Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend.... the Eating Continues

After our trip to Loving Hut, we of course came home and ate more pumpkin pie and ice cream... I mean, it's (the days following) Thanksgiving after all! You'd think with all this crazy eating, we would have woken up on Saturday and decided to take a breather. Um, no. Since we had to go to the farmer's market to get some things for a brunch we were hosting on Sunday, we decided to go have a leisurely late breakfast at The Plant beforehand. Such a brilliant idea. I mean, you know a weekend is good when right after brunch you go and shop for the next day's brunch.

On windy and chilly days, Plant's Pier 3 location breaks out the clear plastic windbreakers and heat lamps, which actually make their awesome deck quite pleasant, and that's the view from our table there on the left. Below, you have the perfect antidote to that overfed yet malnourished feeling sometimes associated with Thanksgiving eats: A 2oz. shot of wheatgrass.

The Plant's wheatgrass is sweet and refreshing, but not so much that I didn't really appreciate that orange slice chaser. Nourishment imbibed, I felt safe to move on to heartier - and significantly less chlorophyll-laden - food.

Here we have my favorite of the Plant's vegan breakfast offerings - the tofu scramble. Served up with perfectly toasted sourdough, delectable (and never greasy!) potatoes, and a serving of seasonal fruit, it can't be beat. Add some Blue Bottle coffee and you've got a great start to your weekend, folks. And, with this little addition, it gets even better:

I asked for some hot sauce for my scramble and got this tasty bottle of just-hot-enough goodness. In reading, I found out it is made by the Huey P. Newton Foundation and that proceeds go toward funding numerous community programs in Oakland. I love when tasty things do more than just sate my appetite!

On Saturday night we actually slowed down a bit and made veggies and polenta for dinner. Good thing too, because brunch the next day was another eating marathon. More on that next time, my friends.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day After Eats

While everyone else is busy eating leftovers from their Thanksgiving feast, those of us who dined out on the big day have the pleasure of tasting all new tastes... and so we did!

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the tree in Union Square was lit and we were there to behold it in all its glory. Meh. This outing did allow us, however, to finally try a restaurant I've wanted to go to for a while: Loving Hut.

Obviously, it's an all vegan place. But it gets way weirder than that. There are a ton of these pan-Asian joints all over the world and they all promote veganism by way of Supreme Master TV. This channel is running while you eat, and there is literature available, as well as pictures of the "Supreme Master" herself (a woman named Ching Hai, described as a spiritual teacher) with "dignitaries" such as a "member of the Slovenian parliament." Yeah, it's weird shit people. But I could have given a crap as long as the food was good.

Sadly it was hit or miss. The rolls above? A fresh and tasty hit. The yellow curry below? A watery, no-taste-having miss.

My husband had the orange "chicken" and it was pretty good.... but what isn't good once you deep fry it and top it with sugary sauce? On the other hand, the rice was some of the best I've had. Go figure.

So, while I woudln't out and out refuse to eat at Loving Hut again, I don't think I'll be heading back anytime soon. I like my food without the side of indoctrination, thanks.

Plenty more good eats were to be had this weekend and I'll tell you all about it soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the last few hours of this long weekend, folks. I know I will!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because it's all about the food. It's also the one time a year that my husband and I stay put and see as few other people as possible for the whole weekend. We become tourists in our own city, reconnecting with each other and with our love of San Francisco. We've had some great meals already this weekend, with more to come, but I thought I'd tell you about the main attraction: Thanksgiving's 5 course vegan feast at Millennium. We came in very hungry and were VERY stuffed afterward. Stuffed with deliciousness. Let's begin:

First course was the "Cornucopia Medley". This was one of the yummiest plates of the evening in my opinion, as the caramelized onion butter was to die for, and the pimento pate and pear mustard combo were unlike anything I've ever tasted. Add in some black eyed pea chow chow, roasted chestnuts, and house made walnut bread and you have an opener of epic proportions.

I was psyched for the "Apple-Fennel Salad" as I'm a fennel addict, and this did not disappoint. The ginger-orange miso dressing brought the whole thing together in a scrumptious way. The "Smoked Leek & Parsnip Puree" was also tasty, though not as much as I'd hoped. This may have been because I ate a ton of parsnips this past week and was kind of parsnipped out. I will say, however, that the wild rice and sage relish dolloped on top was delicious.

Pictured above are the two entrees of the evening. Both have the same sides; An amazing maple pecan sweet potato pie, perfectly roasted brussels and brassicas, and the most wonderful cardamon-scented cranberry-quince relish ever. Ever. So on the left you see the kabocha squash with smoky tempeh. Now I love squash and I love smoky tempeh, but this was just on a whole other level. Oh and there was saffron barley risotto too. I mean, c'mon. The husband had the other entree, on the right above. This mushroom torte was savory, earthy, and moan-inducing. We both paused and gave thanks to Eric Tucker (chef).

And then there was dessert. Holy goodness Batman. On the left there is a slice of chocolate marbled pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite things in the universe, and I was a little wary of combining it with chocolate. In the able hands of Millennium, however, the combo is sublime. Oh, and the huckleberry compote underneath added just the right amount of light freshness. So good. The pecan tart was supposedly also heavenly. I wouldn't know since my husband ate all if his before I could get a bite!

Deliriously full and quite thankful, we headed out into the night and remembered a hookah bar on our way home that we've been meaning to try. Turns out it was the perfect way to end our evening. Some jasmine tobacco and Moroccan mint tea at Casablanca Cafe was the perfect digestive after all that food. I think we have a new Thanksgiving tradition people.

Speaking of traditions, my own involves having pumpkin pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving. When a restaurant provides the day-of meal, however, this means getting a pie separately. This year I trusted In the Mood for Food catering to provide said pie, and I am so happy I did.
Perfect crust and a not-too-heavy filling with plenty of spice makes this pie delectable. Top it with a squirt of Soy-a-too Whipped cream, and breakfast is served.

Like I said, there have been plenty more good eats this weekend, and I promise to report on those soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of this long weekend, everyone. Give thanks.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Located down an alley (Claude Lane) off of Union Square, Gitane is the perfect place to take out-of-towners you want to impress. Easy to miss, it'll make you look like you know all the hip spots and hidden gems, but it's the Parisian sidewalk seating, eclectic decor, fun bar, and yummy yummy food that make it a real winner. It's also a great place to eat well with others.

We went last night and, sadly, I forgot my camera. Luckily I was able to snag the exterior and interior shots from yelp. Apparently none of the camera-toting yelpers ordered the vegan entree though, so no pics of that. You'll just have to trust me that the vegetable tajine was beautiful and delicious. Filled with fennel, carrots, potatoes, chickpeas and prunes that have all been stewed to perfection in Moroccan spices, and served with some couscous and slivered almonds, it is a treat for all the senses. I also got a side of sauteed spinach with raisins. Also amazing. Oh, and the bread and olive oil they serve up once you order is top notch.

I will definitely go back to Gitane in the future - and I promise to bring my camera next time. Meanwhile, check it out yourselves. And don't forget to go hear the live jazz across the alley at Cafe Claude when you're done. Good times.

Now it is a rainy cold Sunday and we're lounging around doing nothing (my favorite!) but dreaming of the awesome Thanksgiving meal we'll be having at Millennium on Thursday. Can't wait to tell you all about it. Have a great Turkey-free day everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fantastic Fraiche

I had the pleasure of a dessert date with Melisser of Sugar Beat Sweets last night, and contrary to what you might expect, we did not ingest baked goods. Instead, we went to our mutual obsession - Fraiche. Best soy frozen yogurt ever. Best toppings ever. Last night I kept it patriotic and topped the tartly sweet goodness with strawberries and blueberries:

Light, creamy, and delicious. Speaking of sweet treats, mark your calendars folks. The SF Vegan Bakesale is back and better (and bigger!) than ever. This time around proceeds are going to Save a Bunny AND The Food Empowerment Project. These are wonderful causes, so you better get your booty on over and grab yourself some treats on Decemeber 5th. For your extra added pleasure, yours truly will be baking white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies as well as making rice krispie treats with mint chocolate chunks. Yippee!!!

I'll check back in over the weekend, y'all. Until then, eat well!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Herbivore Ritual

Is there anything better than dining at Herbivore in the Mission and then heading over to Ritual Roasters for coffee and dessert? Um, no. No there isn't.

When I went on Friday I decided to try something I've never had before, so you're looking at the coconut curry udon noodles. It was good, but I think I'll be sticking with my go-to large salad with grilled veggies on my next visit. Still, it was tasty, and you get a huge portion for a paltry $8.50.

The coffee at Herbivore is always cold and nasty (seriously, I've tried many times and it always sucks - what gives Herbivore?) but when Ritual is a few steps away who the hell cares. You will get the best cuppa joe in town plus the yummy addition of vegan pastries. Our recent chilly weather had me in a fall mood so I went for the sweet potato bread. I'm pretty sure this was the first time in my life I've ever had my beloved sweet potato in bread form and it won't be my last. Delicious, and just the right amount of sweetness with my rich decaf.

Not a bad way to kick off a weekend, eh? Hope you had a good one!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Smart Alec's

I used to go to Smart Alec's in Berkeley when I first moved to San Francisco almost a decade ago. Back then I was a broke musician and teacher and could easily pass for one of the students in my midst. These days, I rarely make it to Berkeley, and when I do I feel old as dirt and mighty cynical. It's enough to kill anyone's appetite... until I see the Smart Alec's sign. Next thing you know I'm as peace, love, and happiness as can be and digging into a most delicious (and cheap!) lunch:That there is the Supreme Chef Salad. Vegans will have to order it sans egg and croutons, but you can pick from the addition of either fresh hummus (my choice) or grilled tofu. This massive pile of greens and sprouts gets topped with tomatoes, edamame, chickpeas, and wheatberries and is super huge and yummy. For $7 you can't get a better deal! Serioulsy, SA's is worth a trip over the bridge if you're jonesing for the perfect weekend lunch.

Bonus: The air-baked garlic fries at Smart Alec's are also amazing.

Happy Monday everyone! Stay tuned for lots more local eats soon....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Michael Mina

I've been to Michael Mina before, but it was a long time ago, so I was thrilled when a friend decided to treat everyone in our little group to dinner there last night. They have a vegetarian menu always at the ready, but they will happily create a vegan tasting menu with advance notice. Even better is that it is 6 courses of goodness and the wine pairings are brilliant. Not only that but their unflappable service and creativity in the kitchen know no limits. Take a look:

First up was an amuse bouche of curried carrots and lentils. Honestly, it was one of my favorite bites of the evening, and definitely lived up to the "amuse" part of its name. Those little balls of carrot danced on my tongue. A very nice opener. Next was the caramelized fig salad. I worship figs and was seriously looking forward to this dish, but in the end I found the crazy amount of herbage to overpower, rather than balance, the sweet figs. The parsley, in particular, was way over the top. Oh well.

My less than stellar figs were soon forgotten when I got to eat my chanterelle mushroom soup. This was salty, smooth, and downright sublime. It may very well be the best soup I have ever eaten in a restaurant. Yum. Next up was a beautiful dish of sunchokes, sorrel, and (oh hells yes) truffle. My only complaint here was that there wasn't more of it.

The fourth course was my favorite dish of the evening; Crispy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with shaved celery, farro, and frisse. The savory, earthy mushrooms and farro were slightly crispy and warm and the complimentary cool and slightly bitter salad on top created a complete dish with a big impact on the palate. High brow comfort food at its finest. This dish was followed by a main course which fell just short of my expectations. The light tomato sauce on this pasta was delightful and the beans and veggies perfectly seasoned. However, the orecchiette itself was chewy and distracted from the overall experience of the dish.

And still we went out with a bang. This lemon cake with roasted strawberries, pistachio puree, and strawberry sorbet was so wonderful and proved that even light foods can have serious depth of flavor. That puree, for example, was like pistachio concertrate, and the slight bitterness it provided was the perfect partner for the sweetness of the strawberries and cake. Just a wonderful way to end the meal. In addition, I have no recollection of the dessert wine specifics but it was my favorite beverage of the evening... and pretty, no?

All in all, a fantastic meal. I will say that the veg-heads at the table ended up with substantially less food than the omnivores and, since we didn't get any less wine, this made us a little tipsy. Still, the portions were sating and delicious. I've got no complaints and would definitely go again. Thanks, MM, for a great night!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Assab Again

Just got back from another wonderful meal at Assab Eritrean restaurant. There are many decent Ethiopian/Eritrean places in the city, but for my money, Assab is the best. It smells amazing when you walk in, the service is friendly, and the food is fresh as can be and flavorful as all get out. It's the perfect antidote to the early darkness and cooler weather we've been having.

Their soul and stomach nourishing veggie combo contains some potatoes and carrots, stewed okra, two types of lentils, collard greens, and a small salad - all on top of yummy warm injera (because everything tastes better when you eat with your hands!). It's warming, without being overly spicy, and just plain delicious. Seriously, you should go to Assab. You can thank me later.

What's next, you ask? Well tomorrow I'm headed to the JCCSF for this:

Jonathan Safran Foer
Why Do We Eat Animals?
Foer is one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. His first novels, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, sold over 700,000 copies. His first work of nonfiction, Eating Animals, is a quest to understand meat, how it's produced and the environmental effects of eating animals. Foer explores all sides of the issue, including breaking into a chicken farm, and asserts few readers will look at their dinner the same way again.

Listen to a cute writer boy talk about his dedication to veganism? Yes, please.

I'm also pretty excited for a meal at one of SF's most fancy pants eateries this weekend, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, eat well!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kudos and Krap

Yes, I know that crap doesn't start with a 'K' but I'm in a mood over the news that Ubuntu will start serving meat (or at least not DISallowing it) on Tuesdays nights when they host guest chefs. I know that I eat in omnivorous kitchens quite often, but Ubuntu was a sanctuary of veggiedom in the meat-centric wine country, and I'm sad to see that be tainted. I agree with Vegansaurus, who writes, "You know what would be more interesting, Ubuntu? Challenge your chefs to make “enlightened” vegetarian food, using all of your bounty; I mean, that garden alone should be able to inspire the Colonel into making some tasty veg eats. If you can’t cut it with those resources and have to use meat, you are a terrible chef."

And all of this after I just ate an amazing meal there this weekend. Will I go again? I guess, but it won't be the same, and I sure as hell won't be there Tuesday nights.

Enough Krap, let's have some Kudos, shall we? Us Bay Area folk now have an amazing vegan event planner among us. Karine Brighten just put together the fabulous Farm Sanctuary Walk (which, by the way, is still open for donations) and is now avaialble for all your event planning needs - from board meetings to blow out bashes! She is organized, personable, and basically knows how to get s*!& done. Totally friendly and professional and I can't recommend her more highly. Go Karine!

Yummy eats are on their way to my belly this week so stay tuned for full coverage...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Oh, Napa. How I love thee. With your warm sunshine, rolling hills, gorgeous vineyards full of wine, and your yummy yummy food, it's amazing that I ever leave you to come back to the city. After yet another fantastic weekend up north, I am reminded (again) of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful area. Don't think I take it for granted for a minute. I know this place is special and I'm very grateful to be able to call the Bay Area my home.

Even though this was a quick jaunt (one day and night), we hit up all the old favorites. This, of course, meant stopping at the Oakville Grocery for lunch. That's my delicious hummus and roasted veggie sandwich above. The herbed foccacia really takes this baby to another level, and I pretty much always have one when in Napa. I suggest you do the same. Plus OG is only like half a mile from Cakebread Cellars, which we went to for the first time on this trip. It was suggested by a friend and Napa veteran, and their Chardonnays are very tasty. That means a lot coming from me since I'm not a Chardonnay fan at all. I was happy to have found one or two that I like.

After that we made our way to our favorite winery, Robert Sinskey, where we got the royal treatment since we're members of their wine club. That meant that we enjoyed the above red flight and vegan treats (delicious butternut squash, carmelized onions and mushrooms, plus some marcona almonds and olives) for free. Pretty sweet. It was the perfect little bite of food to keep us going, which was great since Frog's Leap was next.

The Sauvignon Blanc from FL is one of my faves, but being able to wander through the gardens picking strawberries while you sip really heightens the winery experience. The Frog's Leap grounds really are something special, and I highly recommend taking the tour if you haven't already. Super fun and down to earth wine tasting at its best.

We finished up at Frog's Leap and headed back to the hotel to rest up for dinner at (where else?) Ubuntu. This place has been handed accolade upon accolade since it opened a little over 2 years ago, and was even recently featured big time in O (as in Oprah) Magazine. This was my 3rd visit here and it really is something special. Just look at this food:

Castelvetrano olives in carrot top pesto? Amazing, fleshy, perfectly seasoned poppers. Sardinian flatbread? Crisp as can be and topped with a garden full of arugula, herbs, and edible flowers. So good. And that was just the beginning.

The corn grits with fig jam was astounding. Fresh, sweet (but not overly) and hearty, it was just soul-nourishing yumness. Still, my favorite would have to be the deconstructed bean soup. The beans are cooked in a flavorful broth and then removed, baked into a cake, and topped with herbs. Then the broth is added back in tableside. This dish proves that food need not be heavy to be comforting.

Speaking of comfort food, how about some rice pudding for dessert? Oh yeah. In this beautiful vessel was saffron rice pudding with pomegranate seeds and a citrus granita just to cool it down a bit. It was light as a cloud with a sweetness that just danced across the tongue. A wonderful end to one of the best meals I've had in a while. If you haven't been to Ubuntu, you really should try it. They also opened an annex next door where they sell things like their lavender sugar and sea salt almonds and a dry mix for a "make at home" version of their infamously delicious chickpea fries.

I'm back home now and enjoying some relaxation and wine detox on the couch. Here's hoping you had a great weekend, too! Stay tuned for some good stuff this week, like Ethiopian eats and high-end vegan dining at one of SF's best omnivorous restaurants. See ya soon!