Archive for the 'Near and Far' Category

Search Results:

Vegan Wines in Haute Cuisine

Author: Taste Tester | No Comments
Categories: Great Food, Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , , ,

Encountering organic and sustainable wines in Oakland

Vegan wines were once seen as a quirky novelty, an esoteric indulgence enjoyed by eternally fastidious vegetarians who somehow taste a gamey edge on a pinot noir from Burgundy, notes of bacon fat from wines extracted from the Syrah grapes of the northern Rhône, and just plain old meatiness from Argentinian malbec wines. Indeed, the very existence of vegan wines might come as an odd surprise for most people; after all, wine is essentially fermented grape juice. Apparently, there are quite a few animal-derived products involved in making wine, specifically in the filtration (or fining) process. As a matter of fact, bull’s blood was traditionally used as a fining agent until it was banned by the European Union (EU) after the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as mad cow disease) crisis. Meanwhile, a number of animal-derived products are still permitted in the winemaking process; some of the most prevalent are isinglass (fish bladders), gelatin, casein (milk protein), and albumen (egg whites).

Fortunately, the Oakland vegan food scene is in full bloom, with a diverse variety of restaurants offering vibrant, hearty, and utterly delicious meals with wines made from organic and sustainable practices. That means no added sulfites (also known as sulfur dioxide, a preservative that is widely used in food manufacturing), no genetically modified organisms, and no harmful chemicals such as weed killers, fungicides, and insect repellents. The Encuentro Café and Wine Bar, located at 202 Second Street in Oakland, is one of the first wine bars to exclusively pair vegan and vegetarian food with organically grown and vegan-friendly wines from small, local, and old-world vintners such as like Owen Roe Sharecropper Cabernet Sauvignon, Dashe Dry Creek Zinfandel or Navarro Gewurztraminer. Interestingly enough, sustainability in winemaking has also spilled over to the big leagues. UK-based retail giant Marks and Spencer has also released the first-ever carbon neutral Beaujolais Nouveau, in addition to a 2009 Altos del Condor Sauvignon Gris from the Trapiche Vineyards in Argentina, crafted by the veteran winemaker Daniel Pi.

With a booming vegetarian food and wine community in Oakland, San Francisco, and the rest of the Bay Area, it’s encouraging to see a deeper appreciation for vegan wines.

Ferraro’s (Wailea, Maui)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

3900 Wailea Alanui
Wailea, HI 96753
(808) 874-8000

Ferraro'a Rating

Ferraro’s at the Four Seasons was simply off the charts. We made a special trip to dine at one of our favorite places, and it turned out to be the best meal of the trip.

The setting is relaxed and unhurried, outdoors alongside the pools of the Four Seasons and facing a sunset view over the Pacific, with the island of Khoolawe across the strait. Somehow, Ferraro’s is sheltered from the strong afternoon winds that bear down on Wailea on summer afternoons.

The menu is Italian inspired and Maui-fresh ingredients infused. Vegetarian and vegan options are always available, and it’s the kind of place that could likely accommodate any request. Everything took a while to come, so I had a chance to snap a few photos just for fun.

Dinner at Ferraro's

Oil and Water, KAGoldberg

Dinner at Ferraro's

Fantastic ciabatta bread, KAGoldberg

Kathryn dove into the ciabatta bread, which had a perfect crunchy crust—though she wouldn’t know, since I’m the only one who eats them!

First came my tomato fennel soup. I’m sometimes wary of tomato soups being too acidic, or made with cream— this one was neither. A vegan soup smoothed and mellowed by fennel puree. I’ve never had a tomato soup I liked more.

Tomato Fennel Soup

Tomato Fennel Soup

My main course was this quinoa spaghetti with pesto. The spaghetti was al dente with a flavor that shone through the light pesto. The tiny Kula tomatos were flavor bombs at the peak of ripeness.

At Ferraro's

Quinoa Spaghetti with Pesto—Amazing, KAGoldberg

Kathryn had this asparagus risotto with black truffles. When she ate her fill, I finished the rest. One word, Wow!

Asparagus risotto with black truffles

Asparagus Risotto with Black Truffles

With great restraint, we skipped dessert, but they had other plans. Since it was a wedding anniversary dinner for us, they brought us a special plate with a variety of small chocolate truffles. With the sun setting over the sea, it was the perfect way to end a perfect meal.

View from Ferraro's

View from Ferraro's

Cozmic Café & Pub (Placerville, CA)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

Cozmic Café & Pub
594 Main Street
Placerville, CA 95667
(530) 642-8481

Cozmic Cafe Rating

Looking for a place to stop for lunch between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, Happy Cow helped us find the Cozmic Café & Pub in Placerville. What a great place!

We drove into town on a bright and shiny Saturday morning, and found a really happening downtown with a lively a.m. farmers market right across the street from The Cozmic. Nestled in a 1859 historic building with a gold-mine in the back (?!), The Cozmic cafe is a fun place for a veggie lunch with people-watching.

Placerville's Cozmic Café & Pub

Placerville’s Cozmic Café & Pub, KAGoldberg

I ordered the Tofu Scramble, which was light and fluffy with mushrooms, and onions on a bed of spinach leaves, with a side of wheat toast and a Mixed Berry Smoothie.
Tofu Scramble

Tofu Scramble, KAGoldberg

K got the The Righteous Rice Bowl, with organic rice, organic balsamic beans, carrots, cabbage and cheese, under salsa and more with a few avocado wedges on top.

Righteous Rice Bowl

Righteous Rice Bowl, KAGoldberg

We loved our meal so much we stopped there again and had the same thing on the way home from Tahoe.

Jyun Kang Restaurant (Ukiah)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , , , ,

City of 10,000 Buddhas
2001 Talmage Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
Jyun Kang
(707) 462-0939

Jyun Kang Rating

A vegan restaurant in Ukiah? Don’t act so surprised. Ukiah (actually Talmage, just east of town) is home to The City of Ten-Thousand Buddhas, which, according to Wikipedia, “is one of the first Chinese Zen Buddhist temples in the United States, and one of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western Hemisphere.”

So we made a special trip on our way home from Mendocino this Winter. (Note that they’re closed on Tuesdays, so we missed them on the trip up and ate there on the way back.)

At the end of Talmage Road, we entered the campus through a two-story, ornate yellow gate. We stopped at the administration building on the right to check-in and sign the guestbook.

Gate at City of 10,000 Buddhas

The restaurant is just a two blocks further, past some amazing murals and statues.

Jyun Kang

We arrived about 12:40, just before a big rush, and every table was soon full. They have about 50 different things on the menu, there’s quite a selection—all vegan.

Menu at Jyun Kang (small)

Menu at Jyun Kang (click to enlarge)

Delicious Tea

The tea came right away. I’m not an expert, but it tasted like a barley tea, similar to the Korean teas we’ve had. We decided to sample a few things and order more than we could eat in one sitting. We ended up with. . .

Steamed Dumplings (a.k.a. momos)

Steamed Dumplings (a.k.a. momos), KAGoldberg

Golden Tofu Seaweed Rolls w/ Plum Sauce

Golden Tofu Seaweed Rolls w/ Plum Sauce, KAGoldberg


Fried Japanese Style Noodles & Mixed Vegetables

Fried Japanese Style Noodles & Mixed Vegetables, KAGoldberg

Actually the noodles took a long time to come. I think they forgot about us, until K prompted them for our order. They were very apologetic!

The Golden Tofu Seaweed Rollshad a great texture and a really strong seaweed taste. Unscientifically, it was twice as strong as an equivalent sushi roll. I liked it, but K found it a bit too fried for her taste. The carrots and crunchy sprouts were excellent in the plum sauce.

The Japanese Style Noodles were peppery and excellent. Again, I enjoyed this dish more than K did. All of the flavors were different than we’re used to, and for me that made it more special. We have sort of a "split decision" on the food, but there were so many things on the menu that looked interesting, I would certainly try it again the next time I’m in Ukiah around lunchtime.

Monsoon Fine Cuisine of India (Gaslamp, San Diego)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags:

729 4th Ave
(Gaslamp District, between F St & G St)
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-5555

Monsoon Restaurant Rating

Another one of Shraddha’s great recommendations for us was Monsoon Fine Cuisine of India. I actually got our meal to go and we ate at the hotel. Here’s the photo I took while waiting at the elegant bar.

Fully stocked

Fully stockedKAGoldberg

Perhaps predictably, we ordered the Chana Masala, Sag Aloo, and a Garlic Naan. The entrees come with basmati rice. All of it was fantastic. What I couldn’t finish, I ate for breakfast the next day!

You can download a PDF of the Monsoon menu.

At the time of this posting, I can see that there’s something of a Yelp! war going on between Monsoon, and the other Indian restaurants in the neighborhood. I can say that in Summer 2010, Monsoon was the most highly recommended, but we didn’t try the others.

Once more, thank you Shraddha for the great recommendations.

Chocolat Cremerie (Gaslamp, San Diego)

Author: VegBlog Admin | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , , , , ,

509 5th Ave
(Gaslamp District)
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 238-9400

Chocolat Rating

Shraddha, the elegant and all-knowing concierge at the Westgate Hotel recommended a few places for us to try in the Gaslamp District, and they were all great. Chocolat was so good I went there three times in four days, twice for lunch and once for dinner.

From the name and the decor, you might mistakenly think that this is just a fancy ice cream shop. Yes, the gelato looks amazing, and that seems to be what most people get, but I came for the food. Chocolat makes a great, light, Italian-style flatbread pizza which they were happy to make vegan at my request. It was several months ago that I was there, but I remember well the perfectly tangy thin layer of tomato sauce and the roasted vegetables on top—like it was just this morning. We sat in one of the tables outside, to people-watch in the late afternoon. The pizza was served on a cutting block. The photo is of K’s pizza (zucchini, asparagus, portobello, tomato sauce, & mozzerella.

Flatbread Pizza at Chocolat Cremeria

The next day, I came in at lunch and got a Grilled Panini. And the day after that, I brought some work colleagues there for lunch, but they were out of the pizza, so I had another kind of sandwich. It was small but totally delicious.

I’m not so much into the dessert end of the dining spectrum, but they have lots of special crepes, Pasta and all kinds of sweets.

Thank you, Chocolat, and thank you again, Shraddha.

Rama Thai Restaurant (Gaslamp, San Diego)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , ,

327 Fourth Avenue
(Gaslamp District)
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 501-THAI (8424)

Raja (San Diego) Rating

Shraddha, the elegant and all-knowing concierge at the Westgate Hotel recommended a few places for us to try in the Gaslamp District, and they were all great. Raja was a huge standout—a very special Thai restaurant with a modern, rich, and exotic interior, techno-music, and amazing food.

We came relatively early for dinner and were led to a generous booth, deep in the expansive back room, with a waterfall, hanging curtains, and dim, romantic lighting.

The service was professional and it was no problem ordering a complete vegetarian meal. We ate there several months ago, but I can still remember that we got Spring Rolls and the Eggplant entree. The flavors were subtle and sublime. Everything was done perfectly.

I will absolutely go back.

Yeti Restaurant (Glen Ellen)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags:

14301 Arnold Drive
(South of the main part of town)
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 996-9930‎

Yeti Restaurant Rating

I had a relaxed, fantastic weekend lunch at Yeti Restaurant, a Nepalese and Indian place in Glen Ellen. We sat outside on their nice patio, just above Sonoma Creek, and the late-September weather was gorgeous. Inside the place is decorated to the hilt in Nepalese style.

Samosas at Yeti

The samosa were excellent and very large, but my entree was off the charts. From Indian cuisine, I’m a huge chana masala fan, and pretty much anything with garbanzo beans works for me. Yeti has chana pindi, which I had never tried before. Rather than tomato and onion, chana pindi is spiced with mango powder, and has a very light purple-red gravy. The beans were perfectly cooked, and I almost ate the entire serving.

Chana Pindi at Yeti Restaurant

The restaurant is in an out-of-the-way spot on Arnold Drive (I think it’s called the "Jack London Village?"), but it’s really just a minute south of Glen Ellen’s main intersection. There are lots of vegetarian selections, so I’m sure I’m going to be making a special trip back to Yeti soon. It was that good.

JimTown (Healdsburg)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , , ,

6706 Hwy 128
(Near the intersection of Alexander Valley Rd and HWY 128,
about 3.7 miles East of Lytton, and 6.5 miles NE of Healdsburg)
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-1212


The JimTown Store is a culinary oasis with antiques, Americana, sweets, toys, and hospitality on gorgeous HWY 128, about 20 minutes north of Calistoga, or 10 minutes from Healdsburg. For me, visiting JimTown is worth an entire trip into Wine Country. As the main road skirts its way along the edges of vineyards, look for the big American Flag and a restored, ancient car or truck, parked out front. That’s the place!

JimTown makes superlative vegetarian chili, served with warm tortilla chips. There’s a range of sandwich options with a few nice vegetarian choices—think Romesco sauce, eggplant, and fancy cheese on warm focaccia or a crispy baguette. If it’s available, I’m always going to get the root vegetable and white bean salad.

There’s a few seats up front at small tables and at the counter, but don’t miss the outside area in back, when it’s warm.

The small store’s shelves are filled with edible treats, books, cookery, and wooden, handmade, or fun little toys. In back there are antiques and more.

I try to time my trips to Wine Country to end up at JimTown for lunch. It’s a good stop for me on the way to Dry Creek, or Mendocino. The winding country drive from Calistoga, over the hilly county line into the Alexander Valley is a real treat—with the most wonderful hanging moss, and little farms tucked away into the hills. Too bad it’s not easy to find safe places to stop the car for photos along the way!

Pasta Pomodoro (Oakland)

Author: Ken | No Comments
Categories: Near and Far | Tags: Tags: , , ,

5500 College Ave
(In Rockridge, between Forest St & Lawton Ave)
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 923-0900


Pasta Pomodoro is a convenient, reliable, chain of nice Italian restaurants with an excellent space and location on College Avenue in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. There’s indoor seating at regular tables, high tables, and at the curved counter, where you can watch the chefs at work. Outdoor seating on the sunny patio has umbrellas for daytime, and heat lamps for Oakland’s chilly dinner hour. It’s a busy street, so you can sit there and enjoy watching the world go by.

The menu changes around a bit, and I like a lot of dishes here. There’s a good vegetarian selection of soups, salads, and, of course, pasta. There’s always a vegan minestrone soup, and the various pasta dishes are made to order, so you can customize. I always love a side of Italian white beans, which they sometimes offer.

It’s almost impossible to resist the tasty, warm foccacia with olive oil and vinegar, that they bring to the table; practically the only way to stop eating it is to run out. (Run out of bread, that is, not run out of the restaurant, which we don’t advise.) Pomodoro is one of the few places to offer (organic) Farro, which is a specialty grain from Italy.

Even though I’m very partial to small businesses, and generally avoid most chains, Pasta Pomodoro does what they do well, and sometimes a nice Capellini Pomodoro (angel’s hair pasta with fresh tomatos) absolutely hits the spot.

About the Authors

Ken and Kathryn are the authors of VegJapan, a vegetarian TravelBlog in Japan.


Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button