Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sonoma Eats

This post will be as brief as I can make it, since I'm leaving tomorrow for a week in Mexico!  Figured I'd let you know about some tasty grub we had THREE WEEKS ago (yeah, I'm behind) before we take off and dine south of the border.  Coincidentally enough, one of our favorite Sonoma places is a Mexican restaurant, Maya.  The guacamole is always sublime, and the salsas fresh and flavorful, but the main dishes don't disappoint either.

The house salad with baby greens, mango, and jicama gets some kick from spiced pumpkin seeds and is a refreshing way to wake up the palate.

The grilled vegetable plate is served up with beans, plantains and tortillas and is made from some fresh and tasty vegetables charred to perfection.  Seriously the perfect thing to stuff your face with after wine tasting.  Filling, healthy, and delicious.  The atmosphere at Maya is also great.  Dark wood, accented with festive color, and a very laid back and welcoming vibe.  Highly recommended.

We also hit up the Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grill on our trip, only because when I was scouring menus online, I saw that they did a 5 course vegan tasting menu.  Yes, at a place known for seafood and martinis.  Above you see our first course - white beans and fennel with a balsamic reduction.  It was really tasty and the contrast in textures was nice.  Good opener, so we were ready for more.

Second course was a lip-smackingly good portobello mushroom salad.  Just simply grilled with salt and pepper to bring out their inherent savoryness, I would say these were some of the best prepared 'bellos I've ever had.  Yum.

The eggplant wasn't my favorite course but it was still tasty.  Maybe too much char for my liking?  I don't know - something was just off about it.

Can't go wrong with risotto in my books, and this peppery concoction was no exception.  It was a hearty main course and filled with earthy veggie goodness.  Winner.

Aaaaannndd, then there was sorbet.  Welp, you can't win 'em all.  It's an oyster bar, after all... and they really gave it their all with what they had.  Go Meritage!

Ok, that's it for now.  I'll be back with more when we return from Mexico.  Adios!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Parents in Canada

As I've said, my parents are traveling fools lately.  On a recent road trip, they found a real gem.  So much did they love it, they went multiple times.  Here's their wrap up:

          Having just seen the sights at Niagara Falls, we fired up the trusty Happy Cow app and found our lunch destination. Rise Above began as a vegan bakery and has grown into the area's only totally vegan lunch and dinner spot.  Located in St. Catharines, Ontario, about 25 minutes northwest of the falls, Rise Above is a narrow storefront, exposed brick, high metal ceiling....very modern, clean look. There's a lunch menu and a dinner menu, one on either side of a single sheet of paper. It's not a vast menu but everything we tried was excellent. Fresh, hearty, simple and, most of all, delicious! St. Catharines itself is pretty cool with kind of a funky vibe of its own....not quite New Hope but totally Red Bank if you know what I mean (Sky says: And you probably do if you're from NJ or thereabouts).
           In the interest of full disclosure, Rise Above still does some amazing vegan baking and that's actually what first drew our attention. No cupcakes but great brownies, turnovers and filled doughnuts as well as peanut butter cups and chocolate coconut haystacks. We got two doughnuts and two candies to go and ate them later back at the hotel. Yes, they rocked!       

         Went back to Rise Above for dinner; all other options seemed pale by comparison. We shared a soup and a salad and then I had chipotle seitan with cornbread, savoy slaw and potato salad:

Mom had the pizza of the day: olives, red pepper and onion with Daiya cheese. 

Again, everything was wonderful! Fresh, flavorful...really perfect.

          Then came dessert. We ordered one dessert, their signature specialty....cheesecake for one served in a small Mason-type jar complete with screw-on lid! I've never seen anything like it! It's available in blueberry, strawberry and my personal choice (and recommendation) cookies and cream.  This thing is CRAZY GOOD!! It's like a giant, overstuffed Oreo exploded in a jar! I ordered it for myself but needed help from Joan to finish it; it was that rich. For me to share a dessert is unheard of but to need help to finish one...unprecedented!

          On yet another occasion we enjoyed even more flavorful menu items like this unique potato, broccoli, and Daiya burger with root veggie fries.

And this Greek salad with almond feta was yummy too!

There was also a delicious and hearty chickpea curry on the menu.

Speaking of hearty, how about some chili with sour "cream" and cilantro.  Amazing!

          If you haven't gotten the idea yet, we really love Rise Above and hope they continue to do well so we can visit next time we're in the Great White North.  Anyone who lives nearby is lucky and should check them out!

There you have it folks, another installment from my wacky vegan folks out and about in the big bad omnivorous world.  Makes you want to go to Canada, no?  Next time, a post I wrote myself!  About a place in SF!  Crazy, right?   :)