Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | September 14, 2010

Farmers’ Markets and Plant Cafes

I’m convinced that September is the absolute best time to visit San Francisco. I barely saw any of the summer’s lingering morning fog, or the chilly gray days in the middle of the fall, my weekend in San Francisco was sunny and warm all around. I woke up early on Saturday morning, despite getting into the city pretty late the night before – the BART isn’t known for its evening train frequency. My friend, Yael and I were up and out and ready to take on the markets.

The Saturday farmers’ markets in San Francisco are nothing like any market I’ve ever seen. At the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market each “station” had a different food category (seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.) and pretty much all stations wanted you to try what they were selling. At the seasonal fruits stations we tried peaches, white peaches, nectarines, white nectarines, a few different types of plums and pluots, and figs. When Yael was picking out the perfect mixed greens for a salad, I found a vegan juice station close by and ordered their veggie juice called The Vegetable Medley. I drank it as we walked to the next market. Delicious!

Our next stop was the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Building. It was about 10 times the size of the first market. This was the mother of all farmers’ markets, and the coolest part was, the stations were right on the Bay. As I was tasting yet another pluot, I had the amazing view of the Bay Bridge and the water. I felt like there was a station for everyone at this market: stations had a variety of nuts, smoothies and juices to try (vegan of course), baked goods, and hummus, salsa, honey, coffee,   and soda samples. After admiring and tasting for about two hours that morning, I felt like I had eaten an entire meal. Then we went inside the Ferry Building and away from the market to find lots of food specialty shops. We ran into a little place called Pepples Donuts and Yael told me they are a small all-vegan chain. There were about 12 different donut flavors on the counter and the server said, “Which one would you like? They are all vegan.” Wow. What a nice surprise! I ordered the coffee donut, and couldn’t believe it tasted so similar, even better than the regular donuts I used to have.

That evening Yael and I met Brandon at a restaurant right on the Bay, overlooking the Bay Bridge, called The Plant Café. Before we got there, Yael was a little concerned that they wouldn’t have any vegan options. I just said, “Yael, it’s called The Plant Café, I would be concerned with any other restaurant before this one.” And sure enough, The Plant Café had a vegan-filled menu and it was so hard to pick just one item! I took Yael’s recommendation and ordered the signature plant burger which is mostly made of beets (or at least it looked like it) and other vegetables. I loved the uniqueness of this veggie burger. It had a spiciness to it that complemented the other veggies. Everyone at the table ordered the plant burger, and I was the only vegan! At the end of the meal, I was able to try a bite of the vegan strawberry cheesecake as well – vegan desserts are so damn good.

During the Mason Jennings concert we decided to go for a second dinner at the concert venue, Yoshi’s. I ordered my usual at Japanese restaurants: edamame and cucumber/avocado sushi. Something nice and light at the end of the day.

For brunch the next morning we walked to this restaurant called Pomelo to check out their late summer brunch menu. There were many vegetarian options, highlighted with a green dot on the menu. I decided to go with the tofu scramble with avocado and a side bowl of seasonal fruits. I felt like I could pinpoint every single fruit in my mixed bowl, I knew I had sampled every one of them the day before. I loved the spices they added to the tofu scramble: the saltiness tasted great with the avocado. On our walk back, we decided to go into Yael’s favorite ice cream place. Sure enough, they had two flavors of vegan ice cream! I couldn’t resist, I just had to try the coconut chocolate vegan flavor. It was unbelievable and tasted just like milky chocolate ice cream with a hint of coconut. We sat in Dolores Park eating our ice cream, people watching, and talking about the future.

I felt so at home in San Francisco. The restaurants actually expect vegan customers and have prepared menus and food options to accommodate them. After traveling to New York, Ithaca, and San Francisco these past two weeks, I was relieved to have never felt like an inconvenience in restaurants, the way I oftentimes feel in Boston and Houston. I’ve been a very happy vegan.

Plant Burger at The Plant Cafe

Brunch at Pomelo

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