San Francisco. Where the locals complain when the mercury drops below 60 degrees, vegan options are plentiful, “Have a nice day!” is standard dialogue and the smell of potent and pungent chiba constantly wafts through the air. Four days into my stay and I’ve been to two coffee shops, three Whole Foods, two bookstores, Haight Street, Berkeley, Oakland, Golden Gate Park and Fillmore Street. While the laidback demeanors and sunny dispositions of the locals are a far cry from my New England roots, I’m already comfortable calling this city of hills home.
5:00 AM—Horace Greeley’s words echo in my head as I bid a final farewell to the Boston skyline from the plane. The altitude increases and the familiar lights blend into a cluster of illumination in the sea of New England darkness. All the passengers slip into slumber around me and the cabin is dark except for my overhead light. My eyes won’t stay shut, so I train my zombie gaze on Kerouac’s On The Road (it seemed appropriate) as I sip a gin and tonic (it seemed appropriate).
Two plane rides, one layover, and some tricky navigation of bay area transit, and I’m…home? My new roommate Nelsey, along with her protruding pregnant tummy greet me at the door. Nelsey is a 28-year-old, University of San Francisco graduate student, who has a knack for community-based activism, social justice and contagious laughter. She’s backpacked through Mexico, worked in the State House and is affiliated with the Oakland Black Panther chapter. Upon my arrival she flexes her maternal instincts and heats me up a vegan rendition of picadillo, a Latin American dish made with potatoes, soffrito (green bell peppers, onions, garlic cilantro) and a tomato sauce. Picadillo traditionally has ground beef, but Nelsy used garbanzo beans.
Due to my intensive sightseeing, and coffee shop loitering—the part of my day I try to read and write—I subsisted primarily on Whole Foods fare during the first four days of my San Fran sojourn, so I was only able to experience one remarkable vegan treasure in that time. Located on Telegraph Street in Berkeley, C.R.E.A.M. (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me) serves ice cream sandwiches. The Wu-Tang-tribute moniker supposedly came to the owner’s son when he was driving in his car listening to the prolific rap group.
C.R.E.A.M.’s vegan cookie options are tuxedo (white and dark chocolate chips), snickerdoodle (butter, sugar cookie with cinnamon sprinkles) and banana walnut chocolate chip. Sandwiched between these you can choose from soy cherry chocolate chip ice cream, which includes chunks of real fruit, or soy mint. I tried the snickerdoodle cookie with mint…dolla dolla billz yall.
I’ll spare you the details and day-by-day breakdown of my internship at VegNews, but I will note that this job’s perks are edible. On my first day the fine folks at the magazine ordered vegan deep-dish pizza from Patxi’s, which was as amazing as it sounds. In the last week, I’ve been able to sample everything from veg deviled eggs to ice cream, plus there’s an endless cache of protein-rich energy bars, which has prevented me from throwing down exorbitant sums of money on food.
VegNews is strategically located in the Mission District. What was once mainly a Latino section of the city, the Mission is giving way to hipsterdom, and it presently boasts a variety of delicious veggie establishments, as well as bookstores, bicycle shops, coffee houses and ultra-trendy boutiques. A notable neighborhood mainstay around the block on Valencia Street is Herbivore an all-vegan eatery, with three locations in SF, that has been serving our kind since ’97. Herbivore’s dynamic menu has everything from pizza to tacos to soups and salads. I recommend the Indonesian Noodle Salad, made with rice noodles, greens, tofu, cucumbers, pineapple, oranges, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, red cabbage, onions, grilled oyster mushrooms and peanuts.