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Jul 16, 2006 04:01 AM

"I AM ABUNDANT" . . . Cafe Gratitude, San Francisco

Last week I joined the girlfriends at the Harrison/20th Cafe Gratitude for our monthly dinner with a spiritual boost as a bonus. Only one of us had been here before, and the newbies were relieved to find that the raw vegan food could be so delicious. Also, the atmosphere was welcoming and festive, we couldn't help but be in good spirits with a birthday party next to us and the appearance of a wandering mariachi band. After some reluctance and self-consciousness, each of us managed to state our order by the self-affirming names for each dish.

For appetizers to start, we shared -

I AM HAPPY live hummus - Sprouted almond-sesame
hummus with assorted live crackers $6.50

I AM PRESENT cheese & fruit - Soft cashew “
cheese” of the day served with apples,
olive tapenade, assorted live crackers and toast $7.50

The live crackers, especially the reddish-colored flax seed ones for me, are so delicious and crispy. The thick-cut, brown one that looks like pumpernickel toast is tastier than most pumpernickel breads available around here. I liked both of these spreads very much, although I didn't think the tapenade was very good with them or on its own.

I had the -

I AM ABUNDANT sampler plate
Live nachos, kale-sea veggie salad, stuffed mushroom, olive tapenade, live hummus, and a mini Thai coconut soup. Served with assorted live crackers and almond toast. $12

My favorite thing on the plate was the crimini mushroom stuffed with a soy sauce-flavored nut pate. I also loved the coconut soup and the guacamole. It turned out that I was surrounded by non-avocado eaters, and I greedily scooped up the luscious guac on my friends' plates. The salsa accompanying it was fresh and spicy. The kale and seaweed salad didn't do anything for me, as I found it too stringy and disliked the bitter metallic aftertaste. I had a taste of a falafel from Kathy's "I AM FLOURISHING" Mediterranean plate and found it underspiced and mushy.

The biggest surprise for us was how much we liked the desserts. The lemon pie was sooo tart and zesty. I liked the natural sweetness of the dates played up with a touch of vanilla in the soft-serve ice "cream". The all-round favorite was the Key lime pie, satisfyingly creamy, vibrant with lime and a delicious date and nut crust.

We had the 2000 Chateau Thieuley Bordeaux blanc sec from my cellar with our meal. Corkage is $7 per bottle. The grassy, herbal and citrus tones were a good match for the vegan menu.

Cafe Gratitude slideshow -

Cafe Gratitude menu -

Cynsa's post on the Sunset location -

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  1. You are RIGHT.

    Every time I go to Cafe Gratitude I can't believe how good it is. The live crackers are terrific -- one place they show off well is bruschetta (live crackers with tomato and other things). I also recommend whatever the dish is (I am WHOLE? I am WORTHY? I am forgetting) that has kimchee and other vegetables on rice or quinoa. It's a nice example of their willingness to make spicy food as spicy as it should be.

    Skip the Caesar salad. Caesar salad needs egg, cheese, and anchovies, and I can't see how to come anywhere close in a vegan version. Cafe Gratitude's attempt tastes nothing like a Caesar salad -- it's bland and too oily.

    4 Replies
    1. re: david kaplan

      I am HELPING . . . yes, here's the

      *I AM WHOLE “Macro” bowl - Shredded kale, sea vegetables, choice of grain, house made kim chee and sprouts, topped with miso-tahini sauce. $10.

      I've also heard that the filled avocado is very good,

      *I AM VIVACIOUS stuffed avocado - An avocado filled with chipotle sunflower-seed pâté and topped with spicy mole sauce and cashew sour cream. Served with a side salad. $11

      One thing that I was warned about is to be careful about some of the drinks if you're not accustomed to having this much fiber in your diet.

      1. re: david kaplan

        I went to the Cafe Gratitude on 9th last night and I too was really surprised at how good it was. I will definitely head back there.

        Four of us shared the following:
        I Am Elated - the enchilada of the day was made with a spinach tortilla and was filled with beans. We had the gucamole added on top and it was served with a generous serving of salad. I think this one was my least favorite since the tortilla not so tasty.

        I Am Passionate - this is the pizza with marinara sauce, olive tapenade and basil. It was very tasty and I would order it again. The flavors just blended together so well.

        I Am Flourishing - this was the mediterranean platter. The falafel was strange, but still tasty. They were a little hard. This also came with an almond cracker - also good, but we could have used more crackers. The hummus was great, better than the average hummus you get at a grocery store. Also, a generous serving of salad accompanied the platter and we chose the avocado dressing. I think I would go back and just get a small salad with the avocado dressing because it was creamy - delicious.

        For dessert we ordered a German Chocolate Cake with a date and coconut filling. The coconut was a little rancid, so that turned me off a bit. I would try the key lime pie next time.

        It's definitly worth a try if you are even a little curious.

        1. re: Mari

          Mari, thanks for reporting in from the Sunset location. These folks understand avocados, don't they.

          When we studied the dessert list, we were somewhat leery of what unbaked chocolate/cocoa would taste like. How'd that part turn out?

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            They sure do. And I forgot to mention the shredded beets in the the Mediterranean platter, which were also a stand-out. They were still a little bit crunch and I think that's what I liked. I am definitely heading back there again!!

      2. Thanks for the report and photos, Melanie. I've read a number of reviews in the past, but your photos really bring the live food to life. I normally dismiss this kind of food, but those crackers look so intriguing. The prices also seem quite reasonable.

        Ok, this key lime pie has me curious...what do they use in place of the loads of dairy (egg yolks, condensed milk, whipping cream) to mimic the texture and taste of real key lime pie??

        1 Reply
        1. re: Carb Lover

          You're welcome, I loved taking those photos because the Fiesta plates and food presentations were so colorful. I thought the prices were reasonable too considering the amount of labor that's involved to manipulate the food.

          The restaurant only takes reservations for parties of 6 or more. The person on the phone was a bit gruff with me, but every staff member who helped us during our meal had a beautific glow and sunny attitude that was quite contagious. We had our table for over 2 hours and never felt any pressure to leave.

          I preferred the creamier texture of the Key lime pie here to the standard recipe which is stiffer. I think it has coconut milk and perhaps some almond milk or other nut extract in it. Whatever the ingredients might be, the taste of the limes came through much more distinctly. The lemon pie had a firmish texture that reminded me of agar.

          rworange on Berkeley's Cafe Gratitude -

        2. I had the I AM ACCEPTING stir-unfry, but I didn't like it much; it was far too dependent on soy sauce for the flavor, and it was over-salty as a result. The sampler plate was just fine (basic Greek), but I thought the servings were a bit small.

          The key lime pie, though, was just spectacular. We went back the next day to buy a whole pie for a vegan friend of ours.

          1. samosas and the enchilada of the day, everytime. You can buy their guac to take home. So worth it.