Monday, October 19, 2015

SF Food Tour

This weekend I was in San Francisco to run the Nike Women's Half Marathon! I'll do a whole separate post about the half, but I wanted to talk to you about what I was up to the day before the race. As those of you runners know, you don't want to do TOO much walking the day before a race, but it's nice to walk a couple of miles to stretch out the legs. Dan decided not to come to SF for the weekend and a lot of my work friends couldn't do the race this year. So I decided to venture out on my own and take a food tour! I figured that coupled with some light shopping and packet pick-up would be the perfect way to spend my Saturday.

Here's a quick bonus shot of my delicious breakfast at Blue Bottle Coffee.

A few days before I flew out, I did a little bit of research on things to do and read about Avital Food Tours. It seemed to have good reviews and since one of my favorite activities is eating I figured I'd enjoy it. I actually did a similar tour in Portland when I first moved called the Portland Walking Tours. It was a great way for me to get to learn about the city and eat some delicious food along the way, so I figured I'd give it a shot in SF. Let me tell you, I am two for two so far. Food tours are becoming one of my favorite things.

I ended up signing up for the Mission Avital Food Tour, which was an easy 10 minute BART ride from my hotel (I was staying close to Union Square). I bought a ticket in advance (the last one in fact) and navigated my way to our meeting point. The tour started out at the Women's Building, which was a building with a beautiful mural painted on it. It is a non-profit women-led community center in the Mission district. Ida, our wonderful guide, had us introduce ourselves and then talked a little bit about the history of the building and the Mission district itself. It is a relatively new foodie destination that some people titled the "Gourmet Ghetto". It has transformed over the past couple of decades into a district known for its Food, Murals, and Music.

Our first food stop was for an Austin breakfast burrito at West of Pacos. It was avocado, maple glazed pork belly, scrambled eggs, and a chipotle aioli on a freshly made tortilla. It was insanely good. It had a great complexity of flavors- creamy, fresh, spicy, and authentically Southwestern.

Next, we walked over to Mission Cheese to sample some cheeses. I was thoroughly impressed by how knowledgeable the staff was about the production, taste, history, and nuances of cheese.

Afterwards, we went to a vegan restaurant called Gracias Madre and had butternut squash quesadillas. Normally I'm a sour cream kind of girl when it comes to quesadillas, but they did a great job rounding out the flavors with a cashew cream sauce, nutty roasted pumpkin seeds, and sweet roasted onions. I always call a vegan restaurant that can create dishes that don't leave me hankering for more a success, and this one fit the bill.

On our way to our next stop, we took a look at a couple of impressive murals. I was surprised by how many there were in the Mission. Our guide told us that a lot of businesses will commission murals in hopes of keeping people from spraying graffiti.

Our last stop on the tour was to Bi-Rite Market and Bi-Rite Creamery. We were able to sample some prunes outside the grocery store and then take a quick look around. Then we ended our tour at their ice cream shop across the street. We all sampled the salted caramel ice cream, which was a perfect way to end the tour.

All in all I had an awesome time on! It was fun being able to try some delicious food that was reflective of the culture in the Mission. Our guide was welcoming, funny, and knowledgeable about the area as well as the food in the area. While it was a little pricey, we did get to sample a lot of different foods and I definitely felt like I ate a substantial amount. Plus, SF tends to be on the pricey  side for a lot of things, food included. All in all it was totally worth it for the food and the experience as a whole. I'd definitely recommend this food tour if you happen to be in the bay area anytime soon. It's a great way to get to know the city, both through your eyes and through your stomach.

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