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Powered up with shilajit and ormus, I was ready to take on the world. Or at least lunch. I'm a fan of Café Gratitude's sprouted-almond hummus ("I Am Connected"), served with chewy "raw" crackers (dehydrated, not baked), though it's a shade salty. When the server tired of my questions about each dish's ingredients (in this case: soaked almonds, soaked sunflower seeds, raw tahini), she engaged her inner shaman and brought me something I'd wanted to see all my life: The Book of Knowledge. The wisdom contained within is specific to Café Gratitude, so I didn't discover the meaning of life. (How amusing it would be, however, if truly universal answers to life's codes really were tucked inside a lime-green, three-ring binder.) But an available-upon-request listing of the ingredients to a restaurant's every dish is an excellent idea, particularly for diners with severe food allergies. It's something that more places should consider. Meanwhile, the nut-averse should know that Café Gratitude's dishes tend to be heavy on cashew cheese and cashew ice cream, Brazilian nut cheese, and Thai almond dressing.
Because all of the ingredients here are organic, it's not unusual for the restaurant to run out of certain dishes. The corn tamale ("I Am Trusting") was not available on any of my three visits to the place. As one manager explained to me, "It's not like we can run to Price Chopper if we run out of something." That makes sense, I guess, but I was tempted to ask my server to run out and get me some real bacon after biting into Café Gratitude's spin on a BLT ("I Am Extraordinary"). The faux meat — crispy, chipotle-maple coconut "bacon" — tasted like a chewy hunk of Hawaiian candy topped with lettuce, tomato and avocado. Much, much better was the veggie burger, a patty of brown rice, quinoa, black beans, mushrooms and beets. But I think I liked it because it had been fried to the consistency of a falafel puck — high praise, if you ask me.
That burger ("I Am Magical") is particularly good with a creamy dollop of the dairy-free mozzarella, which has the texture of a fine, silky ricotta. And it's best alongside one of the place's big cashew milkshakes, all of which are far thicker than any dairy-based shake in town.
A vegetarian friend of mine was less than entranced by Café Gratitude's version of pad Thai, "I Am Terrific." It's a cold jumble of kelp noodles, shredded kale, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro, mint and scallions in a light, tasty sauce made with almond butter, ginger juice, agave, cilantro and jalapeño-lemon juice. Though we both liked it a lot, my friend felt a little misled by the menu.
There are other surprises. The restaurant doesn't serve a vegan staple — soy products — in its dishes. "Most soy products in the United States are genetically modified," one waitress lectured me. And there's no liquor, but that's going to change when the owners get their liquor license. Organic beer and organic wine, of course. "Will those beverages be called 'I Am Intoxicated?' " I asked. The waitress frowned at my insolence, and I felt a twinge of shame. Just then, dessert arrived: a wonderfully tart Key lime pie in an almond crust, and a dense chocolate "mousse" that was more like a sweet pâté made with Irish moss, among other ingredients. (Moss mousse doesn't sound tempting, but it tastes good.)