• Restaurants

    OC Weekly Vegan Pop Up

    This past weekend, we went to check out this new weekly pop happening in Santa Ana, CA. It is hosted by Vegan By El Zamorano, the vegan offshoot of Taqueria El Zamorano.

    The set up is small but cozy. The event takes place in the parking lot. There is a rotating list of vendors, usually about 4-6 vendors, each week. They pretty much cover all your favorites: tacos, tamales and desserts. They have a small covered patio with picnic benches to enjoy while you fill your bellies.

    This weekend, in addition to El Zamorano, the other vendors were: Eat Yiju, Bianca’s Tamales, Sweet Vegan Delights and Nieves Exquisitas.

    Taco Plate from Vegan By El Zamorano

    Our first stop was obviously El Zamorano because tacos. We ordered a couple of each tacos and a taco plate with rice and beans. Our fave taco was the carne asada! Just the right texture and marinade, topped with delicious salsa and fresh cilantro and onion. Street taco heaven! And the beans and rice were fantastic! The beans were perfectly cooked and the rice was nice and fluffy.

     

    Next up was Eat Yiju for these gorgeous dumplings! I loved hearing about Susan’s story and how she is carrying on her families legacy through her love of dumplings. She is super rad. And her dumplings are out of this world. The dough was tender with a slight chew. And the filling was made of veggies and soyrizo which was served with red pickled cabbage. I should have ordered more. SO MANY MORE. Days later, I am still craving them!

    Yo-Soy-Rizo dumplings. OMG.

    We also checked out the tamales from Bianca’s..and totally forgot to take pictures while stuffing our faces! My fave was the Rajas tamal. Filled with chilies and cheeze, enveloped in flavorful masa, this was the clear winner! All tamales are served topped with salsa verde, a drizzle of crema and a dusting of parmesan.

    And, we ended the day with a few scoops of ice cream from Nieves Exquisitas. Technically, its is sorbet as they puree fruit, add some sugar and water and freeze. But what results is a creamy, decadent, ice cream! I kid you not. The coconut was pure and creamy and contained little flecks of coconut. My second favorite was peach-it was just like biting into a fresh peach! Nothing artificial here! I am looking forward to seeing more of them around town as they don’t have a storefront. So get them when you can!

    Peach Perfection
    Creamy Coconut

    And I can’t believe it..but we left without getting cookies. Though our friends that we were with really raved about the shortbread thumbprint cookies from Sweet Vegan Delights! They even have dog treats for your pups. Cookies all around..yay!

    We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with friends that trickled into the event. It was a gorgeous SoCal day and this event was a perfect way to spend the day. I loved that there was a great selection of foods and that the event was low key enough that you felt you could stay a while and hang out with friends. And hopefully hit up the vendors for round #2.

    For more info on this week’s pop up and schedule of vendors, be sure to follow Vegan by El Zamorano on IG!

    See ya there….

     

  • Restaurants

    Gracias Madre

    My hubby and I live in Southern California but we are not fans of Los Angeles. It’s so crowded, traffic is a nightmare and it’s just much more commotion than either of us care to deal with. It sends my anxiety levels through the roof! So, it’s rare for us to venture out that way.

    But we were looking for a place to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and wanted to go some where new for dinner. After some discussion, we settled on the fairly new Gracias Madre, a San Francisco restaurant that had recently opened a location in Los Angeles. So, we made a reservation and mentally prepared ourselves for a trip to Los Angeles. And, it was the best trip ever!

    gracias madre

    We left super early because you never know if it will take you thirty minutes or an hour and thirty minutes to get to L.A. We arrived at Gracias Madre about fifteen minutes before our reservation time. When we walked in, we were suprised at the interior. It’s very open, bright and airy. It seems like all the new places have dark, wood decor so this was a nice surprise. There was a nice outside patio that we could see from the hostess area with very large, glass doors that lead to it. There were also big windows along that same wall which just added so much light and warmth to the space. The seating for the main restaurant was super cute. The tables had chairs on one side and couch like seating on the other. There were pillows in bright colors that served at your backrest if you were sitting on the bench side. I was already in love.

    We checked in but told the hostess that we were going to seat ourselves at the bar while we waited for our table. She was very friendly and said that we could take our time and that our table would be waiting for us.

    So, we took at seat at the bar and quickly reviewed the drink menu. I already knew what I was ordering but my hubby was unsure. The bartender recommended a beer for him so we placed our order: El Guey Aguanta for me, Uinta Wyld Extra Pale Ale beer for him. My hubby really loved his beer! It was very smooth and had a very light, clean feel to it. It is definitely something he would drink again. And my drink was pretty amazing too! It essentially was horchata spiked with Mezcal. Topped with cinnamon, mint and little lime rind curly pizzazz, this drink was amazing! I loved the horchata and they were not stingy with the Mezcal. We excitedly sipped on our drinks while we watched the wonderful looking food come out of the kitchen. After finishing our drinks, we closed out our bar tab and checked in with the hostess again who took us to our table.

     El Guey Aguanta and Pale Ale

    Our server was great! He was super friendly, gave us some great suggestions and seemed genuinely happy to be there and to have us there. We chatted for a moment and placed our appetizer order: Guacamole and Papas al Horno. The guacamole was really good and it was served with warm handmade tortillas instead of chips, which was a nice change of pace. The serving of guacamole was on the small side but it was tasty and it was the perfect amount for the tortillas. The papas were definitely the highlight here. These tiny potatoes were perfectly roasted, seasoned and then drizzled with a spicy cashew cheese sauce. Just describing them makes me hungry for them again! These were insanely delicious and we tried to very casually stuff our faces with all of the potatoes. Here’s a little tip: Make yourself a taco with some guacamole and a few potatoes. You’re welcome.

    papas

     

    After some small talk and important decision making, we ordered another round of drinks. My hubby ordered another beer and I went with the seasonal sangria (which was delicious!) because if I had another adult horchata, it was going to be a long ride home. Our drinks came and we ordered our entrees. My hubby ordered the chilaquiles and I ordered the flautas. Neither dish disappointed us. The chilaquiles were perfectly spicy and topped with cashew cream, cilantro and avocado to cool the spiciness. The flautas were stuffed with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions. They were also topped with cashew nacho cheese, pico de gallo salsa and guacamole. They were absolutely delicious! A little sweet and a little spicy and loads of flavor! Both entrees were served with refried black beans that were perfectly seasoned and tasty!

    chilaquiles flautas sangria and beer

     

    Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Frosting and housemade vanilla coconut ice crean
    Pumpkin Cake with Maple Cream Frosting and housemade vanilla coconut ice crean

    And obviously, we couldn’t not get dessert, right? So, we ordered their Pumpkin cake with Maple Cream Frosting and housemade vanilla coconut ice cream. It was absolutely amazing. The cake was a bit denser than a regular cake since it was a bundt style cake. The frosting wasn’t overly sweet but really contrasted the spiciness in the cake. The ice cream was super creamy and had a little hint of vanilla that complemented the cake and cream very well. As a side note: you can order their Mexican Wedding Cookies to go. And we did. And they were delish.

    Overall, our experience at Gracias Madre WeHo was one of the best dining experiences we’ve had in a while. Everything that we were served was absolutely perfect. The flavors on the plate were balanced and the seasonings were well done. And everything tasted fresh. I highly recommend the trip out to Los Angeles to treat yourself! Oh, and while you’re out there, you can do some shopping at Viva La Vegan Express, which is about 10 minutes away.