Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gratitude; Bay Area Trip Part 2

My recent trip to the Bay Area really should be called Vegan Food Tour 2005! For the better part of the past year, Betsy & Jim have been exploring vegetarianism and veganism so I was thrilled that they wanted to check out some of the best vegan spots in the country which are conveniently located in San Francisco.

Friday night we had reservations for Millennium which is as fancy-pants as any conventional swank restaurant. I had read amazing things about this place and I knew that during my weekend visit they were offering a set, four-course menu featuring winter squashes with organic wine pairing. I just fainted. Excitedly, I told my husband this before I left and he said -- deadpan even for him -- "yipee."

When we got to the restaurant, the regular menu looked so good that we chucked the Winter Squash Jubilee option aside. The crowd was classically eclectic. From Bay Area professor types to tattooed teens. I loved them all, and we caught eyes, almost nodded, knowing we knew the secret to life. The ambiance was -- I don't know, I was too excited about the food; wood bar I think, tables, yadi yadi. I forgot to say that before we went to Millennium, we stopped at a hoydee toydee bar a block away and I had an infused vodka cucumber gimlet or two. WOWOWOWOW. Forget it. Betsy had an elderberry martini. And Jim had a tarragon spritzer served in a banana leaf cone. I made that last drink up. But you would've believed me with the crazy almost pretentious combos on the menu. They were delicious, however. OK, BACK TO MILLENNIUM . . . let's just say that Betsy & Jim are not shy about food consumption. It's like unbelting your pants before you eat, knowing. It was liberating in many ways to know that we were about to THROW DOWN. We ordered five, yes five, appetizers, three entrees, a bottle of vegan organic wine, three desserts and coffee. Mmmhmm, yes we did and we ate every last morsel.

Appetizers: Herb encrusted oyster mushrooms w/ persimmon chutney. Right off the bat you get an understanding of what kind of night was in store. This dish tasted like calamari but better. Two words: Persimmon. Chutney. K? Off the chain. Next, curried eggplant with nan topped with tiny diced cucumbers and mint. CRAZY. Then, raw beet "ravioli." - I can't even describe this, but let's just say: HOLY.

Entrees: Jim had the pumpkin tamal with parsnip bisque. AAHH! Betsy had a lentil crepe stuffed with curried garbanzos. JESUS. I had a mini squash stuffed with spiced -- well, squash and vegetables topped with pineapple. LORD HAVE MERCY.

Dessert: Jim: some chocolate torte thing. MINDBLOWING. Betsy: pumpkin "creme" brule. UNBELIEVABLE. Me: Quince crisp with caramel "ice cream." NOT EVEN FAIR.

So, I can easily say this was the best meal I've had in my entire life. I was stuffed and I don't like to be stuffed, but I gladly stuffed my face at this place. I cried real tears leaving Millennium. "Bye Millennium, I love you . . ." I wondered if I could justify flying up again just to eat one more meal there.

Saturday night Betsy, her friend Betsy (yes 'nother Betsy) and I went to Cafe Gratitude, a raw restaurant. I knew I would go bananas over Millennium and though I was interested in eating at Cafe Gratitude, I was not clicking my heels in anticipation. I thought, This raw phenomena is interesting, but whatever. I can only mentally process my vegan commitment. Thinking about going raw too tires me. The ambiance in this place was like getting wrapped up in an earth friendly organic-cotton comforter. You suddenly feel more relaxed stepping into the little cafe. The waitress almost hugged me when we walked in and the air was so thick with -- hmm . . . goodness? Love? Drug-induced gas? that I just about hugged her back. Not kidding. We were speaking nose to nose, personal space was no more. The lighting was so warm and orange. The paintings colorful and joyful, full of laughing children. Creeping Charlies were hung, and blond dreadlocks were tied up neatly in hemp scarves. The menu was written all in self affirmations. Instead of ordering Joe's Slop Plate or the Number Twelve, all the dishes were named: I Am (Fill In the Blank). Outside of this restaurant it would feel silly to say "I'll have the I Am Spectacular and the I Am Happy with a side of the I Am Giving," but here it's safe to let your scared little inner hippie run free. It felt great. And after you order they say, "Ok, You Are Dazzling and You Are Bad Ass." I made that last dish up. That's just what my menu would say.

Appetizers: Young Coconut Curried Soup with shreds of zucchini and tiny tomatoes. I didn't think I'd like cold soup but: TO DIE. We also shared vegan Caesar salad: GODDAMN.

Dinner: Three different types of "pizza" though my absolute favorite was the I Am Luscious (whoops, my menu name again), the one with the pesto sauce spread on the raw crust/cracker made of dehydrated nuts and vegetables topped with shredded greens. F-F-F-FAV!

Dessert: Believe it or not we all shared just one. Almond milk "ice cream" topped with raw chocolate brownies and an almond milk latte. UH, HEAVEN.

I feel much, much love for raw food now. You can honestly taste every flavor of a dish. I'm sorry I judged before. In fact, now I crave that raw taste more than Millennium. Millennium was a special treat, but I could honestly eat at Cafe Gratitude every single day.

After dinner we went to a party in the lower Haight. The hosts were fantastically eccentric. He was an Austin Powers look-a-like film maker who had done a few films about martinis. He was wearing white pants, white retro button up and white slip on shoes. His wife was fabulously Italian, puckering with air kisses calling us Dawwling! She wore a black baby doll dress with silver, elbow length gloves. They had just gotten back from Iceland where they stayed at a natural spa called the Blue Lagoon. Did you know that all Icelanders are gorgeous, men and women? Me neither. They are next heading to an International World Music Festival in the Sahara desert, next to Timbuktu which is not a mythical place, fyi.

Anyway, other than the hosts, the party was a bit boring so Betsy, Betsy and I started talking a ton of pictures. We tuned the rest of the party out:

Then we took it to the streets:
My Bay Area trip was fantastic!

Tomorrow, the family and I are on our way to the desert. We're trying a new Thanksgiving tradition. This is the first annual. And though every day is Thanksgiving at our house, I want to say a deep, heartfelt thanks for my stellar life, my bestest friends Mandy, Betsy and Honduro, and to my new blogger friends with whom I feel a genuine kinship. I Am Grateful, and I don't mean the hummus plate with young coconut thyme dressing.


Marigoldie said...

As I read the descriptions, I was instinctively waiting for the animal product to pop up, but it didn't. Amazing! Or as you might say, HOLY.

You probably turn a lot more people onto the humane diet more than my rants. I shall try to stick to describing vegan deliciousness.

I too am grateful for my new blogger friends, among other things.

madness rivera said...

I'm not so good at the rant, but make no mistake, I am a fan of the rant. Adds dimension to our pitch, our secret ploy to convert all.

girl least likely to said...

mmmm, you make me want to fly to san francisco just to eat.

Michelle Fry said...

My mouth is watering. I hope to get to both those restaurants some day soon. You know, loving veggies really helps make the vegetarian thing work. I about drooled when I read about the beat ravioli and the parsnips. I don't think I ever met a vegetable I didn't like.

andrea said...

I am so close to being converted. seriously.

kiki said...

i am so glad you had a good raw food experience, i am a great lover of raw foods. i am also glad you had such a good visit with your friends.
happy thanksgiving

Misty Mawn said...

OMG....I am sooooo jealous! I have the Millennium cookbook. I LOVE the food in there, even though it is so much work! How cool!!! I had some really good vegan food in San Fran seven years ago...we have nothing in comparison in Erie. Toronto is the closest and have some awesome places to eat that are all vegan!

madness rivera said...

I bought the cookbook too! And I've never really cooked anything complicated before. I'm like, Now what? I'm in over my head. I've asked for a food processor for the holidays because apparently NOTHING is gonna happen out of that cookbook until I have one of those. My blender from the turn of the century barely cranks out hummus.

yolie said...

wonderful report on your SF holiday! And so timely for me. I just went up there but didn't eat anywhere near as healthy as you did. (next time I've got two new places to try) However, this week begins my Vegan Journey. I made my daughter a vegan dessert for Thanksgiving having finally found a cookbook that looks to have scrumptious recipes. Do pass on any titles you love.

bettyboop said...

huhfrigginlarious! i am laughing! outloud. at work. this is such a great piece-so many classic lines.
btw, i took jim to gratitude like the next day-loved it. fyi, their hummus (which they ran out of when we were there) was like nothing i've ever tasted-incredible! we also had the stuffed avocado-yes, HOLY! AND, i made a raw dessert for tofurkey day and no one liked it except me and jim!! i also took a vegan entree-kabocha squash stuffed with indonesian sweet rice. again, no one liked it but us. oh well.

madness rivera said...

Yoli - Congratualations on embarking on The Journey and taking your daughter with you. When I started my journey I bought a simple cookbook called How It All Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard:

Their approach is modern and sweet and just spoke to me. And the recipes were simple enough to try with the girls.

Betsy -- I can't believe no one like your stuff! Oh swell, more for you guys.

Cynthia Perello said...

It sounds like you had so much 'healthy' fun! What a rich experience. I am motivated.

Anonymous said...

Great story. Hilarious. I love you girl! xoxo, M

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