Gracias Madre embodies the true nature of this earth: giving, feeding, nurturing, loving, and is a reminder of how beautiful creation is. Los Angeles gratefully welcomed the long-awaited extra heat to their palates in mid-January with nearly 600 people clamoring to get a taste of cuisine inspired by the kitchens in Mexico with locally sourced, organic ingredients. Not to discount the abundance of incredible Mexican street food, this health conscious city has a love for wholesome plant-based fare.
Each dish is prepared with utmost thought and care to select of farmer and supplier bringing their passion for the purest organic, GMO-free ingredients. Many of the ingredients come from Be Love Farms, owned by the owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart, who own Gracias Madre along with their sister restaurant Café Gratitude. The 21 acre property near Vacaville in Northern California provides 50 percent of the food for the restaurants 100% vegan menu. Every dish has beautiful story of each ingredient, down to the organic olive oil that is sourced especially for Gracias Madre. The hard-to-find, Organic GMO-free corn is sourced from Be Love Farms and then mashed into homemade tortillas and corn chips.
Karen Rodriguez, restaurant manager, shared the heart-felt journey that brought Gracias Madre to fruition, as our palates were delighted with renowned bay-area chef Chandra Gilberts inspiring creations. Rodriguez spoke of walking into Café Gratitude several years ago and approaching owners Ryland and Cary Englehart with a impressive CV of restaurant experience. Rodriguez asked, “what do you guys know about the restaurant industry?” To which they humbly replied, “nothing, but we are here to learn.” That beginners approach to creating a truly unique, conscious dining experience left a deep impression on the communities surrounding Larchmont and Venice. What was missing was a fine dining experience centered around the culinary flavors that were influenced by the cultures that once inhabited these fertile lands, and blossomed into the muse for the Gracias Madre experience.
Bringing the same level of craftsmanship to their drink menu, they brought in world renowned bartender Jason Eisner to hand-select small-batch mezcals and tequilas, as well as organic wines and spirits. Eisner’s artfully crafted cocktails featuring housemade syrups, shrubs, tinctures, bitters, and adventuresome pairings. The Lavanda Margarita’s fresh lime flavor infuses with lavender bitters, balancing the acidity of the citrus.
Each course was savored as zests and spices tickled the palate, selecting the most beloved almost akin to comparing the superlative works of artists. To start, the Colifor Frito, flash-fried cauliflower with nacho cheese and lemon, as well as the Repollitos Fritos was relished to the last morsel. The Gorditos, potato masa cakes had a magnificent texture and flavor profile. While, the El Platos, a something of everything with butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, chorizo mushrooms, cilantro pesto, escaheche rice, pico de gallo, puree of black beans spiced to perfection, and handmade tortillas. The chorizo mushrooms could delight the most discerning meat eater.
Nothing could have ended the night more perfectly than a warm apple cobbler with homemade coconut ice cream and the most divine flan made with almond milk.
Sitting on the tree-filled outdoor patio as the fireplace cast an enchanting glow, made the concrete jungle just over the wall seem to disappear. The feeling satisfaction and grounding settled in, seemingly familiar to that sense of love felt when from a home cooked meal by mom.
Photo credit: Jana Cruder