Millennium for Thanksgiving

What do you do if your family doesn’t do a big Thanksgiving anymore, and you don’t even eat turkey? Go to Millennium! Millennium is an upscale vegan restaurant near Union Square in SF, and mom was smart enough to make a reservation for Thanksgiving months ago when no one knew what their plans were going to be. I mean, you can always cancel the reservation, right? Good thinking, mom.

Schmancy salad!

They had a prix fixe menu for Thanksgiving evening, which included an appetizer plate for the table, soup, salad, choice of two mains, and choice of two desserts for $65 per person. An optional wine pairing was offered for an additional $28, in which our party did not partake due to being: a) cheap, and b) already sufficiently pre-partied. Sadly, since I didn’t snag one of their menus (or a picture of it — what was I thinking!), I don’t have the huge list of superfluous descriptions for each dish. In fact, I will probably barely be able to even describe what the damn things were since Millennium has a way of creating highly enigmatic menu summaries*.

Anyway. We started with a weird appetizer plate for the table to share. It included a couple different types of bread (corn bread, sourdough, and walnutty bread), some really really good cauliflower dip, truffle pop corn (I guess the truffle out-chics the low-rent-ness of the pop corn? we were puzzled by this), roasted chestnuts, and something lentil-y. It was kinda odd, but certainly entertained us. Especially since mom ate the chestnuts whole. Are you supposed to do that?

Appetizer plate for the table.

Next came the celery bisque, which we were all skeptical about, to be honest, but was really, really good. It was served hot (thankfully) and had excellent flavor. And it was salty enough, which is often a problem for me with a veggie-based soup.

Pretend like this photo doesn’t suck. It was dark in there and I hate flashes.

The salad was pretty standard, just some greens and a sweet-ish vinaigrette. We got a good shot of Danny showing his true feelings about this particular choice of restaurant that evening…

Danny isn’t super excited about vegan Thanksgiving. But he was a good sport anyway.

Next was one of two mains. A mushroom torte or pumpkin something. They each came with some brussel sprouts and potatoes (or maybe it was daikon? we weren’t sure at the time), something fluffy and starchy that emulated stuffing, home-made cranberry sauce stuff, and syrupy sweet potatoes. I got the mushroom (which, oddly, is a similar consistency to turkey); the other three got the squash. They were both very yummy.

Pumpkin main course.

Mushroom torte main course. The mushrooms are on the right under some kind of puree and gravy. Yum.

For dessert, the choices were pumpkin pie or chocolate pecan pie. I do not like either of these, even at non-vegan restaurants, though I don’t doubt that they were well made. I ordered the chocolate pecan hoping it was more chocolate than pecan, but, alas, it was not. I think mom finished her pumpkin, as she does, but dessert was definitely the weakest course for all of us.

Chocolate pecan pie and ginger ice cream (me no like-y). The pumpkin pie is not pictured; it looked like regular pumpkin pie. Use your imagination.

Overall we had a really good time and a great meal. I would highly recommend this place for Thanksgiving. It was easy, not ridiculously expensive, super filling (we all regretted the appetizers we consumed at my house beforehand), and generally very tasty. And I didn’t have to wash one single dish. Booya. Happy Thanksgiving, peeps.

*A dish description from their standard dinner menu is as follows: “brik pastry dough, Kuri squash, grilled seitan & dried apricot filling, beluga lentil & tomato tagine, sauteed fall greens, Fresno chile harissa, cucumber-mint raita, cinnamon-almond dust”. I could start a long list of questions, or just shrug and order something because pretty much everything is really good despite the ridiculous descriptions.

House of Nanking

House of Nanking is a Chinese place over here in North Beach. The story is, apparently, that it was just a regular hole-in-the-wall Chinese place in a sea of a million Chinese places (just on the outskirts of Chinatown), but that this one was the place. Like, you know how there’s 50 billion restaurants in the City, but there’s only lines out the door at a proverbial handful? It was one of those. So they spruced the place up (a little bit), donned a multi-colored sign, and continued to attract lines down the block and guidebook tributes.

Salt and pepper shrimp with mushrooms

I finally went a few weeks ago with the ladies. They don’t take reservations, so you have two options: get there at like 5.30 so you don’t have to wait, or get there later and be prepared to wait outside for a table. We opted for the former option this fine night, and were seated promptly. After perusing the menu for a bit, we were confronted by our neighboring diners.

“Try this,” said the man.

He gave us some of his beef broccoli. And then bits of another dish. He and his wife insisted that the way to order here is to just tell the waitress what you don’t want, and let them do the rest. While this method of ordering has historically been the antithesis of my idea of a path to a good meal, I’ve totally come around to it. I was the only veggo*, but my friends obliged anyway, even though I did not require such treatment. We told the waitress to bring us anything without meat, but that fish was ok. In addition to a pointed order of  “melts in your mouth fried calamari” for good measure (the menu indicated this was “highly recommended”, and I almost always listen to menus).

Melts in your mouth fried calamari

Being a calamari snob, this wan’t my favorite dish. It was pretty tender though, and tasted good. Just a bit soggy for my taste, though I suppose “crispy” was not promised in the description. The other items they brought were all good. My favorites were the salt and pepper shrimp with mushroom (see photo at the top), and stirfried baby pea shoots with garlic and chili flakes:

Stirfried baby pea shoots

The “Fang’s panfried garlic fish” with seasonal Chinese veggies was also good:

Fang’s Panfried Garlic Fish

My least favorite items were some of the other girls’ favorites, so I won’t knock them:

Bao Bing Wrap: tofu, scallions, and crisp Chinese veggies wrapped in a flour pancake served with plum sauce.

Glazed eggplant with sweet potato

Overall I liked the food and would recommend the place. I certainly think there were more things on the menu that I would have liked to try, so I’m sure I’ll be back.

*read: vegetarian. And, in my case, half-assed vegetarian (pescatarian).

House of Nanking on Urbanspoon

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival 2012

Oh, wow, did I really not blog about the festival last year? That’s sad. Well, some shit was happening in, like, my real life right around then. Do excuse me.

So… though I only have a 2010 blog entry to prove it, this was my third annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. This year’s fest was by far the best in my opinion, and I say that not only for rhyming purposes.

“Spiked” watermelon at the Starlight Room. They were weird.

This year they condensed the festival to two days instead of three. Good move. I don’t need my entire weekend monopolized. And the upped the quality of each event, save the Tasting Pavilion, which is still my least favorite event, I’d say.

The event consisted of:

I have never been to the Starlight Room. It looks hokey and for old people. That may be the case, but I loved it. The decor was ridiculous but awesome, the view was great, and there was an open bar. Also, my good friend, Mr. M. Quinn Sweeney, accompanied me thusly:

Quinn eat food!!!

After the Starlight, Q and I made our way to Baker and Banker for our dine around town experience. I think the idea was that you go in some sort of group and get to know people. If you’ve met me, you know this is not likely my first choice. Though, Q did point out that talking to a stranger at a Foodbuzz festival was indeed how we met two years ago. (Side note: we are not a couple. This was confusing to people at times throughout the festival.) Basically, this was Q and my friend-iversary. Adorbs.

The spread at the Starlight Room.

Baker and Banker will receive its own separate regular b&c entry. We had a good time though, fo sho.

Saturday morning’s scavenger hunt was at 8am. WTF? That is too early for a Saturday morning even though it sounded fun. I slept through that biz, then cleaned my house so that I was suitably “omm” for the Tasting Pavilion in the afternoon.

The Tasting Pavilion is a fixture every year, it seems. The venue is rad, and some of the food is good, but mostly, it’s just a big gauntlet of generic vendors giving out food samples. There are some local places (Kika’s Treats!!!), the ubiquitous Three Twins Ice Cream, and a few more good things, but generally it’s just a lot of packaged food and lots of repeat vendors (how much biscotti does a person need in one session?). Anyway, not my fav, but I went anyway.

Saturday night was the Gala dinner. They rented out the entire Cal Academy. It was unnecessary. It was ridiculous. It was amazing. I only wish we could have frolicked around in the aviary in our socks. Alas, that will have to wait for another time.

Q, M, and me in the aquarium tunnel at the Cal Academy. Notice the lack of people elbowing us in the face and children screaming. Private party, biatches.

The reception was downstairs in the aquarium. Drinks and appetizers in the aquarium! Best ever! Dinner was upstairs in the back directly across from the main entrance to the building (but before the albino crocodile enclosure… you know what I’m talking about, right?). There were a dozen or so round tables set up and we seated ourselves freely. I brought the Mala-monster to this event because she’s awesome and they let me.

This gala was buffet style, which I much prefer. Some peeps were saying the sit down dinner is classier, but I thought the buffet was much more appropriate. And I didn’t waste nearly as much food because of it. Still open bar, pretty good catered food, and good company at our table.

Yummy ravioli and squash soup was served hot and fresh in individual servings cooked to order at the buffet.

The night went quickly and was over before we knew it. We had a really good time. Then my other friends came and picked me up and I went bowling in Pacifica. Because that’s how I roll sometimes. Thanks again, Foodbuzz. See you next year.