How to Nail Café Gratitude’s Overnight Oats

Meet the perfect plant-based pick-me-up

Photography by LISA ROMEREIN


When Matthew and Terces Engelhart opened the doors to the first Café Gratitude restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2004, they helped change the landscape of California cuisine with their plant-based, organic approach to dining.


Despite its Bay Area roots, the beloved chain is today synonymous with L.A. (the Larchmont Village outpost debuted in 2011, Venice followed, but the chain no longer has a presence in Northern California). This is due in part to the inventive yet sustainable approach of Seizan Dreux Ellis, executive chef of Café Gratitude’s four outposts in Southern California.


With the help of Ellis — who joined the team in 2008 in S.F. before helping bring the concept to L.A. — Café Gratitude quickly became a community staple for locals and an A-list watering hole, with celebrity sightings ranging from Beyoncé to Natalie Portman. The draw? Delectable, can’t-believe-it’s-vegan dishes — named as “I am” affirmations, a signature novelty — that are as rich in nutrients as they are in flavor. In 2016 they put a Mexcian spin on the concept and launched West Hollywood’s Gracias Madre, which has one of the best terraces in the state and serves some sublimes twists on a margarita.


In the new Café Gratitude cookbook, Love Is Served: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes from Southern California (Avery, $35), you can find the recipes for their most popular offerings: from baked goods such as the “I Am Holy” baked gluten-free donuts to the “I Am Free” appetizer of beer-battered young-coconut “calamari” to nourishing bowls such as the “I Am Whole” macrobiotic bowl.


Additionally, the new tome, written with Ellis and author/editor Rachel Holtzman, features a guide on building the ideal pantry, and recipes for kitchen workhorses including sauces, condiments, cheeses and ferments. Serving suggestion: a side of gratitude.


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For the almond-date milk:

  • 2 1⁄4 cups almond milk
  • 3 Medjool dates, pitted

For the overnight oats:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh turmeric juice or 2 teaspoons dried ground turmeric mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger juice or 2 teaspoons dried ground ginger mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For serving:

  • Fresh blueberries
  • Shredded coconut
  • Hemp seeds

Make the almond-date milk: In a blender, combine the almond milk and dates and blend until the dates are completely dissolved. (If you don’t have a high-speed blender, or if your dates seem a bit dry, you can soak the dates in warm water for at least 30 minutes to soften them prior to blending.)

Make the overnight oats: In a large bowl, combine the almond-date milk, rolled oats, chia seeds, turmeric juice, ginger juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix well, cover, and chill for at least 8 hours. It’s nice to set this up before you go to bed so it’s ready in the morning.

Check the consistency of the oats and adjust for your personal taste. You can thin them out with a bit of almond milk or water to reach your desired consistency.

Serve: Divide the overnight oats among 4 bowls or jars and garnish with blueberries, shredded coconut, and hemp seeds.

Recipe from Love Is Served: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes from Southern California (Avery, $35).



Feature image: “I Am Patient” turmeric chia overnight oats. All images from Love Is Served: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes from Southern California.


April 22, 2020

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