Vegan Friendly Buffets and My Enchanted Office

I’m sitting in flannel p.j.’s in my “garden” office with its antique armoire, black and white Wizard of Oz photo, multi-colored rug, giclee print by Tania Marie, and sheer-red floral-and-colorful striped curtain-covered file cabinet. I’ve got a giant retro-French-looking fabric wall hanging behind me, floral lamp shades and floral chair on either side of me, glass desk in front of me, and a head full of goopy henna. Meanwhile, my living room’s covered in piles of receipts as I make final calculations for my accountant (due tomorrow morning). The  Fall chill’s rolling in tonight, and my office feels like an especially cozy getaway with its lavender sprigs and Lemurian Seed Crystals.

I’ve got a dandelion-chai/tulsi tea-fig-apple-chia smoothie in my belly and no doubt on the corners of my mouth. The henna needs another hour to work its magic, and something tells me those recipts will still be there when I walk back out. Life is good. What better time to muse and blog about the finer things of Fall?

I can’t promise a long entry, but a few things have caught my attention lately. For one, I’ve noticed that I am always writing about how much I love raw food! LOL, I really do love raw food, and in Sonoma County we’re spoiled with not just Cafe Gratitude, but also the Petaluma Raw Food Potluck and Seed Restaurant. But we also have some wonderful vegan and raw-friendly spots, where “normal” folks can dine with us. I’d like to highlight three Santa Rosa buffets for which I have immense gratitude: Govinda’s (a.k.a. Gaia’s Garden); Fresh Choice at the Santa Rosa Mall; and Fresh China at the Coddingtown Mall. They’re all all-you-can-eat … which always warms my little tummy with glee.

Govinda’s (soon to become Gaia’s Garden)

1899 Mendocino Ave in Santa Rosa

(707) 544-2491

I will be forever grateful to this restaurant because it has gotten my hubby actually requesting salads! Govinda’s offers vegetarian and vegan food, usually Indian-inspired, along with a generous salad bar. Each day they offer four types of greens: spinach, romaine, mixed spring greens, and mixed green and red lettuces. Toppings range from mung bean sprouts to chick peas, olives (canned), fresh grated beets, tomatoes (always super fresh), cucumbers, shredded carrots, purple cabbage and some other veggie and cheese toppings that I’m probably forgetting. House soup is a split pea vegan dahl (quite tasty) and one other soup that varies by day. They offer a veggie or vegan entree (hot), one or two vegan desserts, and homemade bread. They also have one (usually) vegan curry, brown rice, and steamed veggies, every single day. I don’t eat in here a lot myself, due to the hubby’s enjoyment of their salads to go. I have been known to leave with four giant containers full of salad, along with ample amounts of his favorite tofu dill salad dressing and some soups, all balanced precariously in my former waitress hands.

Since leaving with soup and salad costs only $1.00 more than leaving with just a salad, I occasionally get the extra soup and eat it myself. (I have eaten high raw, not 100% raw since early 2009–mostly just so that I can eat cooked food. When my diet got really clean, I found I could no longer tolerate even tiny amounts of cooked anything. The freedom loving me remedied that restriction by s-l-o-w-l-y adding back in bits of cooked foods.)

Anyway, Govinda’s is good. Tasty. Simple. Kind of a “granola” vibe. The owner can talk about the 60’s or Mercury Retrograde if you like that sort of thing. I also understand they serve great chai, although I’ve never tried it myself. 🙂

Fresh Choice

1018 Santa Rosa Plz
Santa Rosa, CA 95401-6399
(707) 525-0912

This one completely surprised me! Someone at Blockbuster heard me lamenting that Govinda’s was closed on Sunday’s and that I couldn’t capitalize on Stephen’s craving for a salad bar. She recommended Fresh Choice in the Santa Rosa Plaza. I have to admit feeling skeptical, but wow. The salad bar is seriously like a block long. They have mostly organic and local veggies, including some unusual finds like daikon sprouts, heirloom tomatoes and banana squash, none of which I have ever seen at another salad bar. They label everything with little symbols so you can easily see what’s vegan, low sodium, vegetarian, etc. It’s all you can eat, and if you go during off hours, you get a discount. In addition to copious amounts of salad, they offer vegetarian soups, meaty soups, meat or fish add-ons, desserts and a pizza bar. None of the desserts or soups were vegan when I’ve eaten there, but the huge salad bar makes that OK, IMO. It’s cafeteria style and not as homey as Govinda’s, but you’ll find just about any type of  topping or type of salad you can imagine. I particularly appreciate their commitment to local and organic foods.

Fresh China

286 Coddingtown Ctr
Santa Rosa, CA 95401-3506
(707) 527-6444

I really love this place! Of the three listed, it offers the least raw, but I still leave feeling uber-nourished. The owner gets really excited about vegan, organic foods. Every time I go there, I feel like a celebrity as they point out the day’s organic offerings, usually a mix of brown and wild rice, some type of steamed winter squash, Swiss chard, and sometimes the salad greens and cabbage. As the name implies, everything tastes very fresh, with a Chinese flair. They serve a popular dim sum, which I’ve never (in my life) tried, so I’m not the one to comment on that, but they also have a Mongolian-type grill line where you can build your own stirfry. In the stir-fry line, meat-eaters can choose organic chicken or other meats. They also offer mung sprouts and about ten different chopped veggies, including zucchini and cilantro. They use no MSG in anything, and if you want gluten-free they can easily accommodate that as well. I’ve only tried a tiny bit of the stir-fry, but the one I built was yummy with its ginger lemon sauce.

My favorite part of Fresh China is the salad and hot bar. I like to get a giant plate of fresh greens, put a scoop of organic brown/wild rice, a big scoop of spicy, enzyme-laden kim chee, and a couple slices of steamed squash. Sometimes I add some organic Swiss chard (raw) on top. It feels like a macrobiotic feast. I used to love 100% raw foods, and I still do, but sometimes my body just enjoys a simple, very low-fat, low-glycemic meal. Fresh China gives me that in a friendly environment with non-caffeinated tea, to boot. I love supporting people who take such pride in their organic foods, and with the buffet-style, I can eat this one big meal at lunch and only need a small smoothie on either end of the low-cost day.

So … there’s a little love for some other Sonoma County restaurants. My henna has set; my mind feels zen; and I’m ready to rinse. Thanks for stopping by.

9 responses to this post.

  1. 1. I LUUUURVE fall! 2. Will this VA area ever get more good eat??? 3. That smoothie up there somewhere sounds mighty tasty!



  2. Posted by laurabruno on October 2, 2009 at 12:37 am


    dandelion greens (I used 1/2 bunch)
    some leftover chai tea (I used red roobois)
    about 9 figs
    1 small apple
    1 tbsp chia seeds
    a little extra water if you don’t have much tea



  3. Laura,

    I have two words for you… YUM-EE! Wow, what a great smoothie recipe. I brewed the chai tea this morning and added about 3 cups to the blend. The tea went into my VitaMix hot, warming the entire smoothie. What a cozy, comforting treat on a chilly autumn morning! I found myself humming, “mmmmmmmm,” between sips. I will definitely make this again.

    October spiced hugs,



  4. Posted by laurabruno on October 3, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Shana,
    Glad you loved it. That smoothie’s a hit, hot or cold. 🙂 I forgot to buy more chai tea, though. Ahh, more incentive to experiment …



  5. Is there a substitute for figs?? So many recipes I find call for figs. Or dates. They both are a little funky to me…. maybe I’ll get over it. BUT, just wondering if you had any suggestions. 😉



  6. Posted by laurabruno on October 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Hmmm … figs are kind of unique in the fruit kingdom, but … there are many types of figs. Maybe you just haven’t hit upon the right kind.

    Another good way to eat dandelions is w/ pineapple and mango, but it’s a different feeling and taste. You get the bitter sweet instead of the warm fuzzies from the smoothie recipe above. I’ll think about fig alternatives and see what I come up with b/c it’s not just the taste but also the texture. Anyone else have any ideas?

    I’m going to do a post soon on some different tea experiments and how they affect smoothies. I have a feeling they will help some people get in more of the (super healthy) bitter greens w/o having to use as much fruit to cover or balance the flavor.




  7. Thanks for the tip about Fresh China, DK has been wanting to go to a Chinese place and now I might be able to eat something as well!
    Also, I can’t wait to try your now famous smoothie recipe:)



  8. Posted by laurabruno on October 6, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    LOL, I know! That recipe has gotten around fast. I ran out of chai tea and forgot to buy some (again). Today’s smoothie was with a licorice tea blend (straight from the tea bag):

    about 15 leaves of dinosaur kale (i like my smoothies GREEN)
    coconut water (2 cups)
    splash of oat milk that I had on hand
    avocado (1 small)
    2 small bananas
    3 schizandra berries
    1 tbsp raw honey
    1-2 tbsp (well, it was a big splash) spirulina
    1 tbsp psyllium
    1 xylitol packet
    1 tbsp cacao (easily eliminated; I couldn’t taste it)
    1 licorice tea bag, cut open and sprinkled in

    It came out like a complex flavored green pudding in a glass.

    Have fun at Fresh China. It’s ka-yumbo!




  9. Thank’s for sharing this
    This is really interesting



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