Posts Tagged San Francisco

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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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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Vegan Fire & Spice


Yes, yes I am.  The world vegan bake sale is just that, vegan bakesales taking place all over the world during the same week, raising funds, having fun and spreading the joy of tasty vegan baked goods.  The concept was brought to us by Compassion Over Killing, who do great work in animal advocacy.

Our San Francisco vegan bake sales are organized by Melisser the Urban Housewife, Vegansaurus, and the people of The PPK.  We’re holding them next Saturday, June 27th and Sunday, June 28th.

Details (both days in San Francisco):

Saturday, June 27th, 11AM – 4PM
3506 16th Street at Sanchez, in front of Ike’s Place

Sunday, June 28th, 11AM – 4PM
800 block of Capp Street, near 24th St (about 1/2 mile from 24th Street Bart)

Proceeds go to Animal Place and East Bay Animal Advocates.  I will only be there with goodies on Saturday (we have baseball tickets preventing me from going Sunday), but there will be amazing stuff both days.  So if you’re in the area go to the website then come by the bake sales!

On to the food.

When I came back from my trip to Texas there was nary a lick of fresh food in the kitchen, nor any cooking inspiration on my part.  So I decided to open up a cookbook and just pick some recipes to make.  My mom got me Vegan Fire & Spice for Christmas last year and while I had read through it a few times, I had yet to make any recipes.  So I got down to business and picked out some meals.

Paella!  Despite the picture trying to burn red holes through your retinas, please take my word that this was good good good.  I think I ate it for five days straight and could’ve eaten more.  I was in major need of protein after eating whatever was available for five days, and this packs a triple protein threat.  And just enough veggies to make it a well rounded one pot meal.  My singular complaint would be that I didn’t like the tempeh in it.  I am a fan of tempeh, but this tasted like big chunks of plain tempeh that didn’t really jibe with the rest of the dish.  I think either cutting the tempeh smaller or putting it in the cooking liquid sooner, or both, would make it better.  Next time I’ll just do chicken-style seitan, seitan sausages and red beans and it’ll be perfect.

This isn’t from VF&S, but I had CSA rhubarb withering away, so I stewed it for dessert.

Cooked down with water, sugar and lemon juice and served over vanilla soy yogurt, this was a tasty and relatively healthy dessert.  I’m still not a huge fan of rhubarb so I don’t want to eat it all the time, but this is a nice way to do it.

Next I decided to try the Texas BBQ Sauce baked on some tofu.

This sauce was quite tasty.  I like that it started with a whole onion and green pepper, and the ingredient list was pretty short and pantry-friendly.  The only problem was that I don’t currently have a working blender and use my food processor for everything, and the sauce started splashing out the top so I had to stop blending too soon, leaving the sauce chunky.  It didn’t coat the tofu like I had hoped but still tasted great.

For my third VF&S meal I went to the Caribbean.

First the Island Rice Salad.  This salad was nice, but not anything I’d go crazy for.  The majority of the dressing was storebought mango chutney.  A container of locally-made chutney ran me $4 at Whole Foods, and I think the flavor of the salad would really differ depending on what kind of chutney you were able to buy or make.  The sweetness of the mango chunks and the crunch of the bell pepper offered a nice contrast.  I think something chewy and smoky would fit in nicely and round it out, perhaps small pieces of baked tofu.

To go with the salad, I made the Jamaican Baked Vegetables.  While the dish was fine, I wasn’t a huge fan.  It baked for a loooong time and rendered all the veggies kind of mushy, and I had a hard tine getting through all the leftovers.  The flavors were nice though, very citrusy and plenty spicy since I used a whole serrano, seeds included.

All in all I was pleased with the dishes I made and I will definitely go back to try more from Vegan Fire & Spice.  I think I’ll also try to do another cookbook-themed post here and there, it’s fun to force myself to go through and pick out multiple recipes.

Randoms:  I made my creamy corn casserole a third time, got it as close to perfect as I think it’ll get, and submitted it to the Vegetarian Times Reader Recipe Contest.

I got a CSA delivery, and can’t really remember what I did with most of it now.

lettuce, parsley, carrots, gypsy peppers

tomatoes, blueberries, canteloupe, peaches

And here’s a very random dinner I made one night when I was in a big hurry without much food on hand.

Whole wheat tortilla with TJ’s soy nugget pieces, diced soy cheese, and a mixture of finely diced broccoli stem, shredded carrot and vegenaise/apple cider vinegar dressing.  Odd perhaps, but good and quick.

Lastly, the blackberry vines in our backyard are bursting with berries!  I have done nothing more than trim back the dead growth on last year’s vines, and I have managed not to kill or harm the plant.  Here are the first few berries I picked when they were just starting to ripen.

The blackberry vines are actually kind of insane.  They’ve grown so thick that I can’t even reach most of the berries, which is sad, but I think I’ll still get plenty off the vines.  Also, blackberry vines are absolutely covered in thorns, which makes it quite painful to harvest.  It’s almost like they don’t want me to have their berries!

The majority of the vines are behind the high fence on the right, all clumped up in a bunch that I can’t get to.

I took these pictures about two weeks ago, and there are way more ripe berries now.  Here are all the very ripe berries I picked just last weekend.

I’ve also been eating the first cherries, apricots and peaches of the season.  Summer fruit is the best!

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Millennium & Greens Two Ways

When my parents were planning their visit to San Francisco, my mom asked me if there were any restaurants I’d like to go to.  I immediately thought of Millennium.  I’ve wanted to eat a meal there ever since I first heard about the restaurant, and our visit confirmed everything great that I’ve heard.

I was shy about taking pictures of our meal and didn’t use flash, so the pictures are almost unidentifiable.  My mom had the excellent idea of asking for a menu though, so I know exactly what was in each dish.

For appetizers we shared the Black Eyed Pea Fritters and the Sesame Crusted Oyster Mushrooms.

The fritters came with aji chile coconut cream and jicama-apple-pomegranate salsa, and I thought they were kind of like a take on falafel and tahini sauce.  The cold, crunchy salsa was great with the soft, hot inside of the fritters.  Our waitress described the mushrooms, which came with lemongrass-grapefruit-chile sambal and watermelon radish relish, as vegan calamari, and I have to say it was an accurate description.  We debated which appetizer each of us liked best, and I think the table was split in half.

I knew which entree I wanted almost right away, the one that seemed the most original:  Seared Nettle Polenta Cake.

I’d heard of nettle tea, but didn’t know for sure that nettles were edible.  Edible they were!  The polenta cake came with sage & Meyer lemon tofu “cheese”, seared rapini, chanternay carrots & artichokes, mushroom & fennel sugo, fried capers and pine nut bread crumbs.  To be perfectly honest, not all of these components were easily identifiable to me, but they came together perfectly.  The tofu “cheese” gave a distinct tang to what was otherwise an earthy dish, and the fried capers and pine nut bread crumbs provided good crunch.

Ah, that’s a better picture.  Mom got the Chimichurri Grilled Portobello Mushroom, which came with sunchoke & root vegetable hash, saffron scented IPA & French lentil brodo, escarole with caramelized onion & roasted apples and smoky orange-almond romesco sauce.  She said she was sold at “portobello”.

Dad ordered the Winter Tamale – a roasted pumpkin, pinto bean & caramelized onion filling, chocolate-almond mole, sauteed winter greens, cabbage & avocado salad and carrot-habanero sauce.

BF got the Black Chanterelle Mushrooms En Papillote, which may not have been a great choice for him since he doesn’t like to touch his food.  As our waitress explained, En Papillote means “in paper”.  Don’t worry, he successfully opened the package with a knife and fork.  This dish included borlotti bean & leek confit with exotic mushrooms, barley risotto, creamy sherried root vegetable ragu and seared winter chicories.  He chose this for the mushrooms and barley, and I think he got more beans than he bargained for.

The picture of dessert is the worst of them all, and I don’t have the exact description, but I can tell you that it was a spiced ginger baby bundt cake that came with ice cream, the flavor of which I don’t recall.  I do recall that it was very, very tasty.

Summary:  Go to Millennium if you get the chance.  It’s just as good as you expect.  I will definitely be going back as often as possible.

Oh, and since mom likes taking pictures of me, here I am at the Saturday morning Ferry Building Farmers’ Market holding a daikon radish sample for mom, since she had never seen them before.

My CSA has not been stingy with the greens lately, so I’ve been trying to find different ways to prepare them.  Here’s the CSA delivery:

leeks, fennel, bok choy, chard, kale & collards

carrots, red onions, navel oranges and two kinds of pear

The CSA newsletter came with a recipe for Creamed Greens that looked really good, and so I tried veganizing it with the chard.  It didn’t turn out exactly as “creamed” as I expected, but it did taste really, really good, so I’m renaming it.

This is even better than it looks, I promise.

Creamy Greens

2 Tbs Earth Balance
1 large onion, diced
1 large bunch chard or kale, washed and cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons, stems chopped
1/2 cup non-dairy creamer or milk
1/2 cup vegan parmesan (I used the sesame parmesan from Uncheese Cookbook)
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and chopped stems, and saute on medium heat until translucent. Add greens to skillet and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until greens are wilted. Turn heat to lowest setting and add creamer or milk. Stir for two to three minutes, the sauce will thickenn slightly. Add vegan parmesan, and continue to cook until sauce is thickened to your liking. Add salt & pepper to taste, and serve.

Serves 4.

In addition to cooking greens, I’ve been learning to enjoy them raw.  I knew I liked raw kale salad, but had my doubts about the heartier collard green.  I wilted the greens using the same method as kale and dressed ’em as simply as possible, and this was very tasty.  I wouldn’t want to eat raw collards every day or anything, but when you’ve got greens coming out of your ears this is a nice alternative.

Also pictured is a roasted veggie tofu quiche that tasted amazing but didn’t hold together exactly well, so I’ll be making it again soon then posting the recipe.

Raw Collard & Carrot Ribbons

1 bunch collards, washed and cut across into thin strips
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp agave nectar

In a large bowl, combine collard, olive oil and salt. Massage with your hands until the collard turn a bright green and seem a bit wilted. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.

Serves 4.

Random baking:  I had a large portion of butternut squash just sitting on the counter, so I cooked it, pureed it, and subbed it for pumpkin in the Pumpkin & Carob Chip Muffins from Vegan Lunchbox.

There must’ve been something off about my batter, because the tops puffed up kind of funny.  They got crispy though, which is nice, and the muffins tasted great.

At one point I had large amounts of leeks piling up in the fridge, so I finally made the White Bean & Leek Cassoulet from Veganomicon.  I’ve been wanting to try this recipe ever since I got the book over a year ago.

I was expecting this to be really amazing based on other internet reviews, and while it was quite comforting and tasty, it left a little to be desired.  Maybe my hopes were too high.  I think maybe I used too many potatoes or cut them too large, because I felt like the starch of the potatoes overshadowed the biscuits.  Also, I didn’t put enough salt in the gravy, and I don’t think the biscuit recipe called for enough salt either.  The gravy was nice, but the overall flavor of the dish was a little “flat”, if that makes sense, so I think when I make it again (and I will), I’ll add some mustard or lemon juice, or something else that will give it some zing.

Next up:  My first experiences with fennel, including the quiche pictured above.

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Laptop Lunches

I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d like to, so I figured I’d catch up with some laptop lunches.

1-6 fried quinoa & veggies, grilled bok choy, avocado
(that I didn’t eat because it was gross), truffles

1-9 pizza, salad with carrots & sesame shiitake dressing

1-12 penne with butternut squash & radicchio, raw kale salad
with oranges & pecans, cherries, piece of dark chocolate

1-13 leek & potato soup, smokey broiled tempeh,
steamed brussels, pretzels, cherries

1-14 TJ’s soy nuggets with ketchup (I really like these!  Glad I finally
got to try them.), carrot & celery sticks, pretzels, cherries

1-15 black bean & tofu enchilada, carrot & celery sticks,
sample jar of amazing cashew butter, cherries

The enchilada was from a frozen meal, O Organics brand at Safeway.  I picked it up totally on a whim – I wouldn’t expect a product like this from a major chain to be vegan, but it was!  Marked as such right on the box.  And they were downright decent enchiladas.

I’ve had visitors this month that have kept me out of the kitchen.  My friend Jackie was here for six days, and my parents were here for four.  This was not a bad thing, cause I got to eat out at all sorts of new places!  I didn’t take pictures most of the time, but I figured I’d list the good stuff in case anyone is in these areas, googling for food options.

San Leandro
La Bella Italia on 150th @ E 14th.  Jackie and I went there on a whim one night, starving after coming back from SF.  According to the waiter, their pasta does not have eggs, and while they don’t have any vegan dishes on the menu, they are happy to change their dishes to suit nutritional needs.  I had a garden salad with balsamic and pasta primavera, and it was quite tasty and filling.  They are not afraid to use black pepper, and this is a good thing in my book.

Jackie wanted to go to the aquarium even though I’m terrified of sharks and water creatures in general, and I’m glad we went.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium is amazing.  And they have a nice little cafeteria.  It looked like there might have been a few veggie options, but I went for a burrito after the burrito guy confirmed the beans and rice were vegetarian.  It was far from the best burrito I’ve ever had, but it was a good lunch, and it was really nice to have some hot protein on a cold, rainy day.

Santa Cruz
On the way back from Monterey we stopped in Santa Cruz.  We went to the Boardwalk, which is very cool even in the winter when nobody is there, and we ate at Saturn Cafe, a vegetarian diner that Jackie found online.  They didn’t have quite as many vegan options as I would’ve hoped for, but there were a few good choices for sure.  I went for a veggie burger with mushrooms and avocado, and fries.  My meal was fine, but what was really super good was my dessert – a chocolate pb milkshake.  Holy cow, I’ve wanted that milkshake again almost every day since then.

San Francisco
My mom is an excellent vacation planner, so before coming out she did a lot of research on what to do and where to eat.  Since they were staying right next to Chinatown she suggested Lucky Creation, a vegan Chinese restaurant.  I was hesitant, because I had gone once before and wouldn’t have suggested it.  My meal was okay, but I didn’t think it was omni friendly.  I ordered a bunch of meat substitutes though, so when mom suggested it again I was willing to give it a second try.  Boy am I glad I did!  The food was fantastic.  Dad got chow mein, mom got fried rice, and I got tofu & veggies in a clay pot.  And we ate off each other’s plates.  So I was wrong, Lucky Creation is good (and quick and cheap), just don’t order mock meats unless you really want ’em.

Saturday morning we went to the Ferry Building Farmers Market, which is a great, great market.  After wandering around we were hungry for lunch.  Mom and dad ate at the Mexican place in the back of the building, and I went back to the Alive! table.  Alive! does raw food, and I’ve wanted to give them a try for a while now.  Their food isn’t cheap by any means, but I got a hummus wrap (in a collard) and a big side of celery root salad for $12.  Everything was great, and I especially liked the salad.  It was kind of like raw cole slaw.  Recommended!

After trapsing around Alcatraz for hours (also recommended), we were ready for dinner.  I had heard good things about Ike’s Place (possibly from bf’s brother who works there).  Ike’s is a sandwich joint in the Castro, and I had heard they make the best sandwiches, so we had to check it out.  We were a little surprised when we got there.  It’s pretty much a hole in the wall with four tables out on the sidewalk.  Not exactly the type of place you take your parents!  But we were there, so with the help of the girl at the counter who was very eager to give suggestions, we placed our order.  A short while later, Ike himself delivered our sandwiches to the table.  And they were good.  Really good.  My sandwich was called the Vegan Shanghai something-or-other, and it had a ginger sauce and Chinese noodles.  And tofurkey, teese, and vegennaise, I think.  An odd combination maybe, but it was super tasty.  Whoever had the idea to put Chinese noodles on a sandwich is a genius.  Warning:  There is honey in the wheat bread.  The super-friendly employees should be able to help you avoid non-vegan things.  Call your order in for pickup if it’s during peak eating hours, I’ve heard the wait can be really long.  Did I mention each sandwich comes with a blowpop?

We also went to Millenium, but I actually took (dark, blurry) pictures, so that’ll be another post.  Until then…

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