It is rare that I eat at a “vegan” restaurant. This blog is dedicated to finding vegan food at mainstream establishments, but every once in a while I can’t resist a good vegan meal. It is great to see items like “ricotta” and “sour cream” and “mascarpone” that I can actually eat. I have to admit, that I am so used to being cynical about foods being vegan (at any restaurant) that I still asked the server “everything is really vegan?”
Yeah yeah. Laugh it up.
But yesterday, there I was with my friend “M” at Cafe Gratitude on Larchmont St here in Los Angeles. From what I’ve learned from the website, Cafe Gratitude is a collection of restaurants dedicated using local organic ingredients in both raw and cooked dishes, desserts, smoothies, and milkshakes! I was so overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite choices; recently making the big move toward more organic local and whole foods, I found myself in vegan heaven.
Just the other day, I was telling Friand that I hadn’t had a good vegan eggplant parmesan in ages, and I was having serious cravings the last week or so. I don’t normally order sandwiches at restaurants (with the exception of veggie burgers) but when I saw I AM AWESOME I just had to have it!
We started off our lunch with the soup du jour: butternut squash and chipotle soup, topped with cilantro and sour cream. Soups come in “bowl” size, but we didn’t want to start off our meal with a giant bowl, so they were accommodating and split the bowl into two cups for us. It turned out to be just the right amount! The soup itself was fantastic! Creamy and spicy, dark and sweet. I loved it. The little bit of cream on top added a lovely cool element.
On to the main attraction: I AM AWESOME Look at that thing! Herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant parmesan on grilled Panini bread with marinara sauce, cashew ricotta, sliced heirloom tomatoes, arugula and basil. What’s not to like? The bread was nice and soft, the arugala was wilted lightly and still had some bite, the eggplant sweet and juicy, I loved the tomato slices, and what can I say about the cashew ricotta? It’s been so so long since this Italian has felt the texture of ricotta in her mouth, that I couldn’t get over how authentic it truly was. The worst part about the dish was the salad. Yeah yeah yeah, you all know me well enough by now to know that I didn’t eat it. I did taste it, and I can confirm that yes: it was a salad.
On to dessert! Even after that cup of soup and a huge rich sandwich, I was still ogling the pretties in the dessert case. Honestly, I have had some pretty incredible vegan pastries and pies and cakes, but I could not believe that I was looking at vegan tiramisu.
In my vegetarian days, I had an authentic tiramisu recipe that I made for special occasions. I was so snobbish about my own recipe that I would not, in a million years, order tiramisu at any restaurant because I just didn’t believe it would ever stand up to my own. So why bother spending the money? But yesterday, there it was: vegan muther-f’ing tiramisu, and it’s been almost 7 years since I’ve had the real thing (in my own kitchen or otherwise) that this opportunity was not going to be missed.
Vegan “mascarpone” was creamy and perfectly flavored. Some people seem to think that mascarpone should be sweet in a tiramisu, or that cream cheese is an acceptable substitute, but neither of those things are true. Tiramisu is all about the coffee and light cheese in what amounts to an uncooked (not necessarily raw) confection. And this one measured up! The raw almond flour added a nice texture in place of the traditional savoiardi, the coffee is obviously a quality coffee, and of course the vegan mascarpone. M and I vowed to split this thing, but I have a feeling I ended up with the lion’s share. Next time, I get my own (and maybe one to take home). Really, the worst thing I can say about the tiramisu was that there was too much cocoa on top, but that is a personal preference based on how I used to make my own.
I highly recommend Cafe Gratitude if you’re looking for a nice refreshing alternative to the usual vegan choices. Readers probably remember how I felt about RFD… but I can see myself going back to Cafe Gratitude again and again. In fact, I already have big plans to return to try some milkshakes!
Cafe Gratitude gets 5 sprouts for sure!
639 Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004