Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cinnaholic, Berkeley, CA

Guest Food Blogger Stacy Michelson.

Ever thought "I wish there was a vegan equivalent to Cinnabon cinnamon rolls?" Well, guess what? There is! And not only is it better than Cinnabon, you get to customize it, making the PERFECT cinnamon roll for your liking. I'm talking about Cinnaholic in Berkeley, Ca. It's only been open for a little over a month (and i hope it stays open for a LONG time), but it came onto our radar and became a favorite on our recent Food Tour 2010 of the SF Bay area. I can't believe Quarrygirl hasn't reviewed this place yet! I guess we beat her to it!

Cinnaholic is right across the street from the Cal Berkeley campus. It doesn't advertise to be vegan, and most of their clientele doesn't even know (or mind) that it is an all vegan establishment. We walked in and were treated to a line of free samples (if you know me, you know i LOVE free stuff) set up on the counter for us. We tried SO many flavors. They were so cool and didn't even care how many we ate too! They even had freshly baked brownies to try!

The cinnamon rolls were warm and soft and delicious. Being that this place doesn't advertise with giant signs that it's vegan, and being that the cinnamon rolls were better than good, we started to wonder.."is it too good to be true?" But then we saw a lil' vegan sticker on the glass counter. It was real! We were in vegan baked goods heaven!

The menu had so many flavors and combos to choose from. We saw some rolls in the display case that looked awesome, but a tad too sweet for me..maybe i'd do one of those for dessert! There are over 25 flavors of frosting, from butterscotch to coffee, peach to strawberry, making it hard to decide. Ed went first, cos the girls couldn't decide. He got a roll with half maple, half irish cream. YUM!

While Ed slowly sank into a sugar induced food coma outside, us girls continued to taste samples and play around with possible combos. The staff was super helpful and patient.

Deanna ended up getting her fave combo, peanut butter-banana. Lindsay got irish cream, which was SOOO delicious. And i ended up going with the flavor that reminded me of my childhood, orange. My mom used to make those Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls, you know those? And let me tell you, this was better than my memory of them. Look how delicious it looks (see first photo on this post)..and how BIG it is! It's half the size of my face!

I think this was the first time all four of us sat together eating and didn't say a word. We inhaled our cinnamon rolls. We were making "mmm" sounds left and right. By the time i finished taking photos, Ed was licking the bottom of the box his roll came in. This place is THAT good!

I started this tradition on the Food Tour 2010 that we'd take a group shot at every place we ate at. This is the group looking REALLY happy to have just experienced Cinnaholic. But as i write this, and talked to Deanna today about it, we are all REALLY sad this place is so far away. See you soon Cinnaholic! You should open a location in LA.


Portico, Nuoro - Sardinia, Italy

Ristorante il Portico is THE place to eat if you are vegetarian or vegan and you find yourself in Nuoro, Sardinia. In fact, if you are anywhere near Nuoro while you are on Sardinia, I suggest making the trek to eat dinner here! Of course they specialize in gourmet cuisine including fish and other meat, but the chef spent his years training in Copenhagen and Switzerland among other places, and is completely enlightened about food and the ways to make it creatively. We were so happy to walk into a restaurant and have the waiter and chef know and understand "vegan" and not laugh at us or offer us only spaghetti and tomato sauce. The waiter suggested the chef starter menu and said the chef will make it 100% vegan. We sat back and waited, wondering what would come out!

First let me introduce the people who took such great care of us. On the right is Graziano Ladu, the chef, who on top of being amazingly kind to us, also makes some of the best food we have ever consumed. And on the left, his brother Roberto who spoke great English, and was very patient with us and probably got a kick out of how excited we were about every dish that came out.

When the dishes started coming we devoured them quickly, and before we could even finish one dish, another came out...

We called it the Parade of Food, because it just kept coming and coming. Each dish unique and different, and devoid of any 'fake' veggie food such as seitan, tofu, or tempeh. Just vegetables, and prepared with tender care and with great imagination. Below is a long photo line of the dishes we ate over the week we spent at Portico.

After the first day we realized we hit the jackpot, and came back every night we were in Nuoro until they closed for Holiday, dashing our hopes of eating here for another week. Let the parade begin:

I can't even begin to describe properly what all of this is

Tempura mushrooms.

Toasted bread with artichoke puree.


Green beans rolled in Sardinian flat-bread.

This dish is called Fregola, and is a Sardinian specialty.

This was INCREDIBLE! Tempura style arugala.

What looks like a cupcake paper is really a hollowed out zucchini.

A pineapple dessert.

roasted radicchio.

Fancy napkin design for Deanna's birthday.

Birthday dinner at Portico, what a treat!

Endive in foil.

Endive revealed.

Yup, sushi.

Never dreamed we'd have vegan sushi on Sardinia.

Ending on a traditional note, Spaghetti with tomato sauce, and it was exquisite.
Check it out when you go the beautiful and wondrous island of Sardinia.