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Almost vegan in San Francisco II

February 16, 2011

For breakfast yesterday morning, Matt and I ordered room service. (Would you believe I’d never done that before in my life?) Matt ate steel cut oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, and I had a lovely fruit plate and a pot of coffee.

It was the one morning Matt didn’t have to work at his conference, so we took advantage of the free time by strolling up Stockton toward the piers. We had just decided to seek out some [more] coffee when this storefront stopped us in our tracks.

It was a quaint little bakery called Mara’s Italian Pastries. There certainly were a lot of treats to choose from—this was just one of their three display cases.

I just had a plain black coffee, while Matt indulged in – get this – a Nutella latte. I had a sip, and it was wondrous. We also shared a chocolate-dipped madeleine.

Upon reaching the pier, I finally caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge.

My nerdy-inner-child was also delighted at the sight of Alcatraz.

There was one main reason, though, that we’d gone to Pier 39 in the first place…the SEA LIONS!

I’ve had a thing for seals and sea lions since I was a kid. Matt and I stood there for 20 minutes or so, watching them climb all over one another and listening to their adorable barks. Aren’t they just the cutest animals EVER? I think so, at least.

For lunch, we went to a place I’ve heard so much about: Loving Hut (the Chinatown location). The whole story behind Loving Hut is a little weird, I gotta admit (I’ll leave you to research that elsewhere), but I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to try it.

Matt chose the Au Lac Vietnamese Ocean Wrap, a seaweed-wrapped “soy fillet” served with a plate of lettuce and herbs, peanut sauce, a pile of rice paper wrappers, and a bowl of warm water. In other words, it was a sort of build-your-own-spring-rolls platter. He enjoyed it quite a bit, once he got the hang of the wrapping and rolling.

I ordered something similar-sounding but completely different: the Au Lac Vietnamese Vermicelli. It was a giant bowl of soft vermicelli noodles, chopped raw veggies and cilantro, and “marinated soy protein,” plus an egg roll on the side. On one hand, I liked it—I mean, you can’t go wrong with noodles, veggies, and herbs. On the other hand, I didn’t like that the whole thing was perched on a bed of lettuce (which wasn’t mentioned on the menu), but I can chalk that up to my personal bias against leaves. My opinion of the soy protein was mixed—it was pleasantly chewy and had a nice, sweet sauce, but it also had some type of seasoning that made it taste unmistakably like pork. I was a little put off by the porky flavor, to be honest. Nonetheless, I knew it was soy, so I was able to mentally override that turn-off, for the most part.

On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at a random shop in Chinatown so I could buy the biggest sesame ball I’ve ever seen. And it was only 50 cents! Oh, red bean paste, how I love thee.

For dinner, we ate at a restaurant that I never thought I’d actually make it to: Millennium.

I’ll warn you right now, the lights were dim in there, so I’m going to show you the photos I took with flash. Yes, yes, I know, it’s tacky. But you NEED to see these dishes in detail.

We were offered a plate of bread to start, with a scoop of what the server called “carrot-tofu spread.” I do wish the bread had been warm, but the spread was surprisingly yummy.

For our appetizer, we shared the Black Bean Torte—a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with a smoky black bean purée and caramelized plantains, with pumpkin-habanero papazul, pickled onion-grapefruit salad, and cashew sour cream. Wow, wow, wow. Matt and I agreed this boded well for the rest of the meal.

Matt’s main dish was the Brick Pastry Beggar’s Purse—phyllo stuffed with seared seitan, wilted kale, and truffled mushroom duxelle, with roasted Brussels sprouts, herby cashew cream sauce, and blood orange-beet reduction. He said it tasted very comfort foody, in a good way.

I opted for the Chile & Soy Glazed Tempeh with sautéed greens and broccoflower (Romanesco broccoli) and coconut red rice.

INCREDIBLE. The tempeh was fork-tender and wonderfully flavorful. I even, against all odds, ate the greens. That is not like me, AT ALL. It was just that good.

I had Millennium’s famous Chocolate Almond Midnight torte in mind for dessert, but all bets were off when I spied this one:

::fans self:: Holy CRAP. Unspeakably good. The warm, rich, very peanut buttery bread pudding provided a salty contrast to the ripe bananas, cold ice cream, and sweet vanilla crème. Cacao nibs and a chunk of peanut brittle added a crunch factor. This was a dessert I will never forget.

To end the evening, Matt and I took a trip to our hotel’s 36th floor to take in the stunning views of San Francisco’s nighttime skyline. It was an excellent conclusion to an excellent day.

There’s more San Fran awesomeness to come!

38 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2011 4:44 pm

    Room service is really the ultimate in luxury–I love it!!! So relaxing, and often delicious.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 3:39 pm

      It really is! I need to indulge in that more often, I think 😉

  2. February 16, 2011 4:51 pm

    I cannot believe you left that bake shop with ONE madeleine! You have the willpower of a zen master.

    Also, OMG sesame ball.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 3:39 pm

      Not the willpower of a Zen master so much as the pocketbook of one 😛

  3. February 16, 2011 4:57 pm

    OMG that food looks delicious! I think I would have ordered a ton of pastries at that bakery…yum!!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 3:40 pm

      I was hard not to, hehe.

  4. February 16, 2011 4:58 pm

    First of all Ilike that “fork tender” part. Hilarious! Sea lions are the best!! That is the biggest sesame ball ever, and I bet it was delish! Yes, my first Loving Hut experience was in Houston. Food was fantastic but when I read about their whole mission behind what they do it creeped me out. I also just saw that their Supreme Master group started following me on Twitter. Even creepier. Anyway! Love your post!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 3:59 pm

      It truly WAS fork-tender, though!
      Ok, I’m glad I’m not the only one creeped out by the Loving Hut-Supreme Master business!

  5. February 16, 2011 5:06 pm

    Another fabulous day in San Fran!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:00 pm

      You will LOVE it there when you go 🙂

  6. February 16, 2011 5:22 pm

    I’m sorry but HOLY SHIT. That food looks INCREDIBLE!!! Ok, I have to go back- who cares how much it costs! it’s soooooooo good! Wow. I want to lick the screen… mmmm.

    Giant sesame ball. hehe.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:01 pm

      You are SO lucky you live so close to Millennium!

  7. February 16, 2011 5:39 pm

    gosh, that looks like a fantastic time! I love San fran and all the character it brings, especially to food!
    Now i need a nutella latte ASAP!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:01 pm

      I enjoyed my first visit to San Fran even more than I thought I would!

  8. February 16, 2011 6:59 pm

    Hey Amber, I’m following you vicariously around SF from over here on the other side of the bridge! Enjoy yourselves….

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:04 pm

      Nice! Thanks, Jenn. You’re so lucky to have regular access to all these places!

  9. February 16, 2011 7:28 pm

    Those sea-lions are just so much fun, aren’t they. I can listen to their arr-arr-arr for hours.

    Your breakfast didn’t look like it would last anyone for more than an hour or two, if not make you more hungry than when you started! I hope that the lunch made up for it.

    Millennium sounds like a pretty awesome venue: I’m glad you’re making such good use of your time in the City.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:17 pm

      Me too! Their adorable barking just tickles me pink. Which is especially funny because I can’t say the same for dogs, AT ALL…

      I almost NEVER eat an all-fruit b-fast like that, even though so many people say it’s the thing to do…so it was actually kind of nice for a change 🙂 And I certainly ate more than enough to make up for it in all the other meals of this trip!

  10. February 16, 2011 9:09 pm

    Bizarre synchronicty – ‘just got back from NY where we had lunch at a Loving Hut – tomorrow’s post will feature one of the sandwiches – very weird to see it on yours too at practically the same time, opposite coasts.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:18 pm

      What a coincidence! Loving Hut was tasty, it’s just the atmosphere of the place that befuddles me…all that “Supreme Master” business.

  11. February 16, 2011 9:21 pm

    So glad you got to Millenium. San Fran is so much fun. Glad your Loving Hut experience was OK, mine left much to be desired in Seattle.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:20 pm

      I’m so happy I made it to Millennium, too.
      Loving Hut was weird, like I said above, but tasty enough for me not to mind, heh.

  12. February 17, 2011 12:34 am

    I was in San Fran a few years back and went to Millennium. It was phenomenal food – I’ve never quite had anything like it since.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:20 pm

      Everything we had there was just amazing!

  13. February 17, 2011 3:09 am

    (okay, I’m scrolling down and up to type this, so bear with the patchiness of my comments…)

    AH! Are you FOR SERIOUS? Seals were my favourite as a kid too! There was this one book about a girl befriending an injured seal and ultimately letting it free that stole my heart (like Free Willy.. but for readers 😉 )

    I’m also excited by your Loving Hut dishes because one of the only vegan restaurants in Canberra is called Au Lac 😛

    !!!! I also adore red bean paste. When I was in Japan, I was physically unable to stop myself from buying anything that was both matcha and red bean flavoured.

    And then, the peanut butter dessert? Speechless.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:21 pm

      You are/were a seal-lover too?! You know, it just figures 😀

      I don’t eat red bean pasty things nearly often enough…

      I KNEW you’d fawn over the PB bread pudding. It was worth fawning over, let me tell you.

  14. February 17, 2011 10:25 am

    Oh Em Gee – Everything looks delish – Seriously, Why can’t we have sh*t like that here!? 🙂 Looks like you’re having a great time! I’m not a tour person at all, but the tour of Alcatraz is amazing – If you get the chance time wise, or, ever go back – you’ll have to partake.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:22 pm

      Tell me about it!

      A tour of Alcatraz is TOTALLY up my alley. No opportunity this time around, but next time!

  15. Green Beet permalink
    February 17, 2011 11:06 am

    I LOVE Millennium! Went there last October to celebrate our anniversary. Second best vegetarian dining event I’ve ever experienced (dinner at Ubuntu in Napa has always been #1).

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:23 pm

      Ubuntu, eh? I will have to try and make it there someday!

  16. February 17, 2011 11:06 am

    Aww, the sea lions are so cute! And Millenium looks phenomenal. Looks like you had a great view of the city at night–which hotel did you guys stay at? We always stay at this one hotel in Nob Hill which has 360 degree views of the city 😀

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:24 pm

      We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in downtown SF, right by Union Square. 37 stories, or something like that. The view was insane!

  17. February 18, 2011 4:29 pm

    I love sealions….how cool! What awesome food that you have been eating! I think I may need to go to San Francisco some day…awesome pics!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:24 pm

      Sea lions rock! You must visit them (and these restaurants!) in SF someday.

  18. March 1, 2011 10:58 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Millenium so I’m glad to know it was a great experience for you. I can’t remember if I ever said congratulations on your win. I read about it as soon as it came out, but I wasn’t typing much on the computer then since I was sick. So if I didn’t already say it, “Congratulation! So happy for you!”

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:25 pm

      Millennium was everything I hoped it would be, and then some 🙂 Thanks for the congrats!

  19. May 4, 2011 10:48 am

    Haha, I have to laugh because I find myself reading about and seeing Matt’s meals before yours and being turned-off. But once I see your meals, even though they sometimes have things in them I would not eat, they definitely sound better. Looks like you had a fabulous time in San Francisco! And you got to see sea lions! 😀
    I’ve never ordered room service before either.
    Oh! And if I ever get to go to San Fransisco, I am DEFINITELY going to find Mara’s Italian Pastries!!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      May 4, 2011 3:10 pm

      Well, clearly we know who has the better taste buds between me and Matt 😉

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