What I Ate Wednesday, er, Friday: Just Another Lost Weekend, Part II

October 31st, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Food Styles


Green juice + road trips + Tom Waits <-- these are a few of my favorite things!

After Saturday’s long day of travel and epic dinner at Millennium, we spent a lazy Sunday morning lounging around our room at the Hotel California. But considering the epic-ness of the previous night’s meal, we actually woke up pretty dang hungry! So by mid-morning we had packed our bags, grabbed some hotel coffee, and hit the road. We were on a mission! To the Mission District.

Oh, Gracias Madre.

If there are two restaurants you should hit up while visiting San Francisco, they’re Millennium and Gracias Madre. Hands down, period.

Gracias Madre is all local, all organic, and all vegan. They use real, whole foods – no faux meats, in fact I don’t think they even offer tofu. Just hand-crafted, made-from-scratch, totally to-die-for Mexican food.

We started with a couple of aguas frescas: one with watermelon, one with cilantro and jalapeño, both delicious. The atmosphere in Gracias Madre is so great, just totally cozy, but still airy and bright.


Um, appetizers?

Quesadillas de Calabaza – Be Love butternut squash and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa.

Ensalada de Caesar – Our version of Caesar Cardini’s famous salad from Tijuana Mexico, with escabeche (spicy pickled vegetables).

So much goodness. While we were waiting for our entrees, we discovered that our table had a drawer in it, and this drawer was filled with fantastic little notes. Some were sordid and some were sweet, some were deeply personal and others, completely banal. It reminded me a bit of Post Secret. There were confessions of love and admissions of adultery, funny little anecdotes and simple shopping lists. Either way, a voyeurs dream.


Entrees! We got three – two to eat there and the Pozole to take for later.

Pozole - Traditional hominy stew in an ancho-chile broth.

Tamal – Stoneground heirloom masa steamed in the husk filled with butternut squash, onions and tomato sauce, served with beans and escabeche (spicy pickled vegetables).

Enchiladas con Mole – Spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans.

What a meal! Needless to say, there were lots of leftovers.

Afterwards, I wandered up to the counter to admire the tee shirts, and when I turned around, I found myself face to face with . . . Jason Wrobel! AGAIN! (further proof that Millennium and Gracias Madre are THE top two restaurants in SF – and that great minds think alike!). We were shocked and delighted to bump into each other yet again, and we all had a nice chat out on the patio while Jason and Whitney waited for their food. And, we got to meet the adorable vegan wonder-dog, Evie.

It was great to see them again, but we had to get on the road. We had a concert to get to! Tom Waits, that night, in Mountain View California.

So we had a bit of driving ahead of us, and I was pretty eager to get as close as humanely possible to the venue, as soon as humanely possible, lest some unforeseen obstacle arise at the last moment. (Paranoid? Yes. But hello! TOM WAITS!)


We grabbed a couple of juices – carrot ginger beet for him, and this crazy kale concoction for me – and then we were on our way.

We made it to our hotel in good time, freshened up and changed into “concert gear” (the concert was outdoors, on the lawn/picnic style, and it was coooold), packed up our cooler and blanket, and headed over. It was late afternoon and I was going to see Tom Waits. And I was having trouble managing my feelings about that. Sometimes, when really big huge almost-incomprehensible things are about to happen, I get a little . . . . aloof . . . about it. So that’s how I was, that afternoon. A little unsure of how to cope with the potential import of the experience, and thus, a little aloof.


Picnic. Even though we got there way late (we thought it started at 5 – nope, it started at 2), we lucked into an INCREDIBLE spot, front and center on the lawn.


I just assumed – since obviously, Tom Waits is the greatest musician to ever live – that he would go on late. But obviously Neil Young has some unresolved jealousy issues or something, because he put Tom Waits on early, around 7pm (also possible that the time slot was because he was added last minute, but I don’t know – that Neil Young can be pretty shifty). But that was great news to me!

And that aloofness? Well it all melted away, the minute the first chord struck. And I was rapt with tears running down my face, so acutely, exquisitely present in the magnitude of that moment. And that’s as close as I’ll ever get to feeling spiritual, I think.

I wish I had good pics for you, but I don’t. They didn’t let us bring cameras in, and the lawn, even our stellar seats on the lawn, was still very far away from the stage. Luckily they had giant screens and so even though I was farther away than I’d ever been when seeing Tom Waits before, I felt closer because for the first time I could really see his face – which for Tom Waits, is a big part of the show.


Yeah, my iPhone pics just cannot do it justice. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it was a perfect sermon. There was magic in that air, so thick you could practically lick it.

After his set we decided to take off – it was cold and we’d gotten what we’d come for. We hopped into a cab for a quick ride down to a local wine bar that had just opened up. We enjoyed a good Nebbiolo and a not-so-good Rhone Valley blend, and then realized we were like, super hungry! But 9pm on a Sunday in a small town, and our prospects didn’t look so good. Happy Cow wasn’t showing much, but on a whim we just decided to start walking – we were down town after all – to see if we had any luck.

And boy, did we ever!


Bushido Izakaya is an AMAZING Japanese restaurant with a whole little vegan section of their menu, it was so awesome. They were knowledgable and accommodating, and totally sweet. We just couldn’t believe our luck. This meal was superb!


Three Mushroom Fried Rice With Kimchi – Stir-fried with garlic, enoki, shiitake, and shimeiji mushrooms. (I wanted to marry this dish) (also, up there ^^ is edamame covered in sautéed garlic, ohmahgod)


(left) Eco Dragon – Vegan roll with tofu-nagi, avocado, and eringi mushrooms. (right) Hollywood Roll – Hearts of palm, Japanese cucumbers, and avocado topped with seared young coconut.

That Hollywood Roll? GAME CHANGER. If you used to be a fan of raw fish sushi, but choose to no longer eat animals, then you *must* try young coconut on your sushi! It has such a similar texture, the experience was uncanny. Can’t wait to try to replicate this at home!

All in all, it’s hard for me to imagine a more amazing night. Slept like a rock – a very happy rock.


The next morning I woke up with an unexpected sense of peace – like some teeny tiny tingle of anxiety, buried so deep it had been unrealized, was now quieted. I think that maybe I always knew I was supposed to see Tom Waits that third time, and I had been waiting for it.

In 2004 I saw Tom Waits play, and I saw that show with the first great love of my life, Matt. And we went to that show with my very good friend. My friend Damian. True story!

In 2008 I caught Tom Waits live again, this time with my husband – Damian. And we happened to go to that show with an old friend. Our old friend Matt. True story!

But In 2013 I finally released myself from both of those men, those two men who had ruled my heart so completely for almost my entire adult life. In 2013 I feel independent in a way I can’t ever remember having felt before. And this? This concert? Well I can’t imagine a more poignant expression of that. And it feels perfect, this third-times-a-charm little cap on my Tom Waits trilogy. It feels like . . . closure.


All my love!

♥ ♥ ♥

Thank you so much to all the people who helped make it possible for us to eat/sleep/stay/explore the way we did on this trip. We couldn’t have done it without your generosity, so THANK YOU! You know who you are.

  • http://thiskindchoice.com/ Emma – thiskindchoice.com

    It looks like an amazing time! The food looks soo good and what a lovely story about your different encounters with Tom Waits.

  • Lynn

    Amazing :)

  • Samantha Ellwood

    The food on your trip all sounds absolutely incredible! As it’s getting colder, I’m craving Mexican – all the warm, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs spicy goodness :)

    I’m throwing a Love List on here, too, because now it’s Friday and I had a great week and I hope y’all did too!

    -Chilly weather, and the leaves finally turning colors other than green
    -Related – cooler weather clothing and layering and boots and sweaters
    -Seeing the amazing Brett Detar live – seriously, check out his amazing, folksy-country-boot-stomping awesomeness for free here: http://brettdetar.tumblr.com/ There were like 10 people in the teeny music bar he played in, and we got to talk to him after the show and snagged one of his gorgeous vinyls! That dude can belt it out.

    -Perfecting my homemade mini-scone recipe
    -Champagne, for big milestones :)
    -Halloween – pumpkins and roasted pumpkin seeds and scary movies. Here in Columbus, it was quite literally a dark and stormy night. Classic!
    -The pensiveness and sense of change that autumn and a new month bring


  • Deirdre

    So happy for you Sayward—you shine!…And the quesadillas de calabazas, I want!

  • http://www.thevegancookiefairy.com/ The Vegan Cookie Fairy

    I’m very glad to see you had such a happy time at the concert, and that feeling of release and independence – it’s wonderful. I’m glad I was only 20 when I felt that for the first time. I know many people wait their whole lives for that feeling.

  • http://practicalecologist.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    First, you are an amazing writer. You make a reader feel intimate with you, it’s a skill. Second, those pictures from Gracias Madre have given me the little push I always need to get from the Central Valley into the City (which is only like 1.5 hours away, so I should probably be there more!). As always, thanks for sharing.

  • Karen Gray

    I am glad you found peace! Food looks beautiful. Great writing…
    PS: When did you get rid of the lip ring? I think you wrote once you were very attached to that?!

  • Elizabeth

    Wow, are you ever beautiful! Not-love looks good on you! And a small love list: San Fran/ paper mâché (I’ve been on a huge kick – unicorns, giraffes,…) / pumpkin everything /
    a super crazy goldendoodle puppy!

  • Kylie

    Gracias Madre is my favorite restaurant, ever. I cannot wait for the one in West Hollywood to open!

    I can totally relate to crying when you hear music that means so much to you. I feel such a connection to music that I often tear up, especially live music – something about that energy just tugs at my heart strings.

    Sounds like you had a magical time!

  • skeptk_vegan

    Oh my, this post! For whatever reason your introspective notes smack me in the face and make me want to cry. Those totally (seemingly) out of the blue immediate tear-jerking moments. Some things that you say just resonate with me so deeply! Not to mention terrify me.

    The food… the food!!! It looks amazing!! That sushi looks epic! I’m glad you had a great experience at the show, music is so powerful.

  • bohemianmatka

    I’m so happy you have found inner peace with this trip… plus the food is inspiring! Two things that I love in life besides my family: Mexican food and Sushi… and you post both of them together. ;) Raw fish sushi was one food item I regrettably parted with once beginning veganism.
    … And I love your pink saddle blanket… ever since I saw it in a previous post. I have two that I put under both my children’s carseats to protect the seat leather, but I want a pink one now to pack just for picnicking ;)

  • Chrissy

    Totally random post, but I was watching the music video for Katy Perry’s new song “Unconditionally” and the woman in the video reminded me of your so much! Take a peek http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHimjVYsd6I

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    It was an amazing time, such a special experience. Thanks Emma. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Lynn!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    LOVE IT! Always appreciate a good love list. ANY time. ♥

    Great list, thank you so much for sharing it!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Deirdre! Definitely feeling very shiny these days. =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    It is an amazing feeling, I do feel fortunate to finally have it. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, thank you Rachel. This post was definitely from the heart and I always love when I’m able to write that way. I’m glad it comes through.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I was VERY attached to it, for sure. I had that lip ring for over a decade! It came out a few months ago. Went in and out for a couple months, playing around with it. Finally had to admit that I preferred the way I looked (and lets be honest, the way kissing feels) without it. So now it’s out! The hole isn’t closed up yet and I may still get a stud in there. We’ll see. ;-)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, thank you! I think it’s coming from inside. He may be my not-boyfriend, but the love is very real. ♥

    And thank you for the love list! Love it, always, any time. Are you really paper machéing? Because that is seriously awesome.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    It was a magical time, and WHEN is the soCal one opening?! Man I remember they were at Beer Fest saying “any day now” – that was 6 months ago! I want me some Gracias Madre! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, thank you so much sweetie. Hearing that my writing communicates on an emotional level means so much to me, it’s really just the greatest thing I could hear. So thank you!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    You have to try young coconut sushi then! It’s amazing, texturally mind-blowing. Seriously!

    And that pink blankie was a thrift store SCORE, I couldn’t believe my luck. I use it constantly!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah, I can see it!