Posts Tagged Berkeley

VeganMoFo: Chez Panisse

It’s the last day of VeganMoFo!  I had a great time participating this year, but I’m not going to lie…it was really hard to keep it up with two blogs.  I didn’t quite meet my goal of posting every weekday this month, but this is my 20th post, and that’s pretty darned close!

Dave has been wanting to go to Chez Panisse in Berkeley for quite some time, and he has also wanted to see Beethoven’s 7th performed live, and for his birthday present I set out to make them both happen in one night.  I had heard that Chez Panisse could accommodate vegan diners, but upon calling to inquire I was told that they stick to their nightly menu with no alterations.  They suggested their upstairs cafe instead, which serves the same style of food in a more accessible menu with more choices.  When I called again to make the reservation, they said that they don’t necessarily cater to vegans, but that it would probably be possible to find something to eat on the menu.  Their menu changes daily, so it was a bit of a gamble!

Luckily, my dinner was great.  I asked our waiter right away what he suggested, and he said that the soup that night was completely vegan.

(Horrible photo excuse:  The menu explicitly asked diners not to use their cell phone at the table, so I snapped these as quickly as possible to try to remain inconspicuous.)

This is beet and ginger soup with cumin, turmeric and mint.  The soup was very light in texture, and actually tasted like essence of beet; I couldn’t really taste the mentioned spices.  But, the highlight of the soup was the oil drizzle on top.  I think they cooked green coriander seed in a tiny bit of oil and added it last minute, and those little pops of coriander were delightful.

Our waiter volunteered to ask the chef if they wouldn’t mind preparing a vegan entree for me, and the chef agreed.  I love having a meal made especially for me!  If the chef hadn’t been in the mood, I could have fallen back on a salad or maybe one of the pizettas without cheese.

I was delighted to see this plate.  The base was a variety of shell beans with what I think was cavolo nero, in a delicately flavored olive oil sauce.  Next is a giant crostini with a tangy roasted red pepper spread.  The cherry on top were the eggplant slices, which had to have been slow roasted or braised.  They were incredibly tender.

This little plate was actually on the dessert menu, Medjool and Barhi dates with candied tangerine peel.  I had never had Barhi dates – they were like an amazing caramel custard in a little date package.  The candied tangerine peel was the perfect acidic nibble to cut the sweetness.

Having had such a fantastic experience, I would definitely consider going back to Chez Panisse Cafe.  The staff were very accommodating, and like I said, even if the chef hadn’t made me an entree I could have pieced together a fine meal from the appetizer section.

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Source & Gather

No, I’m not foraging for food.  Source and Gather are two restaurants I’ve had the pleasure of eating at recently.

First up, Gather in Berkeley.  My boss wanted to take my coworkers and I out for a post-admissions cycle celebration, and we settled on Gather.  My coworkers are super cool about making sure that there are vegan options whenever food is involved.  There was one dish in particular I knew I had to try.

The Vegan Charcuterie.  We ordered lots of dishes to share, most of which were vegan, so I got to try a little of everything.  Gather’s menu changes seasonally, so this dish is ever evolving.  They bring it out on a wooden board with a little card that tells you what everything is.  The waitress even told us which order to eat the dishes in!

On the right is pulled mushroom, charred peanuts, chili, cilantro, pistachio, seaweeds and olive.  I don’t really know where all those components were in the dish, but it was delicious.  On the left is mushroom, cauliflower, asparagus, potato, porcini butter and dehydrated onion.  The porcini butter (in the back, I think) was ah-may-zing, and the potato mixture in the front was like a fancied-up potato salad.

On the right is beet blood custard, cashew goat cheese and beet tops.  There was also a radish or two thrown in for good measure.  I love the idea of beet blood!  The sauce was very tasty and not too earthy.  The goat cheese was not the best I’ve ever had, but good nonetheless.  On the left is sprouted lentils, curry leaf and Vadouvan.  The lentil mixture didn’t taste sprouty or lentily at all; rather, it had an incredibly depth of curry flavor.  I’m not quite sure how they did it.

This is the Kale “Caesar” with roasted carrots, capers, breadcrumbs, almond “parmesan” and nori.  This wasn’t your typical creamy caesar, but more like a briny salad with delicious toasty bits.  The kale pieces were kind of big and unwieldy for sharing, but overall the salad was very good.  I do love a kale salad.

Next, this Spicy Tomato Pizza with olives, capers and cashew garlic puree.  The olives were chopped finely enough that I didn’t mind them, and while the cashew sauce was very runny, it was super duper tasty.  The tomato sauce was perfectly spicy, and the crust was molded into these mounds that blackened every so slightly.  I don’t normally go nuts for pizza, but this was possibly one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

This is one of two entrees we ordered.  The other was vegetarian but not vegan.  This is an oddly-angled picture of young carrots with Hen of the Woods, hay-carrot top pesto, fava beans, dehydrated kale, charred peel and espelette.  The vegetables and beans were perfectly cooked, and the orange sauce and pesto underneath were excellent as well.

I don’t have the exact description for this dessert, a carrot cake with spiced frosting, candied carrots, molasses and a caramelly, salty strip of nutty goodness.  This was a great plate of dessert, and the candied carrots were a really interesting touch.

I really enjoyed our dinner at Gather, and will definitely go back when I can.  In addition to dinner, they serve lunch on weekdays and brunch on weekends, and the always have a good number of vegan choices.  The menu isn’t cheap, but isn’t prohibitively expensive either considering the quality of ingredients.

Source is a relatively new vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco.  We pass by it on our way to band practice but we’re usually in a hurry on practice days, so one day when we had more time I made a point to call in an order and swing by.

Source’s menu offers plenty of tasty looking options, but after reading my friend Kristen’s review on The Noochy Noodle, I had no choice but to go with the Truffle Macaroni & Cheese.  It doesn’t look very pretty cause I got it to go and they dumped it in foil!  The container didn’t have a negative impact on the taste though.  Honestly, I wouldn’t call this a mac and cheese.  It was more like penne with a rich, wonderful pinkish-hued sauce.  I also noticed some bits of vegetable, perhaps cauliflower and fennel.  So, it wasn’t really cheesy, but it was delicious and excellent and filling and warm and all those other wonderful words.  And, they give you bread with your pasta for that extra carb-coma inducing effect.

I was feeling indulgent that day, so I also ordered a Brownie Bite, described as a live dessert with cacao nibs.  This was about four small bites of chocolate tastiness.  It was rich but not too sweet.  Next time, I just might go for the vegan Twinkie!

This post brought to you by all vertical photos, courtesy of my iPhone.

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Nature’s Express

In all my excitement about the 31 before 31 wrap up, I forgot to tell you about my super excellent post-hike meal.  I took a picnic and snack with me on the mountain, but quickly realized when I was driving home that I was famished, almost to the point of being sick.  I decided that a giant meal at Nature’s Express in Berkeley was exactly what I needed!  I had only been to Nature’s Express once just after they opened, so it was high time I tried it again.

Apple, kale and cucumber juice.  I was hoping for a green juice with a hint of apple, but this was quite the other way around.  Still tasty and hydrating!

I chose the Mushroom Cheese Burger with the Chik-Un patty, and air-baked sweet potato fries.  They make their own ketchup and mayo, which is pretty cool.

I know this picture isn’t very appetizing, but you can trust me that the burger was great.  Oddly, I didn’t really like the first few bites, but once I got into it I was very happy.  They grilled the chik-un patty well, so that some parts were charred and a little crispy.

I was definitely full enough that I didn’t need dessert, but…vegan soft serve!  And, the flavor of the day was vanilla-almond, which is right up my alley.  The flavor and texture of this soft serve was fantastic, and the ice cream headache was well worth it.

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Scrumptious Brunch

I mentioned in my last post that I left my camera at Raelene and Wayne’s house when I cooked for them.  We used that as an excuse to meet at Fellini for brunch; If we were going to get together, we might as well have a delicious meal!  I had been wanting to go to brunch there forever, but hadn’t yet had the chance.

Raelene chose the Tofu Mushroom Scramble.

Wayne opted for the Vegan Benedict:  scrambled tofu and veggie Canadian bacon on an open-faced English muffin, topped with vegan Hollandaise, and served with house potatoes and vegan sour cream.

I couldn’t choose between the Vegan Benedict or the Vegan Florentine, which is basically the same thing but with spinach instead of bacon…so I ordered the Florentine and a side of bacon, and made my own Vegan Benedict-Florentine.  It was scrumptious.  Their potatoes are awesome, and the Hollandaise sauce is perfectly tangy.

Now, I just need another excuse to go back to Fellini!  Their vegan options on the dinner menu are pretty darned delicious too.  We ate there for my birthday dinner back in May, and it’s the perfect place for a group of vegans and non-vegans to go, as there is something for everyone on the menu.  The price is right too; Brunch dishes are $7-9, and dinner runs about $12-17.  Their service has always been very friendly, and relatively quick.

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Trying to Eat Well

I’ve been here for a week now, and despite my eagerness to get back to clean, creative eating, there isn’t too much that’s blog-worthy.  The kitchen here is limited, as are my funds, and there is still much that draws me away – there are a taqueria and a pizza place that are both quite good, and bf’s old friends to catch up with.  For now, I do what I can.

My first full day here, I made the lunch I had been craving, a tofu salad sandwich with lots of veggies.  It wasn’t the best I’ve ever made, but for throwing it together with no recipe and a limited pantry, it was right decent.

Only bad part was that I was so used to being a piggy that this didn’t fill me up, at all.  I’m slowly coming back around.  I also had it open faced on toast with avocado.

I had been craving spaghetti, so one night we cooked it up.  Whole grain noodles, plain jane store-bought marinara jazzed up with spices, and sauteed chopped baby bella mushrooms.  One the side, zingy lemon pepper zucchini made with earth balance, red pepper flakes, black pepper and lemon juice.  This made for many leftovers.

I’ve also been munching on cherries, which I found at a good price.  They’re big and juicy, but unfortunately not too flavorful.

Yesterday bf and I jaunted off to San Francisco and the East Bay to explore a bit.  Around lunchtime we were in Berkeley and wanting Asian food, and we came across Boat Noodle House on Shattuck Ave.  All the noodles sounded good, but I went for a green curry, which was moderately spicy and very tasty, just like a green curry should be.  Plenty of fresh veggies and basil.  (Don’t know why I didn’t scoot the bowl closer to the rice for a better picture, I always feel awkward taking pictures in restaurants and try to do it as quickly as possible.)

When we came in view of a Whole Foods, I squealed and we had to stop.  I know a lot of people don’t care for Whole Foods, but my stance right now is that I think it’s amazing.  I’ve never been in a place with so many options.  Everything I would normally have to order online or go to a specialty shop for, they have.  Right there.  And premade things like bagels and salads and hot food.  Maybe once I’m used to it it’ll lose it’s charm, but for now:  I ❤ Whole Foods.

We were going to watch bf’s beloved Oakland Athletics play that night, so I bought some food to carry me through the game.  There were so many choices that I had a hard time (not to mention the prepared foods are pretty pricey), so I settled on this meatless chicken salad sandwich.

The sandwich was good, but not great.  The veggies were fresh and everything tasted nice, but I’m not sure I’d buy it again.  Unless I was going to another baseball game and needed a quick dinner.

I also got a vegan banana blueberry muffin out of the bakery case.  (The everything bagels are vegan too, I will definitely be eating my fair share of those.)  The sandwich filled me up before the game, so I brought the muffin in to eat during.  It was huge, moist, and sweet-but-not-too-sweet.  A good deal for the price, though I think I’ll go back to making my own muffins when I can.

I wasn’t planning on buying any other food at Whole Foods, but when I saw the mangoes I knew I had to have one.  They were the hugest mangoes I have ever seen, and on sale two for $3.  Here’s my mango posing with his fruit friends, to show off his size.

I’ve just seen that the kitchen has a blender, so perhaps tomorrow morning I’ll see if it’s powerful enough to make them into a smoothie.

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