When we first heard of this week's surprise announcement of the pending closure of most of the Northern California locations of Café Gratitude, a vegetarian restaurant that also sells raw food products to specialty grocers, we were concerned for the cookies. Without their raw lemon coconut and raspberry thumbprint cookies, we will feel the loss of Café Gratitude beyond the restaurants.
We headed to the San Francisco co-op with the most extensive selection of packaged raw foods, Rainbow Grocery, in search of alternatives in the raw cookie category. The pleasant surprise of some strong new local contenders awaited.
We've previously praised the low glycemic coconut sugar and chocolates from Emeryville's Coracao Confections, and now they're combining the two in a raw cookie. The company's Blondie Bar is a faintly butterscotch-flavored cookie dough macaroon, with one end dunked in 81 percent dark raw chocolate. Anyone who hates on raw foods yet likes to sneak a spoonful of batter before the cookies go into the oven could probably find reason to enjoy these dense triangles -- unless you don't like coconut, which would rightfully keep you away from this entire cookie category. But if you're pro-flakes, and particularly if you're looking for something that's pleasingly sweet without having white sugar involved, this cookie offers the most bang for the buck.
Maple syrup is the main sweetener in Watsonville-based Wonderfully Raw's Lemon Pie Coco-Roons, and, not to pile on the rejection this week, but we find them to be superior to Café Gratitude's lemon coconut cookies. The nutty flavor of raw almond flour does a fine job at making a crust, and they're crumbly enough without being dry. The use of lemon zest rather than juice results in a sophisticated flavor that doesn't cause any puckering. This new product is also available in cacao nibs, chocolate, chocolate chip, and maple varieties.
An older entrant to this category is Berkeley company Blessing's Alive and Radiant Foods, who remix Oreos in chai form with what they call Raweos. When we first tried them a few years ago, we found them novel, if not actually super delicious, but the recipe (or our palate?) seems to have improved. It's not the choice in this bunch if you fiend for sugar, but we'd still take them over regular Oreos any day.