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Mendocino California and it’s Vegan Bed & Breakfast: The Stanford Inn

I was so overwhelmed by wonder and beauty of my last trip that it’s almost hard to blog about. I have so many pictures to share and things to rave about that I don’t even know how to put it all out there without just gushing. Let me start by saying my Mom is the greatest person in the world. She knew I’ve been going through such a super rotten unbloggable time this summer that she really wanted to cheer me up with a trip to visit her in Sacramento. We had a lovely time day-tripping to San Francisco and eating in vegan hot spots in Sac but the highlight was to be our drive out to the Mendocino coast via Napa. We stayed the first night in a little town in the valley and drank wine by the pool and already I started feeling better. The next day, as we drove to the coast, the views just got more and more beautiful.

When we got to the coast we stopped to see the Pygmy forest in Van Damn state park where conditions make it so the usually giant trees only grow 12 feet high. We had a picnic lunch on the beach. The water was sparkling and so blue. My pictures don’t do it justice.

After this we arrived at the Stanford Inn which I was a little nervous about since it was really expensive and all vegan. I didn’t know how my mom would feel. I needn’t have worried. As we drove up to the Inn we were already falling in love. It’s surrounded by an incredibly well maintained organic garden and sitting beautifully up on a hill. As my mom checked in I wandered through the lobby that sells dog and cat themed greeting cards and pretty much every vegan cookbook in existence.

When we walked into our room soft music was playing as we gaped at the horse + ocean view from our balcony.

The rooms are wood paneled which reminded me of the vegan version of the Great Northern Hotel in Twin Peaks. The room was bigger than the picture shows, I didn’t have a wide angle lens! I loved that the bathroom was stocked with wonderful vegan spa products. All the accouterments were top notch. You can’t tell from my picture but our room had a potbellied stove that was all set up for a fire. 

Every room in the Inn has a fireplace and though it wasn’t too cold I saw most of the chimneys lit and so we did ours too. I was glad because it did get quite a bit cooler and it was just lovely having a crackling fire. Every night they set up the fireplace so all you have to do is drop in a match. It’s like having Hogwarts house elves. House elves that you tip.

There were so many other little touches that made me feel like I was in the perfect place. You know how sometimes you go to a hotel and they want to give you a fresh baked cookie and you have to say no, I’m vegan, I don’t get a cookie. Well at the Stanford you get to eat the damn cookie.

Or how your hotel will have a coffeemaker but usually it’s terrible coffee and dairy cream so you have to find a starbucks or something? Nope! Not here! There isn’t a Starbucks anywhere around but there is complimentary soy milk in your freaking room.Or what about when the included breakfast has tons of stuff but you are lucky to find a bagel with jam because that’s the only option? Nope, at the Stanford you get your choice of fresh squeezed juices to choose from and then there is an elaborate menu of any breakfast item you could ever want from waffles to crepes to chilaquiles to a bennedict florentine with your choice of marinated tempeh, roasted tofu, sausage, or grilled portobellos. And of course they even have raw and gf options. Of course. The Ravens Tempeh Bennedict

When we asked the waiter what time they started breakfast in the morning we realized we were going to miss it the next day. No matter, he said, just let us know what you want. We will box it up and you can take it with you, and what juice would you like tomorrow. The entire staff couldn’t have been more graceful.

You know how sometimes you are really looking forward to the pool but it’s an outside pool that’s too cold, and there are a million kids playing so they have to over chlorinate the water? Well at the Stanford Inn the pool in in a lovely solarium complete with hot tub and sauna. The pool is a giant saltwater pool and several times I was the only one in the whole room.

The solarium had banana trees growing and other tropicals but there were beautiful flowers and plants all over the grounds.

And you are allowed to wander anywhere on the property, they even have complementry bikes that you can take down the river road or you can rent a canoe and paddle the river or the ocean and tour caves. You can pet the animals and stroll the beautiful organic gardens. And you can see the team harvesting vegetables that they are serving for dinner at night. It takes a lot of kale to run a vegan restaurant.During the day we checked out the shops in Mendocino and went hiking at the Headlands state park (there are three state parks within ten minutes of each other)We also checked out the Russian Gulch State Park. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the coastline was, it truly reminded me of Hawaii (aka my favorite place on earth).We stopped at the botanical gardens too and I was amazed by all the different gardens. Of course the hotel also has complimentary tea time from 2-4 so that just when you are done digesting your breakfast you get a lovely pick me up. We had some delicious date nut brownies. Did I mention all the food is amazing? Even if you can’t stay at the Inn I highly recommend stopping at The Ravens, their attached restaurant if you are anywhere near the area. My mom and I LOVED the food. I thought it was better then Candle 79 and Millennium which are the two vegan restaurants always taking the top of any “best of” lists. The dinner menu was balanced with Japanese, Mexican, and Italian influences and all the local ingredients were marked. Here is most of what we had over the course of several meals. Each meal started with a nice amuse-bouche and they also had a different featured spread for breads each night that we couldn’t stop eating. Every night there was a different soup too. We loved the cauliflower with shitake bacon.One night for an app we tried the Tamari-Maple Glazed Tofu with wasabi emulsion, sesame seeds and scallions which was practically a meal in itself. 

For main courses we tried the Spinach ravioli filled with broccoli, shallot, and hemp ricotta, with vodka cashew cream marinara, braised greens and cherry tomato garnish

The Grilled Cauliflower Napoleon – Layered grilled cauliflower, tomato, zucchini, eggplant, hemp seed cheese, with Balsamic reduction and basil-spinach infusion drizzle. Served with roasted fingerling potatoesThe Wild Mushroom Crepe – Wild mushrooms in a chickpea crepe, Forbidden black rice, braised bok choy, port wine reductionand The Sea Palm & Root Vegetable Strudel* – Local sea palm, carrots, onions in sesame phyllo, accompanied by a stir-fry of broccoli, shiitake, bell pepper and cashews. Served with Umeboshi and wasabi sauces 

Everything was impeccable, you really can’t go wrong. I loved that the wine list had all the vegan options marked and I do recommend trying the ’12 Rivino, Viognier from Mendocino, it was my favorite of the week.  I only made it to dessert one one night and tried the Mint Chocolate Ganache Tart – Almond and hazelnut crust. It was so decadent I could have died right there.

Oh, and did I tell you that the whole place is dog friendly and you they even have seating for people with canine companions. Of course you can bring your dog cause it really is vegan heaven. By the end of the trip we were planning our next trip back. Scratch that, by the first hour of checking in to the Stanford Inn we were planning our next trip back. I hope this doesn’t sound like they paid me to write this. I promise I didn’t but I would, Standford Inn if you are reading this and you want to hire me to blog about how awesome you are I could do it every day. Just let me come back. Maybe we can do a taco cleanse retreat 🙂



See you at the Crossroads – my latest California Trip

I decided after this last trip to California in August that I needed to stay home for a little while and I’m starting to go a little stir crazy! I miss the coast! I want the tropics! I went to visit my mom in Sacramento August, after a couple of days we trucked down to Monterrey & Carmel to see the sights. We took a whale watching tour and my life was complete when at one point there 12 humpbacks jumping for joy all around us.

I also saw jellyfish and sea lions and all kinds of birds. The Monterrey Bay is pretty magical. I was ready to move and work on conservation but, dang, it was too cold for me. Even Miss Sasha had her little jacket on. She wasn’t that excited by the whale watching even though she’s originally from Illinois. 

We found a place called Hula’s Island Grill & Tiki Room which was perfect for us because they have tons of vegan options and seafoody type stuff for my mom.  They would substitute tofu in any fish dish! Why can’t every place do that? It was perfect I had Jerk rubbed tofu one night with plantains and then a jungle tofu dish another night. 

We also went to an amazing spa called Refuge in the mountains, they didn’t allow pictures but this golf course was next door. It was one of those places that had different hot tubs, cold dips, dry saunas, and eucalyptus steam rooms that you rotate between. I also had the best massage of my life and I almost proposed marriage to my therapist. It was amazing and not expensive so if you are ever out that way check it out, it was what I always thought spas would be until I sadly found that they are mostly about trying to make women remove skin and flesh. The whole area was so gorgeous.

And I loved that there were sea lions everywhere.

After a few days in Sacramento I flew down to LA to visit my friend Laura where the mission was to eat all of my favorite things and see as many sights as possible. I sent Laura a list of my favorite foods and we basically hit them all in an eating out odyssey. The first stop was Seed in Venice, for tacos (of course). 

I loved these tacos, I think they had fried zucchini and all sorts of vegetables under that creamy sauce. California Mexican food is so different from our Mexican food. It’s so fun to try other styles. I have a feeling that everything at this little macrobiotic cafe would be super tasty even though it caters to the healthy crowd. We didn’t stick with healthy for long though, after a walk on the beach, I think we headed directly to ice cream.

Maddy’s in a tiny little cafe and vegan ice cream parlor which is packed with gourmet flavors. I think we tried just about every flavor between us but I went with peanut butter crunch.

Growing up with bi-monthly trips to Chicagoland it is always sad when I return and can’t get deep dish stuffed pizza. Laura promised to take me to a Chicago-style place Masa and, wow, it was really good pizza. The crust was perfect and sauce was really good.  I was so happy that they didn’t use daiya cheese because I’m not a  fan but I still would have preferred Follow Your Heart over the Teese. We still ate enough that we had to lie down and watch Veronica Mars for a while when we got home.

Although everyone knows I’m quite the breakfast taco aficionado I love a good breakfast sandwich too! The Badassarie had, maybe, the best I’ve ever had? It didn’t even sound good since there was maple syrup and cheese with the sausage patty but I will remember it fondly whenever the wind whispers breakfast sandwich.

After the sandwiches we barely made it down to Hollywood Boulevard for the TMZ tour, I really wanted to do the cheesiest tour out there because, that’s what your supposed to do in LA, right? What a scene it was in front of the theater with all the superhero impersonators and gaggles of tourists. It’s maybe the most American spot I’ve ever been. On our tour I got to learn all sorts of things like where Brad Pitt used be a bouncer. We didn’t see one celebrity but Laura did win a T-shirt.

I think, maybe more than any other restaurant on the trip, I was excited to go to Doomie’s Home Cookin’. I love Southern Comfort food and we just don’t have anything like that here, well besides the Wheatsville hot bar, so it’s always a highlight. We ordered everything but don’t worry, this time we didn’t come close to eating it all. I was so jealous knowing that they would have all the leftovers for a week. I adored the jalapeno poppers

The amazingly creamy mac and cheese

buffalo wings

And the best vegan fried chicken, probably in the world.

There is a layer of “skin” and then a layer of gravy, and then the “chicken” so it completely replicates the juicy crispy aspect. I haven’t had anything like it. well except for real fried chicken in my pregan days but I would much rather enjoy a version where no one gets hurt.

We also went to the Griffen Observatory for what was probably my greatest planetarium experience ever. The performer who lead us through the cosmos was so into it and I was so excited to be where I’d once seen Kelly & Dylan make-out. And the Leonard Nimoy theater is there too! I love Hollywood!

Another favorite food of mine is Vietnamese and Vin Loi Tofu did not disappoint, in fact we were all kind of overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the menu that we just asked the owner to bring out whatever. I was ready to move in next door. They even had doughnuts!

My last stop before the airport was for fine dining at the famous Crossroads, Chef Tal Ronnen’s restaurant. We tried so much of the seasonal menu and I can’t even remember it all because, like at most fine dining places, the light was not very conducive to photography. I love the cheese they put in everything, it tasted exactly like dairy cheese to me. This watermelon salad was vibrant and salty and perfect.

The tiny paella appetizer was another favorite.

But, for me, my the best was definitely the meaty cheesy lasagna. No wonder why this place is so popular. The food is all perfectly prepared, with a nice casual but classy atmosphere and the chef really knows how to put a menu together with seasonal vegetables and even plate everything beautifully.

Now I’ve been to most of the fine dining vegan restaurants in the US and Crossroads is towards the top for me, although I haven’t tried Vedge yet, I have to go to Philly next! I didn’t even mention the spanikopita egg rolls, the crab cakes, the cocktails, and the amazing flatbread. It was all so good. I’m ready to go back. This break from vacations is never going to work.

Heading West

Since I’ve lived in Texas I’ve flown to the west coast many times but I never had a good enough reason to drive out there. When my Mom got a new job in Sacramento I realized the time had finally come to drive out there together with a bunch of her stuff and, of course, Miss Sasha.

We rode through west Texas on the first day and stopped at Balmohea State Park in the morning to get a nice swim in before barreling through the heat. The water was so clear that many people were snorkeling and I regretted not bringing mine. I now have an even stronger desire to take a trip out here and visit Marfa and Big Bend… someday when I get a more roadworthy vehicle. 

We drove through New Mexico and then Arizona and saw every different kind of desert. There were so many rocks and cacti I wanted to take home.

It was too hot to stay in our friend Terry’s guest trailer in Tucson, which is where we made it too later that evening, 

but we did have some outstanding Ethiopian food at Café Desta. As we drove further west the next day it got hotter and hotter. In Yuma Arizona it was 117 and I couldn’t even keep my skin against the car window.

We finally made it through the mountains and stayed in Escondido with relatives who have the most wonderful backyard I have ever seen with avocado, orange, lemon, lime, fig, apricot, peach, and even a couple avocado trees surrounding the swimming pool. The perfect set-up.

Sasha was happy to get out of the car and relax under the lemon tree which had the biggest lemons I have ever seen.

As we got closer to the coast the weather got even cooler and I really wondered why everyone keeps moving here from there. 

There are tons of beaches and the weather is gorgeous and avocados are just as plentiful as beef is over here. And there are vegan restaurants everywhere. We stopped in Laguna Beach at The Stand so we could bring the dog and grab a bite. I had a towering potato bow.

We drove past Malibu to Santa Barbra and the temperature dropped so much I couldn’t even get in their lovely water, we did walk along though and got Vietnamese food.

It was lovely.

Santa Cruz- It would be a great place to live it wasn’t for all the vampires

When I was a kid in Springfield Illinois one of my mom’s friends told me about the university at Santa Cruz and it seemed like the greatest place on earth. I totally dreamed about moving there for school throughout my childhood but then I became obsessed with the Northwest and then I learned about Evergreen and ended up going there. The idea of Santa Cruz and living on the beach stuck with me for a long time. Maybe also because I loved the Coreys too when I was a kid and Lost Boys was totally filmed there.I was really excited when I found out the wedding was going to be there, since Mr. Smurf was in the wedding I got to ride along with the guys which was new experience!Guys, by the way have it so much easier when it comes to formal wear. They all get to basically wear the same thing and the only decision that have to make is tie or not. I am so jealous! We skipped out on the fast food with the rest of the groomsmen and went to Pearl of the Ocean, a Sri Lanken place in Santa CruzIt was fabulous! First of all the menu is all vegan except for one chicken entrée, I thought that was pretty awesome because you could take someone there who wouldn’t normally go with you to a vegan place and say “don’t worry they have an omni dish for you” I also liked that you could get 2, 3 or 4 entrées. I think we tried most of the menu, the mango curry was super spicy and I think the cauliflower cashew curry was my favorite. Everything was delicious.Later that night we went to the rehearsal dinner which was at a little Thai restaurant. They had fantastic spring rolls and papaya salad.  Ian and Janine who were getting are maybe the cutest couple ever. I am so happy for them!The next day I discovered the Bagelry and that certainly influenced all of my eating for the rest of trip. It was like a vegan bagel wonderland with tons of different toffutti toppings.The lady working there let me try a bunch of different spreads, the awesome part for people that want to try everything is that you can get half your bagel one way and the other half totally different. They wrap them up so don’t touch each other. The first day I tried the red pepper spread and the tofu tom.The tofu tom was my dream topping it had sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and olives, it was like eating the essence of olive! The bagels weren’t as dense as I like but it was more than made up for with the delicious toppings. Later I tried the Tofu Del Fuego which was spicy with jalapeños and also had olives, sunflower seeds, carrots and celery. I asked for this one with olives on top and I wish I had a picture of that, they chop up olives and put, I’d say, a half a cup on each slice. My god, it was a dream come true!

The wedding was beautiful, it was on a golf course and you could see the ocean and deer and everything. Mr. Smurf was the super fly usher.The next day, after bagels, we went hiking at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. I got to see lots of trees which filled me with glee.we hiked down a mountain and got to a beautiful spotThen we wandered around Santa Cruz and went shopping in their cute downtown that had an outdoor market.and then went to the pier and rode roller coasters.

I think Santa Cruz is probably the only place in the world you can do all of that on like 20 dollars! The next day I got some bagels for the road and headed back to the airport. All and all a fantastic trip. Congratulations Ian & Janine!

VeganMoFo- Escondido Tacos

Last night I went for a two hour walk through a nicer neighborhood with the dogs and looked at Halloween decorations. I saw only one McCain sign which made me really very happy, well not the McCain sign, but the overwhelming amount of Obama signs. I have been really afraid about the election and especially Sarah Palin. Anyway, I got home and was totally exhausted and I wanted to make something really fast. I took out Dreena’s Eat Drink and Be Vegan because it usually has some really fast recipes. I saw one for “Garlicky Broccoli Burritos” or something to that effect and decided I would use the basic concepts in a taco. I remembered from the Pasta De La California a few weeks ago that garlicky broccoli is so fantastic with guacamole and I had two avocados sitting on the windowsill that were just perfectly ripe.

I have family in Escondido California and they are lucky enough to have an avocado tree in their backyard so I decided to name these tacos after that part of California. I think an avocado tree would probably be the tree I want most to have in my backyard. Or an olive tree! Or a mango tree….

Here is what I used for the tacos, I am also going to give instructions for prep as you go:

1 can Spicy Refried Beans (you could also smash together beans from a can of black or pinto and a chopped jalapeno)
1 TBSP of oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 broccoli crowns, chopped
1 TBSP of Nama Shoyu (or soy sauce)
1 TBSP of Worchestershire
1/2 Cup of frozen corn
4 tortialls

Guacamole con Alga Marina (based on Dreena recipe)
2 ripe medium avocados
Juice of 1 large lime
salt to taste
1 tsp of kelp powder (optional)

First, turn on the oven to 300. Seal your tortiallas in foil and put them in the oven to warm up. Empty the contents of the refried beans can into a pot and put on low. Stir occaionally throughout the process. Put oil in a seperate pan and warm it to medium heat. Meanwhile, chop the garlic and then add it to the pan. While the garlic is cooking chop the broccoli into florets. Add them to the pan along with the nama shoyu and worchestershire and frozen corn. Cover the whole lot and let cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. If broccoli is sticking or garlic is burning turn down the heat or add water to the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, chop the avocados and put them in a bowl. Squeeze in the juice from half the lime. Add in a little bit of sea salt and the kelp powder if you are so inclined. By the time you have whipped the guac up (use either a fork, a potato masher, or an immersion blender) everything else will be done. Get your tortialls out and spread refried beans on the bottom. Top with the broccoli mixture and the Guacamole and ROCK OUT WITH YOUR GUAC OUT and enjoy!