Archive forOctober, 2009

San Francisco 2009, Part 2

This is a bit late in coming, but to continue my record of my adventures in San Francisco, V took me to Medjool for sangria on the rooftop for the view. The sangria sucked, I’m sorry to say. In fact, I made V drink the entire carafe. V didn’t complain:

I really needed a tripod, but this was the view through a 50mm lens; it reminded me a lot of Baltimore.

We moved onto Casanova Lounge where I partook of some beers. And took pictures of the ceiling because it was entertaining.

Me! V was extremely amused that there was a butt next to my head. The decor at Casnova is…interesting.

Friday morning I decided to trek over to Rainbow Grocery. Because I think going to grocery stores when on vacation is a fun thing to do. Rainbow Grocery was amazing. I thought I was spoiled with my proximity to Wegmans, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Super H, but, wow. Rainbow Grocery has EVERYTHING. There are so many signs saying “vegan”; it was incredible. Vegan cookies, vegan cakes, GOOD vegan cheese (Daiya and Teese, though no Cheezly, which is my favorite), and on and on and on. I’m not sure I can live without Rainbow Grocery now that I’ve been there.

Funny story about lunch after Rainbow Grocery. Earlier in the week, V had wanted to take me to a restaurant near her apartment that she’d always wanted to go to but had never made it to, but she’d been researching it beforehand and read on Yelp that they fried their vegan stuff in the same oil as the fish. She didn’t remember the name of the place, but I was perplexed about why they had vats of of oil they were frying fish in, because I was under the impression it was a burger joint she was talking about. (I think she thought it was.) Well, I’d always wanted to go to Weird Fish, so after Rainbow Grocery, I dragged her over there, and she said, “hey, this is the place I wanted to take you but they cook their vegan stuff in the fish oil!” So she asked the waitress if that was true and the waitress said, no, they have dedicated oil and cooking implements for the vegan stuff. Woo! V sort of surprised me by ordering a vegan meal; I think it’s the chico taco. She said it was really good.

I got the fried seitan and chips.

I’ve never had fish and chips before and I’m not sure it was really supposed to, but I know this tasted NOTHING like fish. What it tasted exactly like to me was my Thanksgiving seitan “turkey”. It must have sage or something in it. It was good, though not at all fishy, and it was a HUGE amount. I could barely finish one piece.

This is what it looked like inside:

Later that day I helped V pack up her belongings for her move to LA and I took these pictures of her Mission kitchen.

Now what you may be waiting for are my pictures and review of Millennium, the all-vegan gourmet restaurant in the heart of San Francisco (if you consider the Tenderloin the heart of San Francisco, which I do). Unfortunately I didn’t want to take my dSLR and my iPhone pictures SUCK. Badly. And there’s not much I can do to make them any better. So you’re going to have to suffer through this because I’m going to post them anyway because the meal was sooooo good. The pictures do NOT do it justice AT ALL.

Here’s V looking smart:

And me looking stupid:

For starters we got the house-pickled vegetables and the roasted beets glazed in balsamic and rosemary. DELICIOUS though the photo is atrocious.

They also provided free bread with a yummy “cheesy” tofu spread.

V ordered some Italian-sounding eggplant dish that this photo makes look like a disorganized pile of stuff but which was in reality nicely presented and which V – ordinarily a very light eater – ate every bite of, save the bit she reserved for me.

We got a side of garlic chard with caramelized onions to share.

I had the Korean BBQ tempeh with homemade gochujang.

It was excellent, though about the limit of smokiness that I like. I don’t think I’ve ever had properly cooked lotus root before because it’s the first time I ever really liked it.

We also killed a bottle of wine during dinner. For dessert, I wanted the peanut butter chocolate cake, but as one of V’s few defects is she doesn’t like peanut butter OR chocolate (I know, I know, WHAT?) I had to force her to get the sorbet sampler instead. I know one of these is fig but I don’t remember what the other two are. We also had Prosecco with dessert because we’re lushes.

An absolutely TERRIBLE picture of my cake, which came with a small scoop of sorbet and was amazingly delicious, although extremely rich, so much so I couldn’t finish it.

All in all an AMAZING meal, and even more amazing because I had fully intended to treat V since I more or less forced her to go with me, but she absolutely insisted on paying for everything as my birthday gift. Wow!

….aaand finally, speaking of birthdays, MARK TURNED 30 YESTERDAY!! I had a surprise party for him because I’m sneaky!! I had to have it in a bar because I couldn’t have pulled it off at the house, so I for once didn’t have to spend two entire days cooking before a party.

I baked him a cake at home …

… but couldn’t sneak it to the bar, so his mom came up with the idea of sneaking jelly candies into the bar and sticking birthday candles into them so he could blow out candles, be sung to, and thoroughly embarrassed.

One of Mark’s gifts, from his friends Brad and April …

… which was later used on my cake at home:

And with that I take my leave: we have guests who drove down all the way from Bethelehem, PA to be at his party and I need to get back to entertaining them!

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Potato Leek Celeriac Soup

I’m home from San Francisco and I have more SF stuff to share with you, including my meal at Millennium, which was amazing, although the photos I took on my phone are substantially less than amazing. So I’m going to see if I can clean the pictures up, then I’ll put together a post. The soup of the day when I ate at Millennium was Potato Leek Celeriac, which sounded extremely good to me (most soups do), but I didn’t order it because I wanted to have room for everything else, including dessert. Plus I figured I could probably make Potato Leek Celeriac Soup pretty easily myself. So tonight that’s what I did.

Potato Leek Celeriac Soup

(You can see the oil can I bought at the Wok Shop in the photo. I like it, but oil drips from the spout after use.)

1 large leek, white and some green parts, chopped
1 head celeriac (celery root), small dice
2 medium potatoes, small dice
2 cups vegan broth
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Dragonfly’s Dry, Bulk Uncheese (optional)

Peel the celeriac. If possible you can use a vegetable peeler, but you may have to use a knife for some parts.

Dice the celeriac and potatoes, and chop the leek. I find that recipes are always directing you to use the white part of the leek only and to discard the green part or to use it for another use. You never see any recipes calling for the green part, though. I just use as much of the leek as I can at all times. The end result may not be as pure in color as expected, but that doesn’t bother me much.

In a soup pot over medium heat, add some olive oil. You’ll notice I never give measurements for oil. That’s because I’d never think to measure oil. I always just use the minimum necessary for my purposes. I used maybe a tablespoon here, for reference. When the oil is hot, add the leeks and stir.

Cook, stirring often, until very soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the celeriac and cook, stirring often, another 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, stir, and cook another minute or two.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for half an hour.

Remove from heat and either cool and puree in batches in the blender, or let cool slightly and blend using an immersion blender. Add a little water if it’s too thick.

Return to heat, season with salt and pepper, and heat through. Optionally stir in the uncheese.

Serve. Croutons would be nice if you have then, or a spring of thyme.

I was lamenting the fact that creamy soups like this make for exceedingly boring photographs so Mark decided to contribute by acting very excited about the soup.

That was all staged, though. Mark decided he didn’t want soup. (He did eat three servings of the field roast and veggies I also served, however.)

Tomorrow night Mark has to take me out for Indian food because it’s my birthday! Bwah-haha! (Actually, Smucky has informed me it’s already my birthday in Australia!)

Mark and I are going to Disney World for our 5-year anniversary next weekend! If anyone has tips for eating vegan in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and MGM Studios, I’d love to hear them. I’ve heard the restaurants there are very accommodating, in fact, I went to school with a guy who was a chef at one of them and he said everyone in his kitchen actually loved getting vegan requests because it gave them a chance to be creative. But I get super cranky if I go without frequent intake of food, so I’m definitely interested in hearing anyone else’s experiences. I’ll also make sure I take along snacks for emergencies.


Don’t blame me for this photo, it’s my mom’s fault for sending me the kitty rooster hat!

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San Francisco 2009

Hello from San Francisco! President Obama stopped by to see me – his cavalcade drove right past my hotel a short while ago. I was here for work for the first half of the week but now I’m just here for pleasure. And pleasurable San Francisco always is. SF never fails to disappoint literature-loving vegans. Obviously I’ve not been cooking anything, but I have managed to snap a few photos of stuff I’ve eaten. Although I brought my dSLR, this has been a more shopping-heavy rather than scenery-heavy trip so far, so I haven’t actually taken it anywhere with me and these are all iPhone photos.

I arrived Saturday morning and met up with my friend, V, who quickly whisked me off to vegan brunch in the Mission near her apartment. Here she is awaiting her next mimosa:

My hotel is close to Golden Era, where I ate several times last year. I’ve only made it over there once so far this year, and I got the pho.

It’s a little culty at Golden Era: these Supreme Master postcards are slipped under the glass on every table. Nonetheless, the food is amazing so I keep going back.

I should have taken photos of the crazy weather on Tuesday, but I was in my work conference and didn’t have a chance. It was like a hurricane though, with severe winds and heavy rain. From the hotel in which the conference was being held, I watched about a dozen people have their umbrellas turned inside out and then whipped out of their hands (Tuesday night, the streets were positively littered with broken, abandoned umbrellas), I saw two newspaper vending boxes blow over (they are so heavy and squat I found this amazing), I saw a man get beamed in the head with a flying sign, and I feared the street lamp by the hotel was going to blow over. It really did look like a hurricane. By the time my sessions were over for the day, it had calmed down, and I never got caught in any heavy rain myself.

Although I usually run through Chinatown on every trip, for whatever reason, I’ve never devoted a few hours to really exploring it. Until yesterday.

I was very happy to finally visit The Wok Shop in person, and they have a bunch more stuff than they do online. Amazingly, the only thing I walked out with was an Italian oil can: nothing really wok-related. I’ve been needing the oil can for a long time, though, and it was cute and I was trying to be on my best behavior, purchase-wise.

There’s a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, but they were closed on Wednesdays. Fortunately, nearly every restaurant has several veggie options. I got a lunch special that started off with hot and sour soup …

… and ended with “hot tofu”.

Another thing I’d never done before was head over to Berkeley, although I did want to go to school there. A friend’s co-worker had sent me a list of Bay Area used bookstores and as most of them seemed to be in Berkeley, I figured I’d better check it out. It was amazing. SO MANY BOOKS! I was in book heaven! One bookstore even had FOUR resident kitties! When I’m away from home, I really miss being able to pet kitties and end up chasing down any strays I find and showering them with (sometimes unwanted) attention. Here are two of them, waiting to be fed after scampering around the store being totally adorable:

Between City Lights yesterday (which is located right on the edge of Chinatown, and which one of my very favorite bookstores in the world, and which is where I bought four books) and Berkeley today, I have purchased over ten books. I’ve also already read 3 and a half books since I got here; three of which I brought with me. I have a lot of books to lug home.

Another great thing about Berkeley is it’s very vegan-friendly. Soy cheese is an option at every pizzeria, for example. Not by the slice, though, so I had to order an entire pizza for myself:

I just took what I couldn’t finish back to the hotel with me and ate it a few hours later.

And my food adventures don’t end there! Tomorrow night I have booked a table for V and myself at Millennium for a special pre-birthday dinner for myself. I’m very excited! That will be my last night here, then Saturday I head home to Mark and Brachtune. Mark reports that Brachtune is doing very well and is pigging out, eating 3+ meals a day, which is great news.

And with that, I need to go get ready to hit the town with V tonight. I will report back on my Millennium experience in a couple of days!

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National Noodle Day Chili Noodles

My early thoughts on dinner tonight were German. My father sent me an email wishing me a happy German-American Day. (He considers himself German-American despite the fact most of my ancestors have been in America for centuries.) But although I’d usually be very happy to go searching Seitan is My Motor for something vegan and German, or eat some sauerkraut, I had a pretty hearty lunch and wanted something fairly light for dinner. Then I read in Jes’s blog that it’s National Noodle Day and I decided we were having noodles instead. Now, I know I could have made German noodles – Bryanna even did a post on vegan spaetlze earlier this year – but I got it in my head that I wanted some sort of spicy chili noodle.

I didn’t take pictures of the whole process: I was in too big a hurry. I was starving, and the boys were apparently starving (Mark’s friend Jathan is staying with us) as well. The good news is this is a one-pot dish and ready in about 15 minutes.

I wasn’t fooling around when I decided to make “chili” noodles: chilis are present in three different forms. It wasn’t overwhelmingly hot despite that, though you can adjust the amount of each type of chlii to suit your tastes.

Chili Noodles

3 bundles udon noodles, or 1 lb. wide Chinese noodles, linguine, or other toothsome noodle
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated or minced
6 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2″ slivers
6 oz. snow peas
1/2 cup tofu, cubed (optional)
6 oz. bean sprouts
1 1/2 cups vegan broth
2 Tbsp black bean garlic sauce (from Asian grocery store)
2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp corn starch + 1/2 cup cold water
1 tsp chili sesame oil

Cook the noodles to al dente, drain, rinse under cold water, and toss with sesame oil to prevent sticking. Prep the veggies: chop the bell pepper, scallions, and tofu, slice the chili pepper, grate the ginger, and have the bean sprouts and snow peas ready. Whisk together the broth, black bean garlic sauce, chili garlic sauce, and rice vinegar in a small bowl or measuring cup. In another small bowl, whisk together the corn starch and cold water. In the same pot in which you cooked the noodles, heat some peanut oil over medium high heat, then add the ginger and white parts of the scallions. Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the bell and chili peppers and fry for a minute or two. Pour in the broth mixture and bring to a boil. Toss in the snow peas, bean sprouts, and tofu, stirring to let them warm up. Add the corn starch mixture. The broth should immediately thicken. When it has thickened, add the noodles and chili oil and stir until well combined and noodles are warmed through. Top with the green parts of the scallions.

Honestly I don’t think the photo does it justice; I thought they were pretty good:

I’ll keep this in my repertoire of super-fast meals.

Brachtune quite rudely jumped up on the table while we were eating. Fortunately Jathan is a cat person, although even cat people don’t want cat tails in their noodles.

Brachtune loves books.

Oh, she doesn’t belong on the table, but it’s so hard to say no to her.

I also couldn’t say no to her when she wanted to go on an hour-long walk on her leash Saturday afternoon, and now I’m covered in bug bites. What sort of stupid bug is out biting in October? Isn’t relief from bugs supposed to be one of the great things about fall?

As for German-American Day, I celebrated it by listening to Einst├╝rzende Neubauten all day. Which didn’t make it too different than any other day, but was pretty awesome anyway.

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Bean Curd with Fermented Black Beans

I don’t know how it happened, but it’s October. I keep thinking it’s, like, July. Many vegan bloggers will be celebrating October through Vegan MoFo, whereas I will probably be doing a Vegan NoMoFo this October. It’s just going to be busy. Fortunately most of my busyness is related to October being the best month of the year: my birthday, Smark’s birthday, our anniversary, Halloween, and this year, a trip to San Francisco for me! I’ll be lucky if I can make a post once a week, let alone once a day, this month. I did manage to whip up a post tonight, though!

I don’t know if it’s because the days are getting shorter – I hate driving home from work in the dark – but I’ve been feeling more and more pressured to get home and get dinner on the table earlier, while not bothering to drag myself out of bed any earlier in order to make that possible. (It’s too cold in the mornings to get up!) Dinner, therefore, ends up being less creative and less good (and less blog-worthy). Tonight I knew I was going to use some of my homemade tofu in a stir fry and planned to stop by Super H and pick up some exotic Chinese veggies – gai lan or something of that sort – to accompany it, but once en route (hence en traffic), I realized I didn’t feel like going a couple of miles out of my way to go to Super H and decided to use up the boring old veggies I had in the fridge. And the following was born:

Bean Curd with Fermented Black Beans

Fermented (or preserved) black beans are one of my favorite ingredients and are available at most Asian grocery stores. They are actually soy beans (not black beans), and are rather salty. There really isn’t a substitute for them that I can think of, although if you can’t find them in bean form, you can probably find black bean paste or sauce, which are fermented black beans that have been mushed up into paste or sauce form.

2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper (any colour), chopped
10 oz extra firm tofu (preferably homemade), chopped
thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated or minced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp fermented black beans
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or even sake)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp black vinegar
1 Tbsp chili garlic paste
1/2 cup vegan broth, any flavor
2 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp cold water

Place the fermented black beans, wine, soy sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl and stir. Set aside.

Prep all the veggies and tofu.

Heat a wok over medium high heat and add some peanut oil. When it’s hot, add the carrots and stir fry for a minute.

Add the garlic and ginger, fry for a few seconds.

Add the celery and stir fry for a minute or two.

Add the bell pepper and stir fry another minute or two.

Add the tofu and chili paste; stir fry for yet another minute or two (the advantage of making your own tofu is you can make it as firm as you like so it won’t crumble when stir-fried).

Pour in the fermented black bean mixture and stir.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil.

Whisk together the cornstarch and cold water, pour into the wok and stir as it thickens the broth and coats the veggies and tofu.

Serve with brown rice.

This wasn’t the most exciting meal in the world, but it was fast, used up stuff from the fridge, and is healthy. Mine came out just on the cusp of saltiness I can tolerate, but that’s because I used about 3 tablespoons of the fermented black beans (I reduced it to 2 tablespoons in the recipe). You can rinse the beans before using to reduce the saltiness. I usually don’t bother, but I think the next time I use so much of them, I’ll either rinse them or reduce/eliminate the soy sauce.

I visited the parental homestead on Saturday and my mom gave me a framed photo of my great-grandmother, the one to whom I’m nearly certain my beloved cast iron skillet used to belong, and which I hung on the kitchen wall so she can be near her skillet:

I really like the homey atmosphere it adds to the kitchen and I’m still really tickled to have her skillet. Unfortunately, Mark keeps demanding that I serve him coffee like an “obedient wife”, as she’s doing to my great-grandfather. (My response to Mark is not fit for a public blog.)

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