Friday, June 01, 2007

San Fran, Short Trip...Looooong Post

To kick off my birthday celebration, I got to tag along on a business trip with the Cap'n to San Francisco. Here's my lunch on the five hour ride in the sky...
The ever-satisfying, colorful, and nutritious Soba Noodle Salad from Veg. Times (again). We were all out of cukes (must be from all the Tofurkey pitas I've been devouring as of late!) so I tossed in some blanched broccoli and Mmmmm! was that a wonderful addition! I love how it soaked up the ginger dressing a little bit more each time I had some (I'd made enough to last me a couple meals).

And gorgeous view. Riding along on a private jet? It ain't too shabby, no sir!

Knowing we were landing in Oakland, I'd already researched and decided that we just HAD to swing by the Pizza Plaza to pick up our dinner for the ride up to Napa Valley.
As a pizza maker from waaaaaay back (job at a pizza joint not much bigger than this one is where i met the Cap'n yeeeeears ago ;), this place was absolutely perfect. I had no idea how much I'd been craving that whole experience, the smell of the dough cooking up in the oven...and this place is all veg! they have both a vegetarian and vegan menu, but I'm tellin ya, the vegan options go all out.
We settled on the Pesto Veggie pie with pesto, artichokes, tomatoes, red onions, black olives, spinach, and garlic...and vegan cheeze, of course.The crust was just the right thickness (not very, that's how i like it!), the toppings were fresh and plentiful, and the overall flavor was outta this world.It was as if the beautiful vibe I got from the three employees who catered to our pizza love was baked into a pie. YUM! If you're even in Oakland or the surrounding area, you just gotta check out the Pizza Plaza.

Away from Oakland and in Napa Valley for the night (the plan was to drive all the way up and over, then back down the coast...pretty!), I chose the only real thing of substance on the room service menu at the Marriott fit for a vegan.Oatmeal (made with water only, no milk), with brown sugar and raisins...and a side of fresh fruit. It was filling and healthy, I enjoyed it for the most part...even if I am now totally spoiled on pan-seared steel cut oatmeal. that I make all the time at home. sigh.

we scored a convertible for our driving journey, and it was a gorgeous day for it. we whizzed up and thru Napa Valley without stopping (vegan wines do NOT abound here, but it sure is pretty!) and i only wish there were more hours in the day so that we could have gone a little further north to check out Frey Vineyards....yum.

Here's the only pic I snapped while whizzing north thru the valley before cutting over thru windy mountain roads...
to the coast. As a Florida girl, visiting CA always feels like I've been plopped down on another planet. the vegetation is alien, the scenery always feels extra big, and I am constantly wowed by my of the things that amazes me most is the makeup of the beach sand. here, on our little peninsula, we're used to either sandy white beaches dotted with shells or the orange-hued version made up of crushed seashells and coquina rock. i was fascinated with this sand, made up from these tiny pebbles.even the parking lot at Point Reyes National SeaShore was beautiful.By the time we got to the lighthouse, it was closed to visitors, but the parking there was adjacent to places to sit and take in views such as thesethere was actually a very crumbly and scary path beaten around the bend to that little grassy spot on the side of the cliff. i so wanted to go sit there, but the wind was horrendous and we just couldn't bring ourselves to risk it.Here are some fallow deer enjoying the plentiful green that abounds there. we had a fallow deer at BTN when I worked there (I believe Mocha is still there, actually) so it was amazing to see some in the wild, for me. I wish this picture really conveyed how steep that land they're standing on is.speaking of steep, peering over one of the many bluffs, you can spot these sea lions basking in the sun.Did i mention the gorgeous views? wow.At one point, we noticed that the fences that held the cows in kind of melted away (reaching the sign for the park and actually getting to the park means traveling thru many, many hilly roads flanked with cattle farms). You'd think that, with the ocean as the only thing they come to on that side, there's no need for fences, right? i wondered, though, after witnessing this brave cow on her ascent to a cliff above where we were standing.
this is the cliff.seriously, she took one backward glance at us, and away she went...if you look hard, you can see what looks to be a path. we figured she'd taken this route before. ;)can ya see that little black spec? that's her still well on her way.her pasture-mates seemed to prefer a less daredevil existence and just hung out watching her amble up to the top from here.done cow gazing, we hopped back in the car and took CA1, the craziest, scariest, most exhilarating beautiful road I've ever driven. well, the cap'n drove, putting me in the passenger seat on the edge the whole time. boy, was it pretty....and totally freaked me out more than i ever
imagined it could. i could not believe how many places were bereft of guardrails, or worse, how many drivers seemed to want to speed along the curvy parts...which, by the way? is ALL the parts!

saddest part about this trip is the lack of photos i have from our driving. i honestly was so immersed in my surroundings, the towering redwoods, the crisp blue sky, the land that just severely dropped off into ocean at every turn, the way western light nearing day's end reflects so differently off of everything than what we easterners are used to...i didn't snap any pictures. instead, i committed every moment to memory and basked in sharing the time with my husband on this fun and beautiful adventure. i highly recommend the drive tho, and if you have more time than we did, go even further south where i hear it's even crazier...if that's possible!

our destination, however, was San Francisco! I love that we entered this fine city by way of the Golden Gate Bridge. seemed very apropos.
We navigated quite well thru all of the nutty streets to downtown where we stayed at the JW Marriott. More oatmeal and fruit breakfasts for me, but I was crazy excited to try my list of vegan restaurants. The plan was to hit Herbivore, Cafe Gratitude, Maggie Mudd, Millennium, and then see what vegan friendly stuff we could muster up inbetween.

This plan, however, did not come to fruition. Once settled into our hotel room (we got upgraded for a killer view that i also do not have a pic of. sorry!), we just decided to walk around and hunt down a sushi joint. Vegans can always fare well at one, i've found. I go for a green salad, edamame, aged nasu(eggplant), and a couple vegetable rolls. always works for me! we found a great little place not a block from our hotel and, sadly, the name escapes me.

the food was great and the service was wonderful. satiated, we hit the hotel bar for a nightcap and made friends with a very cool movie producer helping a friend move and in town for the night. the three of us stayed up chatting waaaaay too late and i woke up the next day. sick. as. a. dog.

we're talking, can't move or get out of bed, sick. there went my ideas of galavanting my way thru san fran gobbling up vegan eats and treats. (we're wondering if that great sushi place we hit was less then careful with their fish/nonmeat food handling as i had a weird hive-ridden, lip swollen five times bigger than normal reaction and fish carry more histamines than any other thing that could have come my way) sigh. i nibbled a roasted veggie sandwich from room service (thank you, could you just put some soy milk on your menu already? ;) and prayed that i would be able to make our 8:45 Millennium reservation. Turns out some benedryl and a looong nap did the trick and I gingerly walked with the Cap'n, in anticipation of our yummy all vegan dinner.In true me fashion, I left the camera in the room and didn't get a chance to snap pics of the best freaking food I've ever had in my LIFE. Even the soup to start was outta this world crazy good! It was summer squash bisque-esque with some cauliflower pureed in it as well. you could taste the lemongrass, the ginger, the chili oil on top and broccoli garnish. this soup, in the cap'n's words, "made my tongue slap my brains out!". I wanted to bathe in it, slurp it all up with a straw, eat it every day, all that! and that's not even dinner!

the bread spread there is divine and I've still no idea what it was made from. we were enjoying ourselves much too much to ask. I opted for

Stuffed Truffled Roulade
French lentil & black chantrelle ragu, roasted chestnuts, black truffle butter, smoked pimenton cream, roasted maitake and exotic mushrooms, sauteed broccoli di Cicco with currants & pine nuts, mushroom syrup

that was perfect in flavor though I could have handled a less dense pastry. they did warn me it was rich, however, so that one's all my fault. it was served with the best braised dandelion greens (not broccoli) i've ever tasted. it took me eating almost all of them to finally realize they had used hoisin to get that smoky, sweet flavor. the cap'n ordered the

Artichoke Al Cartoccio
roasted fennel, spring garlic, spicy seitan sausage & Meyer lemon, served over barley-leek-chard risotto, toasted pine nut bread crumbs

the flavor was amazing and spicy and the seitan was sooooooo, melt in your mouth good. we shared the

Chocolate Almond Midnight
almond cashew crust, mocha chocolate filling, raspberry sauce, white chocolate mousse

mmmmm, heaven!

the staff was amazing, the place is simply beautiful, and even the furniture there, our waitress told us, is all vegan! I find it interesting that, while a total vegan dining establishment, they opt for using the word 'vegetarian' which led me to being that paranoid vegan who had to come out and ask the waitress if everything there was, indeed vegan. IT IS! why can't every state have one of these restaurants to frequent? ;)

alas, the next morning it was all about packing up and heading home. we hit a quick little grocery store in Oakland for my lunch on the plane and off we sped to cross the country on our journey across the country. here's somewhere close to wine country from the sky.
I'm not sure where this is, but I know I snapped it while still close to calibefore reaching the snow-capped mountains.I am a white-knuckled flyer, so it's nice to have such a beautiful scenery to take my mind off of all things tons of metal hurtling thru the air thirty-something feet above my beloved terra firma (it helps that i trust the captian implicitely, but still!)I loved watching the clouds build upmy light lunch consisted of some pita bread, hummus, carrots and soy milk (not pictured). i had an apple as well, but never even got hungry enough to eat it.I skipped the movie the other cabin members were watching and opted for this, much more my kinda matinee...hehe.and before i knew it, we were back at home in FL...where everything is flat...and very, very green.sorry that i didnt' get to blog all things vegan food while out west, but I have to admit, Pizza Plaza, breathtaking scenery, and Millennium alone? totally worth the trip.

More birthday stuff to come (mmmmm, cupcakes!), and I'm hoping to have some time to catch up on an actual food post or two!


laura k said...

Those photos are absolutely gorgeous - wow! I've never been out to Cali but your post sure makes me envious. I'm so sorry you got sick though!!! :( But it sounds like the restaurants you did visit made for quite an experience anyway. Thanks for sharing!

Amey said...

Great photos!
I just went to Millenium last week too! What if we were there at the same time????!!! I ordered the same entree as you (there's a picture on my website!) How funny.

sorry to hear about your sickness, but I'm glad you didn't miss out on Millenium.

What day is your bday? Mine is on saturday. :)


Judy said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip, and the food sounds great too. Maybe I'm having a blond moment, but how would wine not be vegan?

aTxVegn said...

I'm dying to go to San Francisco and eat at Millenium! Your photos are beautiful. And happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

i love!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the post.

sorry to hear about your sickness, hope you are totally well by now!

Christine said...

wow, that looks like it was some trip! I'm so jealous that you got to go to Millenium, it is my dream to go there (and to SF in general!). AND you got vegan pizza? A trip doesn't get much better than that :)

couscouscaboose said...

Great post and photos! I just drove the southern part of Highway 1 with my husband a few months ago and you're right - it's scary! Beautiful, but scary.

I'm definitely going to have to eat at Millenium when I get back to CA!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful trip. We used to have a vacation home in Northern CA and we would drive from Orange County, CA 12 hours up the coast. It was a crazy and fun drive. We always stopped in new and different towns along the way. So beautiful. I miss it very much but I don't miss the working we had to do to maintain that lifestyle. I think I'll be content to visit every now and then.

Douglas said...

I AM SO JEALOUS OF YOU! One of the places I have never been is Millenium! When I do my restaurant this is THE EXACT type of food that I am going to do.

I am sorry that you left your camera in your room becauseI know they make their plates look amazing!!!!!!

I am JEALOUS,,,,