THIS is the major volunteering opportunity for Thanksgiving that I wanted to talk about in my last Tuesday Thoughts post! I remember my last visit at Cafe Gratitude–it was gorgeous, memorable and sweet with a new hippie vibe I adored and food I devoured. I still dream about my banana bread and “I Am Terrific” kelp noodles to this day!
Unfortunately, this restaurant was a bit too eccentric and “healthy” for most of my family, so we never came back. But once I saw the free volunteering and Thanksgiving meal service opportunity at Cafe Gratitude in Downtown LA, I was absolutely STOKED. Not only do I get free food, but I get some work experience volunteering through service and behind the kitchen. I’ve always been big on volunteering–I do it every week!–and to revisit my favorite restaurant and do what I love was just perfect. I signed up, drove to the restaurant and was ready to go.
Also, I know that I said in my last Tuesday Thoughts post that I don’t consider Thanksgiving to be a completely ethical holiday, but I don’t see why I should let that bar me from spending time with my family because they celebrate it. It’s like being grain free and not eating with the family just because you’re grain free, or if you’re vegetarian and you don’t eat with the family just because you’re vegetarian. You see, I don’t like to use labels as a means to socially isolate yourself. Food is not the only social aspect, so don’t treat it that way. Totally off-topic, back to the day!
I arrived at the beautiful Cafe Gratitude and literally felt the exact same exhilaration I did when I first went to Whole Foods! When I first asked what jobs I could do, I found out that nothing was available because I arrived an hour early. However, I definitely found something fun to do: to eat the delicious Thanksgiving food that was on the menu! Yes, free food was provided for the volunteers as well.
I cannot even being to describe the luxurious comfort food I ate at the bar. First off to drink, I had a apple pomegranate spritzer. Let me just say that I HATE sparkling water and fizzy drinks of any kind–even kombucha–because they make my tummy hurt. However, this spritzer was to DIE FOR. Not too sweet, not too rough on the stomach, and super refreshing.
First on the chomping plate is the red lentil holiday loaf. It tasted soft, hearty, savory, and so flavorful without any meat needed! This was probably one of my favorite pieces on the plate because I never had anything like it. Next I had the raw pecan, cranberry and apple stuffing, which was light, crunchy and bursting with sweetness from the apples. It was definitely one of the sweeter and probably freshest tasting parts of the meal. I didn’t eat the potatoes and gravy because I don’t like white potatoes, but the roasted veggies were absolutely delicious–I loved the balsamic flavor. I also enjoyed the light autumn salad, but it was the least exciting part of the plate. Now, drumroll please, is where I can rave about my absolute favorite pumpkin pie IN THE WORLD. It is completely gluten free and RAW. Yes, no heating involved! I couldn’t believe there wasn’t any pumpkin in it either; the butternut squash does a pretty fantabulous job at masking as a pumpkin flavor while being sweet and distinctive. The crust is crunchy, sweet and better than any other bread pie crust out there! I HAVE to replicate this pie in the future!
When I came back from the best vegan Thanksgiving meal in the world, I still didn’t receive any work. However, a waitress told me that workers were serving free vegan ice cream at the Sky Lounge and I had enough time to get some. Uh, HECK YEAH would I try some! I zipped to the line at the Sky Lounge and was so lucky to get my hands on some ice cream before they ran out. I was one of the last ones! I was also talking to this friendly woman who happened to be an artist and a BIG lover of healthy living–including going to Cafe Gratitude!
The ice cream is completely made of cashews, and the fact that it was chocolate flavored just made it ten times better. It was decadent, creamy, rich, satisfying, luxurious, velvety, and perfect in every way. Hey, it may look like doodoo, but you will be SO surprised as to how amazing it tastes. YUMMMM, chocolate cashew doodoo! Okay, I’ll stop with the gross references XD
Anyways, after walking down to enjoy the rest of my ice cream and making conversation with more lovely people, it was finally time for my shift! I ended up folding napkins in the back of the kitchen for a while until we were all out of dirty cloth napkins. During that time right before I started serving as a waitress, I got a chance to take a glimpse at the bakery! You have no idea how many things were calling out to me: vegan banana bread, carrot cake, muffins, donuts, raw key lime pie, raw chocolate coconut cake, raw pumpkin pie, vegan cheesecake, raw truffles, coconut almond joys, and more! If I was invisible I would’ve robbed the place. You’ll see it in the video, but I ended up getting a free muffin and donut to take home!
I was, yes, the last volunteer to leave, which allowed me to snap a few photos of the beautiful space. It is so holistic and inviting!
I am really looking forward to coming back to eat here–and possibly volunteer again if they hold it here next year! By the time my mother picked me up, I was STARVED. Best part was that the lovely Thanksgiving day wasn’t over yet! I still had my family to feast with! My parents didn’t feel like cooking without my sister who was in Palm Springs, so we went to Korean BBQ in Chosun instead!
My parents ordered the traditional galbi, japchae and giant simmered cod, all accompanied with fermented veggies and rice. It was actually incredibly tasty–the japchae was my favorite part! I also had mixed lettuce and about three pieces of beef–a bit on the chewy side, which I didn’t like too much so I disregarded it for the rest of the meal. The cod was flavorful, but I got a little tired of the flavor as I ate more and more of it, which trust me, was A LOT. I probably ate half of that whole plate!
I wouldn’t say I ended up in a food coma, but yes, the food babies were real. I know that I said that I wouldn’t put my heart and soul into the holiday itself, and I didn’t. I didn’t even think about the holiday; what I thought about was being in the present moment, talking to new and beautiful souls, eating an abundance of healthy and tasty food and enjoying a new experience. This was probably the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. I’m so incredibly blessed! If you do celebrate Thanksgiving, hope you guys enjoyed it and had wonderful food and friends and family to celebrate it with!
Cafe Gratitude site: cafegratitude.com