I have released four recipe books so far:

The Best of the Sunny Raw Kitchen
The Best of Raw Freedom Community
Delightfully Raw and
Deliciously Raw

These feature some of the most delectable creations to have come out of my raw kitchen and will appeal to anyone interested in a healthier diet, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience. From easy one-step everyday fare to more elaborate and involved gourmet dishes and layered cakes, they offer something for everyone and every occasion. Incredibly tasty smoothies, creamy and comforting warm soups, sexy salads, delicious nut cheezes, satisfying entrees and scrumptious guilt-free desserts...

Healthy food never tasted so good!

To learn more about my recipe books, click here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roadtrip to LA: Better Life Cuisine and Cafe Gratitude

Diane recently acquired a cute little hybrid car - a Honda Insight. It runs on both gas and electric and is incredibly fuel efficient (the previous owner managed to get a lifetime average of 86 miles/gallon!!!) Unfortunately she learned quickly that town driving is not the best way to keep the battery recharged. Therefore every so often Diane likes to take her new sweetie on the highway for a ride. You know, make her happy! ;-) And so a couple of weeks ago we took a little road trip to L.A.

As soon as we got the chance we left the Interstate in order to hop on the Pacific Coast Highway. It was a clear sunny day and the ocean was stunningly beautiful.



Our route took us right by the residences of many a Hollywood celebrity as we passed Malibu. Not surprisingly all you could see from the road were fancy gates and tall trees as they value their privacy. (I certainly can't blame them!) It was strange, though, to think that most of the famous movie stars have, at one point or another, driven down this very same road.

Feasting at Better Life Cuisine
Our first stop was Better Life Cuisine in Santa Monica - an awesome raw cafe that Don and I visited last spring. The food is phenomenal, the portions generous and the prices super reasonable. In other words, a raw enthusiast's heaven!

I ordered the same thing as before: the Curry Wrap. I know, I know, what a bore but it was so darn yummy! It consists of copious amounts of mixed greens, alfalfa sprouts, sunflower, green tomato, 'grilled' onions, cucumbers, curry sauce, 3 croquettes and house dressing expertly tucked into a soft veggie tortilla.

The Wrap was still huge as ever! I thought that the flavor of the wrapper itself was a tad too strong, overriding the subtlety of the filling. No doubt something about that particular batch of tortillas. It was accompanied by a side of Kale Salad that was super tasty.


As it happens Diane went with the Lasagna (marinara sauce, zucchini, mushroom, 'grilled' onion, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese), which is what Don had ordered back then. So much for novelty I guess! She absolutely loved it, especially the marinara sauce which was flavorful and light. It came with a small serving of Tomato Basil Soup that was really very good, albeit cold. (We're so used to enjoying warm raw soups!)

Isn't the presentation sensational?


I was so full I only managed to eat half of my Wrap, but that's not to say we couldn't try their desserts! We left with a piece of Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Pie - both to live for! - and a Cinnamon Roll. Yum yum yum! (Sorry no pic as they had lost their firmness by the time we got home. boo hoo. Still tasted divine!)

A Walk on the Pier
Satiated, we headed to the famous Santa Monica Pier for a walk. I was vaguely aware that I might encounter a familiar face, something common here on star turf and all. Wouldn't you know it, as we were driving down Broadway on the sidewalk I caught sight of Carrie-Anne Moss who played Trinity in The Matrix. Wow! What are the odds that, of all people, I should see the lead actress from my favorite movie!?!

The pier was buzzing with activity; street performers, tourists, kids happily boasting ginormous balls of cotton-candy (yikes!), and locals enjoying a stroll with friends.


It was windy and cold - even for a Kanuck like me - so we stayed on the pier and didn't venture onto the beach.


The views from both sides of the pier.

 

 

The famous Ferris wheel at the amusement park.


Feasting at Cafe Gratitude
Just before we left that morning I was struck with a rather bold idea: since we were going to drive that far, why not continue a little further to Cafe Gratitude's new LA location for dessert? After all, according to Google Map it was only an extra 12 miles... Didn't sound too bad!

In reality it meant getting deeper into the mouth of the beast - the most populated city in the US. In spite of our intention to avoid the highway we ended up on it for a short stretch. It was of course packed and traffic was at a crawl. Sooooo stressful! Both Diane and I got headaches from the tension.

Thankfully, in spite of that, the GPS took us uneventfully to our destination through the beautiful residential streets of Beverly Hills. This latest addition to Cafe Gratitude's chain was opened earlier this year. Neither of us were overly impressed by the place. For one thing the restaurant is very spacious and in my opinion completely devoid of atmosphere. It felt slick and commercially oriented, lacking the warmth and heart that their San Francisco locations are renowned for. Perhaps because of all the hard edges, the combination of the customers' voices and the music was also so loud that we couldn't comfortably carry on a conversation.


The menu is designed to appeal to a wider clientele and range of taste buds by offering both cooked and raw vegan items. Not a bad idea as I know that the appeal of raw foods can reduce dramatically during the cold months. Although we came with the intention of just having dessert - their specialty in my opinion - we ended up ordering a couple of savory things.

While browsing through their take out menu a couple of years ago I noticed that they offered a raw rendition of bagels. I was anxious to finally try it. I AM PEACE, a live onion bagel with cashew cr√®me cheese, nori “lox,” tomato, onion, capers and sprouts, is technically only served for breakfast but the server didn't make a fuss about it. I thought it was super yummy; a really nice combination of flavors.

 

The people next to us received their food while we were browsing through the menu and I couldn't help but gawk at their fare: tamale. Diane could hardly believe it when I told her that I'd never had a tamale before, so we decided to order that as well.

The server asked if we'd like Guacamole and Nacho Cheese like the lady at the next table and I said "Sure!" What she failed to mention, of course, was that these came at an additional cost. The dish was very good although we agreed that red tomatoes were lacking for both color and flavor. I honestly think that the dish would have been grossly incomplete with only the Zucchini-Mushroom Tamale, black beans and salsa verde it comes with. Why they put the guac and cheese as 'optional' borders on a cunning ploy if you ask me.


We were told that they were out of the daily Layered Cake and the choice of Cheesecake was Banana Chocolate. Since Diane is no big banana fan in the end we decided to go with a piece of Tiramisu. I've made it at least a couple of times at home but was curious to taste the original version. I thought it was excellent and that the texture was perfect, although as Diane pointed out, the coffee flavor wasn't very pronounced. But that was actually fine by me as I was concerned to get a caffeine buzz, sensitive as I am to that stuff.


We decided to head back via surface streets. It did take longer but then again I was glad to get a chance to get a feel for LA since I was there. Melrose Avenue with its funky and hip stores reminded me a little of Montreal.

We were exhausted by the time we got home, 2 1/2 hours later. The extra drive to Cafe Gratitude was indeed a bit much. On the other hand in light of last week's shocking news this was perhaps my last opportunity to ever partake of their food. As most of you may already know by now, the Engelharts announced (on facebook actually - What a way to learn that you've lost your job!) the closure of all of their Northern California restaurants due to several law suits from former employees. (You can read about this unexpected turn of event here and here.)

I still don't totally get their decision to shut down seven locations (eight including Gracias Madre) and put over 200 employees out of work rather than fight back since, as it has been suggested, "the lawsuit number is under $200,000." The whole thing just doesn't make any sense and leaves a bad taste in my mouth - no pun intended - especially since they intend to keep their LA outpost and open a new venue in Venice.

Anyhoo I'll let you decide for yourself...

P.S. I couldn't help but smile at the clever title of this article: "I Am Closing:" Cafe Gratitude Owners Will Shut Down Rather Than Fight Lawsuits.

4 comments:

  1. I find the Cafe Gratitude situation to be extremely sad. I really don't fully understand it, but having met Terces and Mathew, gone to their seminars, etc. I find it hard to believe they are up to something unethical.

    As for the LA, Venice stores, and soon to open Kansas City stores, they are all individually operated. The owners "bought into" the Cafe Gratitude franchise, so their stores are not at risk as they own them outright.

    I actually blogged about Cafe Gratitude today myself

    http://existingstricky.blogspot.com/2011/12/tribute-to-cafe-gratitude.html

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  2. Very Nice post!!
    I like he whole concept it is a great idea to share post like this!!

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  3. Santa MOnica is a special place. I am grateful to have been there once and enjoyed the raw goodies it has to offer. And lovely ocean.

    Interesting to her your thoughts about the Cafe Gratitude situation and new restaurant. Seems like the taste of their food was the strongest part of the operation, and we are lucky to have their recipes to keep that part living on.

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  4. OMG raw bagel with lox and capers - be still my heart!!!!

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