We left Diane's place late afternoon and headed north on Highway 1 which hugs the Pacific coast. We were told that it was a particularly scenic route so we figured we'd be in for a special treat. We were right! We saw lovely lush green rolling hills, vineyards, horses, wildflowers and of course the roaring ocean... Be-yu-ti-ful! We went only as far as Pismo Beach just south of San Luis Obispo where we spent the night at a motel. Our original idea had been to camp at one of the nearby state parks but the weather forecast wasn't very good, promising lots of rain and high winds.
The next morning as we continued to work our way up the coast the predicted rain didn't let up for a good couple of hours.
Shortly after passing Hearst Castle and San Simeon we saw signs for Elephant Seal Vista points. I wasn't too sure what that meant until I noticed great big dark lumps lying on the ground close to the road. Wow! What a sight! I learned that "there are only a few places in the world where elephant seals live and even fewer places where elephant seals are accessible to the public." We didn't have the heart to stop the car and take some pics but you know what that means... we'll just have HAVE to come back! ;-)
It was pretty slow going due to the rain and the winding road with hairpin turns, but that was totally fine by us. It's always so nice and refreshing to drive through long stretches in Nature. Plus we could definitely use it after our brief spell in the mega city.
The rain finally stopped when we entered Los Padres National Forest and we were able to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery. Yay!
More shots taken from the car...
I saw on the map that we were going to pass by a town called Carmel-by-the-Sea. hehe I stayed on the look out for the sign but somehow I missed it. boo hoo
It turned out to be a long day's drive but we were sooooo glad to have opted for the coastal highway. It was definitely worth seeing, rain or nay!
In Trisha's Sunny Kitchen
We had arranged to stay at two different homes while in the Bay area and interestingly both happened to be in Sunnyvale in the Silicon Valley.
As we were getting closer I tried texting Trisha, our first host, to let her know what time we were expecting to arrive. Believe it or not, I had never ever texted before. As with most technological toys, it takes a while to figure out how it works so I didn't do a very good job. Don't ask me how but I conjured up the words 'Hi pig' on my screen. (Go figure! lol) Anyhoo while trying to find a way to backspace and correct my booboo I went ahead and sent the message instead! Ooopsie! In dismay I hurriedly dialed Trisha's number in order to explain what had just happened but it was already too late. "Are you trying to call me a pig?" she goes to me as she answered. Gosh that gave us both a really good laugh!
What I didn't know at the time is that Trisha was the best possible person to have that kind of mishap with as she has a great sense of humor. You should have heard her read stories to her son Jonah, putting on different voices and all. How I wish I had a mom like that!
Jonah and their cute little Roxie.
Roxie seemed to enjoy having other four and two leggeds around during the day. She'd even come into our room to see Puss from time to time. lol We took her along with us whenever we went for walks. On the ride to Fremont Older Preserve she sat on my lap peeking through the window. So precious! She loved loved it when Don did the Tibetan rites in the morning. As you can see it drove her absolutely berserk! lol
It's always a wonder to me how people can manage to eat raw in spite of their busy schedules. Trisha has found a way by leaving her juicer at work. This allows her to enjoy fresh juices whenever she wants instead of having to prep lunches to go. She keeps her Blendtec's Total Blender at home so we finally had a chance to play with that beast a little after hearing about it for years. It has a very different feel than the Vitamix. For one thing it's all computerized so you don't have as much control. The carafe is also a lot smaller (half the size) so we had to whip up our smoothies and soups in two batches. Hum, I think I'll stick to my beloved Mr. V! ;-)
So interesting how differently it goes from one house to the next! We ended up prepping mostly simple stuff while at Trisha's, sticking to the usual juices, smoothies, soups and salads. We did however make a couple of new discoveries in the beverage department. Trisha whipped up for us two of her favorite drinks. This first one was nicknamed Lion's Roar by one of her co-workers. Have a sip and you'll quickly see why! Trisha LOVES the stuff!
1 bunch of red dandelion greens
1 small lemon, peeled
Pass through a juicer and get ready to roar!
She also made us a lovely coffee flavored shake but sans the unwanted caffeine. So yummy!
Trisha's Polar Joe's Frappucino
1 c nut milk
1/2 c young coconut meat
Water from one young coconut
1/4 cup dandy blend or your favorite cereal coffee substitute
1/2 tps pure vanilla extract
Raw agave or honey, to taste
Blend until smooth and frothy.
1 1/2 c nut milk
1/4 cup dandy blend or your favorite cereal coffee substitute
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Raw agave or honey, to taste
Blend until smooth and frothy.
On the last day of our stay at Trisha's we gave a special gourmet class. She wanted to learn some super easy yet really tasty new recipes so I came up with a custom made menu. I made Corn Chowder, Fajitas and Sour Cream and Tuscan Pizza made with fermented cashew cheeze (something Trisha really wanted to get into). On the sweet side we had Caramel Chocolate Tarts and Chocolate Orange Cake. The class went super smooth in spite of my teaching it for the first time. Gee, I think I'm getting the hang of this whole demoing thing. ;-)
She had the most beautiful serving plate.
In Joni's Sunny Kitchen
The next morning we said goodbye to Trisha and headed over to Joni's, just a few minutes down the road. Joni went to culinary school and basically makes a living playing in the kitchen. Sure sounds like fun to me! She describes herself as a therapeutic chef, healthy eating coach and personal trainer. Her culinary skills cover a wide variety of techniques including vegetarian, vegan and raw. It was fun to brush shoulders with Joni in her awesome kitchen for a few days. You guys should have seen how well organized she had it and all of her toys! She had like 4 dehydrators, 1 Vitamix, 1 Blendec, several food processors and all the nifty kitchen gadgets. Food prep heaven! ;-)
Joni was busy preparing finger food for 100 people for a catering gig that she had so Don and I took charge of dinner one night. On the menu was Corn Chowder, Kelp Noodles in Arugula Basil Pesto and mixed greens in my House Dressing. Since we had to get the D running for a dehydrator class that I gave, I sneaked a durian in there. We enjoyed it dipped in Chocolate Pudding for dessert. Mmmmm
We also received the 'rawyal' treatment on a couple of occasions when Joni prepared the meals for us. (Aren't we blessed?)
Zucchini Linguini in Pine Nut Alfredo Sauce
She made the noodles by slicing the zucchini on a mandolin then cutting it into thin strips. I've never used this technique before. Yay, something new to experiment with!
Joni shares a house with four other friends. Meet Steven and Anne (sitting next to Don) and Joni and Dan.
Dan works at Google which has its headquarter in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Googleplex is almost a little city in and of itself with some 10 000 employees. And get this: the company provides all their meals on location gratis, from breakfast to dinner to snacks, and a wide selection of cuisines ranging from the regular SAD stuff to the super healthy. They even have their very own raw chef, Sam, who offers a variety of dishes daily. Isn't that cool? Dan has sneaked into the kitchen a number of times and learned to prepare several of his raw creations.
For our last meal together we enjoyed Sam's pizzas which used pineapple slices as the 'crust'. We proceeded to fix our own, choosing from various toppings: Marinara Sauce, Cashew Cheese, sliced, seasoned and dehydrated carrots, chopped bell pepper, sliced tomato, and finely chopped parsley.
This was soooo good and so fresh tasting! Delicioso!
Stocking Up the Spice Rack
Remember my mentioning the wonderful spice blends we discovered in Houston made by a company called Penzeys Spice? We found out that they have an outlet in Menlo Park just a few minutes drive from Sunnyvale so we stopped by on the way to San Francisco.
The store was divided in several sections: spices, herbs, salt & pepper... There was also a Grandma's kitchen section with all the different baking supplies. So cute!
There was even little glass jars that you could open up and smell. Just my kinda place! ;-)
Ah man! What a wonderful aromatic experience it was! I could have stayed there for hours sniffing away! ;-) We left with a bagful of all kinds of awesome sounding spices: Balti Seasoning, Sate Seasoning, Sweet Curry Powder, Northwoods Fire Seasoning, Parisien Bonnes Herbes... But my favorite blend is called Sunny Paris and is hand-mixed from shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf. I can't wait to get a chance to play with all of these new flavors!
I Am Grateful
Southern California in general and especially the Bay Area is like the mecca of raw food. The raw community is huge and there is just sooooo much available here in terms of products and prepackaged raw goodies. And of course San Francisco is the cradle of the famous Cafe Gratitude. In only a few years it has managed to establish itself as one of the most known and certainly the largest raw culinary endeavor in North America, with some 250 employees 'rawking' for them.
Being a HUGE fan of their recipe books (particularly their latest Sweet Gratitude which features only their desserts) I was extremely excited to finally get an opportunity to taste some of their creations first hand.
We learned that they had opened a new cafe only a month ago inside the Whole Foods in Cupertino, only a short 10 minute drive from where we were staying. Of course I couldn't resist hopping over there for a few treats!
The Whole Foods itself was worth seeing, I mean the place is absolutely ginormous! Someone has nicknamed it "the Walmart of Whole foods". lol You could hardly see from one end of the store to the other!
Look at their dried fruit section! They had everything in there; persimmons, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, strawberries, cherries and more!
In spite of the store's size we still managed to find Cafe Gratitude tucked away in a back corner. Their menu offers both raw and cooked vegan specialties. They didn't carry the whole array of dishes from the original Cafe but we still found a few tempting options.
We were told that anything from the cooked menu could be made into raw so we ordered the I am Transformed Tacos. They consisted of two spinach dehydrated tortilla wraps (I'd been eyeing those in their first book!) with spicy sunflower seed “refried beans”, guacamole, salsa, macadamia cheddar cheese and cashew sour cream with a small side of salad.
Everything was really good. I just wished the serving was bigger!
I am Grace Frosty Coconut Smoothie
Young coconut milk, almond butter, dates & vanilla
This was so yummy and creamy!
I've made a LOT of the recipes from Sweet Gratitude but I haven't played much with the cake section as I rarely have enough almond pulp on hand. I wanted to try one of their cakes so we had the Chocolate Orange one for dessert.
This was really tasty and very filling but my all time favorite way to enjoy this combination of flavors remains Heathy's wonderful Chocolate Orange Cake which I must have made like 15 times! lol
And The Blessings Continue...
A few months ago I received an email from Dreux who is a Sous Chef at Cafe Gratitude's Central Kitchen. He was offering to give us a tour when we'd come to San Francisco. I was so thrilled that I still remember exactly where I was when I read his message! lol I was very nearly jumping up and down with excitement but I did manage to exercise some restraint as I was in a library. ;-)
I was highly aware that anything could have happened since Dreux's offer and was prepared for the worst when I got in touch with him again once in California. To my surprise (and delight!) it was still on. Yippee! And so we arranged to meet him on his day off (isn't he a sweetie?) outside the building on 14th Street.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland! I'm sure my eyes must have looked like they were ready to pop right out of my head! I learned so many interesting facts during our visit and was soaking it all up like a sponge.
For instance did you know that most of the food served at their seven CG locations as well as Gracias Madre - their new vegan organic Mexican restaurant - is prepared at the Central Kitchen? That's a LOT of food prep! No wonder it's open around the clock and is always buzzing with activity! The night crew comes in at 8 pm and does all the preparation for the restaurants including nut milks, coconut milks and veggie chopping. A bio diesel van leaves at 4 am every morning in order to deliver to their various locations. I also learned that a high proportion of their fruits and veggies is grown on Cafe Gratitude's Be Live Farm in Vacaville. Neat eh?
As I approached the various working areas I could recognize several of the goodies that were being prepared. (Yeah, yeah, you can call me a Cafe Gratitude groupie if you want. Me no care! ;-) )
We first encountered Jenny, their fabulous cookie maker. She was packaging Lemon Cashew Cookies - Dreux's personal faves - for their online store.
Next was Rebecca, their chocolate lady, assembling their wonderful Almond Joy.
Her coconut filling was a lot firmer than the one I make which explains why I always have a bit of a hard time forming it into balls. I also noticed how Rebecca was really jamming the filling into the small metal ice cream scoop. She then poked a little hole in order to tuck in 2 small almonds before covering the hole back up.
Look at that, aren't they just perfectly shaped?
Whle on the topic on chocolate, I saw on their shelves that they order their cacao products from Ultimate Superfoods. I first discovered this brand in Florida and was very impressed with the quality. And you know what the best part is? They sell their cacao powder for the cheapest price I've seen anywhere! The Whole Foods in Cupertino sold a 16 0z package for under $12! Wow! I just placed a big order with Ultimate Superfoods in the last week to make sure I'm stocked up for the next little while.
We then saw Sergei, one of their bakers, working on a Carrot Cake. He was measuring the almond pulp in a Vitamix carafe. (Why have I never thought of doing that when it comes to large quantities!?!) Later when we passed near his station again he was applying melted cacao butter in order to 'grease' the spring form pan. The cacao butter was kept in a double boiler on top of a single burner (the kind that you take along camping) so that it's always melted and available when needed.
Next we met Nelly, Cafe Gratitude's very own Dehydrator Goddess! She alone prepares virtually all of the dehydrated stuff served at the different locations as well as in their online store. Simply amazing!!! She makes the breads, crackers, bagels and granola. When we walked by she was shaping Almond Toasts. You should have seen her work! So efficient and quick!
Several huge commercial Excaliburs were buzzing behind Nelly. We took a peek inside one of them and found some flax crackers uncooking away.
Nelly had also prepared the batter for Buckwheat Sourdough Flatbread in a super duper Robot Coupe. (This was one of my favorite items when we later ate at the Cafe.) I learned from Dreux that it's actually the 'I Am Relishing' recipe found on page 62 of their I am Grateful book. I was surprised, as I've made it before and it didn't turn anything like the one we had. Dreux says that Nelly uses straight carrot pulp instead of mixed veggie pulp. I'm also thinking that perhaps she doesn't put as much carrot juice as the bread we had at the Cafe wasn't as orange in color as the picture in the book. I'll have to put on my Sherlock's cap and inquire.
We then met Gregory, the new bakery manager. He graciously let me pick his brain about how to work with Irish moss. I found out that he uses a slightly different technique than I do. First he rinses the moss quickly under cold water in order to remove debris and sand. Then he places the moss in a container with cold water (this is key as warm/hot water removes some of the moss' gelatinous properties). Now this is where it gets interesting... Gregory says you can leave it soaking in the fridge until it's ready to be used (it could technically stay there for days!) Wow! I was under the impression that you could oversoak Irish moss. I'll definitely be trying his method and see if I get more consistent results. I'll be reporting back! ;-)
Dreux later sent me a link for a video called "Inside Cafe Gratitude: A Funkumentary" in which you can see him give a detailed tour of the Central Kitchen. It's very informative and you get to see some of the other Cafe Gratitude locations as well as interviews with Matthew and Terces. If you'd like to take a peek, go here then scroll down a little and you will see the link. Anyhoo, in the little video tour of the kitchen you can see Gregory's technique for pressing crust in a pie plate. Really interesting!
We also encountered Vinicio, the manager of the Central Kitchen. He seemed like such a warm and fun guy to work with.
But the blessings weren't over just yet... Dreux gave us a few yummy samples to take with! (Starting from the left), there were Lemon Coconut Cookies, the bars are 'I Am Mighty' Superfood Energy Bars, 'I Am Delighted' chocolates (they change daily but these had a Pistachio filling) and Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Candied Walnuts.
The Lemon Cashew Cookies are made with cashews, agave, lemon juice, coconut flakes, vanilla, and Himalayan pink crystal salt. They had an unusual flavor that I just couldn't put my finger on. Soooooooo good!
The I am Mighty is an energy-dense superfood bar made with hemp seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, goji berries, coconut butter, cacao butter, cacao nibs, & vanilla beans, half-dipped in raw chocolate. They were a little too salty for us but otherwise totally awesome! Not too sweet and filled with goodies. I found out that the recipe is in their Sweet Gratitude book. Yippee! I'll definitely be making those again! Mmmmmm
The Chocolate Fudge Cookies were made with almond flour, macadamia nuts, cashews, agave nectar, cacao powder, vanilla, and Himalayan salt. The Candied Walnuts are basically walnuts, coconut sugar, vanilla, dates, and Himalayan salt. These are so smooth and also not too sweet. Yum!
And to top it all off we got a couple of scoops while hanging out with Dreux. Cafe Gratitude is in the last stages of opening a new location in Los Angeles AND they are revamping their menu. Woo hoo! Dreux is working on the new menu in collaboration with Terces, one of the co-owners, and Chandra Gilbert, the director of operations. Exciting, eh?
Two very happy and grateful campers!
After visiting the Central Kitchen, Dreux, Don and I then drove a few blocks to the original Cafe Gratitude location on Harrison Street.
We started off with the I Am Thankful Coconut Soup
With avocado, tomato, cucumber, shiitake mushrooms & cilantro
With avocado, tomato, cucumber, shiitake mushrooms & cilantro
This was really very good and full of flavor!
We also ordered the Sampler Plate: Sprouted Almond Hummus, Asian kale-sea vegetable salad, hemp seed pesto on Almond Toast, spicy cashew nacho cheese with flax chips, olive tapenade, Sourdough Buckwheat Flatbread, spring roll & mini house soup.
I especially enjoyed the Sourdough Buckwheat Flatbread (sprouted buckwheat, sprouted sunflowers, carrot pulp, flax meal, carrot juice, olive oil, Himalayan crystal salt, Italian spices, and garlic), the Almond Hummus and the pesto.
While Cafe Gratitude has several delicious savory dishes to offer, it is no secret that dessert is their particular area of expertise. I left Dreux and Don talking at the table in order to examine more closely the dessert display. Oh my, talk about a scrumptious selection of goodies! There was Carrot Cake, Banana Chocolate Cheesecake, Coconut Cream Pie, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Hazelnut Pie, Tiramisu and an array of chocolates and truffles.
Unfortunately the photos didn't turn out that great due to the reflection in the glass. ;-(
The choice wasn't an easy one to make but once again I decided to go with things that I hadn't tried yet. They had a Chocolate & Coconut Meringue Parfait that was just calling my name. I took the very last one and boy, am I ever glad I did!!!
This was divine! Soooooooo creamy and beyond delicious!
I sure have never managed to get my meringue to be so smooth. One of the gals who was serving told me that perhaps I don't blend the Irish moss long enough. Hum, have to try that. I also realized that they mostly use unscented coconut oil in their desserts which would also account for the major difference in flavor.
I went with the I am Lovely Apple, Pear and Kiwi Cobbler as it looked so pretty and fresh.
Although it was good it was nothing special, you know, just fruits and nut crumble. I sorta wished I had gone with one of their more intricate and chocolatey creations instead. Ah well...
As an afterthought, we decided to order a side of Chocolate Ice Cream.
We found that their ice creams aren't their forte but then again we're not easy to seduce, especially after tasting Matthew Kenney's super creamy and smooth ice cream at Cafe 118.
Raw on the Road
With our bellies full we then crossed the bridge into Oakland where we were scheduled to give a talk about being 'Raw on the Road' to members of the Oakland Raw Meet Up group. On the way we made sure to take a quick glance at the infamous Alcatraz to our left. This was my first talk but I thought it went really well. Besides sharing some tips that we've learned from traveling for the last 9 months, I also demoed how to make Asian Veggies in Ginger Marinade on Angel Hair Zucchini Pasta.
Raw Daddy had come along and fixed his much in demand dehydrated flax cones. He stuffed them with a variety of fillings including Thai, Italian and Pumpkin Pie. We were told to leave a little room in our bellies to try his goodies. Everything we tasted was really super good. No wonder he was so popular!
The Avocado Adventure
We discovered that Steven's brother has avocado trees on his property. *gasp* One of my dreams has been to pick avocados so we planned on going one afternoon. The weather wasn't cooperating that day but that didn't stop Steven, Joni and I from going anyway. His sister-in-law was glad we were picking them as they don't really care for avocados themselves. Wow, hard for us to fathom as avos are such an integral part of our raw diets. Steven says they've been harvesting them since Christmas! Imagine that!?! Ah, the abundance of Nature, eh?
They're kind of difficult to see but can you make a few avos out among the leaves?
We had a good operation going; Steven would pick the avos with a sort of basket on a poll with little teeth. It would separate the fruit from the stem.
He'd then dump them into Joni's net. I was in charge of taking the avos from the net and transfer them to bags (except when I was too busy playing photographer! lol)
We then switched and I got to pick some of my own. Woo hoo!!! It was so much fun!
I was like a little kid at Christmas!
Reaching for the green in the light! hehe
Once we got going it was difficult to stop. "Gotta get this one, oh and this one over there too!" We ended up coming home with over a hundred avocados! Eeek! I picked so many that my right hand was sore for days afterwards! Ah well, it was definitely worth it!
Phfew! That was yet another long post with lots of pictures and stories to share!
Now my turn to pose you the famous question... ;-)