Tag Archives: restaurant review

The Week in Sweets

21 Aug

AKA The Good, The Bad and the Mediocre. Let’s start with the good, shall we?

The Good

I love summer. Not just because of the weather, but because of the fruit. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, watermelons, cherries, peaches, nectarines, and pluots are just some of my favorite indulgences during the summer season.

Homemade peach galette:  For the crust, I used a mix of flour and cornmeal, coconut oil and a mere two tablespoons of sugar. The cornmeal gave the crust a nice crunch and rustic touch that I really liked. For the filling, I added the teeniest amount of  maple syrup as the  peaches were perfectly ripe and sweet as they were, and a touch of cinnamon. So, so good!

This photo does not even begin to convey the deliciousness of what you are looking at.

Farm-fresh strawberries: These came straight from a strawberry farm down the street from my sweetie’s family’s house. Because they live in farm country, we always get top-notch, freshest of the fresh produce for super cheap when we visit. $10 for six full baskets of the sweetest, juiciest strawberries you’ve ever tasted in your entire life! We usually finish off a basket in the car before even making it back to the house.

Quite possibly the best stuff on Earth.

Watermelon: During one particularly hot summer a few years ago, I ate six large, whole watermelons all by myself over the course of two months. True story. Though I’m not as zealous about watermelon eating as I once was, I love a cold, crisp wedge (or five!) of watermelon on a hot day.

Don't touch my watermelon!

The Bad

Chocolate Cookie by Kerri Kreations: I came across this vegan cookie during my shopping trip at Rainbow Grocery. It was quite an attractive cookie– thick and generous with the chocolate chips and walnuts–and had an enticing, chocolaty aroma so I was pretty excited to give it a try. Unfortunately, it was was super dry, flavorless and had a slight chalky flavor. I don’t know whether the fault lies in Rainbow possibly selling stale cookies, or whether recipe is just bad, but either way, this cookie was inedible.

Meh.

The Mediocre

Twinkie and Peanut Butter Snowball from Source: Though I can imagine that many others enjoy or would enjoy these desserts, I found them to be cloyingly sweet. Admittedly though, I don’t like my sweets very sweet and my dessert preferences lean toward the French rather than American tradition. I’d never before tasted a Twinkie (vegan or otherwise) and after trying this one, I don’t expect to ever eat one again. The cake was very dense and a bit dry. The filling was some kind of cream loaded with what I would guess is powdered sugar.

Because my partner loves the flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter, we of course had to get the peanut butter snowball, which consisted of a dense cake topped with thick, sweet peanut butter cream, chopped peanuts and chocolate ganache. Now, my partner has a major sweet tooth and this was even too sweet for him. Total peanut butter overload, which I’m sure sounds great to some of you! Again, just not for me. That said, I would definitely go back to try more of their savory foods. Everything is vegetarian/vegan and organic, and the owner is super nice — all major pluses in my book!

Please excuse this ugly photo taken with my crappy phone.

Conclusion: Sometimes nothing beats nature-made desserts, such as a piece of fresh fruit.  What do you think? What’s your favorite summer dessert?

Sweet Weekend

20 Jun

My little brother graduated from UCLA last weekend so I flew to Southern California to attend his two graduation ceremonies. My primary reason for visiting was to see my brother and celebrate his achievement, of course, but it was also an opportunity to explore the food scene and try new restaurants. I became vegan long after I moved to the Bay Area, so I’m not very familiar with the vegan scene there. Every trip down in the past few years though, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of vegan businesses that have opened up and the diversity of the clientele that patronizes them.

In the past couple years, I enjoyed such vegan gems as VeggieGrill, a burger chain that uses Gardein-brand fake “chicken” and “beef” (processed, yes, but a satisfying occasional guilty pleasure) and has the best vegan chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever tasted, Vinh Loi Tofu, a super-delicious (and authenic!) Vietnamese restaurant and Shojin, an organic Japanese restaurant with an extensive menu. I’ve also tried Real Food Daily, a popular restaurant that was recommended me by multiple vegans and vegetarians, but my carnivorous family, my (vegan) partner and I all thought the food was severely lacking in flavor. Au Lac is a restaurant which used to offer authentic, tasty Vietnamese food but now serves Americanized Vietnamese and raw food to the hippie/New Age crowd. The food isn’t bad now, just not nearly as good.

This past weekend, my partner and I tried three new-to-us vegan places and were quite impressed: Native Foods, a chain featuring a raw and cooked menu and house-made drinks, freesoulcaffé, a coffeeshop/cafe offering salads, soups, sandwiches and a huge selection of pastries, and Sage Organic Vegan Bistro, a cute restaurant with reasonably-priced food and offering desserts featuring KindKreme ice cream. Not only was the food at each of these places delicious and for the most part, affordable, but we received great service all around. Seriously, after gorging on delicious vegan food all weekend, I considered the possibility of moving back to SoCal for a brief second. A very brief second.

Since this blog is about desserts though, here are the sweets!

PB&J Cheesecake from Native Foods

The first dessert I ate on this trip was the peanut butter and jelly “cheesecake” from Native Foods. I enjoyed the crumbly crust, but the peanut butter and jelly flavors were really lacking. And having tried samples at the San Francisco Fancy Foods Show in February, I recognized the flavor in the cheesecake as being Follow Your Heart “cream cheese,” which I’m not a fan of for its strong soy flavor. Overall, it was decent but not great.

Peanut butter torte at freesoulcaffe

The peanut butter torte is one of freesoulcaffé‘s most popular items and has been reviewed on Yelp multiple times. It has an Oreo crust and a very prominent peanut butter flavor. From what I can tell, I think the filling was made with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.. It was tasty but really, really rich and my partner and I could barely finish it between the two of us. If  you loooove peanut butter, this is the dessert for you.

Mocha biscotti at freesoulcaffe

The mocha biscotti had a good texture and was perfect for dunking into my cappuccino (which was excellent, by the way). I would have liked a stronger chocolate flavor though, personally. I might try one of their other flavors next time.

Pastry display case at freesoulcaffé

Yep, you read the caption right. This is the pastry display case at freesoulcaffé! And like the rest of the food/drink options, everything is 100% vegan. In addition to the torte and biscotti, they offer muffins, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, blondies and mini cakes and cheesecakes. [Are you swooning yet!?] If I lived nearby, I’d be hanging out at this place all the time. All. The. Time.

Raw mocha cheesecake at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro

My dad says Sage is now his favorite vegan restaurant. For dessert, he chose the raw mocha cheesecake made by KindKreme. He loved it, but I felt the coconut (which you find in most raw desserts it seems) overwhelmed the mocha flavor. This dessert is very dense and rich.

Large waffle sundae at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro

Great minds think alike, no? Even though we were stuffed to the core, my partner and I knew we had to order the waffle ice cream sundae for dessert. Greedily, we ordered the large-sized version which comes with a hot waffle topped with maple syrup, three scoops of KindKreme “ice cream” –tropical chocolate, banana and cinnamon cookie–and fresh strawberries and banana, and made my mom and brother order their own. Turns out, the large dessert was way too much for two people to  finish (and we are a group of big eaters!). The waffle was airy and not too flavorful on its own, but very crispy and a good canvas for the ice cream. I was skeptical of the raw ice cream, but it was very flavorful and smooth; it’s probably my third favorite vegan ice cream I’ve ever tried after Genuto Gelato and Scream Sorbet. I would come to Sage/KindKreme just for the waffle sundae — yum!

Overall, it was a fantastic culinary weekend and I can’t wait to get back to SoCal to try more restaurants as there are literally hundreds of vegan/vegan-friendly places to choose from. For now, I need to cut back and detox from my weekend of overindulgence. Any interest in seeing kale-based desserts these next few weeks? Kidding, kidding…