Gratitude (With a Side of Change in Attitude)

If someone had told me years ago that one of my favorite restaurants in the bay area would feature vegan, mostly raw cuisine and be occupied by earthy, musky scented employees and patrons, all seemingly on a perpetual ‘yoga-high’ I would have said, “no way, that’s not my scene.” I also would have been wrong.

I was introduced to Cafe Gratitude a few years ago when a friend (and fellow chef) told me that she was craving one of their dishes and invited me to join her for lunch. Closed minded and opinionated (and thinking that I understood food a lot better than I did at the time,) I went in expecting a meal resembling cardboard in texture and flavor, certain that I would leave unsatisfied, still hungry and craving a rare cheeseburger. Instead, I left feeling sated, full, pleasantly surprised and, on top of all of that, amazingly relaxed.

I have returned to Cafe Gratitude countless times since that first visit and can say with conviction that they have some of the most delicious, creative, flavorful and satisfying food I’ve ever eaten. My favorite is a salad made with Bhutanese red rice, marinated vegetables and an addictive vinaigrette — simple ingredients with surprisingly complex flavors. Equally delicious are the creamy nut “cheeses”, flavorful soups and salads and numerous, ethnically inspired entrees. They also feature a large list of house made fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and elixirs.

Perhaps the greatest surprise at Cafe Gratitude comes by way of the dessert menu. The dairy and sugar free cheesecakes are creamy and rich, the nut “milk” shakes cool and satisfying and the coconut “cream” pie with date-nut crust is downright delicious.

Yesterday, following another fantastic lunch there, I purchased their cookbook, I Am Grateful, and was pleased to find that, for the most part, the recipes use ingredients that are easy to find and techniques that do not require a kitchen appliance makeover. I can’t wait to start playing around with vegan, mostly raw food myself. Now there is a sentence I never thought I’d find myself uttering!