Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orange: Not Just for S.F. Giants

Strolling through La Mission on a sunny Saturday and in need of a snack, Kimster and I made our way to Papalote for their seasonal-only vegan pumpkin tamales. And we were so glad we did. They took awhile to arrive - this happens when a place is so clusterfucked with hipsters - and they were small, but they sure were yummy. A perfectly moist, steamy corn layer wrapped tiny orange bursts of pumpkiny sweetness. Kimster and I tried to be ladylike and eat itsy bites; she did a better job than me, per usual. Ah, how I love pumpkin season.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Green is My Sushi

Maybe you've heard of Tataki, the S.F. sushi bar that serves only sustainable fish? Well, lucky me; they opened Tataki South just down Church Street from my very house! And it's not just pretty, with soft music and friendly chefs...The sushi is great. Try the shiro maguro, for it is bliss on the tongue. Have a few maki: spicy tuna, perhaps; saba gari (mackerel and ginger, one of my all-time favorites, wrapped in tofu skin and dotted with white and black sesame seeds); mixed vegetable, fat and crunchy and silky with avocado. Don't miss the robata items either, like the shitake mushrooms, 2 skewers of 3 insanely flavorful mushroom caps. I only wish I could have ordered more, much more, but my stomach and my wallet have their limits. Do go, and take a vegan friend...they offer a very appealing vegi menu! Spicy tofuna, anyone?

Lady Miss Kir

Last night may have been our last summery night of the year. It made perfect sense to meet a pal at Bar Bambino for a drink, yes? And what's more refreshing than a Kir Reale, in BB's version a sweet kiss of 4-year grappa topped off with sparkling wine? Slightly sweet, blush-colored, and the nicest way to toast warm days, fiery sunsets, and the Giants.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


So I went to Austin, finally. And now, after way too long a break, I am blogging about it. Blame my ex-cold, the rainy weather, or my bank account...But I am now ready to get back to noshing.
So here are a few things we ate in the capitol of Texas:
ZEN: our first night at a hotel off South Congress, we found this groovy little place. The food's Japanese with a bit of cross-cultural pollination. Nothing's pricey, portions are huge, and there's lots to choose from. We liked our spicy seaweed salad, with mixed-in cranberries, carrot and cucumber. But beware: spicy is the word here. I got me a bowl with brown rice, a mushroom/carrot/cabbage/onion mix, and tofu...but the chili-garlic sauce was like napalm to my tender mouth. So I had to switch to teriyaki, and it was great. Seriously, they need to open one of these in S.F.
Next door to Zen is Amy's ice cream, by the way. JP got to know them real well. I had a banana sorbet there one day, and it was creamily delightful (without the cream).
Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse: a nice hippie kinda place to take your vegi jones on a hot day. I loved the Rasberry Sour (big glass of raspberry hibiscus iced tea mixed with lemonade), and the
vegan blueberry cornmeal cake, aka Oven Cake. Not quite as crazy about the tofu scramble alongside, which resembled chicken-fried tofu. But the place has a nice funky vibe and nicer-than-expected bathrooms!
Driskill Hotel: our friends were playing music in the bar of this gorgeous old hotel. I can recommend their rum cocktail AND their prawn cocktail (the latter came with both a traditional cocktail sauce topped with mango and a white gazpacho shot). We felt very fancy indeed, sipping drinks, dipping prawns and admiring the opulent surroundings.
Vespaio: let's just get this out of the way: the hostess is a beyatch. This place serves very good Italian food, and it appears to be more popular than anyplace in town. But when people are keeling over with hunger, and ask if their table right be ready soon since they've been there for about an hour, and she tells you EXACTLY how many minutes have elapsed since you walked in, well...Still, I enjoyed the spaghetti with tomato and eggplant, despite the overly generous mound of ricotta salata on top (half as much would have been fine). The Misticanza salad, with all sorts of greens, radishes, olives and vinaigrette, was good but seriously lacking in olives. And the bread was warm, fresh, and accompanied by a white bean puree. So go there but be ready for a wait. Maybe the hostess will have moved on to Denny's by then.
Cafe Medici: don't go to Jo's. I mean it: don't. Go to Medici. I cannot express in words how great their coffee is. We sat on their deck, drinking iced lattes and admiring the adorable Clarksville environs. This was S.F.-good coffee. I mean it, Ritual: Austin is catching up to you.
Counter Culture: I love this place, plain and simple. A very cool lady named Sue operates out of a vintage trailer, serving up yummy vegan treats like my Philly cheese-steak with the-best-seitan-EVER and cashew 'cheese' spread on a whole wheat roll. JP liked his apple and cheeze; we sat on a picnic bench nearby to get off our feet and out of the blazing sun.
Woodland: groovy hipster place on South Congress. The decor is beautiful and forest-centric. My salad (beets, greens, chickpeas and other things; they added avocado upon request) was a perfect dish on a hot night. The waiters all look like Mission boys with their plaid short-sleeved shirts and thoughtful facial hair.
Galaxy Cafe: just across from Medici, this is a nice down-homey diner with decent food. I had oatmeal and very good scrambled eggs. Their wraps looked pretty fine, I might add.
Hey Cupcake: one of the millions of food trucks in town, this place operates out of an old airstream trailer on South Congress. There is a daily vegan cupcake, and I was lucky enough to be there on chocolate cake with mint frosting day. That was one moaningly-good cupcake, and as a bonus, the dude who runs the place is really nice.
Daily Juice: this is the stuff! Great fresh juices and smoothies with no added anything. My Sure Thing smoothie was just apple juice, strawberries and banana, but it was so satisfying. JP's Marigold, with mango and peach, was also lovely...Another refreshing option when it's too hot to eat.
OK, well, that's all I got. Y'all get down there yourselves, eat at food trucks, hear live music and jump in a swimming hole. It's not really Texas; it's Austin.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fig Fennel Fantasy...Free!

We who live in or near the Mission are about to get very lucky: Arizmendi, the worker-owned bakery, is opening a branch on Valencia at 24th. Today I was walking by, and saw a line...Nope, not open till next week, but they're busy doing practice runs and handing out the goodies to fortunate passers-by. So of course, JP and I joined the queue. Hard to choose, what with the wolverines, grape-laden focaccia, vegan lemon-blueberry scones and all. JP chose a simple currant scone, but me, I went for the round loaf of fig-fennel bread. And that was a very wise choice! I sliced it open, pleased to see the wealth of dried fig pieces inside. And wow, fig and fennel? It's genius! The bread itself was quite moist, and would be lovely toasted and buttered; I just scarfed it down without any ceremony. It was a fine figgy frenzy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cold Comfort

I have a cold; I feel rotten. Coughing and sneezing and snuffling; it's not the best time to get my nosh on. However, I had plans with The Charming Susan at Ragazza, the new pizza place on Divis. As some of you know, this hood is becoming quite the happening place, but they needed a good pizza joint, and this is so much more. The little sister of Gialina in Glen Park, this place really dresses up its modest space, and the tiny tables are nearly always packed.
We shared a huge salad of radicchio, romaine, radish, egg and a perfectly tangy vinaigrette. Also, a plate of roasted baby artichokes with a big ramekin of aioli (I'm not a big fan of mayo, but this was gooood). Then, the star arrived: a pizza with a nicely blackened crust, topped with roasted summer squash, tomatoes, ricotta and pesto. Even with my stuffy head I knew this was divine.
I may be a wretched dinner companion these days, but I'm a happy one thanks to Ragazza. Now someone shoot me...please.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Portland Redux

The Lovely Elise and I made a pilgrimage to Portland, otherwise known as Vegan Paradise. Among the hits:
  • First day: we arrive late morning and drive to the Alberta 'hood. Elise gets to try one of my favorites for brunch: Tin Shed. We sit in the patio area, drinking orange juice and admiring the tattoos around us. Elise has the vegan How Latin, perfectly cooked tofu cubes with vegi sausage, avocado, salsa and veggies; my vegan Veggie Pesto is similar but has zucchini, yam, mushroom, melted garlic and a nice big dollop of - well - pesto. Sourdough toast and grits with vegan cheese round out our meal. Later, we stroll to my favorite cafe, Random Order. And while the soy lattes, made with Stumptown beans, are divine, the staff could not be less welcoming. Dude, they are baristas. Have some respect.
  • We fall in love with 2 vegan bakeries on Alberta. The first is Back to Eden. Elise's eyes nearly pop out of their sockets. Dear God, this place even has vegan soft-serve! Among our spoils are vegan chocolate; a chocolate macaroon; a ginger-cardamom muffin; a lavender snickerdoodle. We sit on a picnic bench nearby, sharing the cookie in the humid afternoon. Bliss. But we must still check out Dovetail Bakery down the street. If only we had any room left in our stomachs! This adorable cafe is filled with vintage furniture and a bakery case full of vegan goodies: cakes, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, sticky buns. The owner is a sweet young lady who's happy to chat with us. We beg her to move to San Francisco. Hey, it was worth a try.
  • Later, a bit peckish, we drive to Mississippi Street in search of pizza. The obvious answer is Mississippi Pizza, where we share a small spinach salad and a Historic, very spicy red sauce topped with kalamata olives, artichoke, spinach, tomato and vegan cheese on a whole-wheat crust. We also get to watch the pizza guy throw dough around. This pleases us.
  • We wander up the street and come to an odd little store with a window filled with antique water pistols. Out of nowhere, an older man appears and identifies himself as the collector. He then regales us with a long history of the water pistol, an item that's not worth much on E-Bay but cool nonetheless. Afterwards, he insists on treating us at Ruby Jewel, the local 'scream shop. Elise and I share a cone of peach-ginger nondairy deliciousness. Thank you, Water Pistol Man.
  • Breakfast the next day: Jam on Hawthorne. The coffee is good. The chai-blueberry vegan pancakes are great...Elise loves her Southwestern tofu burrito, and even shares the red-pepper sauce so I can mix it into my scrambled eggs. Our young hip waiter is wearing a tee-shirt with a kissing Batman and Robin. Again, this pleases us.
  • Back to Mississippi to shop; Elise scores a beautiful coat (say it with me: No Taxes!). I need a pick-me-up. We stop at Laughing Planet, where I have a bowl of rice, beans, veggies and killer tomatillo salsa. It is quite satisfying, although the presence of three cops trying to talk a guy into detox is a wee bit off-putting.
  • Time to meet up with Elise's friend Mike and, finally, have a cocktail. Thus do we land back on Alberta at the Bye and Bye. I order the Stockholm, a tall pint of goodness: citrus-infused vodka, lemon juice and ginger beer. While not very hungry, I manage to steal food off of Elise's plate. She loves her some Southern fare and this is a good place to get it: her plate of barbeque tofu, vinegary greens and black-eyed peas is fantastic. My buddy Morgan joins us later and we pay him the respect due a Black Belt at our collective place of employment. BB in the hy-ouse!
  • Last day, sadly. Mike has told us to visit the Red & Black Cafe, a worker-owned vegan collective. They have waffles! Well, yes they do, but radical waffles take a hell of a long time to arrive at one's table. Elise reminds me that I am imposing my capitalist expectations on the experience. Her waffle arrives and looks so, so good. Mine comes about half an hour later. It is plate-sized, crunchy with blue cornmeal, topped with walnuts and apples and Earth Balance. I pour on some syrup and eat like a starving animal.
  • Around the corner is the Vegan Mini-Mall. We stop by Sweetpea Baking Co., admiring yet more mouth-watering vegan sweets; I purchase a soy latte for the road. Elise buys some groceries at Food Fight, too, where one can even purchase a vegan Twinkie. She sneakily gets me the pumpkin spice cookie I was fawning over (made by Monkey Wrench and delivered by bike, of course).
  • Voodoo Doughnut. Right? Did you know they perform weddings? Well, there is one happening right when we arrive. A couple in black tees is slow-dancing by a cake stand filled with doughnuts. They get to jump over a broom while we wait in line. Elise buys a box of vegan doughnuts for a break-the-fast dinner in S.F. later that evening. And no, we didn't fast for Yom Kippur. So we can atone for that at some point.
  • Before we leave, we must visit a food cart. If we don't, we will be arrested by the Foodie Police. Food carts are everywhere in Portland, but we decide to hit Alberta since it's near PDX. It's raining out, but this one little spot has a canopy covering its trucks and tables, plus some cute-looking trailers. Elise hits Fuego de Lotus, and thoroughly enjoys her corn arepa with cabbage salad and black beans. My salad from Mono Malo is a lovely mix of fresh-picked greens, heirloom tomato bits and crunchy roasted chickpeas with lemony vinaigrette. We eat and listen to rain drumming overhead. It's a nice way to end our trip to Veganlandia. Hipster Homeland, here we come.