San Francisco is my life

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When I think of summer foods, fresh fruit, cold vegetable juice, light salads and such come to mind. Foods that refresh and energize you in the heat of the sunny season. Hot coffee on a cloudy day definitely does not sound like fun in the sun. However, this is how I spent much of the last month. Summer in San Francisco can be cold and windy. And it is impossible to resist the aroma and ambiance seeping from all the local, unique coffee shops throughout the city. For almost  a year I have only enjoyed coffee on the weekends, replacing my daily morning cup of joe with a hemp protein shake during the workweek. San Francisco ruined that routine and I find myself again addicted to coffee. While I spent a month living in the city dancing for Post:Ballet, I couldn't help but be attracted to all the coffee shops-and not just the delicious coffee (and it better be delicious because you are dropping many pennies)...the decor, the people, the variety. So here I give you a breakdown of my favorite spots that I visited each morning en route to rehearsal in the mission. The studios were very close to one of my favorite streets in the city-Valencia. I good place to wander and shop for vintage clothes and of course get some coffee beans. A place that is always crowded and full of interesting folk is Four Barrel. Art on the walls, great music playing and huge roasting machines visible to the public make this cafe very unique and enticing. Their practices support social sustainability and fair trade and each cup is made with care. You might have to wait a bit longer than Starbucks, but the coffee is incredible and even beautiful...latte art can make each cup taste even better. Even though I wasn't a huge fan of the animal heads on the wall, the overall feeling of the place was great. Perfect for reading, catching up with a friend or just sipping on coffee people watching.

Another popular spot in Valencia is Ritual Coffee. My lovely hostess for the month swore by their beans and always kept a bag around the apartment. So I often made Ritual coffee at home rather than visit the shop. But it is another cute cafe with killer beans! Fair trade from Columbia-pricey but worth it. A great logo as well.

One of the dancers recommended a smaller coffee shop that her friend opened a few years ago. It was prefect for me because it was close to where I was living in Nob Hill. Contraband Coffee. It was among my favorites-great environment with high tables and bright natural light, beautiful latte art, a variety of beans, and vegan scones and muffins (always a plus for me). The soy latte was incredible and my favorite was a roast from Costa Rica.

Now to my favorite coffee shop in San Francisco...unfortunately I only discovered it during my last weekend in town and it was not close to anywhere I had to be-ever. My friend Jessica had heard about it and we finally got around to visiting it during the week of our shows. Sightglass Coffee. The full store was not yet open but the coffee was being served from a garage-type bar. The service was amazing and the baristas took the time to help me decide on a bean variety and how I wanted it brewed. Happy servers always make the experience more enjoyable. I decided on a soy latte from a Costa Rican bean. The foam was beautifully crafted, the coffee tasted amazing and I kept a smile on my face until the last bit of foam was gone. Sightglass scored extra points for the bike parked by the door-first bike I had seen with an adorable and functional "fanny pack" attached to the back.

And of course there are plenty of chain coffee shops lining the streets of the city. Peets Coffee and Tea sport a mean vegan gingerbread cookie (thank you Natalia for introducing it to me). Philz Coffee is also a hotspot and has twenty blends to choose from. All carefully crafted  and handmade to accomadate whatever mood you are in!

I did eat when I was in the city as well...although I rediscovered coffee and tried not to eat out all that much, I could not avoid all the vegan restaurants in San Francisco. A new wave of restaurants opened recently on Folsom street and although many are meat heavy I was able to find many vegan options. One great place I tried was Zero Zero. Although it is mostly known for its pizza, the vegetable side dishes are amazing and change with the seasons. I heard about their brussels sprouts and I unfortunately missed them...but I did try a green bean dish that was out of this world! And a fabulous blackberry cocktail. Another enticing thing about SF is all the awesome bars and the libations they serve. Certain restaurants and bars have drink menus as long as novels! It's hard to choose sometimes. And I do not recommend letting the bartenders choose for you if you are vegan. I made that mistake after spending a few hours chatting with a certain mixologist. I felt confident that he knew my drink style and as he delivered a surprise drink of his choice I noticed a froth on top that could only be made by eggs...and yes the cocktail did have whipped egg whites. So beware if you are not into that. Otherwise...San Francisco cocktails are among the best I've had!!!

Another local organic spot that I tried in the mission was called Radish. The art and overall feel of the place was great...and the bottomless mimosas! I had a tempeh sandwich with vegetable chips that was pretty rockin.

As far as strictly vegan restaurants, Gracias Madre takes the cake. An all vegan, organic, mexican restaurant that ranks in my top five eateries anywhere. Seriously epic. Located in the heart of the mission, with a great outdoor patio, a local playing his guitar, a beautiful mural, and of course amazing food. My favorite dish is probably the sweet potato quesadilla appetizer. You must order this dish. It's incredible. the guacamole is also top notch, along with the vegetable tacos and grilled plantains. I would move to SF solely to eat at this restaurant weekly.

It was sad that I did not cook more over the past month but being busy, not having my own kitchen, and being surrounded by new places all contributed to this travesty. I did throw together a few new creations but I'll share them another time. For now, if you are visiting San Francisco consider these amazing spots...a few more to come along with pumpkin muffins, dance shots, and a coastal road trip !