Christmas. Two days away. And Christmas Eve is literally TOMORROW. While this post is being published, I’m either raiding the nearest shopping mall in hopes of finding gifts for my family or covering my entire house with wrapping paper while attempting to wrap my gifts because I cannot gift-wrap even if my life depended on it. If you held me at gunpoint and threatened to kill me if I could not wrap a gift properly, you’d end up killing me because no matter how much I try, my wrapped presents end up looking like Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I swear, the reason why I’ve been relatively quiet about the holidays is because I’ve just been WAY too stressed out to even express any excitement.
All of the holiday stress seriously called for some pampering. While most of us think of pampering as taking a hot bath, getting mani-pedis and a makeover, I pamper myself with a fun foodie-related experience. Since crossing the finish line of my fall quarter with a bang that exceeded my personal expectations for success, I created a restaurant bucket list for the winter break to celebrate! I am super glad to say that I’ve made amazing progress so far!
WINTER BUCKET LIST
- Streets of India ❌
- Garden Wok ❌
- VeStation (review here)
- Humphrey Yogart ❌
- Vinh Loi Tofu (review here, vegan turkey review here) ❌
- Cafe Gratitude (Thanksgiving volunteering post here) ❌
- 365 by Whole Foods
- Chandni’s ❌
- Govinda’s Natural Foods Restaurant
- Royal Delhi Palace (review here)
P.S. If you have any other restaurant recommendations around Los Angeles, please let me know!
No doubt in my mind would I ever skip Cafe Gratitude from this list, of course! I had the most amazing first-time experience trying their seasonal kelp noodles several years ago, volunteering at their holiday event on Thanksgiving day last year, visiting for a lovely lunch with the amazingly kindhearted Jenna of thevegansparrow (totally recommend her blog if you are into plant-based food and compassionate living!), and of course, this beautiful rainy day brunch date. My sister was so loving that she took me to the Larchmont restaurant to add some light to this dreary Wednesday morning! Nothing wrong with rain, but my personal preferences revolve more around the sun (get it?).
We were seated right away in the cozy restaurant by the window where we got a gorgeous view and angle of light. As a result, taking photos were could not have been more perfect!
Creative dishes and seasonal changes overwhelmed the menu with nearly an endless amount of options to choose from. It took me quite a while to decide on some brunch items, aside from the Dynamic samosa chaat, which I’ve been dreaming of trying for a long time. After a process of elimination game and several recommendations by our server, we settled on the Serene cinnamon roll, Dynamic samosa chaat and Peaceful breakfast toast sampler that I requested to substitute for gluten free bread. Not implying that I have an allergy or fear of gluten, but I did read beforehand on Yelp that Cafe Gratitude’s gluten free bread is absolutely delicious!
Waiting for the food did not take long at all (even though we were told that the samosas would take a while to bake, which we were fine with), but the Serene cinnamon roll ended up coming out first. The dark swirls and the light glaze on top were so seductive that we had to dig in right away, even though the roll also looked quite dry on the surface.
To our surprise, it was so tempting not to finish the whole cinnamon roll in one sitting. Bite after bite, I just fell more in love with the sweetness of the glaze and filling that combined perfectly with the soft, smooth dough!
We did end up taking the rest of the cinnamon roll for to-go. It’d make an incredible post-dinner dessert, or even as a sweet potato topping! Besides, I have way too many Japanese sweet potatoes that I bought at FarmBoy that I seriously need to finish up before they expire!
After ten more minutes or so, the Dynamic samosa chaat and the Peaceful breakfast toast plate arrived. A wave of awe struck me from the beauty of both dishes!
Of course, I’m just way too happy around the presence of food.
I couldn’t possibly know where to start on how amazing everything was. Let’s just say that we didn’t need any more to-go boxes. But because the Dynamic was smaller, let’s start the emphasis on the samosas, shall we?
As an avid Indian food lover, I love samosas. However, I haven’t had one in years because let’s speak the truth: they are definitely not the healthiest Indian dish to order. Fortunately, the Dynamic samosas are folded in a whole wheat dough, so it is much more wholesome than the average samosas, plus they are filled with sweet roasted garnet yams, corn and cooked cauliflower that are served in most vegetable samosas. Underneath is a bed of chickpea chana masala and on top of the samosas are a homemade coconut mint chutney and spicy tomato jam with a deliciously fruity flavor.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve always wanted to try these samosas because I read on Yelp that despite being extremely pricey ($15 for the whole appetizer!), they are incredible. And indeed, Yelp was correct once again. I gobbled up everything and absolutely adored the warming spices, flavorful medley of the tomato with the mild whole wheat samosa crust and the sweet yet slightly spicy cauliflower and yams. Everything about this bowl was completely worth the investment, and I would totally order it again.
Onto the breakfast toasts! The sampler comes on a long plate with three pieces of gluten free buckwheat English muffin-like breads with all three Peaceful toast varieties. Firstly is a sweet banana-almond butter combination with raw local honey and bee pollen, a classic smashed avocado toast with cherry tomatoes, matcha wasabi cream, gremolata and applewood smoked salt, and lastly, a unique twist of a spicy egg toast that features a garbanzo bean flour frittata garnished with spicy pickled cauliflower, broccoli and other various vegetables, toasted almond romesco and cilantro (a MUST for garnishing).
- Banana-Almond Butter toast: Imagine nutty silk and little crinkles of sweet banana running down your tongue. That is basically what this toast resembled. Bananas and almond butter already have the same chemistry as Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone do in La La Land (couldn’t recommend that movie enough!). Upon biting into the toast, I sensed the no-fail delicious flavor of almond butter and buckwheat toast that complemented the banana extremely well. While I did mention in my last post that I’m gradually cutting back my honey consumption, I didn’t bother to void the honey in my order. As a result, the honey added a nice sweetness to everything, though maple syrup would definitely have done the trick as well. This was my sister’s favorite toast.
- Avocado toast: Think basics, but better. I tend to feel underwhelmed by avocado toast because it is stupidly easy despite it being delicious, but you could definitely say the same with my favorite combination of sweet potatoes and peanut or almond butter! Anyways, I think the chefs of this restaurant found the perfect avocados to use in this dish. They yielded the best flavor and texture–not too bland, too mushy or too stiff–plus the cherry tomatoes gave the ultimate sour kick and acidity to balance the avocado and matcha cream. I was more than pleasantly surprised by this toast and thought it tasted fantastic!
- Garbanzo toast: Never in my life have I ever tasted a garbanzo flour pancake, and this toast was the perfect first timer! The garbanzo flour definitely tastes soft, doughey and a little chewy, similar to garbanzo beans themselves, which I didn’t mind at all given that I love beans! The texture danced with the flavors of the vegetables and romesco wonderfully. I just could not get enough of the uniqueness and creativity of this variety and was sad to see them all eaten up (by me). This was my favorite toast.
- Gluten free buckwheat toast: Seriously, WHERE do I get this bread?! While being quite thin and fragile, this gluten free toast served as the perfect base for all the toast combinations all while having beautiful qualities of its own. With a nutty flavor, fluffy surface and crispy exterior, I was so glad to have requested for gluten free toast. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this dish any other way!
“What inspires you?” was the daily question for this particular visit. A pretty heavy one, I must say, but I definitely can share an answer that elaborates a little more from my Instagram caption.
- Struggles: Big or small, short-term or long-term, slight or significant, we all endure them every day. This fall quarter most certainly provided me more than enough struggles that I couldn’t bear, which resulted in a lot of physical, mental and emotional turmoil. However, with times of hardship also come my bouts of creativity and inspiration. I feel ignited to record my thoughts and get more work done, and after having experienced more hurdles and overcoming them, getting back into video editing and blog writing haven’t felt more natural in the longest time.
- Positive people: Nothing ruins the mood more than a buzz-killing parasite or an infectious parasite. More problematically, negativity becomes contagious once inflicted on a single subject. To our luck, on the contrary, positivity works the same way. Individuals who serve as healers and altruists never fail to inspire me. Same goes for people who persevere through times of pain. Whenever I encounter somebody with a touching and joyful character, I adapt to the same traits, and I make sure to greet others to continue the cycle.
- Adopting a growth mindset: Stanford University’s psychologist Carol S. Dweck wrote a fascinating and renowned book titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success based on research about accomplishing success. She presents the idea that there are two kinds of minds: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. While a fixed mindset usually avoids challenges to avoid failure, believes that abilities are inherent and ignores criticism, a growth mindset embraces challenges, views failures as learning opportunities, believes that skills require constant work and improvement, and tries to learn from criticism. My Chemistry professor of the fall quarter reintroduced me to growth mindset properties when I exclaimed that Chemistry is just “not my subject”, and rather believing that Chemistry is something I could never master, it is a science I can at least improve upon. And he was exactly right. Despite the many emotional breakdowns that came with stress from the difficulties in the class, I ended up learning a big deal about myself and my capabilities beyond the actual material. Coming into each period with an open mind and a willingness to learn, I discovered that I knew more than I initially thought and ended up embracing the new challenges presented to me.
- The feeling of accomplishment: Receiving a promotion. Smashing a kick-ass working. Scoring an A on an exam. Reserving a spot in that amazing internship. Finding a truly wonderful partner or companion who genuinely understands and cares for you. All of these scenarios result in the best sensation of achievement. The best payoffs never fail to teach me that hard work, acceptance, patience, or simply practicing positivity are key to my personal success. When something truly incredible occurs in my life, I never take it for granted. Always always do I mentally frame these memories to treasure the stories that came with these accomplishments so that I can reread what happened, relearn and reenact what I did so that I may achieve the same endeavors if necessary.
- Trying something new every day: Aren’t plateaus the worst? Whether you’re in a rut, struggling to lose the last few pounds or you just feel lost in general, it’s a signal for making a change. And I totally get it–trying new things isn’t easy. I am a woman of routine, and whenever something interferes with my everyday schedule, I tend to panic. However, by observing my peers, family members and even my other inspirations, I find that it’s so important to challenge yourself to try new endeavors. Just like having a growth mindset and wanting to accomplish something, it’s absolutely vital to embrace challenges, work hard and remain hopeful. New things can be big or small. Book that skydiving trip, apply for that extremely promising job, talk to your crush, or even order that legendary ghost-chili soup you’ve been eyeing for the longest time. What’s the worst that can happen? You say that you tried, it didn’t work out, and that everything is okay. In more serious cases (ex: quitting your job or university), make sure you at least have a backup plan to save you if you end up falling backward.
As per usual, I cannot recommend that everyone who visits Los Angeles or lives anywhere near a Cafe Gratitude to stop by. They have a gorgeous ambience, lovely service, magnificent food and a truly heartfelt message. If you have loved reading this restaurant review, please let me know if you would like to see more of these experience recap plus personal thoughts combined-structured posts, as well as where I should visit and talk about next! Don’t forget to have a wonderful holiday celebration to practice gratitude for your accomplishments, your loved ones and a job well done for a successful year!
Have you ever visited Cafe Gratitude? What was your last order? And of course, do not forget to think about the daily question: What inspires you?