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Almost vegan in San Francisco I

February 15, 2011

I feel like this has been one of the most eventful weeks of my life—yet it’s only Tuesday!

Many, many thanks to those of you who have congratulated me on my Hot Raw Chef contest win. I’m still a little in shock—I’ve felt simultaneously overwhelmed and elated since yesterday. The well wishes have been pouring in, and please know that although I haven’t been able to respond to all, I’ve read and greatly appreciated every single one. I also want to thank my competitors for being such worthy opponents, and for creating their amazing recipes and videos! If you voted, you should’ve received the e-book by now—isn’t it fabulous?! I now have 43 other incredible raw desserts to try my hand at in the coming months.

In addition to all that excitement,
1) yesterday was Valentine’s Day.
2) today is Matt‘s and my semi-anniversary (1.5 years…I can’t believe it’s already been that long. Then again, I can’t believe it’s only been that long!)
3) we’re in SAN FRANCISCO, baby! And with that, welcome to my newest series of travel posts: picturesque San Fran. The first stop on my self-planned foodie tour will come as no surprise.

As soon as we were checked into our hotel, Matt and I made a beeline for Café Gratitude on Harrison Street. I’ve eyed their menu online many a time, and I was thrilled to finally be able to eat there. It took some willpower to stay away from their merch wall.

To start, Matt ordered an I Am Luscious smoothie, a blend of hazelnut milk, figs, dates, raw cacao, and vanilla, while I opted for a lighter I Am Worthy “Blood Tonic” juice with kale, beet, apple, and ginger.

For his main dish, Matt got the I Am Celebrating special of the day: raw deep-dish pizza! It had mushrooms, pesto, black olive tapenade, and cashew cheese on a thick raw crust, plus a salad on the side. I tried a bite, and it was certainly worth celebrating; salty and full of umami.

I chose the I Am Abundant raw sampler plate, with a spring roll, a buckwheat cracker, spicy cashew nacho cheese on a flax chip, hempseed pesto crostini, sprouted almond hummus, olive tapenade, and a mini cup of raw coconut-curry soup. It was everything I wanted it to be, and then some. The almond toast that formed the crostini was especially impressive; so crunchy!

Dessert was a must, obviously, so we ordered the I Am Bliss chocolate-hazelnut cream torte.

I could tell the chocolate-hazelnut mousse was lightened up with Irish moss paste, which made it ethereally fluffy. The cacao nib-pecan crust and the airy whipped cashew cream made this dessert the total package.

Even though Matt and I didn’t really “celebrate” Valentine’s Day (i.e. no gifts, no cards, no fuss), this meal felt like a celebration. I was happy as a clam.

As satiated as I was when we left, I couldn’t resist getting one more treat to-go…

What can I say, this I Am Joy “rawmond joy” nugget was calling my name!

Coconut, almonds, vanilla, chocolate…yum.

When we returned to our hotel, Matt had to turn right around and head to his conference (the whole reason we’re here to begin with), so no one but me was hanging out in our room when this got delivered to the door…

Spring water and a great big fruit plate, courtesy of Matt’s work! Matt gave me permission via text message to dig in, so the grapes, strawberries, and apple made their way into my tummy over the course of the evening.

The night wasn’t over, though—no, sir! Matt returned around 8:30, and since we were both pretty ravenous, we hopped in a cab and skipped on over to Café Gratitude’s sister restaurant, Gracias Madre. VEGAN MEXICAN!

This restaurant was simply made for me. Vegan. Organic. Mexican. And the Virgin Mary was everywhere! (Little-known fact: I casually collect Virgin Mary “memorabilia,” especially Latin-themed items. And nope, I’m not religious in the least.) I wanted to buy one of their hoodies SO badly, but alas, at $45 a pop, I just couldn’t justify it. Instead, Matt and I got a bottle of their house wine, and I’m taking the bottle home to add to my Mary collection. I also sipped (or rather, downed-in-less-than-five-minutes) a glass of creamy, sugary horchata, a favorite of mine.

In our hungry haste, Matt and I decided to split an appetizer first.

We got the Gorditas, incredibly moist corn patties topped with tomatillo salsa, avocado, cashew sour cream, and cilantro. Major wow.

For his main dish, Matt elected for the Enchiladas con Mole, which were mole-sauce-doused open-face tortillas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and refried black beans.

I chose the Platillo de Legumbres, with rajas (roasted poblano chile strips sautéed with onion), calabaza (butternut squash roasted with garlic and olive oil), refried black beans, and brown rice. Oily, greasy, and heavy? Yes. Absolutely, soul-satisfyingly amazing? YES.

Surely we didn’t get dessert after all this, right? Wrong! (Come on, we’re on vacation!) We split a plate of Mexican Wedding Cookies with dulce de leche ice cream. I can hardly believe this entire meal was vegan—no lard, no cheese, no cream, yet utterly authentic and delicious.

I went to bed with a full tummy and a full heart. I hope all of you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day as well! Stay tuned for more San Francisco eats and treats throughout this week.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2011 8:11 pm

    WHHHAAAAAAAAA!!!! I had NO idea that this Mexican restaurant existed!!! If I were a rich girl, I’d get on a plane this weekend just to go and eat there!!! Wow! Not that the chocolate torte didn’t look good, but I’ve been having a fit for Mexican lately, and it could be a real free-for-all if I could find a vegan place like that! So fun!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:52 am

      You’ve got to try both of these places sometime, I’m telling you!

  2. February 15, 2011 8:21 pm

    That vegan Mexican restaurant sounds amazing–I should visit it next time I go. Vegan ice cream is always a winner in my book 😉

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:53 am

      You definitely should! It was amazing.

  3. February 15, 2011 8:23 pm

    Dulce de leche ice cream! I totally need to go there with my hubs!!! We really wanted to go to SF for our honeymoon but opted for a place that neither of us had visited. Big regret! Anyhoo, I had horchata yesterday too! Sounds like you ar having a blast. Continue having fun! I made something fun for you tonight. I am giddy excited!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:54 am

      You should absolutely go there! Back to SF AND to Gracias Madre, I mean 🙂 There’s no such thing as too much horchata!

  4. February 15, 2011 8:23 pm

    I forgot to tell you congrats in your last post so I’m gonna do it now:


    On being 2011’s Hot Raw Chef!

    As for the food, I am now convinced that if I go to San Francisco one day, Gracias Madre will be on my list! That place looks awesome! I love Mexican food!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:54 am

      Hehe, thanks Jess!

      Gracias Madre was fantasmic!

  5. February 15, 2011 8:36 pm

    I’m so glad you’re having a great time. Both restaurants are the top of my list when I visit SF in August. Thank you for the great preview 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 15, 2011 8:37 pm

      Perhaps it’s my way of thanking you in advance for the help you’ll lend me in Toronto in June! 🙂

  6. February 15, 2011 8:53 pm

    Both places look so delicious! I hope they come out with a cookbook for the mexican place. I love mexican. I have made that hazelnut pie and it’s amazing. One of my favorites.

    Happy Anniversary!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 15, 2011 8:54 pm

      I was thinking the same thing as I was eating at Gracias Madre – “please, please, please write a cookbook!”

  7. February 15, 2011 8:55 pm

    Seriously, you go to the coolest restaurants! ALL of that food looked so delicious!!

    P.S. Congrats on winning the competition!! I haven’t gotten around to the older posts, but I saw that you won via the email they sent out to everyone that voted!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:54 am

      I always do restaurant research ahead of time 😛

      Thanks for the congrats!

  8. kathi permalink
    February 15, 2011 10:34 pm

    so happy for you! everything looks delicious 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:55 am

      Thank you Kathi!

  9. February 15, 2011 11:33 pm

    definitely inspiring me to go back to SF again for a vacation. i could use some of that vegan mexican food!!! you guys look so happy together! congrats on the anniversary!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:55 am

      Thanks Cliff! Sounds like it’s time for you to return to SF soon 🙂

  10. February 16, 2011 6:38 am

    I just. want. everything. EVERYTHING. You mostly. 😉 Ohhhh…. I think of everything here, I’d want the raw sampler platter first, because it’s so hard for me to find raw anything here. (Really, it’s impossible in Canberra.) I hope I can one day find Irish Moss, because I like the idea of a fluffier raw vegan cake. The two cakes I had at Yong Green were nice, but so dense!

    Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of the trip 🙂

    P.S. I’m sorry if this is a lame-ish comment. I’m rather exhausted from the second gospel rehearsal 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:56 am

      Lame-ish?! Nothing of the sort! What’s lame is how behind on blog-reading I am. I have not had a free moment in weeks, it feels like 😦 Part of me is thisclose to hitting “mark all as read” on the 300+ posts sitting in my Google reader…but some blogs, such as YOURS, I could never do that with 🙂

      • March 4, 2011 5:58 pm

        Aw, that’s very sweet, but you know that YOU come first. xoxo

      • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
        March 4, 2011 6:29 pm

        Well, even if so, I miss our banter 🙂

  11. February 16, 2011 7:09 am

    AHH what great food!! esp those treats OH my.. my mouth is watering!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:57 am

      Mine is too, looking back on these meals! 😛

  12. February 16, 2011 7:48 am

    What beautiful photos! Happy celebrating.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:57 am

      Thanks Elizabeth!

  13. February 16, 2011 8:07 am

    Both of those places look amazing. The husband and I may end up in SF for a conference of his too later this year, so I’ll have to find a way to convince him to try one or both of these when we go.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:58 am

      Oh, definitely do. At least Gracias Madre. It may be the most omnivore-pleasing vegan restaurant I’ve ever been to.

  14. February 16, 2011 11:59 am

    Oh I am drooling over here! Both restaurants sound amazing. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time in SF!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:58 am

      Thanks Heather! Both restaurants WERE amazing 🙂

  15. February 16, 2011 12:42 pm

    Sounds like so much fun!!! And wow….look that that delicious looking food! I would go crazy if I were there. 🙂

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 10:59 am

      Oh, man…I ate like it was my JOB in that city! Haha. It’s hard not to!

  16. February 16, 2011 2:54 pm

    Ahh, sweet nostalgia for Cafe G–I remember when the Harrison St location was their only one. You made great choices and it’s interesting to see that the sampler plate looks a little bit different now but mostly the same. Gracias Madre was either not on my radar or not yet there when I lived in the Bay Area–sounds absolutely scrumptious.

    I hope you’re getting the perfect blend of quality time with your wonderful man and great alone time to absorb the wonderful things that are befalling you.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      March 4, 2011 11:00 am

      I believe Gracias Madre just opened in 2010. Next time you’re in SF, I HIGHLY recommend it!

      I feel like I did get that balance you speak of 🙂 It was a wonderful week.

  17. Veggie V permalink
    February 17, 2011 6:18 pm

    I voted in the contest, but I didn’t get my eBook, which is REALLY disappointing 😦

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      February 17, 2011 6:19 pm

      Oh no! Tell you what – I’ll email you a copy right away 🙂

  18. May 4, 2011 10:38 am

    I’m not so sure about the Mexican food, but your lunch looked fabulous! And that chocolate dessert…mmmm!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      May 4, 2011 3:09 pm

      Since when do you not like Mexican food?!
      That chocolate dessert was AMAZING!

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