Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pomelo (Church Street Location)

Much like this restaurant's namesake (above), Pomelo's exterior doesn't do much to let you know how wonderful it is inside. Its mustard-colored walls strewn with the work of local artists, funky lighting, and candlelit tables all make for one comfortable and inviting restaurant. Add to that a menu which makes everyone feel welcome, and you have a real winner in my book.

All of the vegetarian items on Pomelo's menu are clearly marked with a green dot, and many of them are already vegan or can be made so. Last night, I tried out the "otsu" with a side of the "gilroy". Otsu is an old Japanese word (and a town in Japan) with many meanings, but in this case I think they are going for the "tasty" definition. I know all of this because there is a vegan-friendly store in SF called Little Otsu. You can read more about them, and all the definitions for the o-word, on their site. In any case, the otsu at Pomelo is a delicious serving of buckwheat noodles and perfectly cooked tofu with a plethora of cilantro, green onions and spices. Really tasty stuff on its own, but when paired with a side of sauteed bok choy with garlic and chili flake (that'd be the gilroy, not pictured), it is divine. Plus you're getting your greens!

Pomelo is a place I will definitely try again, as it's perfect for eating well with others, and both me and my companion enjoyed our meals a whole lot.

Meanwhile, I'm off to Austin, TX to check out the vegan scene there. I promise to post an update as soon as I can. Eat well until then!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend Disappointments

It was a beautiful weekend here by the bay, and I had a great one. As I told you, we went down to San Jose on Saturday for the NCAA March Madness games, but because they were earlier in the day, we didn't end up staying for dinner. Sadly, this means I didn't get to try San Jose's Vegetarian House as I'd planned. Oh well, next time. I did, however, have two dining out experiences, both of which were mediocre at best.

The first was the most disappointing because it was at a restaurant that I love - The Plant. I went on Friday and the place was packed. The staff all seemed a bit frazzled and the host, in particular, was decidedly standoffish. We had a reservation but still had to wait, and he wasn't exactly friendly about it. Still, I was in a good mood, and about to have good food.... or so I thought. The Napa Cabbage Salad is something I've had at Plant before and I love it. However, when it arrived on my table on Friday it was half the size it used to be and with less peanuts and WAY less tofu. I pay the extra to add baked tofu to the salad, and I got two thin strips. To prove my point, here are two pics. The first is the salad in January when I last had it, and the second is my salad from Friday:

Look at all that tofu on the left! And the peanuts! Can you even see the few measly tofu strips in the salad on the right? Sigh. Anyway, the one good thing was that my dining companion's company more than made up for the salad, and it would appear that her order - the Plant Burger - remains amazing.

I'll have to order that next time!

Moving on, the husband and I had a Groupon to Zuppa to use so we went there Sunday evening. I had called earlier in the day and talked to a lovely woman who assured me that all the pasta was vegan (except the stuffed pasta, like ravioli, obviously) and that they'd happily make a vegan sauce, or that I could do one of the pizzas with no cheese. She also let me know that the table bread was vegan and that the salads were all easily veganizable. Yay!

However, when we arrived, that magical woman from the phone was nowhere in sight. Instead there was a staff with very little knowledge about veganism who were more interested in talking to each other than serving us. Still, I managed to convey my needs and got some decent grub:

On the left is a green salad sans cheese. On the right is rigatoni with veggies and marinara. Both were ok - but just ok. Nothing to write home about, and in a city with such amazing Italian food, we will not be back. At least we didn't have to pay full price thanks to Groupon!

Sub par food aside, it really was a great weekend. Now I only have a few more days until my trip to Austin but I'll check back in later in the week to let you know about a restaurant I'm trying out Wednesday evening. Until then, enjoy the week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nook at Night

Spring has sprung here in SF. In fact, it actually feels like summer has sprung, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. No matter the real season, the last few nights have been lovely, and there's no better way to experience a nice night in San Francisco than by dining al fresco. There are tons of nice spots where you can grub outside, but I've got a soft spot in my heart Cafe Nook, so that's where I headed last night.

I know I've written about it before, but there is just something about sitting on the sidewalk at this cafe and watching the cable cars go by (see my blurry shot from last night, above) while throwing back a Napa Cabernet that is just so awesomely San Francisco. And the food ain't bad either!

I had my fave combo of the organic greens salad and the hummus plate, which comes with olive tapenade, cucumbers, tomato, and warm pita bread all sprinkled with Mediterranean herbs. So yummy and spot hitting on a warm evening.

Next time you're in the neighborhood on a nice night (or any kind of night really) check out Nook. You won't be disappointed. You can even sate your sweet tooth with some of their vegan pies and cakes! Now if only Swensen's down the street would wise up and offer even ONE vegan ice cream flavor. Sigh....

Off to San Jose for March Madness action and some vegan grubbing this weekend, so have a good one and stay tuned!

Monday, March 15, 2010

DOSA (again)

In case you were wondering DOSA still rocks. The husband and I went there Saturday night and its moan-worthy deliciousness was still in full effect. For the record, here's what we had:

This "Mango and Goat Cheese" salad is different than their old salad by the same name. Of course, I go without the goat cheese either way, but this one had hazelnuts instead of walnuts and the mango was lightly spiced. I dug it... though I probably prefer the walnuts.

Ah, the masala dosa. Crispy outside, soft and creamy inside, and perfect for dipping in any of the insanely tasty chutneys or sambar (the coconut is my favorite). I love it.

The hubster went for the cilanto and mint masala dosa and LOVED it. Why is it a different shape? I have no idea, but I am willing to guess that it's simply so the servers can tell it apart from a regular dosa.

So there you have it. I was supposed to go to Millennium this weekend too, but it got rescheduled. Stay tuned for that next month. In the meantime, I'll be heading to San Jose this weekend for some March Madness action and will be trying some new-to-me eats while I'm there. Full report to follow. Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ristorante Milano

Last night I hit the town (read: walked a few blocks) to meet up with some pals at a place I've gone past many times but never tried: Ristorante Milano.

I love Italian food, and I especially love that it is one of the cuisines in which a vegan is pretty likely to find something safe and delicious to eat. Luckily, Ristorante Milano proved me right on that point. But before we get to dinner, let me just tell you how cute this place is. It's an authentic and cozy little spot that is almost always packed with people who just so obviously love it there. The waitress last night was downright adorable, not to mention knowledgeable and possibly made of pure goodness. As she rattled off the long list of specials, her Italian accent (shared by everyone working there, btw) made me want to hop the next flight to Italy in hopes that maybe 30 years from now I could sound half as dreamy as she does. But I digress. Let's talk food!

I'll admit it, there's not a whole lot for vegans at this place, and with all of the pasta being made in house (generally means there's egg in it, though admittedly, I did not ask) even that is off the list. However, the foccacia and olive oil that comes to the table (above) is safe - and divinely warm and rosemarylicious - and they have quite a few salads and veggie dishes that are inherently vegan or could easily be made so. Speaking of which, I started with the arugula and fennel salad:

I love arugula and I love fennel. Simply dressed and topped off with some orange segments and black olives, it is a beautiful - and mighty tasty - start.

For my main course, I went with the soup of the day. They always have a vegetarian soup, and I was lucky enough to arrive on a day when it was also vegan. Even luckier was that it was potato and asparagus and smooth and savory and came topped with basil and croutons and was just super yummy.

Based on the happiness of my table mates, and the looks of glee on the faces of the other diners, this restaurant knows what's up. For my money, if I'm going to go for vegan Italian and stay within walking distance of my house, I'd still head to delarosa. However, there is such a nice atmosphere at Milano. I should also mention that the power was out for the majority of our meal, so we all dined by candlelight which was very, very nice. Even without that novelty, Milano is a warm, inviting, neighborhood spot - something hard to replicate in a big city such as ours. I would definitely go back.

Moving forward, I have some good eating to look forward to over the next few weeks, including some of the best SF has to offer, as well as a trip to Austin, TX at the end of the month, so stay tuned!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Eats of the Last Few Days

I'm not sure how it happened, but life got pretty busy all of the sudden. So, please forgive me as I briefly summarize a whole weekend's worth of good food times into one post. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

On Friday, a friend had a cooking class/dinner party with the amazing Alyssa Cox. The menu was vegan Thai, and I was so psyched because of all the foods I love, Thai is the one I never attempt to make myself. Ever. Thanks to Alyssa's tutelage (and the recipe packet we all got to take home) I am now pretty comfy making my own red curry paste, and using it to make curried kabocha squash that is so damn good I can't stand it.

See? It was fragrant with deep curry flavor and just the right amount of spice to match the creamy coconut milk. Yum! We also made amazing spring rolls AND raw collard wraps which were also delicious and very doable.

For dessert, what's better than a crazy rich chocolate torte with mint coconut "cream"? That was a rhetorical question, obviously, since the answer is NOTHING. Better still - this whole dessert had like 4 ingredients, the main three being chocolate, almonds and coconut oil. But that coconut cream is my new obsession. I want to put mint extract in everything now! Alyssa is awesome, and it was a great night full of scrumptious food and fantastic friends. So fun.

On Saturday there was a beautiful moon hanging in the sky as we walked with some friends back down the familiar road to Mezes. I love it there. We've been before, and we will go again. The gigantes beans alone are worth it, but I also filled my plate with perfectly dressed salad, savory sauteed mushrooms, marinated olives, and warm pita with roasted eggplant salad:

Not pictured but certainly ingested are the world's most perfect dolmas. Yes, all this and more can be yours with one quick trip to Mezes! Yum. Plus, if you're nice....

They'll bring you complimentary dessert wine! Gotta love it.

Sunday night we dined at home which meant a big salad, some crusty bread and my favorite spread of all (above) - the Aubergine by Affi's Marin Gourmet. I've been eating a ton of this stuff lately and I can't get enough of it's smokey rich flavor. It goes especially well with some Dr. Cow cashew cheese, but it certainly does just fine on its own too. It's sold at all the Farmer's Markets, but I got this particular container at Whole Foods and you should get some too.

OK, that's it for the weekend eats. Back to work with me now, but more good eats - including Ayurvedic yoga retreat eats - are on the menu for next weekend, so stay tuned!