What We Ate Wednesday: And Then I Ate NorCal, Volume I

August 31st, 2011 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles

A few weeks back we took our very first official family vacation. Not “back home”, not a tag-along business trip, not a co-opted weekend away. But a true, for reals, for fun, for relaxing family vacation. It was awesome and exciting and amazing, and also, have you ever taken a really long road trip with a toddler? We . . . learned a lot. For next time!

This was our first time visiting the bay area as vegans, and I was so excited to sample that classic California cuisine. Portland has vegan comfort food down, no question. If you want it deep fried and smothered in gravy, then Portland’s your girl. But when it comes to light fresh fare? When you’re wanting something healthier than it is hearty? Well, Portland is not so much with the bigass badass salads, for example. Juice bars are few and far between. So personally, I was delighted at the idea of exploring the “cleaner” cuisine of our sister to the south. With, you know, plenty of sweets and treats thrown in!

So, you might notice it’s not very raw. Ha! Here’s the thing: I really, really love food. And I love experiencing a city through it’s culinary scene. I was totally, totally prepared to eat my way through northern California with wild abandon. And my friends, I did.

I gave myself a 5-lb budget for our 8-day vacation. And my friends, I used it.

I gained 4 lbs on our trip. But I guess the awesome thing about natural, healthy living, is that once I returned to normal life and began eating as I usually do, the weight disappeared. Within a week. Like I knew it would! Gotta love that whole foods vegan lifestyle.

So here’s the first half of our trip, from Portland to Shasta county, then from Shasta to San Francisco.


My brother and his family live in a tiny town near Mount Shasta, and they own an adorable restaurant called Crumbs. Travis is the chef, and he is absolutely spectacular. Seriously! He’s a trained sushi chef and specializes in Japanese fusion. I love that he’s inspiring cowboys to order inari, and enticing farmers to feast on tofu. He even uses the word “vegan” right there on his menu! (it’s definitely an omni restaurant)

Trav works in an open kitchen. Waits went straight for the bananas.

We ate there both nights we spent in Shasta – the first was with the entire family, and the second as a date night while my Dad and sister-in-law watched Waits.

Vegan sushi with all sorts of amazing-ness.

Homegrown veggie stirfry. My little niece had pulled these veggies out of the garden that very morning. So amazing! Also, did you ever put avocado on top of your stir fry? ME NEITHER OMG TRY IT

Waits’ enthusiasm rubbed off on his cousin, Jencie.

Alas, his own enthusiasm wavered . . .

The rest of our time in Fall River was all about fun and play and sun and games and going going going until we were gonzo, right in the grass.

We had a blast in Fall River, like we always do. Can’t wait to do it again next year!

We spent an afternoon and evening traveling from Shasta county to Marin county, where we crashed with a friend basically-sister. After a leisurely breakfast with her, and a quick tour (coffee search) of Marin (cute!) (but omg where are the not-white people?!), we headed into the city. Just in time for lunch!

Gracias Madre

I’d heard great things about Gracias Madre, a laid-back-but-chic Mexican restaurant by the same team behind Cafe Gratitude (GM is not raw). Gracias Madre is 100% organic, 100% vegan, and 100% the best non-authentic Mexican food I’ve ever had. Does that sound like a dig? It isn’t meant to! I just have a special place in my heart for Mexican street food, and that this place is totally amazing in a totally different way. Okay, on to the food!

Pink sea salt crystals on every table.

“Gorditas: Grilled potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew cream.”

“Enchiladas con Mole: Spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans”

Oh. My. God. Can I just say, this meal was divine. DIVINE! Aside form the-meal-which-should-have-cost-more-than-a-weeks-worth-of-groceries-at-home (we’ll get to that next week), this was easily the best thing we ate in the bay. Easily.

I’m not ashamed to admit I licked up every drop of that mole sauce. I should have ordered it as my beverage.

After our orgasm lunch, we headed over to Golden Gate Park. SF was, predictably, foggy in August.

Coffee in Golden Gate Park.

As soon as the sun poked out from behind the haze, I declared it ice cream thirty. Right?! We were off to the Mission district . . .


Bi-Rite Creamery is a lovely little ice cream shop that sources local, sustainable ingredients. They’re not all vegan (boo!) but they’re still really awesome.

We were stopped and serenaded out front.

Damian got peach sorbet with blueberry compote (front) and I got chocolate sorbet with salted peanuts (behind).

We spent the afternoon meandering around the city. This was our only day in San Francisco, so we sort of wanted to see to all!

View of SF and the Bay Bridge, taken from Coit Tower.

In the evening we crossed the bay Bridge and headed into Berkeley for dinner. Waits fell asleep on the ride over, which meant Damian and I got to enjoy the first half of our meal “date-style”.

Herbivore Restaurant

Herbivore features an extensive menu full of classic American dishes, peppered with various world cuisines. The decor is modern and almost cafeteria-esque. The food was just what we wanted.

“Penne with Lemon-Herb Cream Sauce: Char-broiled portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, capers, & spinach with crostini”

Marinated Tofu: On whole wheat, with garlic aioli, avocado, onions, lettuce, tomatoes & pickles. Side of fries.

After dinner we crashed out in a hotel room, exhausted after an awesome day.

And the rest? The rest of the trip is coming next week!

  • Amy Beauchamp

    it is 6 am here – and you have just made me STAVING… I want that pasta for breakfast lol.

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com Monika {windycityvegan}

    Nina’s been clamoring for a trip to California (last time she was there she was in utero; I ran a race, went to a wedding under sail, and kayaked in the ocean), and I’ll be using your posts for inspiration and guidance!

    Traveling with a toddler is . . . interesting, isn’t it? You should take Waits camping; we didn’t take Nina until she was 3 1/2 years old and it was so fun that I wish we’d done it much sooner!

  • The Cosmopolitan Hour (Erika)

    Great post! Pretty good summary of Marin (cute, but where are all the non-white people?) and OMG I would kill people for those gorditos at Gracias Madre. OK, maybe not REALLY, but you know what I mean having had them… they are DRASTIC.

  • cheli

    oh… that is so cute that you think dinning w waits asleep next to you counts as a date : ) adorable. funny how kids change everything. every idea and space that was you, is now defined by them. i think it’s great to take the opportunities when they present themselves, especially when it comes to making time for each other.
    ooh, totally stumbled on a post about your hair color. so glad, it was a total question. plus, i had some red manic panic sitting there, i was scared of it before reading your post. so thks
    are you still nursing? does anyone other than you and damian watch waits? what are your schooling plans? are you going to vaccinate eventually? do you co-sleep? do you own a stroller?
    obnixiously personal questions, i know! haha. but we know how you wipe your butts, so i kinda figured if you don’t want to share you`ll just say so and not really get offended. (i really hope you don’t get offended)

  • SanDiegoBurrito

    Isn’t Gracias Madre divine? I went there two nights in a row while I was in SF last year. So glad you had a wonderful trip! I am a huge fan of your blog and can’t wait to read your book!

  • SanDiegoBurrito

    Isn’t Gracias Madre divine? I went there two nights in a row while I was in SF last year. So glad you had a wonderful trip! I am a huge fan of your blog and can’t wait to read your book!

  • SanDiegoBurrito

    Isn’t Gracias Madre divine? I went there two nights in a row while I was in SF last year. So glad you had a wonderful trip! I am a huge fan of your blog and can’t wait to read your book!

  • http://simplybeme.com Jenny @ Simply Be…me

    San Francisco is at the top of my must-see list. I have had a love-affair with California since I was in high school. I’ve been to San Diego but that’s it – so far! At least now I live on the same coast (British Columbia, eh) and won;t have to shell out the big $$ to travel there.

    Technically we could drive but I’m not sure how our 2-year-old would like that :)

  • Kathryn Papoulias

    I love love love Herbivore! I don’t live in California now because of school, but when I’m home driving up to spend the day in SFO is one of my favorite things to do, and Herbivore is usually where I eat haha. I’ve been meaning to try Gracias Madre, maybe that’ll be my next trip! Everything looks so yummy!

  • http://jenthevegan.wordpress.com/ Jen

    Ohhh San Fran! I went there in May and was in complete food heaven for a week!! We went to Gracias Madre twice and each of the 2 branches of Herbivore. What amazing food!!!

  • Catnip13

    Sometime you should come to Sacramento! Maybe in a couple years once Waits is old enough to enjoy a rafting trip. I think Kaia was 3 or 4 the first time we took her.

  • the-rachel

    holy moly yum.

  • the-rachel

    holy moly yum.

  • Kory Rigler

    Glad I’m not the only semi-stalker here ;) I always feel like I have a million questions for Sayward too!

  • Kory Rigler

    Your WIAW posts always make me SO hungry. I swear, I just want to follow you around EATING, lol.

  • http://www.peasoupeats.com PeaSoup

    Everything looks incredible. Looks like you had a spectacular time:) I’m desperate to get to San Fran – one day!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692392402 Joselle Palacios

    Hmmm, I have some chocolate sorbet in the fridge. Salted peanuts need to be added to it after I’m back on sugar (I’m off of it for 21 days). Sounds delicious. And if we ever go back to SF, I definitely want to go to Gracias Madre. Sounds amazing.

  • http://www.emilyscrueltyfreekitchen.blogspot.com Emily

    The pictures of Waits asleep in the grass is SO CUTE! I’ll make sure to reference this post when I travel back to San Francisco :)

  • http://veganhomemade.wordpress.com Erin

    Gracias Madre is SO GOOD. Glad you had a good time in SF!

  • http://almostveganchef.com/ Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

    Gracias Madre may have been my favorite meal in San Fran. Every bite I had there was incredible!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    We want to take Waits camping so bad! We really intended to this summer, and we’re hoping we’ll still be able to. Also, I think I’ll be camping alone with him at Rootstalk, which will be . . . interesting. Eep!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, yes DRASTIC! I was listening to your podcast, love the new lingo. ;-) Ben is friggin funny, I had no idea who he was until I sat on panel with him at VVC. That dude is AWESOME.

    Also, can I totally be a geek and say, I seriously love your style. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh, how the perspective changes with children. Baby sleeping and we have to whisper? DATE NIGHT FABULOUS! haha.

    We are still nursing, quite a bit actually. Bubs eats 6-10 times per day and has free reign all night. He eats more or less depending on growth spurts and teething pain (when he comfort-nurses).

    We’ve had people watch him roughly 6? I think? times since he was born (he’s 18 months now) The last was just last weekend and he did great, so it may become more regular now. It would be awesome to get a once-a-month date night or something going.

    Schooling? Oh man, who knows. We’re sort of playing it all by ear and taking it as it comes. Home-schooling is highly unlikely though, and private schools make me uncomfortable, so probably some sort of alternative public or charter school (Portland is pretty progressive, so there’s options)

    We are going to vaccinate eventually. Probably not for everything, but for the stuff that matters.

    We co-sleep and I adore it, for *our family*, I couldn’t imagine any other way.

    We don’t own a stroller! Waits thinks they’re toys and always tries to play with other peoples’ at the park and stuff. I try to buy/own as little “stuff” as possible, so never saw a need for one. I wear him everywhere. Again, no judgements! That’s just what works for *us*, in *our* situation.

    I’m pretty hard to offend. No worries! =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Gracias Madre might be my favorite restaurant. Like, ever.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I really want to! I think we’ll be taking this trip again next year and we’ll definitely try to work it in. I love Sacramento but haven’t been in years!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Girl, it was SO good.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal


  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Peanuts + chocolate is so full of win, but congrats on nixing sugar! I always feel best when I’m off it entirely.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Agreed! I was definitely my favorite. Did you get the mole? I wanted to cry it was so good, ha!

  • cheli

    ay you are so cute! thanks for answering all my questions!!! i can’t believe you did that. that’s really nice. thanks.

  • Michelle McNeill-Coronado

    Hey, maybe you can talk to Jen Fosnight at Never Felt Better and do a book event at her place! I know they’d be thrilled.

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