I had a wonderfully productive, fun and relaxing 3 day weekend and a fabulous Valentine’s dinner with hubby that was non-raw, but that’s okay once in awhile. :-) I also caught up on a lot of house work and am closer to my de-cluttering goal. President’s day is one of those holidays I get off, but not hubby :-( My mom also had the day free, so we decided on a mini-road trip to Berkeley. One thing I absolutely love about living in this area is the diversity and uniqueness available in just a short drive. In under 2 hours, I can be in the mountains enjoying snow, the bay area enjoying breathtaking mountain and ocean scenery or taking in the very unique local slice of life in every town from the extreme bohemian laid-back styles of university towns like Davis and Berkeley, extreme urban/tech styles of San Francisco and Silicon Valley to the more nature/agricultural feel to the surrounding smaller farm and mountain towns. After hearing so much about Cafe Gratitude, it’s laid-back style and unique recipes and trying many recipes from the I Am Grateful book, my mom and I decided to finally check one out and we selected the Berkeley location because my mom has fond memories of Berkeley from her college years and we weren’t sure we’d be up to the increased traffic and chaos of getting into San Francisco to try that location. Berkeley is a fun area to visit because for a crowded, urban area, it’s very laid-back with breathtakingly beautiful views of the mountains, SF skyline, ocean and the bay bridges and islands … on a clear day and this time of year it’s rare for there not to be at least some fog/smog obstructing the view. Driving into Berkeley is literally like going back in time from the older architecture, bohemian/hippie styles, street vendors selling tie dye and hand crafted jewelry and a seemingly large number of older cars on the streets.
Once in town, our mission was to find the Cafe Gratitude location with the assistance of GPS and good thing I had it because driving around the pedestrian and traffic packed narrow streets is challenging enough without having to watch for road signs and building numbers. Plus all the buildings are packed so close together and right up on the road that you could easily miss your destination while trying to avoid the many road obstacles. We ended up parking on a side street in the beautiful older neighborhood behind the cafe and walking about a block to get to it, all the cramped parallel parking spots on main street were taken.
We entered the cafe around 1:30 PM and were greeted with a 15 minute wait to be seated, the perfect amount of time to browse the interesting products in the front lobby and look at the free sex and balanced living literature available throughout Berkerely.
The was an eclectic mix of art and signs for an overall inviting and community oriented feeling. The books for sale included all the Cafe Gratitude series and other books written by the owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart as well as games, postcards and art posters. Other books included Ani’s dessert book, which I was tempted on, but am limiting the number of dessert books I have an am looking forward to Ani’s new book in April. There were more dessert oriented books which is great for special occasions, but I’m trying not to focus too much on raw desserts, but more veggie/main dish recipes. There were also accessories for sale, such as the Cafe Gratitude editions of Fiesta Ware plates and bowls. I was tempted to add one to my current collection, but $18 for one plate is a bit steep. There were also traveling bamboo utensil kits for $19 and a metal lunch box kit.
The ingredients for sale were also beautifully laid out, I was tempted on the goji berries and raw honey, but changed my mind when I saw the $19 price and that the honey was not from the local area.
We were seated at one end of a large table that could seat 8 people, the other end was occupied by 2 ladies cheerfully talking and enjoying their meal. There was an eclectic mix of shabby chic mis-matched monster dinning tables throughout the dinning area with equally eclectic and well-aged wood chairs and pillows, it was common to be seated with strangers that maybe won’t be strangers by the end of your meal.
Once seated, we were served water in this beautiful glass bottle with “Peace” etched into it. My mom wondered if they’d notice it missing, thankfully her purse was not large enough :-P
I noticed right away that wine and cocktails are available on the menu which I’m fine with as an occasional wine sipper, but opted for a green, beet and ginger drink instead – I Am Worthy. It was great, perfect tang of beet and ginger, very balanced … unlike the beet juice I made last week which was beet overkill that turned my pee pink for 24 hours! It was also a good choice for the iron content since I donated blood today.
For the main course, I got I Am Elated – an amazing enchilada wrapped in a spinach tortilla and layered with three amazingly spicy sauces. I thought the hardest part about going high raw/vegan would be giving up most Mexican foods piled with cheese, but this was the best enchilada I’ve ever had! The sauces were many times better than the mountains of plain shredded cheddar and sour cream a traditional Americanized Mexican restaurant would serve and I really appreciated the heavy spicy kick. It was too spicy for my sensitive mom, all the more for me :-) The marinated veggie salad on the side was also very nice with a mild kick, a good balanced side for the spice and the quinoa was lightly steamed to a tender perfection, awesome texture and great mixed with the leftover sauces – overall an amazing dish and apparently very popular because we were sitting near the kitchen and watched quite a few assembled.
My mom went with I Am Graceful, an Indian themed quinoa bowl with a creamy, but not too strong, coconut curry sauce. She went with the smaller size to save room for dessert and it was still very satisfying with lots of cashews, fresh cilantro and veggies. I was very impressed with the cost to food ratio on this dish and will order a bowl on my next trip.
Then came dessert and we had to try after driving such a distance :-) I got a generous scoop of the ice cream flavor of the day and it was mint chocolate chip – my favorite flavor of traditional ice cream, only this was better with an even creamier taste, well blended chocolate chunks and perfect balance of mint flavor. Between my mom and I, it disappeared fast.
My mom, choosing to relive her Florida years, went with the key lime pie. I’ve never been a huge key lime pie fan, it seemed like too generic of a dessert served everywhere in Florida and the cheaper versions lacked the creamy texture and tart bite while being way too sweet making my stomach ache. But this was perfect and probably how a key lime pie should taste, fresh tart lime juice with a smooth creamy texture that can’t be matched by any non-vegan desserts I’ve tried thanks to masterfully blended avocado. The nut/gate crust was equally decadent being very moist and just sweet enough to compliment the tart and not over power it.
In total, we spent about 2 hours there tasting, talking and fully taking in the atmosphere, local style and savoring our dishes. Our table was near an open entrance to the patio with a suspicious smell drifting in, but that’s pretty common everywhere in Berkeley.
After we decided to partake in a little local shopping knowing Berkeley has a nice shopping district, but not sure where. We asked our waiter and he recommended we head to Telegraph Ave. for great finds. We did and found out quickly these finds weren’t targeted for us, but had a blast looking – the street was packed with street vendors selling hand crafted jewelry, retro, used clothing shops, many (and I mean many) pizza joints, interesting smoke shops and countless sidewalk stands selling tie dye shirts. I was surprised to see so many and noted the locals weren’t sporting them.
There was also this odd dessert shop and I’m still trying to figure out what these are. There like sugary dessert “things” made to look like other foods … I think. A sickening sweet smell oozed from the shop, I suspect these are mostly made of fondant, died icing and solid sugar, not particularly appetizing after the amazing fresh treats we just enjoyed and I can’t figure out how you’d even eat them.
Overall, it was a great day and I thouroghly enjoyed our meal at Cafe Gratitude, it was well worth the drive. And I’m looking forward to visiting another location hopefully in the near future.