Soaking Up California: Four New Restaurant Reviews

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apologies for the lag in posts. I started a new job last week at an independent school to help defray our moving costs. Today is Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples Day if you live in a city full of hippies like I do) so I've got the day off to catch up.

Ever since we announced a move date we've been feeling like we need to check things off our list of things to do in the Bay Area before we're gone. Unsurprisingly, most of the things on my list have included food. I've checked three new restaurants off my list in the last few weeks.

The first was Souley Vegan in Oakland. They sell some of their products in Rainbow, thus getting me completely hooked on their potato salad. They'd closed their downtown location a while back and re-opened not too long ago, not far from Jack London Square. We split a massive combo plate, the other highlights of which were the Mac and Cheese and Southern Fried Tofu. They also had a live band playing, ridiculously friendly staff, and an overall good vibe.
Last week we took a friend out for his birthday. We met up at City Beer Store in SOMA. It's not often I dine in that neck of the woods with omnis, so we took the opportunity to try Heaven's Dog. Restaurants with animals in the name don't often bode well for us, but this upscale Chinese restaurant from the same owners as the Slanted Door actually had a number of interesting veggie options. The best were easily an appetizer of "vegetarian pork belly" sandwiches which were made from tofu skin and mushrooms. Not sure it resembled actual pork in any way but that's probably for the best.

Then, over the weekend a friend invited us up to Napa. We've been dying to check out gourmet vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu for a while now, and it was well worth the wait. Most of the dishes are vegan or can be prepared so. We split a number of small dishes and recommend the fried chickpeas, the lemongrass curry, and the fregola. Everything was inventive and full of flavor. High quality, fresh ingredients make all the difference. It's pricey, but well worth it.

We found a cheap hotel and stayed the night and the next morning we ate at Ad Hoc in Yountville (just north of Napa). They have a prix fixe Sunday breakfast that, although is not remotely vegan by default, our server asked if we had any special dietary needs to accomodate. We happened to be dining alongside one of their cooks, but I'm fairly sure anyone could go in and ask for vegan options. They did not disappoint with thick-cut toast, and a variety of grilled veggies.

Lastly we were off to do some tastings. I have to admit that I've not always paid close attention to whether or not my wine is considered "vegan." Frankly, anything organic or biodynamic uses animal products in some phase of production, so it seems a bit nitpicky to me. (All hate comments can be left here.) We hit a few bigger places, but I think we could all agree our favorite was getting a private tasting at a small winery called Sullivan. Its proprietor told us all kinds of great stories about the process of becoming certified biodynamic. Apparently one part of this involved having "established" birds that work symbiotically with you to keep out pests. They're not purchased, you basically just have to work in close commune with your land.

We came home yesterday with three bottles, full bellies, and empty wallets. But it was all worth it to soak up some of the best food and drink that California has to offer. If you live in the Bay Area, let me know in the comments what else I need to check out before I leave.


Chairman Meow said...

Sounds like you two have been on a whirlwind tour! Thanks for taking me along in prose -- sounds scrumptious.