US TRIP PART 2: A LITTLE MORE SAN FRAN AND FIRST NIGHT IN LAS VEGAS

There’s just one place in San Francisco that we enjoyed and I left out of the last post…
Tacolicious, 1548 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (other locations exist)

Official Website: http://tacolicious.com/

We were starving after our cycle over the Golden Gate bridge and back so at about 3pm we stumbled into Tacolicious and hoped they would be able to feed me something vegan. They were very accommodating and advised me of the items on the menu that were vegan and those that could be adapted. Lots of choice. The décor of the place was a little fast-food-joint but there was table service and we really appreciated them bringing us chips and salsa as soon as we arrived!

R had something non-vegan that I didn’t bother photographing and I went for a couple of the veggie tacos that didn’t need any adapting to make them vegan) which I believe were the fingerling potatoes, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, green garlic ancho chile recado ones. They were pretty yummy- I love lots of filling and it all went well together with a touch of chilli/garlic spice.

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We shared a side of asparagus- look how big it is!!!

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We also had black beans which were really tasty too.

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Also you can see all the sauces we were given on the side to add to our tacos. All in all a fun, tasty, filling, fast, extremely good value meal! I wish we had places like this in the UK!

Talking of Asparagus, we did actually pop to the Stockton, California annual asparagus festival on our way to Yosemite. Here is me with some growing asparagus and tasting the deep fried asparagus (not that nice)

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I had a pleasant enough vegan burrito for lunch there and a tasty smoothie from a vegan smoothie van.

Now, Las Vegas is amazing for vegans. It’s not cheap but it’s easy to find really nice vegan food there. We only spent 3 nights in Vegas and one day we were out for the whole day at the Grand Canyon. On that day we took snacks from Whole Foods which were amazing! We made ourselves bagels with fake cheese and meat slices and had great popcorn, chips and oreos 😉

On our first night, we headed to the Wynn, having heard that Steve Wynn, the owner, as a vegan insists that most (or all?) of the restaurants in his hotels offer a separate vegan menu!

SW Steakhouse, Wynn hotel, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas, NV 89109

Official Website: http://wynnlasvegas.com/Restaurants/FineDining/SWSteakhouse

We ended up at SW Steakhouse, where R was able to have octopus and steak and where I got a huge vegan menu to choose from. It definitely wasn’t cheap but it was a fine dining restaurant. We had a lovely table from which we had a view of the Wynn waterfall and the light show on it. R had some wine and our water glasses were regularly topped up. We were brought some bread to start and the vegan bread options were pointed out to me. I chose the Kale and Apple salad with pecans to start. It was huge!! But tasty and hopefully healthy (a pile of that much green stuff has to be!)

For main I had roasted ‘maitake’ (?) mushrooms with white bean puree. The mushrooms were quite meaty and strongly seasoned, probably a good alternative to steak!

We still hadn’t managed to learn by this point that sides in the US are like main meals in themselves, so ordered creamed spinach (more green!) and french fries and didn’t manage to eat it all or order pudding. An expensive meal but a lovely experience!

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US Trip Part 1: San Francisco

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Hello. It’s been a while. I have plenty of photos and notes but haven’t translated them into a blog post yet! However, I’m going to start with the big one: My trip to San Francisco and Vegas. We also stopped along the way in Yosemite and Death Valley but we were mostly self-catering so made our own stir-fries, enchiladas etc.

We landed, a little bit sleepy, one Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco. Found our hotel which was The Hotel Carlton (http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/california/san-francisco-hotels/hotel-carlton) chosen partly for location, partly for its good TripAdvisor rating and partly because of the vegan-friendly Arabic fusion restaurant it housed.

Saha, 1075 Sutter Street, San Francisco , CA, 94109-5817

Official Website: http://www.sahasf.com/

We ate dinner here on our first and last nights in SF and had brunch on Saturday and Sunday! The menu has so many vegan options! They do ‘small plates’ as well as normal starters and entrees so we usually shared a couple of these and had one to ourselves J I didn’t get photos of all the dinner plates we had but dishes we liked were:

A lovely broccoli and celery soup with a bit of a kick that they split into 2 small bowls so we could share.

Wild mushroom pate

Stuffed Artichoke heart (with tofu and seasonal vegetables)

Shiitake mushroom ravioli in mango and coconut sauce.

Za’atar Cauliflower

Za'atar Cauliflower

Za’atar Cauliflower

Quinoa and Kale salad.

Half-eaten quinoa and kale

Half-eaten quinoa and kale

The bread was also lovely and came with oil full of herbs and spices to dip it in.

We did try a dessert while we were there (I feel like I have to if there are vegan options) but we weren’t huge fans.

‘Slap ya Mama’ consisted of banana, dried fruit, nuts and melted chocolate in filo pastry. As I’m not big on bananas it really wasn’t my cup of tea and there was too much going on. Some of the other sweets may be nicer.

Brunch at Saha was also an interesting affair. There were lots of very interesting sounding vegan options. On Saturday I went for Spinach Shakshuka as I was craving spinach and tofu. This consisted of spinach, potatoes and fried tofu in a spicy tomato sauce and was really tasty.

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On Sunday I had ‘Fava Benedict’ which was a soft fried cake made from fava beans with avocado and tofu on top, covered in curry sauce. This was also a really lovely breakfast!

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The waiting staff were very friendly and crucially understood veganism! The food was quite unusual and felt very much as if they were planned as they were, rather than there being any efforts to substitute meat or dairy with vegan ingredients. Prices were reasonable too.

You should definitely visit Saha if you’re ever in San Francisco and it got quite busy so you might want to make a reservation.

Loving Hut Chinatown,1365 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Official website: http://lovinghut.us/sanfrancisco/

We had lunch on our second day at Loving hut in Chinatown. We clocked it in the morning on our way to Fisherman’s wharf and then returned at about 2pm. I hadn’t actually been to a Loving hut before, although I have been to similar places like Yummy V and Veggie World. I did really fancy some kind of dirty fast food, though, so it was ideal!

I went for the ‘fish’ and chips style dish which was really nice. A few breadcrumbed tofu/seaweed patties and loads of chips and dips! Not too fishy but pleasantly seaweedy. Big portion!

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R went for the sweet and sour dish with some lovely wild rice on the side. It was quite nice- lots of veggies and fake chicken but so much food!

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We didn’t manage pudding but did see a few noodle dishes we would try if we went back and would also like to try the burger. Service was pleasant and fast and prices were reasonable (slightly expensive for a quick lunch once you’ve added tax and tip)

Millenium, 580 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Official website: http://www.millenniumrestaurant.com

This was the restaurant I was most looking forward to trying after reading recommendations by Chloe Coscarelli. I made sure to get a reservation in plenty of time and eventually remembered what name I’d reserved in (my passport is still in maiden name so hotels etc. were booked in that, but Millenium was booked in my married name which I wasn’t used to saying by then…) so got our table. It was definitely full and we sat at the bar while our table was being prepared. There were some nice cocktails on the menu but I went for an organic root beer which was really nice!

As we were shown to our table, we were offered a complimentary lentil dip with bread. This was really tasty and the homemade crusty bread was yummy too.

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Chloe recommends the Crusted king Trumpet Mushrooms so we had to share these for a starter, and we also got some pickled vegetables to go with them (a whole starter each might have meant not enough room for pudding!)

The pickled vegetables were lotus root with ginger, fennel with something else nice and parsnip with chilli. The chilli was too much for me so I didn’t have much of the parsnip but the others were tasty.

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The mushrooms were interesting. They did have a really chewy, slightly disconcerting texture but were fun to eat, a bit different but not too far removed from tempura and had a sweet dip and we both enjoyed them and agreed we had picked well (or Chloe had)!!

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As a main, I went for a tamale. I hadn’t actually had a tamale before and my only real knowledge of them was Nicole Scherzinger on X factor calling the contestants ‘a hot tamale’ as if it was a good thing, so I assumed it would be good! It was. I wasn’t entirely sure how to eat it but I just peeled back the husk and ate from it. I think corn gives a really nice flavour and the filling and sauce were really lovely and aromatic too.

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R got the Dosa which was quite nice, probably nothing special if you’ve had a chickpea masala Dosa in a south indian restaurant before. The crispy fried onions on top were really good though!

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Luckily we had room for pudding! Mine was AMAZING!!!! It was an orange blossom and poppy seed cake with rhubarb jam and vanilla creme served with apricot ice cream. The sponge was moist and rich, the rhubarb jam was amazing, the vanilla crème was creamy and vanillaey and lovely and the apricot ice-cream was awesome too.

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R chose Chocolate almond midnight which was quite nice but paled into insignificance alongside mine. The mocha mousse part of it was slightly kind of gritty with the coffee and I think would have been nicer if it was smooth, but the white chocolate mousse was good and the almond bark was really nice with a caramelised taste to it.

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The restaurant itself was very classy with a good atmosphere for couples or friends. The serving staff were attentive and we did feel like we were in a really nice place. You can see from the presentation and the menu what a lovely restaurant it was. An excellent choice for a special occasion.

[Edited to add further photos I found on R’s phone]