Tag Archives: Vegan Travel

Summer in San Francisco

I was told that my last post seemed super angsty.  I didn’t mean it that way.  I guess I felt guilty more than anything else.  It’s hard to spend 5 years believing in something and then start to have doubts.  But I have minimal angst about eating what I want to now.
I also didn’t intend to ignore my blog all summer.  I was really busy with 2 jobs—teaching art to little kids at a summer camp and teaching an art history class online—and also spending precious time with my boyfriend.  Not to mention sightseeing.  It’s kind of nice to be in a place for a few months—long enough to do some things that are off the beaten path, but short enough to give you a sense of “carpe diem.”  That said, I certainly wish I were back in San Fran now.

I, of course, ate some WONDERFUL food this summer but didn’t photograph all of it.  Here are some highlights:

We visited Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant again.  We started with wontons and hot & sour soup.

Noor likes that they bring a big container of water to the table.

Then we had the String Beans with Soy Beef and Basil.  Yum.  This was the best faux beef ever.  I’m usually pretty wary about vegetarian beef, but it was even better than the “chicken.”

However, the Kung Pao Soy Chicken (with extra peanuts) was really good too.

On a different night we decided to try the OTHER vegetarian Chinese restaurant (God, I LOVE San Francisco!): Shangri-La.  It was equally delicious but more nutrition and health-focused.  This place is good, but I think I prefer Enjoy’s veggie takes on Chinese-American classics.
We tried the “Beef” with Broccoli and the “Abalone” with Black Mushrooms.  Both were delectable:

One day we went down to San Jose to see our friend Scott, and he suggested lunch at Ike’s Lair in Cupertino.  I like Ike’s!  They have halal meats, along with vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes.  I got the Pumpkin: vegetarian breaded chicken, pesto, mushrooms, avocado, and I added artichoke hearts and asked for no cheese.  They were very cool about my special order and didn’t make me feel like I was inconveniencing them at all, even though they were super busy. 

I need to take a moment here to say that my boyfriend is amazingly sweet.  Most mornings he got up early to make Peet‘s coffee, breakfast, and a to-go lunch for me. 

He also went to the farmer’s market for me on Thursdays since I had to work.  Look at these beautiful heirloom tomatoes (which may or may not have turned into delicious BLTs).

He also got me some wonderful spinach ravioli from Lucca’s Ravioli Company.

My friend Jane made me a lovely stir fry with veggies from the farmer’s market and eggs from her backyard.

We visited Village Falafel in Cupertino.  The falafel wrap was excellent!  I loved their really thin pita bread. 

This place on Clement Street in San Francisco is heaven. 

…and there’s a place next door with fresh-squeezed watermelon juice.  It’s the nectar of the gods, I’m telling you.

Clement Street also has an amazing Russian bakery with these poppy seed pastries that are chock-full of poppy seeds!  Clement Street might be one of the best foodie streets in America.  It also has a Russian deli with really good borscht, a German bakery, an Irish bakery, a fancy sit-down dim sum place, an Indian buffet, and much more.

One day we tried Taqueria Cancun in The Mission.  Their sign out front claimed that they have the best vegetarian burritos in town.  They were really good!  …but…I still prefer the vegetarian burritos at La Palma.

In celebration of our anniversary we had a picnic in the town of Sonoma.  It was absolutely lovely.

Another day we had a feast with Noor’s cousin at our favorite Mediterranean Restaurant: Zaki Kabob House in Oakland.  We had Falafel, Egyptian Salad, Beet Salad, Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Tabouli…and that was just our appetizer course!  I also had the Moujadara: spiced lentils and rice with caramelized red onions on top.

Of course, no matter how full you are, if you’re in Oakland you have to visit Fenton’s Creamery.  In addition to their famous ice cream, they always have a few flavors of sorbet, which makes me very happy.  On this particular evening, they had a brand-new plum sorbet.  It was possibly the best sorbet I’ve ever had.  It had a super concentrated fresh plum flavor that wasn’t too sweet.  Noor got me a pint to take home, too, and I discovered that it was very refreshing with 7-Up (like a float). 

I spent a day in Palo Alto and had a nice lunch at the Cool Cafe (next to the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford campus).  They had a yummy vegetarian mushroom burger.

One night we ordered a Vegetarian Indian Pizza from Golden Gate Indian Cuisine and Pizza.  Yep, I LOVE San Francisco!  It was weird but delicious!  It had Special Spinach Curry sauce, fresh Ginger, fresh Tomatoes, Red Onions, Fresh Garlic, Cauliflower & Eggplant Bhartha with Mozzarella Cheese.  It was even better cold the next day.

One night I made Yaina’s black beans and rice and fried plantains for Noor and impressed him with my ability to make perfectly fluffy rice.

There is a lot of good Japanese cuisine in San Francisco.  Tani’s Kitchen is our favorite.  It’s a bit of a dive, but the service is friendly, and the food is solid, and it’s super cheap!  You can easily get a hearty meal for under $10, which is pretty amazing in San Fran.  On one occasion I had a vegan meal of salad, inari, and a cucumber roll.  Yum!

That is just a small sample of some of the wonderful food I ate this summer.  It was amazing!


Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant: San Francisco

I was in San Francisco last weekend, and my boyfriend—knowing my love of good, greasy, American Chinese dishes— found for me a Chinese restaurant that serves vegetarian versions of classics like Lemon Chicken and Beef with Broccoli: Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant.  It was wonderful.  We had trouble narrowing down the menu of over 100 dishes—all vegetarian.  The waitress was an adorable young lady and super helpful; she recommended some of her favorites.

Noor really wanted to try the Veggie BBQ Pork Appetizer.  The thin strips of seitan in a sweet/hot sauce had a convincing texture.

The Sweet & Sour Chicken did not disappoint.  Crispy deep-fried nuggets of faux meat in sweet red sauce with pineapple, peppers, and carrots.  It was like a blast from my pre-veg past!

We also went with the Fresh Mushroom w/ Fried Soft Tofu & Vegetables.  This dish had four different types of mushrooms: black, enoki, golden, and white!  The other veggies (broccoli, snow peas, carrots, etc.) were fresh and crisp.  The tofu was light, and the sauce was super savory.  It had an umami factor that tasted just like chicken broth to me.

I was starting to get full, but the waitress did not ask us IF we wanted to order dessert.  She asked, “Would you like to order dessert now or later?”  When I explained that we didn’t need dessert, this sweet young lady gave me a death stare that would put any grandmother, teacher, or military drill instructor to shame.  Then Noor chimed in, explaining that he is half Indonesian and had noticed that they had fried bananas on the dessert menu.  And so it was decided.  We ordered them with vegan vanilla ice cream (!), and they were glorious.  This picture really does not do justice to these creamy, sweet delicacies wrapped in light, crispy batter (actually all of these pics were taken on my phone).  I fully admit that I was wrong; the waitress and Noor were right.  If you go to Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant, you MUST order dessert, no matter how full you are or how many chocolates you have back at your boyfriend’s apartment.

This place is not fancy, but it is damn good.  The menu has enough variety and integrity to please just about anybody: from the most militant vegan to the most diehard omnivore.  The fare is hearty, and the service is friendly, but it was the attention to detail that impressed us the most.  For example, the hot tea is complimentary, and when we both ordered water they brought us a quart-sized bottle of cold, lemon-flavored water.  The home-cooked food and homey atmosphere are a bargain; our meal came to less than $40 for an appetizer, 2 entrees, and a dessert.  I’m so happy that I have all summer in San Francisco to try more of the wonderful dishes at Enjoy Vegetarian Restaurant (and I promise to take some better photos next time 😉 )

More Midwestern Travels: Vegan Comfort Food in Chicago

I just returned from a road trip to Chicago!  I’ve been dying to see the Post-Impressionist masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago for ages, and I also wanted to eat at the Chicago Diner ever since my friends Alison and Joe made that wonderful Thanksgiving Tofu Roulade from the Chicago Diner Cookbook.  I actually got to travel with a fellow vegetarian (and fellow art historian), my good friend Kristin, and we stuffed ourselves silly with good food.

On the road we snacked on goodies from Trader Joe’s: roasted garlic hummus, mini whole-wheat pitas, a veggie tray, fresh fruit, dried mandarin oranges (those are amazing!), and sodas.  All of this was less than $30.

When we got to Chicago we checked in to the HI Chicago Hostel, which was cheap but clean, safe, centrally located, and included free breakfast!

For dinner we walked down the street to The Berghoff Restaurant, recommended by Noor.

Now, a German place might not seem like the best bet for two herbivores, but Kristin LOVES German food, having been raised in Germany, and we made the most lovely meal of appetizers and sides!

From top-left: spinach-stuffed mushrooms, dark beer (house recipe), red cabbage, spaetzel, pierogies, potato pancakes with apple sauce, hot tea, bread basket, house salad (fresh greens, tomatoes, asparagus, shaved fresh fennel and amazing vinaigrette of some sort).  We left full and very, very happy for only about $40.

This place had a lot of Old-Chicago charm.  I loved the murals of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (where they debuted their beer).

…and the beer-stein stained-glass windows

The next day we had waffles at the hostel, granola bars at the museum, and then a nice, large linner (lunch+dinner) at the Chicago Diner.  This place exceeded my built-up expectations!

It’s a cute little all-vegetarian place that features local artwork and friendly service.

I ordered the hazelnut coffee, which came with vegan whipped cream!

Then I chose the Chicken Fried Steak.  It was seitan (high-protein wheat gluten) with a heavenly, crispy batter coating, served with mashed potatoes and vegan gravy, plus veggies with pesto.  YUM!

I have to say: this was better than most of the ACTUAL chicken-fried steak I’ve ever had.

Kristin ordered the nachos: house-made chips with vegan cheese made by Chicago company Teese, house-made vegan chorizo and sour cream and salsa and guacamole and other goodies.

WE CLEANED OUR PLATES!  That’s right!  We even impressed the waitress.  For about $30, we were full for the whole 8-hour trip home (although I did polish off the veggie tray anyway).  Next time we need to remember to save room for dessert.  I did buy the Chicago Diner Cookbook as a souvenir.  I can’t wait to try the Stroganoff recipe.  I love that even the vegan fare is hearty in the Midwest.

Vegan Across Missouri

I’m not naming any names, but a New York Times correspondent who called the Midwest a “vegetarian wasteland” was dead wrong, as exemplified by my recent road trip across the beautiful state of Missouri.  Before leaving Kansas City I had a lovely brunch with my Dad at Succotash.  I ordered the Vegan Kitchen Sink, a hearty hodgepodge of home fries, grilled portabellos, fresh spinach, the titular succotash, lima bean hummus, and fresh tomato slices.  This was the perfect thing before hitting the road: fresh but filling.

I also ordered coffee WITH soy milk!  And a fresh juice.  I chose the Ninja Sunrise: beets, carrots, ginger, and grapefruit.  Yum.

Dad was happy with their omnivorous options, but local vegans flock here.  I can’t wait to go back and try the vegan pancakes.  This former bar has a quirky charm with lots of local art on the walls.

That meal kept me satisfied for some time, but I did decide to stop at the halfway point of my trip for a sandwich and coffee.  Thanks to Google I had found Main Squeeze Natural Foods Cafe in Columbia, MO.

This is an all-vegetarian cafe with tons of vegan and gluten-free options.

I went with the TLT (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato).  It was nothing fancy but hit the spot.

Although the service could have been friendlier, this was a cute cafe with local art on the walls as well.  My favorite part was this weird cat guy photo montage.

I also got a yummy iced coffee with soy milk at Lakota coffee shop next door.  When I arrived in St. Louis I attended the bachelorette party of a good friend, and I was delighted to find that the hostess (who works in catering) had made special food for me!  There was a cheeseless pizza with lots of yummy veggies, including eggplant, zucchini, and roasted garlic.

She also made vegan brownies for dessert and vegan muffins for breakfast!  I loved what she said when I thanked her, “It wasn’t any extra trouble, especially since non-vegans can eat vegan food too!”  God bless her.

The next night we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant in St. Louis, called The Orient (the groom’s fave).  I ordered Tofu Spring Rolls:

…and also Lemongrass Tofu:

What I loved about this place was that the tofu was nice and crispy.

The same lady who hosted the bachelorette party also catered the wedding and made sure that I had a vegan meal of yummy pasta primavera!

There was a lot leftover too, which I took for the trip home.  It’s not hard at all to eat vegan in Missouri, especially when you have thoughtful friends like I do.

Another Absolutely Wonderful Trip to San Francisco

First of all, I would like to point out that this blog is now one year old!  Woo hoo!  Thank you to all of my readers and supporters over the last year!

Now, down to business…photos from California!  Breakfast on the first day was a hearty veggie curry pastie from John Campbell’s Irish Bakery on Geary Street.  Yum.  Granted, this was probably not 100% vegan, but it was vegetarian and savory, and perfect for eating in Noor’s Land Rover on the way to Peet’s Coffee, which has the best coffee EVER (+ 2 vegan cookie options!)

For dinner one night we headed across the Bay Bridge to Oakland to eat at the incomparable Zaki Kabob House.  Noor really wanted to take me there, because he noticed that the menu has a whole column of vegan dishes!  It was hard to choose!  As an appetizer we shared the Mashweeya salad: tender roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes, crisp red onions, lots of garlic, and good olive oil.

For my entree I ordered the Zaki Mediterranean Plate so that I could try a little bit of everything.  It had hummus, baba ghanouj, dolmas, falafels, and unlimited pita bread.

They provided complimentary fresh mint tea, and I also ordered a Jerusalem Mint Lemonade, which was SUPER minty: the perfect way to wash down a delicious meal.

This is a wonderful family-owned restaurant with a lot of integrity, definitely a new favorite.  The other purpose for our Oakland trip was a stop at Fenton’s Creamery, where Noor did get me to sample their heavenly Toasted Almond ice cream, but even there I did manage to find a vegan option in the raspberry sorbet.

All of their treats are freshly made by hand.  This was a far cry from the hard-frozen sorbets at the supermarket.  It was soft, flavorful, and not too sweet.  I know that Oakland gets a bad rap, but I had a great time there!

The next day I took the bus downtown by myself because Noor had to work.  At SFMOMA I got to see a work by one of my favorite artists.  Here I am in front of Janine Antoni’s Lick and Lather.  In this piece she cast self-portrait busts in both chocolate and lard.  Then she slowly erased her identity by licking the chocolate and washing with the soap.

After working up an appetite by looking at art, I really wanted to eat at The Plant, having read about it on Amber Shea’s Almost Vegan blog.  However, I got there and found that it is closed on Saturdays!    The location in the Financial District is only open Monday through Friday.  Oh well.  I wandered a bit and then headed over to the Ferry Building.

The Ferry Building is host to an upscale (and fairly pricy) farmers’ market, but it was winding down for the day.  I did find some wonderful food from The Slanted Door at their to-go window, called Out the Door.  I ordered the Vegetarian Curry and Iced Tea and walked outside and found a bench.  This was my lunch:

This was where I ate my lunch:

…and this was my dining companion:

Not bad, huh?  The curry was lovely.  It was a Vietnamese curry: not heavily seasoned, but hearty.  With potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli, it was almost like a good stew.

In addition to trying some great new places, I also got to enjoy some old favorites.  On Sunday morning/afternoon we had brunch at La Palma Mexicatessan while listening to the church bells.  I got the Vegetarian Burrito (no sour cream or cheese) again, but this time I tried the tomato-basil tortilla (last time I had the spinach tortilla).  Yum.  Here it is untouched but already bursting at the seams with goodness:

…and here it is after I destroyed half of it.  Noor also got me some chips and guacamole and vegetarian sweet corn tamales to take back to his place (because he knows the way to my heart)

They accidentally gave us the cinnamon tamales, but they were good!

We also went down to San Jose to visit our good friend Scott, and, of course, we hit up Falafel’s Drive-In.  I had the Falafel Sandwich again, and it was awesome again!

In San Jose I also got to say hi to our friend Jane’s chickens. These are some happy chickens.

This one thinks she’s a cat and roams around the house looking for spiders under the furniture.

Needless to say, I felt no qualms about eating some eggs from THESE chickens!  Thank you, Jane, for the wonderful eggs!  Look at how pretty the colors were:

Noor made me another potato omelet, which I devoured!

I think the steam was fogging up my camera lens here, and I was too hungry to care, but you can still tell how rich and yellow the egg yolks were: not at all like the ones from the store.

Noor also made VEGAN CHILI for me!  Yeah!  It had black beans, quinoa, Morningstar crumbles, tomato paste, and onions, and was well seasoned with chili powder and cumin.  It was thicker than what I usually make.  In fact, the texture was downright meaty!

On my last day we got breakfast at the farmers’ market in the parking lot of the mall by his apartment.  I love that you can’t swing a dead cat in San Francisco (not that a vegan would ever do that) without hitting a farmers’ market.  It was a foggy, misty morning: very pretty but no good for taking pictures.  We got a nice loaf of French bread, and then we happened upon a hummus stand.  The hummus guy was a very good salesman.  He let us try all of the flavors, including yummy Artichoke, Tomato-Basil, and Avocado-Cilantro.  He explained that their hummus has a super creamy texture with half the oil and tahini of traditional hummus, thanks to a special blade for blending it smoothly.  It was super yummy and only 250 calories per tub.  We chose the Cilantro-Jalapeno Hummus and also the Italian Caponata (a yummy eggplant-tomato-olive spread).

After putting a big dent in our bread and spreads we also each had a piece of bread with some off-brand Nutella that happens to be vegan as our “breakfast dessert.”  Then we headed over to Peet’s to wash down a fabulous breakfast with the BEST coffee.

What a great trip!  I can’t wait to go back and get some more of that hummus!  I love that I’ve spent enough time in San Francisco now to have old favorite restaurants but that I also had the chance to find some new favorites.  I also love it when my BF cooks for me.  I’ll have to make him a nice meal when he visits me in KC next month.  If you were a (mostly) vegan cooking for a confirmed omnivore, what would you make?

Another Visit to San Francisco

I just got back from another trip to San Francisco to visit my boyfriend.  As always, I had some wonderful food, although we spent most of the time relaxing and watching movies (Lord of the Rings marathon!)

When I arrived, he took me to Don Pico’s, a fun Mexican restaurant.  The guacamole was stellar.  It had an earthy spice I couldn’t quite pinpoint.  I thought it might be cumin or coriander.  Noor thought it might be nutmeg or mace.  I talked to my friend Kate when I got back, and she said that people sometimes add turmeric to guacamole.  I think that’s it, but I’ll have to do some experimenting at home to be sure.

They had a few vegetarian entrees.  I chose the grilled vegetable paella.  It was delicious and a very generous portion!  I especially liked the addition of black olives.

The decor was really fun too.  Almost everything in the restaurant is an antique, including paintings from the movie Citizen Kane.  Also, there was a lady singing bossa nova classics, which enhanced the ambience.

The next afternoon we went down to the Mission district to make a stop at La Palma Mexicatessan.  It was a beautifully warm day, and were thirsty, so Noor suggested a visit to St. Francis Soda Fountain.  It was a fun spot, and I was pleasantly surprised to find vegan milkshakes on the menu, made with soy gelato!  Yum!  I chose chocolate.

This place also had neat antique decor.

La Palma actually had the sweet corn tamales this time, so I finally got to try them, and they did not disappoint!

We went back to Ton Kiang for their fantastic dim sum.  Of course, I had the pea shoots again.  I also had some shrimp dumplings.  As Noor always points out, he eats more vegetarian fare when I’m around, so if I eat a few shrimp, it’s okay because it all balances out.  Speaking of which, I got a sweet phone call from his Mom, who has been inspired to eat vegetarian a few days a week now!

At Ton Kiang they had these really cute fruit salad cups this time.  We had to get one, mostly for the photo opportunity because we loved the presentation.  It was really good, fresh fruit too, better than what we can get in the Midwest this time of year.

Before dropping me off at the airport, Noor took me to an Indian buffet called Great India.  The lentil-rice soup, aloo matter, and dal were really good.

Now I’m home for a while.  School starts tomorrow, so the sandwich challenge is back on!



Southwest/East Coast

Over Christmas I went to Arizona to visit my Mom.  She fed me way too much food, of course.  She seems to be getting more comfortable with my choice to eat (mostly) vegan.  I think it’s partly because she’s realizing how many of her recipes already happened to be vegan or easily veganized.  I requested her stuffed eggplant for Christmas dinner because it’s one of my all-time favorites.  She had the idea of also making her curry recipe with edamame instead of chicken, and she picked up a nice focaccia loaf.  It was a non-traditional combination but made for a lovely meal with plenty of good leftovers.

On another day my Mom and I went to the Heard Museum of American Indian Art and History.  We were thinking that we might also look for a fun restaurant downtown, but when we got to the museum, we hit the jackpot!  There was a fry bread stand out front!

I got the Navajo Taco (minus the cheese):


On my last night in town, my Mom made a recipe that she had seen on a local morning news program.  It was very sweet of her to think of me when she saw it.  It was Israeli couscous with cremini mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and parsley, garnished with fresh steamed asparagus.  The best part was that she put the leftovers in a disposable container for me to take on the plane.  It was quite good at room temperature.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better on an airplane!

My next stop was New Jersey, where I met my boyfriend’s Mom for the first time!  I was afraid that my diet would cause her stress, but she has a sister who is vegetarian and lactose intolerant and seemed to have no trouble at all planning meals.  My second Christmas dinner consisted of Noor’s delicious lentils, rice pilaf, and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, plus sweet potatoes with peaches and cashews.  It was wonderful.

I had a blast exploring New York City with Noor and his Mom!  We had a lovely Japanese lunch at Sapporo Ramen.  I ordered the vegetable ramen and liked it enough to go back for more a few days later with my friend Brandon:

Brandon and I encountered an unexpected treat at the Museum of Modern Art: Thai Curry!

There was an installation by artist Rikrit Tiravanija, who cooks (or has assistants cook) food for gallery visitors.  You may be asking yourself how that counts as art.  He was a pioneer of “relational aesthetics” in the 1990s: the idea of creating social situations in galleries wherein the relationships fostered are works of art.  In short, he seeks to highlight the ways in which food encourages a sense of community.  It works.  As soon as MOMA visitors had food in their hands they started to sit down next to/smile at/talk to strangers they hadn’t noticed before.

Also, during my visit, I received some important lessons about New Jersey culture.  When I first arrived, I was taught how to properly fold a slice of Jersey pizza (well, I tried, at least.  I’m actually still not sure I was doing it correctly).  I did eat and enjoy several slices of cheese pizza.  I’m glad I did.  As I’ve said before, I’ve found that a little bit of flexibility pays off when traveling.  In this case, I discovered that people from the east coast aren’t just being snobs about their pizza; it really is better.

I also learned that bagels are much better in New Jersey.  I was told that one doesn’t toast fresh bagels (unless they’re a day old).  They don’t need to be toasted.  Because they’re boiled before they’re baked, they’re nice and chewy on the outside and soft on the inside…like good French bread.  I had picked up some sun-dried tomato-tofu spread from Zabar’s in New York, and it was delicious on an everything bagel from the place down the street.

On my last day, Noor’s Mom took me to a wonderful Indian Buffet called Sitar Palace in Orangetown, NY.  They were very kind about explaining which dishes contained dairy and meat, but I did sample a couple of the creamy dishes.

I had a great time visiting with family, but I can’t wait to spend some time with Noor in San Francisco this week!  We are definitely planning to go back to La Palma Mexicatessan.  My mouth is already watering…