Thursday, November 20, 2008

Local San Diegans, Rejoice!

Guess what? Remember how sad it was, when Kung Food, everyone's favorite vegan buffet style restaurant and drive through, closed? In case you don't, I still remember it vividly, like a bad dream: March 31, 2007 was their last day open, and I remember the date specifically because I was hoping it was all an April Fool's joke. Sadly, the cashier assured me it was not, and I swear I was dismayed for weeks. Besides the great, all-vegan food, which included numerous raw options, I also loved that there was outdoor seating, which meant that Juno, our beloved Great Dane, could accompany us. Add that to the fact that it was mere blocks from Nate's Point, Balboa park's leash-free dog area, and you can see why we were so disappointed to see its doors close.

However, the reason I bring up this past trauma is because this weekend they reopen their doors! Same place (Quince and Fifth Streets), same people, new name: Nature's Express. We've already planned a meal there for this Sunday with some vegan friends (well, one vegan, one veg-friendly to be exact) and I can't wait to try out their new dishes and savor old favorites. Look out for a review soon, and be sure to try it yourself and let us know what you think!

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...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Doomie's Home Cookin'

So a few weeks ago, my friends and I were staying at a hotel in LA's Chinatown, and after a long night out were looking for a place we could grab lunch before the drive back to SD. After a quick search on, I found a vegan eatery a mere two blocks away from our hotel. How convenient!

The place is called
Doomie's Home Cookin' Veggie-Vegan, and it's located on the second floor deck of what seems to be a nightclub. We were a little confused at first, but Doomie himself came out and greeted us and sheepishly explained that it was their first day of business and he had to quickly print out menus for us. Now I've worked at enough restaurants to know that opening weekend is no time to judge service, so I'll just say that it was friendly, but chaotic and leave it at that. I'm sure all the little kinks have been worked out, and if anything, the number of times the server and Doomie had to come back to our table to clarify things was amusing.

But as for the food—amazing! I had the fried chicken and it was unbelievably good, as well as being a very decent size portion (I brought some home for Marc, which he eagerly devoured). I was eating with two omnivores, who managed to find and order one of the only non-vegan (but still vegetarian) things on the menu—the BLT. Actually, there is vegan bacon available, but Doomie explained that the reason he offered a vegetarian version is because he felt the taste was better than the vegan version. Fair enough; I was just happy to have a whole menu of delicious-sounding dishes to choose from! These range from Shrimp Scampi to Chicken Alfredo to Philly Cheesesteak, with all sorts of diner-y comfort food selections in between.

I will definitely be eating at Doomie's again next time I'm in the area, and I recommend you check it out for yourself. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on Prop 2

Well, as most of you Californians (and many non-locals as well) probably know, Prop 2 passes by an overwhelming majority of votes yesterday. While my first reaction was a very happy one, I have had mixed feelings about this proposition, even though I did vote yes on it. Here are some of those feelings.

When I first read the actual proposition, I was disappointed and even a little angry about how little it actual improves the lives of farm animals. As I mentioned to a friend, it's almost like putting a bandaid on a heart attack. It doesn't go into effect until 2015, there's lots of loopholes, and the bottom line is, it's not a big difference in each animal's life. As a matter of fact, those who belong to the animal abolitionist movement (a movement considered rather extreme by many, but whose views I support for the most part), were even more angered than I, and some were against the proposition because they felt like it would make people feel guilt-free about indulging in animal products, regardless of the fact that the animals would still live a miserable tortured life and die a horrible death.

However, I still stand behind it based on the following reasons: for one thing, it got people thinking about farm animals, some of whom have probably never thought of them before. It publicized the animal rights movement and the torture the farm animals go through, by getting footage of factory farms on mainstream TV programming, such as the Oprah show. After all, some people who saw that footage, including a student of mine, may go veg or vegan as a result. Perhaps it will convince some vegetarians that eggs and dairy are no more humane than animal flesh and motivate them to go vegan. It proved that today's public is concerned with animal welfare, at least a little bit, when it passed. It opened the door for stronger legislature to eventually get passed. And last but not least, perhaps it will allow a tiny bit more breathing room for the poor animals who suffer needlessly for the gluttonous appetites of the masses.

So to end on a more positive note, thanks to all who voted yes on Prop 2 and encouraged their family and friends and even strangers to do the same. This is a victory, no matter how small! Baby steps, right?