August 12, 2015

Café Gratitude

Have you seen that meme that goes a little something like this:
"*eats a salad one time* I am honestly the most pure being on this earth. I can feel the toxins escaping my body right in this moment. health is a lifestyle."

Or better yet, all the vegan jokes going around social media for the past... idk, decade?
I like this one:
*someone starts having a heart attack*
person: is anyone here a doctor?
vegan: I'm a vegan.

I know why. 
Because you go to a place like Café Gratitude,
eat the most amazing vegan dishes,
and feel pure af. 

I'm a carnivore, by the way. 
Did I mention that?
So when I got invited to a media dinner at the newly opened Café Gratitude,
I was like... wait.. so no meat? 
Okay. But what if I don't like it? 

Well. I went. I tasted. And I LOVED it. 
The charismatic head chef Dreux Ellis brought out dish after dish of raw, delicious goodness. 
I am abundant.
I am flourishing. 
I am transformed!
All dishes are always plant-based and 100% organic. 
I'm talking even the spices.
It's pretty incredible, and, no pun intended,
it's truly food for thought. 
I am celebrating - two collard spring rolls, daikon and wakame filling, carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado, Japanese pickled vegetables, wasabi and thai almond dipping sauces
I am abundant - sicilian antipasto plate, cultured cashew academia cheese with saffron, preserved lemon and sundries tomato, eggplant caponata, bistro pickled vegetables with germinate, fennel salad with green olives, toasted almonds and smoked salt, toasted gluten-free sourdough baguette & gluten-free crackers. Wowza!
I am flourishing - braised asparagus arancine, arborio rice, braised asparagus, cashew mozzarella, gremolata, basil hempseed pesto oil, arugula.
I am dynamic - yam cauliflower chaat, two whole wheat samosas, roasted garnet yam and cauliflower filling, kale, chana masala, tomato, housemate beagle gram masala, coconut mint chutney, spicy tomato jam
Owner Ryland Engelhart sharing with us the story behind the restaurant. So inspiring!
Really makes you think... is the glass half empty or half full?
I am bountiful - quinoa pasta, braised cherry tomatoes, roasted marinated eggplant, green olives, capers, raisins, brazil nut parmesan, wild arugula, fresh basil. This was AMAZING!
BEST LEMONADE I'VE EVER TRIED: elevated - rose water lemonade
I am warm-hearted - grilled polenta, braised summer squash, sautéed kale, roasted tomatillo sauce, salsa verde, cashed queso fresco, spicy pipits, chopped scallions, cilantro
Dreux Ellis presenting us with more delicious goodness! I swear, by the time this course came around, I could barely breathe, but it was sooo good!
And dessert! Explain how they made raw food taste like key lime pie? Avocados?
Mind. Blown. 
1980 Kettner Blvd. 
Little Italy, CA 92101


August 5, 2015

Riga, Latvia - Part II

Although I was only in Latvia for a few days,
I was able to squeeze in plenty of amazing experiences. 
Logistically speaking, it's really easy to get around. 
City center is a quick 15 minute drive from the airport. 
We opted to stay at the Radisson Blu Ridzene Hotel in Riga,
and honestly, it was perfect for our needs.
Walking distance to all the major attractions,
this five star hotel is not only affordable (by american standards), but also comfortable,
and as a bonus, it offers a delectable breakfast buffet. 
Highly recommend!

After checking out Riga's city center on the first day, 
we decided to head out of town. 
Destination: Jūrmala.
Located 25 kilometers west of Riga, 
this seaside town is a popular getaway for most locals. 
We wandered the beaches and checked out the romantic Art Nouveau architecture before heading back for dinner. 
Speaking of dinner... every meal we had in Latvia was SO good!
From pickled herring, to lamb shanks to suckling pork knuckles,
every dish left us stuffed yet drooling for more. 
In fact I'm drooling just thinking about it now. 
me and my statue


August 2, 2015

Bracero Cocina De Raiz

I love Mexican food. 
It has saved my life plenty of times.. 
Seriously, is there anything better than carne asada fries after a night full of bad decisions? 
The selection of taco shops around San Diego is plentiful,
and I'd be happy to list out my top five picks for burrito providers if anyone is interested. 
But Mexican food is not all about California burritos. 
There has been a tremendous amount of culinary talent rising up in Baja,
and luckily, many of those Latin chefs are bringing their gifts across the border.

San Diego has been eagerly waiting for chef Javier Plascencia to unveil Bracero Cocina De Raiz,
 since his first local eatery, Romesco, has been filling our bellies with yummy tapas for the past 10 years.
Bracero opened its doors in Little Italy last month,
and has been getting rave reviews since. 
I stopped by yesterday to commemorate the first day of lunch service. 

Really loved the vibe - the focus of the first level is definitely on the bar,
offering craft beer from Mexico and San Diego,
as well as some spirited cocktails, such as the Agua Chile, my personal favorite. 
The food is outstanding! 
I really appreciated the large emphasis on seafood for the small plates. 
The Albacore Two Ways seems to be one of the most popular choices,
and for good reason. 
The texture and flavor combos were just perfect for a nice summer lunch on the patio. 
And let me tell you, that "Sabina Bandera" Tostada pictured above is loaded with amazing fresh ingredients, 
including but not limited to uni (!!!) and corvina ceviche. 
Can we say YUM?
All in all, Bracero is definitely making a statement, 
and I'm looking forward to coming back as soon as the second floor opens to the public in a few weeks. 
Albacore Two Ways - seared/tartare, lime salsa verde, crispy rice cakes, burnt onion creme fraiche, crispy eggplant, jalapeño infused leche de tigre.
Agua Chile cocktails - traditionally made with vodka, which is right up my alley, but can also be subbed with tequila. 
Tried the mexiterranean (gyro style) adobada (left) and carnitas (right) tacos.
House Guacamole - tepary & yurimuni crispy beans, vegetable ash & zaatar tostadas.
Baja Hiramasa Crudo - coconut aguachile, tomatillo, cured pineapple, avocado, chiltepín and jalapeno. As delicious as it is pretty!
Another shot of the adobada taco. The meat was so flavorful!
1490 Kettner Blvd. 
Little Italy, CA 92101