new. Enter The Golden Mean Cafe. This was a Happy Cow find and quite a good one! In fact, I dare say they make one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had:

I got this bean, grain, and veggie patty with tempeh bacon and avocado and it came with a side of refreshing watercress salad. From the toasted bun to The Golden Mean's own special sauce, this was a real winner. Seriously tasty from first bite to last.

Dessert was no disappointment either! This apple tart with vanilla coconut ice cream was the perfect ending to my fun day in Santa Monica.

The next day was the reunion and there were plenty of vegan options there too. Check out my papaya and mango salad with plantain chips and veggie rice:

Beautiful right? Right. After the festivities, me and 16 or so other reuniting folks had dinner at Wolf Creek Brewing Company, where I had made a reservation. I chose them because they seemed to have space for a large party, they had a bar for everyone who wanted to keep the buzz going, and when I wrote to ask about vegan options, I received a prompt, kind, and extremely helpful email regarding their menu. For the record, the hummus and flatbread, bruschetta, pizza dough and sauce, guacamole and chips, and the veggie sandwich (sans mayo) are all vegan. The pasta all has egg, but most of the dressings are vegan so salads without meat and cheese are good to go. Here's my salad:

It was really good, though in an effort to make up for taking off the cheese, I think they added way too many walnuts, but whatever. I also had the hummus trio and all 3 were way better than I expected, with the sundried tomato version being my favorite. Others were helping me to devour that and I couldn't get a pick. Anyway, the moral of the story is that next time you find yourself in Valencia, CA looking for a place to eat well with others, check out Wolf Creek!

On our last day, we hit up The Veggie Grill in El Segundo before getting on the plane back to SF at LAX. I have wanted to eat at one of their SoCal location ever since reading about them on Quarry Girl, and it was awesome. I want a Veggie Grill to come to SF! To be clear, this is an all vegan, order at the counter, have your food brought out kind of place. Mostly burgers and wraps and salads, but everything we got was so good!

The husband consumed his Santa Fe Crispy Chicken within minutes and loved it.

My V-Burger was also really good. The pickles and relish and sauce really make this pop on the tongue, and the soft warm bun is the perfect vehicle to get it all in my mouth. As you can see, we both got the "Sweetheart" fries. Crispy sweet potatoes are the perfect addition to any meal, and these are superb.

I also had to order a side of the Mac and Cheese since a good vegan version is hard to find. This one was decent, but not my favorite. Oh well - there are so many other things on the menu it hardly matters. I am officially keeping my fingers crossed that Veggie Grill franchises its way up to SF SOON.

What a trip, eh? I had a blast and before you know it, I'll be off to NYC (5 days and counting!). Keep your eyes peeled for that, but meanwhile I'll be hitting up a new-to-me San Francisco spot soon. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Long Time No Write

Well hello there. Sure has been a while, hasn't it? I guess I've been a bit busy, and blogging has hit the back burner. Rest assured, dear readers, I've still been eating well (I know you were worried). Just haven't been up to the task of writing about it. I guess we all need a break every now and then, right? Right.

That being said, I would like to state some facts about the last few weeks:

1. Vegan options at Out the Door abound and are all delicious.
2. The green salad at Herbivore still rocks my world.
3. Saha continues to produce vegan food that blows my mind.
4. Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant has decent pizzas (though they're not making my Top 5), easily veganized sans cheese.
5. New Ethiopian restaurant, Moya, is the bomb. Fresh flavors and all-teff (read: delicious, tangy and gluten-free!) injera make them my new fave. Check out the fantastic veggie combo:

Even the salad, normally a throw-away at most Ethiopian places, is tasty. Moya rules.

So that's it for now, and I know it was a pretty lame catch up, but fear not. Soon I will be in L.A. and then it's off to NYC, so the eating and photographing shall occur. Stay tuned!