there has been a dire lack of sweets reviews on here. lois is a dessert-hound and she's slowly but surely converting clark; still, the reason for the lack is probably just because we so rarely have room for sweets after stuffing ourselves at dinner. lois has made a solemn resolution to right this sin. (and you can flog her with delicious ropes of gelatin-free sour straws if she lets you down.)
the walls feature bright and playful cacao trees. it's a large, open space with well-loved wood floors, and lots of shiny stainless equipment. the work area is totally open to viewing, which makes it feel like a really intimate, welcoming operation. in front of the register is a long rustic table and benches, the perfect spot to savor your truffles, which you may choose from the case right in front of your seat. other goodie stations are set up on tables nearby, baskets overflowing with delectables so difficult to choose from you'll find yourself walking in circles until you're dizzy. we hear chocolate cures that, though.
we can't say enough good things about the staff here! they're always so friendly and excited to tell you more. we always feel like they're excited for us. we get the impression that they love their jobs. no shady wonka business going on here.
we started with the pink peppercorn lemon thyme truffle. read that a couple times. let it sink in. yummm. the brightness of the thyme paired with the zesty lemon obviously complement each other beautifully, and the mild peppercorn with the dark chocolate add a lovely balancing base. the elderflower truffle, with its delicate little flourish on top was too enticing to pass up. we love edible flowers, and we love floral scents in our chocolate. this one is delicate but not shy, and light yet rich all at once. one of lois's favorite childhood treats were molasses puffs, which kakao calls their "cinder toffee." rich, sweet, crunchy, but with the melt-in-your-mouth magic of cotton candy. perfection.
kakao did some cheese and chocolate pairings a little while back, and we were able to get our hands on a gouda truffle. while the texture was, at first, slightly curious, we let our tastebuds guide us and there are no doubts that that was one of the most fascinating things we've eaten this year. who knew? lastly, we had the smoke truffle. the woman who helped us said that a co-worker likened the taste to "a burning house." the drama is totally appropriate because this little guy really packs a punch. its smoldery flavor comes from lapsang souchong tea, which is made by smoke-drying tea leaves over pinewood fires. you've really never had a chocolate quite like this before; if you see them, buy a dozen.
it's not just that there are interesting and complex flavors at work here. the smoothness and consistency of the chocolate is divine, and the freshness and quality of the ingredients really comes through. if you're not convinced yet, just sample some of the plain dark chocolate bark, maybe with a little sea salt--you can't hide anything there.
we're really proud to have kakao in our city. it's not every place where you can say you have one of the best chocolatiers around, and oh, by the way, he's just a guy who tired of his corporate job and decided to follow his passion. we've heard lots of chefs and restaurateurs say that one of the best things about st. louis is that you can have an ambition here and just go for it, and there's a community of interested people who will support you just for doing what you love and doing it well. we think brian pelletier is one of the best examples of this.
also check out their blog! they have lots of fun recipes and news about how they're giving back to the community. even if you do nothing more than stop by for some truffles, just make sure that you become familiar with kakao... really, they'd be doing you a favor.
a (anything but the marshmallows and perhaps a thing or two with bacon are safe... vegans, just be sure to ask)
though lois has yet to make the trek to san francisco, it's one of clark's favorite cities. you can get vegetarian food on virtually every block and in every neighborhood, from chinatown to mission to fort mason. as soon as we can, we're heading to san francisco for a vegan tour. it may not match l.a., but i think we'll manage just fine with restaurants like these.
having won numerous awards, receiving multiple nominations for best veg restaurant in the united states, millenneum stands tall as the beacon of vegetarian fine dining. make sure you bring a friend or two so you can sample as many dishes as possible. and don't make the mistake of missing out on dessert.
as good as millenneum is, clark actually prefers going to greens. much of it has to do with the location of greens, which is nestled up against the marina. if you get the right table, you might even be able to see golden gate! the food is no slouch, either. as is the case with millenneum, everything on the menu at greens must be sampled. you can order simple or complex dishes, and the food here lacks some of the pretense you find at millenneum. clark recommends going to greens for brunch.
this is the first place clark visited in san francisco, and he'll forever be loyal to it. no, the food isn't exceptional or even particularly polished, but there's much to like about no-nonsense food delivered in unpretentious surroundings. the people at cafe gratitude--like most of the people in the mission district--seem genuinely good, and they're committed to providing customers with quality ingredients and friendly service. it's not clear to us why their ratings are so mediocre, but we're not deterred. this is the first place we'll visit when we get back to san fran.
when we first visited drunken noodles taste of thai back in june, we were stunned by the quality of food and service, and we vowed to return as soon as possible. turns out two months later was as soon as we could get back, and boy did we miss it. this time we tried two new dishes: cashew curry and drunken noodles. the former exhibited some of the inconsistencies we noticed in our first visit, but the latter was spot on. there's not a whole lot of veg in this dish, but that's what we want from drunken noodles. in other words, carrots and green peppers, stay the hell outta the way! we want noodles upon noodles, and we want them to be savory, plump, and covered in spicy goodness. few things comfort as well as thai food, and drunken noodles's drunken noodles made us want to immediately settle in for another plate. (just be sure you insist that the dish be made vegetarian, and they'll do everything they can to accommodate.)
wow. this came out of nowhere. as first reported in st. louis magazine and then sauce, steven caravelli is taking over executive chef duties at all pi restaurants (including d.c. and the food trucks). caravelli is known for his contributions to some of the finest restaurants in town, so his move to the world of pizza is a bit... curious. still, everything pi has touched has turned to gold, so we're not too concerned.
there are two things here that particularly piqued our interest:
1) a few months ago we asked departing chef marc baltes if he'd sit down for a rap session, and he enthusiastically agreed (once the d.c. pi opened up). looks like we aint gettin that interview, and baltes aint keepin his job (turns out baltes split for san francisco).
2) caravelli speaks of moving pi closer to the green/sustainable movement. that's awesome, but it concerns us that he's talking about multiple pig farmers rather than multiple kale farmers.
in any case, pi is hoping caravelli will keep them ahead of the cuisine-trend curve, and we're anxious to see just how significantly he alters the menu.
this is probably the most underrated food city in the midwest, if not the whole country. literally, we have packed up our car and driven to columbus just so we could eat veggie burgers at northstar cafe. that's 14 total hours for veggie burgers. extra incentive, of course, came from the promise of jeni's ice cream for dessert. point is, if you get a chance to visit columbus, don't turn it down. you will not be disappointed by the veggie options, and chances are that your life will be changed once you sit down for northstar's veggie burger.
the menu at northstar is not extensive, and it's clear that this is intentional so that they can focus on perfecting the few dishes they do offer. the veggie burrito is exceptional, the vegetarian options at breakfast/brunch are sublime, but nothing comes close to matching northstar's veggie burger. we've eaten veggie burgers in virtually every major city in the country, and northstar's is unequivocally the best. and every time we go back--every time--we're struck dumb by the veggie burger's flavor. after each bite, we have to sit back, eyes closed, smiles plastered to our dumbass faces, audible gibberish pouring forth from our dumbass brains through our dumbass vocal folds. after the meal, we talk incessantly about the burger for hours: "remember that veggie burger we ate this afternoon?" "oh, totally, it was derp derp derp!" yeah, i know, derpy derp the derpiest!" seriously, folks, you have to put a visit to northstar on your vegetarian bucket lists. right after shojin in los angeles.
a few years back, vegnews ranked dragonfly as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the united states, and there's no doubt that it offers one of the truly unique dining experiences you'll find in the middle america. we often have to ask for help interpreting the menu, as the chef utilizes some of the rarest ingredients available, and the food is as refined as you'll find outside of san francisco's millennium or new york's candle 79.
at whole world, vegetarian cuisine can be found for much less coin than dragonfly, but you're still sure to find quality food with interesting ingredients. columbus's oldest vegetarian restaurant, whole world specializes in sandwiches and homemade bread, and we recommend you start with "debs on black" and the "broccoli burger." a plus: virtually everything can be made vegan by substituting vegan cheese.
there's a new chef taking the reins at araka. michael burnau is now in charge of clayton's chicest restaurant, and he's doing his best to represent for the vegetarians (at least for the vegetarians with disposable income). the new menu features multiple veggie options, and you can substitute tofu for most of the proteins in the meatier entrees. the highlight, though, of our first visit to araka was the tempeh bites. the tempeh doesn't taste sour at all, leaning instead on its best attribute: nuttiness. the breading isn't heavy, either, and for a fried item, it's surprisingly light, impressively delicate. we can't necessarily recommend dining at araka for a full dinner, but we have no reservations sending you there for this lovely tempeh and a cocktail.