Ana Mandara

San Francisco held this event the past two weeks called Dine About Town where upscale restaurants offer limited three-course menus for only $34.95.

Friday was the last day of Dine About Town (and it was also the day that a certain someone was coming IN to town to visit me) so I made sure to make reservations at one of the participating restaurant

I chose Ana Mandara, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf. Neither Dan nor I had ever been to a fancy Vietnamese restaurant before so it was a first for both of us. We felt kind of like impostors since the dining room was full of rich looking businessmen and families! When I arrived, the host said that usually they only offer the Dine About Town menu Sunday through Thursday but since I asked so nicely (and probably look so poor) they said we could do it eve though it was Friday.

The first course was an appetizer sampler that came with steamed Vietnamese chicken and shrimp Dumplings, fried wontons filled with Dungeness crab, cream cheese and sweet chili and an organic local baby greens salad with a ginger dressing.

Lucky Dan got a double helping of dumplings and wontons and I got two salads! Dan said that the dumplings and wontons were out of this world; he even said it was probably the best restaurant food he had ever eaten! I really liked the salad, the dressing was delicious but not overpowering and the lettuce was so fresh!

We got to choose a main course out of four options. I chose the Curry Tofu and my shrimp loving man ordered the Barbecue Jumbo Prawns.

This picture’s not great but my dish was, the curry was flavorful and the tofu was well cooked. I find often when I order tofu in restaurants it is either very plain and mushy or over fried, this wasn’t.

For dessert I had mango and passion fruit sorbet. They were delicious but if it was a contest, mango won. The sorbet came garnished with a cute (and tasty) little tuile!

Dan ordered the Flourless Coconut Rum Cake, which he said was only okay since it tasted too eggy.

Overall we had a good experience at Ana Mandara and would probably go back again if we could afford it. For now, it’s a little out of our price range…

  • Appetizer: 5/5
  • Entrée: 4/5
  • Dessert: 3/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Atmosphere: 5/5
  • Total: 21/25
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5 reasons this weekend was so great!

  1. On Friday morning I found a stray kitten on the street outside my apartment. He is pure white, has blue eyes and he’s deaf. Did you know 60-80% of white cats with blue eyes are deaf? And if a white cat has one blue eye and one green or brown they are often deaf in the ear closest to the blue eye? Anyway he is very cute and I love him already and want to take him home to New York to be Henry’s little brother.

2. My boyfriend came to visit me. Wheeeeeee! I missed him so much and I’m so happy he’s here for a whole week!

3. The weather was so great this weekend! Fog shmog, it was beautiful and sunny and warm.

4. We went to Golden Gate Park and Haight Ashbury, the hippie capital of the country.

This clock always reads 4:20, you know why.

5. There is a lemon tree in the back yard!

It was just one of many ingredients in dinner Saturday night.

vegan froyo and other awesome things

Vegan Froyo.

With homemade mochi.

THERE IS A GOD!

I have already visited Fraiche multiple times and they can expect me back for countless more visits. I was super stoked to find this cute little froyo shop near the placing I’m staying in San Francisco. I have been dreaming about vegan frozen yogurt for so long, and finally my dreams have come true!

Fraiche doesn’t only serve yogurt, they also have freshly pressed juices and organic eggs as well as real frozen yogurt. It obviously caters to women with money to spend since all girls like froyo and the Whole Foods loving trophy-wives will love their local/organic options.

Alas, I am not a trophy wife, just an impoverished vegan with a froyo addiction. I loved the flavor and the texture of their soy yogurt; to me it is a perfectly good substitute for the real deal. I also loved that their toppings all looked fresh and on the lighter side, mostly fruit and granola. The highlight of my experience was the homemade mocha cut into little rustic cubes! Fraiche’s convenient location on my way home from Millennium is both a blessing as a curse as I will most definitely be back to spend a pretty penny on their designer deliciousness.

Other awesome things:

1. California watermelon. Swoon. (This mini seedless baby was from Yosemite!)

2. The Plant burger from The Plant Cafe. Best veggie burger I have ever had in my entire life. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other items on their menu! I also really hope my return flight to Newark flies through Terminal 2 since they have a location there as well.

3. This book. I found it in the room I’m staying in, it was awesome.

F the East Coast

Hi everyone! Sorry for the hiatus, I was super busy with the end of school!

“Fuck the East Coast”
Grafitti in San Francisco’s Mission district

I am currently in sunny San Francisco for my month-long internship at Millennium Restaurant. This is my first time in the Golden State and I am loving it so far. I could definitely see myself living here some day.

I’m fortunate to be staying in a pretty swanky area of San Francisco. I knew nothing about the city before I came and lucked out booking such a nice place online. I get to wake up with sun pouring in the huge bedroom windows every morning… it is bliss.

I am also kept company by two cuddly kitties and a pint-sized pup. The Patron Saint of Cats looks over me as I sleep, befitting for a cat lady such as myself.

I just finished my first week interning at Millennium and I’m really enjoying it. Working in a restaurant is like Friday Night Dinner every night but with more than one dish per course. It’s intense, but I like intense. Chef Eric Tucker (who is also a NGI Grad!) is a lot less scary than I imagined him to be!

Millennium is definitely more relaxed about dress code than the Natural Gourmet. Tons of the staff have piercings and no one wears hats (which I am relieved about since my cap kept shrinking in the wash and was beginning to cut off the circulation to my brain). I also had to go out and buy black pants to wear since I looked like such a dweeb wearing my hounds tooth eyesores.

Last week I trailed at the pantry station (salads and desserts), worked the prep shift a couple times and accompanied the chef to a catering event. I’ll have more to say about it once I’m further into my internship!

The staff gets to order complimentary meals after their shift, which is a perk I did not know about beforehand! The food is so good, it really is the best vegan food I’ve ever tasted.

A raw salad with sea vegetables, avocado, miso dressing, wasabi sauce and spicy cashews. I have dreams about this salad it was so good!

A polenta dish with a Bolognese sauce, fava beans, sautéed greens and the best pesto of my life.

My favorite dish was the huitlacoche tamale, which I don’t have a picture for. I’ll have to order it again so I can show you guys!

I’ve had two days off, I’m excited to go back tomorrow! I wonder if I’ll always feel this way about work?

a la carte

Hmm… I’ve been kinda lagging with my blog posts haven’t I? It was so easy in the beginning when we were learning specific topics every day like Soy Foods or Sea Vegetables. Now that we’re starting our final month of the program (HOLY SHITAKES HOW DID IT GO SO FAST?!) our classes have been more focused on our Friday Night Dinner and nutrition.

The last two Friday classes were A La Carte 1 and 2, where we prepared the “mis en place” for a few recipes and then prepared them to order. I really liked these classes because it was fun taking a dish from a mish-mash of ingredients to complete in a short amount of time. I also had more practice in preparing fish and chicken, which was a nice change of pace since I don’t do much (or any) of that at home.

We made a Tempeh Bolognese with roasted broccoli, capers and olives. This dish was actually amazing and I think I am going to make this at home this week, it was that good.

Salmon with black and white rice and grilled squash.

Sauteed apples in a phyllo cup topped with (melted) vanilla (soy) ice cream.

Tempeh in Curry Coconut Sauce, served with grilled pineapple salsa. This dish was also so good that I made it for Dan and I last night. I guess I just really love tempeh right now!

Chicken in a mushroom sauce.

And Teriyaki Tofu

The goal of this exercise is to simulate what goes on in the kitchens of real restaurants and to prepare us for our internships. Speaking of which, I am super excited for my internship! I am going to be working at a restaurant in San Francisco!

I have always wanted to visit (and move to) the West Coast so I am beyond thrilled to be going for the month of June. Maybe I will love it so much that I won’t come back? It was a pain in the butternut squash finding a subletter for my NYC apartment but I finally figured it out and am going to be starting my internship in just 5 weeks! I can’t believe culinary school is almost over, I’m feeling quite depressed about this…

In other news, I’ve been running again! Taking it slow but my knees have been holding up! More on that later, I’m off to watch my new favorite show, Girls.

pizza party

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…

Do you remember when Congress classified pizza as a vegetable? Apparently the sauce counts as a daily serving of veggies but in my book, pizza is hardly considered a health food. It can be made healthier by using fresh dough and lots of veggie toppings though!It was really fun making the pizza dough from scratch, rolling it out and personalizing our pizzas with toppings. I think homemade pizza is such an easy dinner that can be so delicious and satisfying. Just whip up some dough and freeze the extra, it defrosts great for a quick weeknight meal!

In class we explored different doughs and methods of cooking.

Margherita pizza on our chef’s secret recipe crust.

Grilled pizza topped with bruschetta.

My vegan pizza #1

#2

Pissaladière: A traditional pizza from the South of France with a flaky crust, caramelized onions, olives and anchovies.

An assortment of pizzas from my classmates!

Gluten-free mini pizzas!

Focaccia! This was my absolute favorite of the day, did you know that it contains a baked potato? Mmmm

I hope everyone has a bella noche and perhaps a slice of pizza or two!

sweet breads

Look how cute my lil monkey is:

CTP 209 has been submerged in a whirlwind of refined carbs and sugar as we have delved even deeper into the baking portion of our program since my last post. Last week we made pies all week and I was so pastried out by the time the weekend rolled through. I made this apple galette three days in a row!

On Monday we had our first of two bread making days where we made yeasted breads. I forgot my camera so I couldn’t take any pictures but I  made bagels. I had no idea bagel making was so easy! Some of my favorites of the day were a raisin walnut bulgur loaf and olive bread. Yesterday was Bread 2 where we focused on quick breads and sweet breads. During the first half of the day we made pancakes, waffles and crepes.

Buckwheat pancake, plain crepe and buttermilk waffle!

I have always struggled with getting perfect pancakes, the inside is always raw! But I think I have honed my skill now and have become a pancake pro 🙂 There were these really awesome gluten-free pancakes made out of rice flour. They were kind of funky looking and pale but the texture reminded me of mochi so I liked it (since I’m a mochi whore).

I also made this curry filled chickpea crepe with a side of blanched asparagus! After all the sweetness this was a welcome savory escape for my taste buds.

The second half of the day was spent making either scones or biscuits.

Spicy crushed red pepper and roasted garlic scones

Biscuits!

Pizza flavored scones = Yum!

I made blueberry basil vegan scones! The combination sounds weird but they were excellent and super fresh tasting. I’m so trendy with my food combos 😉

We also had vegan cinnamon buns which were finger-lickin’ good!

The CTP class above us graduates this Friday and we will officially be the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Senior Class! I can’t believe it’s going so fast 😦

Tomorrow is Pizza and Focaccia Day, so let me ask you a question: On a scale of 1-10 how ecited would you be to make pizza all day?

I’m at a 10.5

 

 

 

 

 

conversions

There were baked goods up the wazoo today and I couldn’t be happier. Our conversion practicum consisted of us splitting into pairs and converting traditional recipes into vegan health-supportive ones.

After our class was divided into pairs, the chef randomly drew our names out of a hat to decide which order we would pick our recipe. My group mate and I actually got to pick first and we picked brownies! A good vegan brownie is hard to find so we had a tough challenge ahead of us…

We started off by making the traditional recipe for Girardhelli’s Award Winning Brownies. They had a great moist texture and crispy top but were too sweet for my taste. They were very photogenic though 🙂

Our second step was to replace the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour. The flour substitution didn’t affect the finished product much, but the accidental omission of 1/4 cup cocoa powder made our second batch lighter in color and less sweet. (It was all Ellie’s fault)

We nicknamed these the George Hamilton brownies because they looked like they got a little too tan, like George Hamilton. The difference in color is especially noticeable when compared to the original…

Our third step was to replace milk but since the recipe didn’t have any we moved on to step four, replacing the additives. The additive in these brownies is cocoa powder so we subbed Girardhelli sweetened cocoa for unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa which made the brownies much darker less sweet. For some reason they also came out super dry…

Step 5 is when white sugar is eliminated and replaced with a more health supportive sweetener. We chose to use coconut sugar but to counteract the dryness from switching the cocoa we also added some maple syrup. These brownies were delicious and a huge hit with everyone who tried them! They were remarkably moist and had a deep chocolate flavor that greatly surpassed even the original “award-winning” recipe.

Replacing the butter in step six was another challenge. Butter really adds a richness and binding ability that is not easy to replicate in dairy-free baking. We substituted the 1/2 cup butter in the recipe for 6 tablespoons of coconut oil and the result was a brownie that was so dry it sucked the moisture right out of your mouth. I was so appalled I forgot to take a picture…

We upped to coconut oil to 8 tablespoon for our next batch but were also faced with the challenge of replacing the eggs for a vegan alternative. We wanted something moist and sweet so we added something special. Any idea what this could be?

Soaked prunes! We pureed soaked prunes and raising and used them as an egg replaced. because of this secret ingredient we nicknamed these “Digestive Brownies!” The finished product was perfectly moist, rich and sweet with a slightly fruity aftertaste.

I don’t think we perfected vegan brownies but I was happy with what we accomplished. We definitely learned from our mistakes and I think with a little more experimentation we could produce something vegan and drool-worthy. Our Step 5 brownies were out of this world though! Here are all our creations side by side:

Our class is naturally boisterous and combined with lots of sugary snacks we were behaving like five year-olds at recess. To balance all the sugar Chef Elliott made us his famous miso soup which worked wonders for calming both our minds and stomachs. It was kind of freaky how well it balanced us out! It was a really great soup and I’m so happy he gave us the recipe so I can make it at home!

Other groups had similar successes and failures with thier own recipes. We had a tasting and conference about the various stages of our conversions and I learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work with baking.

The other recipes were ginger muffins, carrot cake muffins, banana muffins, chocolate chip cookies, black and white cookies, peanut butter cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies.

On another good note, I ran for six minutes at physical therapy today pain-free! That’s a new post-injury record! I’m so happy I’m improving! I better get to bed so I have energy for tomorrow because I’ll be spending another full day in the kitchen baking cakes and then helping prepare a Friday Night Dinner. I’m off to pass out in a sugar-induced coma, good night.

zoo york city

Today was awesome!

Reason #1: It started with pancakes!

I’m getting really pro at flipping pancakes! I made Chloe Coscarelli‘s recipe again but I subbed banana slices for blueberries. I feasted on these babies whilst listening to Jack Johnson sing about them 🙂

I quit my job at Sox in the City so I finally had a free day to do something fun outside. I have been super antsy lately because of the nice weather but have been too busy with school and work to enjoy it. Unfortunately today was chillier than earlier in the week but I still had a great time exploring Brooklyn with my boyfriend.

I barely ever venture outside of Manhattan so for me Brooklyn is like a completely different world. It’s so much more relaxed and spacious and green! Dan and I packed lunch and went to picnic in Prospect Park, which we both decided was vastly superior to the maze-like overcrowded Central Park. I even saw a group of equestrians on a trail ride! I was insanely jealous and want to figure out how I can do that… it has been way to long since I sat on a horse! I packed Vegan Caesar Salad and some Balthazar Bakery bread with leftover mushroom walnut paté from Monday’s class. I am obsessed with this salad, it is so amazing I want to eat it every single day (and lately I do).

After picnicking and waltzing our way through the park we ended up here:

I love zoos and had a blast at the one in Prospect Park. I think we were the only adults there without kids but who really cares right? Besides, who said we’re not kids…

I saw a bunch of cool animals including porcupines, wallabies, a sea otter, gold lion tamarins (my pic sucks but this one had a baby on her back!), sea lions and red pandas!

The Prospect Park Zoo also has a section called “The Barn” where they have farm animals. I fed some alpacas and sheep 🙂

After the zoo we were wandering around and decided to stop in here since we had time to kill before dinner:

Where I read three issues of this:

I actually really liked it. I am a crazier cat lady than I thought!

After the library we walked over to Maimonide in Brooklyn, a restaurant in Boerum Hill that I really wanted to try for a while now. After the glowing review Chef Elliott at the Natural Gourmet Institute gave it earlier this week I decided I needed to go stat. Plus, the chef is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet! (NGI REPRESENT)

I actually didn’t get to take any pictures of the food since my battery ran out right after I took this picture, but it was really good! First of all, I love this place because they gave us complimentary kale chips which was AWESOME. The menu is given along with a comic book that depicts the adventures of a hip hop vegan superhero, it’s really unique and I’m guessing they print new “episodes” all the time. I ordered the Glowing Skin MOB which was an olive and sunflower seed tapenade, avocado, grilled zucchini and cherry tomatoes on top of a pizza-like crust in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge. Dan ordered the Brave Heart MOB which is sun-dried tomato, caper and parsley pesto with rosemary grilled portobello mushrooms and lemon. We split half of each and while I liked both I think the Brave Heart was a little better. To go on the side we got olive-oil roasted yucca fries and a Brooklyn brine pickle which were super yummy. I really wish I had gotten pictures because the food was presented so beautifully! I thought the atmosphere of MOB was great and definitely want to go back to try some of the other options, they all sound so delicious. I also really liked that the food was “real” as opposed to a lot of vegan restaurants that have a lot of imitation cheese and meat products. Maimonide is all about vegetables and healthy food that tastes great which is much more appealing to me than vegan “junk food.”

The subway line we needed to get back to Manhattan was in the same building as Target! I haven’t been in Target for so long and I went crazy and bought 2 bras and a $1 hippo-shaped watering can.

BEST SATURDAY EVER