The United Sweets of America - Part 1

On the 30th of November 2010, I left Sydney Australia and settled in the land of soy milk and organic honey, California, USA. For as long as I've been a keen traveler, the States have always been a place of great discovery and inspiration, especially in my past life as a high school visual arts teacher. This time, I was looking more specifically at a different type of art, and that is edible art... namely the good stuff that comes out of bakeries and cake design studios. Meanwhile, I have just spent the last hour going through the photos and notes I made along the way, and I have no idea how I'm going to write this blog entry. I have so much I'd love to share, and I guess I'm just going to have to do my best to not confuse you! So best to start at the beginning.
Here goes...

The Mission San Francisco It had been 6 long years since the last time I had set foot in San Francisco. My first time, I was an eager 20 year old student travelling with my best friend Amanda, and younger sister Jess. We were definitely 'tourists'. Coming out of the airport this time was very different. An eerily familiar feeling came over me, and things weren't so new. I simply felt comfortable.

I hopped into a cab, called my wonderful cousin Zeina, and within minutes,  we met at Philz Coffee, in the Mission. Zeina and I spent a quick hour getting me settled in with a run down of what there is to see, do, and eat locally. There was clearly so much going on in the neighbourhood, and I was so excited about that! From that afternoon onward, my time in San Francisco was a colourful blur of incredible people, inspiring classes, and beautiful bustling bakeries. Walk with me...

What I love about this eclectic neighbourhood, is the international produce sellers, vibrant cafe's and eateries, and expecially, the art. The mission lacks none of the above, if anything its flowing out onto the streets. Even around the most unsuspecting corner, you're sure to find something worth paying attention to. Zeina was all to excited to take me to one of her favourite local places to eat -  Cafe Gratitude, so we took a walk over for a late lunch.  I had never taken a walk through this side of San Francisco before and I couldnt help but snap pictures of the colourful store fronts, and street fruit vendors. For a fruit fly like myself, this was all too exciting! I especially loved the fruit van pictured to the left - I wish I had one of these on my street at home!
Cafe Gratitude
Cafe Gratitude is a wonderful spot to eat the specialises in vegan, organic, sustainable eating - however - the amazing thing is, most of the menu items are raw. Yes, raw. That is, uncooked and nutrient rich. I indulged in a hazelnut milk latte and a cooked item off the menu, a stunningly tasty creamy cauliflower soup. I also ordered an amazing quinoa grain bowl (that I still dream about) and to finish, a scrumptious coconut cream pie - I still talk about this place, and I recommend it to anyone that ventures into San Fran. The reason why, is because this place impressed me to no end. This incredible eatery is welcoming, warm, and encourages a deep focus on a world of plenty, and knowing your daily blessings. What a great place visit - even for the keen carnivore. Visit the website - such a great concept!
Cafe Gratitude
2400 Harrison Street (@20th Street) San Francisco, CA 94110 Phone: (415) 830-3014 Fax: 415.695.1989 Hours: 10 am to 10 pm
Notice that I do not have any photos of the soup or grain bowl - I completely forgot to take photos of them because I was far too distracted wondering how they were made so well! 
The next day during the later hours of the afternoon, before my first class at Baking Arts with the beautiful Richard Festen, I found myself wandering the streets of the Mission yet again. I decided it may be a good idea to pack my trusty camera, a little notebook, and away I went. So glad I did. Here's what I found...
La Victoria
Mexican Bakery and Cafe
What an absolutely charming place to spend a lazy afternoon! I was greeted by the friendly store owner Jaime, who was more than willing to talk about his wonderful concept. An authentic Mexican bakery and cafe. Still hosting lots of the classic American favourites like pound cakes, brownies and cupcakes, La Victoria boasts a colourful and tempting array of cookies, cakes, pastries, breads and savoury treats.

I sampled a lemon pound cake with my tea, and it was lovely. I was so thrilled to hear that La Victoria opens its generous doors to aspiring bakers and cooks, allowing these young creative food lovers to cook in a professional environment, and develop their skills. As most of us know, setting up a cafe or bakery is a very expensive venture. These up and coming foodies are provided with an opportunity to launch their brands and create a profile for their own businesses, all while using the facilities at La Victoria. Genius, and generousWhy don't more people think this way? If you're ever in the area, support a business that supports aspiring bakers and cooks!

La Victoria 2937 24th St San Francisco, CA 94110 phone: 415 642 7120 fax: 415 642 7124
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