As I mentioned earlier, I dined out quite often during my visit to the Bay. In Oakland, Berkeley, and surrounding areas, there are numerous options from which to choose that could satisfy virtually any type of culinary craving. I spent much of this food exploration with a dear friend who has doubled as my food buddy since we were dorm roommates as university freshmen years ago. We always have an enjoyable time trying new eating establishments whenever we're able to spend time together, so because much of the week was spent wandering the Bay with this person, it really goes without saying that we both ate well. My friend is always mindful of my dietary preferences--in fact, curious about and open to sharing the type of animal-free food I eat--which I think is just fabulous.
I always felt a little odd about taking photographs of food when I'm dining out (although I have no problem ogling over the awesome shots others take and post on their own blogs), so unfortunately, the so-called "food porn" will be kept to a minimum here; I only have snapshots of items that made it back to my sister's house, where I could not only photograph in peace, but also continue to devour my edible finds without shame. And now, for a quick highlight reel of delectables:
Coffee made a regular appearance throughout the week, most notably Blue Bottle Coffee Company drip. It's tasty stuff that, judging by the long line at the Oakland-based company's local farmers' market stand, many people also enjoy. Cole Coffee's custom drip wasn't bad, either, and has a shop not too far from my sister's house, but my main reason for ever going there is to buy Pepples Donuts. They're cake-style, vegan, organic, delicious pairings for a hot cup of coffee, no matter what flavor. My favorite so far has been the chocolate donut with chocolate icing, although the orange-iced one was also good.
I was pretty excited to check out the new Cinnaholic storefront in Berkeley, which opened not too long after my last visit to the area. Vegan, customizable cinnamon rolls? That suits me quite well. I selected an Old Skool roll (a classic cinnamon roll with vanilla frosting) and a roll with maple frosting and hazelnuts, both of which I shared with my sister, her boyfriend, and my foodie friend. The Old Skool was good, but we all agreed that the maple-frosted roll was delicious. Maple and cinnamon go so well together, and the whole hazelnuts just took the whole thing up a notch. I'll be making a return trip to this place next time I'm in town.
Just a few hours before leaving the Bay, my sister and I stopped by last weekend's Eat Real Fest, which was held at Jack London Square in Oakland. Basically, it was an epic food-centric gathering that featured multitudes of food truck vendors from the area. While my sister had her fill of non-vegan fare, I supported the vegan presence.
The Forest and Earth Mushroom Polenta Cone from RawDaddy Foods was a delightfully savory treat about which I was initially skeptical, just because I'm not a huge fan of mushrooms and didn't know what to expect from raw polenta. But it was, indeed, very tasty, and the small, crisp, wafer-thin flax cone was the perfect vessel for holding the corn and mushroom concoction. It was like eating ice cream from a sugar cone, but all-raw, savory, and with a lot more texture than your average frozen dairy confection.
My second purchase at the festival was from Scream Sorbet, whose stand I'd see at a local farmers' market but never visit, usually due to by that time already having had my fill of lunch and various produce and snacks from other market vendors. I'm glad I finally tried the sorbet, because it was pretty much as delectable as I'd always heard. A few of the flavors on their regular menu contain honey, but I think each of the six available at their festival stand that day were vegan. I selected a scoop each of melon and pistachio, both of which were flavorful and refreshing. The melon reminded me of a delicious melon gelato I had in Vienna, and the pistachio tasted, as my sister described it, just "like creamy, sweet ground pistachios"--very delectable, indeed.
My final animal-free indulgence from Eat Real Fest came from Fat Bottom Bakery's stand. Rather than opting for one of two cupcake choices--although my sister did enjoy a miniature red velvet cupcake--I selected a Raspberry Crumble Bar. I only took a nibble, because at that point I wasn't very hungry and decided to save it for my flight home, but I already liked it. When I got around to properly enjoying the bar, although it was slightly smashed from having sat wrapped and in my purse for an hour, I found it to be a scrumptious blend of crumbly and flaky textures, with a not-too-sweet raspberry filling. It reminded me of brief discussion I had with a friend-of-a-friend I met the night before, who simply raved about vegan desserts, saying that she thought they were often just as good, if not better than non-vegan desserts. (She also recommended that our mutual friend and I share a pint of Coconut Bliss Mint Galactica vegan ice cream with her, with which I am now in love. That stuff is so creamy, no one would ever know it doesn't contain dairy unless they were told about it directly.)
That wasn't the full scope of my culinary exploration during my latest Bay trip and certainly won't be the end of it, either. It's nice to see that more eating establishments are recognizing the diverse dietary and lifestyle choices present these days and are willing to accommodate them. I hope that open mindset continues to catch on elsewhere.