Thursday, April 29, 2010


As you all know, I'm doing a little raw food cleaning of the system right now, and I'm feeling pretty good. I've mostly been eating fruit and greens, but last night I indulged myself at Alive!. Yes, the exclamation point is necessary. Not because the food at this tiny raw joint on Lombard is something to shout about (though it does have its moments) but because it's actually just part of the name. Go figure. Silly grammar aside, I really enjoyed my meal last night, starting with the raw carrot and ginger soup:

Like most raw soups, this is really just the ingredients (carrot, ginger, some spices) thrown in a blender and pureed. That being said, this is still really yummy. It's refreshing and light, which is nice because the rest of the food at Alive! is heavy on the fats. For example...

Flatbread (sprouted grains and flax I believe) topped with cashew cheese, avocado, and tomato. It was really tasty, thanks in large part to the amazing tomatoes, but all that fat from the cashew cheese and avocado is a bit much for my palate. This theme continued with my Mediterranean Salad (not pictured) which was not only avocado and nut cheese laden, but also topped with olives. Don't get me wrong, it's all very tasty, and I could see why people eating the standard diet would need that fat to get a feeling of fullness, but it was really overload. So what do I do? Order cake of course!

Okay, raw or not, and full of fat or not, the desserts at Alive! are delicious. This is the chocolate cake with coconut whipped cream. Yum. Made mostly of coconut, nuts, and raw cacao, and topped with a decadent chocolate sauce, it is raw heaven.

One thing about Alive! that blows is the slowness. If you aren't alone in the restaurant your food will take time (and lots of it) to arrive at your table. Be sure to bring someone you like talking to.

Okay, I'm still going strong with the raw, and tomorrow I actually begin the "excavation" Blueprint Cleanse, which I'm really looking forward to. I promise to blog about that this weekend. For now, I'm feeling energized and positive, so I'm just hoping that continues. Yay raw!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gussie's Chicken and Waffles

I know what you're thinking, folks. What can a vegan gal like me possibly find on the menu at a place specializing in chicken and waffles, right? Well, within this particular menu (that's it over there on the left), vegan gems are hidden - the likes of which I just had to eat to believe. Trust me, I was skeptical too, but Gussie's Chicken and Waffles is a place to truly eat well with others.

There are 3 veggie items (not including the sides) at Gussies, and I tried two of them last night. Above is the aptly named "Vegetarian Plate" and heaped upon said plate you'll find a plethora of goodies. Toward the back is what they're calling "home fries" but which I call mashed potatoes. To be fair they tasted like home fries (usually fried in a skillet with some onion and what not) - they just had a mashed consistency. Still, delicious. On the left there's red beans and rice. Eh. I could take 'em or leave 'em. You see those black-eyed peas on the right, though? Those were tangy (like pickles kind of), cooked to perfection, and extremely tasty. Sitting in their rightful place up front, we have the greens. Now if there are two things in life I love, it's greens and salt. However, these greens were super-duper salty, even for me. I'm not sure if the chefs were trying to replace the typical ham flavor with saltiness, but it was overload.

Luckily, there were these sweet bad boys to balance things out. Welcome to Gussie's vegan waffles. These huge buckwheat cakes arrived at the table pipin' hot, the aroma of warm spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) wafting in the air, and a scoop of Earth Balance melting in the middle. They were a little soft for my liking (I like a crisp waffle) but the taste was good. Not too sweet, just the right amount of spice, and great for pairing with my salty greens.

The 3rd veggie item on Gussie's menu is a veggie burger and since I wasn't into that I forgot to check if it's vegan or not. I suppose I could find out next time, though honestly, I'm not sure I'll be rushing back. The food was decent, but not mind-blowing. It is right around the corner from Yoshi's though, so I know where I'll be eating next time I have tickets to a show....

Gussie's also made for a perfect "last meal" as I'm on a raw food cleanse for a while now. I love to do this twice a year or so to just kind of clean out the cobwebs. I'm sure I'll hit some of SF's raw food havens, so stick around to read about it. Meanwhile, have a great week!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mineral: Vegetarian Paradise in the Sierras

As you know by now, I spent the past weekend in the charming town of Murphys. I wanted to go for the wine tasting, the natural beauty of the farms and mountains, but also because I'd heard wonderful things about Mineral. This vegetarian restaurant (most things can be made vegan) would seem much more at home in a big city, as it is producing some mighty high quality food, but I love that it is nestled into this little town in the mountains and thriving.When the mint-infused water (left) hits the table, you get your first glimpse of the thoughtfulness behind all you will ingest at Mineral. This is well-conceived food, every ingredient chosen carefully for the full enjoyment of your palate.

Just look at the warm olives, breads and chutney. So simply delicious because of the organic herbs used in just the right proportions. I could have been happy sitting at Mineral's bar and just eating this all night. But it just got better from there.

This asparagus with a lemon olive oil emulsion was just sublime. Cooking asparagus when it's in season and fresh must be an exercise in restraint, and the chef really let the asparagus sing in this dish. Just wonderful.

Our other starter was this fanciful pear soup. I fully expected a thick stew, like potato soup only with pears, but this was an ethereal broth infused with pear essence. The sweetness was the perfect partner for the smokey blackened tofu with which I fell in love. The smell of the fireplaces in town (the nights are chilly in the mountains!) had left me intoxicated since we arrived, and this tofu managed to taste like that smell - warm, homey, and comforting. Along with the little crunches of black sesame seeds and the lightness of the fresh herbs, the tofu and broth create the best soup I've had in a long time... if not ever. It was really that good. This bowl of yum was the highlight of the meal for me, and though I've been dreaming about it ever since, the rest of the food was fantastic as well!

For example, the Mineral Burger - yet another creation you'll be dreaming about. The patty is hearty, the bun is homemade, the veggies are crisp, and the vegan cheese is gooey, savory, and delicious. Hands down the best veggie burger I've ever had. A must-eat should you ever find your way to Mineral. Plus it comes with just-fried potato chips, and curry-pickled cauliflower for a burst of palate-awakening freshness. Stellar.

Lest you think my husband somehow convinced this veg eatery to make him some scallops, let me introduce you to Mineral's "Land Scallops". Created from tofu crusted in nutritional yeast and served with a veganaisse-based sauce, he insisted they had the same texture as scallops and were even more flavorful than the real deal. I can't vouch for the similarity between this dish its underwater doppelganger, having never eaten a scallop, but I can say that this was one tasty entree. Again, so much thought and attention to detail. The trend continues into dessert as well.

First up, empanadas! Nothing much is better than fried dough, and when it's light and sweet and served with bananas and dark caramel sauce (not pictured - the wine was getting the better of me by this point in the meal) you have the most delectable ending to a meal you could ever hope for...

... that is, unless you like chocolate. Here we have a dessert to beat all desserts - Mineral's "PB&J". On top of tiny toast crusts sit dark chocolate truffles filled to the brim with peanut butter. The plate gets a shmear of jelly and a path of peanuts to lead you to your happy place. At least that's where I went. So good.

In case you couldn't tell, Mineral is officially on my short list of happiest places on Earth. I wish so badly it was in San Francisco, but then again, I love knowing that if I decide to drive 3 hours into the Sierras, I will be greeted with a full glass of wine and an amazing meal, courtesy of the town of Murphys. I will definitely go back.

Meanwhile, it's all SF eats for a while, but I'll be hitting up some new and new-to-me places soon, so stay tuned. Enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Murphys and More

Hello there! I've been meaning to blog for a day or two now, but life has been busy. Hey, it happens. First of all, we were in Murphys all weekend. It's a fantastically cute little town in the middle of the Sierras (think old gold rush town) that's now up and coming wine country and home to a vegetarian restaurant called Mineral. More on Mineral in my next post. We ate there on Saturday, but we arrived hungry on Friday evening. One good thing about Murphys being home to a renowned veg eatery is that most of the other restaurants offer veg-centric entrees as well. Hooray choices! We strolled down Main Street reading menus and scoping vibes and ended on up at the inviting and aromatic Grounds.

First up I had this yummy salad with roasted red peppers and a walnut vinaigrette. It was perfectly dressed and had nice extra crunch from the walnuts. All in all a great start, and it whet my appetite well for my vegtastic entree.

It may be a simple dish - grilled veggies served atop roasted new potatoes (vegetarians get dairy-laden mashed potatoes) - but Ground takes it to another level by cooking their diverse veggies beautifully, seasoning them well with fresh herbs, and presenting them piled high and hot off the grill. This was not your typical bland veggie dish often served up in omnivorous kitchens. It had a depth of flavor and thoughtfulness I really appreciated. Go Grounds!

So that was our first night. Day 2 coming soon, like I said.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd tell you about the fun I had today. My friend Melisser, The Urban Housewife, has a book coming out called The Vegan Girl's Guide to Life (yay!), and today she had a bunch of us gals over for a lunch party photo shoot. The food was amazing, and I had a great time meeting a bunch of other vegan ladies, including our photographer for the day - a blogger I really admire, Nicole. Melisser also made a big announcement: She's moving to Vienna. As in Austria. Awesome for her. Not so awesome for SF, but I wish her well.... err, better than well. I wish her joy and happiness as she spreads the vegan word around the globe!

You can watch her video about it (and keep an eye out for a cameo by yours truly!) HERE.

Have a good night/day/whatever, everyone. I need to get some shut eye....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We Can't Say It's Cheese

The husband and I tried out this new cheese spread by Wayfare Foods this past weekend and are of differing regarding its goodness. Conversation went something like this:

Me: It's alright.
Husband: Oh man, this tastes just like Velveeta.
Me: Yeah, maybe that's why I don't like it. I want a 'real' cheese flavor in my fake cheeses, like Dr. Cow.
Husband (crunching 'cheese'-slathered crackers between his teeth): What? Yeah, it's really good. Are you gonna eat any more?
Me: Nah, I'm good. You enjoy your vegan Velveeta.
Husband: Mmmmmm....

So there you have it. If you like the bright yellow stuff, this cheddar-y spread is for you. I still might try it on a warm tortilla with some salsa, as I think it might lend itself nicely to such a situation. I also may have to try the hickory-smoked variety that's out there too. In any case, I suggest you try it and decide for yourself. I got mine at Rainbow. Oh, and did I mention this stuff is made out of oatmeal? Yeah, for real. You'd never know it though. Just pointing out that it's good for you soy and wheat-free folks as well.

Up next: We're taking a road trip to Murphys this weekend to try out some local wine, and some supposedly divine vegan food. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in SF and Back to Luna Park

Upon my SF homecoming, I was surprised to learn that a Groupon I had purchased a while back was nearing expiration. And so, as soon as we got hungry, we headed to Luna Park to get some bang for our buck.... and some good food to boot!

I've been to Luna Park before and so I knew what I wanted for my entree, but I found that choosing my salad was simple as well. Arugula and fennel is a combo I can not resist, and at LP it's served up with the perfect amount of salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon. (Just get it without the parmesan.) Simple ingredients making for a tasty start to the meal. But the best was yet to come...

Vegans rejoice, for Luna Park has a super-savory, uber-comforting entree that you will love: The Vegan Cassoulet. Yes, there are healthy things like kale, sunchokes and basil in there, but it's all about the gigantes beans, farro, and the plethora of fried breadcrumbs. It's warming, homey, and delicious.

We also got a side of string beans with shallots, lemon, and olive oil. I am recently a shallot convert, and I could have eaten these all night. A perfect side dish.

All in all, another great trip to Luna Park, where the vegan pickins may be slim, but what they do have is scrumptious.

Up next: I try out a new vegan cheese spread made from (drum roll please) oatmeal!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Our Last Day in Texas

It's a rainy and cold day here in San Francisco, so it's a pleasure to reminisce about my last day in warm and sunny Texas.

On our last full day we decided to take a road trip to San Antonio. We left Austin around 11am and arrived in town hungry and just in time for lunch. Luckily, we had a plan and headed straight to the vegetarian haven known as Green. We sat outside on the colorful and bright patio area (above) which was just perfect after being in the car for an hour. Even better? The food!

First there were cute little muffins served with vegan butter and a side salad with a delicious miso dressing. Seriously, very tasty.

My mom went with the "neatloaf" and, because I am lucky, she let me try some too. This hearty combo of vegetable protein, veggies, and spices had that nostalgic meatloaf taste but without all the death and carnage and stuff. Hooray! Rounded out by your choice of veggies, it's a hearty enough lunch to satisfy any palate.

For my lunch entree, I had the falafel plate. Piled high with cucumber, tomatoes, and a cucumber tzatziki sauce (made with soy yogurt, cucumbers, red onion, and delicious herbs a plenty), the plate has a spinach base and 3 large falafel patties. These are no ordinary falafel though, as they're made with chickpeas (normal) and oatmeal (totally not normal, but a superb idea in terms of taste and texture). All in all, a great lunch.

After breezing through the totally forgettable Alamo, and a nice stroll around the River Walk (above), we decided to head back to Austin for dinner at Veggie Heaven, where I happily enjoyed my first steam bun experience.

It may not look like much, but inside the light and sweet dough resides savory mushrooms, tofu, and and veggies. Dip in a little soy or sweet and sour sauce and this is a truly delectable appetizer. It may have been my first steam bun, but it will not be my last!

I also really liked my spicy yam entree. I should let it be known that I love love love sweet potatoes anyway I can get them, so I was thrilled to have them with fried tofu and sauteed veggies, and slathered in a spicy sauce. Good stuff.... but the best part of Veggie Heaven, as far as I'm concerned, is its proximity to Cornucopia.

Literally next door to VH is this heaven of all things popcorn. Not everything they make is vegan, but there are TONS of options, like the caramel corn, cinnamon toast corn, and cornfetti (think fruit loops) flavors we got. All were absolutely to die for, and made for perfect snacking on the plane home the next morning. Cornucopia makes me want to try more at-home popcorn experiments. If I do, I'll be sure to post it here.

Meanwhile, that sums up my Texas trip, so next up we're back in SF: Eating at some old haunts and trying some new products on the market. Stay tuned... and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Austin: Day Four

Day four was our final full day in Austin and we wanted to go out with a bang. The kind of meal you'd remember for quite some time. One where the wine is paired, the courses are many, and you squeal with delight at each presentation, in awe of the chef's prowess. I wasn't sure if this could be found in Austin, but I did a fair amount of research and discovered a real gem: Restaurant Jezebel.

This is not a vegan restaurant, or even vegetarian, but they specialize in tasting menus and there is always the option to have a vegetarian menu on any given night. It only took one phone call to confirm that they'd be happy to create a vegan version for us. Hooray! Still, I was assuming they'd just remove the dairy from their already set vegetarian menu... but not here! I nearly fell out of my chair when the waitress came over with her set of questions: What do you like to eat? What do you really NOT want to see on your plate this evening? Are there cuisines you love? Preparations of food you just don't like? It was fantastic knowing that this meal was being created especially for us and that the chef would be putting his heart into food designed with us in mind. With that in mind, we begin.

We both love olives. These warm little bites came to the table right away and were coated in herbs and a rich balsamic reduction. Heavenly.

When asked, I told the waitress, half jokingly, that I like chocolate and the clever chef managed to incorporate cacao nibs into the appetizer course! This bruschetta with wilted greens (another ingredient I requested), roasted tomatoes, mango coulis, and cacao nibs was out of this world. I would never have thought to put all that together but it worked beautifully.
And, the creativity just went up from there.

The very hearty second course consisted of a poblano stuffed with hearts of palm then topped with fried carrots and cilantro and paired with a berry medley. The heat of the pepper and the sweetness of the berries was sublime, and the crispy fried carrots added the perfect bit of crunch. I adore this dish.

Our last savory course consisted of pasta with lentils and a sundried tomato presto served atop beet medallions. Again, why this all works together is beyond me, but it really REALLY does. I savored every bite.

By now, the light was fading, the wine was coursing through our veins, and we were presented with a dessert so decadent, so sinful, and yet so not-really-that-bad-for-you that I wanted to find the chef and crawl up inside his brain and live there for a while. What you are looking at is half an avocado that's been topped with a generous amount of chocolate sauce and mango reduction, and sprinkled with pistachios. So simple yet SO good. Groans and moans aplenty for this one, guys. Just brilliant.

And it wasn't over. Along with our bill came some homemade truffles of a dark chocolate so rich and smooth I could hardly stand it.

I feel honored to have eaten this meal and am happy to say that the chef made his way to our table to introduce himself and make sure we were enjoying ourselves. (We assured him that "enjoying" was an understatement.) He seemed genuinely happy to be able to take a break from his normal culinary proceedings and take us on a little adventure of the palate, and we couldn't thank him enough.

Seriously, if you find yourself in Austin, call up Restaurant Jezebel and have them go vegan for you. It will be one of the most unique and tasty meals of your life. It certainly was of mine.

Next up: Our day trip to San Antonio!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Austin: Day Three

Our 3rd day in Austin was all about the classics: Burgers and Pizza.

The 'bueno burger', above, came from Mother's Cafe and Garden. The patty is made from seeds, grains, veggies, and tofu and comes on a whole wheat bun with all the fixin's. I got mine with guacamole so I didn't even use the ketchup, mustard, or vegan mayo. This was definitely one of the best veggie burgers I've ever had. Savory and spot-hitting, it had a great texture and wasn't greasy at all. As for Mother's itself, what a great place. It's open, airy, and inviting, and definitely worth the drive from our downtown hotel to check it out. Yum.

Dinner was at Hoboken Pie. It's pretty bold to claim to have NJ-style pizzas outside of NJ and, being natives ourselves, my mom and I were determined to put this place to the authenticity test. To do this we needed to order two vegan pizzas:

The verdict? They pass with flying colors. Hoboken Pie uses Teese cheese on their vegan pies and I really felt like I had died and gone to heaven... or at least to a vegan version of my NJ youth. These pies have a thin crust, a slightly sweet tomato sauce, fresh veggies, and of course that melty 'cheese'. So good. Needless to say we did not finish our pizzas, but the homeless guys who received our leftovers gave them the thumbs up as well!

Up next? More from Austin, San Antonio, and even San Francicso (lest you think I stopped eating when I got home!) so stay tuned...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Austin: Day Two

Po'Boys and ice cream on day one meant we weren't really hungry for breakfast, so we just had a piece of fruit in the room and didn't hit a restaurant until lunch. When the time came, we found a great salad bar joint, Leaf. They have 12 salads that they make by name, but none are inherently vegan, so we chose the make your own option in which you pick your base greens and 6 toppings for $7.79. A great deal, especially considering all the veggies were super fresh and tasty. I splurged and got some grilled tofu on top for $2.75 but by the time I took this photo I had mixed it all up and the tofu was on the bottom.

Tofu's in there - promise. Leaf was a great lunch spot and, by the way it was packed with folks, others seems to think so too.

After an afternoon spent lying by the hotel pool (ahhh.....) we headed out across the Congress Street bridge to a place called Snack Bar. It is a mostly small plates restaurant with tons of vegan options and a decent wine and beer selection. Better yet they have a great patio area outside perfect for having a drink and some nibbles while people watching.

To start things off right, we got this amazing bruschetta with a red pepper spread, grilled summer squash, and mushrooms. It was just lovely. A little sweet, a little smokey, and a lot delicious.

We also tried this super couscous salad. I loved it. The big Israeli couscous paired perfectly with the crunchy spinach and veggies and the creamy (tofu? cashew?) dressing was divine. I could have eaten a lot more of this dish.

The seitan sliders we ordered were banging too. Pickles and onions add a nice bite to the bbq'd seitan and savory special sauce. These bad boys went down easy.

We also had some scrumptious olives and pickles, dilled brussel sprouts, and roasted beets to round out the meal. Honestly, eating at Snack Bar was just a joy. On a nice day, you'd be hard pressed to find a better outdoor dining experience. Check it out should you find yourself in Austin!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sprig & Vine (Guest Blog Extraordinaire!)

When I heard that an upscale vegan restaurant was moving into one of my favorite old haunts I was at once ecstatic (I can't wait to go there next time I visit!) and downhearted (I'm not going back until July!). My jealousy was almost bubbling over when I heard that my aunt and uncle would be dining there this past Friday, but I composed myself and asked if they would like to write a guest blog about their experience. I figured that since I couldn't eat there myself, the next best thing would be drooling over my photographer uncle's shots of their dishes, right? Right. What follows is their account of what seems like a fantastic meal at brand new Sprig & Vine in the charming little town of New Hope, PA. Thanks, guys!

Finally! A vegan restaurant in the New Hope, PA, area that respects food and has such exquisite preparation and presentation that even an omnivore would be satisfied. Sprig and Vine calls itself vegetarian, but a note informs that the menu is 100% vegan. Our group sampled almost the entire menu and loved every bite. I don’t like to neglect items but the outstanding plates are the edamame falafel ($7), the smoked spinach salad ($9), the Moroccan grilled tofu entree ($18), and the olive oil cake dessert ($6).

The falafel with black sesame tahini and pickled radish were airy light and enhanced by the sauce as they were set off by the tang of pickled radish.

Spinach has never tasted so good as it does smoked and dressed with horseradish dressing. The accompanying shaved pumpernickel delighted everyone and became a conversation piece.

Grilled Moroccan tofu had the eye appeal of smoked salmon with impeccably layered flavors in a chickpea cake, shaved artichoke salad, braised greens surrounded by carrot-top pesto.

Bettering a traditional Italian olive oil cake, the dessert is perfectly complemented with blood orange blossom ice cream and a delicate biscuit.

Eat at Sprig and Vine often to be healthy and satisfied.

I know if I lived closer I'd be eating there often indeed! They may have picked their absolute favorites to write about but the word is that everything was delicious, from the castelvetrano olives at left to the slow roasted root vegetables and cauliflower three ways below.

In the end, this guest blog may have ended up making me more jealous of all those close to New Hope, but I'm very happy that more vegan restaurants are opening up all the time, and of course I'll be looking forward to my meal there in July!

Up next, more Austin eats...