By James Knight
In a world where shameless gourmands slake an unquenchable thirst with ultra-premium wine and where suckling pigs regularly roast over applewood-fired ovens, there's a new kid in town. Move over, house-cured salumi and terrine of foie gras, and make room for house-made kimchee and live hempseed pesto. One restaurant, raw and uncooked, will turn a wine country town upside-down, and make it say what it's grateful for.
To wit: The San Francisco-based raw food enterprise Cafe Gratitude is coming to Healdsburg. This, of course, is the raw foods restaurant that serves up an affirmation with each item on the diverse and well-planned menu: I am Generous (guacamole), I am Festive (taco salad), I am Succulent (grapefruit smoothie). While raw, vegan cuisine is an interesting addition to a gourmet ghetto that celebrates the cooking of locally raised livestock above all else, it may turn out that the emphasis on self-affirming abundance is hardly out of place.
Many newcomers make the mistake of assuming that the eatery's groovy ambiance is a generically "hippie thing," when it is actually part of a specifically philosophical franchise with its roots in the Landmark Forum, a personal empowerment seminar sometimes called "EST light," that includes workshops and the Abounding River board game.
Cafe Gratitude occupies the streetside section of the Olive Leaf, a home and garden retail store. The interior is rustic and airy, with communal dining tables made of heavy, recycled doors under a high barnlike ceiling. An owl fluttering across the rafters now and then wouldn't seem out of place. For the lunch crowd with an answer to, "What are you in a hurry for?" the cafe offers a takeout menu.
A brief survey of locals found that no one knew much about it, but were looking forward to meeting their new meatless neighbor. On the Saturday before opening, the restaurant appeared half-finished, and like it would require a herculean effort to bring things up to speed by the planned Sept. 17 opening. Perhaps there's no limit to what the power live enzymes and positive thinking can do.
Cafe Gratitude, 206 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 707.723.4462.
McCarthy promises that the gathering will be just as sophisticated as any wine dinner, minus the fluff—and with a lot less stemware.
Chef McCarthy's Brewmaster Dinners are held every other Tuesday at at Hopmonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 6:30pm. $45 per person. 707.829.7300.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.