Thursday, August 18, 2011

Farmer’s Market and Studio Visit

Who: VegNews Editorial Assistant Hilary Pollack
What: The farmers' market, a friend’s recording studio, and a fancy dinner
Where: Palo Alto and neighboring Menlo Park, CA
When: Sunday, August 14th, 2011
Why: To try as many of the vegan treats in my suburban hometown as possible!

The Scoop: Because San Francisco is so jam-packed with amazing eateries and adventures on the daily, I sometimes forget that a mere 40 minutes away, my hometown of Palo Alto has its own repertoire of suburban awesomeness waiting to be tapped into. This Sunday, I had to drop by my parents’ house to say hello and pick up my new Matt & Nat bag (!), and I decided to make a day of it by hitting a few pit stops around town for vegan goodies.

I started with some quick Singapore-style noodles at vegan Chinese restaurant Garden Fresh off of University Ave., and then headed to the Palo Alto Farmers' Market, where I was dying to find and try a RawDaddy's cone. I had read about these heavenly creations on Yelp and a couple of other websites, but had yet to see one in three dimensions. Take the handheld convenience of an ice cream cone and then remix it with unexpected savory flavors and a raw food twist, and you will find yourself greedily devouring a Moroccan Squash Cone or in my case, a Forest and Earth Mushroom Polenta Cone:

Jumping Jehoshaphat, I’m pretty sure that I could have single-handedly packed away about a dozen of these things, but I still had other plans for satisfying my ever-voracious appetite. The VNHQ is kale-obsessed, so I had to drop by this adorable mother-daughter kale operation for a few samples. Rachel Phelps, the founder of Krunchy Kale and Mighty Mouth Foods, and her daughter Sonnet were kind enough to let me try several flavors of their homemade kale snacks, all of which were heavily nosh-worthy while still light and airy.

I was also happy to see Oakland’s Scream Sorbet vending away their delicious non-dairy frozen goods, as well as a slew of other veg-friendly vendors.

After the farmers' market, I decided to pay a visit to Jack (of all trades) Shirley, a friend of mine who makes his own vegan ice cream at The Atomic Garden, the recording studio where he lives and works. Jack is a longtime fixture of the Bay Area music scene, and has done recording and sound engineering for dozens of bands like Rocky Votolato, Dominant Legs, and Broadway Calls. He has been vegetarian for umpteen years, but a couple of years ago, was having trouble going vegan due to his raging obsession with ice cream. Consequently, he started making his own cashew-based creations, and now he is a total expert at the operation and is happily living la vida dairy-free.

We threw together some coffee ice cream and he let me in on his top-secret list of upcoming flavor experiments, including root beer, piña colada, jelly doughnut, French toast, and candy cane.  I nominate myself to taste-test.

To round off my day of suburban decadence, I dined with my sister at the Flea St. Café, an upscale restaurant in Menlo Park. Our server seemed well-versed in accommodating vegan diets, and at his recommendation I started with an heirloom tomato and Alberta peach salad with a pecan basil pesto. The fruit was perfectly ripe and succulent, and the simple but flavorful pesto really made the dish. For my main course, I went with the Summer Vegetarian Tasting (the parenthetical vegan version on their menu), a gorgeous medley of fresh vegetables including Chioggia beets, chanterelle mushrooms, tiny haricots verts, and marinated eggplant. Behold:

This awesome entrée was the perfect finale for my mini-tour. A day in the ‘burbs truly revived my faith that the city isn’t the only place where veg options abound.

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