Gracias Madre

This was my last weekend in San Francisco. I have four more days at my internship and then I’m heading back to the Big Apple. As much as I love California I’m ready to go back to New York and start my life!

I had one more restaurant I wanted to try before I left town, so yesterday I headed down to the Mission District to eat at Gracias Madre. Gracias Madre is a 100% vegan and 100% organic Mexican restaurant that I have heard really great things about.

When I first walked into the restaurant I was struck by how large and earthy it felt. The table and chairs were all made of unstained wood and the place is huge. I chose to sit outside since it was such a beautiful day yesterday.

There were precious little saltshakers with Himalayan pink sea salt!

It took me a while to decide what to order but I finally settled on the tamales stuffed with zucchini, corn, onion and jalapeno. I ordered mine mojado, which means in a mole sauce.

I like the idea of mole sauce but I’m not sure I actually like it… The tamal came drizzled with cashew cream and with a side of delicious mushy black beans, pico de gallo and spicy pickled veggies. It was good but I kind of wish I’d ordered something else, it didn’t really hold up to the tamales at Millennium.

For dessert I got the Mexican Wedding Cookies with pecan-based dulce de leche ice cream.

The amazingness of this dessert completely made up for the anemic impression the tamale gave me. The ice cream was perfect and the cookies were like pecan shortbread covered in powdered sugar (what’s not to love?).

After dessert I headed over to Mission Dolores. Walking around the Mission area there are tons of beautiful murals all over the place.

Mission Dolores, built in 1791, is the oldest standing mission.

 

The Spanish settlers converted many native Ohlone Indians to Christianity within these walls.

 

Faustino and Obdulina were two of the first Ohlone Indians to be baptized at the mission. Pretty cool, right?

I just have one more week with this little dirty monster before I head back to New York and my own big mushy man! I can’t wait, I miss this face so much!

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Ana Mandara

San Francisco held this event the past two weeks called Dine About Town where upscale restaurants offer limited three-course menus for only $34.95.

Friday was the last day of Dine About Town (and it was also the day that a certain someone was coming IN to town to visit me) so I made sure to make reservations at one of the participating restaurant

I chose Ana Mandara, an upscale Vietnamese restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf. Neither Dan nor I had ever been to a fancy Vietnamese restaurant before so it was a first for both of us. We felt kind of like impostors since the dining room was full of rich looking businessmen and families! When I arrived, the host said that usually they only offer the Dine About Town menu Sunday through Thursday but since I asked so nicely (and probably look so poor) they said we could do it eve though it was Friday.

The first course was an appetizer sampler that came with steamed Vietnamese chicken and shrimp Dumplings, fried wontons filled with Dungeness crab, cream cheese and sweet chili and an organic local baby greens salad with a ginger dressing.

Lucky Dan got a double helping of dumplings and wontons and I got two salads! Dan said that the dumplings and wontons were out of this world; he even said it was probably the best restaurant food he had ever eaten! I really liked the salad, the dressing was delicious but not overpowering and the lettuce was so fresh!

We got to choose a main course out of four options. I chose the Curry Tofu and my shrimp loving man ordered the Barbecue Jumbo Prawns.

This picture’s not great but my dish was, the curry was flavorful and the tofu was well cooked. I find often when I order tofu in restaurants it is either very plain and mushy or over fried, this wasn’t.

For dessert I had mango and passion fruit sorbet. They were delicious but if it was a contest, mango won. The sorbet came garnished with a cute (and tasty) little tuile!

Dan ordered the Flourless Coconut Rum Cake, which he said was only okay since it tasted too eggy.

Overall we had a good experience at Ana Mandara and would probably go back again if we could afford it. For now, it’s a little out of our price range…

  • Appetizer: 5/5
  • Entrée: 4/5
  • Dessert: 3/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Atmosphere: 5/5
  • Total: 21/25

vegan froyo and other awesome things

Vegan Froyo.

With homemade mochi.

THERE IS A GOD!

I have already visited Fraiche multiple times and they can expect me back for countless more visits. I was super stoked to find this cute little froyo shop near the placing I’m staying in San Francisco. I have been dreaming about vegan frozen yogurt for so long, and finally my dreams have come true!

Fraiche doesn’t only serve yogurt, they also have freshly pressed juices and organic eggs as well as real frozen yogurt. It obviously caters to women with money to spend since all girls like froyo and the Whole Foods loving trophy-wives will love their local/organic options.

Alas, I am not a trophy wife, just an impoverished vegan with a froyo addiction. I loved the flavor and the texture of their soy yogurt; to me it is a perfectly good substitute for the real deal. I also loved that their toppings all looked fresh and on the lighter side, mostly fruit and granola. The highlight of my experience was the homemade mocha cut into little rustic cubes! Fraiche’s convenient location on my way home from Millennium is both a blessing as a curse as I will most definitely be back to spend a pretty penny on their designer deliciousness.

Other awesome things:

1. California watermelon. Swoon. (This mini seedless baby was from Yosemite!)

2. The Plant burger from The Plant Cafe. Best veggie burger I have ever had in my entire life. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other items on their menu! I also really hope my return flight to Newark flies through Terminal 2 since they have a location there as well.

3. This book. I found it in the room I’m staying in, it was awesome.

Greens Restaurant

I was lucky to have the day off from my internship on Saturday since that meant I got to spend time with my parents who were in town for the weekend! Since I knew they were coming, and that they would probably need to eat at some point, I made reservation for Saturday brunch at Greens Restaurant in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco.

Greens Restaurant was recommended to me by multiple people as the go-to restaurant for veg-friendly fare in San Francisco (second to Millennium of course!). They pride themselves in having a local and completely vegetarian menu, I was happy to see that they had a few vegan options as well.

When we first entered the restaurant I was struck by how big and airy the space felt. It used to be a military warehouse that was converted into a restaurant in 1979.

We were seated at a table next to a huge window with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I ordered Jasmine Green Tea, which came in a precious teapot. My first cup was really great but after that it got way too strong, I should have removed the leaves!

We started with fresh, seasonal mixed fruit. The blueberries and cherries right now in California are divine. Check out that yellow cherry!

For my entrée I ordered Mesquite Grilled Brochettes, which were skewers of tofu, mushrooms, red peppers, corn, onion, zucchini and squash served with a zesty cilantro sauce. On the side was a mélange of rice with toasted pumpkin seeds and some slaw. Mm, I would definitely order this again! I especially liked the sauce and the skewers made the dish more fun to eat. I thought that the tofu cubes were a little on the large side though, it would have been nice if they were half the size.

My mom ordered Yellow Finn Potato Griddle Cakes with manchego cheese and chives. Served with eggs over easy, romesco sauce, salsa verde, olives and side salad. My mom said that the egg was very fresh and cooked to perfection.

My dad had the Greek Pizza, which was topped with spinach, feta cheese, olives, shallots and roasted tomatoes (I think, I can’t really remember and it’s not on the menu online…). It looked great and got two thumbs up from Papa Dearest.

The best part of the meal, in my opinion, was dessert!

I got a trio of sorbet with a vegan shortbread cookie. The cookie was so good, I really want to know how they made it since shortbread typically has 1000 pounds of butter in it! The sorbets were rhubarb, strawberry and coconut. Rhubarb was the winner in my book, but coconut came a close second.  I was sad when my dessert was over, I couldn’t get enough!

My dad ordered a Meyer lemon ice cream sandwich that came topped with blueberry compote. I’ve noticed that Meyer lemon seems to be a big foodie trend right now! My dad said this dessert was fantastic and he had no trouble polishing it off. I would be lying if I said I didn’t steal some of his blueberries, though…

Watch this:

Overall, I loved Greens and I would definitely go back!

zoo york city

Today was awesome!

Reason #1: It started with pancakes!

I’m getting really pro at flipping pancakes! I made Chloe Coscarelli‘s recipe again but I subbed banana slices for blueberries. I feasted on these babies whilst listening to Jack Johnson sing about them 🙂

I quit my job at Sox in the City so I finally had a free day to do something fun outside. I have been super antsy lately because of the nice weather but have been too busy with school and work to enjoy it. Unfortunately today was chillier than earlier in the week but I still had a great time exploring Brooklyn with my boyfriend.

I barely ever venture outside of Manhattan so for me Brooklyn is like a completely different world. It’s so much more relaxed and spacious and green! Dan and I packed lunch and went to picnic in Prospect Park, which we both decided was vastly superior to the maze-like overcrowded Central Park. I even saw a group of equestrians on a trail ride! I was insanely jealous and want to figure out how I can do that… it has been way to long since I sat on a horse! I packed Vegan Caesar Salad and some Balthazar Bakery bread with leftover mushroom walnut paté from Monday’s class. I am obsessed with this salad, it is so amazing I want to eat it every single day (and lately I do).

After picnicking and waltzing our way through the park we ended up here:

I love zoos and had a blast at the one in Prospect Park. I think we were the only adults there without kids but who really cares right? Besides, who said we’re not kids…

I saw a bunch of cool animals including porcupines, wallabies, a sea otter, gold lion tamarins (my pic sucks but this one had a baby on her back!), sea lions and red pandas!

The Prospect Park Zoo also has a section called “The Barn” where they have farm animals. I fed some alpacas and sheep 🙂

After the zoo we were wandering around and decided to stop in here since we had time to kill before dinner:

Where I read three issues of this:

I actually really liked it. I am a crazier cat lady than I thought!

After the library we walked over to Maimonide in Brooklyn, a restaurant in Boerum Hill that I really wanted to try for a while now. After the glowing review Chef Elliott at the Natural Gourmet Institute gave it earlier this week I decided I needed to go stat. Plus, the chef is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet! (NGI REPRESENT)

I actually didn’t get to take any pictures of the food since my battery ran out right after I took this picture, but it was really good! First of all, I love this place because they gave us complimentary kale chips which was AWESOME. The menu is given along with a comic book that depicts the adventures of a hip hop vegan superhero, it’s really unique and I’m guessing they print new “episodes” all the time. I ordered the Glowing Skin MOB which was an olive and sunflower seed tapenade, avocado, grilled zucchini and cherry tomatoes on top of a pizza-like crust in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge. Dan ordered the Brave Heart MOB which is sun-dried tomato, caper and parsley pesto with rosemary grilled portobello mushrooms and lemon. We split half of each and while I liked both I think the Brave Heart was a little better. To go on the side we got olive-oil roasted yucca fries and a Brooklyn brine pickle which were super yummy. I really wish I had gotten pictures because the food was presented so beautifully! I thought the atmosphere of MOB was great and definitely want to go back to try some of the other options, they all sound so delicious. I also really liked that the food was “real” as opposed to a lot of vegan restaurants that have a lot of imitation cheese and meat products. Maimonide is all about vegetables and healthy food that tastes great which is much more appealing to me than vegan “junk food.”

The subway line we needed to get back to Manhattan was in the same building as Target! I haven’t been in Target for so long and I went crazy and bought 2 bras and a $1 hippo-shaped watering can.

BEST SATURDAY EVER

what the fish

Up until two weeks ago I hadn’t eaten fish since I was fifteen years old. I always felt that vegetarians who ate fish were cheating, so when I gave up red meat and chicken I figured I needed to give up fish too. I was nervous about class today because of how torturous I found the poultry class yesterday. I feel less badly for fish than I do for chickens though. Fish is also extremely healthy for us to eat, however it’s associated with a lot of environmental issues due to overfishing and aquaculture. While my ethical reasons are not that strong for abstaining from fish, the environmental concerns definitely are an issue for me. Morals aside, I was able to handle filleting the fish so I wanted to be a good sport and try what we created.

Check out this flounder, it’s eves are both on one side! Did you know that flounders start out as round fish when they are hatched and have eyes on either side of their head and swim normally, but as they mature they start swimming sideways along the bottom of the ocean and one of their eyes drifts over to the top. So weird, right?

The chef demoed how to make poached salmon steak (served here with Hollandaise sauce).

Roasted monkfish… Monkfish is a super ugly fish that is considered the “poor man’s lobster” because it has a similar flavor to lobster yet is much less pricey. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the texture of this fish or it’s gross slimy skin.

This is what monkfish looks like: (check out those teeth!)

Flounder papillote with salmon mousse filling

Pan-seared branzino and flounder

Salt crusted baked fish

I forgot what kind of fish this was but it looked so sad with its big eyes and pouty mouth as it was getting covered in salt so i had to take a pic.

Seared tuna (so good!)

And cod fritters. These were delicious, basically because I could just taste fried dough. When isn’t anything fried tasty?

Again, I’m happy I tried out all the fish and now know how to prepare it in various ways but I’m not sure how often I want to incorporate fish into my diet. After going without it for so long my body felt kind of off after class, it was like all the energy had been drained out of me. Perhaps the high protein and fat content was making my body work extra hard to digest. Is it possible to be a vegan that sometimes eats fish?

After class ended there was a book signing at my school for Chloe Coscarelli’s new cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen. I’ve been following Chloe’s blog since she won Cupcake Wars and it was really exciting to meet her in person! Chloe went to the Natural Gourmet Institute as well so it was nice to meet someone successful and get some tips from her.

Plus the mini vegan cupcakes they served were DELICIOUS!

I actually made her pancake recipe for dinner. Normally I would go with something more savory and protein-packed for dinner, but after all that fish I wanted something sweet and easy to digest. These were the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten, they were so fluffy and tasty especially smothered in almond butter!

I need to go shower now because I smell like fish. See ya tomorrow!

happy prez day

Happy President’s Day

I’ve had a nice weekend but it was busy because I got temporary a new job working at a sock shop. It’s been awesome weather all weekend and I was happy to have a completely free day to enjoy it, even though I spent it mostly doing errands with my boy toy.

I was super jealous of the new chef shoes my classmate Rachel was sporting last week. We have to have black non-skid shoes for our chef’s uniforms and while my $20 Croc knock-offs are okay, they are not the comfiest. Rachel kept bragging about how amazing her S.A.S. shoes were so I tried them on and immediately decided I needed a pair of my own. I could not find them for sale anywhere online so my friend from the Natural Gourmet, Jane, and I set out to find them on Sunday morning.

Our adventure brought us to Chinatown of all places!

 

Luckily they had the shoes in our size! They are not the most fashionable choice of footwear but they will keep our feet happy while we’re standing all day chopping veggies and such.

On our way back to the East Village we made a pit-stop at my favorite bakery, Babycakes!

I got a banana cupcake with chocolate frosting and Jane got a donut.

Jane is gluten-intolerant so she was happy to be able to take part in one of Babycake’s gluten-free donuts. As far as gluten-free bakeries go, Jane and I have a difference in opinion. Jane thinks Tu-Lu’s Bakery is better while I am a loyal fan of Babycakes. I think in the future we will have to do a side-by-side taste test to see who the real winner is!

I hope everyone had a great long weekend! Look out for a new recipe post tomorrow!

Peas out. 🙂

pasta + wine = :)

Last night was the most fun I have had in a long time. Why? Because I finally went out! I used to be an intense partier when I was a freshman in college and even through sophomore year, but once I started seeing my boyfriend I stopped going out so much. I feel it’s pretty common for couples to become “homebodies,” sitting at home in their sweats watching Mad Men on Netflix and eating popcorn. I actually like staying home and getting to bed early, but it’s nice to get out and let my ginger hair down once in a while.

The night started with a nice dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant, Via Della Pace, in the East Village. Dan and I were going to go here last weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day but since I was out of commission we went last night instead.


Via Della Pace has a really nice warm and romantic atmosphere with soft lighting and cozy seats. What I love most about the restaurant is that it is so authentically Italian. The owner and all the wait staff are Italian and the people we were seated next to were Italian as well, so if they like it then it must be good! The meal started with complimentary fresh bread dipped in olive oil…

Followed by an appetizer of Bruschetta Siciliana with grilled eggplant, olives, capers and pecorino cheese. I chose this, and Dan and I laughed about it later because none of us actually like eggplant! After I picked off the eggplant it was really good though 🙂

I’m a sucker for gnocchi so for my entrée I ordered the fresh gnocchi with radicchio and walnuts. It came in a cream sauce and was so delicious that I’m drooling just thinking about it now!

Dan ordered the Rigatoni del Pirata, which was baked rigatoni with sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella in a tomato rum sauce. His sauce was really flavorfuland I stole a couple of sausage-free bites.

On the way home from dinner we passed by a film shoot for the new Coen Brothers movie! The whole street was decked out with those old-fashioned cabs. It was so cool and made me feel really lucky to be living in the city!

The rest of the evening consisted of a birthday party, dancing and way too much of this:

I had a great evening but I’m looking forward to sitting on the couch with my boys tonight and going to bed at 10pm. With that, I’m off to go on a trial shift at a new job! Enjoy this beautiful Saturday!

My Feverish Valentine

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Being single sucks

and so does the flu

JUST KIDDING 🙂 (not about the flu though, that really does suck…)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I had was going to have a couple Valentine’s Day-themed posts since I was going to celebrate and make a nice HEARTy dinner for my beau last weekend. Unfortunately, my immune system did not agree with these plans and decided to allow a stomach virus to invade my body, which kept me out of commission all weekend.

Instead of luxurious Italian food and chocolate desserts, my menu looked more like this:

BRAT diet baby! Juice, coco water and white rice cooked in veggiestock.

With a side of this:

miso soup

Despite my sickly Valentine’s weekend, I want to take this moment to say that I have the best boyfriend in the entire world! While I was laying there Sunday night racked with violent fever chills (I literally could not stop shaking and when I would close my mouth my teeth would chatter!) and my skin hurt everywhere, my boyfriend just held me and rubbed my back until my fever broke and I fell asleep. That, my friends, is love.

I am feeling as good as new today and we will be shortly attending a workshop where Dan and I will learn to give one another Thai massage! How cool is that?

I hope your days are filled with love and sugar :). Tomorrow I will post about today’s Grain Practicum!