Wednesday, November 19, 2008

San Francisco Treats!

So, we spent a weekend in San Fran, celebrating Marc's (belated) birthday with friends, and one of the many highlights of our trip was all the good eats! I did a search before we left so I had a pretty good idea of some of the places I wanted to try before we even got there. San Fran has so many great options for vegans that we couldn't try all of them in our short little trip, but here are some brief reviews on the ones we did try.

The first place we tried for dinner with friends was Cafe Gratitude. There are actually two of them in the city (and three more outside San Fran), so we tried the one on Harrison St. this time since we hadn't been there yet. Besides being vegan, everything at Cafe Gratitude is raw, so it's perfect for a meal before stepping out, when you don't want to be weighed down by heavy, processed fare.

Cafe Gratitude is a different eating experience in a few ways. Besides the fact that everything on the menu is named with affirmations such as "I am precious" and "I am whole," the tables are community tables, meaning that my friends and I sat at a table with another guy who was already enjoying his meal, and when he was finished, another couple sat down. It wasn't as uncomfortable as it might sound, at least not for us.

For the appetizers, we shared the "I am abundant," a nice dish of assorted spreads and flatbreads. I had a lasagna dish made with zucchini, which was very good, and two of the others had the "I am elated," which is a mexican style dish with great guacamole. Another friend was "whole" with a macrobiotic bowl, that was quite good, and we all had various elixirs, which left us "effervescent," "enlightened," and so forth. But my very favorite thing there, indeed the best thing I ate all weekend, was the tiramisu. I have probably missed this dessert more than any other non-vegan food, and I can't remember the assigned affirmation, but the way it made me feel was "I am deserving of an absolutely sinfully delicious dessert in spite of (or perhaps due to) the fact that I am vegan."

The next day, we had lunch at a vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Chinese place called The Golden Era. The menu was quite extensive, and all but about two things (out of approximately 50 - 75 items) were vegan (the two exceptions were vegetarian). We started with the Vegetable Fu Young, which was even better than I had hoped for! There were three good-sized patties, perfect for our table of three. My friend had a yummy eggplant dish, I had a mock chicken and ginger dish, and Marc had a fried mock chicken dish, all of which were good, although I preferred mine the most. The prices were very reasonable, and even more so the next day (Monday), when Marc and I went back and tried the budget-friendly lunch specials. Again, I was blown away by the appetizer Marc ordered, which I didn't think I would like. It was a vegetable "bun," in the style of dim sum, which is usually too gooey for me. Much to my surprise, this one was perfect; the bun part was soft and sweet, but not too gooey, and the veggie filling was excellent.

We did go out for a fancy schmancy dinner while we were in town too—and Millenium was just the place for it. I had been wanting to try this place since it got voted #1 vegan restaurant in Veg News, and I was not disappointed! I had told Marc we were going to an all vegan restaurant, but once we sat down, as he looked at the menu, I heard him mention that he thought he could find something vegan in the appetizers. I questioned him, reminding him that everything was vegan, and the look on his face was pure shock and delight! As it turned out, once he saw the opulent atmosphere, he assumed it wasn't a vegan restaurant, but he was thrilled that it was. I must say, it was so nice to eat a vegan meal in an atmosphere with an upscale ambiance.

I had the Pumpkin Pupusa (pictured above), and others in our party had the Creole Spiced Portobello & Root Vegetable Gratin (which I ended up enjoying even more than my entree). We shared the Butternut Squash Raw-violi to start with, and also tried the Seared Brussels Sprouts (which were amazing!) and the Huckleberry Potato Flatbread. The latter, as well as being very tasty, is a great value for those watching the budget (and who isn't these days?). The serving was very large for a starter and it was quite filling for only $9.95. So although the entrees are all in the low $20's range, you could easily have a delicious upscale meal for a little less by getting the Flatbread and one of the small plates or sides, all of which are $6 or less. As well as great food, service and atmosphere, Millenium is involved in philanthropic efforts benefiting various local organizations, and their food is organic and free of genetically modified ingredients.

If anyone has any other recommendations for great Bay Area vegan restaurants, feel free to share them in your comments, and we'll try them next visit! Ciao for now...

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