Vegan Vacation: Northern California & Sac-A-Tomato

Wow, been a while–hope I still know how to blog. I have quite a bit to share with all of you, so bear with me as I try to throw together nearly two weeks of dining (vegan-style) in California. The first few days, we spent with my sister and her family in Windsor, CA. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my new niece:

One day, we went on a picnic and of course, Trader Joe’s makes that pretty easy. I got some tofu spring rolls that were delicious.

Especially paired with the Chardonnay we picked up at Francis Ford Coppola Winery the day before.

One beautiful, sunny afternoon (a far cry from the frigid temps in Colorado), we sat in the patio of Healdsburg Bar and Grill where I had the most amazing garden burger with avocado and mushrooms. I scarfed it before I realized I didn’t take a picture of it! They have amazing fries and sweet potato fries as well. But I’ll share a picture of the boys as we waited for our food:

We only had a few days with the fam, so one night my sister made some outstanding garbanzo bean and zucchini curry burritos, using a mix from Trader Joe’s.

We also picked up some Thai food one night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long and had to head to Sacramento. The Husband and Sixth Grader would be spending just one night in Sac with me before heading back home. We were determined to find Sugar Plum Vegan for lunch and after walking the several blocks to get there, they were closed. Didn’t know they were closed on Mondays. (Our local vegan joint is also closed on Mondays—what is that? Do Mondays have a special vegan significance)? We had trouble locating an alternative so we settled for The Old Spaghetti Factory. Should be easy enough to find several things we can there, right? Wrong.

The only entree on the menu a vegan can eat: pasta with mushroom sauce.

We all got the same thing. The salad came out with the wrong dressing—drenched in balsamic vinegar instead of Italian. We never even saw our waiter between getting our meals and the bill. We were famished, so it hit the spot, but it was nothing to write home about. I hate having to settle for the one vegan item on the menu. There are several vegetarian items on the menu though. Needless to say, I wouldn’t go back.

We wanted to hit up P.F. Chang’s China Bistro for dinner and it was in walking distance to the hotel. We love this place. In fact, I think I ate there two more times during my visit. My favorites: Curry Vegetables, Ma Po Tofu and the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps:

The next day, just before the boys took off, we stopped at Pronto, “Real Italian, Real Fast.” And it was. Tasty, too. The Husband and I got the Portobello Panini sans the blue cheese and aioli sauce.

The Sixth Grader had the spaghetti, just having to forgo the garlic bread that was clearly slathered in butter.

I was then on my own. I was there, after all, to finish up research at the California State Archives for my book, Folsom’s 93. You can read about my bra-less adventure at Folsom prison. Without a car, it was fabulous to be in walking distance to everything I needed. I spent 6 1/2 hours a day (excluding the weekend) at the archives and had to make lunch a quick trip so that I would make the most of my time. Here’s the low-down on my vegan finds in Sacramento:

 

California Pizza Kitchen

I was highly impressed with CPK. They even list vegetarian/vegan information on their website so that you know exactly what you can eat and what items can be veganized. It made it so easy.

I wasn’t starving one night, so I had the Tuscan Hummus. If you order it with the thin crust pizza instead of the pita chips, you’re in the clear. The service was excellent, too.

Other items I tried:

Asparagus Soup–never had before and I LOVED it.

Asian Lettuce Wraps–just ask for them without chicken.

Bagel Time

For a quick lunch and right around the corner from the archives, I went to Bagel Time, a tiny little place advertising in their window that they have veggie burgers.

With lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard, it was delicious.

Dragon House To Go

This seems to be a local favorite, so I thought I’d give it a try. I got the chow mein with tofu and vegetables. It was to die for. Full of flavor, it didn’t take me long to devour it.

Capitol Garage

I stopped in here for breakfast and was blown away. I had looked up their menu online beforehand and they had me at “tofu scramble.”

How gorgeous is this? I was a little surprised that I had to scramble the tofu myself, but it wasn’t a problem. It was a lot of food, but I’ll tell you what, it kept me going all day. The potatoes are amazing—not sure what they’re seasoned with, but they’re delish.

Paesano’s (they also own Pronto)

I had their Penne Roma (without Parmesan)–yummy, and on another night, their Polenta Fries and Risotto (again, without Parmesan). Both were outstanding!

I never had polenta fries before. Now I’m hooked. When I got back, I picked up some polenta to try making my own.

Ambrosia

This is just my favorite coffee shop—I used to stop here each morning during my first trip to the archives in January of 2009. I stayed in a different hotel this time, so it was a little out the way for me. I did make sure I stopped once.

Sugar Plum Vegan

I couldn’t wait until the weekend when I would have time to walk to Sugar Plum Vegan. They start serving lunch at 11am, but you can still purchase bakery goods before then. The BLT and Artichoke and Spinach Dip were recommended, so that’s exactly what I ordered.

Made with Daiya cheese, this dip was pure heaven. The flavors were unlike anything else–so rich and creamy. This alone would make a meal. I’m still dreaming about it. I am definitely going to try to recreate it!

The sandwich was good, but I still had the dip on my mind. I ended up taking the rest of the dip and half the sandwich back to the hotel which thankfully had a fridge and microwave. I had the rest for dinner that night. This is a CASH ONLY eatery, so stop at the ATM beforehand.

Above the restaurant is Never Felt Better Vegan Shop where I was like a kid in a candy store. What a cute little shop!

I ended up buying 2 scarves, some vegan jerky (review coming soon), a herbivore sticker and a cute vegan pin.

Amy Chun’s Noodle Bowls

I didn’t want to eat out every night, so I picked up a couple of noodle bowls. I actually had time for a product review!

So, it’s pretty easy to make–that is, if you have a kitchen with proper utensils. I was assuming there’d be a fork included in the packaging, but there wasn’t. No problem. I just had to go to the hotel’s breakfast area for a fork. Once the fork issue was resolved, I needed to add hot water to the provided bowl along with the dry spices and noodles. Ok, hot water in a hotel room. . .hmmm. There was a hot water thing in the room—like a coffee pot. So I fulled ‘er up, and held one of the hotel plastic cups under it and filled it with about 8oz of hot water. As I did this, I realized the cup at a slit on the side—not good. Luckily, I could tilt the cup away from that side. Then you add the water to the noodles and dry spices and microwave for about 90 seconds. It really needed about a 2 minutes. Drain any water and mix up. Add the package of peanuts. It wasn’t too painful of a process, but trying to prepare it in a hotel room isn’t that easy.
Aside from that though, it was quite delicious. The flavors were great and it even had a bit of a kick. The noodles came out perfect and I was pleased with the results. In a pinch, this was a good option for meal-while-traveling–but just make sure you have access to hot water, microwave, and a fork! I like that the front of the package clearly marks (bottom right) ingredient information such as, dairy-free, vegan, etc. Takes the guess work out. For nutritional information, click HERE. (100% natural, no preservatives and no MSG). I liked this one better than the Kung Po variety.

I guess that sort of concludes my dining experiences while in California. I loved that I could walk every where I went and that being in the downtown area, there are a ton of restaurants to choose from. In fact, there were some I wanted to try, but I just didn’t get a chance to check out. I’m thrilled that The Sixth Grader was able to see the Capitol and take a tour before they left, too.

Now, it’s time to buckle down and finish my book! You can read about my research and trip to Folsom prison at Folsom’s 93.