Thursday, June 21, 2012

Northern California Vegan Destinations

Today is my 30th birthday. I took the day off from work. When I was ready for the day, Chris made me "Pumpkin French Toast" from the book Vegan BrunchIt was, unsurprisingly, delicious. I ate one and a half pieces and haven't needed to eat since then! Very filling. I checked in with my mom on the phone after that. She isn't feeling very well and it made me feel good to (hopefully) bring some light to her day. Then we did presents (there will be photos on Facebook) and went to Barnes & Noble to spend my newly acquired gift card. It's time for dinner. Again, Chris is making it for me. Vegan tamales from the grocery store with Spanish rice on the side. Yum. She ordered a vegan carrot cake from Whole Foods for dessert.

I thought I should spend the time I'm using to wait for dinner to share with you the places we went to eat at while we were in California. We made dinner for and with family several times while we were there, which was very refreshing. Our feasts included a family recipe for lentil soup, grandma's stuffed artichokes, and impromptu pasta with garlic and broccoli. I got a recipe from Chris's Aunt Vana that I'll be sharing with you later this summer for berries marinated in a sugary, liquory sauce.

Because we ate at so many places, I'm just going to do a run through of each restaurant, share a picture of our dishes, and go over their menu options for those of you with more time to spend there. So, here goes.

Amici's East Coast Pizzeria

Chris and I love ordering vegan pizza. There are so many options in Austin it only seemed appropriate to see how they do vegan pizza in California. Located in San Rafael, Amici's is a New York style pizzeria. Chris's family is from New York and Austin doesn't do brick oven vegan pie as far as I know. It sounded like the best fit to us!

They have a vegan pizza on the menu, the Asante. It comes with onions, red peppers, spinach, and broccoli among other things. Daiya cheese is complimentary, too, which means you can get it any way you want it.

All in all, I really enjoyed the oveny flavor. Hahaha. It was a great pizza but if I go back I'll want to get something different, maybe with a sauce, which the Asante doesn't come with at all. The price is on the higher side, but that goes without saying in California.

Ambrosia India Bistro

We really liked this place and ate here twice while in Monterey. They have several locations, cafeteria and sit down style depending on location. For a list of their locations, visit their website here. It seems like they're going through both restaurant and website remodeling, but they have great food and we highly recommend them. Their menu says they have  more vegan options than we found at the restaurant, so be sure to ask about the ingredients of each dish prior to ordering to be sure they didn't use butter or yogurt in what you're ordering.

Three Twins Ice Cream

We were delightfully surprised to find that the locally owned Three Twins ice cream has vegan flavors at their scoop shops and in take away pints. The ice cream is made in Petaluma and they have four locations in northern California. We went to the one in San Rafael.

I believe the flavor we tried was a rice milk version of their "Mocha Difference." It was like eating a frappuccino. Lovely. I consulted their website to double check and they do not list all of their vegan options, which are currently only available at scoop shops. According to the website, they "try" to have at least one sorbet and one rice milk based flavor at each shop.

The price was reasonable and they did have pints to take away of the kind that we had. I was excited to see the brand show up in the freezer at Whole Foods after we got back from vacation, but the company does not package its vegan options for distribution at this time. Boo.


The deYoung Museum had a lot of vegan options when we visited, including a Moroccan style cous cous. They also had Ooba fizzy hibiscus drink which I adore! We ate at the Choke Coach at Pezzini Farms after the Artichoke Festival on May 20th. They're French fried artichoke hearts are totally vegan and delicious. When we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, they made us fabulous roasted vegetable sandwiches when we told them about our dietary restrictions. They were filled with asparagus and slathered in an olive spread. We picked up a few things from the Whole Foods in Novato that we don't have back home, including some spicy gluten-free vegan burgers made by WildwoodSo Delicious almond milk ice cream (Austin seems to be coconut milk only these days), and Chai Cola which is FANTASTIC. But all of these items are highly recommended.

It was a very tasty trip. As mentioned in my Artichoke Festival post, I anticipate recommending we do the same thing all over again next year. Hee hee! Only time will tell.

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