Monday, October 31, 2011

I Am Grateful

It seems fitting to close my month-long ode to Cafe Gratitude with the dish that both defines and sets it apart from every other restaurant I've ever encountered. I Am Grateful is a donation-only bowl consisting of simple, nutrient-dense ingredients: a grain (option of quinoa, brown rice, or a combination), black beans, shredded kale, and the lovely garlic-tahini sauce. While the suggested donation is $7, anyone can order it and pay as little or as much as they're willing and capable. The menu says: "Payment is by donation. No one is turned away. Suggested value is $7. Feed yourself and someone in need for $14." It's a program that allows customers to experience the gifts of giving and receiving, of nourishing someone else and of being nourished by another.

There's a great story of the I Am Grateful bowl in action here.

Recently, Cafe Gratitude LA gathered a crew of community members to feed the Occupy LA participants with I Am Grateful bowls. If it hadn't been on a work day, I would have been right there serving up gratitude with them! The video of that day's experience is here.

If you'd like to donate, but don't live near a Cafe Gratitude location, please check out the Grateful Bowl Program.

I've thoroughly enjoyed sharing and celebrating my favorite restaurant during VeganMoFo this year. I am so grateful for the healthful, delicious food and for the community itself...this community is my family.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What is your secret super power?

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Am Grace, Eternal, & Cool

Cafe Gratitude LA makes wonderful almond milk-based and coconut milk-based milkshakes to sweeten its meals. Above is I Am Grace, a shake made of young coconut milk, almond butter, dates, and vanilla bean.

Falling under the name I Am Eternal is a foursome of shakes in chocolate (seen above), vanilla, coffee, and strawberry flavors. They each used to have their own name under the previous menu, but the new menu grouped them together. If I had to choose, my favorite is probably the coffee shake, but they're all perfect.

Saving the best for last, my very favorite Cafe Gratitude LA shake is I Am Cool, a mint chocolate chip shake packed with nutrients. Containing VitaMineral Green, a nutrient-dense green "superfood powder," and cacao nibs, which are rich in antioxidants, this milkshake has health benefits and satisfies my mint chocolate chip cravings all in one.

(Not pictured here, but previously featured is I Am Luscious).

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What ignites you?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Am Juicy

I'm sure it's no surprise that Cafe Gratitude LA excels at fresh juices. My favorite is I Am Rejuvenated, a blend of wheatgrass, apple, ginger (I pretty much love anything that contains ginger), and lemon juice with sparkling water.

I Am Divine is new to the menu; a sweet and spicy mix of carrot, lemon, and ginger juice.

I Am Healthy is exactly that: a healthful combination of kale, celery, cucumber, and lemon juice (add ginger juice for a kick!).

Another sweet and spicy option is I Am Worthy, the kale, beet, celery, apple, and ginger juice.

I Am Energized is a completely different type of spicy, though. It's an alkalizing green smoothie with kale, cucumber, celery, lemon, cilantro, avocado, and jalapeno. I ordered mine without avocado and I wasn't able to get through much of it. The richness of the avocado would naturally cut the heat of the jalapeno, so if you're an avocado lover, order this on my behalf!

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What are you creating?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Am Transcending

Cafe Gratitude LA
really understands Latin American flavors and translates them perfectly into raw and cooked vegan cuisine. I Am Transcending is 2 raw tacos on spinach-flax tortillas with a spicy sunflower seed pate, the infamous chipotle cashew cheese, guacamole, and salsa fresca (I ordered mine without guacamole and salsa fresca, opting instead for the salsa verde from I Am Trusting). The sunflower seed pate has a great texture and definitely is spicy. I love spicy food, so I was very happy and warm after eating this dish.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What are you learning?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Am Present

I Am Present is Cafe Gratitude LA's bruschetta appetizer. On the previous menu, it was toasted baguette topped with raw heirloom tomato, cashew mozzarella, basil, and a balsamic-olive oil drizzle. However, with the new menu changes that occurred on October 1st, the tomato was replaced with caramelized butternut squash. I took one scrumptious bite and my eyes widened in awe. Bruschetta should always be topped with caramelized butternut squash from this moment forward.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What motivates you?

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Am Fantastic

One of the big changes the head chef at Cafe Gratitude LA made when updating the menu was creating exciting new breakfast dishes. Among the 4 new choices, I was most looking forward to I Am Fantastic, a raw banana-chia crepe full of fresh fruit and topped with coconut creme, maple syrup, chopped pecans, and a dash of cinnamon. The crepe is like soft banana fruit leather and mine was stuffed full of beautifully ripe strawberries (the fruit will change upon seasonal availability). The coconut creme is light and lovely, coating each bite along with the pure maple syrup. I Am Fantastic is heavenly!

The online menu says breakfast is only served from 8-11 a.m., but don't be fooled; I confirmed that it's actually served all day! That means, if you can't get to the Cafe at breakfast time, you can order I Am Fantastic for lunch or dinner (or for dessert)!

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What is most important to you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Am Whole

My very favorite go-to dish at Cafe Gratitude LA is I Am Whole. A macrobiotic grain bowl (choice of brown rice or quinoa or both; I always get quinoa), it's composed of homemade kimchi, sea palm, raw kale, shredded carrots, sprouts, the garlic-tahini sauce (also an option for I Am Fortified), and teriyaki almonds. The homemade kimchi is out-of-this-world delicious, spicy and tangy with a perfect texture. I Am Whole is filling, but not heavy, and leaves me feeling thoroughly nourished.

Today's Cafe Gratitude LA Question of the Day: What are you great at?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Am Transformed

If you're in the mood for tacos, I Am Transformed will satisfy your craving. It's two soft corn tortillas stuffed with black beans, a choice of mashed, caramelized butternut squash or brown rice, the scrumptious chipotle cashew cheese, avocado, and salsa fresca (I order mine without avocado and salsa fresca). The brown rice version is from the original Cafe Gratitude LA menu and butternut squash version is on the new menu. Both are still available, even though the current menu only lists the butternut squash option.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What do you love about the work you do?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Am Trusting

I Am Trusting is Cafe Gratitude LA's new seasonal tamale plate. The tamale is filled with zucchini and mushrooms and is served alongside the most perfect black beans I've ever tasted. The spicy salsa verde is not only a delicious accompaniment to the tamale, but it also gave a nice kick to my salad (I tend to eat my salad last).

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What are you proud of?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Am Liberated

I Am Liberated is the raw sister of I Am Graceful. This kelp noodle dish is generously sauced with the hemp seed pesto, tossed with huge, beautiful olive halves, spinach, and ripe tomato, and capped off with Brazil nut parmesan and sprouts. I love having the option of kelp noodles with this dish and I Am Terrific; they're phenomenal additions to the Cafe Gratitude LA menu.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What are you looking forward to?

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Am Graceful

I somehow managed not to try I Am Graceful until this past Wednesday and I've definitely been missing out on a delicious grain bowl. The hemp seed pesto is vibrant with a wonderful, slightly grainy bite to it that mixes perfectly with the kale and quinoa (or brown rice or a combination of the two). I Am Graceful comes with tomatoes, but when I requested that they be left off, my fabulous Cafe Gratitude LA ambassador for the evening asked if I wanted the tomatoes replaced with spinach. How could I pass up an offer like that? Topping off the dish is homemade Brazil nut parmesan and sprouts.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What gives you a sense of peace?

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Am Ecstatic

I capped off an incredibly fun week with dinner tonight at, of course, Cafe Gratitude! I Am Ecstatic, a lovely plate of maple-miso-glazed Brussels sprouts, paired beautifully with I Am Comforted on this chilly night (akin to my previous favorite combination of I Am Grounded and I Am Vibrant seen here). The savory miso shines through and the Brussels sprouts are roasted to perfection.

Today's Cafe Gratitude LA Question of the Day: Who is your hero?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Am Magical

I Am Magical is Cafe Gratitude LA's phenomenal homemade burger. I love mine topped with the chipotle-maple coconut bacon that is also the basis for I Am Extraordinary (Cafe Gratitude LA's BLT). It's amazing hot or at room temperature and travels really well; I've taken it with me to the Hollywood Bowl and a baseball game and it's perfect every time.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What makes you laugh?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Am Awesome

Another of the new Cafe Gratitude LA menu items is I Am Awesome, an eggplant parmesan sandwich. The eggplant is coated in herbed cornmeal and layered with tomatoes, arugula, basil, and the same marinara and cashew ricotta as I Am Warm-Hearted. It's a sloppy, scrumptious sandwich with flavors that perfectly compliment each other.

Today's Cafe Gratitude LA Question of the Day: How are you being fearless?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Am Warm-Hearted

A grilled polenta bowl topped with a chunky, fresh marinara/puttanesca sauce, cashew ricotta, and Brazil nut parmesan, I Am Warm-Hearted is an homage to Italy. This is a mild dish and the creamy cashew ricotta easily melds with the tomato-based sauce to make this a lovely choice for a chilly day or night.

Today's Cafe Gratitude LA Question of the Day: What is blessed about your day?

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Am Playful

For kids (or those who are young at heart), Cafe Gratitude LA has a fun children's menu. I Am Playful is a black bean and cashew cheese quesadilla served on sprouted grain tortillas with salsa fresca. It's delicious and perfect for a mild palate and small appetite.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What aspect of community are you inspired by?

Friday, October 7, 2011

I Am Comforted

For those mourning the removal of I Am Grounded from the Cafe Gratitude LA menu, rest assured that it's been replaced with the sweet, earthy goodness of I Am Comforted. I Am Comforted combines roasted rosemary yams with a choice of the I Am Grounded chipotle cashew cheese or a sweet tamarind sauce (also seen on I Am Humble) for dipping. It's the autumnal sister dish of my previous favorite.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What lights you up?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Am Terrific

The new Cafe Gratitude LA menu introduced two kelp noodle dishes to the raw section. I Am Terrific is a raw Pad Thai with kelp noodles, red bell peppers, carrots, shredded kale, cilantro, basil, mint and scallions topped with crumbled teriyaki almonds and sunflower sprouts (description from the menu; I ordered mine without scallions). This dish is a game-changer for me; light kelp noodles tossed with what I believe is the Thai almond sauce, one of my favorite CGLA sauces. It has all my favorite flavors from I Am Fortified, but without the heaviness of the quinoa, so it's a fantastic choice for when I'm not quite as hungry.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What do you believe in?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Am Fortified

A grain bowl (choice of quinoa, brown rice, or both) full of seasonal vegetables and kale and with an option of four different delicious sauces (sesame-ginger, garlic-tahini, Thai almond, and the newly added coconut curry), I Am Fortified is healthful comfort food. It has fortified me more times than I can count (usually with the Thai almond sauce, but they're all perfect) and I can't wait to try it with the coconut curry sauce.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What calms you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Am Dazzling

I Am Dazzling was a garlicky caesar salad topped with avocado and brazil nut parmesan from the previous Cafe Gratitude LA menu (I believe this is the last item I'll be featuring that's not currently available). As much as I know many people will miss the dishes that have been retired (at least for the fall and winter), the new menu is superb!

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day: What do you love about your family?

Thank you to everyone who has answered the Question of the Day in the comments. I love reading your responses; please keep it up!

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Am Complete

I Am Complete was another favorite from the previous Cafe Gratitude LA menu. A raw mezze platter, it featured dehydrated falafel, garlicky hummus, kalamata olive tapenade, and a salad dressed with tzatziki.

Today's Cafe Gratitude Question of the Day (this one is from the main Cafe Gratitude daily e-mail, not Cafe Gratitude LA): What is your greatest accomplishment?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ode to Cafe Gratitude LA

This year, the first day of October brings VeganMoFo and, more importantly, the debut of Cafe Gratitude LA's new menu. In honor of the latter, I dedicate VeganMoFo 2011 exclusively to Cafe Gratitude LA's delectable offerings. Some of what I'll feature this month will be from the previous menu, but I will try to stick to what is currently available.

I make it a practice to dine at CGLA at the very least once per week (generally more) and I see that only a few of my former go-to dishes have been retired (two of them are seen in this post). I'm hoping they will return in the spring, but that being said, the new menu is simply divine.

At top is I Am Grounded, the most delicious roasted potatoes served with spicy nacho cashew cheese, which I always paired with I Am Vibrant, greens (usually kale) perfectly sauteed with garlic and topped with pepitas.

Today's Cafe Gratitude LA Question of the Day: When do you feel liberated?