Big Sur

Mo Clancy on SF's Best Chocolate Chip Cookie and Living Her Cleanest Life

Seed + Salt is San Francisco's first healthy, plant-based dining destination. The restaurant has become a vibrant, healthy living staple in the city, both for the lucky local Marina neighbors and those who happily schlep across town in weekday morning traffic for an other-worldly frittata. Its eco-sexy interiors and selection of 'classic-with-a-twist' dishes from scones to cookies to cobb salads are the vision of clean-living advocate Mo Clancy. Mo's shared her top picks for where to get well in San Francisco's Marina neighborhood, her go-to weeknight meal and her favorite NorCal roadtrip destination. 

Seed + Salt was such a dining game changer when it opened, what inspired the concept?

Well, opening Seed + Salt was never really my plan. I discovered there was a need for it while I was spending a lot of time in LA and NY and experiencing all of these healthy food options that we didn’t have at home in San Francisco. I was standing at the salad bar at Whole Foods one day thinking ‘is this all I can get?’ I really just started traveling and researching with the idea in mind, finding a lot of innovating things but nothing was what i wanted.

There were three things that were really important to me that I couldn’t find: convenience so I could grab clean and plant-based food without having to sit down and order, dishes that tasted like real food and not overly healthy, and third I wanted familiar menu items that people could recognize. Like our amazing chocolate chip cookie that is so simple, delicious and clean. I put the intention out there and things picked up speed quickly. I met chefs who helped me develop a menu, found some great vendors, on from there and the next thing i knew I had a restaurant!

What’s next for you guys?

We’re expanding our baked good program, which is not only vegan but gluten free and refined sugar free as well. We just introduced a super chocolate-y cupcake with chocolate frosting that is truly amazing and sells out most days. On the savory side, we will have new bowls and savory oatmeals. We’re also going to be introducing packaged goods that people can grab and go with like our gluten-free chia bread and baked yam chips.

What are some of your favorite wellness destinations in the Marina neighborhood?

I love our that our restaurant is in the Marina. In terms of my favorite food and juice in the area outside of the restaurant, Happy Moose Juice is a must. It is some of the best juice out there and we sell a ton of it at Seed + Salt. The other go-to I have for dining when I’m away from work is delivery from Thistle. They deliver clean, organic and mostly vegan food all over SF.

As for spa, I love SenSpa in the Presidio, they have some of the best masseuses in the city. I recently started floating at Reboot, the float spa. In terms of beauty, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Credo which has been a great addition to the neighborhood! I’m really sensitive to toxic ingredients, but since I’ve started buying at Credo I’ve been able to buy all sorts of eyeliners and other makeup that isn’t too harsh on my skin. My friend Tata Harper, whose cheek tints I’m addicted, now sells her products there and has a spa within the shop.

Another maybe less expected wellness destination for me is the Green Cleaners on Fillmore. Dry cleaning can be so toxic and I look at using a green dry cleaner as another part of living a clean life.

What’s your favorite item on the menu right now? Who are some of your favorite vendors/producers you’re working with?

Picking a favorite menu item is like picking  a favorite child! Right now I could say some of my favorites are the new Greek Falafel Salad with lemon tahini dressing, baked quinoa falafel and so many veggies. The coconut ceviche is another great one made with tons of coconut meat, lime juice, big chunks of avocado and a side of our baked yam chips. We’ve just redone our breakfast sandwich and it’s now made with a wonderful walnut chorizo, thick slices of our chickpea frittata, sprouts and aioli. Our chocolate chip cookie will always be my favorite, and the neighborhood agrees as it’s consistently our top seller.

As far as some of our cool vendors, we work with coffee producer Proyecto Diaz who grow their coffee beans on their grandfather’s farm in Mexico and give back to the community. I love Ryan, who founded Happy Moose Juice and think their quality is so good. Rhizocali’s organic tempeh in Oakland makes our fabulous organic black bean tempeh and black eyed pea tempeh.

What’s your favorite meal to prepare at home, for yourself and your family?

I have a couple of standards that I make as part of a really clean, mostly plant-based diet. I typically prepare things earlier in the week that can be easily mixed together for a hearty bowl for the rest of the week. With a seven year old son and a business I just have to be able to throw dinner together but not eat the same thing each night. I also try to stay pretty seasonal and have a seasonal calendar in my kitchen that I try to stick to it.

On Sunday or Monday, I roast veggies like squash and broccoli, and and prepare a batch of brown rice. Then I’ll make some sauce options for the week like a chimichurri sauce similar to what we do at the restaurant. It’s a spanish pesto with red wine vinegar and spinach, with a little zing to it. I’ll also do a pimento aioli or a vinaigrette with olive oil, whole grain mustard, red wine vinegar and a touch of stevia or agave. I’ll throw any of these sauces onto vegetables with some salt and pepper, and cranberries for the vinaigrette for a hit of sweetness.

How does the Seed + Salt ethos extend into other areas - do you have favorite natural beauty destinations, or favorite vegan beauty products?

Really, I feel like our ethos is about living a clean lifestyle. Right now it’s a squishy term, but for me it means that food is sourced ethically and transparently. I search for things that are organic, non-toxic, non-GMO. I seek out the same things in life outside the restaurant that I do in our food products. When I’m looking at a beauty product, for instance, I check to see if it has parabens, where are ingredients sourced from, if it has synthetic fragrances, if it’s been tested on animals. It can apply to cleaning products, to paint on house, to fabrics that you wear.

Awareness is key. As an example, when you look at almond milk in the food industry, people don’t think twice about its contents and healthiness. Most almond milk producers though aren’t transparent about what's in their product. Only 2% of most of them is made of actual almonds, everything else is fillers. At Seed + Salt, we use only whole, pure almond milk. I would never feed our customers that kind of thing. We are very transparent and honest about what we use. That’s why people trust us.

Do you have a favorite detox program in SF or do you ever juice?

No matter how clean of a lifestyle you live, you’re still living in the real world and absorbing things that aren’t clean. Yes, I do detoxes, but I don’t really believe in juice cleanses and think they can be hard on the body. If I do a cleanse, I’ll drink juice and eat raw vegetables and fruits for a couple of days until I feel better. Or I’ll just do a full day of vegetable broth if I’m feeling sluggish. I’m a big believer in cleansing from the outside and do infrared saunas, epsom salt baths and clay baths regularly. As a personal philosophy, I feel that when you cleanse, you need to make sure you’re replenishing your body with minerals or whatever else it needs so you’re not subtracting from your body, you’re adding.

Where do you go when you can escape the city to recharge?

I love going to Point Reyes or Bolinas nearby. A little bit further out I love visiting Big Sur and staying at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. I’ll stay for a couple of days and go to Esalen. I used to go to Wilbur Hot Springs, it’s a natural hot springs and lodge that the miners used to go to from the 1800’s. I think they are currently repairing the property from a fire, so for now Deetjens Big Sur and Esalen have been my go-to special places.

What are some healthy restaurants that inspire you, outside of San Francisco?

There are so many. When I first started thinking of Seed + Salt I was looking at what Pure Food and Wine and Dirt Candy were doing in New York. More recently, I’ve been visiting LA and enjoying Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food and Wine, Crossroads for a regular dinner experience that just happens to be vegan food and I just visited Little Pine which was great.

How do you eat healthfully on the road? 

It gets hard but fortunately there are more and more options. I always take a bag of our granola. I’m not that much of a granola fan but our granola is a really good mix of savory and sweet. I’ll take that and our protein-rich oat tahini cookies because they are super satisfying. It’s like eating a delicious bowl of oatmeal in a cookie! And I also carry just a simple banana or an apple in place of a bar because I think those can be high in sugar or highly processed. That said, we are thinking of developing a low-sugar bar but we haven’t figure out what that is yet.