Holy crap! That’s Truly Mediterranean’s Dolma Sandwich and I can confirm that it’s off the hook! I want to eat it always. In fact, if I don’t eat that sandwich right now I will seriously throw a tantrum. Watch out world. Or don’t, I usually do these things at home in a corner.
A Vegan in Central Europe: Thanksgiving in London! »
Visiting London over my Thanksgiving break was awesome thrice over: my cousin lives in London, so I got to spend a lovely Thanksgiving with family, despite the fact that I’ve been living 5,000+ miles away from home; I got to eat hella vegan food; and I saw items in the produce section of Whole Foods (!!!!) that I honestly forgot existed—Prague grocery stores carry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes; kale? fuhgeddaboudit. Japanese eggplant? nowai. Fresh herbs if you’re lucky. While I have a shitty camera, and didn’t keep it with me the whole time, I still managed to take some photos of the damned good food I ate.
For Thanksgiving, I went to Manna with my cousin for the Thanksgiving special. For £27 per person, we got one of the yummiest dinners ever. It started off with a cranberry cordial aperitif, which my cousin and I fucking devoured the hell out of despite neither of us being cranberry fanatics. I was expecting it to taste like old grandma, but it was really refreshing and I downed it quicker than I should have, I’m sure. The first course was a pumpkin soup with rosemary spelt foccacia. I love pumpkin with rosemary, so I was a little let down when my bread ran out and the soup tasted bland in comparison. Then was the wilted spinach salad with walnuts and pomegranate in an apple-cider vinaigrette. Can I just say they know how to make salad dressing? I could have guzzled that shit by the gallon. I could have drained all of the blood from my body and replaced it with apple cider vinaigrette. I don’t know what they put in that other than apple cider vinegar and oil, but they know what the fuck they’re doing, lemme tell you what. The main course (pictured) was an herbed tempeh roast with wild mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and stuffing. I, in general, fucking hate mushrooms. The mere fact that I ate everything on this plate, including the gravy, was a fucking feat in and of itself. Licked our damn plates clean, we did.
The last—and most impressive—course was the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. You can’t tell how delicious the ice cream is from here, but it should officially be renamed to “buttercream” flavor or something; they did NOT wimp out on the rich vanilla. I was so impressed with the texture I asked them what it was made out of, I was sure it was cashews. The manager/owner assured me that no, it was soy. SOY! Who knew?!?!?! She then gave me a sample of their truffles and petits fours ON THE HOUSE. Because we were chatting about the awesomeness of Booja Booja and she liked me, I guess. I got SO fat that night, and left the chocolate gift till breakfast the next morning.
I also had a chance to go to the posh and happenin’ Mildred’s restaurant in Soho. It was too hip and expensive for me, so naturally I pigged out shamelessly. By myself. In the midst of this bustling restaurant that reminded me a lot of Angelica Kitchen in NYC, without the wholesomeness. To the left, you’ll see my starter. It was grilled artichoke with crostini, some basil-soy dipping sauce, and a small green salad (it cost £5.50, not too bad for a starter). I think this was better than what I got for the main course, to be honest; maybe because in my opinion artichokes are the best vegetables of all time and goddamned it all to hell if the Czech Republic needs to get on that shit and zomg you must order this dish if you go to London. My second course (below) was basically this Middle Eastern creation with a harissa sauce on the side, a cupful of almond-scented couscous, and a chickpea-eggplant stew, served with some crispy-ass pita (£8.50 if I remember correctly). It was a real winner, but I think they put too much coriander in it or something.
Also on the list of amazing places to go in London is the pricey but delectable all-vegetarian Italian/Mediterranean restaurant Amico Bio. All I can say is that they really celebrate the vegetables they use, and don’t dress them up that much. It’s perfect. I started with a zuppa di fave secce e brocolli de rapa (£5.50), then had the seitan scallopini on a bed of the most delicious sauteed spinach I have ever had the pleasure of eating (£8), with a side of sauteed kale (could have left this one after all, for £2.80) and finished off with frittele de mele con salsa al ciocollato (£5). The last dish, the fried apple pastry, had the same aroma as every fried pastry that lures you in with its smell but you know isn’t vegan so you cry a lot, but they’re vegan here. GO. Also, go to Pho. I thought the pho I got from Loving Hut here in Prague was baller; clearly I was mistaken. The place is hella cheap, I think £7 for the tofu-mushroom—again, I managed the dish with the mushrooms, it was THAT GOOD.
Lastly, MAKE IT OUT TO THE GREENWICH MARKETS TO TRY SOME FUCKING VEGAN CUPCAKES. This is a picture of me devouring the hell out of a vegan chocolate chip cupcake I got from Ms. Cupcake (£2 each and I bought four). It was one of three that I ate; my cousin was the lucky recipient of the fourth. I ate the Ferrero Rocher-style cupcake as well as a banana cream one, in addition to the chocolate chip one here. I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I make some fucking amazing cupcakes, and Ms Cupcake here makes them better than me. I know, impossible, right?! BUT SHE IS THAT GOOD. GO HERE PLEASE GET FAT FOR ME. Also, Ms. Cupcake, if you’re reading this, can you move to NYC or LA for me pretty please?!
My last suggestion: if you should find yourself in Camden Town, which you will, go to Inspiral Lounge. I went there and ate some HELLA amazing lavender ice cream AND had a pint of beer with it. They also have free internet for you to use, and even a computer if you’re a weary traveler like yours truly.
Food Cart Review: Liba Falafel Truck »
In San Francisco, street food seems to be all up in the hizzy! Even for vegans! It’s gonna be the next Austin, Texas (where vegan Philly cheesesteaks and chocolate-dipped bananarchists come from carts) or some shit, but cold all the time.
Sadly, the East Bay seems to be lacking in novel food carts. Our street food is almost exclusively taco trucks, and I so much wish lard was vegan.
So Thank Dog for Liba Falafel Truck! These fantastic people park twice a week right in front of the Pixar studio (who keeps pumping out fucking adorable movies like animal-friendly Up and monster-friendly Monsters, Inc) in Emeryville.
The well dressed woman who took my money told me everything but feta cheese and some yogurt sauce were vegan. She said she wanted to make it easy for us! how nice! They’ve got tons of options, but I kept it simple. Your falafel sandwich comes with the essentials, chimichurri herb paste, a GODDAMN pickle, hot sauce or no hot sauce, and three of six crazy add-ons. I chose roasted eggplant, red cabbage with black sesame seeds, and hummus. There are also some over-the-top complimentary condiments, but LET ME GET TO THE POINT!:
It was delicious. One of my top 2 falafels ever! Would eat again!
Check it out from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays at 64th & Hollis Streets in Emeryville, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Park Avenue and Hollis Street in E’ville, and Wednesdays and Fridays at 155 De Haro St. at Alameda Street in San Francisco.
Sunrise Deli! »
I am declaring Sunrise Deli the best falafel in San Francisco proper. DEAL WITH IT. You all can argue with me but whatever, I don’t care what you have to say and won’t pretend to, either. As you can easily tell, I am a popular girl.
I was turned on to Sunrise by the good people at VegNews magazine and Brassica Supperclub and they collectively know their shit (read: food). The best suggestion I got was to buy some hot falafel balls (hehehe) to eat while they make your sandwich! OH MAN ALIVE! Hot, crispy, not too greasy but plenty greasy enough, they are truly something! So often falafels are too dry/hard/dense/stale but not here.
You can get your sandwich with or without the eggplant/potato combo; people seem to feel strongly about the authenticity/deliciousness of this (as they do about so many about so many seemingly ridiculous things) but I freaking love it. You can also get one with avocado I KNOW BUT SO GOOD or a plate with four falafel balls (hehehe), salad, hummus and tahini.
So again, it’s the best falafel in San Francisco and I don’t care if you say differently because guess what, I won’t be reading the comments or checking my email or having any communication with the outside world ever again so COMPLAIN AWAY, I KNOW I’M RIGHT KTHXBYE.
Review: La Méditerranée! »
La Méditerranée is a local Mediterranean food chain with three locations, two in SF and one in Berkeley. Vegans can get a variation of the Salad Méditerranée which is hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, Armenian potato salad, lentil salad and green salad. If you’re feeling extra hungry and you’re with another person or a group, you can get a vegan version of the Mediterranean Meza which is basically what everything in the Salad Méditerranée and dolmas too. Actually, I would skip that because it’s like $5 bucks more and you can only really add dolmas if you’re vegan. They also have falafel at lunch but it’s usually sold out by dinner. Always one vegetarian (usually vegan) soup too, which is probably something made with lentils and very good. The best part though is that they serve a VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE! It’s not marked vegan on the menu but it is! And it’s REALLY delicious, rich but not overly sweet. Very, very good and perfect end to dinner. They also can make their coffee drinks with soy milk. Overall, a solid choice for vegans if you’re feeling like Mediterranean food. It can also be a good date place in the evening, all locations are dimly lit and romantical. The Berkeley one also has a delightful heated patio in front.
A while ago I was eating there with a guy friend and this rather cute but obviously insane dude came up to me and said, “when you’re ready to dump this cheeseburger and get with a real man, you should call me,” and handed me his number. It was truly an act of crazy, not to mention REALLY the wrong line to use on me. Logically my response was, “?!??!!” and my friend, Dave, said, “I’m sorry, CHEESEBURGER?” The little dude, looking at Dave, said, “Uh yeah, cheeseburger?”—then, looking at me: “I know this is weird but you’re cute and if you’re not really with him, I’d love to take you out for a drink or a coffee or something?” and I’m all, “Uh, OK, thanks?” Dave is cracking up at this point and the poor little guy turned bright red(der) and walked-ran away. Where do dudes get the balls to do shit like this??? I can’t even make the moves on someone who is like, “Let’s have sex.” Anyway, I’ll always love Le Mediterranee in Berkeley for that awesome memory. And no, I never called the guy. That’s a lie. I called but totally chickened out when I realized it was a number for a U.C. BERKELEY DORM. I’m like 52. Knowing the statutory rape law in California as I do, I chose not to leave a message. Still not sure if I regret this or not. To this day, whenever I email or talk to Dave the conversation will eventually go back to, “Remember that dude who called me a cheeseburger?? That guy was amazing.” And he was. I hope he’s with some girl who thinks he’s USDA Quality Prime Rib. Ugh, I’m grossing out over here, I’ll stop.
[photos via yelp]
Review: Baladie Gourmet Cafe »
The lentil soup at Baladie is one of the best deals in the Financial District. A mere $3.25 for 16 ounces of delicious, hearty, spicy-if-you-want-it vegan lentil soup, plus toasted pitas, should you care for them. You know what you get for $3.25 at the wretched San Francisco Soup Company? NOTHING.
I had falafel in a pita once and it was all right; the hummus was good but the actual falafels were giant and dry. The dolmas are tasty. There’s a guy in the kitchen who wears two thin braids at the top of his forehead stuck straight up like antennae. Service is fast, even when they’re crowded. There is a big mural of Petra, the ancient rose city of Jordan, on the righthand wall; it is a little bit garish and absolutely beautiful. What I mean is, do not pass by Baladie on your way to Boxt Foods Co. or some other place to eat an overpriced salad on restaurant row (Kearny Street. You know). You will regret it in an hour when you are starving again.
What you should’ve ordered, especially on cold, bright, windy days, or foggy days, or rainy days, is LENTIL SOUP. It is so, so good. Everything you could want in a yellow lentil soup: carrots and potatoes and crispy little pita chips, and enough spice to break a little sweat along your hairline. I’d compare it to the first lentil soup I ever loved, namely my mother’s, but they are so different you couldn’t really compare them. And you can’t buy my mother’s soup from friendly people in an adorable little nook of a restaurant for $3.25, so Baladie it is.
I mean, I really love that soup.
Review: Medjool! »
Medjool is located in the fake Mission District. It’s where people from the Marina* come when they want to slum it in the scary, scary Mission. It’s pretentious and ridiculous (look at all those a-holes out front in the picture. What a bunch of a-holes) but they have a fair amount of vegan items on the menu—which is advertised as “more than a menu. It’s a cultural event.” BLOW ME, MEDJOOL—so I was game to try it. I went two times and had decent experiences with the hummus and couscous, nothing extraordinary, but my third time visiting, HOLY SHIT. Beyond the terrible service, terrible food, and terrible music there was the FUCKING TERRIBLE SERVICE. Our waiter was so snooty, so slow and so thick in the head, it was truly mind-boggling. He wasn’t exactly mean, more operating in a fashion that defied all logic. It was like in his universe, two plus two equals cookie. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s as if he was thoroughly confused that he was our waiter and not some dude who showed up at Medjool to PARTY!!! He never said hello, never told us the specials and when we finally flagged him down to order he asked, “What you want?” With this kind of service, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?!
I wasn’t all that surprised that three out of four dishes were fucked up with nary an apology or speedy correction and the biggest of all horrors, he brought me a FUCKING WHOLE CHICKEN. I was like, oh bitches no. I am VEGAN. He was like, “Oops. My bad.” I remained cool. He took away the carcass. Five minutes later a runner comes with ANOTHER WHOLE CHICKEN. I ask my friends which one of them is fucking with me. Seriously, is this a joke? I call the waiter back over and explain problem with receiving wrong order twice and he offers no apology or explanation and returns with my correct order a full 20 minutes later. Everyone else is done eating. I am forced to eat alone and feel extra fat. Fucking horrendous. I will never return and encourage all other vegans and vegan sympathizers to do the same. Luckily, nobody is beating down my door to take me to Medjool. Nobody is beating down my door to take me anywhere. Tear.
Actually, I take it back. The waiter was not only an alien from planet Insane Incompetency but also pretty mean. I might even call him a douche. Actually, to call him a douche would be an insult to douches because they’ve at least been inside a woman. Oh, snap!
*For those of you unfamiliar with SF geographical stereotypes, I’m sorry. They’re pretty great. Living in the Marina basically means that, if you’re a woman, you’ll finish college, work for a couple of years, find some jr. banker d-bag to marry, quit working to plan your wedding and then get pregnant, never work again, raise ungrateful brats while your husband is off cheating with a dude named Chereyl. Also, you bronze your cleavage.
Review: Ali Baba’s Cave! »
OK, what genius/saint thought it smart to grind, spice and fry chickpeas into little fried balls of perfection? I’d like to shake that man’s hand and then possibly simulate oral sex on his fingers. Was this man Jesus himself? I’m not one to speculate on whether or not Jesus invented falafel balls but whoever did most likely can do other crazy shit like turn water into wine and start enormous holy wars based strictly on the debate of his existence. To you, sir, I say, BRAVO. I also say, PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST!!!
The falafel at Ali Baba’s Cave is really very yummy and you can add fried eggplant and fried potatoes and fuck if that isn’t the trifecta of fried deliciousness. However, I’m gonna be forced to take one demerit point because these fools NEVER listen to you and I think it’s worse if you’re a woman. Listen, I understand that I’m the weaker and stupider sex,* but if I say no fucking hot sauce, I mean no fucking hot sauce this whitey will DIE. And I know you don’t value my life because I am a woman but um…I don’t know what to say. I really have no ground to stand on when who I fundamentally am is a second-class citizen at best and a wretched, whiny, bleeding, nagging, hooker beast at worst. What can you do? The falafel is REALLY good.
It’s so good, in fact, that the other night, I exited Ali Baba’s Cave on a complete falafel cloud of happiness. I was so excited and happy about everything that I yelled, “Cute dog!” to a guy and his super-cute dog as they drove by. The guy gave me a puzzled look and as he rounded the corner, I noticed that what I saw in the back seat was not in fact a dog but rather, a very old and very short lady with curly white hair. Presumably his grandmother. I am an asshole. Also, this falafel? Possibly magical as it creates illusions of the eye. Also, I am an asshole.
*This is a proven fact. Please don’t argue with me about “Right to Vote” and “Able to Show Face Flesh in Public,” Lucy Liberal and Esther Equality. Just get back in the kitchen and finish my pot pie, bitches! And if you forget the carrots like last time, there will be hell to pay. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I will murder your whole family.
[photo via yelp]
Review: Blue Front Cafe! »
Blue Front isn’t just in the Haight, it’s on Haight Street, so all the food is a little pricier than you’d like. The wraps are chock-full of deliciousness, however, and the texture and tang of the hummus is incomparable. I mean, for serious. I hear the gyros are good, but not being a meat-eater, I can’t vouch for them.
The vegetarian selections are bountiful and tasty. The avocado has always been buttery and perfectly ripe—no one likes a hard avocado, after all—and that spicy orange-colored sauce is delightful. The garden salad is huge and a good price. Get falafel in a pita with some dolmas to go and stop off at the New Lite Market for a six-pack, and there’s your night.
When I lived in the Haight, a trip to Blue Front and back took me maybe 15 minutes round trip, and this was before I learned to call ahead to avoid waiting inside. I don’t know that I ever properly appreciated having such a quality “Mediterranean for the undiscerning Occidental” café so close to my front door, but, hindsight. The owners are Greek Orthodox dudes from Jerusalem, and you must love them for adapting their cuisine to your international palate. Or at least, the palate your parents created when they gave two-year-old you a bunch of food in a plastic plate with inch-high sides and let you mix it all up and eat it as a huge mush of flavors. You see? They know and love you; that’s why you can get a wrap with hummus, avocado, falafel, lettuce, tomato, and dolmas.
I advise getting any of their vegetarian wraps except the one with cheese, which I have never tried and do not advocate on account of its not being vegan. Make liberal use of the orange sauce; it will help you forget that you are paying $1 to $2 more for your food than you would were you not on Haight Street, but sometimes figurative costs do have literal translations, and this is one of them.
[photo via yelp]