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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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!

F the East Coast

Hi everyone! Sorry for the hiatus, I was super busy with the end of school!

“Fuck the East Coast”
Grafitti in San Francisco’s Mission district

I am currently in sunny San Francisco for my month-long internship at Millennium Restaurant. This is my first time in the Golden State and I am loving it so far. I could definitely see myself living here some day.

I’m fortunate to be staying in a pretty swanky area of San Francisco. I knew nothing about the city before I came and lucked out booking such a nice place online. I get to wake up with sun pouring in the huge bedroom windows every morning… it is bliss.

I am also kept company by two cuddly kitties and a pint-sized pup. The Patron Saint of Cats looks over me as I sleep, befitting for a cat lady such as myself.

I just finished my first week interning at Millennium and I’m really enjoying it. Working in a restaurant is like Friday Night Dinner every night but with more than one dish per course. It’s intense, but I like intense. Chef Eric Tucker (who is also a NGI Grad!) is a lot less scary than I imagined him to be!

Millennium is definitely more relaxed about dress code than the Natural Gourmet. Tons of the staff have piercings and no one wears hats (which I am relieved about since my cap kept shrinking in the wash and was beginning to cut off the circulation to my brain). I also had to go out and buy black pants to wear since I looked like such a dweeb wearing my hounds tooth eyesores.

Last week I trailed at the pantry station (salads and desserts), worked the prep shift a couple times and accompanied the chef to a catering event. I’ll have more to say about it once I’m further into my internship!

The staff gets to order complimentary meals after their shift, which is a perk I did not know about beforehand! The food is so good, it really is the best vegan food I’ve ever tasted.

A raw salad with sea vegetables, avocado, miso dressing, wasabi sauce and spicy cashews. I have dreams about this salad it was so good!

A polenta dish with a Bolognese sauce, fava beans, sautéed greens and the best pesto of my life.

My favorite dish was the huitlacoche tamale, which I don’t have a picture for. I’ll have to order it again so I can show you guys!

I’ve had two days off, I’m excited to go back tomorrow! I wonder if I’ll always feel this way about work?

cookie monsters

What is the best way to spend a Friday morning?

If you answered “Baking cookies” then you are spot on! That is exactly what my classmates and I did this previous Friday and it was mystical.

Each person baked a recipe so we had plenty of cookies to choose from, I baked Rolled Fig Cookies that we nicknamed “Figlets.” Personally I think they were awesome and like an even tastier and vegan version of a Fig Newton!

There were a couple other vegan recipes:

Pecan Tuiles, these reminded me of the winter holidays!

 

and Gluten-Free Ginger Crisps

 

Other cookies made were:

Jam Dot Cookies (these are the Natural Gourmet Institute’s signature cookie and they’re served at every open house. These were made with butter but I’ve made a vegan version before for the open house with coconut oil instead.)

Macaroons

 

 Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (the unappealing color is from the buckwheat flour)

 

Checkerboard Cookies

 

Raspberry Shortbread Linzer Cookies

 

Chocolate Biscotti

 

Chocolate Cherry Pecan Bombs Bars

:3

pizza party

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…

Do you remember when Congress classified pizza as a vegetable? Apparently the sauce counts as a daily serving of veggies but in my book, pizza is hardly considered a health food. It can be made healthier by using fresh dough and lots of veggie toppings though!It was really fun making the pizza dough from scratch, rolling it out and personalizing our pizzas with toppings. I think homemade pizza is such an easy dinner that can be so delicious and satisfying. Just whip up some dough and freeze the extra, it defrosts great for a quick weeknight meal!

In class we explored different doughs and methods of cooking.

Margherita pizza on our chef’s secret recipe crust.

Grilled pizza topped with bruschetta.

My vegan pizza #1

#2

Pissaladière: A traditional pizza from the South of France with a flaky crust, caramelized onions, olives and anchovies.

An assortment of pizzas from my classmates!

Gluten-free mini pizzas!

Focaccia! This was my absolute favorite of the day, did you know that it contains a baked potato? Mmmm

I hope everyone has a bella noche and perhaps a slice of pizza or two!

sweet breads

Look how cute my lil monkey is:

CTP 209 has been submerged in a whirlwind of refined carbs and sugar as we have delved even deeper into the baking portion of our program since my last post. Last week we made pies all week and I was so pastried out by the time the weekend rolled through. I made this apple galette three days in a row!

On Monday we had our first of two bread making days where we made yeasted breads. I forgot my camera so I couldn’t take any pictures but I  made bagels. I had no idea bagel making was so easy! Some of my favorites of the day were a raisin walnut bulgur loaf and olive bread. Yesterday was Bread 2 where we focused on quick breads and sweet breads. During the first half of the day we made pancakes, waffles and crepes.

Buckwheat pancake, plain crepe and buttermilk waffle!

I have always struggled with getting perfect pancakes, the inside is always raw! But I think I have honed my skill now and have become a pancake pro 🙂 There were these really awesome gluten-free pancakes made out of rice flour. They were kind of funky looking and pale but the texture reminded me of mochi so I liked it (since I’m a mochi whore).

I also made this curry filled chickpea crepe with a side of blanched asparagus! After all the sweetness this was a welcome savory escape for my taste buds.

The second half of the day was spent making either scones or biscuits.

Spicy crushed red pepper and roasted garlic scones

Biscuits!

Pizza flavored scones = Yum!

I made blueberry basil vegan scones! The combination sounds weird but they were excellent and super fresh tasting. I’m so trendy with my food combos 😉

We also had vegan cinnamon buns which were finger-lickin’ good!

The CTP class above us graduates this Friday and we will officially be the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Senior Class! I can’t believe it’s going so fast 😦

Tomorrow is Pizza and Focaccia Day, so let me ask you a question: On a scale of 1-10 how ecited would you be to make pizza all day?

I’m at a 10.5

 

 

 

 

 

cakes

Everyone has a little pastry chef inside them trying to get out and this week at the Natural Gourmet Institute I learned that I am no exception.

I turned this:

Into this:

Isn’t that vegan carob cake with coconut cashew frosting a looker? Aren’t the kiwi flower and toasted coconut edges superb? Wouldn’t you pay $40 for something like that in a bakery? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions you would be correct 🙂

On Thursday we each made cakes and decorated them on Friday. As I’ve said before, I really love baking and I don’t want this unit to end! I was happy with how my cake turned out, it was delicious and decadent, especially for a vegan cake. I wasn’t so sure how the frosting would come out since at one point it looked like this:

It may look like shiny beige plastic but when mixed together with cashew butter in a food processor it made a creamy dreamy frosting. This recipe was made of agar agar (a seaweed) that is dissolved in coconut milk and other flavorings over heat and then chilled until it sets. I was amazed at the tranformation!

I was so happy with how my cake turned out, but I wasn’t the only pro in the class. Here are some of the other beautiful cakes that my classmates made:

 

Check out the basket-weave detailing by my classmate, Jane! Her patience and steady hand paid off, her cake was beautiful!

Ellie’s gorgeous cake also made use of the basket-weave. Her carrot cake was visually my favorite of the day with it’s little carrot garnish made of apricot jam and kiwi.

I was so impressed with everyone’s decorating talent! Not only were the cakes extremely attractive but they tasted phenomenal as well and provided a substantial sugar high despite the health-supportive ingredients 🙂

intro to baking

Today was the first of what I’m sure will be magical weeks of excellence because it was the first day of our baking segment! I was giddy all day and it wasn’t even because of a sugar high… that comes tomorrow 🙂

We didn’t actually bake today, instead class consisted of a baking lecture demo and then a lecture about converting traditional baked goods into vegan health-supportive ones. Tomorrow we will be converting standard recipes like Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies into vegan cookies by replacing one ingredient at a time. I’m excited!

Today we learned all about different flours.. Did you know that the climate in which wheat is grown affects the kind of baked goods it will produce? Flours from wheat grown in the North are heavier and have a higher protein and gluten content than those grown in the South. Northern wheat is better suited for yeast breads whereas the  lower gluten content in Southern flour is better for pastries. We also learned about leaveners and the difference between baking soda and baking powder. I was surprised that baking powder is just baking soda with an acid (cream of tartar) added in because I always thought it was the other way around!

The chef showed us three different cakes using the three leavening methods:

  1. Chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder
  2. Butter and sugar that has been whipped
  3. Egg foams

The first cake was a vegan Carob Walnut Cake that used chemical leaveners. Carob is one of those ingredients that sounds so hippy-dippy and health-nutty that I was dubious of how this cake would taste but it was excellent. I want to recreate this at home ASAP!

I really liked it 🙂

The second cake was actually not a cake but cookies. Why did I call it a cake? It was shortbread cookies, aka The Food of my People. Shortbread contains a ridiculous amount of butter and uses the whipped butter to leaven. This shortbread uses maple crystals instead of white sugar so that’s why it’s kind of brown. I always thought that the little holes in shortbread were for decorative purposes but they are actually there for some of the steam from the butter to escape. Cool right?

I was trying to think of some way to veganize it but I don’t think there’s any way to get that butter flavor. If I replaced it with coconut oil and gave it to my shortbread-loving Scottish mother, she would probably not be impressed. The last cake the chef baked was a Genois that uses whipped eggs as the leavener.

I’m so excited to get my bake on tomorrow!

When I got home from class I drank some kombucha, went to yoga and then came home and saw this weird rash on my arm. It’s raised, hurts when I press it and really freaks me out…

I also have this weird growth on my lap… I wonder what it could be…