My Feelings About San Francisco

San Francisco Skyline Clouds

It’s a tough town to get a long with. It may be portrayed as the center of the modern world right now—the idyllic paradise where young CEOs seem to be starting startups straight out of college and dine at Michelin starred restaurants whenever they please.

You’d think I’d be inspired by these seemingly motivated “young kids,” grabbing life by the horns and becoming the future of business. Every time I hear someone say, “Yeah, I started my own app,” I feel like I’m going to vomit.

Kouign Amann and Almond Croissant at B. Patisserie SF

Kouign Amann and Almond Croissant at B. Patteserie.

Well maybe I’d start my own app too if I had Daddy’s trust fund as a security blanket to keep me warm at night. Perhaps I’m just being bitter. But as someone who moved to what used to be one of the world’s most artistic cities, and to become inspired by its creativity, I have become disappointed by the homogenous, and recklessly materialistic wasteland it has become.

Four Dollar Strawberry Toast The Mill

Four Dollar Toast with Strawberry Jam at The Mill.

Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe it’s my fault that I chose not to get a techie job and live a Kate Spade-clad techie lifestyle. Maybe it’s my fault that I hate the Marina. Sorry Lululemon for not spending my life’s savings on your yoga pants. Sorry I don’t frequent the Ferry building farmer’s market to take IG photos, and shell out five bucks for a tiny(although very sweet) peach. What if I don’t want to make a reservation two months in advance just to eat at a decent restaurant?!

“Oh, but don’t you love the great food?” Yes, if I didn’t feel like I was bleeding hoards of money every time I ate out, then yes I’d love it here! I’d never leave this idyllic foodie paradise! (That four-dollar toast is legit doe.)

Yes, it’s my fault that I came to San Francisco to actually find myself and live out my dreams. How foolish of me.

Bread Shelf at The Mill in SF

Racks on racks of freshly baked bread at The Mill.

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Yamo: Cheap Burmese in SF

If you have lived in San Francisco for at least two years and have still not been to Yamo…you need to go immediately after reading this post.

Yamo has been an SF institution for like…ever. This place is the very definition of “hole-in-the-wall”. Tightly tucked between a cell phone store and the corner liquor, it’s an 8-seater eatery that dishes out the city’s best Burmese food that you can get for $6 a plate.

Yamo-Burmese-Chicken-Noodle-Coconut-Soup-Mission-San-Francisco

I’d heard of this Yamo place many times. Located on the corner of 19th and Mission St., I’d always hurriedly walked past, either on my way to my favorite vegan place, Gracias Madre, located on the opposite corner, or following some hipster foodies to some boujie trendy restaurant on Valencia. Out of all the good eats that SF has to offer, I never felt the urgency to try this hole-in-the-wall place which also didn’t have the best curb appeal.

Well…I know better now.

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Top 3 Best Pho in the Tenderloin

Pho at Tuyet Mai in the Tenderloin San Francisco

The Tenderloin has a bad rep, yes.

Historically, it’s always been bad here. This part of downtown San Francisco is called the “Tenderloin” because police officers used to get paid more to patrol this nasty area of the city, and were able to afford pricier cuts of meat, such as beef tenderloin.

This is where the homeless call home. It’s where rickety shopping carts packed with a lifetime of belongings crawl the streets squeaking past the makeshift flea markets that line the sidewalk floors. However, once you look past the neon-lit liquor stores located on every corner and the sleazy dive bars that stink of cigarette stained carpet, you’ll find yourself at the corner of Eddy and Larkin, where you will be greeted by the red and gold gateway to Little Saigon—home of the best pho in the city.

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve pretty much been traveling nonstop, only spending a few days here at home. And boy did I choose the right time to travel—smack dab in the middle of the worst storm to hit San Francisco  in decades. I don’t usually eat out much on my own, but after a few delayed flights and nearly missing a job interview, I think I deserve a big bowl of steaming hot pho.

With dozens of pho places in Little Saigon alone, how is one supposed to choose? Well I’ve gone ahead and narrowed down the overwhelming selection to include my top 3 pho places. You can thank me later. Continue reading

San Francisco Eats: Gracias Madre

Gracias Madre vegan restaurant san francisco Mission

Something has always eluded me about Gracias Madre. From the name alone, I knew it was a Mexican restaurant, but then I started hearing that it was actually a vegan spot. A vegan Mexican restaurant? Well, that’s just unheard of.

How can Mexican food be Mexican, without carne asada, pollo asado, and my favorite, lengua? These are the flavors that I’ve associated with real Mexican food growing up in various parts of Los Angeles and San Diego, where there are taquerias on every street corner filling the air with aromas of roasted carnitas.

Needless to say, I had my doubts. It didn’t really help that this seemingly “pseudo-Mexican-vegan-hippie place” was established in the Mission—home of the hipsters. Therefore, it took me about one year of passing by this place numerous times, to finally walk-in and give it a chance. I also had to stop hating on this place because my good friend now works there.

Well, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Gracias Madre vegan dining

First off, the ambiance is intimately festive and inviting. The warm tones of natural wood from floor to ceiling really make this place feel cozy. The handpainted Mexican tiles along the walls and floor, add just the right touch of color and festivity without being tacky. It’s as if you are walking into your abuelita’s house for dinner, where she’s been spending all day cooking a fulfilling meal just for you. The kitchen is open, and I love it when restaurants are set up this way. I love being able to have full visibility of how my food is being prepared. It adds another level of feeling connected to what you are about to put into your body, and another level of trust that is established with the people that are feeding you.

As my crew and I sit down, the first order of business is of course, drinks. Here, they offer a small, yet wonderful selection of organic wines and locally-crafted beers, as well as a variety of craft cocktails spiked with Soju. You won’t find hard liquor here. They even have a wine made from the grapes harvested from the restaurants’ farm in Sonoma. I end up ordering the El Burro–a Moscow mule type of drink with house-made ginger beer, mint, and Soju.

Gracias Madre Vegan Restaurant Mission San Francisco

Yes. Gracias Madre has their own bio-dynamic farm, the Be Love Farm, where they source most of the ingredients they use in the kitchen. They even make their own tortillas from non-GMO corn grown on the farm. This place isn’t just riding on the trend of sourcing local organic ingredients, they’re really embodying the philosophy. This is really as local as it can get.

You’d be surprised at how many places in the city can claim to be using local ingredients, when they’re really not, considering that a dinner in the city can cost an arm and a leg these days. As someone who used to work in the kitchen of a top restaurant in the city, it’s easy to play the part when the customer already assumes that they are eating local; especially in the Bay Area where the best produce in the nation comes from.

Anyways, where were we? Yes, the food.

I always love trying new restaurants with a group of people, so that you can order a bunch and try everything. I’ll go over the dishes here one by one:

Gracias Madre Kale and Orange salad in a chipotle dressing

Ensalada de Cole Rizada

Kale salad with orange slices, shredded jicama, carrots and toasted almonds dressed in a smoky yet light chipotle vinaigrette

An explosion of flavor, yet refreshing and light. The crunchy textural elements played nicely with the tender kale. The tartness from the flavorful vinaigrette really gets the salivation going in preparation for the following dishes. A great starter to the evening.

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Kimchi Tofu Dumplings

Pleated Kimchi Tofu Dumplings

I’ve been feeling rather stuck lately…

Career going nowhere. Check.

Relationship woes. Check.

Feeling lost. Check.

Feeling bloated. Check.

Questioning the point of my existence. Check.

Fried Kimchi Tofu Dumpling

Okay I may have exaggerated on that last part. But whenever I’m feeling like this, what does the mature, independent woman inside of me want to do?

 I just wanna go home :(

 

Of course it is not possible to simply go home to mommy, whenever I’m feeling emotionally unstable. At 24 years old, I think it’s safe to say that I am a grown-up. Therefore, I usually satisfy my nostalgia for home in the form of food…such as dumplings. Back at home, my mom always keeps the freezer stocked with plump little handmade dumplings that she gets from the dumpling lady who makes them out of her house somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley (where the best dumplings come from).

Kimchi Tofu Dumpling Wrapping StationFreshly wrapped kimchi tofu dumplings

So I decided to satisfy my yearning for some much-needed comfort food by making dumplings for myself. Geez, it’s been years since I’ve wrapped a dumpling. How do are you supposed to do it again? Whatever… maybe my muscle memory will come into play.Kimchi Tofu Dumpling Filling

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Getting “Stuffed” in Turkey

Midye Dolma Lemon

In Turkish, the word “dolma” means “stuffed.”

You will see this word on most menus at Turkish restaurants. They come in the form of many things. Basically, anything can be made into a dolma, as long as it is stuffed with a filling. 

The most popular dolma are “midye dolma,” stuffed mussels with rice and spices. They are a local street food favorite, and you will find carts on the street selling these magnificent jewels of seafood goodness. 

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Ischia: The vacation from my vacation

Ischia Forio SunsetDowntown Forio, Ischia

I had never heard of this island until I got to Naples, Italy. Located just off the coast and less than one hour by ferry, it is the ultimate vacation spot for the locals. Forget the touristic frenzy and overpriced extravagance of Capri. Ischia has retained that untouched quality that so many of us travellers are looking for, but thought had ceased to exist. The streets are still paved with cobblestone. Vintage Fiats needle through the narrow alleyways, barely avoiding hitting the walls by just a hair. No gaudy golden arches of McDonald’s or Starbucks to be seen anywhere.

Alley in Forio, Ischia

Forio Port in Ischia

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An Intimate Study of Gelato

Whilst in Italy, my diet has consisted of at least one gelato a day.

A great diet, if you ask me. 

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have gathered for your viewing and salivatory pleasures.

Pistachio Stracciatella Gelato

Pistachio Stracciatella. Rome. 

The Pistachio Stacciatella was by far the most memorable. Sweet cheese stracciatella gelato swirled with ribbons of real pistachio paste, laced with crushed pistachios. An amalgamy of textures ranging from creamy to chewy to crunchy. Que bellisimo! You can find it at Il Gelatone in Rome. They also offer the widest range of flavors out of all the gelaterias I visited. 

Pistachio Mandarin Gelato

Pistachio and Mandarin. Rome.

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Da Michele: The true Neapolitan pizza?

Da Michele Verace Pizza Napoletana

Naples is the birthplace of pizza. It is difficult not to find a good pie around here. The streets are filled with pizza shops, with display windows of the pizza makers, “pizzaiolos,”  hard at work kneading and forming the elastic balls of dough with care. EVERY pizza joint is equipped with a wood-fired oven, which is just a formality in the States. And don’t you dare ask for extra Parm, chili flakes, or any additional condiments. Here, pizzaiolos take their pizza very seriously and are proud of their product.

Da Michele Neopolitan Pizza

So much so, that the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN)  was started in 1984. It’s an association that is dedicated towards regulating the branding of the term “verace pizza Napoletana,” the true Neapolitan pizza. Similar to the guidelines behind the branding of the term, “champagne.” The AVPN is responsible for regulating the use of the brand “verace pizza Napoletana,” and works consistently to inspect the establishments that are under its license. In order to to be considered a legitimate pizza maker of Neopolitan pizza, one must follow the strict guidelines set forth by the association.

Da Michele wood fired oven

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