After nine days with family in La Jolla and easy, walking access to all kinds of culinary temptations, it’s time to return to the “wilderness” of Oklahoma and back to simple, unrefined eating. I’ve enjoyed my little break, but I’m anxious to get back to my low sugar, low-fat, plant-based, whole grain eating routine. Turns out I don’t have the iron-clad restraint I thought I did!
It’s been fun, though: I sampled vegan cupcakes from Sprinkles and Cups; three kinds of vegan cookies (peanut butter chocolate chip, oatmeal chocolate chip, double chocolate chip – see a pattern here?) from Whole Foods (these got high marks from non-vegan family, by the way); sipped daily soy mochas from local spots like Harry’s, Pannikin Coffee & Tea and the Coffee Cup Cafe; and enjoyed several rich restaurant meals complete with glasses of red wine. Ouch. In my defense, I did run every morning – how could I not with this picture postcard scenery? – got my strength training done in the mornings, and I made a few virtuous meals at our rented “home.”
Despite all of the good food, I was surprised to see the dearth of vegan and vegan-friendly options here. I figured Southern California would be lousy with tasty choices, but more often than not, I was offered a salad or grilled vegetables as the vegan alternative when dining out. ZZZzzzzz. On the other hand, I did have a pleasantly surprising experience at lunch yesterday. As I looked through the menu at Shelter Island Bali Hai (it looks scarily touristy on the outside, but the setting cannot be beat: San Diego skyline, elegant sailboats gliding on sparkling water), my heart sank. There was not a single menu item that could have been made into a vegan entree. My stomach was growling and I petulantly contemplated the basket of sourdough bread – would that and a cup of green tea be my lunch?! I was close to a plant-based meltdown and it wasn’t going to be pretty. The server appeared just then and when I said “vegan,” she went back to the kitchen and returned with a totally different menu – one for vegetarians. She told me the chef could tweak the tofu steak with fennel, pickled eggplant and roasted vegetables (see below) to make it pure vegan. The storm clouds dissipated; the meltdown cooled. Family members breathed a sigh of relief. Turns out it was one of the best meals we’d all had during our visit. So – slowly, slowly – changes are coming. I don’t think it will be too long before more and more restaurants offer vegan options – not just side dishes piled onto a plate – but real, creative and inventive food that is healthy and animal- and cruelty-free.