By Catherine McCulloch
Most vegetarians I know try going vegan at one point in their lives. I am one of those vegetarians. My greatest struggle in becoming a vegan was giving up breads and pastries. Needless to say, I didn’t last more than a week. However, during that brief stint, I became addicted to vegan cookies and other vegan baked goods.
A love for San Francisco cuisine combined with a passion for vegan pastries motivated me to poke around for a vegan bakery in the city. Sadly my search was not as successful as I had hoped it would be. All of the vegan/vegan-friendly bakeries that I had discovered over the course of my research have apparently closed! I was left stranded in the most vegan friendly city in the US with no dairy-free and egg-free goodies!
Feeling zapped of energy and on a general sugar low I decided to head over to my favorite coffee shop, Ritual Roasters. Upon walking through the door I remembered why Ritual is my favorite coffee shop: it carries delicious vegan treats! Vegan donuts, vegan pound cake, vegan cupcakes…..! My mouth began to water. I ordered a slice of the apple cinnamon dessert bread. It was quite scrumptious - a little too dry, but perfect when paired with coffee. (I had previously tried the strawberry bread and it was perfectly moist! I have yet to sample the donuts but I've heard that they are a no-go).
I then headed over to the Arizmendi Bakery Cooperative. This is a worker-owned cooperative bakery located in Inner Sunset close to the de Young and only two blocks from Golden Gate Park. I usually go to its sister cooperative in Berkeley for its gourmet pizza (the pizza at Arizmendi can be custom made without dairy if you call the restaurant in advance). Though Arizmendi is not a vegan bakery it makes the effort to always offer vegan muffins, cookies and breads.
After looking through all of the assorted baked goods I decided to purchase an almond apricot cookie. It was so packed with grains, nuts, and dried fruit that I felt like I had eaten an entire meal afterwards. Overall a delicious cookie, but it was more like a home-made health bar than a delicate morsel.
Running out of options and afraid that I was never going to find a vegan bakery that could meet my needs, I drove back to my home in the East Bay and holed up at the mostly-vegan Nabolom Bakery. Nabolom had all of the fixings of a standard quality bakery: a variety of baked goods, freshness and the pervasive smell of baked bread.
The bakery had seven different vegan muffins to choose from: Chocolate Chip, Cranberry Walnut, Banana Oat-Bran, Blackberry Walnut, Blueberry Bran, Raisin Bran, and Cherry Bran.
There were vegan cookies the size of my head: Snikerdoodle, Double Chocolate and Oatmeal Raisin. The bakery also sells vegan multi grain bread and a chocolate mousse pie (you can special order a vegan chocolate cake). I sampled their Sugar-Free Vegan Walnut Blackberry muffin and Double Chocolate cookie. The muffin was fresh and hearty and the cookie was absolutely perfect! Finally a Chocolate Vegan Cookie that doesn’t taste like chalk!
Honestly, your best bet in finding vegan pastries in San Francisco is to go to grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Any other organic or natural food markets are likely to carry vegan sweets (Rainbow grocery, a vegetarian cooperative grocery store, will definitely have vegan pastries). Also, many local and chain cafés in the Bay Area offer vegan goods (the ginger vegan cookie at Peet’s Coffee & Tea is to die for). Vegan and vegan friendly restaurants are sure fire ways of locating tasty animal-product free treats (try Herbivore and Café Gratitude). If you're desperate and need to by vegan goods in bulk the internet offers a wide range of choices of bakeries that you can order from online.
If anyone knows of any vegan/vegan friendly bakeries in San Francisco please post a comment. Thanks!