Category Archives: Eating out

A Venture to Mary’s Secret Garden

After much harassment and forced tears over the tedium of my life, I got my boyfriend to agree to a little summer trip to Southern California. These days we eat out about, oh… zero times a month. It was time to splurge aimlessly on vegan food.

On our way down US-101 Thursday evening, we stopped in Ventura for dinner at Mary’s Secret Garden, a place I’d seen good reviews about on Yelp. And their online menu grabbed my tastebuds’ attention.

Interior and ceiling of Mary's Secret Garden

As I entered, the size and decor provoked a mental response of: “Oh, great. Little hippie place.” But I want food to speak for itself.

Although without reservations, we were seated right away at one of the little tables. Our server was very pleasant and attentive. My boyfriend got a $7 pistachio-mint smoothie. That’s a steep price for a non-alcoholic beverage, but it was big and was it ever good. I thought I made great smoothies, but I could learn a thing or two from that rich blend of almond milk, mint, pistachios, bananas, and agave.

He ordered the Secret Burger, while I went for a raw salad. (Yes, we really are that sort of man-and-woman couple. Guess who picked up the check.) I was really impressed by the flavor of that burger. I’ve never had a meat imitation burger that I felt was so nicely… well, meaty. The texture was not beyond any other veggie burger, and it came on a bun with plain fixings. I thought the quinoa on the side was an annoyingly healthy, unimpressive accompaniment.

My salad, though, was something else! I’d sell my friends to get the recipe for that sun-dried tomato and balsamic dressing. It was drizzled over some lovely fresh spinach salad, tomatoes, and onions. Rich macadamia “cheese” with dollops of pesto sat atop the tomatoes to round out this great choreography of flavors. A little nut “Parmesan” sprinkled all over made every bite even better.

I really have no regret over the amount spent (by my boyfriend) on my dinner, so I hate to end with a disapproving note. He just couldn’t resist a chocolate-peanut butter cake. And I would not let him feel uncharitable by not sharing it with me. It was just a piece of cake, though, and not worth $8. How special is sugary peanut butter? And after the last few chocolate chips are gone, there’s nothing to console me. Oh well.

I hope to return, but I’ll certainly trade dessert for a smoothie.


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Summer in So Cal

First stop: San Simeon & Hearst’s Castle.

hearst castle_36

hearst castle neptune pool

hearst castle_56

hearst castle_38

hearst castle_63

highway 1

Going south along Highway 1 will give you such beautiful and extraordinary views of the California coast.

view of morro bay

mission san luis obispo de tolosa

The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in the evening.

pismo beach

A photogenic automobile in Pismo Beach.

mission santa barbara

santa barbara

Views at the mission in Santa Barbara.

getty center view

The view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center.

getty center

Enjoying the view from the Getty Center.

hugo's veggie burger

hugo's green tamales

Delicious veggie burger and green tamales at Hugo’s in West Hollywood. This place has dozens of hearty and healthy vegan options, all clearly marked on the menu. My boyfriend and I agreed this place had the best-tasting veggie burger either of us ever had. The tamales were pretty darn special, too—full of fresh savory vegetables and a cheesy topping of what I suspect was Daiya. These were the best photos I could get because these scrumptious plates disappeared in a mad lip-smacking blur.

palm springs turbines

Miles of wind turbines greet you to Palm Springs from Highway 111.

palm springs e palm canyon dr

native foods cafe

My guy and I indulged in a vegan bacon cheeseburger and the Sicilian pizza at Native Foods Café on E Palm Canyon Drive. On a 90° night this water-misted oasis offered this vegan an unrestricted menu of everything from burritos to strawberry shortcake. Was this just another heat-induced delirium, a fantasy? Without my photos, I couldn’t be sure it was not.

If you’re ever in Palm Springs, I also recommend koffi for a frozen slushy heaven of iced coffee and soymilk to keep you from disintegrating in the mid-morning sun.

joshua tree np

Unlike me, some things thrive in the heat of Joshua Tree National Park.


Filed under Eating out, Food & Drink

Birthday and Dinner at Millennium

Last Friday I finally got around to turning 20. It’s about time, isn’t it? To celebrate, I went into San Francisco with a (gorgeous) friend at UC Berkeley and my (gorgeous) boyfriend. We spent the morning in the (gorgeous) botanical gardens of Golden Gate Park, then explored the (gorgeous) King Tut exhibit at the de Young (wish I could have taken pictures there! ).

sf botanical garden - gaby & me 2

sf botanical garden - john & me 2

sf botanical garden - gaby & rhododendron

sf botanical garden rhododendron

The afternoon was cold and full of rain, but evening was cozy and full of delicious smells inside my favorite restaurant, the Millennium on Geary Street. The winter menu boasts an array of richer, heartier fare than the menu of summer. Our trio had caribbean tempeh, polenta nera cake, and yuba roulade with desserts of “death by chocolate and peanut butter” and meyer lemon pound cake.

millennium bday dinner

Though the dishes were tasty and interesting, and my friend Gaby loved the daily bread with white bean-thyme spread, I was a bit underwhelmed. Dining at the Millennium is a pricey but special treat that always makes me feel I’ve spent my money well, yet only about half the time am I truly stunned rigid with amazement at the food’s spectacular deliciousness. And the other times it’s merely great.

I asked for a candle in my little cake, because I wanted to have my birthday wish. But when I blew out the flame, what did I wish for? Nothing. Maybe that’s the problem with me. Or maybe I didn’t want to dawdle and think of wishes while facing a lemon cake topped with candied kumquats and raspberry sorbet.

millennium meyer lemon pound cake with candied kumquats 2


Filed under Eating out, Food & Drink

Summer in San Francisco

My two visits to San Francisco this past summer were unfortunate only in that they did not number more. The brief days I spent there were like eating two potato chips and then being forced to stop. So tasty, so sad.

The City by the Bay is a delicious destination for the seeker of vegan edibles, with plentiful options for any mood, craving, and budget. It was my first time seeking out animal-free meals and the options were blissfully overwhelming. Here’s just a taste of my favorites.

houses off haight

A random shot from Haight St.

my peasant pies

Peasant Pies on Irving. The several vegan options are clearly marked, and $6 gets you two tasty handheld pies after a few minutes’ wait. My favorite was the black bean and tofu (oh so tasty, reminded me of a barbecue-pork bao bun, but better) while my boyfriend favored the curried potato. Strybing Arboretum at Golden Gate Park is a few blocks away and makes a lovely place to walk off lunch.


I’ll admit I didn’t think raw foods went much beyond salads, zucchini pasta and date brownies before having supper at Café Gratitude on Harrison and 20th St. My own meal consisted of a raw cheeseburger (with a really good salad) and the most sweet and divine tiramisu with chocolate ice cream, plus I had a few bites of my boyfriend’s raw pizza and key lime pie. I would swear they used real cheese in that pizza, and the coconut-laced key lime pie was so rich and smooth it was depraved.


I’ve eaten at the Millennium Restaurant three times, and I can say for certain that the three best meals of my life have been at the Millennium Restaurant. Maybe I just don’t get out enough. If you ever have the opportunity, do yourself a favor and dine here. You can dress up or walk in off the street in jeans and sneakers. If you don’t have a reservation, they can probably seat you at the bar (same menu) or get you a table on a weeknight. You’ll spend about $24 for your entrée and $9 for dessert (you will want dessert), and it will be so worth it. When I die, I want to be laid to rest in a coffin of lobster mushroom risotto. Then I will come back to life and eat it, for that is my idea of heaven.

mkt st

To get in the know about the best vegan eats in SF, check out these blogs of native San Franciscan vegans:

  • vegansaurus! lets you find restaurant reviews by neighborhood. They’re so fun to read, just go through them all.
  • Eats Well With Others made a list of “San Francisco’s 50 Vegan Things to Try Before You Die.”

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