Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Foodgasms in California

You know those vacations where you eat like royalty (or at least relatively healthy royalty!) for an entire week, get plenty of time outdoors, eat some more, and come back sans nasty vacation weight gain?

Yeah, this was it!

I spent a week in Cali (a couple days in L.A. and the remainder of the week in San Francisco) and never ate better; Frisco in particular gives NYC a run for the foodie capital crown. While NYC restaurants still have to toss around "organic" and "local" to lure in customers, these adjectives are simply the norm in San Francisco, as are the separate recycling and compost bins in restaurants, stores, and public spaces. Ah NYC, you have much catching up to do!

And the veggie eats? Awesome! I've got a few musts for any Friendly Veg readers traveling to Cali:

Real Food Daily, a hip vegan restaurant in Beverly Hills, elevates hippie vegan cuisine to L.A. chic- my pal has spotted celebs like Bruce Willis dining here! With an extensive menu where even carnivores can find a mock meat sandwich that they'll enjoy, I can see why this place is popular! We ordered (and subsequently, all sampled) the March special- a wonderfully spicy kung pao tempeh with lotus root, broccoli, snow peas, and cashews over pineapple rice, RFD's classic tempeh burger, and the satisfying classic club sandwich in a wrap. Also worth seeking out in L.A. is their Farmer's Market- the outdoor, tented venue with plenty of space and plenty of vendors is open every day. Featuring not just your typical fruit and vegetable vendors, the Farmer's Market is home to The French Crepe Company (where I brunched on a savory mushroom and spinach crepe), Bob's Coffee and Doughnuts (not for the doughnuts silly, but for a great, smooth cup of espresso!), Sushi A Go-Go, Ulysses Voyage for Greek cuisine, and Singapore's Banana Leaf - all venues had several vegetarian options to choose from! The Farmer's Market is a must.

In San Francisco, we were lucky enough to be just a five minute walk from the Ferry Building Marketplace on the Embarcadero- smaller than the L.A. Farmer's Market, and yet still more space than Chelsea Market (an unfair comparison I suppose, since real estate is scarce here in NYC!), the Marketplace also offers up some of the most awesome gourmet shops- Far West Fungi has the widest variety of mushrooms I've seen in any shop, and Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese Shop was filled with the loveliest and stinkiest cheeses made in Cali- and plenty of places for a vegetarian to munch happily. We visited The Slanted Door's takeout window, Out the Door, and enjoyed generous servings of Vietnamese vegetarian buns and lemongrass tofu with rice; Imperial Tea Court not had a huge variety of teas to choose, but some of the most authentic spicy noodles I've had since visiting China; Il Cane Rosso offered a ricotta and broccoli rabe sandwich on foccacia, and a to-die for roasted carrot and parsnip salad with currants.

After ravaging the Ferry Building, we also visited Underdog, a sausage/hot dog joint serving up organic sausages and vegan hot dogs near Golden Gate Park. A vegan chorizo dog with organic homemade tater tots sure felt great after a day in the park! O Izakaya in Japantown didn't have quite the extensive small plate menu as my fave NYC Japanese places do, but I enjoyed their vegan ramen with a generous amount of firm shiitake mushrooms. Pagan Burmese and Thai outside of Lincoln Park didn't disappoint either- they were very generous with the amount of spicy tofu kebat and their vegetable samusas. Tiny resto Weird Fish in the Mission District used to be completely vegetarian/vegan, but now offers fish entrees (along with their daily "Suspicious Fish" dish) in addition to their veggie items. After waiting in the chilly night air for a table, I was immediately warmed up by their vegan sweet potato-coconut soup, and their vegan chorizo tacos:

I can't wait to go back and eat! Ah NYC, you'll get it someday...
In the meantime, I'll be visiting the new outpost of SF's Blue Bottle Coffee in Williamsburg, opening today.

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