Café Gratitude Bereavement Plan  »

It sure sucks that Café Gratitude is closing. Lucky for me, I said my goodbyes a few months ago with a slice of raw cheesecake, right after I said goodbye to S.F. Pride and right before I got on a plane and moved to Denver.

Lucky for you, I’ve had time to figure how to live Life without Gratitude. And because I’m the nicest person ever, I’m going to share that hard-won knowledge.

Gather round, grasshoppers. Here’s what you do:


  1. Admit that the best thing about the restaurant was dessert. Then buy Sweet Gratitude, the book that will tell you how to make said desserts.
  2. Flip through the book. Cry a little when you realize how hard and complicated they are and how much better it was to just pay for them.
  3. Take a deep breath and COMMIT. It will be worth it!
  4. Buy Irish Moss.
  5. Buy a kitchen scale.
  6. Buy raw coconut oil.
  7. Buy soy lecithin.
  8. Buy raw cacao butter, powder, and maybe nibs.
  9. Buy raw vanilla beans.
  10. Buy a VitaMix. Or don’t but you’ll wish you had one. Trust me.
  11. Choose a recipe. Buy the rest of the stuff you’ll need, like almonds and cashews and dates and agave and coconuts, from the grocery store. 
  12. Plan ahead. You’ll probably need to soak things for various amounts of time, from one to 24 hours. Maybe make a Gantt chart?
  13. Whip! Blend! Chill! 

That’s a lot of steps, partly because I’m making fun of it. To be honest, it really is worth it, at least for special occasions. I still haven’t tried making the tiramisu at home. But I will. And you’ll hear about it.

Look what I made! Raw lemon-blueberry cheesecake! It rocked!

Pro tips:

  • Start with some of the simpler recipes. The cheesecakes, for example, don’t need Irish Moss. 
  • Making this food will make you covet a better blender, unless you have a great one already.
  • Blend longer than you think you need to.
  • If you’re not a raw food purist, don’t be a raw food purist. Use canned coconut milk. Use the almond milk you always use. Screw raw vanilla, use regular. Yeah of course it’ll taste different but you’ll be more sane.

Thanks, Gratitude. I am grateful you existed, and grateful for the challenges you’ve left us. Though I’d still rather just let you do the work.


Dude, all Northern California Café Gratitude locations are CLOSING?!  »

SFist has the word and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it! Café Gratitude, why you have to be so crazy? Can’t you just serve up your delicious kale bowls and key lime cheesecake and STOP BEING A CULT? So annoyed at them. SO ANNOYED! Where will I get my delicious coffee shakes?? THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE, GODDAMMIT, GRATITUDE! My question of the day is: “WTF YOU GUYS!?”

More TK because we’re hella going New Tales of Sherlock Holmes on this shit.

[yeah, right!!]

UPDATE: SFist talked to Shandra Gilbert, Gratitude’s Director of Operations, who explained to us that, yes, Gracias Madre is also up for sale. Alas.

Et tu, Gracias Madre!??!!?

UPDATE 2: We now know for a fact that many employees (like, higher-up employees) had NO CLUE this was happening. They found out via SFist. Really nice, Café Gratitude.

UPDATE 3: We talked to Steve Sommers of Kumin Sommers LLC, who filed the two current lawsuits against Café Gratitude. He told us some interesting things! They mainly concern their tip-pooling practice, which goes like this: Every penny generated in tips and sales goes into same pool of money. At end of the day, they tabulate how much they should have earned from food sales, and they remove that amount from the pool— this, says Sommers, is called “breakage,” and it “shoulders the risk of the business onto the employees,” and is illegal. Next, they take 20 percent from the remaining money and send it to the central kitchen. Finally, they divide the remaining money among all the employees, from the managers to the janitors. Sommers says that one of his clients, Sara Stevens, would collect $200 in tips per night and only pocket $40. She is suing for between $80,000 and $85,000 in lost tips, and missed fuel and rest breaks.

The second lawsuit comes from their CURRENT—as in, he was still an employee as of 2:30 p.m. today, when we spoke with Sommers—bookkeeper, Ravi Shankar. He was being paid a salary as an exempt employee, which is illegal, and is suing for about $60,000 in overtime pay.

Sommers says that they have offered to let the Engelharts—Gratitude’s owners—“pay over time, if it’s a matter of money,” but by closing all their Northern California restaurants “they are scapegoating these two people.” Sommers also notes that once he filed these suits, Gratitude purchased three industrial shredders. “What are they hiding?” he asks.

It’s a legitimate question!

Also of note: These suits are entirely unconnected with Landmark and all that weirdness the East Bay Express wrote about in 2009.

UPDATE 4: Just heard from another (current) employee who said that they’re for sure being sold and that so is Gracias Madre, and it looks like there might already be a buyer for Gracias Madre, and it’s a big corporation. They didn’t tell the employees who the big corporation is (we’re thinking of starting the rumor that it’s McDonald’s! You in!?), but all Café Gratitude employees and central kitchen employees are getting fired. Super sad and shitty.

UPDATE 5: We just got news from a tipster (thank you!) that the Gratitude’s commercial kitchen and offices building on 14th Street is for sale. Asking price is $1.895 million, agent is Rob Maccarone at TRI Commercial. Check out the brochure here.


Thanksgiving 2011: Where to eat outside of your home in the S.F. Bay Area!  »

We love cooking! But maybe you don’t! Or you find a huge Thanksgiving dinner way too much work. That’s OK! Here is a list of places you can celebrate your Thanksgiving, at restaurants or homes. You can volunteer to work and eat for free, or bring a dish to a potluck, or just show up, eat yourself silly, and roll on home. So many options!

What’s the difference between this and our earlier post on vegan Thanksgiving celebrations? These are happening in the SF Bay Area! We’ll add to this list as we get more information, so please, send us tips!

We also have a list of places to buy your dinner to take home, and where to get delicious baked goods like pies! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, Nov. 16BerkeleyThanksliving at U.C. BerkeleySee our earlier post for details!10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

San RafaelMarin Vegan Drinks Does Thanksgiving!Sampling Tofurky, $1 vegan cupcakes, $5 drink special is a Spiced/Spiked Cider.6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 19PetalumaNorth Bay vegan Thanksgiving potluck!Bring a dish to share! Mulled spiced cider provided6:30 p.m.

Every day until Thanksgiving Golden Era is offering a three-course vegan special (but they’re closed on actual Thanksgiving!)

Thursday, Nov. 24Berkeley, San Francisco, San RafaelFree Thanksgiving meal at Cafe GratitudeContact the three participating locations to volunteer (they need servers, bartenders, dishwashers, line cooks, and opening and closing crew), or call (415) 824.4652.noon to 3 p.m.

Menlo ParkRaw vegan Thanksgiving food partyHosted by Elizabeth and Charlie of Bay Area Vegetarians; RSVP required.noon

San FranciscoBAV Vegan Thanksgiving CelebrationHosted by Kim and Jamie; RSVP required.2 to 5 p.m.

San FranciscoFive-course Thanksgiving dinner at MillenniumReservations no longer taken, but first-come, first serve places available at the barContact Millennium for more information at (415) 345.3900, ext. 10.2 to 6 p.m. [time is for bar seating only]

San FranciscoPlant Cafe at Pier 3/the EmbarcaderoTwo $60 prix fixe menus, one “traditional” with turkey, and one vegan!Contact Plant Cafe for details via email, or call (415) 984.1973. Reservations required.3 to 9 p.m.

San FranciscoVegan Thanksgiving at Source, including pumpkin spice snowballs by our Jenny Bradley!Contact Source via email, or call (415) 864.9000 for details/reservations.

Saturday, Nov. 26San RafaelPost-Thanksgiving Vegan Food PartyHosted by Alicia of BAV; RSVP required.3 to 6 p.m.

Anywhere in the Bay Area, throughout the four-day weekend!Want to host a vegan Thanksgiving with BAV pals? Contact Tammy of BAV to volunteer!

[photo by Emilie Hardman via Flickr]


Interview with a San Francisco rockstar: Cafe Gratitude’s Gregory Manitsas  »

San Francisco resident and dessert-maker extraordinaire Gregory Manitsas has worked at Cafe Gratitude for three years, as the bakery manager and head pastry chef for the last year and a half. He is not only an amazing creative force, but an inspirational vegan as well. Gregory has been a vegan for 13 of his 28 years! Rumor has it, he’s about to go take L.A. by storm.

Vegansaurus: How long have you been vegan? What inspired the lifestyle?
Gregory Manitsas: In August I will have been vegan for 13 years. August 1 is my vegan birthday that I recognize every year and feel very proud of. I was vegetarian before vegan. When I was 10 years old, I stopped eating read meat, then came chicken, then came fish, and by 14 I was totally vegan. I don’t even remember why I stopped eating red meat; it just seemed like a natural thing for me to do. When I discovered how tremendously those we eat for food suffer, I wanted nothing to do with it. When I committed to a live a completely vegan lifestyle at the age of 14, I was extremely motivated and activated about being a voice for animal rights and raising the bar on how humans treat and relate to our fellow earthlings.

Are you raw?
I consider myself a raw foodist, but cooked food is definitely part of my diet. I have experimented with different ways of being raw. I’ve done 100 percent raw here and there. I usually do this for cleansing or to inspire myself. Eating all raw foods is really energizing and exciting for me, and sometimes I will do it to inspire myself and motivate my body. Right now my diet is about half raw and half cooked. I eat more raw in the summer than the winter. The more fresh, raw foods I eat, the better I feel.

What do you see as the benefits of a raw food diet?
There are so many benefits to eating raw foods. For me, raw foods mean fresh foods. The closer the food that we eat is to its natural state, the better it is for our bodies. The Earth has created a bounty of amazingness that grows right from the soil in perfect balance to nourish our bodies. As we cook, process and manipulate our foods, we actually deplete its nutritional value and diminish its ability to nourish our bodies. The impact of eating unnatural foods is profound and should not be disregarded.

Raw foods are often seen as time-consuming and expensive. What do you think of this? Which tools and tips are crucial for the budding home raw food chef?
Yes, raw foods can feel laborious and expensive. This was my experience when I began, but then I realized I was approaching it wrong. Keep it simple: raw foods is about eating fresh, natural foods that come directly from the Earth. Have fun! Go to the farmer’s market or grocery store and be amazed by the gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Try things you’ve never eaten before. Appreciate the colors, textures and smells. Start slowly and build. You’ll learn a little bit more every day. Just start exploring and have fun. Read up on raw foods. There are some amazing raw foods educators and chefs out there; I recommend David Wolf and Dr Gabriel Cousens. Knowing about the foods you are consuming is extremely empowering.

What goes into the process of creating new raw desserts and tastes? 
When I develop new recipes, I go with what I’m excited about. What do I want to eat? What would I love to serve at a dinner party? What ingredient do I want to use? Sometimes I try a dish or see a recipe that I am inspired by, or a painting, a film, or an experience. Sometimes at work I will create a recipe based around something really practical, like, “We have a lot of grapes from the farm; what can we do with grapes?”

What kind of sugar alternatives do you use in a raw dessert?
The main sweeteners I currently use are medjool dates and agave nectar. There are also other sweeteners out there like yacon, Jerusalem artichoke syrup, coconut nectar, coconut sugar, raisins, fresh fruit, dried berries, and fruit.

As someone who has lived in both New York and San Francisco, could you recommend your favorite vegan restaurants to Vegansaurus readers?
In New York, my favorite thing to do is eat falafel sandwiches. I love them! They got me through college. There are some great places to get falafel in New York—I recommend Mamouns near Washington Square Park, and Chickpea by Astor Place. Every falafel sandwich is different and it is so fun to discover new ones. Falafel sandwiches are essentially deep fried chickpea patties in pita bread with fresh salad and tahini sauce. Simple, delicious perfection! Some places use yogurt sauce instead of tahini, so double check that they are using tahini, which is standard.

My favorite place to eat in S.F.—honestly I don’t eat out very often. When I do it is usually some little hole-in-the-wall, ethnic kind of place. I love Japanese food. Soba noodle soup is my favorite, or yam tempura rolls. Since I live in the Mission, it’s super easy to go to a taqueria and grab a vegan burrito; rice, black beans, lettuce, salsa and avocado wrapped in a tortilla. Delicious and satisfying, all the time. I’m getting hungry. Good thing there’s a taqueria on every block in my neighborhood!

Thanks Gregory! I’m hungry now too. Hungry for Cafe Gratitude’s tiramisu, the best dessert I have EVER eaten.


Celebrities invade SF, eat at vegan restaurants!*  »

Josh Radner of How I Met Your Mother eats at Cafe Gratitude when he’s in San Francisco! He’s friends with the owners, Matthew and Terces Engelhart. Of the restaurants (SF, Berkeley, Cupertino, Oakland, Healdsburg and now L.A.) he says, “They’re fantastic. They’re vegan. You just feel a vibe of love and goodness when you walk in.” OMG Josh Radner is a hippie! Who knew?

I always miss the celebrities eating at Cafe Gratitude! I’ve heard rumors of Jake Gyllenhal and Thom Yorke at CG, Alanis Morrisette at Gracias Madre.

In other news, Cafe Gratitude has lowered their prices! And added new menu items!  Plus, you always know you are drinking organic, vegan beer and wine there—no checking Barnivore required. Although, one aspect I’ve noticed about the new menu I’m not pleased about is that they have taken off the cocktails. WHAT?! I loved their greyhound—sake and fresh grapefruit juice? YESPLEASETHANKS. I have a pretty high tolerance and after two I started hitting on the bartenders/servers. Which means two things: their drinks were strong and I am a flirty/sleazy drunk.

Bring back the greyhound, Cafe Gratitude! Tell me my eyes are deceiving me! Yeah, and the raw deep dish pizza looks amazing.

*Celebrities sell papers, people!!



At Gracias Madre! It’s open!
First impressions: they spent a shitload of money on this place. It’s like being in a fancy spa (in Mexico?). The super-white host greets you with a “Buenas dias.” Hehe. As expected, they ask you a question of the day (shoot me) and there is communal seating (shoot me) (although fairly empty right now so we’re relatively safe). Pretty much the entire menu is available (except a few of the desserts).
That’s our report from the front lines! We’ll be back with more in a little! Over and out!

At Gracias Madre! It’s open!

First impressions: they spent a shitload of money on this place. It’s like being in a fancy spa (in Mexico?). The super-white host greets you with a “Buenas dias.” Hehe. As expected, they ask you a question of the day (shoot me) and there is communal seating (shoot me) (although fairly empty right now so we’re relatively safe). Pretty much the entire menu is available (except a few of the desserts).

That’s our report from the front lines! We’ll be back with more in a little! Over and out!



Preview Gracias Madre! Right now!  »

OK, more like “pre-taste,” but the prefix is the key here because oh boy: They’re serving Gracias Madre tamales at Café Gratitude right now! Oh I cannot wait for this place to open, one of everything to stay, please.

The tamales are described as follows:Stoneground heirloom masa steamed in the husk filled with seasonal vegetables. Served with pumpkin seed salsa and black beans. Rajas – roasted poblano chile strips sautéed with onion. Calabaza – roasted butternut squash.” ¡Muy delicioso!

[thanks for the tip, Grub Street San Francisco!]


Lamb Cam, Vegan Spam, Penguin Divorce: it’s the Friday link-o-rama!  »

Lamb Cam blog, a.k.a., the Martha’s Vineyard/Hudson Valley Fiber Farm blog. This is a family farm that raises goats and sheep for their fleece, exclusively: they never sell any of their animals for meat! The work of shepherding, from the birth of a lamb to its shearing, and then from the newly sheared wool to the dyed and spun yarn, is documented in detail on the blog—there are no more mysteries.Still, the best part is all the pictures (and videos) of the lambs and kids adorabling it up, knowing they will never be anyone’s supper.

vegan spam: Why hasn’t anyone made this for me yet?!

Maybe you’re all too smart to watch NYC Prep, but some of us have to, and you may be interested to know that one of the characters is a vegan! She goes on a date with some asshole to a French restaurant where all she can order is a green salad (without dressing! Though that may be partly due to her being a teenage girl). In another episode, she goes to vegetarian/mostly vegan restaurant Zen Palate with a competing suitor. Who do you think she should go for?

At the Bitten blog, Emily Weinstein asks readers for their best squash recipes, specifically the ones with lots of delicious fats in them. Vegansaurus loves fats!

To support the community and its revenues during the recession, Cafe Gratitude has started asking customers to name their own prices. For certain dishes, at least, like I Am Grateful. While the menu price is $7, they report that the “average price” paid is $3.50. Cafe Gratitude at 50 percent off? You know who is grateful? Thepoors. Yes, please.
[link from Eater SF]

Tragedy! The introduction of lady penguin from San Diego has apparently broken up the gentlemen penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo in New York. While Vegansaurus does not support zoos, the idea that yesterday “Roy, all alone, sat disconsolately at the edge of the penguin area, staring at the wall,” is so fucking sad. Who will raise the baby?

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