One vegetarian week in San Francisco

February 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm (Trip report)

I recently spent a week in the San Francisco Mission District.  Even though I didn’t actually do all that many foodie things, there were a number of highlights.

  • La Palma.  One of the first dinners I had in San Francisco consisted of a homemade vegetarian Mexican feast.  Kathy bought fresh (vegetarian!) masa at La Palma, as well as guacamole, fresh corn chips, and tomatillo salsa.    Kathy added coconut oil to the fresh masa, and the tamale dough ended up incredibly moist and flavorful.  We made three tamale fillings, but my favorite were the tamales filled with hard boiled egg and pepitas, with raw chard strips mixed in with the masa.
  • On Sunday we had brunch at Rosamunde Sausage Grill.  I only been out of Germany for a few days and my friends felt the need to take me to a German Bratwurst place for lunch!  As it turned out though, I really liked the (vegan) smoked apple sage “sausage” I had there.  I asked if they made them themselves and they said that they just buy Field Roast vegan Sausages, which can be purchased at grocery stores all over the U.S. (but sadly not in Europe).  I can’t believed I’ve never tried them before.  Maybe they didn’t exist back when I lived in the States?  The Field Roast sausages also come in Italian (with lots of yummy fennel!) and Mexican Chipotle (which I unfortunately didn’t get to try).  The sausages are basically seasoned seitan.  Now I want to try to make something similar at home.    I think the trick is to grind up the seitan?
  • Katrina and I had lunch at Udipi Palace, a south Indian restaurant in the Mission District.  I ordered a mysore masala dosa, which wasn’t the best dosa I’ve ever had, but was certainly better than any I’ve had in the last five or six years.  The sambar was a bit more tomato-y than my ideal sambar of memory, but was nonetheless quite good, and huge.  I wouldn’t have ordered it if I had realized that our dosas came with a small bowl of sambar.  The dosas also came with three chutneys, which were okay to good, but none were great.  Overall I enjoyed the meal, and I would go back if I was in the area, but I wouldn’t insist on returning.
  • I tried out two local Mission ice cream joints (both of which have cookbooks!).  The first was Bi-Rite creamery.  I chose the orange cardamom, which I really liked, and Katrina picked honey lavender and salted caramel.  I was expecting the lavender to taste soapy to me, but I actually liked both it and the salted caramel flavor a lot.  If I lived in the Mission I’d definitely be back!  The second ice cream place we tried was Humphry Slocombe, which seemed to lean towards stranger flavors than Bi-Rite.  The servers there were nice and let us sample a lot of the flavors.  I was initially most excited about the Thai Chili Lime flavor, but after trying it decided that I didn’t really care for it.  (It tasted nothing like my Thai chili lime peanut butter cookies.)  My favorite of the ones I tried were the caramel balsamic vinegar and the pepper & mint chip.  I liked both of them a lot initially, but after a few spoonfuls I started to think that they were simply too salty.  Derek would have been in heaven.
  • My mom and I tried out Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant in the Mission.  We got there shortly after 5pm, and I thought it would be empty, but the place was packed.   We shared the mole enchiladas and the tamale, which was filled with vegetables and served with beans and pickled vegetables.  The enchilada surprised me, as it wasn’t made from a rolled and filled tortilla.  Instead, they layered a few housemade corn tortillas on the plate, and then simply topped the tortillas with mole sauce, mushrooms, and cashew cheese.  The mole sauce was very disappointing. It was so mild that I could barely tell it was mole sauce.  The mushrooms were nice but overall I felt the dish was lacking.  I think my enchiladas are way better!  The  sides were better.  My mom loved the black beans which were incredibly smooth and very tasty.  I really liked the side of sautéed greens.  The tamale texture was excellent, but I wasn’t so excited about the butternut squash and caramelized onion filling. It just tasted too sweet to me, and not complex enough.   Overall the ingredients seemed really high quality, but the place didn’t wow me.  And I found the atmosphere and tables somehow uncomfortable.   But the restaurant was packed (so packed that seated a party of four at our table before we were done), so clearly other people are more excited about it than I was.
  • My Mom and sister and I enjoyed wandering around all the upscale food stores at the Ferry building.  When we got hungry I got a small but excellent vegetarian taco at Mijita.  I’d definitely go back.
  • One of the things I miss in Europe is burdock.  When I lived in Pittsburgh I used to cook it quite often.  So I went to Chinatown and brought back three long burdock roots.  We added two of them to a stir-fry for dinner, and then I cooked up the rest for breakfast.  My mom had made steel cut oats, and they were really good mixed together with the sweet-and-soy burdock.  I just love the earthy taste that burdock adds.  Even my mother—who was initially very skeptical about combining Asian-flavored burdock with oatmeal—was won over.  She said that she’s never going to make normal “sweet” oatmeal again!
  • The other thing I really enjoyed in San Francisco (besides all the great Mexican food) were the black mission figs and clementines.  I like black mission figs so much more than the kinds we can get in Germany.  And the clementines were significantly better than any I’ve had here over the last few years.  I was also amazed at the organic body care and supplement selection at the local Rainbow Grocery.  I have never seen anything like the supplement aisles at Rainbow Grocery.  They just go on and on forever and forever.


  1. austingardener said,

    Great write-up. Next you have toblog about Thaibodia and the jerusalem Grille. My surprise was how Latino the Mission was. The bakeries didn’t have the bread I like.

  2. Derek Dreyer said,

    I already knew about Humphry Slocombe. It was written up in the Times a few years ago. Yes, it sounds like heaven to me. Sounds like you liked it more than Momofuku Milk Bar, which is a good sign. As for the other places, I will have to try the better ones with Kathy & Spoons when I visit (hopefully within the next year).

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