Archive | October, 2012

SF: The Delish Mish and Castro

18 Oct

Best Gluten-free Sandwich I’ve ever had was in the Castro? Yes!

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Ike’s Place (which just recently moved across the street from it’s original location) is the hippest, funniest, delicious, most popular sandwich stop in all of SF—and my personal favorite in the sandwich books. I had heard about this place from friends and was weary until I saw that they have homemade GF BREAD, from their own kitchen! Dreams do come true.

When I went there, there were no tables, just chairs to sit and wait until your order was called. You can see the hip youngsters making each sandwich fresh in the back. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, they ask if you would like the counters cleaned and wiped down to ensure that your sandwich isn’t compromised by cross contamination. That’s customer satisfaction at it’s finest, right?

Each sandwich comes with your choice of Dirty Potato Chips (salt and vinegar are my favorite, though these are made with a dairy “binder,” which they informed me of after removing the cheese from my order. Impressive.) A large selection of old fashion sodas, juices, and water are also available for purchase.

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I tend to be a “Plain-Jane” when it comes to sandwiches, but it never disappoints. I ordered a Turkey Sandwich with crispy bacon (when in Rome), tomato, lettuce, avocado, and their secret, special dirty sauce (a homemade garlic aioli with a little kick). Along with all of their other options, this sandwich had a CRAZY NAME that I can’t even remember. I think it was named after a street or a baseball player. I told them what I was craving and they responded with “Oh yes, we have that and it’s called the “McGruber Slam Dunk”‘…or something like that 😉 They have over 80 sandwiches listed on there website and plus handfuls more that the “in the know” cashiers and frequenters can recite upon request.

Some of their sandwiches cracked me up:

The BackStabber: Halal chix, marinated artichoke, CAESAR dressing, provolone
Hot Date For Hire: slices of rib-eye and jalapeños
[Name Of The Girl I’m Dating]: Halal chix, honey mustard, avo, pepperjack
Jessica Rabbit: vegan breaded chix, stuffed jalapeños, franks red-hot, ranch OUCH!
Vegan Pilgrim: vegan breaded chix, cranberry sauce, sriracha, soy cheese
Vegan Sometimes I’m Vegan: grilled mushrooms, artichoke hearts, soy cheese

Check out Ike’s Place by foot, car, or muni– but expect a line every time. You can call ahead and wait in a different line to pick up your already made order. Wait or no wait, it’s worth it so don’t wait and hurry up and eat here already! 😉

GRACIAS MADRE! ME GUSTA TU VEGAN Y NO PAN MENU! LA COMIDA ES DELICIOSA!

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This restaurante was by far the most exciting find during my stay. Thanks to a referral from my fellow vegan cast-mate, my dietary restrictions and Los Angeleno demands for delicious mexican food were met and exceeded! The menu is organic, vegan, and non-GMO producing. Dishes are served with fresh vegetables like kale, butternut squash, plantains, and mushrooms, along with toppings of fresh cashew cheese, pepitas, guacamole, salsas, beautiful black beans, and more. Their stoneground heirloom masa tamales are fantastic! All their dishes are made in house, such as their incredibly conceptualized quesadilla with butternut squash, caramelized onions, cashew cheese, and pumpkin seed salsa wrapped in a freshly made corn tortilla.

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My favorite were their 3 tacos (choosing from 4 options). I picked the sauteed garlic mushrooms, grilled zucchini, and wilted, sauteed kale with cashew cheese and a side of guacamole. It was everything I hoped it would be: fresh, delicious, and full of flavor. They provide every plate with their own duo of salsas (a mild verde and red chipotle) and accompany almost every main dish with a side of their phenomenal black beans. Probably the best black beans I’ve ever had, aside from my own that I make 😉

THE BEST MARGARITA I HAVE EVER SIPPED (and I mean SIPPED slowly to make it last!):

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It seems that I am repeating myself often with the phrase “best thing I’ve ever….” Yet it is TRUE! This is the freshest, most succulent, and artificially-absent tasting margarita I have ever ordered at a restaurant! They are prepared with house-made syrups, fresh agave, and soju (a korean liquor similar to vodka– made from rice). It is the perfect pairing to a perfect meal. If you don’t mind a pack of crowded hipsters in a sketchy area in the mission, enjoy or DISFRUTA!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE QUAINT MARKET WITH THE STELLAR ICE CREAM, LOVELY PRODUCE, DANITY DELI, BEAUTIFUL WINE, AND YUMMY SNACKS: BI-RITE MARKET!!!

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I literally stumbled across this market while walking from Gracias Madre to the muni stop by Dolores Park. I didn’t put two and two together until I saw their famous ice cream flavors stacked in pints in their modest freezer section.

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Beautiful bouquets of flowers line the front doors that open to a lovely array of organic, local produce, herbs, and meats. Along the right wall is an inexpensive, moderately priced wines selection. I was listening to a saleswoman explaining in great detail what the customer would enjoy in addition to her love of chardonnay. I may not have recognized a single wine displayed, which is always exciting.

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It was so refreshing to see a local market on the skirts of the quite cement-enclosed, destitute Mission where Gracias Madre sat. It truly warmed my heart with my love of local businesses. The surrounding blocks were booming with quaint and modern eateries, shops, and art. The mission was incredibly eclectic and extremely versatile with every corner turned.

Ike’s Place
3489 16th St (btw Dehon & Sanchez)
Castro
SF, CA 94114
415.553.6888

Gracias Madre
2211 Mission St (btw 19th & 18th)
Mission
SF, CA 94110
415.683.1346

Bi-Rite Market
3639 18th St (btw Guerrero & Oakwood)
Mission
SF, CA 94110

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SF: “Heart of the City” in Union Square

15 Oct

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During my first two weeks in SF, I was staying at the company hotel downtown. Between instant oatmeal and shoving tiny cartons of perishables in my stocked mini-fridge, I would dread walking out the door– only to see a Chipotle and Cheesecake Factory as my closest options. Thankfully, we had this to look forward to during the week, which made me want to cook more than ever.

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“The Heart of the City” Farmers Market in Union Square, just steps away from City Hall, was our pre-show stop every Wednesday and Sunday! It was in a relatively bad area (near the not-so-tender-Tenderloin) but it bore delicious fruit and fresh piping hot meals for shoppers, passerbys, a lucky homeless chap, or a hungry cast and crew.

ROLI ROTI:

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Roli Roti serves up some of the best rotisserie chicken I’ve ever eaten. The natural juices of the skewered whole chickens drip onto golden rosemary potatoes, creating a unified pairing that satisfies with moisture and sensational simple seasons.

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Whether its the pinch of natural sea salt, the $6 price tag, or the swiftness of the catering duo, this place is delightful– down to the perfectly packed truck/chicken cooker/restaurant on wheels that it is. This is definitely high on my list of downtown SF places to lunch. I believe they are only at the market on Wednesdays and not Sundays.

THE CREPE ESCAPE:

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The Crepe Escape was a place I consistently “houdini-ed.” Wheaty, dairy throat would not hold out on a double-show Wednesday. BUT the entire cast raved about this market staple. Not only did they create homemade, right out of grandma’s kitchen, savory and sweet crepes, but they appreciated our show’s business so much that they gave us a discounted price AND sent us a going away brittle bark on our last Sunday. According to everyone who tried it, they didn’t need to charm us since their delectable dishes were charming enough on their own.

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The standouts were the cinnamon sugar crepe, the pesto-tomato-mozzarella crepe, and the nutella crepe with strawberries and caramelized bananas. I still salivate remembering their intoxicating aroma in the hallways of our dressing rooms. The people knew how to run a business with quality food as quality people. If only they offered a GF buckwheat crepe……

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KETTLEPOP:

Last but not least, was the legendary Kettlepop that could be eaten in one sitting or last the entire week (if you were frugal ;). This kettlecorn was popped fresh right in front of you and available in 3 different sizes. The balance of salty and sweet was truly on the nose…my nose…yummm. The best kettlecorn I’ve ever had, hands down. Gluten/dairy free and calorie rich!!!!! The appeal is the freshness. Even if it was sold in-store, I don’t think it would have the delicious taste that makes it so satisfying.

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“Heart of the City” Farmer’s Market
United Nations Plaza
Market btw 7th and 8th
San Francisco, CA 94102
415.558.9455
Open Wed and Sun 7am-5pm

“If you’re going to San Francisco….”

15 Oct

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I am in agreement with Mr. Twain. My coldest winter was summer in San Francisco. Thus, paving the way for eating lots of cozy, comfort foods! I had the luxury (though it seemed like a hassle at the time) to live in 3 parts of SF during our 7 week sit down at the Orpheum Theatre. Union Square (tourist and crazies), Lower Nob Hill (spread out, but decent), and Hayes Valley (perfection). In between enjoying the fresh fruit and food of their looms, I also found great spots in the nearby Mission and Castro (plus a killer lunch spot in Napa). My food posts for this city will be separated by location with my favorites from each. Let the nor-cal-tummy-rumbling begin. Hell-a yeah!!!!!!!

Seattle: Curtain down!!!

11 Oct

I lunched at Homegrown over a handful of times. When it came to dinner, I stopped at PURPLE almost every single night— even if it was just for a glass off their exquisite wine list or to enjoy the beautiful ambiance.

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From the appetizers to the entrees to the desserts to the cheese to the reds, whites and rosés I swirled and swooned…this was my favorite nighttime-dine on tour. Seattle was turning into my favorite foodie city with only 2 (yet stellar!) experiences!

Here are my recommendations for the gluten and dairy-free (GF/DF) heart and the queso, wheaty glutton:

WINE:
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I ordered their Northwest flight of Washington whites (the flights change seasonally and currently they don’t offer the same set I ordered). With trios from Spain, Italy, France, and varietals marked heavy, corked, uncorked, new world, and “Not Pinot Noir,” these flights make a great night out with fellow, friendly winos that stimulate your palate…and the food hasn’t even arrived…

My FAVORITE white was the Pandora Cellars Marsanne from Yakima Valley, Washington 2011–currently available by the bottle for $40. I felt as if I was cheating myself to order any other flight when this wine blew my mind with its crisp nose, hint of fruit, and semi-dry nature. It was a standout.

APPETIZERS:
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Cheesy App: They offer a chefs cheese flight of 3 or individual stunning cheese selections and wine pairings, located on the first page of the dinner menu.
The appetizer that melted the hearts of the cast was this Baked Brie Pastry. I did have a bite of it and was transported to a magical place. The phlegm that followed was well worth it.

GF/DF App: The tomato soup, made without dairy or croutons, is to die for. It was my go-to starter. Always perfectly hot, seasoned and spiced. Quite lovely on those chilly Seattle nights.

ENTREES:

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Meaty, Wheaty, Cheesy: People went crazy for the Lobster Mac and Cheese, Lamb Burger, SPECTACULAR French Fries (my weakness), several specialty pizzas, and the Gorgonzola and Pancetta Pasta. The aromas from each dish at our last cast-night-out in the city was intoxicating.

GF/DF: I feel in love with the Purple Chopped, NO cheese ADD chicken. The dressing was light enough, with just a touch of lemon and red wine vinegar, that the freshness and quality of each component stood and shined in their individual flavors—filling the salad with texture and delight.

DESSERT:

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Bread Pudding! Not gluten-free, but looked and smelled just as dangerous as it was. I believe there was a peanut butter cookie, ice cream sandwich special that the cast died over, as well. I tried to block it out. Peanut butter anything is my favorite anything.

GF/DF- The menu, again, changes and now it looks like they offer more GF options like a flour-less chocolate cake and chocolate covered bons bons made with rice crispies (there’s gotta be milk in the chocolate) OR a dairy free spiced sorbet with the optional wheaty ginger snap cookie.

I had the dessert special which was a blackberry, raspberry sorbet. It was rich and creamy and completely safe for me to eat. It was a nice small scoop, so I felt much better getting up from the table without the sad unbuttoning of my jeans (hey…sometimes it happens).

As you can see I had so much to say about all the things I could and couldn’t eat or drink here. It just is so versatile and delicious. It’s a short walk from the 5th Avenue Theatre and makes a great pre or post-show dinner.
Any wine bar that specializes in pairing breads and cheeses that OFFERS gluten-free DELECTABLE options, is number one in my book! They achieved so much and continue to exceed my expectations with their careful, allergy-thoughtful wine and food menus.

I can’t wait to return to Seattle to revisit and experience a new dish from my two favorites: Homegrown and Purple.

CHECK BACK FOR MY MASSIVE POST ON GLUTEN-FREE SAN FRANCISCO EATS THAT TOOK 7 WEEKS OF TASTING AND DEVOURING!!!!

Purple Café and Wine Bar Seattle
1225 4th Ave (Downtown)
Seattle, WA 98101
206.829.2280
MENU

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Seattle: Curtain Up!!!

10 Oct

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Wow. It’s official! I’m in a National Touring Company of a Broadway Musical, in a city I’ve never been, and sleeping in a hotel I don't have to pay for. The challenges and luxuries are just perfectly delightful. I was a bit worried about sticking to my gluten-free, dairy-free, non-red-meat-eating diet in a city I didn't know, unable to cook or refrigerate, with Subway looking like my only option from the hotel window. Man, was I wrong.

Seattle thus far has been my favorite city. Not only did we hit perfect, breezy, cozy weather, but the food here is as amazing as its picturesque mountains that peep up over the high-rises.

Now, I’m a big "yelper." I enjoy barking in the streets. No, really, I am attached to my Yelp app and credit it as being the #1 site to satiate my traveling, allergic belly. I preface with this because I didn't use it at all in Seattle– truly a shocker! We were close to the hip Capitol Hill and Melrose Ave, so I decided to meander on foot over the highway in search of food.

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I walked past the Melrose Market a few times after seeing a sandwich shop and meat deli in the window. I had no intention to even explore this large unique "market" until I was famished from walking for an hour, hours after I should have already stuffed my face before our ritualistic 530pm-in-a-new-theatre/city-meeting. So, I headed in to drool over the sandwiches I could NOT eat and the leafy salads covered in cheese I could butcher to be bland and nutritious. *Sigh*

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“Hmmm…Beet Salad with the delicious goat cheese with turkey? No…lentil soup? No…can’t have a gassy barricade. Look at those delicious sandwiches. Sage aioli? Come on. Can I dunk my beets in that? Not a bad idea….hmmm what are the sides? Pickle, yes. Salt and pepper chips, that soup, and gluten free bread $8.

WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
So there it was. A gluten free sandwich with sustainable, locally grown ingredients. AND when I am done devouring it all, I have the option of recycling, composting, or trashing my remaining crumbs and crinkled crinolines. Ok napkins…I had to embrace the alliteration.

I ate here many many times. My three favorites (with my substitutes and additions):

Breakfast: BEST BREAKFAST SANDWICH I’VE EVER HAD: Avocado, Egg + NO cheese, ADD sage aioli, on toasted GF bread. Make sure to get their hot sauce on the side for this one– delicious! Of course, paired with a coffee and a side of soy or almond milk 😉

Lunch: 1. PERFECT LUNCH SANDWICH TO HOLD YOU OVER: Turkey, Bacon + Avocado, NO gouda, with mixed greens, and ADD their unbeatable sage aioli on toasted gluten-free bread– with one vegan, gluten free cookie by Skydottir (local bakery) for my sweet side.

2. DELICIOUS GF VEGAN OPTION: Hummus + Roasted Red Peppers, avocado, cucumber, arugula, ADD sage aioli on toasted GF bread (of course)

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Aside from this sandwich shop being my dream cafe, the market place is stunning. Here is a list of their amazing standouts:

Marigold and Mint: This is an incredible flower shop in the back where I purchased great locally made cards to send to my love back home and an old pewter vase to hold my makeup brushes.

Sitka & Spruce: A beautiful restaurant I did not get to try that evokes the feeling of being in a friends gourmet, french kitchen. It’s enveloped by the vibrant greens, ivories, and purples from the flower shop across the way, where they actually buy the herbs that garnish and compliment their dishes.
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The Calf & Kid: Tastings of various cheeses from local farms. There just so happens to be a wine bar right next to this booth that looked mighty tasty and careful selected. Maybe on a future cheat day I will give in….

Butter Home: This is still one of my favorite stores I have visited on tour. Sitting upstairs, above Homegrown, it is decorated with great locally made gifts, trinkets, coasters, cards, jewelry, Edison bulbs, and more. I was aching to buy everything and nest in the home I left to be on tour. Not the smartest thing to do without a first paycheck, so I admired, got more cards, and left with a wonderful memory.

Check back in for my last blog about Seattle and my favorite wine bar/dinner spot!

Homegrown
1531 Melrose Ave (Capitol Hill) in Melrose Market
Seattle, WA 98122
202.682.0935

Melrose Market
1501-1535 Melrose Ave (Capitol Hill)
Seattle, WA 98122

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