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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5 Shocking Facts About Pesticides Used on Food

In the light of the recent elections to mandate GMO labeling (which sadly did not pass), I decided to educate myself more about the mysteries of America’s agricultural industry. So I decided to turn my romantic chick flick movie night, into an educational one and watched Our Daily Poisona documentary by Marie Monique-Robin, author of “The World According to Monsanto.”

Organic Farmers Market Produce

Organic Farmers Market Veggies

This film blew my mind. It seems that the general population was much more alarmed by the use of pesticides in our food back in the 1960s, when these chemicals were first introduced into our food chain. More than 50 years later, these efforts have long died out and we seem to have accepted that using pesticides on our food is actually quite normal. This film makes it apparent that the government, not just within the US, but international committees as well, including the World Health Organization, has not done a very good job in being transparent when it comes to the reporting and monitoring of these poisons and their harmful effects on humans.

organic dry farmed tomatoes summer

Organic Dry Farmed Tomatoes

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Calling All Shefs!

Hey friends, I want to hear from you!

Fresh Berry Cheesecake Tart

Dinner Party Cheesecake Tart

I spend a lot of time researching recipes and thinking of what to make next. Sometimes these ideas come easily to me, and sometimes I get “recipe-block” and end up scouring the web and flipping through my cookbooks for hours.Pumpkin Ginger Cupcake Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetcornbread, muffin, honey butter, fluffy

My goal on Shef Sherry is to come up with recipes that all of you will find delicious and can relate to. Perhaps the (oh so soft) cornbread recipe I posted last fall reminds you of Thanksgiving dinner at home. I want to know what your favorite foods and recipes are, and what makes them so special to you. It could be your everyday morning breakfast smoothie, or that Taiwanese meat stew that your mom makes for you every time you come home.

I want to try it all.

The idea here is that after I receive your recipes, I will attempt to make the recipe at home. If I manage to do this successfully, I will post your recipe (equipped with pretty pictures) and your story on Shef Sherry so that not only can you share it with all of your friends, but the world!

Heirloom Potato SaladI know I’m not the only one who can cook, so click on the “Whatchu Got?” tab on the menu above to submit your recipe today.

7 Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Granola

Pumpkin Spice Granola with Cranberries and seedsFALL IS HERE.

Well, it’s BEEN here. But now that it’s already Halloween I feel even more guilty that I haven’t posted a single pumpkin recipe yet this fall.

Baked Pumpkin Spice Granola baking sheet

Fall is my favorite season because everything about it just breeds nostalgia. Walking through the chilly San Francisco winds makes me just want to get home as soon as possible, so that I can put on my warm fluffy socks and cuddle up to a cup of hot cocoa. The leaves changing, falling into splashes of reds and golds on the cement sidewalks take me back to the large backyard of my childhood home, where I used to rake up the giant leaves of the Live Oaks watching over me.

Pumpkin Spice Granola TablescapePumpkinSeedGranola

This nostalgia makes us crave comfort foods. Which is why I feel that around this time of year, the baking scene is filled with overly sweet and decadent treats. This is why I have yet to post a pumpkin recipe. With my trip to Miami coming up soon, maybe I don’t want to eat something that will go straight to my thighs.

So I thought of a way to incorporate all the flavors of fall into a baked treat that makes a healthier alternative to the overly decadent pumpkin cakes, pies, cookies and cheesecakes that seem to be closing in on us from every bakery, grocery store and food blog. Continue reading

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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Soft Hokkaido Milk Bread

Soft Raisin Hokkaido Milk Bread

I grew up eating this stuff.

Utterly soft, pillowy, white, glutinous, and deliciously CARB-y.

Despite my recent efforts to eat healthy and semi-carb free, I could not resist making this recipe when I saw it on Food52.

Hokkaido Milk Bread

Raisin Hokkaido Milk BreadDon’t worry, I was intimidated too. I mean look at it, it looks beautiful, and is probably the softest bread on the face of the earth. About a year ago, during my novice pastry days, I’d perused the web looking for Hokkaido Milk Bread recipes to simply just entertain the thought of taking on such a project.

Fresh Baked Hokkaido Milk Bread LoafFrom cooking the “tangzhong” (I still don’t know the right way to pronounce it in Chinese), to converting metric measures to American cups and teaspoons, you could imagine how intimidated I’d felt to try and recreate my childhood favorite comfort bread.

Tangzhong RouxSo what the heck is tangzhong?

Invented in Taiwan, the use of tangzhong is quite prevalent in many Asian style breads. It is a water roux that is cooked and added to the dough. Because this roux holds a lot of water, it gives the bread the moistness and thus, softness that is so characteristic of Hokkaido Milk Bread.

Hokkaido Milk Bread ToastAnother reason why Hokkaido Milk Bread is so soft, is because of it’s higher fat content. As the name entails, milk is added to the dough instead of water, as well as a good amount of heavy cream.

Let’s just say if you’re trying to get your body in shape for a trip to Miami soon (like I am…) this probably isn’t the best thing to be eating. But who cares, life’s too short to skimp on carbs.

#YOLO

Hokkaido Milk Bread Stretchy Continue reading

Wild Blackberry Galette

Wild Blackberry Galette Slice with honey yogurt

This past weekend I made my first galette, a wild blackberry galette to be exact.  What prompted me to take on such an endeavor was a recent camping trip this past weekend. From breathing in the fresh crisp forest air, to being surrounded by giant trees (and wild blackberries) and hearing the gentle ocean waves crashing against the sea cliffs, it sure was nice to be immersed in mother nature’s embrace. 

Okay okay…the trip was more like “GLAM-ping” (a clever term coined by my friend Carline).  Yes, there were tents involved…but there was also a Safeway located less than 15 minutes away, showers with hot water onsite, portable stove, and enough food to feed a small army. Oh and of course copious amounts of s’mores. It was indeed quite the glamorous camping trip. But hey, what do you expect from someone who’s never camped before? 

Wild Blackberries Mendocino CountyNonetheless, I still had the opportunity to get rugged and get some dirt under my nails. While “hiking” along a rather tame trail towards the beautiful Mendocino beach, I discovered a few ladies doing something amongst the thorny bushes. Upon closer examination, I noticed that these thorny bushes were actually wild blackberry vines! Apparently, the locals around here conduct an annual harvest of these sweet and juicy blackberries. Immediately, I got down and dirty and joined them in the harvest. After clumsily pricking myself on the thorns way too many times, I decided to call it quits. I’d only managed to pick a few blackberries, most of which I immediately just threw into my mouth. “Tomorrow will be a new day,” I said to myself. 

Wild Blackberry Galette Slices

The next day, we all decided to go down to the river. Mr. Williams (a gentleman, formerly known as “Boo”) and I decided to do some exploring while our friends did their thing kayaking down the river. Walking along the river, we stumbled upon MORE wild blackberries. These things just grow everywhere! What started out as just having fun picking a few berries here and there to snack on, quickly became a deliberate plan to pick every single ripened berry in our path. 

The motive: to make a blackberry pie. Continue reading

A Pintxo This, A Pintxo That…

San Sebastian Pintxos

Whilst in San Sebastian, I experienced a heavenly sight. Bars filled with rows and rows of delectable tapas. Well at least that’s what I thought they were. Here in San Sebastian, the use of the word “tapas” is actually sacrilegious, and instead they are referred to as “pintxos.” Pronounced “peen-chos.”

Chevre Pistachio PintxoAnchovy Pickled Pepper Pintxo

According to a bar owner I met, pintxos are traditionally pinched with a toothpick and attached to a piece of bread. However, nowadays, all bar snacks are referred to as pintxos regardless of the toothpick. Mini sandwiches and slices of Spanish tortilla also fit in the pintxos category.

Variety of seafood Pintxos Continue reading