September 23, 2012

Cafe Gratitude

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." ~ Hippocrates

I am a carnivore -- always have been, and, absent a drastic life change, always will be.
This isn't to say I don't appreciate my fruits and vegetables -- I do!  It's just that sometimes, a juicy steak or a perfectly-grilled hamburger is the best way to my heart (and probably any future heart-attacks).

Perhaps this is why my friend challenged me to go vegetarian for 10 consecutive days.*  Aside from the fact that I wanted to prove this doubtful friend that I would (1) take on this challenge and (2) be successful at it, I wanted to redeem the prize: a steak dinner at Maestro's.  And just like that, we're back full circle.

The challenge was given several weeks ago, and though I've accepted, I've still yet to actually start my [sad] 10 consecutive days.  Again, this is unsurprising to anyone, including me.

CG takes up the 1st floor.
photo courtesy of archpaper


Given my carnivorous and un-hipster tendencies, I was more than skeptical to try Cafe Gratitude, a haven for not only vegetarians, but vegans, who also happen to be very, very hip.  Would it surprise you if I told you that this 100% organic, 100% vegan restaurant chain was born in SF? { more history here }  Since its success in SF, CG made its SoCal debut on Larchmont, and is now expanding westward to Venice.

But sometimes, everyone ought to face their fears -- i.e. eating at a vegan restaurant -- and give it a go.  So I did.  And much to my dismay... I liked it!  (Don't worry; refer to the 1st two sentences of this entry).

Before the server took our order, she informed us of the "Question of the Day."  Ours was "What are you saying YES to?"  I forget my eating partners' answers, but mine was "YES to eating Sprinkles after this meal."  I've accepted my fat kid ways.  You should, too.

I am Celebrating - $13

We started with "I am Celebrating," a raw ceviche with young coconut and zucchini chunks marinated with tomato, red onion, avocado, cilantro, jalapeno, red algae flakes, salsa verde and in a goji-chipotle vinaigrette, over a bed of lettuce and flax crackers.

I liked the house vinaigrette, but felt the dish was over-dressed.  Still, the ceviche was refreshing and all of the flavors of the veggies complimented each other well.  I even found the flax cracker, which had a funny texture, reminiscent of hemp paper, was delicious!

I am Liberated - $13

Then, we moved onto three additional entrees.  "I am Liberated" is a hemp seed pesto pasta made with kelp (seaweed) noodles, heirloom cherry tomatoes, green and kalamata olives, asparagus, spinach, and topped with brazil nut parmesan and julienned basil.

The creaminess of the pesto made for an interesting contrast to the slightly crunchy kelp "pasta."  Though the combo made it a little difficult to apportion, it was flavorful enough to enjoy without any trouble.

I am Whole w/ avocado - $15.25

"I am Whole" is large macrobiotic bowl with sea veggies, stewed beans, raw kale, shredded carrots, house-made red cabbage "kimchi," topped with black sesame seed gomasio (sesame salt), and with teriyaki almonds, brown rice or quinoa (or both), and tahini-garlic sauce.  Avocado slices can be added.

The warmth of the rice, quinoa, and beans was a nice change to the rest of the dishes.  Also, it was nice that even the raw veggies did not require use of the tahini sauce.  Though rich in flavor, it did not made me full in an over-eater's remorse kind of way.

I am Fabulous - $13

"I am Fabulous" is a lasagna layered with zucchini noodles, hempseed basil pesto, olive tapenade, heirloom tomato, spinach, arugula, and topped with a cashew ricotta.  Since CG is purely vegan, the "ricotta" is made by soaked cashews, water, salt, and some lemon juice.  Sure, it tastes nothing like cheese, but it's amazing how you can create a ricotta consistency with four, simple (and vegan!) ingredients.

What's even more amazing is that everything I ate at CG was delicious.  Never once was I reminded that I was eating vegan food.  Never once did I feel grossly full.  And the charm and kindness of (most) everyone at the restaurant was inviting.  Though I'm not ready to integrate this culture to my lifestyle, I can genuinely say I'm a fan of going raw!  If I can do it, you can do it, too.

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Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

cuisine: Vegan/ Vegetarian
location: Larchmont Village or Mid-City
hours: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm, Daily
websites: CG | yelp | twitter }
attire: Casual
parking: street, underground lot

about CG's: { food | practice | menu }