La or Bust: Gracias Madre

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Everyone needs a partner in crime. You know the kind – one of those espionage types, equally adept at darting through a Saks sale rack and traveling the globe in search of the best of the best. Gal Pal Janna-Banana loves to break out of the bubble into uncharted territory as much as I do.  A recent girls night out took us to Los Angeles for food, frolic and fun.

It was one of those nights. The stars aligned and we ended up at Maxfield’s where a black trench coat from France had my name all over it. Drool worthy! The clothing, jewelry, hats, shoes and art at Maxfield  in Los Angeles represent decades of rare and decadent taste. Just stumbling around inside the store is a master class in aesthetic sophistication. Next stop was the opening exhibit “The Big Picture” for legendary photographer Arthur Elgort at Fahey/Klein Gallery. (Thank you Michael Eivaz Photography for images). His work is on exhibit October 22, 2015 through December 5, 2015. If you re looking for fine art photography, this is the place.

We hightailed it out of here (from our primo spot right behind the Gallery) and headed to The Troubadour to document Katie Garfield and her band. My Nikon D750 performed like a charm in this low-light (crazy light truth be told) situation. Katie rocked, the crowd cheered and I shot a few hundred images. Not only had I worked up an appetite for photography, I was starving. We skipped down the street in search of a late night snack and along the way passed De Re Gallery. The place was going off with an opening for Brian Bowen Smith’s photography exhibit “Metallic Life”.  After catching the eye of legendary photographer Herb Ritts while performing as a pro athlete, Herb became Brian’s mentor and friend. Four years as Herb’s assistant helped Brian find his personal photographic style, landing assignments for W, Vanity Fair, Esquire and more. Capturing pictures of hip urbanites and high rise peeps walking their pups on the street outside the gallery was a blast, but this Style Spy’s stomach was growling…

Our unbashed passion for great food led us across the street to Gracias Madre, a vegan mexican restaurant on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, California. Gracias Madre means: “Thanks Mom” in Spanish. Like Picasso in his blue mood, Chef Chandra Gilbert is in the zone people. They serve cuisine inspired by the kitchens of Mexico reinterpreted with farm fresh organic vegetables, rather than meat. Their mission? To celebrate and serve the presence of the mother which resides above us, within our hearts, within the earth, and in all those who nurture us. I like the message. Brought to you by the same family that gave us Gratitude, it’s less mixed granola and more classy while still being casual with beautiful ambiance.

Gracias Madre sets the bar high for all health-conscious, vegan restaurants and this place is second to none in many aspects including: artistic expression in food preparation and quality of ingredients. Our waiter sauntered over to our table with a sumptuous serving of Chips and guacamole (trust  me when I say, this was no mere Guac! It’s jam-packed with freshness.) and  the quesadillas de calabaza. This was unlike any quesadilla I have ever tried. I ordered the COLIFLÓR FRITO which was perfect for sharing. It’s flash-fried cauliflower with cashew “cheese” sauce and it’s potentially the greatest thing in Los Angeles. If there are more than two of you at the table one order will not be enough. (Not wanting my friend to know that I am an ultimate food whore, I let her have the last few bites). I dream of this dish. For real. Want. It. Now.

How can one resist Snow Cone Margaritas with happy red and white swirled paper straws? Called La Quinceanera, this cocktail is basically an adult snow cone sitting on top of a delicious libation of Tequila Blanco, Muddled Kiwi, Mint, Lemon, Agave Nectar, Lime Bitters and Hielo Raspado Bitters. If you like a little snowcone with your liquor, give this a try. Delicious and the perfect balance of sweetness. Gracias Madre’s Jason Eisner Sells over 1,000 Margaritas a Night so that must tell you something. I normally consume my tequila out of the bottle, Err, I mean, on ice or simply paired with a lime. Bless me Father for I think I have sinned. Down a few of these bad boys and don’t call anyone in the morning! Just bask in the afterglow like a great night of passion. My only feedback is that they are too small. Bigger is better right? These concoctions would ultimately leave us a bit tongue-tied and giddy in the way that multiple tequila shots often do, especially after darting all over town rushing from event to event.

From the moment you step foot in this ultimate hangout you experience a real hideaway and the outdoor patio of this place is the perfect spot to be on the prowl. It’s also the perfect spot to unwind after your toes have been crammed into a pair of stiletto boots for eight hours (not me, but gal pal Banana – who looked like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman with those tall black kick ass bad boys). My flat Celine black paten-leather booties served me well and actually contributed to my jumping power in front of the “Step and Repeat” at De Re Gallery. Just ask anyone, it was epic!

The patio at Gracias Madre is lovely at night with twinkle lights, 80 year old Olive trees and a big open fireplace. On our way out, I noticed a prayer box with church like candles. You could write down a prayer, put it in the box, and light a candle. This was such a special touch and seems my prayer is already being answered. Thankyouverymuch.

Vegans rejoice over this exceptional, authentic Mexican restaurant, and so did we. A sinfully delicious foodie, fashion, music, photography haunt indeed.

What can I say, it was one of those nights…

LA EATER: Gracias Madre:




With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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