Monday, February 29, 2016

4th Annual SF Vegan Iron Chef

I had a stroke of good fortune last week when I won a ticket to the 4th Annual SF Vegan Iron Chef in a drawing sponsored by the UC Davis Integrative Medicine program. This contest pitted the winning chefs from the past three SF Vegan Iron Chef competitions against each other for an all-star matchup.

Prior to the actual competition, there was a reception featuring a variety of wonderful vegan hors d'oeuvres supplied by Miyoko's Kitchen, Field Roast, Hodo Soy, and other purveyors of vegan food. It was pretty exciting to be able to eat anything on the table without having to ask what was in it!

Emcee Lani Muelrath explained the rules of the competition. Each chef was required to make an appetizer, side dish, and entrée within a specified period of time, and the three celebrity judges (and those of us with premium tickets) would sample the items after each course was prepared. A winner would be chosen based on all three dishes.

The participating chefs were Lisa Books-Williams, personal chef, caterer, instructor, and winner of the first Vegan Iron Chef; Jay Astafa, the vegan chef at 3 Brothers Pizza Café in New York and winner of the second Vegan Iron Chef; and Kevin Schuder, who has been a Bay Area chef for eight years, including a stint at famed vegan restaurant Millenium. Schuder was the winner of the third Vegan Iron Chef.

To make things interesting, the chefs were required to incorporate jackfruit into their appetizers and entrées, and mustard greens into their side dish. I wasn't able to write down very good descriptions of each dish, so I'm hoping the pictures I took will give you an idea about what the chefs created.

For the appetizer course, Chef Kevin prepared a fully-loaded small purple baked potato, with broccolini, seitan bacon, jackfruit, chives, and cashew cream. Chef Jay prepared tostadas with jackfruit, red cabbage, microgreens, and cashew cream. Chef Lisa made small sprouted buckwheat pizzas with tomato sauce, cashew cream, olives, onions, and jackfruit.

Mustard greens figured prominently in the side dishes prepared by Chef Kevin and Chef Jay, and only incidentally in the side dish prepared by Chef Lisa. Chef Kevin's creation also included kohlrabi, yuba, mustard flowers, and kumquat. I forgot to take a picture of Chef Jay's mustard green and slivered almond dish -- sorry! Chef Lisa used mustard greens and mustard seeds to garnish a potato mash.

The chefs were all at their creative best with their entrées. Chef Kevin wrapped asparagus and a mixture of bulgur and chopped jackfruit in a collard green and served it on a bed of mashed potatoes. Chef Jay topped a plate of mushroom risotto with a crispy jackfruit patty and microgreens. Chef Lisa prepared mushroom and jackfruit duxelles served in a puff pastry.

The celebrity judges had their work cut out for them when it came time to pick a winner. The judges were Colleen Holland, co-founder of VegNews magazine; Dustin Harder, host and creator of The Vegan Roadie and OMG! That's Vegan?!; and microblogger George Lin. After a spirited discussion, they finally announced the winner: Chef Jay Astafa!

At the end of the competition, gift bags were handed out to all the spectators containing all sorts of vegan goodies. It was quite a wonderful event! If you're interested in attending next year's Vegan Iron Chef, you may want to follow SF Vegan Events on Facebook so you can watch for the event announcement.

I know this has been a long post, but I would be remiss if I didn't include information about the organization that made my attendance at the Vegan Iron Chef possible -- UC Davis Integrative Medicine. This program seeks to prevent chronic illness by educating people about lifestyle changes that would improve their health. Their main focus is on nutrition and promoting a plant-based diet. More information about UC Davis Integrative Medicine is available on their website at or on their Facebook page at

Monday, February 22, 2016

Pieces Pizza by the Slice

There are lots of choices for meat and cheese eaters looking for a slice of pizza in Sacramento, but where can you go to find a vegan slice? Pieces Pizza by the Slice in midtown, that's where!

I went to Pieces for lunch last week and got this beauty -- a generous slice topped with spinach, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, red onions, broccoli, potatoes, olives, and I don't remember what else. As an added surprise, the crust was stuffed with spinach.

I asked if a vegan pizza is always available, and the answer was that they make them every day. If they don't have one ready when you get there, they'll make one -- you'll just have to wait a little longer. The composition of the pizza may vary, depending on what vegetables are available and who is making the pizza.

Pieces Pizza by the Slice is located at 1309 21st Street, and their phone number is 916-441-1949. I couldn't find a website for them, but their Facebook page can be found here. The restaurant is open Monday from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., Saturday from noon to 3:00 a.m., and Sunday from noon to midnight.

Monday, February 15, 2016


EastSMF, a new restaurant focusing on organic seasonal ingredients from local farms opened in East Sacramento last month. It's in the soft opening phase right now, but judging from the number of people who have been finding their way to the restaurant already, it will be a great addition to Sacramento's dining scene.

Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items are clearly marked on the EastSMF menu. There are two vegan items, so I tried them both when my husband Phil and I had dinner there this past weekend. Apparently, the soup of the day is always vegan, so I ordered a bowl of the French green lentil soup. It was excellent, with carrots, curly kale, mushrooms, and other vegetables mixed in with the lentils.

The vegan entrée was a hearty winter root vegetable hash, consisting of beets, carrots, curly kale, red onion, and other delicious root vegetables. It was the perfect dish for winter, and I can't wait to see what EastSMF will offer in the upcoming seasons.

EastSMF is located at 3260 J Street, and their phone number is 916-228-4735. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Corner Bakery Cafe

I checked out the Corner Bakery Café in both Natomas and Elk Grove this past week after someone on my Sacramento Vegan Facebook page mentioned that there were several vegan options on the menu. She was right!

I arrived at the Natomas location when they still had the breakfast menu posted. The only vegan breakfast option was the steel-cut oatmeal, but unfortunately, they were out of oatmeal. So I opted for an early lunch instead, choosing a trio consisting of two salads and a soup. The salads I chose were the seasonal fruit medley, which turned out to be delicious strawberries and blueberries, and the southwest avocado, consisting of an avocado half topped with roasted corn and tomato salsa and tortilla strips. The soup was sriracha black bean, which was very tasty with just a hint of spiciness. Field greens and a focaccia roll completed the meal.

I went to the Elk Grove Corner Bakery Café the next day and got another trio, this time with three salads. I ordered the four-grain tabbouleh, made with quinoa, wheat berries, red rice, farro, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a lemon dressing; the Asian edamame salad, consisting of edamame, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, green onions, basil, cilantro, and a ginger soy dressing; and hummus served with raw vegetables and grilled flatbread. Everything was very fresh and I really enjoyed my meal.

Other vegan salad selections are a toasted sesame kale salad and a quinoa and pico salad. The vegan items are clearly marked on the menu.

The Corner Bakery Café in Natomas is located at 2281 Del Paso Road, and their phone number is 916-928-4500. The Corner Bakery Café in Elk Grove is located at 8235 Laguna Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-478-6250. Both locations are open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. More information about Corner Bakery Café can be found on their website at

Monday, February 1, 2016

My Sister's Cafe

I was happy this past week to visit a café where I could not only eat a delicious vegan lunch, but support a good cause at the same time. My Sister's Café opened on Capitol Mall a couple of years ago to support the work of My Sister's House, which helps Asian and Pacific Islander survivors of domestic violence.

I found the café in the breezeway of the 455 Capitol Mall building and was happy to see a vegan soup on the specials board. The winter vegetable white bean soup was chock full of vegetable goodness -- kale, tomatoes, white beans, zucchini, carrots, and vegetable broth. I should have ordered a whole bowl full, instead of just a cup!

I debated whether to order the banh mi sandwich or the banh mi salad, finally settling on the salad. I ordered a half salad, but it was more than enough food, consisting of Romaine, tofu, cucumber, cabbage, jalapeños, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and balsamic vinaigrette. If you decide you'd like to try the banh mi sandwich, I was told that the baguette is vegan.

My Sister's Café is located at 455 Capitol Mall, and their phone number is 916-475-1864. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The café is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.