Sunday, October 25, 2009

Walking, Eating, and Listening with Joy

I haven't been feeling 100% lately, hovering somewhere between sickness and wellness, but I still managed to have a fantastic weekend, due in large part to some amazing people and events.

Amazing person and event number one: Karine Brighten and Farm Sanctuary's Walk for Farm Animals. Karine is a Vegan Wife Extraordinaire and an event planner, so she was the perfect person to plan the SF leg of this annual walk. There were tons of goodies to bid on in the auction, yummy food samples, goodie bags, inspiring speakers, and prizes for top fundraisers. Speaking of which, turns out my $655 contribution garnered me 3rd place and a gift box of animal-friendly Aveda products. Hooray! Icing on the cake was the perfect weather we had, but the real winners are the animals. Go Farm Sanctuary!

Amazing person and event number two: Last night, the husband and I headed to Oakland for another fantastic meal and concert provided by Philip Gelb's In the Mood for Food dinner/concert series. We've been to these events before and will go again and again every time we're free. The intimate setting, lovingly-prepared vegan food, and world-class musicians make these events one of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area. Last night was a pumpkin menu and we started off with a delicious pumpkin and white bean soup with pumpkin seed pesto.

It was superb on its own but, with the addition of that chili oil, it really sang - and helped clear out my sinuses! Its brightness also contrasted beautifully against the earthiness of our next dish:

Here we have my fave of the evening - pumpkin gnocchi in a walnut/sage sauce. You could have given me a bottle of that sauce and a straw and I would have been happy. Luckily, my friendship with Philip means I got to go home with extra sauce and I will be incorporating it into dinner tonight for sure. I gotta try to get the recipe out of him because something tells me there's more to it than walnuts and sage. In any event, it was homey, warming, and fall-tastic. Love it.

Our entree was a squash stuffed with lentils, pistachios, and chantrelle mushrooms. Another savory, plate-cleaning winner, though I must say I think my favorite part was the brussel sprouts on the side. I'm just a brussel sprout fanatic. :)

In between the entree and dessert is the concert, and last night's really blew me away. Check out the video above. The visuals aren't great, but just listen. Daniel Berkman plays the kora (a 21-stringed harp/lute from West Africa) with such passion and beauty. He had the entire room mesmerized. We were even willing to delay dessert to hear him play longer, so you know he had to be good!

Speaking of dessert, Philip provided a perfect light ending to this autumnal meal: Baked Asian pears stuffed with oats and raisins and a side of homemade pumpkin ice "cream". Just sweet enough, the warm spices really capped off the meal nicely, and the cashew-based ice cream was creamy and cool. A wonderful pairing.

All in all a terrific weekend thus far. For the rest of it, I intend on just relaxing and enjoying the lovely weather. Heading to a new-to-me restaurant tomorrow evening, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend and eat well!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Great Reason to Walk

As many of you know, I'll be participating in the Walk For Farm Animals this Saturday, with all the proceeds going to Farm Sanctuary. I visited their California shelter this summer and was so touched by all the hard work this organization does to care for their animals and to provide education and outreach so that more animals are not mistreated. I support them as much as I can, and I hope that you'll consider making a donation yourself - either directly through their website or through my fundraising page.

Stay tuned for a full recap of the walk and all the other fun events of this upcoming weekend (can you say underground dinner concert?!?) when I blog again....

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Wonderful World of SF

Even though I wasn't feeling so hot this past weekend, I was happy to be back at home in San Francisco, and definitely happy to be around for some great food!

As is typical for a sunny Saturday, the line at Ike's was ridiculous. Rather than wait 2 hours for a sandwich (though, really, they're worth it), we went around the corner to Harvest Market and got pre-made vegan sandwiches to go. Not too shabby. However, the reason we were in the neighborhood at all was that Saturday was San Francisco's first Vegan Bake Sale, with all proceeds going to Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue. $2600 was raised, and me and the hubby made our contribution by buying these sweets:

Our faves? Well, that molten brownie was pretty much liquid chocolate (a very good thing in my book), but the baklava totally stole the show. Best vegan baklava evah. And from a bakery I never even heard of no less! Fat Bottom Bakery (love the name) will definitely be hearing from me again. Thanks to Vegansaurus and all the bakers - I can't wait for the next bake sale!

For dinner that night we decided to stay in and do it ourselves. I had been craving peanut sauce and found a great soba noodle in peanut sauce recipe online. I added brocolli, used a little less sesame oil, garnished with fresh cilantro, and since I had no 'Szechuan Sauce' (whatever that is) I used sriracha (a fave). It turned out so dang delicious, and looked pretty to boot!

After our spicy and savory meal we both wanted something a little sweet. I remembered that Fraiche had just opened up in our hood so we popped on over.

Oh. My. God. Their soy frozen yogurt is so good. It's organic, just sweet enough with a slight yogurt tang, and melts in your mouth like a slice of probiotic-filled heaven. And the toppings! I went for shaved dark chocolate and strawberries, but they had all sorts of berries and nuts, as well as figs, oatmeal, cookie crumbles.... I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and be a happy lass. I was very happy to see it was packed when we were there and I'm wishing them a long life in our neighborhood!

I'll be around SF until Christmas time now (ahhhh......) so stay tuned for Bay Area eats galore.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Counter, NYC

I first went to Counter years ago and loved it. I mean what's not to love? It's a fantastic veg restaurant and an organic wine bar in one. Yippee! Turns out it's still pretty great after all these years. Sadly, I couldn't get any good food pics because of the lighting but that's ok. After all, it's the romantic low lighting which also makes it perfect for anniversary dinners like ours. So, ignoring the craptastic photos, let's talk about the deliciousness....

The one difference between my previous trip to Counter and this go 'round is that they've switched to a primarily small plates menu. I don't mind this because it means we get to share a whole bunch of stuff, like the beans and flatbread above. I loved the carrot sauce underneath the beans, but generally speaking both items were both just okay.

Luckily the mediocrity did not last long. The portabello slider was so adorable, and that tiny package packed a huge flavor punch. The vegan mayo, veggies, and mustard all popped in your mouth, and made the savory mushrooms sing. Red cabbage slaw on the side? Perfection. Needless to say, we did not share this tiny bite but got 2 so that we could each have our own.
Super yummy, yes, but the best dish of the evening, by far, was the summer corn with heirloom tomatoes and dates. Yes, dates! The sweetness of the corn is enhanced by the sugars in the dates, and the tomatoes give just enough acidity to keep this from becoming dessert. Amazing. I will be putting dates in my corn for years to come. Thanks for the enlightenment, Counter.

We had other things like some greens and wax beans that were also yum, but really the pictures are just horrible. You'll have to trust me when I tell you that the food at Counter is beautiful, well-prepared, and absolutely scrumptious. Of course I recommend going for yourself just to be sure. :)

Coming soon: The goings on back here in SF, including some home made goodness, the wonder of the vegan bake sale, and a new fantastic frozen yogurt place that's vegan-friendly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sweet Stuff in NYC

I will get around to a longer post about our anniversary dinner sometime soon, promise. But for right now, I just want to take a brief minute to talk about 2 of the best ways in NYC (if not the world) to sate a vegan sweet tooth.

Babycakes makes awe-inspiring baked goods in their all vegan, mostly gluten-free, amazing smelling, and downright adorable bakery on the Lower East Side. The cupcakes (above) we had were moist and delicious with the perfect ratio of cake to icing. Love.

Ok, so I know I am prone to exaggeration, but Lula's Sweet Apothecary makes the best ice cream - vegan or otherwise - on the planet. The flavors are unbelievable, the consistency smooth, and the toppings plentiful. I had a sundae (left, above) with peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, peanuts, and hot fudge, all topped with coconut-based whipped cream and a cherry. A massive sweet tooth have I, however, so I also had a soft serve cone (right, above) - a twist of chocolate and cake batter flavors topped with rainbow sprinkles. Nothing short of a revelation in vegan ice cream. I could literally cry just thinking about how long it will be until I get to go to Lula's again. Blythe (the owner, pictured with me below) - I beg of you; Please open up shop in San Francisco.

Lastly, I leave you with something you can dig your sweet tooth into no matter where you live. I present to you the magic that is the vegan cake at Whole Foods:

WF makes some of the yummiest vegan treats and all their stores carry 'em. This means that you don't have to go to NYC to get your sugar rush. We got this chocolate cake in good old New Jersey for all the vegans that attended my brother's wedding last weekend. Rave reviews all around.

For now, sleep. But stay tuned for that anniversary dinner, some good eats in NJ, and the wonder that shall be the SF Vegan Bake Sale!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tales From the Lower East Side

I just got back a few hours ago from my trip back east and, though I am exhausted, I wanted to blog at least a little about our trip. We had such a great time seeing our friends and family, celebrating our anniversary and my brother's wedding and, of course, eating some amazing food.

It's an EWWO first, but I feel the need to post a hotel recommendation. The Hotel on Rivington is freaking fantastic. This was my second time staying there and my husband's first. He loved it and we're already planning a couple night getaway over Christmas. Not only are there floor to ceiling windows in each room (that's our room above) but they have Tempurpedic beds, big refrigerators, and the best location in town. Across the street is Economy Candy which has tons of vegan treats, as well as Teany, should it ever reopen (I continue to pray it does). Within a few blocks you have a giant Whole Foods, MooShoes, and Babycakes. You are also well within the realm of walking distance to all the delicious East Village eats like Counter, Caravan of Dreams, Lula's Sweet Apothecary, Dirt Candy, Angelica Kitchen.... It just doesn't get much better.

In between the hotel and the Whole Foods is Pala. It's not all veg, but they make a mean salad (above) and lots of vegan pizzas using your choice of Follow Your Heart or Daiya cheeses. I went with the Daiya and had this abosuletly delicious mushroom and basil pizza:

This pizza had a perfect crust, just the right amount of sauce, fresh basil, earthy mushrooms, and gooey Daiya. The best welcome to NYC I've had in a while. Truly a great place to eat well with others.

Ok, that's all I have in me for now. There were lots more good eats, so stay tuned....

Monday, October 5, 2009

Off to NYC, But Back For The Bake Sale

My two weeks as a strict nutritarian has been great. I feel healthy and well-balanced and I will be eating this way most of the time from now on. My plan is to be a nutritarian at home, but to bring restaurant dining back into the picture. Speaking of which, there's no better place to break my restaurant fast than New York, so that's where I'm headed. The husband and I will be celebrating our 3 year wedding anniversary (and 10 years of dating!) in the Big Apple before heading down to New Jersey for my brother's wedding. I'm so excited for the wedding, and pscyhed that my dad will be making the vegan food, so I know I'll be well cared for. In NYC, we'll be hitting all the hip spots like MooShoes, Babycakes, and Lula's, and will be returning to one of our favorites, Counter, for our anniversary dinner. Should be a great time, so definitely stay tuned for all the details.

The trip will be fantastic, but I'm also psyched that I'll be back in San Francisco for the VEGAN BAKE SALE!!!

I'll be there from noon-2 helping out (and chowing down, no doubt) so swing by, say hello, and get some of the yummiest treats you ever did try, baked by some of SF's best vegan bakers! Even better is that the proceeds go to Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue. You get yummies, and the cats keep purring. See you there!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eating for Health

As I've mentioned, I'm going through a bit of withdrawal right now, of the restaurant variety. I haven't been out to eat in 11 days, and I'm jonesin' pretty bad. However, I've given up quite a few other thing in this time that, surprisingly, I don't miss nearly as much. Things like bread, oil, sugar, and salt, for example. You see, with the new school year starting (hello, Stress) and all the traveling I've been doing (which means eating out even more than normal), I've been feeling like I could use an extra boost of nutrition. Enter Dr. Fuhrman and his 'nutritarian' ways. I've been following the Eat for Health protocol and I must say I do feel better. As per the guidelines, I'm pretty much eating nothing but fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds. Whole grains are allowed in moderation and beans and greens are most welcome at any meal. This is basically how I eat at home normally, only you know those veggies? Well, I like mine with salt. That being said, I feel like my palate is more awake than ever and that I can continue a low sodium way of life at home for the foreseeable future. Hooray for that because, as I've found out (while trying to figure out excuses to eat salt), even vegan people like me with crazy low blood pressure are still at risk hemorrhagic stroke from high sodium diets. Doesn't sound like fun.

So, what have I been eating you ask? Well here's a pretty typical day in the life of this nutritarian:

Breakfast is most often sweet, and here we have a juicy ripe mango, fresh raspberries, and 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds all on top of a bed of spinach. I love hemp seeds with my fruit. So nutty and sweet and full of essential fatty acids. And the spinach? You don't even taste it with all the sweet fruit. Sneaky way to get those greens.

For lunch, I'm a fan of the big salad. Here we have a close-up on one of my faves. It's got the standard ingredients of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sprouts, but then I add chickpeas (rinsed and drained from the can - 'no salt added' variety), fresh lemon juice and tons of spices. In this case, I used cumin, cayenne, sumac, and garlic powder. It was truly delicious and I didn't miss the salt at all.

I like a warm meal at the end of a long day, but I also like it to be super easy, and this is. It's simply butternut squash and rainbow chard. I baked the former and steamed the latter. Then I topped it with Dr. Fuhrman's "Caesar Salad Dressing." Made from raw cashew butter, roasted garlic*, a tiny bit of dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, and some unsweetened soy milk. It's divine. The nutritional yeast gives it a great salty cheesy nuttiness - just add a little pepper on top and you're good to go.

For dessert? What could be better than a big fat medjool date with the pit removed and raw cacao nibs shoved inside. Nature's perfect sweet ending.

So there you have it. This is definitely how I'll be eating at home from now on, but soon restaurants will be back in the picture. The hubby and I will be celebrating our 3 year wedding anniversary (and 10 years as a couple!) in NYC next week, followed in short order by my brother's wedding celebration. Much to look forward to, yummy vegan food included, so stay tuned.

*This is one of the best tips from the Fuhrman Getaway I went on this summer: Most people drizzle garlic with olive oil before roasting so it doesn't burn, but try it with a squeeze of fresh orange juice! You won't taste orange at all, only the sweetness it imparts as it caramelizes. You'll get perfectly roasted garlic if you take however many cloves you need, place them on a square of aluminum foil, squeeze some o.j. over the top, wrap up the foil, and throw it in a 350 oven for about 25-30 minutes. Yum.