I have so many things to post about, but I'l start slow and easy with some restaurant reviews. We just did a whirlwind trip to California to visit family, and were met with amazing support and consideration for our diet from both sides of the family.
We first went to San Jose and stayed with my in-laws. They suggested we go to a vegetarian restaurant that my mother-in-law had seen downtown. It's called The Vegetarian House (no extra points for creativity, but that's okay). They have an amazing menu with foods ranging from sushi with red quinoa in it to vegan cheesecake. We were overwhelmed by choices and ate family style. We had the quinoa sushi, some stir fry stuff, stroganof, and tiramisu. I'm conflicted about the restaurant. The food was pretty good... I loved the sushi, and enjoyed the eggplant dish we got. My toddler loved the stroganof. There were just a lot of fake meat stuff that seemed excessive. One of the dishes I ordered turned out to be just fake meat. When I got to a vegetarian house, I expect some vegetables- maybe that's just me. It just seemed that the point of all the fake meat is to appeal to omnivores, and my in-laws didn't like any of the fake meat items. The tiramisu seemed like it would have been good except that it was still frozen solid when it was served. Overall, I would go again and choose differently, but it wasn't my favorite.
Next we went to Cafe Gratitude in Oakland. FYI, since it doesn't say so on the website and seems noteworthy to me, it's inside Whole Foods. Sadly, this location doesn't make the mochas that I had read about online and was drooling for before we went. The prices were a bit high and my evil husband wouldn't allow me to get the tiramisu with lunch for comparison purposes. Boo. We got the bagel with nori lox and a tamale. Both were amazing! I loved the idea of nori for lox and the cashew cream cheese was perfect. Also, as a Jew, I loved the red onions, capers, and onion that topped it as well. It was a bagel just like Grandpa would make. The tamale had the perfect moist masa that I have such a hard time finding. Even with the high price would highly recommend this place. I would go to the Berkeley location next time, just to get a tasty drink.
After Oakland, we headed to Sacramento and to the magnificent Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe. We have been here for dinner before and for lunch. We've never had a bad bite. They have the tastiest sweets and savories for reasonable prices and a fairly good variety. They aren't totally elaborate or ritzy, but that's not what we're looking for. This is just good wholesome food. So this time we met a friend and her daugther for brunch, and we discovered the bottomless brunch menu. Even my hollow-legged husband was filled by this plate. It's a sample brunch plate where you start with a bit of everything, bisquits and gravy, cinnamon roll, tempeh bacon, tofu fritata, and I think a pancake. Then you just go back and say what you want more of and they will keep giving you servings of what you like. In all honesty, while I love this place and the kind people who work there, I was disappointed in the cinnamon roll and the gluten-free pastries we tried. They began as a bakery and are well-known for their baked goods, but I just wasn't impressed with a few things this time. On the other hand, I got whoopie pies and took them back to the home of my omnivorous friend and her omni family and they were all surprised at how tasty they were. The whoopie pies were are the best.
So those were our vegan-only restaurants we visited. Pretty good. We also had good luck supplementing that all with stores and other restaurants. In the area of San Jose where my in-laws live the grocery stores had very few vegan or organic options. We were able to get tofu and some produce though, and I made a vegan lasagna that my father-in-law claimed to like. We also found some Daiya shreds at The Vegetarian House's front room, and when my mother-in-law made vegan chili we had chili cheese nachos that were to die for!
In Vacaville, we went to a Trader Joes that had very few lunch items that were vegan. It seemed that every salad had chicken in it, the wraps were mostly meaty, and I was bummed. In the end, I found a grilled eggplant wrap that was awesome, so it worked out. I picked up Daiya shreds somewhere else, so I bought pizza dough from TJ's for that night. I also found candy cane oreo-like cookies, which for me made up for the lack of selection. Cookies, chocolate soy milk, and board games with the family is priceless.
In Placerville, where my family lives, I was able to get a great meal at Golden Dragon. We brought a feast to my mom's house and everyone was shocked to find that the protein in the orange sauce was tofu and the crispy nuggets of perfection were crispy cooked eggplant. Their seasonal specialty was simply cooked fresh green beans with some spice. This is definitely the best Chinese food in Placerville- in case you are ever on your way to Tahoe to ski. We also got out staples at Noah's Ark, a small health food store that has great local produce in addition to great vegan pantry staples. They always have vegan sandwiches for lunch time. *Full disclosure, I used to work there when I was in high school. We also had a great meal at Teriyaki Junction, a Placerville favorite since I was a teen. In fact, the owner use to know my name- well sort of. Every time I came in he would yell, "ERICA, how have you been?" My name isn't Erica, but it was still sweet. They have Japanese food made quickly and fresh. My mom ordered ocean salad, their special of the day, and Violet devoured it. It's always fun to watch the reaction of people around me as my one year old devours seaweed in any form she can get. She a sea monster.
Sorry I don't have pictures, I'm a bad blogger when I travel. Next time.