Millennium Restaurant, San Francisco
A few years ago I visited the Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco and had one of the most memorable vegan meals of my life. It was so good, I changed my flight home so I could have one more day in San Francisco and go again for dinner. Knowing that my meat eating friend, @SensibleBloke was heading there, I persuaded him to become an honorary vegan for the night and join the Vegan Food Quest as a guest blogger AKA Vegan Food Guest.
Is Veganism a Fad, a Religion or Something Else?
Timing is everything. We happened to be in San Francisco as Vegan Food Quest are travelling round Asia writing about vegan food, it seemed a great idea to ask me to write a guest blog about my experiences at The Millennium Restaurant.
The Millennium is a vegan restaurant in Geary Street, San Francisco. For me going to a vegan restaurant was a first. I have some knowledge of cooking without meat as two of my three daughters have been vegetarian since their primary school days; but the idea of not using any part of an animal or any animal products was a brand new concept. However, on reflection, that is not quite true; when I used to share an office with VeganMush she would often proselytise about the virtues of a vegan life. This certainly got through to me and prompted thoughts about the possible health benefits of being vegan/vegetarian as well as the economic upside of producing protein more efficiently and cheaply as well as the morality or otherwise of using sentient beings as part of my diet. However as much as I tried I could not balance this up against never having a bacon roll or sausage and mash ever again.
After flying into San Francisco and settling in to The Donatello Hotel I found that The Millennium Restaurant is based in the Hotel California just a few minutes walk away. We spent our first day reminding ourselves what a great city San Francisco is and even managed to get out to the Golden Gate Bridge.
I had booked our table at the restaurant in advance. This was a good thing as the restaurant was, on arrival, full. The restaurant was well presented, the staff very attentive and knowledgeable about the menu. The only issue was was the lighting, meaning not only that my photos were not very good but also that Mrs Sensiblebloke had to use a smart phone to read the menu. It was atmospheric but a little gloomy if yours eyes were not quite what they used to be.
I chatted to the waitress about being a vegan virgin and she gave me some advice and ideas. So for our first course we both chose something from the ‘Small Plates’ section. I had Pistachio Stuffed Dates and Mrs SB Seared Asparagus. Both were tasty but on reflection I think that the latter choice was more interesting as I found the dates with their stuffing of orange, cinnamon and chilli a bit on the dry side.
From the main course I chose Korean Chile and Miso Glazed Tempeh and Mrs SB Rye Berry Risotto. The Rye Berry Risotto was well received with a variety of flavours and textures. The Korean Chile and Mizo Glazed Tempeh were also well flavoured with the ginger pickled cauliflower being quite a shock! However I could not get used to the Tempeh. Like many soy/wheat based protein replacements for meat (that I have experienced) it is bland and eventually tedious. No variation.
For me the most interesting part was the extensive wine/spirit and beer list on offer. I chose a locally brewed organic beer called ‘Saison de Wench’, a Bison Farmhouse Ale. It had a fine full body and you could certainly taste the added herbage. We looked at having a third course but decided we had both had a plentiful sufficiency.
Back at the hotel we settled down for the night. I then woke up at 2 pm and decided to put my thoughts down about our visit. These are my limited thoughts about being a vegan. The internet is full of ideas including much about issues and recipes around veganism. Some seem to see a strict vegan lifestyle as their holy grail whilst others eschew the more down to earth benefits of following a healthier life style. At the end of the day, it seems to me, you make a decision based on your experiences, education, morals, expectations and circumstances.
However it seems that, in general terms, veganism as a life style choice has become more popular. This has come about partly because of alternative foods from other cultures and countries becoming much more available. I could not imagine that someone living, for instance, in Medieval England, would find living on a strict vegan diet very easy. They probably would have starved to death. I think that, in some ways, being a vegan is a luxury (that is my controversial statement).
For myself and Mrs SB our experience at Millennium was an interesting foray into a different culinary arena. It certainly has done nothing to persuade me to become a vegan but has opened up my eyes to some tasty aspects of vegan cooking as an addition to our everyday food. I think I could even cook a meal for VeganMush that she may approve of; but for that to come to pass we will need to wait for a while.