As the sun recedes and daylight begins to fade for the final time this year, it’s natural to reflect back on 2015, for all the good and bad that’s come to pass. Although there’s little sense in dwelling on the downfalls and defeats of 2015, I can’t help but at least pay homage to some of the sad losses seen by the bay area dining scene. We’ve lost a few gems in the vegan restaurant community, as is to be expected with such difficult professional endeavors. Before moving on to more celebratory subjects, I want to pay my final respects to a few of those fallen in the line of food service.
Source – Best known for their burgers and classic American menu, Source filled a need for cruelty-free comfort food in the SoMa area. Pizzas were also outstanding, topped with everything from buffalo “chicken” to beefy taco fixings and every veggie in between. Not one red sauce joint in town has come close to replicating those fearless flavor combinations so far.
Nature’s Express – Billed as a natural alternative to fast food, the service may have been prompt, but the bill of fare far surpassed the greasy standards of any mainstream establishment. Affordable, healthy wraps, sandwiches, and salads made it a breeze to grab a good meal on the go.
Herbivore Divisadero – Succeeded by two remaining outposts, one in San Francisco proper and one across the bay in Berkeley, the fact that there’s still a chance to enjoy the classic lentil loaf and gigantic salads makes this loss a little bit easier to swallow. It’s just a shame to see the family shrink, making their solid offerings even slightly less accessible.
Cafe Gratitude – The last remaining Northern California location of this beloved old-school vegan institution is the most recent departure on this list. Having closed their doors a mere day ago, the juicers may very well still be warm, the smell of freshly pressed kale still lingering in the air. Even in the short amount of time we had together, Cafe Gratitude effortlessly captured my heart with its colorful bowls of “I Am Terrific” pad Thai, made with kelp noodles and raw almond sauce. That dish is one that I will miss above all the rest, that makes all other cravings pale in comparison.
It is with a heavy heart that we must bid these businesses adieu, but hope for a brighter, and even more delicious New Year shines brightly on the horizon. Many new openings promise to invigorate the industry with a wide array of fresh vegan options in the months to come.
Sundown on Monday, April 14 marks the beginning of Passover, a week devoted to celebrating spring, remembering the past, and eating cardboard instead of delicious grains, whole or otherwise processed. Needless to say, it’s that last part that really gets to me, as matzo has never been my favorite food in the world. Perhaps they would come in handy as mulch or filler for the litter box, but unadorned sheets of the unleavened bread hold little if any culinary value in my eyes. Thankfully, immense improvements in flavor can be made with just a little bit of work, and I’ve had the opportunity to photograph and give Nava Atlas’s truly tasty suggestions a test drive well in advance of the holiday. Proving the power of a well-written recipe, there are now matzo-based dishes that I can claim to genuinely enjoy!
A show-stopper for any Passover meal, this Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzo Gratin is an impressive but surprisingly simple dish to pull together. It sounds like a humble side dish but eats like a hearty lasagna, which makes it an incredibly versatile addition to any festive menu.
Matzo toffee is a classic treat that always shows up on our seder table, but for an even quicker fix, Nava’s Chocolate Matzo Brittle takes all the boiling sugar and candy making out of the equation. Straight-up chocolate-covered matzo with any sweet toppings your heart desires, it’s perfect for keeping cravings at bay. Sliced almonds with espresso salt are a top pick around here, but it’s hard to go wrong no matter what goodies you choose.
And let’s not forget the indispensable classic, the Jewish staple known around the world: Matzo Ball Soup. This recipe is the only vegan rendition I have yet to encounter that not only yields consistently cohesive, plump dumplings, but also tastes just as good as my memories suggest. It’s the kind of dish that could make me willingly break out the matzo any time of year, which should really say it all.
Could it be? Are my numbers correct? Is it even possible that eight full years have passed since BitterSweet first began, all with one hesitating, painfully timid post? Each time this date rolls around, it never fails to knock me off my feet. Reflecting back, I could have never guessed what immense waves such a small endeavor could create, or how strikingly it would come to shape my career. The constant influx of new inspiration tends to bury the painstakingly composed and throwaway posts alike, so I wanted to take this opportunity to really comb through the archives and dust off some treasures lost in time. It would be impossible to single out just eight favorite posts out of over 1,200, and counting, so this list is by no means the best of the best! Just the entries that stood out as worth sharing at least once more… But hopefully for another eight years more, too.
Hold onto your hats and prepare yourself for a trip down memory lane… The road starts out rough, just like the pictures, but it gets better with every passing year. If you can power though the nostalgic love-fest, there’s a little giveaway waiting for you down at the bottom of the post, so let’s get started!
2006: Bake Off!
[See what I mean about those pictures? I swear, I must have once lived in a world of all yellow…]
History in the making, folks. My first big win in any dessert competition, and while the photos themselves are not exactly shining examples of such a landmark victory, this post really marks a turning point in my baking career. The recipe for that award-winning Mocha Devastation Cake went on to join the final lineup in My Sweet Vegan, my first cookbook. Hard to believe it was that long ago when it all began!
2007: Float Away
Though it arrived on the scene so early on in the cupcake craze, hopefully some longtime regulars will recognize this particular frosting-capped treat. Inspiration from the soda shop classic created the foundation for this signature dessert, one that came to define my style as a baker for many years. Experimental, whimsical, and uncomplicated, I believe that this is really the recipe that helped to secure that first book deal. While I must admit I rarely revisit my older recipes after they’ve been thoroughly tested, approved, and published, this is one choice pick that has frequently returned to its place of honor- In my oven.
2008: The White Stuff
Quite possibly my most popular posts to this day, I seem to have struck white gold when I developed my infamous recipe for vegan white chocolate. Nothing makes me happier than to see fresh blog posts still refer back to this formula, especially since it remains a staple in my kitchen, too. Want to knock the socks off of someone special for Valentine’s Day? Just whip up a bar of homemade white chocolate. Trust me: It couldn’t be simpler, but will score you much more than mere brownie points.
2009: Three Tiers of Terror
Oh, dear readers, were you there with me as I struggled with this edible behemoth? I almost forgot about the agony and horror of the ordeal, but now it’s flooding back to me as if it was yesterday. I still haven’t made another wedding cake since, but I couldn’t be more proud to have managed some miracle and pulled this one off. It’s a humbling, character-building experience that every baker should endure at least once.
2010: Of Heartbreak and Hummus
My beloved pizza hummus may have stood me up years ago and still left me hanging, but I’ve recovered from the heartache and moved on to more attractive dips. Homemade is the way to go, naturally! Savory recipes were still largely uncharted territory at this point on the blog, but wild successes like this hummus proved that there was an audience out there, receptive and hungry for more.
The post that launched an obsession. Before this head-to-head battle of the non-dairy nogs, I was just a gal who liked nutmeg in my creamy holiday beverages just a little bit more than the rest, but now, I had a purpose. Every time a new vegan nog arrives on the scene, it’s become my solemn duty to put it to the test! I’ve since had one update just this past December, and plan to continue the tradition for as long as manufacturers keep on producing more eggless, milkless festive beverages.
Where would I be without this carefully composed plated dessert? Probably not in Hawaii, I’ll tell you that much. Prize winnings from this competition afforded me the opportunity to visit the islands in the first place, and it really was love at first sight. While I do adore the layered chocolate confection itself, the implications that it, and my other worldly recipe entries have had on my current trajectory cannot be understated. If there’s anything to blame when I pack up and move out here, it would be this win!
2013: Tuna of the Field
A tuna look-alike made of watermelon! Once the I got the idea into my head, I simply couldn’t resist. The concept may be a bit “out there” for conventional eaters, but as they say: Try it, you’ll like it! Especially when you have a melon that’s sightly less sweet than desired, savory flavors fill the gaps beautifully and transform the fruit into an entirely new entity.
2014: Mochi Madness
The year is still young, but so far, these chewy chocolate bar cookies have taken my heart and run with it. Being surrounded by so many mochi delights here in Hawaii has only served to strengthen that particular craving, and it doesn’t hurt that the recipe is so darned simple. Even the pitiful oven on hand here can manage with good results, and that should say something about the strength of that formula.
So here we are, back in the present. What will the future hold? If past postings are any indication… Then I have no idea, but I trust that it will be delicious. I couldn’t have made it all these years without the love (sometimes necessarily tough,) support, and of course comments from you, my dear reader. This is really your blogoversary in that sense, too.
Now, because it’s just not a party without presents…
I’m thrilled to have a new sponsor on board not only to help fuel new and exciting content here on BitterSweet, but also directly benefit you, the reader! Natalie Quirk, the skilled fiber artist behind Comfort Food Cushions has a real prize-worthy treat in store that will turn this little blogoversary into a genuine celebration.
Up for grabs is your choice of a Hot Dog, Taco, or Macaroni Cheese Noodle pillow, depending on your tastes. It will take 1 – 2 weeks for your winnings to arrive, since these high-fiber creations are always handmade to order. Everyone is welcome to enter, but readers located outside of the US would be asked to contribute a $5 shipping fee. Also, it is important to note that items cannot be sent to Italy or Greece as the materials are considered prohibited items.
Click through to Rafflecopter to enter, and don’t forget to leave a comment!
UPDATE: The entry period has now ended. Click the link above to view the winner.
Another month brings us another batch of sweet eats and food for thought, so let’s get right to it and dig in!
‘Tis the season for simple sugar cookies, and if you don’t yet have your recipe lined up, I have an excellent new option for you to consider. Made with a combination of standard all-purpose and sorghum flour, this unique blend turns out a dough that is easy to roll, won’t spread in the oven, and still retains a soft, chewy texture. Ideal for painless prep and enjoying later, it’s a win-win cookie for both the baker and the eater.
Winter weather may not be synonymous with cool, refreshing smoothies, but I’m doing my part to change that. In the winter issue of Allergic Living, I’ve shared three seasonal blends that are sure to satisfy, even if snow lines the ground in your neck of the woods, too.
Hurry on over to The Recipe Renovator for a chance to win five awesome new cookbooks (Easy as Vegan Pie included, of course) plus a whole bunch of fun kitchen toys and treats! You only have until tomorrow to enter, so don’t wait around to throw your hat in the ring. Stephanie has also shared my recipe for Rock’n Roll Elvis Pie, which you won’t want to miss, if only for that addictive Oinkless Bacon Brittle.
Dear fellow food bloggers, hear me out. Put the pumpkin down, step away from the cinnamon, ginger, and clove, and stash those cranberries back in the fridge for a little while longer. It’s still summer, for crying out loud! Sure, there are more brisk mornings and fewer sweltering afternoons, but even the calendar agrees that summer hasn’t given up the ghost just yet. Rather than rush head-long into the colder part of the year, I’m relishing every remaining minute of sun, and yes, even the humidity that it sometimes brings. While so much of the blogosphere seems to have moved on, casting aside the brilliant berries, tomatoes, and corn still at the market, the move seems painfully premature. Those root vegetables will still be there next month- For the next 5 months, at that- So I hope you’ll at least indulge me while I share a brief overview of a few things I’ve been loving all season long. It’s not too late to enjoy them for yourself!
Essentially an enhanced water drink, Bai5 was initially an impulse buy that turned into something of an obsession. It’s definitely a treat, considering the expense, but I can’t get enough of the intense yet natural fruit flavors. Congo Pear is my all-time favorite, granted I haven’t tried any that I wasn’t fond of. For hot summer days, there were few drinks more refreshing that I found to stock my fridge with, although that stash never lasted long.
Homegrown tomatoes. ‘Nuff said.
Up the ante a bit with heirloom tomatoes and juicy peaches together, namely in a bold salad with corn, tofu feta, and fresh basil. Eat it chilled or stuff it into some puff pastry and you’ve got yourself one killer appetizer. Get the recipe at Go Dairy Free.
Not one to shy away from sugar, I was reluctant to taste the No Sugar Added Coconut Ice Creams recently release by So Delicious. They aren’t without flaws, as they carry a faint stevia aftertaste that detracts somewhat from the overall experience, but the texture doesn’t suffer one bit. An incredible feat considering how essential sugar is to the prevention of ice crystals in traditional scoops. I would heartily recommend the Butter Pecan in particular to anyone watching their intake of sweets.
Rich, highly spiced Ethiopian food at Lalibela in New Haven, CT. Okay, so this one isn’t actually seasonal at all, and may in fact be better suited for colder weather, but I can’t resist listing this gem of a restaurant. It just so happens that a recent trip stands out as one particular high point of my summer dining experiences. A whole vegan section of the menu ensures a wealth of choices for eaters of all persuasions, and that delightfully spongy injera can’t be beat when paired with absolutely any dish on offer. Although my visits are few and far between, it always exceeds my expectations, seeming to improve upon each subsequent visit. If you’re local, or semi-local, it’s definitely worth a trip from a hundred miles away.
That’s all for now, but by no means an exhaustive list of all the edible and drinkable delights that have crossed my path this season. For those, you’ll have to stay tuned for more in-depth reviews to come!