Friday, August 20, 2010

St. Francis Fountain

C also got a float: stout and soy vanilla ice cream.
The nice folks over at Vegansaurus seriously hooked us up this week. C and I had a friend from many years ago swing into the city for a brief respite from the busy and heat in NYC. Usually, we take people to Chay-ya, which we find to be reliably tasty, conveniently located, and relatively affordable. After reading Vegansaurus's review of St. Francis Fountain, which is less than a mile from the places we tend to frequent in the Mission, we were tempted to either try that or see if the rumors are true that Weird Fish is once again offering vegan fish and chips. In the name of trying something brand new, and with deference to the vegan sages at vegansaurus, we opted this time for the former.

My Devil's Burger, with side salad.
This cute little classic-diner style restaurant offers all the expected American classics alongside an impressive array of vegan offerings. We got there just before 1 o'clock on a sunny, Wednesday afternoon, and the place was bustling. After putting our name and party number on the unassuming clipboard hanging from a string on the door, we waited about 20 minutes before we were led to a comfortable booth. I suppose all three of us were lacking in imagination because we all got the same irresistible menu item: the Devil's Burger. This is a large bun piled with thinly-sliced and perfectly-seasoned seitan. C and I both added vegan jack cheese to ours (because, you know, while we're being fatties and everything), and our friend Devon got regular jack cheese and avocado.  I was agonizing over how much I would hate myself later if I got the fries I wanted to order as my side when Devon kindly offered to order them himself (with the understanding that I would liberally help myself after eating the green salad that I ended up ordering). They were really good. C got veggie chili as his side, but he didn't say much about it.

Finally, I should add that our server was fantastic. She was prompt, funny, and adorable. Major win. If you live in the SF area, or go there ever, and you eat, please clear your schedule enough to accommodate the wait, skip Herbivore, and hit St. Francis. Also, if you are vegan (or a sympathizer) and enjoy snark, and you don't already read Vegansaurus, you might want to get on that. Or prepare to suffer an identity crisis.

Please note, in this final picture, how happy Devon looks. Maybe this is because A) He's naturally happy, B) C has just told him some hilarious little anecdote, or C) he's in an awesome diner surrounded by delicious seitan sandwiches. Also, note how his plate is maneuvered into just the right position for A) taking this picture, and more importantly B) stealing his fries. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tofurky Pizza Review

Prio to baking. That's obvious, right?
You've been waiting for it a long time. Am I right? It seems like ages since the lovely folks at Tofurky responded to my open letter to them by sending me three free pizza coupons, one for each flavor from their new line of frozen pizzas. As I stated at the time, I've always felt vegans have for a long time been excluded that particular market, the only available options being the rare cheese-less veggie pizza that mysteriously costs more than its dairy counter-parts. I guess that's another kind of vegan tax. Companies think we'll be so grateful to have a vegan option that we won't shrink from paying more for fewer ingredients. In any case, this is why I was so excited when I discovered the Tofurky pizzas in the freezer case at Santa Rosa Community Market. You can check out Tofurky's webpage about these pizzas, along with complete nutritional information and ingredients here

These pizzas are a little on the small side, but just the right amount of food for two or three people, depending on how hungry/starved-for-frozen-pizzas the eaters are. C and I are notorious piggies (we routinely defeat--by which I mean out-eat--our omni friends in this regard), so we could each eat half a pizza. Easy. And we did.

My main reaction is that these pizzas comprise a very faithful vegan rendition of the thin-crusted frozen pizzas I ate as a kid. Tofurky isn't trying to do something like those super fussy, artisan, or deep-dish pizzas you can get now. This is classic stuff. While I can imagine the future could hold many more variations (Wild Mushroom, anyone? Hawaiian? "Meat" Lovers?), I like that they're kicking off the line by offering three kinds: Cheese, Pepperoni, and Sausage. It's sort of elegant in its simplicity. If memory serves, they run about 8 bucks a piece.

Delicious, hot, gooey pizza.
The crust is just right. It manages to be both slightly crispy at the edges while still bready, if that makes any sense. I'm not one of those people who would ever throw a pizza directly on the oven racks, though, so I'm clearly not devoted to the idea that pizza crust should be totally crispy. I prefer a mixture of textures. What I really liked about all three, though, was the herby, garlicky sauce. It has a definite, savory zing to it, which (along with the vegan thing) is the only major difference between this pizza and the traditional, omni kind. Aside from those basic elements, C and I both agreed that the pepperoni pizza was the best, followed by the cheese, with sausage bringing up the rear. As a person who has attempted to make the kind of pepperoni that graces the generous layer of Daiya cheese, I admired both the pronounced smokiness of the recipe and the texture of the large, toothsome chunks. The great thing about the cheese was the simple, herb-infused smell and taste of the sauce with the Daiya. In fact, I was a little perplexed that the list of ingredients for the cheese pizza doesn't include some heady melange of marjoram, oregano, and basil. I could swear I tasted all three. Sausage is our third favorite because we weren't wild about the combination of little chunks of veggies with the faux-meat. The combination of toppings overwhelmed and didn't let the sausage, which should have been the star of the show, shine.  

In conclusion, I'll definitely get these again. True, I like to make my own pizza, but I don't always want to. We like the vegan pizza available from the little vegetarian cafe close to where we live, but those cost $30 a piece. The Tofurky pizzas are both tasty and affordable. I'm just glad I live somewhere where I can buy them easily and don't have to fly to Portland for the privilege!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Plum Cherry Crisp

As the summer wears on, I continue to be delighted by the abundance of local fruit. It's not that there was any particular shortage in my former states, but something about the California sunshine and the way trees everywhere are bending with their burden of fruits at the point of bursting makes this summer feel special. Just now, for example, I am finding myself with an excess of plums. And I am not, in general, a plum fan. I almost never buy them at the store because I dislike the bitter tartness of the peel and the way the flesh clings so unpleasantly in the seed. I've discovered, though, that I actually like plums quite a bit. The plums I'm currently overwhelmed with (in more than one sense) are smallish, very dark purple, and oblong. From my time at the coop, I believe that these are sometimes called Italian prune plums. The skin is not overly tart, and the flesh separates easily from the seed, making them a breeze to slice and dice.

When I first realized that I had acquired more plums than I had a good plan for, I recalled seeing a recipe in the Veganomicon for a crisp made with plums and strawberries. Isa uses a 9x13 pan in her recipe, but I opted to bake mine in a large cast-iron skillet. When I first took a run at this, I pretty much followed her recipe with just a few changes. I liked the resulting crisp just fine, but it also piqued my desire to see if I could do something else with it. Baking it in the larger pan seemed to open up some other possibilities. For one thing, I wasn't totally satisfied with the combination of strawberries and plums, and it occurred to me that cherries might be a fantastic substitution as well as being a complementary stone fruit. Indeed, after baking, it seemed like the plums and the cherries sort of merged into an altogether different fruit. It's definitely the kind of thing I can get behind. I also tweaked enough of the other flavors and proportions sufficiently to claim this bad boy as my own. I imagine you could mix and match different kinds of stone fruit--nectarine and cherry crisp, anyone?--with excellent results. Isa's recipe called for a bit of anise in the crispy topping, which I enjoyed so much that I included much more of it in my version. I also added molasses to the topping and balanced it all with orange zest.

Plum Cherry Crisp

4 cups cubed plums (about 25 small plums)
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/2-2/3 c sugar (depending on your taste)
zest from one small orange
pinch of salt
1 t cinnamon
3 T cornstarch

Oaty Topping

1 1/4 c quick or rolled oats (I used quick)
1/2 c whole spelt flour
1/3 c sugar
1 T molasses
1 t salt
1 T (heaping) anise seeds
1/3 c canola oil

Preheat your oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss the prepared fruit with cornstarch, zest, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. When the fruit is well-coated, spoon it into a cast-iron pan. Smooth it out as much as possible. In the same bowl (who cares if it's a little mucked up with fruity goo?), combine the dry topping ingredients. Add oil and stir with a fork until the mixture starts looking crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and bake 45 minutes.


I have a new recipe post almost ready to go! I just need to double check my notes, and then you will be treated to Plum Cherry Crisp. Exciting, right? To get you by, in the meantime, I thought I'd share some pics from a recent trip to the delightful sausage place in San Francisco where they offer (in addition to the carnie variety and some kinds vaguely labeled "vegetarian"--because they have eggs or cheese or something?) no fewer than ten exciting flavors of vegan sausage. Each one comes with all the fixings you could want, including saurkraut, relish, mustard, and the like. C and I had been meaning to hit it for quite some time, but different factors--the weather, timing, ennui--kept getting in the way. We finally seized on an opportunity presented to us by our fabulous friend Matt visiting all the way from Brooklyn! I should note that our visit wasn't immediately gratifying. When we first stopped by Underdog, we were greeted by a closed shop and these two, seemingly contradictory, notes, hanging in the door. I loved that they both apologize (deeply!) for any inconvenience and cheerfully proclaim their disregard for the same! Seriously, though, we really enjoyed the dogs, and I think (after our voracious hunger was sated, and we no longer wanted to chew each others' arms off, we all indulged in a hearty bit of sardonic East Coast-style amusement at this whimsical representation of West Coast chill-laxity. 

Of course, I should have written this post much sooner as I'm now taxing my memory for what flavor of sausage we each ordered. I think I went with the polish kielbasa. Matt had a tomato-smoked chipotle something or another, and I'm pretty sure C got the beer brat. If' I'm wrong, perhaps these two wouldn't mind chiming in in the comments and letting me know?

This first picture is Matt's dog as, being a New Yorker, he knows from dressing hot dogs. Am I right?

Next you can see C posed dramatically with all three dogs, pre-dressing. See how nicely he tilts the basket toward the camera so as to maximize my shot? In the final pic, you can see Matt's hand off to the right as he helps in this process. Awwww! Teamwork!