Monthly Archives: July 2007

Blasphemy and Other Fun Vacation Activities

Are you ready to hear my dirty little secret? I don’t like most vegetarian restaurants.

There. I said it. The cat’s out of the bag. (Though admittedly, the bag was pretty flimsy to start with.)

Case in point: The Ravens Restaurant, at the Stanford Inn in Mendocino. I love everything about the place…except the food.*

My partner and just enjoyed a long—and painfully overdue—weekend at the Stanford. It’s a gorgeous lodge. Nice rooms with wood burning fireplaces, beautifully kept grounds and friendly people. They’re responsible innkeepers who respect the planet, compost their waste, and recycle everything. Plus, they’re animal lovers, just like me, so you can bring your dog along for an extra thirty-five bucks. (We did. She loved it.) So in keeping with the “kindness to all living creatures” thing, they have a vegetarian and vegan restaurant called The Ravens. And frankly, I’m just not that into it.

I know, I know! I’m waiting for a lightening bolt to strike me dead in my tracks as I write this, but I’ve got to tell it like it is. People are cutting the place way too much slack because it’s vegetarian. And I don’t want to play that way. If I’m going to rag on the mainstream restaurant world for not doing right by vegetarians, I can’t let veggie joints off the hook just because their politics agree with my own.

The food was flat, y’all. The red bell pepper coulis on my Lasagna Fresca was bitter to the point of distracting. My partner had the Tamales, which came with a big side of rice, and amounted to a giant pile of flavorless carbs.

And here’s the other thing. The menu was freakin’ all over the place. No focus, no vision, just a lack of meat as the unifying principle. Sadly, I found this to be true at a lot of vegetarian restaurants. Now don’t get me wrong—I love it when I get to order freely off a menu. It’s a nice change of pace. But tighten it up, people! Show me a point of view. It shouldn’t be “Good, for vegetarian food.” It should be “Good food, period.”

So go stay at the Stanford. It’s a wonderful, relaxing, beautiful place. Just beware that their restaurant gets an A for politics and a C for execution.

*The scones are good in the morning, though. I’ll give them that.

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Filed under Exclusively Veg, Mid-range Meals, Reviews

Haiku for RNM

Not feeling the long format love today, so let’s kick it 5-7-5 for RNM.

Perfectly good meal
But didn’t knock my socks off
(Grit on the mushrooms)

Grilled Romaine, smoky
Well-balanced, this I adored
Whore for Blue Cheese, me

Fried Green Tomato
Napoleon— what the fuck?
Twice in the same week?

No veggie entrée
But the chef made one for me
I was glad I asked

Fresh corn with chanterelles
Snap peas and white truffle oil
Damn the dirty ‘shrooms

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Reviews

The Blue Plate

My friend Julie is a walking, talking lucky charm. Like pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers and blue diamonds lucky. Every time we dine together, we have a good meal.

Last night, we chose The Blue Plate, out where Mission hits Valencia. It’s a quintessential neighborhood place, far from the crowds of the Inner Mission, or anywhere downtown. Drive by fast and you’re likely to miss it.

The focaccia was a good early omen. I’ve practically given up on focaccia as of late. Nobody seems to get it right. It’s either too spongy or too twiggy with rosemary, but The Blue Plate nailed it. Julie aptly described it as “crunchewy”. Soft but not too giving, lightly crisp on the outside, with the perfect amount of sea salt.

I moved on to the Roast Eggplant, Brandywine Tomato and Gypsy Pepper Soup, which turned out to be vegan, but creamy as all get out. Such a nice surprise. Julie went for the Star Route Farms Spinach with Brown Turkey Figs, Ricotta Salata and Spiced Hazelnuts. I stole off her plate like the dirty, rotten thief that I truly am, and she was kind enough to let me get away with it. Happy days for me: It was simple and delicious. Sometimes figs ick me out, to be honest. But last night, they hit the right note.

On to the Fried Green Tomatoes. (Oh, Mary Stewart Masterson, how you rocked my world…You’re just an old bee charmer, Idgie Thredgood. That’s what you are.) Whoddathunkit as an entrée, but it worked. The fried bit gave the dish some hearty substance, while the addition of summer squash and pesto kept it light and springy.

We also opted to split an order of the Taco Truck Style Corn on the Cob with Queso Fresco, Lime and Paprika, which is a perennial favorite of mine. Seriously. I knowingly risk all kinds of intestinal nastiness to eat corn like this from street vendors in Mexico, such is the depth of my love. And Blue Plate didn’t disappoint. It’s not a hard dish to pull of, mind you, but it’s just nice to see it on the menu.

The only (ever so slight) misstep of the meal came with Julie’s Gnocci with Braised Chicken. It wasn’t that it was bad—I tasted a chicken-free bite—rather, it felt out of place. The flavors were decidedly wintry. I kept thinking of a hearty French stew or something, which came out of nowhere on a summertime menu. But really, folks, if that’s all I can bitch about, we’re in pretty good shape.

So Jules, if you’re reading this, here’s my open invitation to dine with me any time. You’re three for three, babe.

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Filed under Mid-range Meals, Reviews

Canteen…let’s renew our vows.

Finally, I’m feeling better. I was Bizarro-Me all week—a scary me that didn’t have any interest in food. Yikes. So what better way to celebrate my newly renewed appetite than brunch at Canteen?

I’m gonna cut to the chase here. Y’all know how I want to be Chef Leary’s love slave. You can read my original, mushy smooch-fest right here.

Let me break it down for you.

1. Order a Bellini. They’re dry and crisp—not syrupy like some—with a mint leaf on top for a splash of color straight out of The Preppy Handbook.
2. If the Corn Soup with Chili Puree is on the menu, do it. We got a bowl for the table to share, just to enjoy the flavor. The sweet of the corn and the heat of the chili go together like Donny and Marie in my seven-year-old mind. Nothing short of heaven.
3. Get a Chanterelle and Gruyere Omelette. Sorry, my vegan brothers and sisters, you’re out in the cold on this one. But for those of us who love cheese, giddy-up. This is a simple, old fashioned omelette executed perfectly. Plus, the home fries on the side should be illegal, they’re so freakin’ tasty.
4. And if you’re in the mood for sweet, try the Peach French Toast with Sweet Cream Cheese. I stole a bite off my friend Julia’s plate. And then I stole another. And another.

The most amazing thing of all is that Leary was there, doing his thing at ten in the morning on a Saturday. When does the man sleep? When does he order take out and watch Top Chef, all snuggled on the sofa? The guy’s got the work ethic of a Pilgrim on speed.

Simple pleasures, people. Canteen serves ’em up right.

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Filed under Brunch, Mid-range Meals, Reviews

Manresa. Finally.

7-7-07. Lucky day for a birthday, right? Everything was going according to plan. We drove down to Monterrey to check out the otter exhibit at the aquarium. (Turns out, I am “Wild About Otters”.) Lovely. Walked along the waterfront. Fabulous. Drove to Los Gatos and checked in to our hotel. Okey dokey. Started feeling feverish, nauseous, and weak. Wait a tick…

This was the night of my big birthday dinner at Manresa! How could this be!??!? I’d called ahead and requested a vegetarian tasting menu and everything. Clearly, I was being punished for committing some unspeakable horror in a past life. Or perhaps for admitting that I still kinda like the Spice Girls and hope their tour comes to San Francisco. Could be either one.

I decided to cowboy up and head for the restaurant anyway. No burning hot fever was going to keep me away from my dinner, dammit. I figured I’d just pretend I felt okay, and see if my body would go along for the ride. And for a while, the ruse worked. Continue reading

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Filed under Major Coin, Reviews

Manresa soon…

Such a story to tell, people. But it’ll have to wait. Work is kicking my newly 36-year-old ass right now. I promise to give the tale-telling my full attention when I come up for air.

(Deep breath. Going back under.)

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Filed under Me