August 10

Gott’s Roadside Introduces the Vegan Impossible Burger to Napa Valley!

When I heard the news that Gott’s Roadside had begun offering Impossible Foods‘ vegan Impossible Burger (IB), I could barely control my excitement! First Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger was being sold in our local Safeway and now this! For those of you who live in a vegan-friendly city, this may not seem like much of a big deal. But for those of us here in Napa Valley who have been waiting for the local chefs to recognize and accept that veganism is not a fad that is going away, this news created a buzz of excitement and conversation in our vegan community! In fact, when I posted this information on my Facebook page, I reached hundreds of my readers who had dozens of comments.

This excitement made me really want to dig in a bit and learn more about Impossible Foods (IF) which led me to their comprehensive and informative 2017 Sustainability Report. CEO and Founder, Pat Brown, left Stanford in 2011 and started Impossible Foods with one mission. To make the global food system sustainable by replacing animal-based foods with delicious, nutritious AND affordable plant-based meat & dairy foods. The amount of land needed to raise and feed these sentient beings takes up nearly half of ALL land in the world! 75% of the agricultural land in the U.S. is used for the beings and the crops they eat. Talk about unsustainable! The animal agriculture industry is responsible for consuming 25% of all fresh water and creating at least 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions – as much as every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane and rocket combined! The continued degradation of our natural ecosystems is happening at the expense of wildlife – the global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles & amphibians have declined by 58% in the last 40 years. But as many of us remember from our pre-vegan days, our species loves to eat meat. Regardless of the constant health warnings, our ever expanding waist lines and our disintegrating health, meat consumption has grown four-fold in the past 50 years and is projected to increase by as much as 70% in the next 30 years!

IFs has spent the last five years, studying what is it about meat that drives this seemingly insatiable craving! Their scientists have studied meat at the molecular level to help reproduce the texture, taste and even aromas of meat using only plant sources. They have found  “heme” to be the magic ingredient that makes meat taste like…well, meat. It is a building block that is found in all living things – plants and animals and the source that provides our bodies with bioavailable iron. IFs initially harvested the plant-based heme from legumes. However, to produce it on a commercial scale, they now use an engineered yeast that is produced through fermentation similar to the process used by Belgian beer makers for centuries.

Next, I reached out to Gott’s Brand Manager, Ann Pepi, to learn more about their motivation for adding the plant-based burger to their very meat-centric menu. The answer was surprisingly simple. They had offered a vegetarian garden burger as a substitute on their menu prior to the IB but found  there was a demand from their customers for something better. So the team tried both the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger and the Impossible Burger was the winner! Because the IB is “uncharted territory” for Gott’s they are treating it like a new product. It is currently in its test stage and they plan to offer it as a special for several months. Ann’s expectations have been  “blown away” by the amount of curiosity and interest their customers are showing. But they plan to look at the long-term interest before deciding if the IB will be added to their permanent menu. Ann mentioned several times how happy she was that they are offering an option that is good for the planet.

When I visited Gott’s Roadside here in Napa, I had the opportunity to discuss the food preparation with Assistant General Manager, Daniel Hicks. Because of the more delicate nature of the Impossible Burger, instead of using the grill (where the beef burgers are cooked), they use a separate griddle. The griddle is used for toasting buns and sometimes cooking fish products. Before the IB is added to the griddle, they clean it with club soda and add oil instead of using butter.  Though their egg and gluten-free buns are not vegan-friendly, they offer the option of a lettuce wrap, whole wheat or sourdough bread. And then you can get creative. In addition to the lettuce, tomato and pickles you can add pickled carrots, avocado, vegan kimchi, pico de gallo, jalapeños, salsa verde or vegan slaw. The vegan-friendly sides include their french fries and sweet potato fries, customizable kale salads and watermelon with mint and black pepper. I had the delicious opportunity to try the Impossible Burger on whole wheat bread with mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles and avocado AND with kimchi on sourdough. The taste, texture and aroma of the IB was incredible. I admit I have not eaten meat in close to a decade so my memory is probably a bit fuzzy but it seemed very authentic to me. And it tastes great! There is nothing else available that tastes this good! Oh, and get the sweet potato fries! They are crisp, a touch spicy and possibly the best I’ve ever had. When Daniel delivered the food, he admitted that he eats a lot of meat but after trying the Impossible Burger he is “going to become a vegetarian when I’m at work”. That seemed like the perfect testimonial for the vegan Impossible Burger!

This year, Impossible Foods is scaling up to meet the incredible demand. They have purchased a factory in Oakland that will produce 1.1 million pounds of this plant-based bliss per month. In addition to saving animals, this amazing product will use 75% less water, produce 87% fewer greenhouse gases and require 95% less land than animal-based beef. What a summer to be a vegan! Now get on over to Gott’s and support their efforts to bring this delicious burger to Napa Valley! And remember to eat, drink and be vegan!

September 18

Napa Palisades Saloon Serves Up Vegan Vittles!

better logo2

After reading an article about Napa Palisades Saloon having a vegan-friendly menu, I figured it was time to go check out downtown Napa’s newest bar. But since giving up meat eight years ago, when it comes to dining out, the word spontaneity no longer exists in my vocabulary. When Steve and I plan to go out for a meal, schedule a road trip or fly out of town…I have to research (ad nauseam) to find out what and where my vegan dining opportunities will be. And to be honest, I have lost count of all of the times that I have been told or read that a place has veg-friendly choices only to walk in and be met with a blank stare. So, first I checked out the Saloon’s menu. As has become the norm with restaurants in Napa Valley, there was no indication on any of the menu items whether anything was vegetarian or vegan-friendly. Well, I thought, someone wrote an article and specifically mentioned that the Saloon offered vegan options so I didn’t give up there.  Next step. I called. There was no answer so I left a voicemail message introducing myself, my blog and my interest in trying their food so could someone give me a call back? And then I waited…and waited. After a week or so went by, I realized that I was probably not going to hear back from anyone. My thoughts at that point were…well, if they are doing that well that they don’t need my business, okay…they won’t get my business. And then I got back to my crazy busy life and promptly forgot all about them! Then on Labor Day, I received a comment from one of my new blog followers, Jennifer. She mentioned in her comment that she had recently dined at Napa Palisades Saloon and had really enjoyed the experience. I am a big believer in “signs” and that was the sign I needed to give this another shot.

The following week Steve and I had a Wednesday evening free so headed downtown to check this joint out! We got there at about 7 p.m. and the place was packed. I’m in my mid-40s now, and though you may not believe it by reading my blog postings, I am more of a foodie than an oenophile. And with all of the Michelin starred restaurants and highly respected Chefs in Napa Valley, when I walk into an establishment I expect to walk into a restaurant that happens to have a bar. It may be an excellent bar, but the bar is always secondary to the food experience. So imagine my surprise when I walked into Palisades. It was a loud, busy, full-fledged bar that just happened to have some tables! Every one of the 6 or 7 tables was full, all 15 bar stools were taken, loud music and even louder voices filled the air and there were 8 flat screens filled with sports. Besides the wrinkles and the need for reading glasses to see the menu, I felt like a 20-something again! The saloon is small – I didn’t have to get very far passed the doorway to see that seating was limited. But as I looked around, I found 2 chairs tucked into the end of the bar. And though I haven’t been a 20-something in a few years, I knew the seats were going to go fast if I didn’t take them!  It felt really strange at first…our seats were just regular height chairs that tucked into a desk-like dining table that butted right up to the bar. We were looking up at all of the other patrons AND the bartender like we were at the kiddy table. But once we got settled in, we had this whole space for my handbag, our food and plenty of room for drinks. It felt really intimate and though we only sat there by default I’m going to try for those seats every time I go in now!

Rustic Industrial Decor
The kiddy table is at the bottom left of this photo!

The table gave me a great view of the whole place – it has a rustic industrial vibe. The bar top is made of wood but the HVAC duct work along the ceiling gives it the feel of a small warehouse. The kitchen is wide open showing all of the stainless steel appliances. I really liked the feel of it – I lived in an old unrenovated loft in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver) near Union Station and Coors Field in my late 20s and it took me back to that rather boozy, happy phase of my life!

better menu

I mentioned earlier that since making the switch to a humane lifestyle, I tend to be a bit obsessive about my research. Well, thanks to Jennifer, I did not have to spend any more time researching my food so I decided to take a look at their Drink menu. I drink wine, I really like wine but sometimes I just need a damn break from wine. Beer…used to drink it, never really liked it, so never drink it anymore. Ahh, but then I spied the hard cider! Yes! I love hard cider. Years ago, my sister Christy spent a college term in Moscow. At that time (and maybe it still is…) it was really hard to get into Russia. So, when she finished up her term we met in Paris instead. We spent the next couple weeks exploring Paris, Calais, Dover, London and the stunning Lake District in Northern England. It was through these journeys that I had my first Burger King veggie burger experience (I never liked eating meat even when I was a meat eater!) and I had my first Strongbow Cider. It seemed to be on tap at every single pub and I loved it! Hmmm…I just realized that cider is almost like combining beer with wine. Interesting! Anyway, that is how my love affair with cider began. However, just like wine and beer, sometimes animal product is used in the fermentation or filtration process of cider. Unfortunately, Strongbow is not vegan-friendly but I will always have beautiful memories of the time we spent together abroad.

Round One!
Round One!

When researching the vegan-friendliness of a drink, I always prefer to go straight to the source whenever possible. That is what has been so interesting but time-consuming about doing the research for my blog. When I can’t go straight to the source, I do sometimes use Barnivore.com. It is a very helpful resource to use if I don’t have access to the master brewer or winemaker. The Saloon has two hard ciders on their menu  – Crispin Pear is available by the bottle and Foxcraft Blood Orange is on tap. Their online menu lists Golden State cider available on tap but according to their bartender, Chris, they no longer offer it. If you find it somewhere else though, it is vegan. Yay! I found Crispin on Barnivore.com and they do not use ANY animal products in the production of their ciders. They do make a couple that contain honey but the Saloon currently only offers the pear cider which is vegan-friendly. Foxcraft is not listed on Barnivore’s website so I headed over to Facebook to see if I could have some dialogue with them there. I’ve got to tell you that they were amazing! They confirmed with their master brewer that they do not use any animal products while creating the cider. They pride themselves on creating a clean, additive free hard cider. I did not learn this until after I had left Palisades so I ordered the Crispin Pear cider. It was so good I had 2 bottles! And I picked up a four pack of the blackberry pear cider this week. I will absolutely try the Foxcraft cider the next time I head to the Saloon. They worked so hard to answer my questions so the least I can do is support them and drink their cider!

Vegan Falafel burger
Vegan Falafel burger

Okay, so once I got my drink it was time to get to the food! I went over the menu with Chris and he took all of my questions back to their Chef. This is what we came up with – vegan bar snacks include the crispy chickpeas with chili and lime and the avocado toast drizzled with habanero oil (just ask them to remove the cheese!). The Between Breads option is the crispy falafel burger made without the dairy. Vegan Sides include the green beans with garlic and lime and the fries. While ordering, I missed the beets with avocado, nuts and lime under the Apps section of the menu. You will need to ask but they may be able to make that vegan if they hold the honey and goat cheese! I wanted to try everything but settled for the falafel burger, fries and an order of the avocado toast. The burger came on a big platter with a huge bun, lettuce, tomato and these really tasty pickled veggies. I skipped the bun and dug into the burger. It was crispy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. The fries came out hot and salty and just about perfect. The avocado drizzled with the habanero oil was so simple yet so delicious. I will definitely order the avocado toast again! It was a lot of food for two people. We finished off the fries and toast but I got to take half the burger home for later! And to feel even better about the food I ate, they also use local and organic ingredients.

Exterior shot
Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before. Two vegans walk into a bar…

The bar is located at 1000 Main Street, Suite 100 in downtown Napa and is a great place to meet up with friends. And from the crowd that was there that night, it is obvious that a lot of other Napkins feel the same way! Thanks for joining me again on my vegan adventures. I look forward to running into you at Napa Palisades Saloon and as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

May 18

Napa Valley Vegan’s Roadtrip to Capitola!

When my husband Steve and I first got together almost 15 years ago, our vacations revolved around beaches, drinking, eating and (for me anyway) lots of sunbathing! Back then, I was still in my early 30s and still looked good, felt good and could “bounce” back from my excesses! As we got to know each other and grew together, our lifestyle and vacation habits began to change. We began to learn about healthier choices and started to make better decisions in our day to day lives and our vacations. I also began to see the signs of 30 plus years of sun damage to my skin…Our vacations still revolve around beaches but now you’ll see me wearing an enormous sunhat and protective clothing enjoying the shade created by my giant beach umbrella! And if I go for that second vodka martini I’m done for the evening. Eating, though? That has remained an important part of our get-aways. Now we choose our destinations based on their vegan-friendliness and relaxation factor.

The joys of relaxing!
The joys of relaxing!

Living in Napa, I am already fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I have access to the entire San Francisco Bay Area which is absolutely breathtaking. But having heard so many wonderful things about Capitola, a charming beach town in Central California, I decided it was time to do some exploring!  I put the top down on my convertible and headed south! I love San Francisco but quite frankly I don’t ever really feel like my holiday has begun until I am somewhere I don’t recognize. So the most exciting part of driving through the city was passing over the Golden Gate Bridge. That stunning view always makes me smile! And though there are shorter routes to take, I had to travel down the coast and experience Highway 1. Once the city was behind me, the views just got more and more amazing and I felt like I had really gotten “away”!

Good-bye Napa, hello Capitola!
Good-bye Napa, hello Capitola!

I had my first stop in beautiful Pacifica and then a quick, late lunch in Half Moon Bay. I’m going to warn you fellow vegans, this is not a particularly vegan-friendly town. But as I have mentioned before, I am a complete bulk section geek and knew I would be stopping to check out New Leaf Community Market so decided to work my lunch stop in too! New Leaf is a community market that was founded in the early 80s by Scott Roseman as a funky, organic-friendly co-op that has now grown to seven stores. What had me so excited about stopping in is that New Leaf Community Markets is the first grocer in the state of California to be certified as a B-Corp. What is a B-Corp you ask? Well, let me tell you! It is essentially to businesses what Fair Trade is to coffee. To be certified, they were required to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and that word we see so seldom of these days – transparency! Look out Whole Foods, you have got some serious competition. There are now over 1,000 B Corps spread across 33 countries in over 60 different industries with one unifying goal – redefine the meaning of success in business. You can just imagine how excited I was to spend my money with a company like New Leaf. After browsing through their wonderful bulk section, I headed over to their bakery which is known for its vegan-friendly options. I did already mention that I like to eat on my vacations, right?! Once again, Whole Foods needs to step up their game when it comes to their vegan bakery choices – my local store has one chocolate mousse cupcake that is made with genetically-modified beet sugar and enriched wheat flour and rates about a 3 out of a 5 in flavor. The Half Moon Bay New Leaf offers four different vegan cupcakes – vanilla, carrot cake, chocolate and German chocolate. The cupcakes are provided by Black China Bakery – a family-owned wholesale bakery based in Santa Cruz. Since I was on vacation and I could not decide and I was comfortable with their list of ingredients going into my body, I chose the chocolate and German chocolate cupcakes and Steve went for the vanilla. Hands down the chocolate beat out the vanilla. And winning a very tight race, the German chocolate inched out the chocolate cupcake. That extra bit of coconut put it over the top! Oh yeah, and I found a place for lunch too. Moonside Bakery & Café offers four vegetarian sandwiches that with a little adjusting can be vegan-friendly. I had sandwich #1 the Roasted Veggie – delicious sweet French baguette, topped with grilled eggplant, bell peppers, Italian squash, garlic and tomato with a drizzle of balsamic dressing (ask them to hold the cheese!). I’ve been eating these vegetables for years and this was still one of the tastiest sandwiches I’ve ever had. Definitely, worth the stop! With my belly full of veggies and cupcakes, I got back on the road.

Vegan cupcakes make me smile!
Vegan cupcakes make me smile!
Yes, it tastes even better than it looks and it looks dang delicious!
Yes, it tastes even better than it looks and it looks dang delicious!

I have to admit that I did not make it very far! 15 miles from Half Moon Bay I pulled into the Pescadero State Beach. I am not knocking the beauty of where I grew up – near Lake Superior as a small child and then Lake Michigan as a teenager. Stunning, really. As an adult, I lived along the Atlantic Ocean near some of the best beaches from Florida to Virginia to North Carolina. And maybe that is why I am still so in awe of the Pacific Ocean. Its ruggedness and stark beauty is so different from what I am used to. Pescadero Beach is a mile-long shoreline with sandy coves, rocky cliffs, tide pools and picnic areas. Just across Highway 1 is the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, which offers refuge to blue heron, kite, deer, raccoon, fox, skunks, barn swallows and weasels! A perfect spot for bird watching and just enjoying all the life nature has to offer. One caveat…always bring a jacket! I also have to admit the beauty drew me in but I also remember John Connor in the 1991 Terminator 2 movie telling his friend that his Mom, Sarah, was locked up in the Pescadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. I have no idea how that stayed with me for 25 years but it did!

Pescadero sign

Rugged Pescadero Beach
Rugged Pescadero Beach
Pescadero Beach
Pescadero Beach

Steve and I Pescadero

And then, ahhh…Capitola. Besides its quintessential beach town feel, Capitola has some great history. It is built on the location of an Indian village that existed for more than 1000 years! Sadly, the Soquel Indians were relocated to the Mission Santa Cruz when the Mission was established in 1791. California became a state in 1850 and Capitola-by-the-Sea became a resort town in the 1860s. In the 1920s, bungalows and stucco shacks started popping up reminiscent of small Italian fishing villages. O’Neill, world-famous for its surfboard and wetsuits is headquartered here in Capitola. And Sunset Magazine lists Capitola-by-the-Sea as one of the top fourteen unsung beach towns. So, shhhhhh…don’t tell anybody!

Looking out to the Pacific!
Looking out to the Pacific!
View from the Wharf!
View from the Wharf!

Capitola Hotel is a cozy boutique hotel with just 10 rooms located at 210 Esplanade in the heart of this quaint village. The hotel is surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars and is a quick walk to the beach and the Capitola Wharf. It is really a perfect location. The rooms have free Wi-Fi, a fridge for leftovers (I had lots!) and a ceiling fan so I felt like I was in the Caribbean. The bathroom has nice thick cotton-bamboo towels and eco-friendly shampoo, conditioner and lotion. The types of things I appreciate in a hotel! They also have a tiny little private courtyard full of flowering vines and a water fountain. One evening while sipping some vegan wine I brought along, I got to enjoy several different species of bird fly past me to drink out of the fountain. It was magical. A lovely little spot!

Capitola Hotel
Capitola Hotel
Julie saying good-bye!
Julie saying good-bye!

After getting all settled in and putting my toes in the sand, I walked along Wharf road about a half mile to the vegetarian restaurant Dharma’s. Dharma’s menu is organic and vegetarian with a new gluten-free menu. Almost everything on the menu either already is or can be made vegan. Just ask! Marco, one of their vegan chefs, also makes an amazing vegan bacon ranch dressing. The meals are enormous so be prepared for leftovers or do what we did on our second visit -share an entrée! Dharma’s is a very low-key, casual eatery with a huge dining room and a few outdoor tables. It is located in a small shopping center and doesn’t offer any wait staff. But the food is consistently good, the portions are extravagant and the prices are right!

All this food for $12
All this food for $12
We split this and still had leftovers. Dinner was even more enormous!
We split this and still had leftovers. Dinner was even more enormous!

If you are looking for a good coffee shop that offers almond and soy milk and delicious vegan baked goods, Mr. Toots is the place to go. It is conveniently located right across Esplanade from Capitola Hotel. Head upstairs to the second floor to a large coffee shop with a tiny patio overlooking Soquel Creek and the Pacific Ocean. The vegan sweets include a huge peanut butter chocolate chip cookie and a raspberry dream bar. The cookies are made by Kerri’s Kreations, a local wholesale baker for the past 20 years who also provides baked goods to the local New Leaf Markets. She takes her ingredients very seriously using only organic, GMO-free grains, flours, nuts and fruits. She only uses sustainably sourced organic Spectrum palm oil shortening. Her chocolate chips are Fair Trade USA & Rainforest Alliance Certified. The organic pure bourbon vanilla extract is fair trade as is the coffee. She evens grinds the fresh Sri Lankan cinnamon herself! In addition to all this awesomeness, she also recycles about 80% of her waste and regularly donates cookies to non-profit organizations in her community! I’m so proud of all the cookies I ate while visiting Capitola.

Lattes anyone?
Lattes anyone?
Delicious and good for my soul!
Delicious and good for my soul!

In between all my eating, beach walking and relaxing I also made time for a little bit of shopping. Capitola Village has a couple blocks of shops and galleries intermingled with the restaurants. If you are looking for casual, resort-style vegan shoes, visit Hot Feet (for women) and The Big Kahuna (for men). I found the cutest pair of Zee Alexis by CC Resorts. The shoes are designed by a former designer for Donald Pliner but are comfortable and vegan! They have a thick layer of memory foam that is at least 7 mm thick and is oh so comforting to my foot. The soles are made with a rubber-like EVA which offers shock resistance and are exceptionally light. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight but I fell in love when they touched my feet! Steve could not be left out so we visited the sister store located right next door – The Big Kahuna. He found a pair of Olukai mesh slip-ons that are perfect beach attire.

Cute, check. Comfy, check. Vegan, check!
Cute, check. Comfy, check. Vegan, check!
Perfect beach shoes!
Perfect beach shoes!

Santa Cruz is right next to Capitola and their thriving downtown is only about 5 miles from Capitola Village. Since the 1987 hit The Lost Boys filmed at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, I knew I had to spend a little time there. Santa Cruz also offers more vegan-friendly restaurants especially in its downtown area. To name a few, Santa Cruz has a Café Gratitude known throughout the Bay Area for its vegan and raw menu. Saturn Café is also well-known in the Bay Area for their funky décor and vegan diner-like comfort food. And a couple local restaurants include Malabar, an industrial-chic spot that serves Asian-fusion entrees and Pearl of the Ocean, serves Sri Lankan fare using organic and locally sourced ingredients and offers many vegan options. I had the opportunity to dine at Saturn Café twice – both times for breakfast. My steady diet of organic oatmeal, almond milk & fresh berries fuels my day almost every day so because of that I really enjoy going out for breakfast when I am on vacation! The pancakes were very tasty but what really impressed me is their vegan housemade “sausage” patty. It is incredible! If you love to Yelp like I do, you will receive a 20% discount on your meal just for checking in. Malabar gets mixed reviews from me. Much of what is on their menu is vegan-friendly and the curry dish and lentil dosas were just amazing. The food was probably a 4.5 but the service and ability to communicate left much to be desired. If you go in with the proper expectations, the food makes it worth the trip!

Vegan pancake & house made sausage. Yep, I had the other half for dinner!
Vegan pancake & house made sausage. Yep, I had the other half for dinner!
Breakfast burrito - Steve raved about it!
Breakfast burrito – Steve raved about it!
Lentil Dosa with several sauces & chutneys! Oops, started eating it before I got a photo. It was that good!
Lentil Dosa with several sauces & chutneys! Oops, started eating it before I got a photo. It was that good!
Malabar's mango curry dish was delish!
Malabar’s mango curry dish was delish!

 I cannot leave out my experience on the Boardwalk. I visited in mid-May so the Boardwalk was just reopening for the season. Only a few of the rides were open for business and they offered abbreviated hours from Noon – 5.  Many of the restaurants were not open which is no big deal to us vegans. To put it bluntly, it is not vegan-friendly and there are NO healthy food options. Do what I did, eat before you go to play! Because of the limited options on games and food, the charge to go on the rides was deeply discounted and there were absolutely NO lines. In fact, several times I was the only person on the entire roller coaster. It was really cool. And if you can keep your eyes open while screaming your head off, the view of the Pacific was absolutely amazing. I made a good decision and instead of watching any of the rides I just jumped on them – first the terrifying Double Shot, next an outer seat on the stomach dropping Pirate Ship, then the fun & exhilarating UnderTow, followed by the neck snapping wooden Giant Dipper coaster and last the curdling scream inducing Fireball (to see the video visit my Facebook page – yeah, the person screaming over the Beatles song was me!). And this word of advice – the bumper car ride Speed Bumps is actually really lame when there are only 2 of you on it! Every year the Boardwalk kicks off its annual season by showing the movie that made it famous (famous to me anyway) – The Lost Boys.

Not many rides but I didn't care!
Not many rides but I didn’t care!
I got my pass!
I got my pass!
Blood curdling screaming came from me!
Blood curdling screaming came from me!
Pirate Ship looks deceptively calm. It is a lie!
Pirate Ship looks deceptively calm. It is a lie!

Once I got off the Fireball, I was so dizzy that I almost fell down and was starting to feel a bit queasy. It seemed the perfect time to visit the Santa Cruz Wharf. The Wharf just celebrated its 100th birthday and is covered with bars, restaurants and shopping. Not very vegan-friendly but the beer I ordered from Fire Fish Grill went down just fine! The bar is big, the bartender friendly and the place doesn’t smell like fish. The most exciting part of the Wharf is the huge community of sea lions. Just amazing. There were dozens of them lined up on the boat docks sunbathing and sleeping. Once in a while there would be a minor scuffle for space and a little bit of chatting between them. It was really lovely to see them all up so close in their natural habitat. Visiting the sea lions when you are in Santa Cruz is a must-do!

Santa Cruz Wharf from the Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Wharf from the Boardwalk
My new friends!
My new friends!

The staff at Capitola Hotel and several friends suggested that we also visit Shadowbrook restaurant in Capitola for a very special experience. Shadowbrook is located a very easy walk from Capitola Hotel but they also offer free shuttle service within a 3 mile radius if you want to wear your stilettos. Shadowbrook has been serving the guests and residents in Capitola since 1947. That is 68 years! It is located along the lush Soquel Creek and is reached by a quaint old cable car. I rode the cable car down which was fun but the meandering paths are something that should not be missed. It is just beautiful! Though it has won awards as being a very romantic restaurant, with their outdoor seating either full or closed that evening, there was nothing romantic about the experience. The service was world-class, the food and drinks delicious and I had an amazing experience. Shadowbrook offers three vegan entrees, 1 vegan appetizer and many of their salads can be “veganized”! I absolutely loved the Eggplant Agnolotti and Steve raved about the Roasted Poblano Chiles. Their vegan-friendly fresh bread was served with EVOO and balsamic instead of the usual butter. When I made the reservations through Open Table, I mentioned that I was hoping for a vegan dessert option. And the chef kindly created a delicious vegan sorbet using fresh, in season strawberries. This is a very special place and should not be missed when visiting Capitola. If you are lucky enough to sit in Alison’s section, she is lovely and provides incredible service. Another must-do!

Shadowbrook's cable car
Shadowbrook’s cable car
Eggplant Agnolotti - was even better the next day!
Eggplant Agnolotti – was even better the next day!
Poblano Chiles
Poblano Chiles
Pear martini made with pureed pears!
Pear martini made with pureed pears!
Took the cable car down & the enchanting pathway back to the top!
Took the cable car down & the enchanting pathway back to the top!

I cannot leave out the draw and beauty of the Pacific. The tiny village of Capitola is a surfer’s paradise. The surfers arrive in the morning and stay until nearly dusk. I found myself watching them surf and lost all track of time. While out exercising one day, I walked to the Pleasure Point surfing area. The water was full of surfers and one or two SUPs joined in for the fun too. This is one of Northern California’s best breaks with waves perfect for just about every type of surfer 320 days of the year. I know watching made me want to take up surfing at 45! Exhilarating to watch! On my walk back to the Hotel, I walked along the Capitola Wharf and got to spend the next half hour watching a Mama Sea Otter feed and care for her baby Otter (click on otters to watch the YouTube video). They were just so lovely to watch and the baby Otter is quite possibly the cutest little animal on earth! What an unexpected surprise. And though some of the locals mentioned recent whale sightings, I was very pleased with my sea lion/sea otter interactions!

Capitola surfing

Pleasure Point
Pleasure Point

It was an amazing 5 days that I will remember always. The village of Capitola is sweet, Santa Cruz’s downtown is hip, the Boardwalk is just plain fun and the openness to vegan-friendly food is wonderful. I ate, relaxed, screamed a bit, had some fun and reconnected with the love of my life. I’d say that was a very successful vacation! Thanks again for joining me and as always…eat, drink and be vegan.

Bye Capitola. I will see you again!
Bye Capitola. I will see you again!
Good-bye Pigeon, I miss you already!
Good-bye Pigeon, I miss you already!