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Vegan for the Holidays

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 Dining in Paradise

Editors' Note: On this page in our June 2002 issue we published a review of Seed Live Cuisine. We are sorry to report that this excellent raw food home delivery service has closed its doors. They will be missed. R: Seed Live Cuisine was a new name to this pair of veg foodies and attracted our attention at this year's Earth Day Festival in Lake Balboa Park. We were foraging for an interesting lunch but couldn't get near this busy booth. We decided to drop off a business card and try them a little later.

Z: As you might have guessed, we were distracted by the many colorful displays and never made it back. However, co-owner Devin Whatley sent us an email a few days later asking us to review his newly established business--raw food home delivery cuisine.

R: It was an unconventional idea--not the typical restaurant experience we encounter--but we took on the challenge and ordered two dinners. Devin, whose telephone personality is upbeat and enthusiastic, was eager to inform us about his unique approach to environmental consciousness. Each of the dinner courses is packed in a glass container with a plastic lid, so there is no disposable waste. Packed in an insulated duffel bag with blue ice, the meals are delivered to the doorstep the night before between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Seed Z: Our Tuesday dinner was delivered Monday night about 9:30 p.m. With two full dinners in glass containers, the duffel was a weighty matter that I wrestled into the refrigerator. The delivery person said he would come by the following night to pick up the empty containers. With this level of service, convenience, and efficiency, we were impressed.

R: At dinnertime Tuesday, Zel was happily relieved of her usual cooking regimen and began unpacking our Pad Thai dinner. To better enjoy the flavors, she took the dinner out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving, as Devin had suggested. My first thought when I looked at the four courses was that the servings seemed rather small. Boy, was I wrong!

Z: Actually, our dinners were so hearty, we couldn't even think about eating the dessert until two hours later! But let's back up a bit and focus on the details. The four-course dinner included a soup, a salad, an entrée, and a dessert. We began with the Hot and Sour Soup that consisted of a golden, clear base of young Thai coconut water, purified water, and a hint of olive oil. Seasoned with lemongrass, spiced with chiles, and lightly sweetened, the soup was ultra satisfying. There were even slices of bok choy, carrots, scallions, and broccoli that offered a welcome touch of crunch.

R: It was a pleasant, well-seasoned beginning. Eager to dig into the next course, I tackled the salad and left Zel in the dust as she continued to savor the soup. The three-cup clear glass salad bowl was packed to the brim with an appealing mix of Baby Lettuces and bits of Napa cabbage. The salad dressing, a thick Sweet and Spicy Tomato Dressing was my kind of condiment--pungent and flavorful--the perfect balance to the natural robustness of the lettuces.

Z: Reuben was halfway through the salad while I was still sampling that delicious soup, but I did eventually catch up. The salad and dressing gets a thumbs up from me, too, and the portion was ideal.

R: Executive Chef and Co-Owner Lesa Carlson's ingenuity jumps right into the foreground with the hearty entrée creation of Pad Thai gone raw. Her coconut noodles, an original recipe, are so unique in taste and texture it makes one want to order this dish again and again. Those noodles literally melt in your mouth with exquisite flavor.

Z: Lesa's dedication to raw food art is apparent--the coconut noodles were amazing! To emulate the flavors and textures of this familiar Thai dish, she slices sweet potatoes paper-thin to represent the fried egg yolk. Mung bean sprouts and chopped almonds add plenty of texture, while the thick, lusty sauce offers the typical spicy, sweet, sour, and salty flavors so inherent in Thai cooking.

R: At that point we couldn't have desired another morsel. Our usual hearty appetites satisfied, we took a two-hour respite before tackling our dessert. Then, we lifted the lids of our dessert bowls to uncover yet another treasure. We were about to scarf up our Apricot Whip with Sweet Brazil Nut Ricotta but paused momentarily to admire the appealing presentation.

Z: The bottom layer was a lightly sweetened apricot puree, the topping a creamy, speckled, sweet sauce made from the rich flavor of Brazil nuts. The special garnish that Reuben loved so much was the pair of rehydrated dried apricots resting side by side, concave side up. A thin strip of orange zest separated the two apricot halves, giving the appearance of a "lazy-eight."

R: It tasted anything but lazy. Chef Lesa's cuisine is "living" in every respect. Everything is raw, vegan, and certified organic. There are no convenience foods in her kitchen, since nothing like these preparations exist on the market. Each of the dishes is prepared from scratch, all recipes originally developed from10 years of experience on the raw food scene.

Z: After rinsing out all our containers, I carefully packed them into their duffel along with the blue ice and put the duffel out on the porch. It couldn't be easier. Before we went to bed, we peeked out to see if the duffel had been picked up. Sure enough, it had.

R: Seed Live Cuisine's ultimate plan is to create a business that not only satisfies appetites with delicious, healthy raw foods, but one that works in harmony with nature and the environment. Lesa and Devin have contacted Toyota to order a number of high-gas-mileage hybrid cars for their delivery service. They have also sought a local source for high quality, affordable organic extra-virgin olive oil.

Z: Rather than order olive oil from a source in Africa, they chose to preserve the environment's oil resources and purchase from a grower/processor in Sonoma County, California. The bonus is that this olive oil is pressed only from the flesh of the olives, creating a pleasing oil much lower in acidity than those pressed from the skins, pits, and flesh.

R: Each week, a new menu is posted on Seed's web site, and an email is sent to all of their clients. The menu for the rest of our week consisted of many more appealing dishes. Wednesday's meal included Spanish Chili Soup, Salad with Lime Cilantro Dressing, Macadamia Nut Lemon Pepper Cream Cheese-filled Chili Rellenos, and Sweet Cream Raspberry Swirls. On Thursday it would be Dolmas and Hummus, and Friday's special, Buckwheat Flax Crepes. Customers can order one meal, a week of meals, or even a special rate 30-meal package.

Chef Bird Z: Curious to see a raw food kitchen operating at full speed, we requested a tour. Devin welcomed us without hesitation. He escorted us into the Globe Restaurant where Seed will be serving raw Sunday brunches beginning June 23. With its high ceiling, unconventional layout, and ultra contemporary décor, the Globe is the ideal setting to introduce gourmet raw food.

R: Devin took us downstairs to a kitchen owned by the Globe Restaurant but that is separate from its regular kitchen. We knew we would not be seeing the hot flames of stovetop cooking or steamy hot baked goods flying out of the oven. The typical raw food kitchen uses a range of different appliances and provides a host of different sounds. Though we missed the morning's food prep activity, there were two 9-drawer dehydrators humming, a pair of Vita-Mixers and a commercial food processor at rest. Sergio, Lesa's assistant, was assembling the day's orders for delivery that evening.

Z: Sergio was preparing the pre fixe dessert, a Buckwheat Key Lime Custard. Devin asked us if we would like a taste but didn't even wait for an answer when he put a bowl and two spoons in our hands. After only one bite, the word "exceptional" sprang from my mouth. An exceptionally tasty crust of dehydrated buckwheat blended with dates, walnuts, and sea salt lined the bottom of the bowl.

R: The light green satiny filling of creamed Brazil nuts, tangy lime juice with a touch of honey was to die for. We no sooner polished that off when Devin offered us a bowl of Fresh Papaya Crème Soup that had an inviting look. It was a light, creamy and delicious soup with a base of papaya, finely pureed Brazil nuts, a hint of olive oil and garlic, and a few assorted spices strained through hemp cloth. Those fortunate clients who ordered home delivery that night were in for a taste treat.

Z: Seed's delivery service stretches throughout West Los Angeles and from Marina del Rey to Pacific Palisades, goes eastward to the Silver Lake area, and even winds northward into Studio City. The Seed partners set their ultimate goal toward a restaurant opening quite possibly by the end of this year.

Reviewed June 2002

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