Thanks for the sweet comments about yesterday’s post, I’m glad I can look back on those days and realize how much I’ve grown since. The rain didn’t stop us from having a great time in San Francisco yesterday, though it tried for the drive in!
We went to the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age exhibit at the de Young Museum and had a wonderful time. But when we first arrived, we were starved for lunch and headed for the museum cafe. I was very pleased with the creative, local vegan options.
Not cheap, which we didn’t expect it would be and figured that was why families were tailgating lunch in the parking garage, but we hardly ever eat out like this. The pear was very sweet, fresh and crunchy. The root veggies were great, perfect balance of thyme and olive oil while the sweet currents left a nice after taste and seemed to balance it out perfectly. The black bean salad was surprisingly spicy and we loved it! It probably would have had a bit too much kick for some, like my mom, but I really appreciated the daring level of heat and the perfectly ripe avocado slices in it. Just great creative and fresh options in a casual, self-serve cafe. I wish I could find more options like these on the road, at McDonalds or the airport, I’d probably eat out a lot more if these options were available.
Sorry, no pictures from the exhibit, photography was strictly forbidden and there were plenty of guards enforcing it everywhere. But, it was an awesome exhibit of all the artifacts found in King Tut’s tomb. A must see for history geeks. After the exhibit, the sun came out just in time for us to head up to the museum tower for some impressive views of the city.
Just barely see the Golden Gate bridge in the background, I love the city architecture and huge variety in the neighborhoods and seeing the individual restorations of the older buildings.
The California Academy of Sciences building which we did not get time to see, but a must for a future trip.
Great city view with the rain clouds moving through.
We also checked out the museum shops where I avoided temptation to buy this really cool recycled chopstick fruit basket.
Maybe I’ll try making my own :-)
About dinner time, we navigated rush hour traffic (not an easy task in SF!) to get to another restaurant I’ve been wanting to try – Gracias Madre! A vegan, organic Mexican restaurant started by the Cafe Gratitude owners. Not raw, but gluten and refined sugar free.
The location was not exactly in the best part of town, lots if interesting, sketchy shops with bars on the windows, exotic smoke shops, cluttered knock-off shops, etc. Not an area I’d like to walk alone in at night. Plus it was a pain to navigate too, San Francisco is not an easy city to drive in because the streets aren’t on a grid like Sacramento, there are tons of diagonal streets winding everywhere, lots of one-ways and intersections with crazy rules like no left turns between 8 AM to 5 PM. Mix that with tons of traffic, pedestrians and tiny traffic signals and lanes that suddenly become turn only and it can still be a gray-hair inducing with the assistance of a GPS. And our cars are stick shift which gets old quick in traffic and lots of hills! After a few wrong turns, we finally made it and at the perfect time before the crowds started pouring in.
The entry is a quaint little patio with rustic wood tables. The inside of the restaurant did not match the older outside, it was brand new with big, rustic, wooden tables, newly painted and tiled walls, beautiful wooden bar and a very clean atmosphere, even the restrooms were new and immaculate. The building was gutted and completely redone inside it seemed.
It was also a very warm, not overly done Mexican theme with tasteful colors and uniform tables and chairs, unlike the Cafe Gratitude location in Berkeley. But like Cafe Gratitude, the main dinning area consisted of large tables with communal seating. When we first arrived at about 5:30 PM, we got a huge 6 seat table all to ourselves in a quiet nook. But, a party of 4 was seated with us by the time we got to dessert around 7 PM. Well, only one of the party was seated at the other end of the table while he waited for the rest. And he had no interest in talking to us, he was busy writing in a notepad and surfing on his iPhone avoiding eye contact. When the rest for the party arrived, it seemed because he was nervous about impressing the date he was waiting for – cute.
Anyway, water was served in empty wine bottles that the wait staff just replaced when it got empty and they were very prompt in doing so.
For the appetizer, we went withe the waiter’s recommendation of fresh guacamole and the fresh, soft corn tortillas that arrived in a cute basket.
It was a little different spreading the guacamole on tortillas and ripping pieces off to dip, but very good. The fresh flavor and soft texture on the tortillas was very good and the guacamole was just wow! It has a satisfying lime, garlic, fresh cilantro and jalapeno heat flavors perfectly balanced. Again, I really liked the daring level of spice that many restaurants seem to tone down too much. It was a satisfying snack while perusing the short menu that seemed to have too many great choices.
I final decided on the Tamal because it’s been ages since I’ve had a tamale and never one with butternut squash and green chiles inside.
Between lunch and dinner, I got my fill of black beans for awhile :-) Hard to tell from the pic, but the vegetables have huge chunks of jalapeno mixed in and heavy spice divinely distributed – great for me, but may be too hot for some. The black beans were very flavorful with onion and garlic and the portion was just right. The butternut inside the tamale was unique and amazing.
The seasoned ground corn and spicy squash center made this a tasty combo far from the dried, microwave frozen tamales I remember as a kid.
Hubby got the chile relleno with squash and cashew sour cream,
Like the tamale, the unique squash filling was very good with a lot of kick and texture nothing like the traditional cheese filling usually served in chile relleno.
Next was my favorite course, dessert :-) Many reviewers raved about the wedding cookies with ice cream on Yelp, so I had to get it.
The cookies were good, crunchy almond cookies with a sweet, powdery covering. But the creamy coconut ice was the winning star of this dessert. My husband is skeptical of vegan dairy alternatives being able to tell they’re non-dairy instantly due to off texture. But even he was impressed with the creamy texture and taste of this ice cream saying he wouldn’t have known it was non-dairy. The coconut flavor was super-rich and the toasted coconut shreds mixed in gave it a great crunch.
He tried the flan for dessert.
It was also very good, but not really like traditional flan, it had a creamy, chocolate/mocha flavor to it with a smooth vanilla aftertaste. I helped myself to quite a bit while he was reaching for the ice cream :-)
With 2 drinks, appetizer, 2 entrees and 2 desserts, the total bill was under $50, very good for such amazing food in San Francisco. If you have a chance to visit this place, I highly recommend it.
The walk back to our car in the dark was an interesting journey in that neighborhood. We pass many more Mexican joints and packed bars, but the kicker was a couple cooking sausage on the street from their minivan on a camp grill to sell on the spot. No one was lining up when we walked by, I guess after a few drinks at the many bars in the area, the smell is attractive? Good times.