Guest review: Soul Cocina! »
I have a love-hate affair with vegan restaurants that fill their menu with faux-meat. Don’t get me wrong, I love a delicious kung pao un-chicken dish, but I believe that one can eat vegan without using meat-substitutes or compromising flavor. Enter Roger of Soul Cocina pop-up fame to present a six-course vegan feast without soy or processed ingredients, instead taking cues from world cuisines and seasonal produce.
When you first walk in to La Victoria (2937 24th St. at Alabama Street in San Francisco) on a night Roger has taken over the kitchen, head straight past the well stocked pastry to the back of the bakery. There, the cafe tables have been transformed with fresh flower bouquets, bright tablecloths, and a comfortable, homey ambiance that makes you want to cozy up for a few hours. While diners can order separate dishes from Soul Cocina’s rotating menu, my dining companion and I went the full monty and each ordered the fixe prix dinner ($30).
Our first taste of Roger’s world-influenced cuisine was the bhel puri, a light Indian snack of puffed rice, peanuts, onions, tomatoes, and mangoes, drizzled with a tamarind sauce. Wrapped in paper cones, this dish showcased street food at it’s finest. A second appetizer quickly followed: a basket of homemade blue corn tortilla strips with a bowl of heavenly guacamole that can best be described as avocado-overload (and I mean that in the best way).
Next was a surprise last-minute addition, a roasted pan of cauliflower with a smokey, soft, buttery texture perfectly contrasted against the crunch of pine nuts and sweet currants. A healthy does of spicy garlic, olive oil, and a kick of citrus reminded me of the Middle East, where such bright flavor profiles are usually found in the restaurants lining the streets of Istanbul.
Our chef was kind enough to come out and present dishes, including a well composed plate of platano maduro, pickled vegetables, and slow-cooked black beans on a banana leaf. Unfortunately the sharp kick of acid from the pickles overpowered the subtler flavor of the soft beans. That’s not to say that I didn’t finish almost everything, despite my belly telling me to call it quits. But we still had one more dish and dessert to go, and I was determined to try everything.
Our last main was a stuffed thick tortilla (called a “huaraches de buddha”) topped with a medley of exotic sauteed vegetables. I’ve been wanting to try fiddleheads for awhile now, and the best way I could describe the taste was if broccoli and asparagus had a punk rock baby. The two accompanying pureed salsas had a definite kick, but their smoky heat went perfectly with the lightly seasoned vegetables and stuffed tortilla.
My eating prowess was rewarded with possibly the best vegan desert I have ever been served: a coconut creme bruleee with a side of tropical fruit. Sounds simple, but this was off the hook. The brulee’s sweet hard shell broke perfectly to reveal the velvety, rich, fragrant custard beneath. The consistency and sweetness were spot-on. Seriously, it was out of this world paired with thinly sliced starfruit and kiwi.
Unfortunately, Roger might be moving to Chicago this year. So next time he presents a vegan Soul Cocina night, go! A few more tips: the biggest bang for your buck is the prix fixe, but first run a marathon (or around the block) a few times as you’ll need your game face in order finish everything. While you’re out, skip around the corner to grab a bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner sans—corking fee. To find out when Roger will be presenting another vegan night (usually the first Wednesday and Thursday of the month), visit Soul Cocina’s website.
Justine Quart has a penchant for urban exploration and meditation, yoga and boxing, vegan food and a properly aged whiskey. When she’s not dreaming up the next big adventure, she is offering kick-ass vegan wellness services at local businesses, freelancing at the SF Appeal and The Bold Italic, or roaming the neighborhood with her partner in crime, el Jefe. Check her out at Dojo Wellness.
Zpizza opens in SF! Plus free pizza on Friday! »
Yo! Remember back in 2009 when we were all OMG ZPIZZA IS OPENING THIS YEAR, and then it hella didn’t open? I don’t either! Anyway, they’re now officially open in SoMa and having a grand opening event with FREE PIZZA (!!!) this Friday, Mar. 25, between 11 a.m. and noon and 5 and 6 p.m. If there’s one thing I like more than free pizza, it’s NOTHING.
Zpizza serves Daiya cheese and lots of vegan toppings, and they deliver in San Francisco. I’ve only heard good things about their pizza and quarrygirl really loves it, so I’m super excited to eat eat EAT! Let’s DO IT UP, San Francisco!
[Zpizza’s “Berkeley Vegan” pic via quarrygirl!]
Vegan Indian food pop-up in the Mission on Wednesday! »
Dude, this sounds amazing. The folks at Kasa are making it happen, deliciously. It’s only $20, the menu is HUGE, and reports from last week’s dinner were that it was off the chain. Maybe not that wording exactly but I’m too lazy to look up the emails. SO! Go this week and support them making it all vegan and maybe we’ll see more vegan nights! They are randomly doing this one vegan because the demand was so high last week, so let’s support them!
Now, here is a picture of Dhokla, a chickpea flour sponge cake drizzled with tamarind sauce. You’ll be eating it on Wednesday, and you will be very happy!
See you there! Er, but first, call 415-690-8512 for reservations or email email@example.com for reservations!
[picture from Food Stories!]
Source: New SF veg restaurant opens today! »
And Vi’s got the scoop over on Bay Area Bites. We’re intrigued by this somewhat insane concept, and plan on checking it out soon. We do know that all the desserts are vegan because they’re from Wholesome Bakery. Aaaand, that’s about all we know. Oh, except the menu pretty much has every type of food ever on it, and they employ something called “color therapy.” Let’s do this, you wacky hippies.
Reports coming soon, and let us know if you check it out!
Get up on this: Vegan dinner crawl in Berzerkley!* »
There’s apparently this thing called Dishcrawl and they organize mobile feasts for awesome fatties who want to binge. I like the sound of THAT! They’re doing one in Berkeley and it’s ALL VEGAN and that’s exciting. Basically, you pay $26 and they lead you to four restaurants and have delicious food planned out for you and you eat and laugh and then eat some more. Maybe at some point you pass out? Then you wake up and you eat some more! Actually, this is sounding like a dream-turned-nightmare I had.
Anyway, the event takes place on Thursday, Mar. 24 in downtown Berkeley at 7 p.m. If you want to join in on the food festivities, email organizer Colleen!
Guest review: Sacred Wheel in Oakland! VEGAN GRILLED CHEESE, Y’ALL »
Even though I’d heard that Sacred Wheel offered vegan grilled cheese on Sundays, I was a little nervous about seeking out vegan food in a gourmet cheese shop. I had already imagined the eye-rolling response when I sheepishly asked about a vegan option and the ultimate disappointment it was sure to be.
Holy Sheese on a cracker, being wrong never tasted so good.
Not only did the friendly employees at Sacred Wheel not bat an eye when I asked about vegan options, they proceeded to make me the yummiest panini-style grilled Sheese sandwich ever! The shop’s grilled cheese of the day was a mozzarella-style dairy-free cheese with sundried tomato pesto. My beau and I arrived near closing and even though they’d long since sold out of the daily special, they offered us a regular cheddar-style grilled cheese. They had two vegan soups of the day to go along with their “Sunday Vegan Sunday” theme, a tofu tabouli that was amazingly filling and a TBR (tomato soup with PBR!) that was peppery and perfect for sandwich-dipping. We got a cup of soup and a giant sandwich each, which came out to about $20 all together. I happily ate the whole thing while dancing in my chair and humming “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”
The shop is adorable, very well laid-out, and seemingly able to accommodate a lunch rush with a giant picnic table, window/counter seating, and some little tables out front. We were lucky enough to get to chat with the owner, Jena, who was awesome. For being a store that specializes in gourmet cheese, Sacred Wheel has an impressive vegan selection. In addition to a few different kinds of Sheese, Sacred Wheel carries local tofu products made by Oakland’s Hodo Soy. There’s also a whole case of imported oils and a huge assortment of jams, jellies, and mustards.
Jena said she’d ultimately like to offer a vegan option every day, which means we should probably go in every Sunday to remind her that vegans in Oakland are desperate for more lunch options in Temescal. Because if I have to eat another slice of Lanesplitter pizza before it’s too early in the day to justifiably have a beer, I’m going to scream. (And then order a beer.)
Sacred Wheel is located at 4935 Shattuck Ave. in Oakland, Sunday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Courtney Flynn lives in Oakland and spends way too much time inventing vegan recipes, reading science fiction and crocheting hats for her dog Blender. She sometimes remembers to update her blog where she likes to write about food, restaurants and products that don’t suck. This is her second review for us. Thanks, Courtney!
Guest review: Homeroom in Oakland! »
After hiding inside for hours, the boyf and I decided that we couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for a gray and shitty day like today than a hot bowl of mac ‘n cheese. So we used it as an excuse to try out the brand spankin’ new Homeroom mac ‘n cheese restaurant in North Oakland.
We first noticed a line down the block. While debating whether we should try it out after the opening weekend crowd, an adorable old lady came out and told us to go in and make sure to try the vegan plate. “It’s actually delicious!” Actually nothing lady, now I’m getting into that damn restaurant come hell or high gutter water. We perused the menu in the forty minutes we waited for a table and noticed that Homeroom offers a wine and micro-brew suggested pairing for every type of mac n’ cheese, which I think is awesome (In case you were wondering, Rasputin Imperial Stout is evidently best for vegan mac.)
We finally got a table and everyone at our table ordered the homemade root beer, which ended up tasting way more like cream soda, or maybe a melted Coca-Cola Icee. After waiting quite some time for our server and then even more time for our food, we were getting a little cranky. A few 127 Hours jokes later, the food showed up and we barely let the bowls of steaming mac n’cheese touch the table before we started digging in like a rusty pocket knife into a femur.
Boyf and I both got the one vegan option, while our dining companions opted for the Trailer Mac (hot dogs, mac, and chips, eww) and the Egg and Bacon Mac (super-eww). Ours definitely looked the best, with thick nooch-based sauce (heavy on the salt and dijon) topped with chopped walnuts in lieu of bread crumbs. I had no complaints about the food. It was creamy, salty and nutty, just like a vegan mac should be and the portion size was more than enough for me. However, the entire experience really went downhill when we got our check. For four root beers and four plates of mac, the total ended up almost $60 after tip. This seemed pretty steep for a food that I can make with both my eyes closed and one hand firmly gripped around a bottle of Jameson. Homeroom does offer a frequent dining card, but you have to eat 10 bowls of mac before you’ve earned a free one.
This probably means that I’m going to treat this Homeroom like I’ve treated all my other homerooms” I’m glad I showed up for the first day, but I probably won’t be back very often.
Courtney Flynn lives in Oakland and spends way too much time inventing vegan recipes, reading science fiction and crocheting hats for her dog Blender. She sometimes remembers to update her blog where she likes to write about food, restaurants and products that don’t suck.
Guest post: Vegan in St. Louis: because you might have a connecting flight cancelled here someday »
As a born-and-raised Midwesterner, I developed a country-mouse inferiority complex at a young age, and like Janice Dickinson before me, I was all “I’M A CELEBRITY, GET ME OUT OF HERE.” So that’s what I did, for a while. Now I’m back, living in my hometown of St. Louis, Mo., and surprise, surprise, vegan food is now almost as ubiquitous here as getting a DWI in the Busch Stadium parking lot. Holla! Here’s a fat-pants-approved guide to eating vegan in St. Louis.
Waking up with an unbearable hangover means the same thing wherever I live: time for cheap-ass vegan brunch. Thankfully, St. Louis is with me on this. On Sundays, Shangri-La Diner offers a rotating brunch buffet including vegan French toast, meat-free brown sugar ham, sausage patties, breakfast potatoes, Southwest tofu scramble, and fresh fruit, and other, less expected dishes, such as vegan green bean casserole. Shangri-La also serves slamming vegan milkshakes, sandwiches, and desserts. A few blocks away, Black Bear Bakery does vegans proud with a similar array of vegan breakfast classics, as well as vegan cookies, cakes, and muffins. At Sweet Art Bakeshop & Art Studio, vegan brunch goes off the rails: breakfast quesadillas packed with potato, roasted red peppers, vegan sausage, and vegan cheese topped with avocado. If you sleep through brunch, stop by Sweet Art for a vegan BLT or any and all of the cafe’s LIKE WHOA vegan cupcakes: Boston cream pie, carrot ginger, red velvet, chai-spice, orange blossom, and more. For a unique vegan brunch, head to Rooster, where vegan Crêpe Suzette is served all week long. Rooster also offers a variety of vegan-friendly crepe inclusions, from oven-dried tomatoes with fresh basil to roasted apples with cinnamon and brown sugar. Keep things real (tipsy) and wash down breakfast at Rooster with mimosas, bloody Marys, beer, or wine.
My bottom-line for lunch is simple: inexpensive, no-frills, and filling enough to ride me out until dinner. Pair lunch with a pint of Missouri-brewed beer at Atomic Cowboy, where spicy vegetarian chili sans cheese makes snow in March seem almost charming. Channel your inner Liz Lemon with sandwiches at Foundation Grounds (the Madahoochi layers vegan cheddar cheese, marinated red onion, and spinach) or at the Mud House (the portobello reuben minus Swiss cheese still equals GIMME THAT). Hit up Cheesology for vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, or trek out to Vegadeli, located in Chesterfield, Mo., where rich people serve other rich people vegan burgers, nachos, tacos, and more.
Forget about New York City and Chicago, because local chain Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis is where vegan deep-dish pizza IS AT. Even President Obama agrees! The recipe for vegan pizza at Pi is simple: heaps of Daiya vegan cheese and spicy marinara, all the veggies you can stomach, and optional vegan Match Meat toppings. In addition to deep dish, Pi also serves vegan, gluten-free thin crust pizza, salads, and desserts, as well as great happy hour specials.
If you’re not down for pizza, CRAZY, go Midwest-traditional and grab house-brewed beer and a bite at Schlafly Bottleworks, where they serve vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, lasagna, and portobello burgers topped with Teese. For fancier fare, mosey on down the street to Boogaloo for Jamaican Johnny cakes with roasted plantains or yucca mashed potatoes. If you’re in St. Louis during baseball season, check out the veggie chicken and garlic fries at Dizzy’s Diner inside Busch Stadium, or hit up one of the arena’s many concession stands for soft pretzels, peanuts, or beer. Unfortunately, ordering a veggie dog at St. Louis’ famous stadium still isn’t an option—hey, guess what? You’re still in the Midwest.
[Photos, from the top: vegan brunch at Shangri-La; vegan deep-dish pizza at Pi Pizzeria; and portobello burger with soy cheese at Schlafly Bottleworks. This post was written by Liz Miller, who is pretty much the best. She loves champagne, beer, working out with sledgehammers, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, being sassy, and generally tearing shit up. You should try to be her friend because she would totally hate that.]
Homeroom, a new mac ‘n’ cheese restaurant in Oakland, serving up a VEGAN MAC ‘N’ CHEESE! »
Oh hellllll yeah. Finally some vegan mac and cheese action up in this joint! I know of only two other places serving vegan mac and cheese in the entire Bay Area: Souley Vegan (some people love it, some people leave it) and Herbivore (If you held a gun to my head and forced me to eat either Herbivore mac and cheese or Hazel’s dog shit, I’d think reallllllly hard. And then I’d eat the mac and cheese but GOOD GOD, it’s the funk). If you know of others, please let a fat vegan know. And further, THANKS FOR HOLDING OUT, BITCH.* Anyway, Homeroom (adorable name) is opening on 40th street in Oakland on Tuesday, Feb. 15 and HOLY SHIT:
I said goddamn, GODDAMN! My only regret in life is that I’m on a fucking CLEANSE FROM HELL** until Feb. 21 and so I can’t partake in this deliciousness on opening day. Oh well; I’ll be there on the 22 with a bib and a dump truck. Let’s do this, Homeroom.
To learn more about this little mac ‘n’ cheese restaurant that could (it’s a good story) and to see their full menu (maybe more vegan stuff soon? oooh… like cookies and almond milk! or maybe a partnership with Scream Sorbet? It’s right down the street!), check out the lovely Carolyn’s reporting over at Eater SF.
*I meant thanks for NOTHING, if that wasn’t clear. Also, cleanses make me feisty!
**More on this later but right now I need to finish eating my MASSAGED KALE SALAD. Later in the evening, I’m gonna beg Jonas to shoot me in the face until I’m dead.
[Hat-tip Gina, who also sent us this delightful video of a dog swimming with a dolphin!]