You Say Tomato...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

At some point this weekend I managed find time in between internet arguments to have a fun, beautiful Saturday. Although Slow Food Berkeley is not known for its vegan-friendliness, a friend of mine did invite me along to an event of their that happened to be right up my alley: tomato picking!

I dragged myself out of bed before sunrise so we could make the drive down to Mariquita Farms in Hollister, California. Essentially, it's getting towards the end of the season, so rather than letting the crop rot on the vine, they invite people to come take home as much as they can carry for a staggeringly cheap 50 cents per pound!

When you factor in the Zip Car cost, it may not be that great a deal, but you can't beat the freshness. We were sampling cherry tomatoes right off the vine and it was soooooo delicious. We got to chat with the farmers, who were also selling peppers and greens at great prices, and hear their stories. Some were heartbreaking like the spinach farmers who were basically bankrupted during the E. coli outbreak last year.

As someone whose lack of a green thumb has caused her to kill cactuses, I was in awe standing out in the massive vegetable fields. California's beauty never ceases to amaze me. 

Once we'd filled our boxes full of a variety of tomatoes (San Marzano, Green Zebra, Beefsteak and more) we hit the road in seek of lunch. Just about the only place with any Yelp reviews in Hollister was called Casa de Fruta. What a happy accidental discovery! It's almost like a theme park, what with its Casa de Carousel and Casa de Choo Choo. Unfortunately the Casa de Restaurant was pretty lacking in vegan lunch choices, but it made up for it with its marketplace. 

It had more  dried fruits and nuts than I've ever seen in one place, along with candy, produce and canned goods. I stocked up on pickles, dried mangoes, and rosemary flavored pistachios. Though I was exhausted from being in the sun all day, I managed to find the energy to come back to San Francisco for dinner at Saha.

Saha is an "Arabic Fusion" restaurant and I highly recommend it as a great place for vegans and omnis alike to find a great meal. They mark all the veggie items, and although it's on the pricey side I've never left disappointed. Last night I had a great dish of spinach, tofu, chickpeas and Yemeni noodles.

Now I'm off to make a sauce out of my San Marzano tomatoes to go into a lasagne. (Luckily enough Rainbow Grocery recently started carrying Daiya vegan cheese! I've already made a pizza and absolutely loved it.) I may also try out this fried green tomatoes recipe. If you have any other amazing tomato recipes I need to try, let me know!