Monday, February 28, 2011

Pizzeria Picco Prevails

A few weekends ago the husband and I did one of our favorite Bay Area things. We hiked the Dawn Falls trail and then had dinner at Pizzeria Picco. I know I've written about this before but it really is awesome to get out on that beautiful trail (especially in later winter when the falls are abundant!) and then cozy up near the wood-burning oven in Pizzeria Picco's tiny space for some amazing food. We both agreed that even though we always love dinner there, somehow this time the food was even better than it's ever been. Magic? Too much fresh air in our city-dwelling brains? Who knows, but, um, YUM.

We started with the warm olives. Lemon, rosemary, and garlic goodness right there. So tasty.

Then we both got their signature "Marinara" pizza. It is a simple tomato sauce pie that comes already cheese-less and it is just so wonderful. The dough? Perfect. The sauce? Perfect. The fact that you can top any pie at PP with a salad? Brilliant, and the "Rocket Man" which is simply arugula with olive oil, is the perfect addition the this one.

So there you have it. Another fantastic time at Pizzeria Picco. Up next, I go back to an old fave and go crazy ordering new stuff. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Dinner at Home

Dinners at nice restaurants are, as you well know, one of my most favorite things in the world. But, since nothing says love like a home-cooked meal, yesterday I donned my apron and cooked my heart out for my husband. The results? A scrumptious feast that I was pretty proud of.... and which I enjoyed devouring almost as much as I enjoyed our fancy dinner Saturday. Almost.

First up we had a simple salad of spinach and arugula topped with a homemade avocado dressing. Basically I blended up an avocado with some salt, pepper, garlic, lime juice and cilantro. Delish and super easy.

The star of the show was Chef Jesse Miner's red posole, which I wrote about HERE (includes recipe). I highly recommend using Rancho Gordo beans, hominy, and chili powder if you make this. It will make all the difference in terms of taste. This dish was seriously yummy, with just the right amount of heat. It's bound become a staple in our house. Thanks Jesse!

Because nothing goes better with a spicy stew than cornbread, and because you can't have a Valentine's Day dinner without some sort of heart reference, these are the cornbread hearts I made. Cute, right? It's amazing what a heart-shaped cookie cutter can do. :)

As for dessert - a vital part of any VDay celebration - you'll have to wait and check out Vegan Favorites tomorrow when I post what I had as my fave of the day. I hope you guys had as wonderful a Valentine's Day/Weekend as I did. Up next? A trip across the bay to revisit some of the best food our area has to offer. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Souley Vegan's Brunch

The way to my heart is most definitely through my stomach and though my husband can't cook worth a damn, the man can make reservations like nobody's business. Hence, we spent a romantic Valentine's weekend eating at some of our favorite spots. The fanciest of these was, of course, Millennium, which I wrote about over on Vegan Favorites. It was amazing, but our brunch the next day at soul food spot Souley Vegan also hit all the right notes as far as flavor (so tasty), service (with a smile), and ambiance (see Big Mama Thornton painting and disco ball, below) go.

First of all, I love that brunch at Souley Vegan is kind of like the homemade Sunday brunches of my youth in that Soul Train is on the TV but you can't hear it because the Parliament Funkadelic is turned up too loud. Yes, I know my parents are cool... but they can't cook like SV can! We ordered at the counter (which is how they do things at SV) and took a seat at a picnic table in the back, singing along with George Clinton the whole time. Before you could say "Make my funk the P. Funk" a massive plate of food had arrived:

That was the breakfast combo special from Sunday, and it included the most creamy and delicious grits you ever could imagine, a perfectly spiced tofu-scramble, savory potato hash, a refreshing corn salad, fresh orange and honeydew, and two pieces of toast for $10! I added the biscuit and gravy for $2 because I just had to try it. Boy am I glad I did. Light and fluffy and with a herbaceous and not-too-heavy gravy on top. Yum! The husband got a simple plate of tofu scramble and two pancakes and I ended up sharing much of my food with him because there was just so much.

For a place that only started serving brunch less than a month ago, Souley Vegan has already got it mastered! I will definitely be back. Let's not forget that lunch and dinner there also rule. If you live in the Bay Area, definitely check it out.

Up next: Some more Valentine's eats... 'cause I love ya!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cafe Gratitude Update

I hadn't been to Cafe Gratitude in a long long while before last night. I do love it there but lovefest-disguised-as-restaurant thing doesn't always sit well with me, and their affirmation-laden menu still doesn't have an "I am bitter and disgruntled" option. Plus it's winter and I'm not into raw food when cold all that often. That being said, I had a really good meal... and I was happy to see some changes to the menu when I went last night.

All my old favorites were still there, like "I am Fulfilled" (large salad, above), "I am Cheerful" (raw veggie burger made from pumpkin-seeds, walnuts, and spices), and "I am Abundant" (appetizer sampler plate), but there were new cooked additions too!

My cooked curried lentil soup (I forget its affirmation as it was the special soup of the day) was absolutely delicious and perfectly warming. They also added a taco plate and a tamale entree to the menu, both of which sounded reminiscent of the tastiness offered at CG's sister restaurant, Gracias Madre.

So, quirky affirmations aside, I was happy with the new (to me) menu and will happily head back again and again for more organic goodness. Update success!

Up next: Probably some Valentine love. And, as usual, don't forget to check in daily over at Vegan Favorites. Have a great weekend y'all!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kingdom Cake

I love a good deal, so when I saw a Groupon for a promising new cupcakery, I jumped on it. Well, first I made sure there were vegan options, of course. Then I jumped on it. Then for no good reason, I stalled on ordering. So I decided to wait until just before the deal's expiration and get some cupcakes for the SuperBowl. A dozen mini red velvets were ordered. Meanwhile, they offered another, even better, Groupon, which I also bought. Hooray! A dozen mini carrot cupcakes were ordered to go with the red velvet, and yesterday I went to Kingdom Cake's adorable pick-up window in North Beach with my two Groupons, and picked up two dozen of the most pretty cupcakes you ever did see. First the red velvet:

I have a confession. Until yesterday, I had never had a red velvet cupcake in my entire life. I guess I went vegan before having one and haven't come across a vegan version before? Seems impossible, but true. In any case, these were worth waiting for. My red velvet-loving friend claims they were more chocolatey than she normally likes her red velvet to be (no problem with that on my end!) but we all agreed the frosting was the bomb:

Mmmmm, frosting. Even my no-sweet-tooth-having husband loved them. But wait, it gets better!

These carrot cupcakes had me salivating as soon as I picked them up because the smell of all those warm spices was just so inviting. And when I finally got to eat one? Heaven. Perfectly gingery, cinnamony, and carroty (hehe) and topped with more of that awesome frosting, crushed walnuts, and what I'm guessing is Kingdom Cake's signature edible glitter.

I could have EASILY eaten a dozen of these little beauties all by myself. Luckily I had the help of friends at the SuperBowl, but I will definitely be back to Kingdom Cake for more. If you're a vegan in the Bay Area please please please go support them and prove that there is a demand for quality vegan baked goods in the city. I mean, just check out the delicious-sounding vegan flavors on their menu. Now go order some. The process is easy, the people are super-nice, and the product couldn't be better!

Up next, back to an old fave later this week, so stay tuned. Have a great week y'all...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

No Worries

I know I'm totally late to the Bay Area vegan game on this one, but I finally made it to the all-vegan Filipino restaurant No Worries the other night. I have good reasons for waiting though! You see, not only is it in the East Bay (sorry, but it's true) - I also wanted to take some Filipino friends along so they could explain the menu... and see if some omnivores could enjoy vegan versions of their momma's home cookin'. To that end, I let them do all the ordering, and here's (some of) what we had:

First up we had lumpia (spring rolls with soy ground beef) and fried "shrimp." The former were exactly like any other fried spring rolls I've had. The latter, on the other hand, were way better than I thought they would be. One member of our party was so enamored of them (he claimed to be "in love" with them) that he ordered another plate just to get his fill. In the end, the truth of the universe remains: Fried=tasty.

Next we enjoyed some pancit, which is rice noodles with veggies and soy chicken. This one was not a hit. Pretty bland and blah and way salty. Moving on....

This eggplant dish, talong sitaw adobo, was one of the favorites of the table. First of all, it contained no soy meat which was nice, and the sauce was super tasty, if just a tad on the salty side (again).

The sinigang is made with soy fish which I just found to be way too fish. Even in the days before I was vegan, I loathed fish, and it all came rushing back. That texture, ugh. My table mates, however, were not at all offended by the faux fish and seemed to enjoy it.

Two dishes not pictured that we really loved were the afritada, which is potatoes and "pork" in a lovely light tomato broth, and the kare-kare which is basically cabbage and other veggies cooked in a traditional peanut sauce. It doesn't look like much, but trust me, the kare-kare is bangin'!

For dessert we all got turon with ice cream and everyone loved it. I mean, what's not to love about wrapped and fried plantain with coconut milk ice cream all coated with powdered sugar. It was divine.

All in all No Worries was hit or miss (not to mention SALTY) and I won't be rushing back across the bay anytime soon just to eat there. I'm glad I tried it, but there are better places.

Up next? I have no idea.... but keep checking in over at Vegan Favorites for the fave of the day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oprah Goes Vegan Viewing Party

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining a packed house of fellow vegans at Harvey's in the Castro to watch an episode of Oprah. Yes, Oprah. I know, some of you may not be fans, but she did some really groundbreaking work on yesterday's show. She, along with almost 400 of her staff went vegan for a week... and lived to tell about it! In fact, many of them talked about how they are continuing because they feel too good to stop. Yes, there was too much of Michael Pollan making all sorts of excuses for killing animals ("But I loved it before I murdered it and ate it!") and probably even too much talk about bowel movements (us vegans are "regular" folk) but overall it painted veganism in a positive light. This was due, in large part to Kathy Freston's eloquence. Bravo, Kathy!

Around these parts, we have our own vegan guru, Colleen Patrick Goudreau (with yours truly, above) and, timely as she is, her book coming out later this year is The 30 Day Vegan Challenge. If you know anyone even considering the plunge into a cruelty-free life, I highly recommend they pre-order this book today!

I also recommend that you Bay Area people go to Harvey's and try some of the numerous vegan items which they developed with Colleen's help, like the tasty chili in the picture. Harvey's is mainly a bar so the food is geared in that direction, but c'mon, even vegans need onion rings and burgers sometimes... especially when they taste this good!

A great time was had by all, and although Oprah only vowed to remain "veganISH," I hope this program inspired people across the country to give it a try.

Up next? I finally get my booty to a restaurant that's been on my list forever, with friends who are experts in its cuisine, no less. Stay tuned!