Wednesday, October 31, 2012

End of the Mofo and Unemployment Cooking (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 31)

It's the last day of the Vegan Month of Food, more commonly known as Vegan Mofo, and although it's nice to not have the pressure on to post every day no matter what, I must say it was really a pleasure posting daily.  As a result of this blogging month, I think I will never go over a week without blogging again, and actually I suspect I'll now post multiple times a week.

If you've been reading because of Vegan Mofo and you like what you've read, but haven't subscribed in any way, I encourage you to do any or all of the following things:
-subscribe via email
-add me to whatever blog feeder you use
-follow me on Twitter @FoodAndLoathing
-like me on Facebook at Food and Loathing in the Steel City.
-add me to your own blog's blogroll.  I'm happy to return the favor, just email me at Melissa@foodandloathing.com.

I only just created my Facebook page and found the Twitter password in the middle of the night last night, so that hopefully explains my woeful lack of followers.  I'm trying to get Instagram to work on my Android phone, but all it does so far is crash.  Instagram, you haven't seen the end of foodandloathing.com!  You may have won this round, 'gram, but I'm determined.

Being newly unemployed for only the second day ever yesterday, I did very little job hunting, instead choosing to sleep in until an obscenely late hour and listen to that depressing Bon Iver album.  I swear I'll be right back on the "go git 'em" path tomorrow, one full day seems reasonable enough, right?  And it's not like I did nothing.  Eventually, I prepared a whole bunch of amazing food for myself, because that's my favorite thing to do in the whole world.

Would you just check out that thing of beauty?  It's the Warmly Spiced Quinoa Chickpea Stew with Figs from Dreena Burton's book Let Them Eat Vegan, which I have out from the library but I really want to own.  It is chock-full of healthy recipes that are light on oil and heavy on flavor.  This recipe called for 10 different spices if you include salt, pepper, and the bay leaf!  But it actually was easy. (This recipe is online here.)

When I first started preparing it, I went to cut up the onion that I had bought only the day before from Giant Eagle Market District and want to see the bad omen inside?  It's gross, you actually might not want to see it.  Too late, I know you already looked!
If that ain't just about the rottenest onion you ever did see, I pity you.  Not even those onion-eating hungry kids in the book and movie Holes would eat this (I apologize to everyone who does not get that reference).  I decided to walk to my most local grocery store, the infamously low-brow Shur-Save.  As is my practice whenever I have to make a run to the grocery store mid-recipe, I took a look to see if I forgot to buy anything in the recipe.  Alas, I had!  I forgot the fresh fennel, which folks 'round these parts usually call "anise."  There was no way that Shur Save was going to have fresh fennel, so I thought on it during the whole three minute walk and decided that celery would be the most doable replacement.  So I used celery in this recipe and it is very delicious!  I recommend replacing fresh fennel or anise with celery if you ever need to for whatever reason in the future.

I also made this ranch dressing from terrific blog Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.  It's not actually fat free--it has both raw cashews and chia seeds.  But it is oil free, and that's cool.  I left some things out of the recipe, like the chives, and although I do think it would have been better with them, I still think this dressing is a very tasty version of ranch, and I'm likely to make it again in the future.
I also finally made my own "bacon" bits, using the really easy, fat-free recipe in The Happy Herbivore (the recipe can be found here).  They look just like commercially-prepared Bacos, don't they?
You may be aware that Bacos and all their generic imitations are, in fact, vegan, but they also contain hydrogenated oil (otherwise known as the dreaded trans fat).  That's why it's better to make your own if you like that little crunch in your salad like I do.

And onto dessert.  We newly-unemployed people gotta have our dessert, even if they're the relatively healthy kind.  I made Rip Esselstyn's fat free chocolate pudding from the book The Engine 2 Diet, mostly because it uses boxed silken tofu and I found the last time I made it that it worked fine using the "firm" kind and I have tons and tons of firm, boxed tofu that will go bad in, like, March of next year, and I know from experience that those things get a really gross taste when they go bad.  You can find the original recipe here, but I like to use more chocolate and a bit less syrup.  I may even try it out with stevia next time in place of much of the maple syrup.  It's also fun to add other things into it, like orange juice/zest, espresso powder, cinnamon, or extracts you've got on hand like mint or raspberry or whatever floats your particular boat.

Then I made my first-ever recipe from a book I'm excited to have gotten my hands on called The Blooming Platter by Betsy DiJulio, who also maintains a blog that always makes me both drool and feel really jealous of her picture-taking skills.  Definitely check it out, especially if you like Dreena Burton (author of the above-mentioned Let Them Eat Vegan).  They both make detailed, delicious recipes that are healthier but not completely fat free or sugar free.  Anyway, the recipe I made was the Maple Glazed Nuts, just because I had all the ingredients on hand and also because, yum, maple-glazed nuts.
I used a mix of whole pecans and chopped walnuts for this.
And yet, I still was not content with these two dessert items.  But then I remembered that I still have the Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (recipe here) I'd made from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Foods in my freezer. Also, I made it with the homemade Miyoko Schinner cashew cream cheese (recipe here), not with any soy crap.

So, let me get this straight: I've got strawberry cheesecake ice cream, chocolate pudding, and maple-glazed nuts for dessert.  I think that I finally have something that is worthy of being labeled as an "unemployment indulgence."

Goodbye Vegan Mofo 2012!  It was really a blast participating and reading the blogs of others who participated.  Many of you just knocked my socks off with your recipe ideas, photos, and funny writing.  I am now following many of your blogs.  Thank you to everyone who commented, emailed me, or added me to her or his various feeds.  Your comments and feedback mean a lot to me.

Oh, and, happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Time to Cry Into My Soup? (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 30)

SAD STORY TIME!
I left San Francisco on Sunday, pre-major storming from Sandy.  The airline would have actually switched my trip date for free until after the storm, and I was tempted to do it, just to stay a little longer, but I didn't, because I had to get back to work on Monday and I did not have any paid time off left.  So I returned to Pittsburgh.

Then I got under three hours of sleep with the change of time and general busyness of getting out of the airport and claiming a bag and waiting for my friend to circle back over to pick me up, then driving home in pouring rain, which causes Pittsburghers to travel, I think, far slower than people would in other cities.  I could be wrong about that, and it's probably a good thing (better safe than sorry), but it felt annoying in my state of time anxiety.

But I got to work on Monday, deciding to take the bus instead of bicycling through the crazy rain.  I always hate taking the bus because although there are a lot of buses in the morning to take me to work, there are far fewer when I leave, and I can often wait for an hour for a bus to take me about three miles.  Still, I got to work, ready to rock, feeling cheerful, and... then I got laid off.  Then I had to wait for a bus back in the pouring rain.  The bus did not come for an hour and 10 minutes.  I should have stayed in San Francisco.

BUT REALLY, IT'S OK.

Remember I wrote that something life changing always happens to me in October?

It's funny, I happen to be reading this book by Barbara Ehrenreich right now (she also wrote Nickel and Dimed, which pretty much everyone cool read) called Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, and it goes into great detail about how insistence on positive thinking is enforced within corporate culture, in part to make people less upset about getting fired, because they've been practically brainwashed into believing that every failure is a personal failure that  was a result of their insufficient inner positivity, and they're supposed to view every setback as an advantage.  And, OK, Barbara Ehrenreich, I agree with you, girl, I'm on your side, especially when you talk about how there's a difference between having pessimism for the world and its future versus having a personal pessimism about yourself and your abilities.   But I still kind of think that this setback may be an advantage for me.

The truth is, I was not doing the right work for me.  There is just a lot more I could be doing at this point in my life.  I can generate a lot of writing in relative short periods of time, and it will not be just consistently coherent, but, I hope, consistently informative, interesting, and entertaining.  I've definitely had a goal during this  Vegan Mofo to prove to both myself and the world that I can write by assignment reliably.  I definitely want to start freelance writing at the very least.  But also, I want to work doing what I care about, even if it means making less money.  And what I care about is cooking, health, and food sustainability.  I need to take a more suitable route in my life, and I do believe I can find it.

In the meantime, whoa!  I applied for unemployment.  I've never lost a job before.  Part of me wants to march right into a temp agency, but another part would like a week off.  Did I mention I've also never not gotten a job I interviewed for?  I know that I can go back to low-level legal work anytime.  That probably sounds really cocky, but it's really not.  I should be doing a lot more than just that.

So pity me not, because this may have actually been the kick in the butt I needed!  Even though I still agree with Barbara Ehrenreich.

OH, DID YOU GUYS ALSO WANT TO TALK ABOUT FOOD?

All I've made since I got back was my ultimate comfort food soup, the Curried Roasted Carrot Soup with Coconut from the book Supermarket Vegan, which I mentioned craving in a post a few days ago.  This is really my favorite soup ever, and it's so easy and probably only requires you to buy carrots, as long as you keep garlic and coconut milk on hand and also are OK with omitting the scallions, as I am.  I first made it when I was waiting for my first paycheck after moving to Pittsburgh and was eating cheaply.  Guess I'll be doing that again!  But it was just a coincidence.  I've made this many times since I wrote about it that first time.
Pictures of soup never look that amazing, especially if you don't get the suggested toppings like the scallions I left out of this.  This is the greatest soup, though.  There are a few keys to this soup's greatness.

One is that it calls for the reduced-fat kind of coconut milk.  I never buy that stuff, but I do make vegan ice cream using just the cream off the top of the can (not all of it, though).  I then put the rest into the freezer.  Usually, I'll pour the unfrozen milk into a half-can of frozen milk so that I can tell when I have a full can for a recipe.  The only thing is that I have to remember to put it in the fridge ahead of time to unfreeze.  But what a nice money-saving tip, huh?  Maybe only for people who sometimes use just the cream out of coconut milk, but WE'RE PEOPLE TOO.

The next key is that you just roast baby carrots with a couple whole cloves of garlic, shifting them a couple times, for 20 minutes, and then it goes into a food processor or blender along with the coconut milk.  Roasting these veggies and then blending them together instead of doing most of the heating on the stove top makes a significant taste difference.  It somehow makes it so homey and comforting and delicious.

Third key, the curry.  You must find a curry you like.  It calls for 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of curry, according to taste.  I use a combination of two things: Penzeys Sweet Curry Powder (there is a Penzeys store here in Pittsburgh) and this Thai green curry spice blend I got some time ago, and it is losing come of its power, but it's still good.  Once you find a curry powder you love, it will make this amazing.

And the final key is the water.  It calls for quite a bit of veggie broth to be added.  I'd add less, at least 1/2 a cup less.  Not that it'll be bad if you enter the full amount!  I just like it thicker.

One last thing about this soup.  Doesn't it look like a beautiful planet as it starts to simmer?
Please let me go to carrot soup planet!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Final Meal in SF at Udipi Palace (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 29)

For my last partial day in San Francisco, my sister and I got lunch at Udipi Palace in the Mission.  People had suggested I go to Dosa a few doors down, but I looked at the menu and they serve fish with the disclaimer that they only serve "sustainably caught" fish.  This is something that will always cause me to avoid a restaurant, because I know for a fact that it is never sustainable to catch wild fish, and I do not appreciate menus spreading misinformation to the public by claiming that their wild-caught fish are not verging on extinction.  So I decided instead to choose Udipi Palace, which is entirely vegetarian and has very few non-vegan menu items, all of which can be made vegan upon request.  Also, in Monroeville, a town neighboring Pittsburgh, there is a vegetarian Indian restaurant called Udipi that people keep raving about, so that gave me a preconceived positive feeling about the place.

We started out with samosas because samosas are, like, the best thing ever.

Oh yeah, samosa-y goodness.  Want to see the inside and wish you were eating samosas right now?  I thought you guys might be into that.


Ali and I both ordered curries.  She got the Chana Masala Curry.
...and I got the Special Veggie Curry.
I'm not sure what exactly made this particular curry so special, but it's my opinion that all decent curries are pretty damn special!  Both of our curries were top-notch, I thought.  I didn't like the little cup of chutney that came with it, but that's no big deal.  I did, however, like the big poofy bread and the flat bread it came with.

I'm back in Pittsburgh now, and it's pretty depressing.  Being in San Francisco filled me with yearning.  I feel like I could do so much better for myself.  It's weird.  I both fit in and stood out in SF.  It was easy to meet people and there was something fun to do every night.  There were more places to eat than I could fit into one week, even though other vegans there expressed disappointment in the vegan options!  That really surprised me.  OK, I agree, every city could do better with vegan accessibility, and I would love it if I could figure out ways to make veganism more common and accessible to everyone everywhere, but compared to Pittsburgh, SF was vegan heaven. 

Still, I have vegan heaven in my own kitchen every day!  Maybe people over in SF are doomed to cook less because of the many, many options.  I wouldn't trade cooking for anything in the world.  It's truly my greatest pleasure on Earth to cook good food, especially if someone wants to come over and share my enjoyment with me.

I only bought one item in SF to bring back with me.  It was this jar of salsa from the restaurant Papalote that folks said was good. 
It seems really thin to me, but I'm excited to try it out.  Right on their web site, they have a quote from USA Today saying that "It may be the greatest salsa the world has ever known."  Not that USA Today is the most trustworthy source or anything, but WHOA.  That's a serious endorsement.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lazy Weekend Ordering In (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 28)

My sister and I had a lazy, hungover morning yesterday, but 'round these parts, in San Francisco, you can order Chinese food into your apartment and it's actually vegan!  Maybe that's true everywhere, I'm not much for ordering in.  Despite her generally meat-eating ways, Ali's favorite place to order Chinese is from Big Lantern and she never gets meat because she enjoys their meatless chicken so much.
This is the General Meatless Chicken.  We got some fried rice and lo mein as well, but I'm pretty sure that the rice had egg in it.  Ali meant to specify vegan for everything, but I think she forgot.

I'm leaving in just a few hours on a plane back to Pittsburgh.  People keep freaking out about how a hurricane is going to delay my flight and everything, but they seem to be wrong.  Pittsburgh is not Philadelphia!  We're Midwest almost!  When I looked at the weather there for tonight, it said there was a "chance of rain."  That does not sound too hurricanerific, now does it?

Still, I kinda wish I owned that book Vegan Unplugged.  You know, just in case.  Also, I hope nothing stops me from being able to go to the grocery store tomorrow.  I'm really craving some homemade roasted carrot soup.  All this eating out is hard on my blood sugar.  I am really excited to return to cooking and having perfect blood sugars, although of course I'm super-sad that my vacation is drawing to a close.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thai Idea: Veg-Evangelicals (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 27)

I was meeting a different friend named Sara than the one I spoke of in yesterday's post at her apartment on Precita, and we decided to just walk down Mission Street to see if we could find a veg-friendly spot for lunch.  What sign do I see almost instantly but this one?
San Francisco!  It's so easy here.  "Go vegetarian!  Go vegan!  Go to Thai Idea."  I like your moxie, Thai Idea!  Look, they had this sign on the other side:
Dude, how did you know I love puns?  Of course we decided to eat here.

The menu is very, very vegan-friendly.  It's all vegetarian, and almost everything has a little "v" indicating it's vegan, and everything else has "vo" for vegan option. Looking online now, I can see that the only things without a vegan option are the desserts, but I never even saw a dessert menu while I was there.

Now, if you read this blog with any regularity, or know me in real life, you probably know that I stopped eating fish long before I stopped eating meat or dairy or eggs.  It is not sustainable to eat any fish.  Large wild fish populations are obviously so decimated that unless the whole world works quickly to create large marine protected areas, or marine preserves, they will all go extinct very soon.  But small fish are also incredibly vulnerable, and "disappearing" (being netted) at rates that are not sustainable for keeping any sort of edible sea life for future generations.  We use these small fish to make fish meal, fish oil, and also lots of the weird mix-o-fish frozen crap people eat, and many other things.  Here's an article about the effect that our fish meal usage has on our oceans' ability to survive. And here's just one of the more recent articles about fish stock depletion (I read them all!).  I've cared about this one issue more than any other for a long time, and I do intend to write more about it in weeks to come.

But the reason I bring it up now is because one thing I'd never had yet was vegan fish!  I mean, I know fish is delicious, but it's just morally incorrect to eat it currently.  Thai Idea had a veggie fish menu item, the Panang Avocado Shirimp.  Of course it was the most expensive thing on the menu.  But I had to try!
I don't really know if it tasted like shrimp, but I do know that it tasted like yummmm.  The "shrimp" was, I guess, tofu?  It tasted good, and Sara liked it as well (she doesn't like actual fish).  Here's what it looked like:
Sara got something very similar but with veggie chicken.  I'd post a picture, but it looks identical.  The veggie chicken was really good!  A good imitation of the "real" thing.

I couldn't resist also getting a Thai Iced Tea!  I haven't had one in so long because most places don't have soy milk (or, actually, I think it might use condensed milk, which is even rarer to have in soy than just soy milk).  Not that I actually ever ask them, I just assume and say, "I don't want to spend the extra money anyway."  But hey!  I'M ON VACATION.
Best thing ever!  What a treat.  Oh yeah, also, they just gave us a bit of super-good pumpkin soup to try for some reason.
Everything's orange up in here, am I right? 

We were the only ones in the place, but it was really good!  You should probably go there if you're in San Francisco.  I told the woman working there I was taking pictures for my blog, and she encouraged me to post on Yelp.  I know Yelp is a huge make-or-break thing these days for restaurants, but I don't Yelp.  Or Tweet.  Or even quite understand what Instagram is.  BUT, I realize now I must take these things on, because someone who knows what's up told me I do, and she's right.  I'm a smart woman, I can do this.  I mean, if I can file inheritance taxes and ride my bicycle with no hands and figure out insulin and crap, surely, it's not beyond me to tweet.  And I will, as soon as I remember my password!  And, dammit, I will get on Yelp and write a review of this place, because I liked it, I think omnivores would like it, and I enjoyed their hints of veggie evangelical zeal. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Source in SF! (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 26)

I decided to hit up Source, a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco's Design District, which is an area of the city I definitely would not have gone to otherwise.  Fellow blogger Jenny Bradley of The Effervescent Vegan (who also regularly writes for the always-witty and informative site Vegansaurus) was kind enough to reach out to me and encourage me to come to Source, where she makes crazy desserts (we'll get back to them).  Luckily, my friend Sara works in the Design District, so we got lunch there yesterday,

This place has an incredible menu.  I could have eaten just from this one place all week and not gotten sick of it.  I get so overwhelmed trying to decide and usually go with the first suggestion I hear, because I want to eat all the things.  Can you imagine getting a cookbook and only being able to make one entree and one dessert from it?  What torture!  How could you ever decide?  That's what eating at a restaurant like this only one time is like.  But, listening to my preferences, Jenny suggested I try the Green Curry Veggie Dosa, omitting the rice inside it.  Actually, there isn't even rice listed in the description, but she works there, so if she says it originally had rice before I asked for its omission, I believe her.
So, I don't know if dosas are a California thing or what, and I don't know if they're always huge, but this was HUGE.  I mean, see that cup of green sauce?  That's in one of those tiny dipping cups, just so you can compare here.  This baby was filled with refreshing veggies, of which I tried very hard to take a good picture.
Mmmm, I'm really too hungry right now to be writing this post.  I want to be eating this again.

Sara got a classic Sara thing.  She prefers cold food--salads with grains and greens and she's really into beets and avocado.  The Tri Colored Quinoa she got was so beautiful, check it out.
What a delicious work of art, don't you think?  It's almost too pretty to eat.  But we ate it alright, and it was perfectly fresh and veggie-licious.  And speaking of veggie-licious, I also got the Fresh Pressed Organic Super 8 Juice, which the menu points out is of the "highest nutritional value."
This was seriously the best veggie juice I ever had.  It was just delicious.  I cannot explain it.  I recognized in it the same veggies other juices might use -- beet, carrot, parsley, apple, ginger -- but for some reason this one tasted the best ever.  Besides the things I just listed as things I could taste in it, it also had kale, cucumber, and celery.  Drinking vegetables is awesome.  I say this every time I bring up juicing on my blog, but it just is.  It's amazing.  If you can do it, you should.

OH MY GOD, IT'S TIME TO TALK ABOUT DESSERT.  Jenny brought us three desserts to blow our damn minds.  First, this raw Living Cheesecake cup, which was just out of this world.
Please let me eat this every day?  Please?

But wait, there's more!  So, Jenny told me that Source is owned by people who are from out East, and this is why they've decided to recreate the childhood junk-food favorites of those who dwelled anywhere some 300 miles out along the Atlantic coast: Twinkies, Devil Dogs, and Snowballs.  I know that Jenny actually makes the Twinkies herself, and she made that Cheesecake above, but I'm not sure if she makes the vegan versions of the other two.
I never had a Snowball (not pictured), but I definitely ate my fair share of Devil Dogs as a child.  I wasn't a big Twinkie fan, but this is no ordinary Twinkie.  It's way, way better.  Instead of being totally spongy and made from a million bizarre processed ingredients, this has a bit more heft and a richer taste.  It's still got that signature sponginess, but it's more, I dunno, REAL.  I mean, it's hard to explain the fakeness of real Twinkie, but I think most people know what I mean.  This fake Twinkie has all the realness of grandma's oven, you got me?

Onto the Heaven Dog (get it???).  Now, OK, obviously, they did not recreate a Devil Dog exactly.  Instead, they decided to make it way better by drizzling chocolate all over it!  YEAH.  The shape is kinda odd.  I mean, the original Devil Dogs have thinner chocolate cakes on the top and bottom than this has.  The cakes of this are so thick that it has to lay down on its side!  There is cream in the middle still.  It doesn't even need the cream, though, although I understand that it is required to make this an imitation of a Devil Dog.  Every aspect of this took me into junk food paradise.  I could remember sneaking these things from the laundry room of my parents' house when I was young and they hadn't yet realized that it's OK for type 1 diabetics to eat sugar.  Except that I used to always regret that it wasn't worth the risk just for the crappy, dry, original Devil Dogs, and eventually I decided to stick with sneaking those Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies (uhhh, Source, y u no have those??).  But these Heaven Dogs are worth it with the sneaky sneaky.  Only I need not sneak, I can enjoy these vegan treats in the open!  Isn't adulthood grand?
Vegan bloggers, nerding it up with vegan pastries.
Oh, you want to see something else?  I love the sign that Source has up outside.
"Organic food that loves you"!  How sweet!  I love you too, organic food.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gracias For a 100 Post Anniversary, Madre! (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 25)

Congratulations, me, this is my 100th blog post!  Here's to another 100!  I'll drink fresh-squeezed Green Juice from Herbivore to that.
I look so much like my mother in this picture that it kinda freaks me out.
Ever since I got to San Francisco and I've told someone that I'm basically on Vegan Food Tour 2012, that person almost always asks, "Have you been to Gracias Madre?"  Now I can say that the answer is a big ol' yes!  I went yesterday early in the evening, riding my little sister's bicycle over there.

Have I mentioned what a pleasure it is to ride a bicycle in San Francisco?  It is incredibly easy to bike here, and I really cannot believe non-handicapped people would choose to take a bus instead, especially when buses double the amount of time it takes to get somewhere.  There are bike lanes galore, and the bike routes avoid hills.  I just say a place I want to go into the Google Navigation on my phone (make sure you choose bicycle, so it knows to take you to bike paths), stick my phone in my bra, and let it call directions out to me worry-free.  So far, I have not encountered a single serious hill -- certainly not compared to Pittsburgh!  Pittsburgh is way, way, way hillier everywhere in the city.  Also, it rains more there than in Seattle and has, uhhh, more bridges than Venice, Italy.  Plus, people say "yinz" there, did yinz know that??  ANYWAY...

...back to Gracias Madre.  It's so beautiful in there, and it's entirely vegan and it feels both fancy and casual at the same time.  I sat at the bar and ordered the Enchiladas Con Mole.
Underneath all that cashew crema and mushrooms and mole sauce, there are flour tortillas.  This is actually really difficult to understand visually, in my opinion.  I did the thing I always do, which is cut it all up and mix it all together and shovel it in my mouth probably (more than) a little too quickly.  I also added quite a bit of their homemade hot sauce to it.

Here's my personal opinion about what I got.  I thought it was tasty, and each individual thing was really quite good -- the crema, the beans, the cooked greens, the mole sauce, the mushrooms.  I'm a vegan, and I was happy to eat these things.  My only reservation about the meal is that I don't think I'd want to bring a non-vegan person here.  I feel like this kind of food makes meat eaters ask "Where's the processed, ground beef?"  This can sometimes do a disservice to vegans in that it makes people think that vegan food is "unsatisfying."

Now, OK, I was influenced by my sister on this.  She'd been to Gracias Madre and found it to be expensive and not satisfying to her.  It just made her want meat and cheese.  I guess that I prefer restaurants that show the world that vegan food can put non-vegan food to shame, to utter shame.  And that's really not fair.  Meat eaters get to have tons of average restaurants, why do all of ours have to be effing spectacular all the time?!?!  I guess it's just because we have something we want to prove, and that's why vegan food blogging has got to be the most active food blogging sub-genre by far.  We love to show off how much better the food we eat all the time is than the food the vast majority of non-vegans eat, while they incorrectly believe we are living some kind of life of contrived self-denial.

But here's the thing.  I am in San Francisco's Mission District.  I mean, if I didn't get some Latin-style food, it would be like I wasn't even really here.  So, for me, Gracias Madre is a must.  I simply had to go out and enjoy myself some enchiladas.  I should probably try to obtain a burrito before I leave as well.  Vegans and cool friends of vegans, go there, enjoy!  But don't bring any of your doubter friends.  They WILL find fault with this food.  Even after you tell them about all the starving children who'd be thrilled to get this meal or tell them that if they don't eat another bite, they won't get dessert.  I fear that even using every parent-of-a-picky-eater trick in the book, your committed omnivore friends won't be saying "Gracias, madre!"  And I don't know about you, but I want them to say something like that, don't you?

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Millenium is Amazing (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 24)

Yo, the restaurant Millenium is amazing.  Yeah, it's pricy, yeah, you gotta make reservations, but this is vegan fine dining, people, and it stands up to any non-vegan fine dining out there.  I'm so glad that I met the owner and that it caused me to make bloody certain I got out to her restaurant while I was here in San Francisco!

There were three of us, so there's a food extravaganza to follow.  I got the Frugal Foodie three-course meal, so I got an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $40.  My little sister got two appetizers and our friend Sara got one entree.  We'll start with the apps!
This was one of my sister's apps, and I don't actually know what it was.  It had cannellini beans and it may not look like much, but it tasted just freakin' delicious.  I wish it was on the menu online so I could try to imitate it at home later, but alas, I think it may be lost to me.  She also ordered the Fig Bruschetta because ever since Miyoko Schinner fed us those fig things, she's had figs on the brain.
The bruschetta is spread onto the bread, and there are some cooked veggies on top--I believe onions and some kind of greens.  Underneath, there were these salad greens that seriously tasted like mashed potatoes to me.  They had a peppery aftertaste. Quite good!

I got some kind of Squash "Raw-violi."  I was feeling getting something raw, and I remembered how incredible the Zucchini Ravioli at Pittsburgh's Eden had been, so I ordered this.
I liked it, but it actually didn't hold a candle to anything I'd gotten at Eden that day.  I mean, I was happy to get some raw veggies into me, but I didn't think they tasted out-of-this-world the way everything else we got at Millennium did, or the way the food at Eden had.

Entree time, what?

OMG, here's the Red Beet Arborio Rice Cake Sara ordered.  Oh, man, those roasted Chanterelle mushrooms, the sauces in it, the beet chips on top.  It was soooo good.  I know it's often hard to, like, visually understand pictures of food from a fine restaurant before you've dug into it, but there is this bright red beet cake in the middle and mushrooms on top and roasted peppers on the right and some other stuff and mmmmmm.

Equally as delicious was my entree, the Potato Tikki Cake.
A bit of Indian flavor going on here and it was very "Holy crap, this is good!"  It had that eggplant slice on top of the tikka cake, and the saag made from cauliflower and paneer made from tofu and those greens and I just mixed it all up and inhaled it.

But wait!  Mine had a dessert.  I ordered the Chocolate Almond Midnight.
What, with the almond cashew crust and mocha filling and raspberry drizzle and white chocolate mousse, who could resist this little baby?  This is the kind of dessert that was always my ultimate favorite.  I don't think I need to say this to people who read my blog, but no one would ever think this was vegan.

My sister and Sara didn't order dessert, but when they brought mine, they also brought an extra dessert, the Sweet Ending.  "We didn't order this," my sister told the food runner.  "Oh, we just brought it to you because we're so nice," he said sweetly, "But I can take it back if you like."  Ha!  As if!
The brownie was OK, but those chocolate candies were to die for, and the shortbread truffle things were damn good too.  Those macadamia nuts were delicious too, and also, hey!  Figs and strawberry!  Yeah figs, yeah figs, yeah figs, celebrate! Picture me doing the Carlton Dance while I sing that.

Vegan Month of Food, going strong!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hella Vegan Eats Pop-Up Dinner (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 23)

Last night I went to Hella Vegan Eats Pop-Up Dinner at a bar called Dear Mom.  I guess the idea behind these Pop Up Dinners is that, for one night, a chef or group of chefs will have good food available in a place they don't normally have it.  Luckily for me, the a Pop-Up Dinner by some folks called Hella Vegan Eats was going on while I'm here in San Francisco.  Lucky me!
It was very casual.  You'd go up and order and pay for food, then wait for a really long time for it to be ready and a server would bring it to you according to the card they gave you to put where you're sitting.  I think it just took a long time because, obviously, they don't cook here all the time.

I wanted to order everything on the menu!  I wish I taken pictures of all the things we didn't order because many of them were gorgeous-looking, especially the Jack-O-Lantern Black Death Fried Rice.  Hopefully the internet will come through with a picture of that when I get a chance to look.  I got the Diablito Fritters.
When I ordered this food, I was incredibly hungry.  I had been waiting for my sister to be ready and was putting off eating so I'd be hungry later.  Once we got there, customers didn't get the chance to look at the descriptions on the physical menu until we were actually AT the counter.  By then, I seriously couldn't think about what to get.  I don't even know how I ended up ordering this, but it's probably the least healthy thing on the menu (although that doughnut burger seems like a possibility), but it was really difficult for me to wrap my brain around what all the words meant at that time, and somehow I ended up with Fritters.

They were really good, though.  I didn't take a picture of the inside, but it was ooey-gooey good, and the whole thing was kinda spicy.  My sister didn't like it because it was spicy, and she'd almost ordered it also, but changed her order because I was getting it, so that was lucky.  She got the Deep Fried Witch's Fingers.
They were basically fresh veggie fries with a really tasty curry dipping sauce.  There was asparagus and yams and squash.  Good stuff.  And then I decided to get the dessert for us to share.   It didn't turn out to be a deep-fried candy bar with pumpkin ice cream after all.  Even better.  Instead, it was doughnut holes with pumpkin ice cream!

I should have been using a flash all along, huh?
There is a bit of black in the middle that is the chocolate-cayenne "drizzle" that was described in the menu.  So, OK, it wasn't a drizzle, it was a candy hunk.  Whatever.  My little sister didn't even like it because of the cayenne, so it was better for us that I could eat all of it.  Just the doughnuts and the ice cream would have been enough for me because they were both really yummy.  It was the first time I've ever had a vegan doughnut I didn't make myself.

I felt so heavy after eating all this stuff!  I'm such a wimp now.  Used to be, I could shovel in fried food just like the rest of America.  But eating a meal like this after so long of NOT doing that really felt rough.  Actually, in the middle of writing this entry, I walked to Herbivore and got myself a green juice, because remembering about eating this makes me crave raw veggies!  This food was really yummy, though, and if I had it in Pittsburgh, it would be incredibly tempting to me, like Oreos after you've smoked a bunch of pot.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Eating in SF: Boogaloos and Herbivore (VEGAN MOFO: DAY 22)

Late in the morning on Saturday, my little sister took me to her favorite brunch place nearby in San Francisco, Boogaloos.
 There was a bit of a wait to get in, but finally, we were sitting in the cute little cafe.
Look at Ali's adorable happy face!
They had some different vegan options, but not much in the way of veggies, which I suppose is pretty standard for brunch places.  I got the Tofu Lover's Scramble, which came with either pesto, ranchero sauce, or peanut-ginger sauce.  I chose the ranchero, with a side of rye toast, and I added mushrooms and spinach into my scramble. 
Mmmm, ranchero sauce.  I prefer my tofu a bit more cooked than they made it, but it was still really good drowning in the spicy sauce and mixed up with the homefries.  My little sister got some meat and eggs and stuff.  Boogaloos is a place where serving the vegans is an afterthought, but at least they make an effort.  They have soy milk, but not soy creamer, which is OK by me but not preferred.  I had my toast dry, which, actually, I would have done even if they had Earth Balance (to cut down on added oils).  If more restaurants would make at least this level of effort, I'd be a lot happier when I'm forced to eat out.

Last night, Ali and I went to Herbivore because I really was craving some leafy greens and other veggies.  Since I'd arrived late on Friday night, I'd had no raw greens and very few veggies.  My sister suggested Herbivore for a salad, and we went late on Sunday, which meant that they were out of many of the menu items, although they still had my first choices.  It also meant dark pictures: it's dark in there!  She and I both ordered two things each.  First, I got the Raw Kale Salad.
It had peppers and carrots underneath and the avocado on top.  It wasn't something to write home about, but, you know, it's a raw kale salad.  I wasn't really expecting to whip out my handy-dandy unicorn stationary set and matching pen to write to Dad about it.  It was, however, exactly what I needed in my body, and tasted good, although not "OMG, WOW!" good.

I also got the Vegetable Sampler.  It came with three different dipping sauces and a bit of bread.  The veggies were charbroiled.
Now, THIS was jump-out-of-your-seat good!  There was such a wide assortment of vegetables, including awesome weird mushrooms, and they were all cooked to just the right consistency of being not-too-hard and not-too-soft.  The charbroiled taste and the spices in general were just right on.  While I was eating it, I almost felt like, "This would be perfect with some tofu," but then I reached the bottom of the plate where there were potatoes -- basically, french fries -- and they really hit the spot that I wanted tofu to hit, even though those two things are completely different.  All three dipping sauces were great.  My least favorite was the pesto and my favorite was, I think, the tahini.  The only "problem" with this dish was deciding how to use the dipping sauces.  It was difficult to actually dip veggies into them, and I didn't want to mix all three together, so I divided my veggies by three and poured one dip over each third.  NICE.
The veggies up close.

Ali got the Quinoa Salad.  It had beets and avocado on top, which is mostly what you can see here.
This was really good.  Beets and avocado, mmmmmm.  There were some leafy greens on the bottom.  I was proud of my little sister for eating anything with any vegetables!  She seriously eats mostly candy.  And, she also got this chili.
She liked the chili, but I thought it was a bit too sweet.  It also had this corn flatbread, which was sort of odd -- not exactly delicious, but it did seem like the chili needed some kind of bread with it.  I would make regular corn bread if I were them, or just work on the flatbreat recipe a bit.  Everyone is different when it comes to their chili preferences, though.  I like things spicy, my sister doesn't really.  I want chili to be not sweet, but my little sister loves stuff to be sweet.

Overall about Herbivore: I'd read mixed things about it.  In my opinion, the menu is a little bit "beginner's vegan."  It's got some classic vegan stand-bys: chili, hummus, tabbouleh, veggie burger, portobello burger, salads, mexi-style stuff.  That's really fine, it's vegan comfort food.  They also have fancier entrees that I may have ordered if they weren't out of most of them when I got there (although probably not since I was jonesing for veggies) like ravioli or phyllo dough pie.  I would only say that if you're going to have so many things that vegans everywhere make so often, you should really aim to kill with it.  Make sure you're making it something special.  I wish I had the chance while I'm here to try more things from them, but there is just too much in SF to go eat.

Actually, though, I do think that for lunch today I'll go back there and get a large cup of fresh green juice.  Celery, apple, spinach, parsley, mint, kale, ginger, and lime in one juice?  Yes, please.  And their desserts call out to me as well, I'm not going to lie. 

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