Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy, Happy, Happy Hour at Ziryab

This is a short and sweet entry about happy hour at Ziryab, an upper-mid-scale Mediterranean restaurant in NoPa.  A generous falafel wrap with a side of French fries for $5.00.  A pint of Sierra Nevada (my favorite), Fat Tire, or Blue Moon for $2.  That means you can have an early but satisfying vegan dinner for a mere $15.  (Well, $20 if you want two orders of falafel and fries.)  There are hookahs, too.

Happy hour is in effect Monday through Thursday from 4PM to 7PM; Friday 12PM to 7PM; and Saturday and Sunday from 3PM to 7PM.  See you there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Me So Hungry, Me Loving Hut Many Time

Congratulations!  You just read the worst blog entry title ever.  But the fact is that I've been to the Loving Hut in the San Francisco Shopping Centre three times since I discovered it less than a week ago.

Today I tried the spring rolls and the soy chicken sandwich.  The spring rolls were excellent, and some of the tightest-wrapped I have ever seen.  The sandwich was definitely tasty, due in large part to its excellent, fresh French bread. (I was able to eat almost all of it despite my lunch mate's disquieting tales of hexane in soy-based meat analogues.) It came with a small side of cole slaw which I am certain contained maple syrup.  That's a surprising flavor to find in your cole slaw, but I think it worked.  Overall, the meal was good and satisfying, but I would trade it all in for their Phở Noodle Soup any day.

There was one disturbing component to my meal, hexane aside: the lemonade had at least a quarter cup of sugar in it.  It made my teeth sing.  I ended up fishing the ice cubes out of it for hydration.

Loving hut's unusual sweetening practices are easy to forgive, as they have the best vegan game going in Downtown San Francisco.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

San Francisco Vegan Bake Sale IV

The 4th San Francisco Vegan Bake Sale took place today, this time outside of Herbivore on Valencia street.  I filled my To-Go Ware tiffin set with some delicious stuff, almost all of it made by Sugar Beat Sweets, a little organization soon to be San Francisco's first vegan bakery.  Here's my report:

1. Two tiny cupcakes, one dark and chocolaty, the other light and vanilla-flavored.  Both delicious, and perfect.  I consumed each whole and upright, squishing the rich frosting against roof of mouth before  getting down to business.

2. I miss my habitual Starbuck's Maple Oat Scone from earlier in the decade.  It was an acquired taste, being rather dry and dense.  It certainly invited a lot of coffee to the party, and for that I stuck with it, eventually growing quite fond of it despite its flaws. This vegan version is moister and spongier than my old friend,  and therefore resistant to crumbling.  I kind of liked the crumbling.  I can only conclude that there is no perfect scone, but this one is as close as I will ever get.  (According to @sfveganbakesale, these were not made by SBS but rather by "a guy named Adam.")

3. These two brownies were disappointing.  They tasted like brownies, but their texture was off.  They were hard on the outside, and chewy on the inside. They certainly weren't horrible; I've had many worse vegan brownies.  They simply weren't of the same caliber as the rest of the booty.

4. Hands-down, absolutely, positively the best doughnut I have eaten in 6 years.  Not at all cakey, but light and fluffy and breadier than most other vegan donuts.  Kicks the ass of my former best doughnut experience, had at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, OR.

5. I thought this was going to be one of those cakey jobs I described in #4, but it turned out to be much lighter than I expected.  This is an example of the pinnacle of the vegan doughnut craft, before #4 came along and changed all the rules.  If it weren't for #4, this lemony little number might have had a chance.
    All this delicious stuff totaled $14, but I dropped $20; it goes to and

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    What the Phở!? A Vegan Fast Food Oasis in a San Francisco Mall Basement?

    Today I escaped from the free, vegan-hostile lunch at the Web 2.0 Expo and set out to find the closest San Francisco Soup Company. The ubiquitous SF Soup Co. has at least one vegan soup every day, and that's where I like to go in the city when I'm hungry but not in the mood to make decisions. My iPhone directed me to the one in the Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre at 845 Market St., an address I usually avoid because of the tourist vortices it produces. In fact, in all my years living in this city I don't think I have ever stepped inside that building. Until today.

    I navigated my way to an escalator descending into the subterranean "Food Emporium," a fancy name for a vast, churning tourist chamber honeycombed with edible retail goods. It took me a while to find the SF Soup Co. due to throngs of seemingly stoned consumers dragging oversized Bloomingdale's bags around the labyrinthine food court. I was amazed by the slowness and purposelessness of some people's locomotion. Surprisingly, the Sunday-driving pace of my search was a blessing; it yielded a far more precious reward: the Loving Hut, proudly advertising "Vegan Cuisine."

    The Loving Hut presents a small buffet beside the register, where a smiling server will assemble two dishes of your choice with brown or white rice for $8.25. They also provide a more permanent menu from which you can order, offering noodle dishes, sandwiches, salads, and more. Most of the food is Pan-Asian, but there are some Western oddballs in the line-up, such as a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and "chicken tenders" with french fries. I ordered the Phở Noodle Soup and tried to find a safe place to stand and wait for it.

    And wait for it. And wait for it.

    The servers missed my order somehow, hastily serving several other people before I was compelled to inquire about the tardiness of my soup. After a total of 12 minutes of being jostled by downtown workfolk and out-of-town consumers, I finally got my Phở. It was delicious. I'm not a Phở expert because I've only had it twice in the past and was suspicious both times about the alleged vegan-friendliness of the broth. But I'll gladly become an expert on this rich, tasty, and spicy Phở, guaranteed to be 100% vegan*. My only complaint is that there was too much of it.

    Back when I was waiting for my order, it had occurred to me that there was something familiar about Loving Hut. Something about their motto, "Be Veg. Go Green. Save the Planet." I Googled them later, and discovered that they are disciples of the very same spiritual leader that Vegetarian House in San Jose follows, Supreme Master Ching Hai. They don't announce their affiliation in this fast food context, possibly because it might repel suspicious consumers.

    By the way, if you don't speak Vietnamese, "Phở" is pronounced "fuh."

    * No actual guarantee offered.