Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Minneapolis Eats: Ecopolitan

I first remember learning about Ecopolitan when I was a raw foodie years ago. I salivated over the menu online and wished for a reason to go to Minneapolis and dine there. Such an excuse never presented itself, and though a large portion of my diet is still raw, I'm no longer so hyped on the raw tip. Still, I was quite excited to finally step foot inside this bastion of all things good for you. And I do mean all things. In addition to the restaurant there's hydrotherapy, far infrared sauna, an eco-shop, an oxygen bar, breast screening.... the list goes on. I, however, was all about the food.
Sadly, when we arrived at the Ecoplitan building, it was closed. Normally open from 9am-10pm, 7 days a week, it just happened to be randomly closed (with much written apologies on the door) when we went for lunch. No worries though; We just made a point to head there for breakfast on our way out of town. And, breakfast was good.

I had the "rawnola" made from sprouted buckwheat, fruit, nuts, and cinnamon. It gets a pretty little squirt of date paste for light sweetening and is served with a kettle of fresh coconut milk. Beauiful, tasty, and a great way to start my day and end my time in Minneapolis.

Back in San Francisco, I've been a strict 'nutritarian' for over a week now. No restaurants for me, but I promise to share a day-in-the-life-of pretty soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Minneapolis Eats: Zelo

Now that I'm back into teaching for the year, I've had to realize that I won't have as much time to blog as much. Of course I don't intend to have any less to blog about, I'll just have to be more concise. Today is a case in point. Here's the gist: We went to Zelo for pre-Ani DiFranco concert fuel. It appears to be your standard Italian place, but hidden beneath that facade is a vegan restaurant dying to come out. Just look at all this food we had:

First up there was some smokey wood-grilled asparagus (yum!) and edamame with sea salt (don't see that at every Italian joint.) A wonderful start.

Next we got some matchstick zucchini sauteed with almonds and basil. Simple, delicious flavors with great texture. I should make this at home sometime soon. For a fresh bright contrast we had an heirloom grain salad made with quinoa, farro, hearts of palm, red peppers, tomatoes, and other veggies and herbs. The lemon vinaigrette was so refreshing!

We also split this duo of bruschetta. One is your typical tomato, basil, and olive oil variety while the other has avocado and jalepeno added to the mix. Zelo brings the classic flavors to life and delivers an awesome twist to the table with the slightly hot, super creamy avocado version. I loved both of them.

There was also another salad, plenty of fresh-baked bread and olive oil, and maybe another veggie. I can't remember. The point is that Zelo had a TON of vegan options and doesn't advertise it at all. Just another example of how easy it can be to eat well with others.

So I haven't been in a restaurant in a week now and I must admit I'm having withdrawal. One more week..... and of course I promise to elaborate on my home eats soon! Meanwhile, if you haven't yet, go search your couch cushions for change and make a donation on my page for Farm Sanctuary. The animals need your help and I'm honored to be able to pitch in, even if it means spending a Saturday walking! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Minneapolis: Fast and Furless

Every now and then I actually take a break from eating to do other things, and one of my favorite other things is shopping. When I can combine animal advocacy with shopping, and maybe even get a vegan snack or two along the way, I'm a happy camper. Such was the case at Fast and Furless in Minneapolis.

This little shop is jam packed with all sorts of vegan goods - from the great clock you see above to these awesomely cute and super comfy Ragazzi shoes I picked up for just $25!

Fast and Furless also has tons of wallets, belts, t-shirts, and books - not to mention a whole section of snacks, including those awesome candy bars from Go Max Go I love so much. Being able to shop while supporting a cause so close to my heart is a win-win, and I definitely recommend a stop at F&F next time you find yourself in Minneapolis.

Speaking of causes close to my heart, don't forget that the Farm Sanctuary Walk is coming up! Please consider donating in support. Any amount, however small, really makes a difference in the lives of the animals they care for. Visit my page for all the info.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Minneapolis Eats: Cafe Brenda

The nice thing about having family or friends in the town you're visiting is that they can recommend good restaurants to try. It was in this way that I came to Cafe Brenda. Meeting up with my non-veg Minnesota family definitely meant finding a place to eat well with others, and Brenda served up the goods.

I started with the awesome Organic Greens and Chevre Salad, opting for no chevre of course. What sold me on this salad was the marinated figs, and boy were they delicious. They had a nice chewy bite and a sweetness that paired well with the hazelnuts and raspberry vinaigrette. Great start, but it gets even better.

This Croquettes entree is only available Friday and Saturday nights (yippee for good timing!) and every week the patties are slightly different, as are the sides. I had a feeling this weekend-only offering would be yummy, but it exceeded all expectations. My kabocha squash patties and curried tomato sauce were oh-so-savory, pipin' hot, and happily reminded me that fall is really here, while the refreshingly cold beets and artichoke hearts were marinated to perfection. The salad was just more organic goodness - the icing on the proverbial cake... only without all the fat and sugar.

Speaking of fat and sugar (well okay, not so much fat, and zero refined sugar) I had the fruit tart for dessert. This was basically cooked plums with granola, but it was super-yummy and was exactly the right amount of sweetness for me at the end of a meal. It was also perfect dancing fuel, and since Cafe Brenda is so close to all the hot clubs, it makes for a great pre-party nosh. I highly recommend it. Way to go, Minneapolis family - good call on CB! :)

Next up: One more Minneapolis eat, and then some serious talk about Eating to Live.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Miineapolis Eats: French Meadow Bakery and Cafe

I love love love French Meadow's Hemp Bread, so when I heard that the bakery was in Minneapolis, and that it was actually more cafe than bakery, I knew I had to go. I immediately checked the menu online, and was psyched to find quite a few vegan options, all of which sounded delicious, and all of which were marked with a cute little 'V'. I determined FM would be my first meal in Minneapolis and a mere 3 hours after landing, I was sitting at a comfy table in the rather large French Meadow Bakery and Cafe, swirling an organic red wine, noshing on amazing fresh-baked bread (left) and awaiting some deliciousness. I love when a plan comes together!

First up, I had the Greek salad without the feta. It may look like your standard salad, but everything was super fresh and the lemon-herb dressing knocks it out of the park. So yummy. For my entree, it was a hard decision, but I went with the Sweet Corn Arepas. These soft corncakes are topped with vegan sausage, red peppers, spinach and a balsamic sauce that is just to die for. Absolutely fantastic. I wish something like this was on a menu near me.

My pal and I were stuffed, but with something called Vegan Chocolate Turtle Cake on the menu, we knew dessert was a must. I mean - look at it! Moist chocolate cake with a caramel nut filling and topping. It's a damn shame we were so full, because the few bites we managed to eat were awesome. We just couldn't finish it. Sigh...

Dinner was so good, we decided to go back for breakfast two days later. FM does a brisk brunch business. No sit down service here; In the daylight hours, you order at the counter and then take a seat with your placard (ours contained pics of uber-hot vegan Zooey Deschanel) and wait for your food to arrive. When it does, you devour it, along with some of the best coffee around. We both got this vegan breakfast comprised of a most tantalizing tofu scramble, potatoes, vegan sausage, and more of that great bread - this time in toast form. If there is a better way to start I day, I don't want to know about it.

I thought that was to be the end of my French Meadow experience... but NO! As I was wandering around the airport waiting to head back to SF, scanning menus and finding nothing of interest for a pre-flight lunch, I turned a corner and saw:

Can you believe it? In the mutherbleepin' airport! MSP will forever be my most fave from now on. I happily walked in, resistied the urge to get the arepas again, and went for the simple Organic Green Salad:

Fluffy organic lettuce is dressed to the nines with balsamic, carrots, beets, and sunflower seeds. A light and super-tasty lunch, perfect for digesting on a plane. Thank you, airport French Meadow.

Yes, I did eat at places besides French Meadow while in Minneapolis. Stay tuned to find out where....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cafe Nook

For my last meal in San Francisco before heading to Minneapolis tomorrow morning, I headed to an old fave with some friends - Cafe Nook - and had my usual.

Said usual consists of the field greens salad and the hummus plate. Served up with olive tapenade, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and some super awesome warm pita, it's the perfect light meal. The hummus is creamy with just the right amount of saltiness, and the sprinkling of dried herbs over top brings everything together. Simple yumminess on a Thursday night. It helps that Cafe Nook is just a really cute place to hang out and watch the cable cars go by. If it hadn't been for my need to pack and get ready for my trip, I could have hung out and relaxed a lot longer. Next time I suppose....

Meanwhile, Minneapolis eats will be up next. Have a good weekend, y'all!

Golden Era

It had been a long time since I'd been to Golden Era Vegetarian, so when an omnivorous friend called me up and invited me, I was thrilled. Turns out the S.F. Chronicle had run a very positive article about Golden Era, which had spiked my friend's interest. Go Chronicle!

My friend had decided beforehand that she would order two of the items recommended in the article, so she skipped the plentiful fake meat dishes and had the Teriyaki Mushrooms (specialty number 12) and a mango smoothie (both above). The mushrooms were loaded with flavor and served up with enough other veggies so you don't feel overwhelmed with the mushroom-ness of it all. I was happy she let me try some. :) I was too busy lovingly admiring my own dish, however, to ask her about the smoothie. She made no complaints, so I'll assume it was delicious. Kind of like my salad:

Calling this dish simply "cucumber salad" does it no justice. This is a mouth-watering mix of cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, cilantro, mint, sesame seeds, peanuts, and soy jerky all topped with a lemon chili sauce. The flavor is so fresh and bright, but with just enough depth from the peanuts and soy jerky. It was absolutely sublime, and the happiness in my mouth lasted quite a long time.

Golden Era is haven from the grimy Tenderloin outside its doors, and I can assure you I will be back, next time with the husband. He was very impressed with the Sauteed Ginger 'Chicken' I brought home for him. In the meantime, I say unto you; Fear not the fake meats. In the right hands (like at GE) they are wonderful culinary delights!

I'm headed back to another old fave tonight before getting on a plane tomorrow morning for Minneapolis, so stay tuned for more great eating coming soon!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Umami and the Ultimate Dessert

Last night, when the husband and I were simultaneously desiring sushi, I remembered that we've wanted to go to Umami for a while now. Having walked past it about a million times in our 'hood, it's kind of always been on the back burner of my brain to try at some point. Normally, when a sushi craving hits, we head right to Cha-Ya. However, sad as it is for me, the husband really wants some fishies sometimes, and Umami delivers. Happily, it turns out they also have a plethora of vegan options.... and not just edamame (though they do have that, and it's yummy.)

Because of our unseasonably rainy weather, I knew miso soup was on the agenda, and this mushroomy version was some of the best I've ever had. Earthy and rich from the 'shrooms and chard, and with just the right hint of scallion and creamy tofu. Delicious and soul-warming.

Moving on, we split these two salads. On the left is the seaweed salad. Pretty good, but not enough sesame for either of us. On the right was the green salad. Amazing. The texture from the finely shredded radishes, crisp frisee lettuce, and pop-in-your-mouth tomatoes was great, but the cirtus miso dressing was palate-awakening. Luckily, my kind husband let me eat most of this by myself. :)

The one vegan roll offered is called "The Gardener" and it's pretty standard as far as veggie sushi rolls go... which is to say that it's very tasty and satisfied my sushi craving. Filled with avocado, pickled daikon, and sprouts, it'll definitely hit the spot.

Here's something you don't see every day. A sliced Japanese eggplant, sauteed in a miso-glaze, topped with sesame seeds, and perched atop a red curry sauce. I have a new craveable food in my repetoire. The flavors here were so deep and hearty, and of all the dishes this one had the most 'umami' for sure. So yummy!

Back at home, I finally got around to making my vegan version of something I heard about on the Food Network. I'm a big fan of the show 'The Best Thing I Ever Ate' in which foodie celebs talk about their favorite dish in a certain food category. Well, on the sweets show, someone's fave happened to be 'Sam's Sundae' from San Francisco's own, Bi-Rite Creamery. I haven't spent much time there since they're not too big on the vegan offerings (though there is sorbet), but this particular sundae sounded so good to me I knew I had to recreate it at home, sans the cruelty. What's in it, you ask? I get giddy judst thinking about it: It's the deepest darkest chocolate ice cream (I used Ciao Bella's Chocolate Sorbetto of course), topped with bergamot olive oil (go organic for the best flavor) and sea salt (I used the one on the far left from my superfancy salt collection), and whipped cream:

I went without the whipped cream for this first attempt, and though it was still outrageously delicious, I think I understand how the whipped cream would cut through some of the intenseness and lighten it up a bit. This was so good though. I love salted chocolate to begin with, and combined with the orangey olive oil it is to die for good. I can absolutely understand why someone would call it the best thing they ever ate!

This week is full of lots of good eats, including a return trips to old faves, and all new eating adventures in Minneapolis, so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Foreign Cinema and AT&T Park

The weekend is not over yet, but so far I've been to two places in San Francisco I've always wanted to go: Foreign Cinema and a Giants game at AT&T Park.

Foreign Cinema has been in SF for 10 years (kind of like me), and is still a go-t0 dining spot for those who love good food in a great atmosphere. Knowing this, my expectations were high going in, and I'm happy to say I was not disappointed. It is a truly beautiful restaurant, with high ceilings, light fixtures that look like bouquets of drying flowers, and - of course - films being projected on the patio wall. The service was impeccable and everyone was in a good mood, but let's talk about the food.

I started with a salad of gem lettuces, sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, and olive oil croutons, all dressed in a sherry vinaigrette. There was also organic bread and olive oil on the table, so I was a happy camper. This is simple food made from the best ingredients, and all was delicious. It was also the perfect amount - just enough to whet my appetite for my entree. Speaking of which, they offer up a daily vegetarian entree comprised of the "best vegetables of the day" and are happy to make it vegan.

The best veggies on Friday night included corn, string beans, chanterelle mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, and arugula. All were seasoned and cooked beautifully, and topped with an olive-coated crostini. I love a good veggie plate, and this is certainly among the best. If I had any complaints, it would be that it was just a wee bit on the small side, especially considering Foreign Cinema doesn't have any vegan desserts. Still, it was satisfying and yummy, all my dining companions loved their food, and it was a real pleasure to eat there. I now understand how they've managed to keep the city's adoration for so long.

One San Francisco institution down, I decided to hit up another I've never been to and go to a Giants game last night. (That's the view from our seats, left). Let it be known that I am not a big baseball person, and actually find the game a little boring. On the other hand, I love veggie dogs, and I've been reminded over and over again by PETA that AT&T Park is the #2 ranked veg-friendly ballpark, veggie dogs included.

Of course, I had to have one. I gotta say.... I wasn't thrilled with it. I've had better veggie dogs in my day. Ambiance plays a roll of course, and the abilty to eat a hot dog in a ballpark is one I relish (pun totally intended). On the other hand, the stadium has another vegan offering that I could eat in a dark closet and still find mouth-watering and addictive: The garlic fries.

Oh man. These babies are so good. If you're anything like me, you'll inhale them, savoring every garlicy bite. Magically both crispy and creamy, the fries are topped with TONS of garlic and fresh herbs and served up piping hot, no ketchup required. I could eat vats of them. You'll definitely want your significant other to have some too (to cancel out the garlic breath effect) so make sure you get two orders. :)

It's a cloudy day now and the first Sunday of real football (a game I actually DO enjoy), so it's time to relax. Later, we have dinner plans at a neighborhood place we keep meaning to try, so stay tuned for the run down in the near future. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weddings and WaterCourse

I love weddings. I love the love, yes, but I also love the free food and drinks and DANCING! Try the latter on an empty stomach one too many times, however, and weddings will quickly turn into something to dread. This is the case for many a vegan, myself included. I've been reduced to eating the garnishes off a buffet and/or subsisting on bread and salad at one too many a betrothal, and have since learned to carry energy bars in my purse just to get me through the reception. I know for a fact many other vegans do the same. How do I know for sure? Well a bunch of us were all at a mutual friend's wedding in Boulder last weekend standing around in awe at the spread put out for us and loving the fact that none of us would have to break into our secret stash!The Mexican buffet was plentiful and everything that was veggie was marked with a star; Everything vegan got two stars. I loaded up with tortillas, rice, beans, salad greens, roasted veggies, tomatoes, salsa, and guacamole. Talk about dancing fuel! To all my friends getting married in the future, the bar has been set high. Oh, and did I mention the delicious margaritas???On our way back to San Francisco, we swung through Denver so I could check out WaterCourse. I've heard many a good thing about this restaurant and was not disappointed. The vegetarian menu is HUGE (see left) and everything can be made vegan. Yes, everything. It took us a while, and I almost ordered about 8 different things, but it was their unique salads that kept my attention, and I finally decided on "The Dickens."

The funny name was not explained, but this bed of romaine topped with smokey tempeh, butternut squash, cannellini beans, maple dijon dressing and (drum roll please....) onion rings was the best dang salad I've had in a long time. Maybe ever. The smokiness of the tempeh paired so well with the sweet and savory dressing, and the creamy beans and squash matched up against the crunchy onions rings perfectly. I felt like every taste bud had been hit. A little more about those onion rings, you ask? Best EVER. Seriously, let's take a closer look:

Light, crispy batter with just the right herbage surrounds perfectly cooked (not crispy but not mushy either) onions and the whole thing just melts in your mouth and makes your tummy very very happy. I would go back to WaterCourse just to get more onion rings if I ever find myself in Denver again. Headed to that neck of the woods? Don't miss WaterCourse.

Back by the bay, the eating continues. Stay tuned for my first visit to a San Francisco institution and my second visit to a classic veggie haven before I turn around and take off again - this time for Minneapolis!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boulder Eats: Sunflower

Boulder seems to have a thing for naming restaurants after vegetation, and Sunflower is my second shining example (see previous post for the first). This is dining with a strong emphasis on organics and a menu of very well-marked and plentiful vegan options. At Sunflower, you can have buffalo, bass, or a "Boulder Bourguignon" - a vegan version of the classic wine-braised beef dish made with seitan and tempeh. Going for brunch meant missing all that, but there were still numerous good eats to be had for us early diners.

The sunshiny juice on the right is my husband's carrot-orange concoction. Using only organics means they get the best tasting and freshest produce at Sunflower. That matters a great deal when you're going to concentrate all that flavor into juice. The husband was pleased.

Knowing I would not eat again until much later at the wedding (that would be the whole reason we were in Boulder in case I forgot to mention) I knew I needed something filling, and this delicious tofu scramble definitely fit the bill. Full of onions, spinach, asparagus, and other veggies, and served up with paprika-doused home fries and toast, this is one great way to start your day and keep you going for a long while.

My only regret is not having the time to go back to Sunflower and try their lunch and dinner offerings. On a much happier note, I didn't even have to worry about being fed at the wedding, as our pals took very good care of their vegan friends.... but more on that next time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Boulder Eats: Leaf

Boulder is one of my favorite places to visit. Set against a backdrop of gorgeous mountains, wide-open plains, and an amazing and ever-changing cloudscape, it's a cute town of unique shops, hip bars, super-friendly people, and some really REALLY yummy eats. The best of these eats, in my opinion, can be found at Leaf. This vegetarian (not vegan, but with plenty of options) haven will win over even the most heavy-duty carnivore, including the friends I brought along to dinner when we were there. I mean, just look at this food:

I, and one of my pals, started with this Sprout Salad. Crunchy sprouts and seeds on a bed of creamy butter lettuce and topped with tart pickled onions and a lip-smacking sherry vinaigrette makes for an tantalizing beginning to your meal at Leaf. My omnivorous friend told us all - more than once - what a delicious salad it was.... and she was right!

For my entree, the Polenta Napoleon was calling my name. This rustic delight includes polenta cakes that are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, perfectly savory braised greens, artichokes that melt in your mouth, and roasted tomatoes that blend seamlessly into a smoked tomato broth, creating a dish that is comforting, hearty, and satisfying.

So satisfying, in fact, that I had no room for dessert, which is sad because with options like vegan carrot cake and chocolate raspberry cake, in addition to ice creams and sorbets, I'm sure it would have been delicious. No worries, though. I'm sure that I'll be back to Boulder one day in the relatively near future, and I'll make sure to save room then!

Next up: Eating well with others at a Boulder brunch. Yum.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Websites for Breakfast

Good morning and Happy Labor Day! We attended a most fabulous wedding yesterday with some of the yummiest vegan eats... but more on that later. Now I'm a little hungover, so I'm drinking kombucha (hangover cure of the gods) and surfing the magical internet. Since I have a few minutes I figured I'd share some sites I really like.

First up is Everyday Dish. It's the Food Network for vegans. Foodie vegans rejoice.

I recently became introduced to this Vegan Blog Tracker. It's got all my fave vegan-related blogs in one place, and will soon include this one by yours truly.

If you need a good healthy recipe, my go-to site is Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. The recipes here are all delicious, healthy, and inventive - and the food pics are great!

Speaking of food porn, I could spend hours looking at all the food posted by the "dictators" like me over at VeggieThing. Where else can you visually check out restaurant offerings from around the country? Love it.

Alright, that's enough for now. We've still got a whole day here in Boulder, and if the husband ever wakes up, we'll actually get and enjoy it! Have a great day, everyone.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What's Up Dog?

No, the title of this blog is not an actual question, though if you'd like to let me know how you're doing, feel free to leave a comment. :) What's Up Dog is the name of a hot dog mini-chain in the Bay Area that, thanks to its Tofurky hot dog offerings, is a great place to eat well with others. Even better is that their Filbert Street location is open late night and is directly in between the bars in the Marina and my home up the hill.

Nothing soaks up late-night alcohol like a good veggie dog on a soft bun, and this certainly delivers. You can blame the terrible picture on the aforementioned alcohol, but I assure you that my taste buds were still sober enough to tell this was delicious. I went with simple sauerkraut and mustard, but they'll also turn this frankfurter into a "Veggie Chicago Dog" with mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, pickles, and celery salt. I'll definitely be back to try that at some point and you should make it there too.... no alcohol required.

I'm in Boulder, CO right now for a wedding and I can't wait to tell you about the good eats I'm having out here...... coming soon!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Being a Gemini, I can appreciate duality. Everyone has opposing forces within, and that's what makes people so interesting. However, if there are two voices inside your head and one says "Let's make really, really good food," and the other says, "Let's serve it in stupidly small, overpriced portions," then I can not be down. Such is the case at Olea.

I wanted to try Olea ever since checking out the menu online. There was a vegan entree listed so I emailed to find out if they always have a vegan option. I got a quick reply (like that) of yes (love that) and was psyched to dine there. So you see, I wanted to like them. Really I did. And then the food came...

And it was DELICIOUS! I mean this stuff was seriously yummy. On the left is a greens and strawberry salad (hold the feta) and on the right is quinoa with purslane and mushrooms. Both were outstanding. Perfectly ripe strawberries and crisp lettuce dressed to perfection followed by mmmmm-inducing, tender quinoa with earthy mushroom and greens. I mean, I loved it. But those were some crazy tiny plates, and with the total coming up close to $30.... well, I think not. My dining companions concurred. Their portions were tiny (though also yummy) too, and we all ended up having to get other food afterward to fill our stomachs. None of us is an ounce overweight or gluttonous by any stretch of the imagination, by the way. This just wasn't enough food for the price. Sad, because it was really yummy. Oh well...

Next up: A late night Marina joint with the perfect post-drinking, pre-passing out eats.