Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gracias Madre Fiesta

Who: VN Office Manager Lyndsay Orwig, VN Publisher Joseph Connelly, VN Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, and VN Editorial Assistant Liz Miller
What: A celebration of the opening of Gracias Madre
Where: The Mission District of San Francisco, CA
When: Monday, February 22, 2010
Why: To honor Latin American culture with delicious organic, vegan food.

The scoop: Mexican fare is not hard to come by in the SF Bay area, especially in the Mission District. Almost every block has a taqueria of some sort, where you can grab a big burrito with all the fixin's, including beans, rice, veggies, and guacamole. These places are great, but unfortunately none of them is specifically organic and vegan. And maybe sometimes a burrito just won't suffice, and what you're really in the mood for is a tasty tamale, or an overstuffed quesadilla. This is where Gracias Madre comes in—the new, all-vegan Mexican restuarant from the owners of Café Gratitude. To celebrate the restaurant's recent opening, the owners, Matthew and Terces, cordially invited close friends to a special evening of food, drinks, and fun.

The owners and staff among the gorgeous spread.

The first thing you notice when you step into the restaurant is its atmosphere. It has a beautifully designed interior with a quaint bar on the side, and gorgeous paintings and embroidered quilts adorning the walls. This is no "In and out" dining experience, but a place in which to enjoy yourself and share.

Upon entering, we were greeted by the owners and managers of the restaurant and served mojitos, made with fresh mint, lime, and agave with soju—oh so refreshing. After some mingling within the crowd, we were invited to serve ourselves from a beautiful buffet of the Quesadillas de Calabaza, the Tamal (or tamale), guacamole, and fresh salsas. Everything was truly delicious, but the favorite was definitely the Tamal—stoneground heirloom masa (corn) steamed in the husk, and filled with butternut squash and green chile. It was so good, some of us had seconds. And though we were stuffed and satisfied with these dishes, we just couldn't pass up on dessert. Hugo, one of the managers, graciously helped us with our decision, and we were served the Flan as well as the Mexican Wedding Cookies with a cacao-cinnamon sauce. Both were marvelous.

Quesadillas de Calabaza

The end of the evening was near, and to finish it off, Terces and Matthew stood up to say thanks to all those who came, as well as to introduce the amazing staff and to give a bit of history of how Gracias Madre came to be. Being their seventh restaurant in a span of six years, it was mainly their love of the Latin culture that inspired the restaurant, as well as their wish to bring local, organic fare to the Mission District. Being farmers themselves—both in Hawaii and the Bay Area—they wanted to share how delicious fresh and organic produce can be. We think they've definitely proved their point.

Liz and Lyndsay show off the delicious desserts.

With our stomachs full and our palates satisfied, the night came to an end—some of us are already planning a return trip. Among the plethora of wonderful restaurants in San Francisco, Gracias Madre is a great addition and one that truly stands out.

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