Splendiferous

Many great stories begin with soup. Soup can soothe the soul, fortify the infirm, nourish the hungry, and uplift the cast down. It can be just about anything ladled into a bowl and eaten with a spoon; hot or cold, thick or thin, based on vegetables, fruits, nuts, noodles, or just straight cheese.

Splendid Spoon also begins, and ends, with soup. Founded on the healing principle of the bottomless bowl, it’s a plant‑based meal program that delivers ready-to‑eat brews, blends, and even bowls. Smoothies and grain bowls have joined the menu, but as the name would imply, soup is the main event here.

The menu rotates weekly, drawing seasonal inspiration to appeal to contemporary cravings. Warming chilis, congees, and stews through fall and winter, and lighter, cooler broths and blends become available in spring and summer. Many recipes appear in founder and CEO Nicole Centeno‘s book, Soup Cleanse Cookbook. For those of limited energy, patience, or ingredients, the full service affair is a godsend.

Kabocha Congee is the kind of a bowl you can curl up with, swaddled in your softest blanket and fuzzy slippers, to feel like all is right with the world. Brilliant sweetness that come as a surprise, all courtesy of the natural sugars inherent in both the squash and coconut milk. Creamy, deeply soothing, rich yet not heavy, it’s a remarkable study in balance. Subtle hints of cinnamon perfume the bowl, marrying beautifully with notes of pepper and a touch of nutmeg. Even better than the average rice stew, toothsome pumpkin seeds are scattered throughout, lending a hearty bite that fully satisfies all the senses.

Not to get hyperbolic, but the Green Split Pea Soup is nothing short of a revelation. Rather than the murky morass of over-boiled legumes, there are full, whole peas in here! Like oversized caviar, they burst in juicy bites, lending an air of luxury to this once humble stew. Easily the best rendition of the concept I’ve encountered to date, it’s fantastic enjoyed cold on a hot summer’s day, too.

Take your taste buds globe trotting with a stop in Italy and France for a bowlful of Garden Minestrone and Butternut Squash Ratatouille. Leaning into a tomato base with savory herb seasoning, the minestrone focuses in on zucchini and white beans, whereas the ratatouille, true to the name, is all about that orange autumn gourd. Happily, neither one taste out of season, appealing to the senses all year round.

Billed as one of the “light” brews, Fennel Consommé presents a zesty citrus-infused broth with softly simmered pieces of licorice-y fennel. An excellent appetizer or palate cleanser between courses, it sings of sunny spring days. You can practically taste the morning dew still clinging to those leafy fronds.

New to the lineup, the Mint Chip Smoothie is everything you want and need out of a creamy summertime treat. Part decadent dessert, part wholesome meal replacement, each verdant sip is loaded with fresh greens and cool peppermint flavor. Trust me, I’m very serious about my mint chocolate chip milkshakes, so it’s really saying something to rank this one so highly on the hit list.

The spice is right in the Carrot Ginger Chia Smoothie. Think “liquid carrot cake” and you wouldn’t be too far off. Bright ginger blends with the tropical notes of mango and banana to recreate a more fruit-forward rendition of the old-fashioned staple. Stay in the bakery department for a moment to drink deeply from the Pumpkin Spice Smoothie while you’re at it. Enriched with almond butter and defined by a heavy dose of cinnamon, each bottle contains all the taste of America’s favorite crusted wonder, without the stodgy pastry.

For a souped up menu or smooth moves to power you through the day, you can do no better than the convenience and comfort of Splendid Spoon. With nationwide delivery and free shipping, there’s never a bad time to drink it all in. Use the code “SAVE25NOW” to get $25 off your next order.

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Wordless Wednesday: Lucky Strike

Orange Blossom; Orange Juice, Aperol, Elderberry, Lemon, Vodka, Rosemary

Amuse Buche; Seitan Sausage & Cucumber Slaw

Lemongrass Coconut Soup with Red Lentils & Pumpkin Seed Wonton

Wasabi Praline, Sesame Crunch, Avocado, Mango Salad

Tandori Tofu, Green Pea Couscous, Spiced Jackfruit Balls, Mint Yogurt

Quinoa Potato Burger, White Asparagus, Orange Sauce

Crispy Seitan, Black Rice, Edamame, Chicory Gratin

Rhubarb Cheesecake, Nut Praline, Cookie Ice Cream

Hazelnut Slice, Chocolate Crumble, Pineapple, Plum Ice Cream

Lucky Leek
Kollwitzstraße 54
10405 Berlin, Germany

Happy Camper

Only once in my life have I attempted any form of overnight camping. At five or six years old, eyes full of stars and head full of dreams, my parents pitched a tent right in the backyard, no more than a few feet from our back door. Safe from the true elements but still firmly planted in the “great” outdoors, it was an ideal way of testing the waters.

It was all perfect. My sister and I made shadow puppets after the sun fell, giggling long into the night. We rolled around in sleeping bags, despite the balmy summer air. As soon as the flashlights switched off, however, I was inconsolable. The ground was too hard, there were ants and mosquitoes and (maybe!) spiders, it was too dark, too cramped, too breezy, too… Outdoors. After about 15 minutes, I hightailed it back inside to my bed.

To this day, my idea of “roughing it” still involves WIFI and running water, but no matter. I would gladly build a campfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores any day. After all, that’s really the only reason anyone would bother with camping, right?

Starbucks knows this and capitalizes on the concept. Their seasonal S’mores Crème Frappuccino makes all the glory of camping accessible without pulling out of the drive-through line. It is, sadly, one of the few concoctions that can’t be veganized.

Save yourself the trouble, heartache, and money by just making your own at home. Instead of marshmallow-infused whipped cream, my copycat recipe is crowned by a plume of aquafaba marshmallow fluff, homemade chocolate syrup, and a crunchy sprinkle of crushed graham crackers. The base is a simple blended iced mocha, made from frozen coffee cubes, so the mixture isn’t watered down by plain ice.

Raise a glass to the goodness of summer, without having to hike into the woods and set up camp.

Continue reading “Happy Camper”

Bar None

As the antiquated adage goes, when it rains, it pours. When in drought-stricken California however, what falls from the sky is not a deluge of precipitation, but of citrus. Yes, you heard me right: Fruit is showering the city streets at this very moment, heavy with juice and blown asunder by the most gentle gusts of wind. Every variety you can imagine, from the average lemon and lime to more exotic mandarins, yuzu, pomelo, even Buddha’s hand litter the pavement. Dash out for a quick walk around the neighborhood, eyes to the ground, and you can take care of your vitamin C needs without spending a dime.

Urban foraging has kept my fruit bin full of these tart, tangy, sour, and sometimes sweet gems. Oranges are real treasures, eaten straight out of hand, sometimes before even returning home, but the most plunder is the venerated Meyer lemon. Popularized by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame, it’s no surprise that this particular specimen that’s come to represent so much of California cuisine now thrives up and down the coast, and is especially concentrated so close to home.

Thus, lemons have been on the menu at every turn lately, when alternative acids and groceries in general are scarce. Large pitchers of lemonade sit chilled, at the ready as the days grow warmer, threatening to skip right over spring and straight into the summer season. Fine flecks of zest sparkle in simple vinaigrettes, lavished over everything from greens to grains. Jars of marmalade use up every scrap of peel, preserving the harvest for countless slabs of toast to come.

For dessert, of course, you can do no better than homemade lemon bars.

Luscious, silken curd dazzles like a semi-sold bite of sunshine atop a buttery, pleasantly sandy shortbread crust. Tender and yielding, each square trembles gently in the hand, melting the instant it hits the tongue. Avowed lemon-lovers and fair weather friends alike can agree that a properly baked lemon bar can even surpass the appeal of a beguiling chocolate cake.

Finished with a flurry of powdered sugar, this classic, unassailable treat suits every occasion, every season, every craving, as far as I’m concerned. Even if lemons aren’t literally falling into your lap, do yourself the kindness of splurging on a generous surplus. Trust me, you’ll find a way to use them up without any difficulty, especially with this sweet serving suggestion on deck.

Continue reading “Bar None”

Front and Center

Pizza parlors are a dime a dozen in any city worth its rent. Sold by the slice or full pie, the combination of crisp, slightly charred blistered crust with gooey cheese, still bubbling from the oven’s scalding hot breath, no one can resist such simple pleasures. Cybelle’s Front Room in San Francisco was founded upon that basic premise, like countless others, but rapidly evolved into an outpost for far more complex, diverse comfort food delights.

Not just catering to the sporadic herbivorous visitor, an entirely vegan menu pulls out all the stops, with old-school Italian-Fusion fare, paying no mind to misguided naysayers. Leave your diet at the door, because this is no rabbit food.

Despite her blisteringly hectic schedule, I had the great fortune of sitting down with chef Christa Yan (in our respective apartments during shelter in place mandates) to get the inside scoop of how this classic red sauce joint transitioned into a meatless dining destination.

Buffalo Chick’n Mac & Cheese

Hannah Kaminsky: When was Cybelle’s Front Room originally established?
Christa Yan: So CyBelle’s Pizza used to be a pizza chain with 28 CyBelle’s Pizza locations throughout the Bay Area. It was one of my dad’s first “real” American jobs when he came here from Hong Kong as a teenager. He worked his way up and became manager of all 28 CyBelle’s Pizza locations. In the early ’90s the entire chain split up and all the stores became independently owned. My dad ended up independently owning one CyBelle’s Pizza location on Parnassus near UCSF here in San Francisco.

In 2004, the original Front Room, where we are now on 9th Avenue, went up for sale by the original owners, who had been running the Front Room since the ’70s. My dad ended up buying it from them and decided to combine the two names and menus, hence CyBelle’s Front Room was born and it’s been this way since 2004. It’s been 16 years now as CyBelle’s Front Room and owned and operated by my parents!

Caesar Salad

HK: When did you start serving a vegan menu?
CY: I started the Vegan Menu in August 2017. It started out as a few simple items. I had just moved back to the Bay after a 10-year stint in Chicago. I didn’t know what the vegan community in SF was like at all. Had no idea it was such a supportive community!

HK: What was the inspiration?
CY: Inspiration was honestly seeing the lack of vegan food in our immediate area in the Inner Sunset District here in San Francisco. I’m a comfort food type of gal. I love eating “naughty” food! I wanted some real naughty vegan food!

Impossible Nacho Fries

HK: How often do you change the menu?
CY: So we do have an 8-page permanent plant-based menu now. It’s grown definitely. We keep adding “specials” pretty much all the time that interchange every month or so. We have a little table menu that we call our mini “specials board” and that’s where we keep all our specials that change all the time, in addition to the 8-page permanent plant-based menu.

Zucchini Noodle Carbonara

HK: How have the vegan dishes been received? Was there any push back from regulars?
CY: No push back from regulars that I can recall right now honestly! I think plant-based comfort food is new to a lot of people who aren’t familiar with faux meats etc. Our regulars that have been coming for 13+ plus years are wowed by everything honestly and they try stuff from the vegan menu all the time!

Chicken Parm

HK: What’s the most popular order?
CY: It’s a tie between the beignets with cookie butter and the mac n cheese pizza right now.

Beignets with Chocolate Sauce and Cookie Butter

HK: Do you have a personal favorite?
CY: My personal favorite is our Vegan Mozz Stuffed Garlic Knots. They are super naughty. Loaded with garlic and butter and olive oil and more garlic and then more butter. Not for the faint of heart. Or anyone on a caloric deficit. But it is right up my alley and it’s been a huge hit.

HK: Is there anything you’re particularly excited about coming soon?
CY: OH YESSSS. We are debuting housemade vegan pepperoni. Working on Vegan Mozzarella sticks as well. Lots of cool vegan pizza combos. More types of different vegan wings as well. Possibly a super crispy ridiculous fried chik’n sandwich. Lots of things in my brain!

Mac & Cheese Calzone

HK: Any other background information or stories you’d like to share?
CY: My parents have been in this business 30+ years now. They are high school sweethearts. They are true San Franciscan locals. They met at George Washington High School here in SF. They compare their love story to The Notebook, it’s ridiculous and sweet and hilarious. I feel lucky to have such a solid support system that came from so much love like that. It’s almost not real but it is.

My father is at the restaurant from open till close, every single day, and has held our family and business together for decades. That to me is the definition of a dedicated father, great husband, honorable businessman. He has helped so many businesses on our block. I could go into detail but he’s so humble about it he doesn’t want me advertising. He came here from Hong Kong as a teenager with very little. This is a true American Dream story.

Cybelle’s Front Room
1385 9th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122