Back from La-La Land

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Coming back to real life after a vacation always feels surreal and a little bit painful painful. This was an especially great and escapist break as it involved the wedding of a good friend from high school, the wedding of my brother-in-law (and now sister-in-law), my own anniversary, house guests, several flights, a couple of road trips, tons of new restaurants, and a whole lot of open bars.

I'll be posting lots of photos soon to the Los Angeles and San Diego pages on Veg Table, but here are some overall impressions.

We ate at a restaurant in SD called Spread that was one of my favorite dining experiences ever. It's mostly vegan and the menu changes daily, and with each bite you can tell that they're using the absolute best ingredients possible. Super friendly staff, fun decor, and the food is all really pretty:

On the recommendation of a friend, we ate at a very veg-friendly Mexican restaurant called Pokez instead of a vegan deli we'd originally slated in. I think it was a good call. Potato flautas are awesome and the grungy vibe felt like the Mission, minus any actual Mexicans though.

LA has a huge array of restaurants to choose from and we didn't get to hit nearly all the ones we'd wanted. The people at XIV had to cancel our reservation for our Anniversary. I was really mad, but we decided to go to Akasha instead and had great cocktails, a great meal, one of the best desserts I've ever had, and a chat with the owner, Akasha herself.

I also enjoyed Cafe Flourish, had a "Faux-stess" cupcake at Real Food Daily, and loved Pure Luck, where I got to try a "pulled-pork" sandwich made from jack fruit. Can I get Bender's to start making this please?

The family wedding this weekend was in Santa Rosa, and I had the chance to try a new Marin County restaurant, which I rarely do. It was called East West Cafe and Restaurant. The food didn't blow me away (everything was a little Tahini-heavy) but there were a lot of vegan choices, all clearly marked which is always appreciated.

Now that the dust is starting to settle, be sure to look out for lots of Veg Table updates over the next few weeks!

Soupy Tuesday

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recently I was trying to decide what my "signature dish" should be. Very important work, I know. Though I've become somewhat known for my baking, I actually don't love doing it. It's too much of an exact science, having to measure out ingredients exactly. I tend to prefer just throwing things into a pot and seeing what comes out.

So I suppose it's fitting that I decided my signature dish is soup. I love it in all forms - creamy, tomatoey, full of veggies and beans. At a previous job I used to cook up big pots of soup on Sunday nights and bring them in for lunch for my co-workers on Mondays.  And it's perfect for using up leftovers, which is why yesterday I found myself cooking up a big pot of what I'll call "Mixed Greens and Noodle Soup."

It was so good so I figured I'd post what I did. Sort of a recipe... more like suggestions. 

I started with 3 Yukon Gold potatoes which I partially skinned, chopped up and boiled until they were soft.

While they boiled I heated 2 tbps of olive oil in my pot and added two cloves of chopped garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, tarragon, and onion powder. When it got hot, I added some sherry to deglaze the pot. Then I lowered the heat and added a quart (32 oz.) of vegetable broth and 1/3 cup of white miso and stirred.

Next I chopped up about half a bunch of kale, maybe two or 3 cups of spinach, one stalk of broccoli, and one carrot and added those to the mix. I added two cups of water.

When the potatoes are cooked, pull them off the stove and pour out most of the water. I left a bit of water in the pot, added to it one cup of non-dairy milk, mashed it all together until it was nice and creamy, and then added it to my soup. 

I stirred everything well and let it simmer, covered for about 15 minutes. Then I added a handful of soba noodles and let cook for another 10. Voila!

Super easy and you could probably added any greens, cauliflower, celery, onion. Good stuff.

This Guy Knows What I'm Talking About

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Woo, got my first anti-vegan rant comment today. It's like a rite of passage for blogs, no? I should throw it a quinceanera or something.

Anyway it was in reference to my post about how veganism expanded my culinary horizons. I was wondering if others had that experience too, and then I read a quote from Mark Bittman,

"I wasn’t a vegetarian when I started writing [How to Cook Everything Vegetarian], and I’m not one now. But I have a far greater appreciation for the non-carnivorous world, an appreciation that doesn't feel like a compromise but rather as if I've expanded my culinary universe. In the world of cooking, the available plants are more numerous and arguably more interesting than the available animals, and they're produced and consumed at far less cost to personal health, the environment, and the economy."

Sounds a little familiar to something I recently wrote.

This confirms my theory that Mark Bittman is far more awesome than Michael Pollan. My husband and I were recently lamenting the Pollanites who interpret his message "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." as "Eat a salad alongside your grass-fed beef." 

Because Pollan approaches food more in theory and principle, but doesn't get as much into practical application, it's easy to loosely interpret his ideas for your own convenience. But Bittman explicitly encourages far more meat-free meals, having written a vegetarian cook book, and himself following a "vegan before 6:00" diet.

Obviously I think vegan all day long is the way to go, but the fact that he even invokes the word "vegan" makes a big statement. And you don't have to take my word for it. Vegansaurus loves this guy too.

SoCal Vegans, Help Me Out!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My next wedding adventure takes me to Southern California. Having been a resident of this state for 4+ years, it's a little tragic that I've never ventured further south than Santa Barbara. But starting Friday, my husband and I will be in San Diego for two nights and Los Angeles for three (one of which is our own 2 year anniversary).

Naturally, I'm trying to plan this trip a bit around where we want to eat just as much as the places we want to see. Here's what I've got planned so far, but knowing little about these restaurants, I welcome suggestions for better places to go...

Aug. 7 - We fly into San Diego mid-afternoon and will probably just explore Balboa Park. Dinner at Spread.
Aug. 8 - Spending the morning/afternoon at Mission Beach. Lunch at Vegan Zone. That night: Ali and Quinn's wedding! Yay!
Aug. 9 - Lunch at Rancho's Vegan Deli. I think we may go to the Zoo* that afternoon before driving to Los Angeles. Dinner in LA at Real Food Daily in West Hollywood.
Aug. 10 - Tourist day! Hollywood Walk of Fame, etc. Lunch at one of these somewhat-generic vegan restaurants. Dinner at Pure Luck and then maybe check out Silver Lake. Is there good nightlife there?
Aug. 11 - Our Anniversary! Santa Monica for the day, lunch at Euphoria Loves RAWvolution. (Their website is ludicrous.) Dinner at Michael Minna's XIV, which apparently has a semi-secret vegan tasting menu.
Aug. 12 - Lunch at Cafe Flourish and if we have time, the La Brea tar pits. Then we head back to San Francisco that evening.

So, my SoCal readers, are there any glaring omissions in our restaurant choices? I'm a little disappointed we can't go to Fatty's in Eagle Rock, but they're closed Monday and Tuesday and a bit far to drive on Sunday. I guess there's always next time. Are any of our other restaurant choices bad ideas?

Also, is the tourist stuff we've chosen totally lame? I mean I'm sure city residents always hate their touristy areas. (God knows I avoid Fisherman's Wharf if I can.) But there is something to be said about cultural landmarks. (I still marvel everytime I drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.)

What about night life? Havng to drive every where will put a little bit of a damper on how much we can drink, but where are some good neighborhoods to hang out? (Maybe reminiscent of SF's Mission District?)

Much obliged for any help. Looking forward to some much needed sunshine!

*I know, it's questionable when it comes to animal rights. Feel free to try persuade me otherwise (seriously I may change my mind). But I love animals! I'd hang out with monkeys and penguins every day if I could, and my love of animals and zoos while growing up, I have no doubt, made me more inclined to become vegan. And San Diego Zoo is reputable and huge, not like some sad zoos where the gorillas look depressed, right? Right?? (Yes, I carry some guilt, can you tell?)