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Restaurants & Bars 11

Berkeley - Café Gratitude – I AM GIGGLING … after vegan, organic, sulfite-free wine

rworange | Mar 11, 200601:09 AM

Café Gratitude gives vegans a good name … they have a sense of humor after all … I hope.

Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle said it best in one of the earliest reports about Café Gratitude:

“Vegans, I figured, were people who were too snotty to be vegetarians”

Not that Oakland’s Manzanita doesn’t have good food … it’s just not fun and the people look unhappy to be eating the way they are eating … anything but grateful. Think pilgrims, but without the sunny attitude.

Café Gratitude is endlessly entertaining; it even has game cards on the table.

The kitchen calls out to the servers when the orders are ready … “Amanda … you are luscious”.

If you are unfamiliar with Café Gratitude, the dishes all have titles like that … “I am luscious” is a chocolate smoothie made from fresh Brazil nut milk, figs, dates, raw cacao, and vanilla

It is the kind of place that you wonder if it really is a SNL Stuart Smiley self-affirmation spoof. But they are just so darned nice you don’t care. Café Gratitude changed my attitude.

Even though I knew I needed to go in with the right mind-set … even then … I was REALLY grateful to see wine and beer on the menu … it’s the type of place you need to mellow out … at least on the first visit … and wheatgrass wasn’t going to do it for me.

I contemplated the menu and said out loud I would be grateful to be served:

- YO SOY MUCHO Mexican bowl - Shredded kale under steamed quinoa, topped with guacamole, spicy salsa, Brazil nut parmesan and sprouts.

- I AM COURAGEOUS house organic, fair-trade, and shade grown coffee “cold-processed… not brewed but instead infused for 48 hours in cold water. This gives you an acid-free creamy coffee elixir that’s incredibly smooth and rich” … according to the menu.

- I AM PRAISING - soft serve ice cream made from organic nut milk, dates and vanilla bean

- WINE – I WAS grateful it took the edge off. There are about a half dozen vegan, organic or sulfite-free wines … or all of the above. The organic beers are Samuel Smith lager (England), Pinkus Organic Pilsner (Germany) and Wolavers Organic Brown Pilsner (Vermont). The wines were also by such well-know producers. Prices were not bad though. One beer was $4 and one of the wines was $5. They come in sturdy large bowled wine glasses.

So how’s the food. Not bad for healthy vegan stuff.

The ice cream was good and if they didn’t tell me, I’d never know it was probably good for me. Tasted like decent vanilla soft-serve with a very muted and not unpleasant bitter note .,. the type of bitterness that comes from nuts

Yeah, the coffee … it ain’t Blue Bottle or Graffeo. It wasn’t bad for lukewarm coffee. I like a little more acid and bite in my coffee, but ok. Next time I’ll go for the house ginger ale (“I am effervescent" - Apple juice, ginger, and naturally sparkling water) that Carroll said “spelled refreshment with every mouthful.”

I liked the guacamole the best, very fresh tasting and delicious. The salsa was nice too, good warm quinoa on a cold rainy day … steamed kale, is steamed kale … nice and fresh as were the sprouts that topped the bowl. The Brazil nut parmesan looked like grated cheese … well, grated brownish cheese, but I don’t recall any particular flavor … good or bad. I was focused on the guacamole.

It was a true comfort dish on a cold day, soft and warm and delicious. As good as a bowl of mashed potatoes with butter, yet healthier I’m guessing.

I haven’t been to the two SF locations, but the Berkeley location on Shattuck is a very comfortable place to hang out … brick walls, skylights, communal tables, cushioned benches running along the wall with comfy pillows to settle into. There’s an area with two large couches and a counter with about seven stools. There’s a little outdoor patio area on Shattuck for sunnier days.

One Chowhound post mentioned one SF location couldn’t handle a group. The Berkeley location would be a great place for a large group.

The tables have large bottles of tap water etched with words like “divinity’ and “fun” Vases of bright fresh flowers like roses and tulips graced each table. Really odd napkins that look like unbleached crinkled rags.

Dishes and bowls are organically colored (eggplant purple, coffee brown, forest green) in comforting shapes. At the bottom of each bowl and cup are the words “What are you grateful for?”.

There’s a deli and bakery case and take-out. That was where the kitchen broke down … calling out the take-out orders “Christine , You are bold, compassionate, abundant, flourishing … and the voice would trail off exhausted.”

Some of the baked goods looked … well, healthy … however, the cream pies looked really good and have some positive reports. Also there were good looking puddings. It seems like a great place to stop by and try some of the unusual drinks.

The menu says the juices are “pressed each morning using a hydraulic juice press.
This technology actually provides a far superior juice than common centrifugal juicing machines. Our juices retain a high concentration of nutrients for an extended period of time and their full flavor and creamy smooth texture is above and beyond what’s otherwise available!”

Some of the drinks I want to try besides the ginger ale

I AM CHARMED Maghreb mint green tea - Blended with ginger, cardamom,
black pepper, and other rare spices

I AM CARING Shipibo Treasure tea - Contains una de gato (cats claw) and other bio-energetic healing herbs from the Amazon. Wild crafted and sustainably harvested.

I AM SASSY House Virgin Margarita! Fresh lemon juice, filtered water, agave, and
Himalayan crystal salt sole blended with ice.

The entrance has shelves selling some of the elixirs, botanicals, salt, cook books, hats, dishes and things like hemp seeds.

The check comes with a wooden clothes pin holding a game card and the check. Almost like French Laundry with that clothes pin.

I thought the affirmation card with the check was interesting. It said "A covetous man is always poor".

I contemplated this later and thought maybe it was a hint or subliminal suggestion to tip generously. Service was great though, so the tip was generous anyway ... but maybe that did work after all.

About those game cards. At the top there is a quote from various philosophers … it could be a quote from the Bible, Shakespeare, Emerson, Whitman or Winfry … as in Oprah Winfry (“You are what you are by what you believe” … WHAT).

Each card then has questions or affirmations that people are supposed to respond to. It is so silly and done with good humor (really, I hope it is done tongue in cheek) that it is fun.

I liked the smaller affirmation card with a single thought like

Say out loud to another player “I honor and value my self as a divine creation”.

The best was

Read out loud three times and simply let yourself contemplate “What time is it”.

Well, since I was alone, I thought even in Café Gratitude this might be over the top … me sitting alone and repeating out loud “What time is it?” , What time is it?”, “What time is it?”.

But if you contemplate it… it is a deep question “What time IS it?”

One card had the coolest story. A saintly woman spent her whole life devoted to feeding and educating poor children. Yet there were always more than she could care for. Discouraged, she went to a wise man and asked what she should do. He replied “Meditate on the requests for help and attend to the voice of the loudest longing”. She went off and meditated an hour, then went out to the market and bought herself a pretty red dress.

I am amused … and I might go shopping for a red dress.

Jon Carroll on the first Café Gratitude


Morton on Berkeley’s Café Gratitude


SF Café Gratitude posts




Link: http://www.withthecurrent.com/cafe.html

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