Our Culinary Walk Through San Francisco’s Mission District
Hello all, Noel here! My husband and I took a vacation to California recently and marked San Francisco our first stop.
With so many things to see and do, it was difficult to narrow down which attractions would make the final cut. But one thing we knew for sure was that we wanted to take a food tour!
Based on their amazing reviews, we chose to tour with Avital Tours. They have several different tours to choose from, and we decided to sign up for the Mission District Food Tour due to the intrigue of the neighborhood and food sounding delightful!
We met our guide, Margherita, at the Women’s Building, which sits a couple of blocks away from Mission Dolores. The mission, which is the oldest intact building and has the only intact mission chapel in the city of San Francisco, is the namesake for the neighborhood. It was facts like these and stories about the Latin culture and culinary history of the area that we learned on the tour. Between the unique cuisine found in the Mission District and our entertaining tour guide, we had the best time!
Here’s a recap of each of the places we visited during our progressive food tour—two appetizers, an entrée and dessert!
Course One: Mission Cheese
We began our tour at Mission Cheese where the focus is exclusively on American made cheeses. Currently, they carry cheeses from over half of the United States, which is pretty impressive considering they opened their doors in 2011. We received quite the education from Alex, one of Mission Cheese’s cheesemongers, as he walked us through two different tastings.
The first tasting was from a farmstead in New Hampshire called Landaff Creamery LLC and just so happens to be called Landaff Cheese. It was probably one of the best cheeses I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten A LOT of cheese! Landaff Cheese is a raw cow’s milk cheese, pearly white with a delightful buttery texture that melts in your mouth. Sigh!
The second tasting was a cheese called Goat Gouda, which came from Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, California. As the name may suggest the Goat Gouda is made from 100% whole goat’s milk and cream. My favorite part of this cheese was the scent. The hints of caramel play into its taste and make it an amazing pairing with Fort Point Beer Company’s seasonal Batch 575, a single hop pale ale. Needless to say, our tour was off to a great start!
Course Two: Tacolicious
For our second course we enjoyed tacos and chupitos at Tacolicious. What started in 2009 as a small stand at the Ferry Building Marketplace gained extreme popularity over night and was turned into a full service restaurant by 2010. Just a couple of years later a second location opened in the Mission District. It’s not hard to see, or shall I say taste, why Tacolicious has been a favorite since its inception.
We had the pleasure of trying the Baja-style Pacific Cod Tacos with red cabbage and cumin crema. My mouth is watering as I’m typing this—they were incredible! To drink we had two chupitos, or small glasses of liquor, tasting both the Mucho Gusto (tequila, pineapple, coconut water and lime) and the Pasión (habanero tequila, passion fruit and lime). Both chupitos were great but my favorite was the Much Gusto, it was maybe a little too easy to drink!
This isn’t a stop to be missed and how could you now that they have five locations in the Bay Area?!
Course Three: Gracias Madre
Gracias Madre, a plant-based Mexican restaurant, was the stop for our third course. For owners Terces and Matthew Engelhart and their Director of Operations, Chandra Gilbert, this restaurant is a dream come true. This team has worked long and hard to create vegan Mexican cuisine that represents their love for their multicultural community and showcases their commitment to healthy eating and sustainability.
It was here that we ate our entrée, sweet potato quesadillas, which are sweet potatoes folded in corn tortillas and topped with spicy cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa. I am by all means a carnivore but this vegan entrée was delicious! Knowing the care and attention put into each dish served only added to the experience. Each corn tortilla served at Gracias Madre is made with non-GMO organic heirloom corn, grown on Be Love Farm (also owned by the Engelharts) and then made by hand using Terces’ own corn grinder and tortilla press. Vegan or not, this stop is a must when in the Mission District!
Course Four: Bi-Rite Creamery
Last, but certainly not least, dessert at Bi-Rite Creamery. The creamery is part of the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, which includes the original Bi-Rite Market located across the street as well as several other local companies. In fact, creamery owners and experienced pastry chefs, Anne and Kris, started with the company by creating tasty baked goods for the market in 2002. It wasn’t until 2009 that a separate location became available, allowing Anne and Kris to expand and open the Bi-Rite Creamery in order to provide ice cream and their well-known baked goods to the neighborhood.
Since opening the creamery, Anne and Kris have been determined to make each of their ice cream flavors truly live up to their names, creating some of the most richly decadent flavors around. To give each one the extra touch, they either make or grow the ingredients or they partner with local farms and suppliers that can provide the items needed. For example, the Rocky Road ice cream includes house-made marshmallows and house made TCHO Chocolate-covered almonds. Our tour group had a chance to sample one of their most popular flavors, the Salted Caramel ice cream—YUM!
This tour could not have ended on a sweeter note. Thanks again, Margherita, for a wonderful experience! If you have plans to visit San Francisco (or Los Angeles), I highly recommend you check out Avital Tours. And of course, if you find yourself in our neck of the woods, check us out! We offer a similar experience showcasing Colorado Springs’ cuisine.