Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cafe Gratitude

In my last post, on the Loving Hut, I made the comment that it was not on the same level as the vegan restaurants we've been to in Los Angeles with Andrew, that have fresher ingredients, better looking vegetables, less oil, a better presentation and a more sophisticated combination of ingredients. Well, Cafe Gratitude is one of the comparisons I was referring to and it may be numero uno. This is a restaurant worth taking a long drive to, whether or not you are vegan. When I first started eating vegan, Andrew told me that I needed to go to a few vegan restaurants to see how creatively and how deliciously vegan food could be made. There is real artistry in these dishes. Cafe Gratitude has four locations: in Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles and Venice. I went to the Los Angeles location with Andrew and Lauren, located at 639 N. Larchmont Blvd (323-580-6383). The food it serves is all locally grown, organic and vegan. They use no refined sugar, flour or additives and produce about 45% of their own food at their own farm. They also compost the food from the restaurant which is taken back to the farm. One of the hallmarks of a great vegan restaurant is quality ingredients. When you look at their dishes, you can see the quality. This place is funky. The menu items are all "I Am"s. A list of some of the current menu items are, I Am: Bonita, Bright Eyed, Sustained, Delicious, Fantastic, Adventurous, Passionate, Thriving, Present, Local, Fulfilled, Vivacious, Dazzling, Connected, Grounded, Bold, Celebrating, Pure, Festive, Happy, Liberated, Elated, Fabulous, and so on.  One of the things that came to my mind as I saw the menu was the name of God as given in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, "I Am that I Am." I didn't see that as a menu item, but I would love to see what they could come up with to match that name. They do have "I Am Eternal" which is homemade ice cream milkshakes which sound pretty heavenly to me. You can easily spend your first 15 minutes scanning the menu, laughing, comparing notes and oohing and ah hing over the menu items. Then, you have to get over the silliness you feel when ordering your meal, "I will have I Am Transformed please."  Andrew and I were just coming back from a hiking trip in Colorado, so I was hungry as well as eager to try a bunch of different menu items, so I ordered several items. First, was "I Am Happy" which was a Mediterranean wrap with falafels, zucchini cilantro hummus, spinach, red onion, tomato, cucumber, red chili pepper sauce and garlic tahini dressing on sun-dried tomato bread. Just look at the detail in the bread, the different grains - little flecks of yellow,  and the tomato. 
This is not mass-produced stuff. And look at the uncomplicated, but very fresh and wonderful looking side salad. 
Next, I ordered Judy's favorite dish (she was not with us) "I Am Whole," which is sea vegetables, stewed adzuki beans, raw kale, carrots, house-made red cabbage kim chee and sea whip, black sesame seed gomasio (sesame salt), quinoa and/or brown rice, tahini-garlic sauce and teriyaki almonds. 
It is great stuff. You could never guess how excellent sea vegetables are as part of this dish, but they add a very distinctive and wonderful flavor. Lauren got her favorite dish which is "I Am Pure" and consists of ginger-tahini kale salad with avocado, sea palm, nori, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, basil and green onions topped with sunflower sprouts and teriyaki almonds. 
Andrew ordered what I believe was "I Am Fabulous," a raw specialty consisting of heirloom tomato, spinach and arugula lasagna layered with zucchini noodles, hempseed basil pesto, and olive tapenade, cashew rocotta with a side salad.  
Just look at the creamy nuts drizzled over the yellow tomato. Amazing! I don't think he liked this dish as much as some others he's ordered, but it sure looked wonderful. I also ordered "I Am Grounded" which is garlic roasted new potatoes 
served with spicy nacho cheese and homemade chipotle ketchup. The potatoes were pretty straight forward and the sauces were unusual, but just okay. 
Finally, for dessert, I ordered and shared the "I Am Devoted" coconut cream mousse sweetened with dates which is one of the best vegan desserts I've tasted. 
It was very smooth, rich and creamy which vegan desserts often have a hard time achieving. This place is high on my list to go back. I can recommend it highly. 

1 comment:

  1. In my book, this is the best vegan food I've ever had. I'd go back any day.