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Tag Archives: San Francisco

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

For my birthday this year, I told my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law that I would love to go out for lunch.  I had suggested a place with both vegan and omnivore options, but after some research, my mother-in-law very thoughtfully suggested Gracias Madre.  Gracias Madre is a 100% vegan restaurant that began in San Francisco and recently opened another location in West Hollywood.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood | A Vegan in Progress

My first impression was that the restaurant was really pretty – very light and airy.  It was a beautiful LA day, so the restaurant was open to the patio.  The seating was very comfortable, with a variety of benches and chairs at every table, and it wasn’t too crowded.  We were seated on the patio.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood | A Vegan in Progress

We were offered a water as well as sparkling water and were brought a carafe of both.  It took a while to order and I think it was for a couple of reasons.  For me, I’m not used to being able to order literally anything on a menu, but for Eric’s family, I think it was a little foreign for them to be navigating a vegan menu.

We started with a couple of appetizers – the Gorditas and the Papas al Horno.  The Gorditas, described as “potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew crema,” were wonderful.  I loved the potato-masa cakes and the toppings were very fresh.  The Papas al Horno, described as “roasted potatoes with olive oil and garlic topped with chipotle cashew nacho cheese,” were cooked well and tasted fine, but not worth ordering them again unless you love potatoes with cheese.

I ordered a Tamal because I have always loved tamales and don’t get to have them often since they aren’t usually vegan.  Their tamal is a “stoneground heirloom masa steamed in the husk filled with sautéed butternut squash, poblano peppers and onions, served with beans and escabeche.”  The tamal was the right texture, with flavorful filling, but there wasn’t enough of it.  Mostly, I tasted masa and the salsa I topped the tamal with.  The beans that accompanied it, though, were creamy and delicious.  My sister-in-law ordered the same thing and liked the dish as well.

Eric got the Enchiladas con Mole, “spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans.”  He absolutely loved them and let me have a bite.  I’m definitely not a fan of mole in regular circumstances, I don’t really understand using cinnamon and chocolate in a savory sauce.  However, this stuff was amazing!  I could taste every little thing in the sauce, kind of like when I had a bowl of Emeril Lagasse’s gumbo from his Steakhouse in my pre-vegan days.  Next time we go to Gracias Madre, I may order this dish for myself!

My mother-in-law got the tacos, “three corn tortillas topped with seared cauliflower, grilled calabaza verde, and mushrooms. Topped with cashew crema, served with beans.”  I had a bite and thought that they were very tasty, but I’m not a huge fan of mushroom texture.  However, I think I might order these in the future, they were that good.

My grandmother-in-law ordered the El Plato, which was a little of everything and came with tortillas.  The menu describes it as “butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, plantains, cilantro pesto, escabeche, rice, pico de gallo and beans.”  She really enjoyed her fresh and plentiful dish.

Overall, I was very impressed with Gracias Madre.  The service was very good and timely throughout the meal and the food was all very fresh and well-prepared.  The prices were also decent for the upscale feel of the restaurant.  Despite having ordered fresh-squeezed juices and appetizers for a party of five, we spent only about $30 more than the time that three of us dined at Mohawk Bend.  I will definitely be back to Gracias Madre!

Vegan at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Daly City, Bay Area

Nerd alert!   . . .   For many years, my family has been heavily involved in Renaissance Faires.  At one time or another we have all been participants, actors in shows, interacting with patrons in the streets, and just adding to the ambiance of the fair in our costumes.  It’s pretty common for fair participants to visit and sometimes participate in multiple fairs throughout the year.  For this reason, we tend to know a few people at any given fair in the state.  This is why we made plans to visit the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in Daly City, just south of San Francisco.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair as you may have guessed is a Dickens-era Christmas fair, set in the streets of London.  Not only are there everyday Londoner characters, but you will see many of Charles Dickens’ famous characters roaming the fair as well.  At one point, Eric and I popped into Fezziwig’s Dance Hall to watch some festive dancing and watched Ebenezer Scrooge wander in, wide-eyed, led by the Ghost of Christmas Past.  This was our first visit and our impression was that it was a very family-friendly fair.  We loved seeing little kids everywhere, dressed as chimney sweeps, covered in soot or roaming the streets with a telegraph message.

Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

As a vegan, when it comes to food at fairs I usually don’t expect more than a few snack options.  I planned ahead by having a full breakfast at the hotel (thanks Homewood Suites, for having soy milk and cereal as well as fruit and tea!) and smuggling in a bag of trail mix and some fruit.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a couple of perfectly yummy vegan options.

I got lunch from the Acropolis Greek Food booth (this is a familiar booth from other fairs) where they have a variety of Greek concoctions.  I ordered a falafel pita with tahini (made from sesame seeds) instead of tzatziki sauce (which is made with yogurt).  It was filling and tasted just how I expected it to taste.  They also offer dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), which are vegan.

Acropolis Falafel Pita, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Eric and I ran into a friend, working at the Bramosia Fine Chocolates & Candies booth.  After chatting for a while, I noticed a small sign in the display saying “Vegan Truffles.”  I exclaimed, “I can’t believe you guys have vegan truffles!”  He then told me that they use coconut milk for the truffles and they actually offer a few candies that fall into the vegan category.  When it comes to desserts, I’m a chocolate person, so I got a vegan chocolate truffle.  They also have a vegan coconut caramel cup and a vegan pear fruit candy as well.  I loved the truffle and went back for another before we left.

Bramosia booth, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Bramosia booth, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

Bramosia vegan truffle, Great Dickens Christmas Fair | A Vegan in Progress

I didn’t get a chance to try the cinnamon crunch almonds found in multiple locations around the site, but my mom asked how they were made on a previous visit and confirmed that they are vegan.

Overall, I would recommend visiting the fair for a fun, if expensive, holiday activity.  It runs until December 22nd this year.  I read on the website that they heavily discount admission if you arrive after 4pm and I’m confident that you could see quite a lot between then and 7pm.  Now you know that there are some good, relatively affordable vegan options.  Make sure to get a vegan truffle!