Posts Tagged brunch

VeganMoFo: One Feast to Rule Them All

VeganMoFo 2013 has come to an end!  I didn’t reach my goal of posting every weekday, but I did make 19 posts which is great considering how sporadic my blogging has been the past two years.

Dave and I are kind of nerds when it comes to how much we like watching movies.  We’ve been talking for a while about holding a Harry Potter marathon, where we watch all the movies in one day back to back.  This would take about twenty hours and we’d like to wait until the weather is cooler, so as a test run we decided to have a Lord of the Rings marathon with a few friends.  We originally intended to just make a bunch of easy food that we could eat all day in order to relax, but of course I had to get all intense about it and decided that we’d eat the way hobbits do, which is many, many meals a day!

“And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).”  The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue, J.R.R. Tolkien

In the movies it’s seven meals.  I thought we wouldn’t need supper and dinner after a full day of eating and lazing, so we stuck with six.  I found this post incredibly useful in planning the timing of the movies and meals, and this fan fiction post on meal etiquette helped us figure out what to actually serve for each meal.  In the interest of not being in the kitchen all day, we chose a lot of foods that could be made ahead of time and reheated or served cold.

Here’s the schedule we aimed for, although everything ended up running a little later.  We let the credits roll for bathroom and fresh air breaks, and only took real breaks for lunch and supper so that we could eat at the dining table.

8:30 – The Fellowship of the Ring
noon – The Two Towers
4:00 – The Return of the King

8:30 – Breakfast
9:45 – Second Breakfast
11:15 -Elevenses
1:00 – Lunch
3:45 – Afternoon Tea
6:00 – Supper

Our friends brought over their super awesome Salvation Army find, two authentic Lord of the Rings goblets!  The Arwen glass held my OJ, and later, beer.

Breakfast was Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal from Chocolate Covered Katie, baked in muffin cups for easy serving.  Rather than frosting, I thought Stewed Apples would be a nice, light topping to start with.  I wasn’t sure how the healthy, vegan baked oatmeal would go over, but everyone seemed to like it!

For Second Breakfast, Dave made everyone else egg and cheese casserole and sausages, so here is my version.  I made a variation of the Shiitake Dill Frittata from Vegan Brunch, swapping the shiitakes out for criminis, subbing chives, parsley and tarragon for the dill, and adding Daiya cheddar shreds.  The sausages are Vegan Dad’s Breakfast Sausages, which I like very much and now have a freezer full of.  The toast was made from a country style wheat loaf, with boysenberry jam.

You know we had to have some Lembas bread for Elevenses!  I veganized this recipe, adding some almond extract and chopped toasted almonds, since my extensive internet research suggested it was a good idea.  It turned out a little dry and plain, but good enough to eat, which was kind of exactly the point.  We also served Earl Grey tea and non-vegan chocolate biscuits.

Lunch was a picnicky affair, a build-your-own-plate type of meal.  In the Lazy Susan is heirloom tomatoes, canned beet slices, olives, marinated mushrooms, dill pickles, and two types of mustard.  Accompanied by potato salad with mustard vinaigrette, Black Forest Rye bread, and a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.  Dave and our guests also had a platter of cold cuts and cheeses.

I had open-faced sandwiches with Tofurky roast beef slices and Daiya swiss.  I really enjoyed this meal, there were lots of different flavors and the dressings on the salads were very tasty.  It was very filling while still feeling light.

Etiquette dictated that we serve something sweet after lunch but we didn’t want it to be heavy since we still had one and a half movies and two meals to get through.  These fresh strawberries were nice with cool whipped coconut cream.

Afternoon Tea was a particularly special affair with a real life fancy tea set purchased last minute from Goodwill.

Tea sandwiches and scones seemed like the only appropriate food for high tea!  Dave wasn’t sold on the tea sandwiches, but they turned out really well – cucumber and Tofutti cream cheese or radishes and Earth Balance on white bread.  They would’ve been perfect if I had sprinkled on a bit of salt while assembling.

The scones were lemon poppyseed, adapted from my scone recipe and cut into mini scones.  I added lemon zest, subbed fresh lemon juice for some of the liquid, and used baking soda in place of some of the baking powder.

None of us were hungry when it came time for dinner, but we forged ahead in the name of The King!

Dinner started with vegetable barley soup that had been simmering all day, and actually simmered a bit too long.  It tasted good but the vegetables were definitely overcooked.

The main course was chicken (Gardein for me), mushrooms slow cooked in garlic and white wine, braised cabbage and kale, roasted root vegetables, and corn on the cob.

For dessert, I made a warm Blueberry-Blackberry Tart served with vanilla ice cream.  The crust turned out a little tough, but that was probably my fault.  I’m not that great with pie crust.  The filling was really good though, and it was a nice end to our gluttonous day.

Yes, we ate all that food in one day!  We finally finished the last disc after 10PM, and everyone pretty much went straight to bed.  It was actually exhausting watching movies all day.  I have to say that watching them all in a row made me appreciate them even more, including appreciation for my crush on Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn…

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VeganMoFo: Semi-Wordless Wednesday

Polenta Rancheros from Vegan Brunch

Tamarind BBQ Tempeh & Sweet Potatoes from Appetite for Reduction

Goddess Nicoise Salad from Appetite for Reduction

Tempeh Pot au Feu from Vegan on the Cheap

Brussels Sprout-Potato Hash from Appetite for Reduction with leek & dill quinoa

potatoes with pumpkin-cheese sauce, bacon bits and green onion

Thai Roasted Root Vegetable Curry from Appetite for Reduction

Creamy Picatta Pasta, roasted vegetables & swiss chard

Kidney Bean & Sweet Potato Jamba Stew from Appetite for Reduction

Ye’abesha Gomen, Mushroom Tibs, and Ethiopian Millet from Appetite for Reduction

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Good Times in Gainesville

Back in June, I traveled to Gainesville to attend a wedding and hang with some old friends.  The groom was my old band mate, and rather than a rehearsal dinner, he wanted to get the band back together.  Between family, friends, wedding guests and old fans who were still in town, we were expecting a sold out show!  We hadn’t played together in years and needed a few practices before we were ready to play, so I arrived a few days early and ended up spending four nights in town.  I hit some of my favorite food spots, and tried some new ones too.

I got into town on Wednesday night and met a few friends at Reggae Shack Cafe.

I like a lot of their vegetarian dishes, and this time I went with the Vegan Steak – handmade seitan simmered in a sweet Carribean sauce with vegetables.  The dish came with cabbage, rice and beans, and fried plantains.  I love this sauce; it’s sweet, savory and spicy.

Festivals, which are like sweet fried hush puppies.  Not very good for you, but they’re so tasty that I order them every time.

I didn’t even know Red Stripe Light existed!

On my way to visit my parents the next morning, I stopped at my absolute favorite coffee shop in Gainesville, Coffee Culture.

Vanilla soy latte.  None of the baked goods were vegan, but the guy at the counter said that they were planning to open their own bakery soon, and would have vegan options in the future.

Needing some solid fuel, I stopped by Bagels & Noodles on University Avenue.  This place used to be called Bagels Unlimited, but it seems they’ve made the odd move of also serving noodles for lunch and dinner.  Regardless, this whole wheat bagel with hummus and lettuce was exactly what I wanted.  The bagel was toasted and chewy, the hummus was garlicky and warm, and the lettuce added the perfect crunch.

Still fairly full from the bagel, I met my parents for lunch in Ocala.  Our go-to restaurant in Ocala is Amrit Palace, but my mom had heard of another Indian restaurant getting good reviews, so we gave that a try instead.

Bay Leaf Indian Restaurant has a buffet for lunch and a full menu for dinner.  After confirming that some of the buffet items were vegan, we sat down and helped ourselves.  I got veggie pakoras, mint chutney, rice, dal, potatoes and peas and tamarind chutney.  The dishes were well spiced and slightly spicy, and very delicious.

Coming back to Gainesville, I was in a rush to grab some food before our scheduled practice, so I grabbed take out from my very favorite falafel place, Gyro Plus.

Bad lighting, delicious pita – falafel, lettuce, tomato, pickles and tahini sauce, with a big side of fries.

I knew it was going to  be a long night of practice, so I also picked up a spinach pie which I ate in the car during a break.

I needed to fuel up the next morning before heading to another practice, so I grabbed a friend and headed to 43rd Street Deli.  They used to have a location on 13th street which was great because they always had vegan items on the menu.  That location closed a few years ago, and I was hoping there would be something I could eat at the original location.

They had vegan pancakes on the menu but were sadly out of them, so I ordered the tempeh scramble with rye toast.  The scramble was more oily and salty than I would have made at home, but it was a nice, hot plate of protein and veggies, and it helped get me ready for more practice.

We practiced during the afternoon, and I don’t know if everyone knows this, but June afternoons in Central Florida are HOT.  It was possibly the hottest I’ve ever been.  I went back to my friend Janeen’s house where I was staying and was getting ready for the show that night, when Janeen came home with this:

Raspberry sorbet!  She must’ve been reading my mind, and got the sorbet for me when she stopped for frozen yogurt.  It was the perfect cold treat to keep me going.

To get a little more family time in, I met my parents, brother and sister-in-law for dinner at The Top.  I have a few favorites at The Top but selected a special that sounded really good – Tempeh Chimichurri with steamed broccoli and roasted fingerling potatoes.  The chimichurri was much more thick than those I’ve had in the past, but was herbey and citrusey and very delicious.

The show went really well, considering we hadn’t played together in years.  I was made to wear a cowboy hat because we covered a Mley Cyrus song.  Don’t ask.  Don’t ask about the other costumes either…

The next morning I met a few friends for brunch at The Jones.  I went to The Jones once or twice when I lived in Gainesville and was never that impressed, but over the past few years I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews so I figured it was worth another try.

The breakfast menu says that almost any dish can be made vegan, and I chose the Blackhawk Burrito – soy merguez, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos in a flour tortilla with organic black beans, topped with salsa fresca and avocado.  Served with homefries, organic black beans and brown rice.  This was a hugely filling and delicious breakfast.

I wasn’t sure what kind of food would be available at the wedding and was getting peckish by mid-afternoon, so I met Janeen for one last ladydate at Karma Kreme.  Karma Kreme opened soon after I moved away, which is probably a good thing.  Having freshly made vegan ice cream available that close to home could’ve been bad for my health!

An entire half of the ice cream case is dedicated to vegan ice creams, and they boast a variety of soy, rice and coconut-based ice creams.

Before I got to the sugary stuff, I needed some real food.  Not all of their sandwiches are available daily, and I felt very lucky that they had the Tofurkey Reuben that day.  Tofurkey slices on rye with sauerkraut, Russian dressing and vegan cheese, pressed and served hot.  This sandwich was gooey and fatty and wonderful.

You can’t really see how amazing this sundae is, what with the chocolate ice cream, coffee ice cream, cookie pieces, caramel and housemade coconut whipped cream.  It was so good!  If I still lived in town, I think I would be giving Karma Kreme plenty of business.

The wedding was great.  It was actually at the same venue Janeen’s wedding was at last year, and it was really interesting to see what two different couples did with the same space.  It was wonderful to see so many old friends, and the wedding was complete with 40’s brought in from Georgia and a nacho cheese fountain.  As my British friends said, “brilliant”!

Me on the right, with two very pretty lady friends.

reception aftermath

Sadly, I had to head home the next day.  I picked up another hummus bagel on the way to the airport and called it a trip.  I always said that it was very easy to be vegan in Gainesville, and it’s even more so now with restaurants like Karma Kreme and Boca Fiesta around, and mainstays like The Top, Reggae Shack, Gyro Plus and Satchel’s still in business.

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On The Road Again, Part II

For the second leg of our tour, we were away from home for four nights.  This was the part where I got to go to Portland for the first time, and I was pretty excited for that!  We got up Monday morning and headed for Eureka, CA.  Once you get past Santa Rosa there is really not very much on the way, so my lunch was what I could scrounge up at the freeway corner store.

Yum.  Actually, I had never tried the Naked gold machine before, and it was quite nice.

When we arrived in Eureka it was like a ghost town.  It was Memorial Day, and nothing seemed to be open.  We checked in at the venue, and the bartender recommended that Eureka Natural Foods might be open, mentioning that they had a deli-style area including vegan options.

I had a hard time choosing, so I got a few things.

Hugely stuffed sandwich – horseradish vegenaise, spicy mustard, carrot, cucumber, pickles, tempeh, sprouts, avocado, tomato and lettuce on sprouted wheat bread.  The sandwich guy mentioned that they marinate the tempeh in soy sauce then saute it, and he cooked it again while making the sandwich so that it was nice and crispy.

Curry tofu samosa.  This was fine, but I think it would’ve been better warm.

Corn chowder, with carrot, potato and cauliflower too.  It was rainy outside, and the soup was hot, well-seasoned and comforting.

I’m not sure I would purposefully go to Eureka again, but if I did I would make a point to stop at Eureka Natural Foods.  They had a cute little area to eat the prepared foods, and walking around I saw lots of products that I would normally buy.  They had flavors of Zevia I had never seen!

For breakfast the next morning, I tried Artisana’s Cashini Butter.  We had stayed at a Hampton Inn, so I even had the luxury of toasting my english muffin!  Cashini, which is a combo of cashew butter and tahini, is delicious!  It tastes great on its own, but would probably be even better with some jam.  I felt really healthy eating something that said “high in calcium & iron” on the package.

We stopped over for lunch in a random commercial area and settled on Pita Pit.  I lived near a Pita Pit in college and ate it a bunch (admittedly, usually the tuna, before I was vegetarian), so going there is kind of nostalgic for me.  Although they have a new spicy black bean patty which is apparently vegan, I went with the old stand-by of falafel and hummus.

We arrived in Portland and sought out a sports bar to watch the A’s game, and managed to find probably the one restaurant in the city with nothing vegan on the menu.  Even the veggie burger had egg in it.  So, plans changed and we headed down the street to La Sirenita, a taqueria with decent online reviews.

The woman at the counter helped me figure out what was vegan, and I ended up with a very tasty fajita burrito with black beans.  I know the inside of a burrito isn’t very pretty, but this one was good enough to warrant showing!

After dinner we went to the hotel, and I started narrowing down my Portland must-do short list.  We only had one day there, and you can be sure I was planning to make the most of it!

With the help of The PPK forums, I decided on Junior’s for brunch.  Junior’s is a cute little hole-in-the-wall diner in the southeast quadrant which purportedly has lines out the door on weekend mornings.  I knew the boys wouldn’t want to spend quite as long as me in the city, so I hopped on public transit and went on my own adventure.

After reading this post I had a hard time deciding on the superhero scramble or the potato plate, but I went with the scramble in the end.  I think the sausage component won me over.  This scramble had “garden sausage”, tomato and spinach, and the potatoes were well cooked and crispy.  The toast came with earth balance, and I had a happy tummy.

My next stop was walking distance from Junior’s.

The vegan mini mall!

Cute stuff from Herbivore – a tote, a t-shirt and Papa Tofu.

Haul from Food Fight – white chocolate chips, Dandies marshmallows, bulk soy curls, Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed Peace Bomb, and a Jokerz candy bar.

While I was shopping the mini mall, the boys called and said they were on their way into town, to go to Prost!, a German beer bar and restaurant.  While Prost! sounded excellent in and of itself, it also happens to be next to the food carts where Native Bowl is located, so it was a double win for me.  I picked out some goodies at Sweetpea Baking Company and hopped in the van.

On the way, I ate this amazingly delicious apricot danish from Sweetpea.  I don’t think I’d ever had a vegan danish, and this one didn’t disappoint!

The super-flaky crust was more salty than sweet, which played perfectly off the sugary jam and glaze.

I drank a delicious wheat beer and willed my stomach to have more room in it…Around 3PM, I decided I could handle lunch before the carts closed.

Because I wasn’t very hungry, I had a hard time deciding on what to choose.  The guy working the cart helped me narrow it down, and I went with the Alberta Bowl – jasmine rice, garlic tofu, Fire Breathing Dragon Sauce, housemade furikake, shredded green cabbage, carrots and scallions.

I knew the bowl was going to be good, but didn’t know it would be THIS GOOD.  The rice and tofu were cooked perfectly, the sauce was creamy and spicy, and the raw veggies gave it the perfect crunch.  I am in love with this bowl and can’t stop thinking about trying to recreate it at home.  The bowl was so good, in fact, that Dave chose to get one for himself over the other meaty food cart options.  He said his Couch Bowl was maybe a tad too spicy, but other than that he enjoyed it.

After some time driving around and checking out Powell’s (which might be the biggest bookstore ever), we decided to go back to the hotel to rest up before the show.  I had one more item on my short list of must-dos to take care of first.

Homegrown Smoker, ya’ll.  I couldn’t possibly fit anything else in my belly at that point, so we took it to go.

The entire menu looked fantastic, but their sandwich special made ordering easy.  (I did not get the fried oreos.  Even on vacation, I’m not sure I could let myself get fried oreos…)

This sandwich was seriously amazing.  The bread was really sturdy and somehow held all the fillings together.  The smoked soy curls were possibly the closest thing to meat that I’ve had since being vegetarian/vegan, texture- and taste-wise.  The mac and cheese was really good; it seemed like they sauced it once when making it, then sauced it again when plating, which made it really creamy.  I would compare the flavor to Souley Vegan’s mac.

My stomach was starting to protest at this point, but I couldn’t not eat this peanut butter brownie that I had bought at  Sweetpea earlier.  That would just be ridiculous.

After eating my way through Portland I was pretty pooped, so I got a soy latte at Stumptown Coffee Roasters before the show.  Even though it was ordered to go, the barista poured this cute little soy heart on top.

As expected, I pretty much fell in love with Portland and can’t wait to go back in August for Vida Vegan Con!

Breakfast on the way to Seattle was Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter on Good Seed bread.  Separately they are wonderful, and together it was the best breakfast ever.  I’m pretty sure you could ice a cake with the hazelnut butter, it’s so sweet and rich.  The bread is chunky with seeds and whole grains, and almost tastes buttery on its own.  I want to hire Dave to live in my house and bake bread every day.

Arriving in Seattle after a few hours, it was high time for lunch.  We drove by the venue just to check it out, and as you so often do on tour, we ate at the closest decent-looking restaurant.  This one had a big Pho sign in the window, which was enough to draw us in.

I started with fresh rolls of fried tofu, sweet potato, carrot, noodles and lettuce, with peanut sauce.

Tofu pho – I was excited to see actual vegetables in the bowl!  This was pretty good for your standard veggie pho.

A few of us had never been to Seattle, so of course we had to check out the Space Needle and Pike’s Market.  We had a very confusing bus ride back.  There was a sign over the place where you pay that said something to the effect of “pay as you get off”, but then nobody ever asked for money.  If Seattle doesn’t want my two dollars, they’re not getting it!

photo by Eric Atria

Most of the gang had pizza by the slice for dinner, and I convinced Stacie from Morningbell to take a hike with me to check out Cyber Dogs, a vegetarian internet cafe serving international gourmet hot dogs.  Intriguing, right?  I couldn’t decide between two dogs, so I just got both!

(iPhone pictures because my memory card was full)

Chicago-style dog – brat with dill pickle spear, tomato, pickled peppers, celery salt and mustard.  We realized after being served that these were not hot dogs you pick up and eat.  Stacie ordered a chili cheese dog, and couldn’t even see the dog under all the chili!  This dog was really tasty and I loved the pickle spear.  My only complaint is that there was a whooole lot of mustard, and I am generally a mustard lover.

Hungarian Goulash Dog.  I really only needed one dog for dinner, but this one was too amazingly weird not to try.  Potatoes, “beef”, celery, carrots and noodles stewed with Hungarian spices and topped with “bacon” and kraut.  There’s a hot dog and bun under all that, and there were actually lasagna-style noodles and veggie bacon lining the bun, and some sort of liquid pooling in the bottom.  Despite the wackiness, this actually tasted really good.  I couldn’t tell the potatoes from the beef from the vegetables, but I forged on and got through about half of it.  I would say it’s worth trying if you’re looking for something different.

We had a place to stay in Seattle, but decided to drive home through the night instead.  We just wanted to get back home.  The snacks I had packed came in handy, especially the ProBar.  Tour isn’t always the most convenient form of vacation, but I had a great time, saw some new places, and ate some great food!

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On The Road Again

Unless you know me in real life, you probably don’t know that I used to be in a some-what successful ska-punk band in college.  We never got signed or made a whole lot of money, but we did go on a few tours, including one to the United Kingdom, and we had a whole lot of fun.  I’m in a different band now, and I never really thought I would go on tour again because we’re “adults” with “jobs” and “responsibilities”.  A band that we are friends with from Florida, Morningbell, contacted us a while back, asking if we would be interested in going on an eight day west coast tour with them.  We would provide and haul the gear, and they would do all the hard work of booking the tour and making arrangements.  The answer was yes!  It was a different kind of tour, because we were actually at home for three days in the middle as opposed to being gone the whole time.

The thing about tour is, you’re in it together.  You obviously spend a lot of time in the van, but you also spend a surprising amount of time just waiting around, and you have to kind of go with the flow.  My goal on the trip was to eat as much delicious vegan food as possible without being a pain to anyone else.  I have a lot of pictures, so I’m gonna split this into two posts.

I prepared for tour by stocking up on some snacks and breakfast items, so that I would only really have to worry about finding lunch and dinner each day.  Apples, fruit leather, cheddar crackers, emergen-c and stevia, english muffins, split pea soup, bananas, kale chips, pumpernickel pretzels, a pro bar, bragg’s-roasted almonds, and a few kinds of nut butter.  The paper grocery bag that held my food became known as my feedbag, as in “hey guys, can you see if there’s a banana in my feedbag?”.  I also took a bunch of big bottles of water so that I wouldn’t have to buy small bottles at gas stations, and we may have stashed a few bottles of two buck chuck.

I was particularly excited about these.

And these.

I tried the “kool ranch” kale chips on the way down to LA.  They didn’t taste particularly ranchey, but did have those undertones of garlic and onion, and were very tasty.  The whole bag only had 200 calories, and I could only manage to get through half of the bag as an afternoon snack.  Filling!

I was hoping to eat at either Veggie Grill or Real Food Daily before our show in LA, as both were relatively close to the venue.  What I learned quickly is that in LA, “relatively close” means count on 45 minutes in traffic, so sadly I didn’t get to either.  We stopped at a grocery store and I got what I could.

Apparently this is the part where we all look at our hands.

Morningbell

The next morning, I grabbed a soy latte from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a chain which seemed to be all over LA.

For breakfast, I tried the maple almond butter on an english muffin.  This stuff is the business.  Seriously, if all almond butter tasted like this I would eat it constantly.  Also, I learned that english muffins are hard to fork split without a fork.

Our lunch stop that day was at a stereotypical highway-side fast food mecca, and my choices came down to Subway or Taco Bell.  The veggies at Subway sounded really good, but so did the protein of a Taco Bell bean burrito, so I did what any normal person would do and got both.  No pictures, but the sandwich was possibly the best Subway I’ve ever had, due to the addition of avocado.

Upon arrival in San Jose we had about an hour until load in, so we checked out the Vietnamese place across the street.  On tour, you often have to eat what is close and easy.

Luckily, they had a few vegetarian dishes and I chose the tofu stir fry.  It wasn’t the most amazing stir fry every, but it was a warm and welcome addition to my tummy.

The show in San Jose was actually in a record store, Streetlight Records.  This is True Mad North, some of whom are old friends of Dave’s from high school.  I <3 these guys.

The next morning was Saturday, and I had to go in to work.  Well, they didn’t make me go, but there were some things I really wanted to take care of before I was gone for a whole ‘nother week, so I went in for a few hours.  As a reward for being dutiful, I treated myself to brunch at The Donut Farm.

Tofu scramble with spinach, mushrooms, herbs and green onion, hash browns and sourdough with house-made “butter”.  Sadly, they were out of the Dave’s Killer Bread they usually have, so I had to settle for sourdough.  My quest for Dave’s Killer Bread will continue in part II.

Apple fritter and coffee with coconut creamer.  I think I like Ronald’s apple fritters a little better, but really, if we’re ranking vegan apple fritters we’re splitting hairs.

I didn’t want to buy any groceries the two days we were at home, so it was mostly burritos and Chinese, which isn’t worth reporting since I eat them all the time!

The next day, we were fortunate enough to play a show at the Russian River Brewpub in Santa Rosa.

According to Barnivore, the beers brewed at the brewpub aren’t vegan, but the beers in bottles which are brewed off-site are.  So, bottled beer it was!  This redemption blond ale was really light and tasty.

Their online menu didn’t list a vegan pizza, but the in-store menu did.  This is “Mary’s Vegan Pizza”, which had spinach, artichoke, green pepper and olives.  It was a good pizza, but it really could have used a pop of flavor, like something spicy or sun-dried tomatoes or something.  Nevertheless, I’m not complaining any time I find something labeled vegan on a menu.

That’s all for today!  I’ll be back soon with part II, in which we went north to Portland and Seattle.

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Mendocino Birthday

My birthday was this weekend, and I asked Dave to take me to Mendocino as my present.  We only went for one day and one night, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to sight see, but we had a great time and ate some excellent food.  Despite living in the bay area for over two years now, I haven’t spent much time in the north bay, which is really something I should remedy!

Mendocino is a good three and a half hour drive from home, on quite possibly the windiest road I have ever driven.  By the time we arrived, we were starving.  Thanks to a timely post on Vegansaurus, I knew just where to go.  We pulled into the tiny town of Mendocino and parked right in front of The Mendocino Cafe.

I took it as a good sign that they had my favorite flower, alstroemeria, on the table.

As suggested in the Vegansaurus post, I ordered the Thai Burrito with tofu.  I thought the whole bush of cilantro on top was an interesting touch!  This didn’t taste authentically Thai per say, but maybe “California Thai”, by which I mean the blend of flavors suggested Thai food.  The inside was stuffed with onion, zucchini, red pepper, celery, brown rice, sauteed tofu and peanut sauce, and it was served with the most delicious chili sauce.  I also had a glass of malbec, because when it’s your birthday and you’re in Mendocino, you can have wine with lunch.  This was a tasty and filling lunch, and the service was very friendly, and I would definitely return to the Mendocino Cafe.

After lunch we wandered around a bit, and came across this health food store, Corners of the Mouth, which appears to inhabit what used to be a church.  The store was small, but had a good bulk section and lots of healthy staples, including plenty of vegan stuff.

I bought both powdered and flaked dulse from Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company.  I love dulse!

We settled in to Patterson’s Pub for a while to watch the end of the A’s game.

I believe this was Dave’s favorite part of the trip…

After checking in to our room and resting for a bit, we headed for the main attraction – dinner at Raven’s Restaurant.  Raven’s was the reason I chose Mendocino; it’s a fully vegan, gourmet restaurant in the Stanford Inn, about two minutes south of Mendocino.  If we could’ve afforded it, we would’ve just stayed at the inn, but…the rooms are a little pricey.

The Stanford Inn grounds have a wonderful garden, with lots of vegetables and edible flowers and other pretty plants.

giant fennel!

giant chard!

There was also a llama and two horses, which sadly I did not get close enough to pet.  I think the llama might have spit at me, anyway.

We arrived a bit early and enjoyed a local beer by the fireplace.  The restaurant is fully vegan, and not afraid to show it!  They had a host of vegan books on sale in the lobby, including some health-related books.

local wines

The Stanford Inn is very dog-friendly.  I watched this little guy while we waited for our table.

Amuse bouche (so fancy!) –  sweet rice balls with some sort of tamari sauce.  These were delicious, and tasted of charred onion in a good way.  Dave was abhorred when I ate the leaf underneath.  I’m pretty sure it was just a shiso leaf!

The wine list tells you what is vegan!  This is a very cool feature that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I chose the Meyer Family Cellars Syrah, and liked it a lot.  I’m a sucker for a good shiraz.

Appetizer #1 – Spicy King “Crab” Roll, made of mushrooms, with spicy sauce and cucumber salad.  The bigger pieces without sauce were okay, but the pieces with spicy sauce were outstanding.  Before I went vegan, I would order veggie sushi just to have something to dip in spicy sauce, and it had been a long time since I had it!  Dave was again abhorred when I ate the little flower on the plate.  I told him they wouldn’t put anything on the plate that wasn’t edible, but I guess he’s not into the idea of eating flowers.  It tasted nice!  Tasted like you would expect a flower to taste.

Appetizer #2 – Crab(less) cake with some sort of tangy sauce, fried capers and arugula.  (The menu changes seasonally, so I don’t remember exactly what the sauce was, but it was delicious!)  There were whole oyster mushrooms in the cakes, which gave it an interesting texture.  The only small thing I would change for this dish would be to lightly dress the arugula, since it was a little dry.  Very minor complaint!

My entree – potato gratin with maple-glazed vegetables and oyster mushrooms.  Dave was flabbergasted that carrots come in a color other than orange!  Damned if I don’t know what the sauce on top of the potatoes was, but I could’ve dove into a pool of it and eaten my way out.  There was a green puree under the potatoes that you can’t really see, which was a nice counterpoint to the potatoes and sauce.

Dave’s entree – house-made ravioli with some sort of squash filling, cashew alfredo sauce, kale, leek and mushrooms.  This sauce was really amazing too!  Raven’s really knows what they’re doing with those creamy sauces.

For dessert, we chose the bananas foster, which came with house-made chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice creams.  The chocolate and strawberry ice creams were outstanding.

I would highly recommend Raven’s Restaurant.  Even Dave, who doesn’t always love vegan food, said he really enjoyed the meal, and was stuffed by the end of it.  The food was fantastic, the setting was beautiful and relaxing, and the service was impeccable.  I can only hope that some day I get to choose from the breakfast menu!  And pet the llama.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed south, stopping at The Little River Inn for brunch.

More alstroemeria!

I ordered the Vegan Rancheros, which is corn tortillas with black beans, spinach, green onion, peppers, chiles, pico de gallo and avocado.  There’s another corn tortilla under that pile of green.  This was very, very tasty, but unfortunately not as filling as I had hoped.  Regardless, I never complain about finding a vegan menu item at a non-vegan restaurant, and they had soy milk for the coffee, which is always a bonus.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the scenery.  By the way, I haven’t forgotten about my 31 by 31.  I’ll post a roundup soon, then get to working on 32 by 32!

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Saturdays = Donuts, and Other Delicious Foods

A few weeks before Christmas I found myself with a free Saturday, so I decided to head out to San Francisco and get in the holiday spirit by checking out Union Square.  I had a different destination in mind for my first stop though.

It was delightfully foggy that morning at the Ferry Building Farmers Market.  I spent a while walking around looking at all the amazing produce I couldn’t buy because I didn’t want to carry it around all day.

But I wasn’t there just to ogle the fennel.  I was there for donuts.  Pepple’s Donuts has a kiosk in the Ferry Building that I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not known it was there!

Trying the blueberry donut was a given, as it’s always been one of my faves.  I was stumped on what other flavor to try, so the girl working there suggested the candy cap flavor, which is actually made with mushrooms purchased from their Ferry Building neighbors, Far West Fungi.  I don’t know exactly how it works, but candy cap mushrooms are sweet – I would describe the flavor as something between caramel and maple syrup.

The blueberry flavor had flecks of blueberry in the donut, which was nice, but the blueberry flavor wasn’t quite as strong as I had hoped.  Regardless, it was delicious, as was the candy cap donut.  After two of these bad boys, I had a MAJOR sugar rush!  I headed out to Union Square to check out the holiday going-ons and do some window shopping.

Walking up to the giant Macy’s, I was looking forward to seeing their window displays, but I wasn’t sure what was going on in the window with a large crowd around it.

Kitties and puppies!  It turns out Macy’s teamed up with the SFSPCA to promote animal adoption, and you could go inside the store to see more available animals.

The volunteer outside said that so many people wanted these little guys that they were collecting names for a lottery-style drawing.

After walking around the square and trying very hard to hold onto my money, I headed to my dinner destination, in the Westfield Mall food court.

It was really awesome to see an all vegan restaurant in a busy food court!  They had some really nice looking hot dishes on their line, but I was in need of some serious fuel and decided on a sandwich.

This is The Queen Sandwich:  marinated soy protein with house caramelized sauce, vegan mayo, cucumber, cilantro and lettuce.  I also got some Thai Iced Tea, which I had never had before.  It kind of tasted like chocolate milk.  This was a good meal, but I think next time I’ll get an appetizer and a hot dish to see what Loving Hut is really all about.

A more recent Saturday started in Oakland.  Dave woke me, needing a ride from the repair shop, and his penance was to accompany me to Oakland to try brunch from the Donut Farm, Pepple’s storefront in North Oakland.

In addition to a multitude of donut choices, Donut Farm offers a tofu scramble with seasonal veggies and/or pancakes.  I really wanted to try some pancakes, but couldn’t justify getting both pancakes and a donut.

The scramble of the day had collards, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions and probably some other things I’m forgetting.  The hash browns were a wacky orangey color, purportedly from cooking them in palm oil.  The meal came with my choice of Dave’s Killer sourdough or wheat toast, with Donut Farm’s housemade “fake butter”.  The scramble was good, and the hash browns were good, but the real show stealer here was the toast!  This was my first time trying Dave’s Killer Bread, and it lives up to the name.  If I could get this stuff anywhere near here, I’d be buying it constantly.

Of course, I got a donut too.  (I’m feeling really spoiled all of the sudden…)  This is the salted caramel flavor, a plain cake donut with caramel frosting and big flecks of salt.  Incredible!  You can definitely taste the salt, but it blends so nicely with the sweet frosting.  The donut alone is not very sweet, so it really allows the frosting to stand out.

I was attending a birthday get together later that day, which seemed like a perfect excuse to gift a box of donuts.

Chili-mango, coffee, green tea matcha, salted caramel, coconut, and a candy cap underneath.  The guy at Donut Farm commented that I was getting all the exotic flavors…why not?

After drinking some excellent rum drinks at Smuggler’s Cove, which is like Pirates of the Caribbean for grown ups (in a good way), we were ready for some dinner.  Luckily, the birthday boy had done his homework, and new that Patxi’s was in the neighborhood.

Patxi’s (pronounced Patchy’s?) will gladly use Daiya mozzarella instead of cow’s cheese at no extra cost, and while I’m sure this cell phone picture doesn’t do it justice, please believe me when I tell you that the pizza was AWESOME.  Our toppings were spinach, artichoke and olives.  The pizza was hot, the cheese was melted but not messy, and the flavor was fantastic.  I would highly recommend giving Patxi’s a try if you ever get the chance!

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