• i am not entirely convinced

    October 28, 2009

    I had heard about Café Gratitude through the raw-food blogosphere, so when Liz asked if I wanted to go to the San Francisco branch, I couldn’t resist.  However, her first and only experience there had not been very friendly, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be in for Café Attitude.

    I found the opposite: an ebullient staff making sure the restaurant’s feel-good concept echoed everywhere.  Before you even place your order, you’ll be asked the question of the day.  “What do you have faith in?” says the waiter with a beatific smile.  Liz thinks he looks like the comedian Carrot Top.

    All the menu items are written in affirmations. Our live pizza – a salad, cashew cream, and tomatoes atop a sprouted buckwheat base with the biggest sprouts I’ve ever seen – was dubbed “I Am Passionate”.

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    Had I first encountered Café Gratitude – or any other live-food restaurant – a few months ago, I would have been all over the idea.  But now the heavy emphasis on nuts and seeds turns me off and feels too heavy.  I know that these foods helped me transition to a high-raw diet; but once I did, my food choices became very simple.  Live food?  Spare me the dehydrating and elaborate nut concoctions in favor of simple foods that really let you live.  Personally, if I’m going to have something cooked-like, I’d rather just have it cooked.

    That said, the nut-free coconut cream pie, aka I Am Devoted, was worth the visit.

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  • bolani and sauce and more bolani

    October 22, 2009

    After I got some great transit and dosa tips from the kind San Francisco stranger – people really are very friendly here – I stumbled upon one of the many farmers’ markets in this food-conscious city.

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    The Galleria building houses a great farmers’ market, and as I wandered around I couldn’t help stopping at one particular stand called Bolani and Sauce.

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    I’ve been to a lot of markets, but I had never seen a bolani – an Afghani flatbread stuffed with a variety of vegan fillings.  The friendly folk were serving up sample after sample of it along with one of the many different toppings they also sell.

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    Stall holders should take note of their generous sampling – I had to start turning them down!  Major brownie points when they asked me if dairy was okay before giving me a try.
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    The family-run business serves up their specialty at farmers’ markets all over the Bay area and surrounding regions as well as Whole Foods.

    Next helping:  gratitude with a side of attitude?

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  • when in rome, eat indian

    October 19, 2009

    After living in NY and London for a collective 12 years and even making sense of Bangkok the short while I was there, I thought I was pretty clever when it came to navigating public transport.

    But San Francisco is an un-city kind of city, if I may say so.  The bus stop outside Liz’s house has no markings on it whatsoever.  I only knew where to wait because there were other people standing around, too.

    One of them was a very nice woman from South India.  Score!  Not only did she get me from Twin Peaks to North Beach, I also seized the moment to ask her about the best places for a curry.

    Goodness how I miss Indian food.  Mystery Indian girl told me she makes most of it herself, of course, but that Shalymar in an area of town called The Tenderloin (!) is the place to go.  When I told her that my favorite Indian meal – and possibly best meal, period – was at Rasa in Charlotte Street in London, she said that for real Kerelan food I should head to Annapurna in San Mateo.  Watch this space.

    Next post: and on the way I stumbled on Afghanistan

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  • of aubergines and eggplant

    October 13, 2009

    My friend Caitlin tells me that for the first time in ages more Australians are moving out of the UK than in.  She’s one of them.

    I met Caitlin in London about two years ago at a networking night for freelance writers.  Now, she finds herself living in Noe Valley, a family-oriented corner of San Francisco.  I’m lucky that her husband’s a vegetarian, because when I came over for dinner I was in for a delicious surprise.

    I’ve read a lot about how San Francisco is possibly the foodie capital of the States, and yet one of my favorite meals so far was far from a restaurant.  Caitlin cooked up a wonderful Lebanese aubergine stew served along famous Acme bread and preceded by a silky-smooth butternut squash soup.  I had to get the recipe, and now you can try it, too, all while discovering Caitlin’s writings at her blog Roaming Tales.

    Culture-shock note: I miss my bike and am absolutely amazed at how San Franciscans can power up hills the way they do.  And after getting in a cab that circled aimlessly around the hills trying to get me back to Liz’s, I must affirm that London cabbies are really the best in the world.  Full stop.

    next stop: Kerala

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  • hello, joe. i’ve missed you.

    October 8, 2009

    Despite the peach incident in my previous post, I had managed to pull away from my Rainbow Grocery-induced trance at the banana stand.

    It was hard not to.  59 cents a pop, printed on every single label.  Since I eat a lot of bananas, I may have gone for these had I not remembered a piece of advice from a trusted source.  19c apiece at Trader Joe’s.

    Ah, Joe.  I fell in love with TJ’s over 10 years ago – the down-to-earth feel, the creative products, the amazing prices.

    A decade on, however, it’s a very different affair.  TJ’s has stayed the same, but I haven’t.  Back then, I didn’t blink an eye at loading up on the blistered peanuts.  I thought nothing of the high-sugar content in many of the cute, little packages.  This time, I cast a careful look at the label.  Some things were great: lots of unsulfured dried-fruit, for instance.  Other things were not: a rack full of sugared mints had me wondering where the natural options were.

    But Trader Joe’s doesn’t market itself as a health-food store, and that’s a good thing.  As always, I’ve found that the best approach to food shopping is portfolio style.  I’m happy to have TJ’s in the mix.

    Next up: one of my favorite SF eats…from Lebanon

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  • the priciest peaches on the planet?

    October 5, 2009

    By the time you read this I’ll be immersed in a one-month yoga teacher training course.  That’s four weeks of ashram life – wake-up bell at 5:30am, two yoga classes a day, lectures, anatomy classes, and karma yoga or selfless service before flopping into bed at 10.

    So I’ve written a bunch of posts scheduled to run while I’m away because I didn’t want to leave Green Appetite all alone, especially not when I captured so many cool things in San Francisco.

    Some shocking things, too, and not what you might expect.

    Day two saw Liz driving me to Rainbow Grocery, an enormous place that had me in a trance.  Rainbow truly lives up to its name by stocking every manner of “health” product under the sun as well as yoga equipment and kitchenware.  I stared at the raw section for about 15 minutes before deciding I really didn’t need any grain-less apple cereal for $10.

    Foolishly, I forgot to look at the price of the peaches.  I was entranced with these perfect orbs at the point of ripe perfection and forgot to check out the numbers.  When the cashier rang them up, they came out to over £6!

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    Speaking of cashiers, I’m having a hard time not packing my own groceries.  Those who’ve spent time in the UK know that store clerks not only let you get on with your own packing, but they sit down for their shifts, too. Sounds very sensible to me now, but I remember trying to get used to this when I arrived in London nearly six years ago.

    Back to the posh peaches, I had coffee today in North Beach with my new friend Evan who made a very good point about the price of food – good food should be expensive!  Evan’s working on American Foodways, a TV show all about the nation’s real-food revival.  He and his team have tremendous passion for the program, and he’s looking for sponsors to get it on the air.  So if you care about this timely topic and have a brand you’d like to promote, please get in touch with him.

    Up next: my reunion with a cheap yet charming California resident.

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  • up and down in san francisco

    October 2, 2009

    I’ve been in the city of hills and chills for three days now.

    But first, a little layover on the way here.
    IMG_0988Yep, we’re definitely not in London anymore.  Houston, Texas, to be precise.

    But wait!
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    A surge of nostalgia for the queues and quirks of London takes over me.

    I do miss my city, but I am also quick to remember that there are lots of things I missed while there. A big one:  Mexican food.  And nobody does Mexican better than California.

    So, when I touched down in SFO and my friend Liz asked what I wanted for dinner, she zoomed me over to Pancho Villa in the area of town called “The Mission.”

    This place is insane.  The sights, sounds, and smells hit me in the same way people describe arriving at Delhi airport.  I had to stop and stare.

    Loud, fast, and overwhelming, Pancho Villa is one if those guidebook places locals can’t shy away from.

    “What is this plant-based thing you’re doing?!” asks Liz.

    But there’s really no need, not when there’s rice and beans and salsa on the best corn tortillas I’ve had.

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    Liz got a huge plate of carne, rice, and salad, and on top of that we got way too many tortilla chips to share with guacamole and salsa.  This was also the first time I tried horchata, a rice-milk drink that tastes like rice pudding without the lumps.  And the first time I can remember dinner for two costing £17.
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    That’s Liz after assuring me “We’ll have you eating meat before you leave!”

    I didn’t even notice the salsa bar at the back of the room, and the veggies for the veggie tacos had run out, so another visit is definitely in order.

    We ate a lot, and we ate late.  The raw factor was low.  I know I feel better when I’m eating lighter than this, but I made it my “mission” to be flexible with myself when I’m not eating at home, especially when I’m far from it.

    Coming up:  jaw-dropping grocery shopping, San Francisco style

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