All the world is nuts about
All across the country raw food restaurants are quickly sprouting up, in a movement blossoming with foods that offer a brilliant color palate rarely seen in most American restaurants. To the uninitiated, raw foods offer tastes and textures never before experienced.
A trend that began rather quietly several years ago, going raw has picked up steam in recent months and has climbed to gourmet status. Even classic chefs are visiting raw restaurants to discover a cuisine that offers surprising diversity, awesome flavor, and visual pleasure. Now many of these restaurants are assuming greater visibility in small strip malls, in old houses, on major highways, and in stand-alone prime locations.
Because raw foods are prepared without conventional cooking methods, the raw food kitchen looks far different from any standard kitchen. There is no oven in sight, no range top, no microwave--even a mundane can opener is absent from the scene. Most likely a food processor, a high-powered blender, a variety of juicers, and a variable-temperature dehydrator complete the major kitchen equipment.
Proponents of the raw lifestyle say they adhere to the diet of uncooked fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and, sometimes, legumes because they experience heightened energy and vibrant health. They find that they require less sleep and can maintain a slim figure while enjoying a hearty appetite. It's not unusual to hear raw foodists credit their raw lifestyle for helping them reclaim their health and overcome years of illness.
Newbies frequently ask why raw foods have gained such a positive reputation and learn that it's the live enzymes in raw foods that offer superior nutritional value and also provide an aid to digestion. Some raw foodists claim that any heat above105 degrees destroys these valuable enzymes. Others turn up the dehydrator dial to 114 degrees, and others, still, put a limit on 118 to 120 degrees in order to preserve the precious enzymes.
Like learning any new cuisine, the newcomer will acquire different skills in the preparation of raw foods. Techniques like soaking nuts and seeds (to remove their enzyme inhibitors) and sprouting are an integral part of raw food skills. The student chef learns that advance planning becomes routine, since many dishes incorporate grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes that must be soaked and sprouted overnight or longer.
To introduce our readers to the raw food restaurant scene, Vegetarians in Paradise is presenting some of the most popular raw restaurants from around the United States. In each case we are presenting the story behind the restaurant and its specialties. We would like to express our appreciation to the restaurants for permitting us to print recipes of their customers' favorite dishes.
The Raw Truth, an informal eatery, opened in January of 1999 after owner Bob Saladino started seeing positive healing results in just 15 days after embarking on a raw food regimen. Following his doctor's diagnosis of high cholesterol and high blood pressure with possible chronic fatigue syndrome, Bob visited an herbalist who suggested he try a raw food diet.
"I never felt better in my life. I never knew what it was like to feel good," says Bob.
Jason Babcock, Bob's partner, performs his inventive wizardry in the kitchen, while Bob handles the front end. Jason is an artist in another realm as well. When he's not preparing meals at the restaurant, he spends his time creating in his art gallery. He's proud of his exceptional raw food offerings, boasting that his Silk Pie more than competes with Marie Callender's version. His pie contains a filling of avocado, dates, and carob nestled in a crust of Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and dates. Though he has a degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Jason says the administration of raw foods is scratching new territory not taught in university courses.
On a daily basis The Raw Truth ships food by FedEx to customers across the country. Whole Foods Markets will soon be carrying their energy bars, taco chips, flaxseed chips, and breads in their stores nationwide. Their specialty pizza crust is so highly regarded that raw food restaurants in other parts of the country have ordered it to serve their customers.
Jason and Bob hope to stimulate your kitchen genes with these recipes from their restaurant menu:
Mock Refried Beans
2 tablespoons ground cumin
Mock Sour Cream
Combine nuts, lemon juice, and Celtic salt in a food processor and process until light and creamy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Makes about 1 1/4 cups (300 ml).
Mock Chocolate Cream Pie (formerly called Silk Pie)
Not only does Ecopolitan strive to offer its customers the healthiest 100% vegan, organic raw foods possible, but it is also concerned with the purity of the air and water in the restaurant. Owner Adiel Tel-Oren, M.D. and certified clinical nutritionist, has brought this eatery and its customers to a higher level of awareness about conserving the earth's ecology. He has taken steps to put ecology into everyday practice.
By serving organic vegan foods, he conserves the earth's water and topsoil resources. A reverse osmosis water filtering system insures pure water for washing all the restaurant's produce and preparing drinks and juices. In addition, all produce is soaked in a diluted, food-grade hydrogen peroxide, and dishes are washed in this solution as well.
Another ecological focus is the Oxygen Bar that adds pure oxygen to the air in the restaurant (when the oxygen is not in use by the customers).
The restaurant's wine selection also reflects its philosophy with 100% organic non-sulfite-added raw vegan wines at affordable prices. Even the central location of the eatery was chosen with an ecological focus to allow easy access by foot, bus, or bicycle rather than by car, though convenient off-street parking is available.
The opening of Ecopolitan two years ago was sparked by a few of Dr. Tel-Oren's patients, especially one who invited him to a raw potluck. Soon after, his nephew, Ofek, discovered Raw: The Uncook Book by Juliano. The book sparked more than a mild interest and inspired the doctor with its exciting flavors, colors, and unique combinations of ingredients.
Dr. Tel-Oren, a vegetarian from birth, had been following a vegan regimen for two years prior to opening the restaurant. After many experiments creating his own raw dishes and growing a kitchen sprout garden, he began to question the practice of buying fresh, organic whole foods and proceeding to cook the enzyme life out of them. The unecological practice of buying packaged foods that add to the country's overloaded landfills became another issue that concerned him.
Now the restaurant sends regular smoothie take-out customers home with glass containers that are returned and recycled. Further, Ecopolitan composts all of its kitchen waste, leaving almost nothing to fill the trash containers.
For the breakfast crowd the menu offers Flax Jacks, raw flaxseed-apple pancakes with tahini, seasonal fruit, chopped almonds, and maple syrup. Other selections include Raw Granola, Fruit Salad, and Oat Porridge.
Some of the tasty offerings hungry diners can sample include unique appetizers such as Essene Bread with Pumpkin Seed Paté or Dried Black Figs stuffed with strawberry-marinated eggplant and cashews.
Entreés like the Green Burrito include curried garbanzo paté, seasonal vegetables, marinated mushrooms, sprouts, and sunflower seeds, wrapped in a collard leaf and served with salsa, guacamole, and mixed greens on the side. Pizza lovers can choose the Pesto, the Mediterranean, the Red Avocado, or the Marinara Pizza, all heaping with colorful toppings.
Diners can satisfy the sweet cravings with Carob Mousse, the Daily Special Pie, Berry Parfait, or the UnCookie of the Day. Additional offerings include fresh juices, smoothies, and exotic drinks.
In addition to enjoying great raw food, customers can shop for a variety of natural, non-toxic home and body products.
Ecopolitan is as much about education and community support as it is about delicious, healthy raw foods. Its doors are open to non-profit organizations that need a meeting place.
Sprouted Garbanzo Hummus
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process to desired consistency. Longer processing will produce a smoother consistency.
Hearty Lentil Soup
Blend all ingredients except lentils in a VitaMix or blender. Stir in lentils and serve. Serves 5.
Blend ingredients together in a VitaMix. Strain off pulp in a fine mesh strainer. Makes 3 cups almond milk.
Arnold, a 55-year old a raw foodist who is married and has four children, says, "I rock, literally, figuratively and totally, and love what I do." A man who experiences vibrant health and boundless energy, Arnold Kaufman is on a mission to spread the word about healing by self-empowerment while following a raw food lifestyle. His only employee is his daughter. Arnold offers six to eight classes weekly in addition to a free breakfast lecture on the benefits of raw foods.
Available for his restaurant customers who are eager to learn about the raw lifestyle are hundreds of books, videos, and magazines that teach about the benefits and how-to's of a raw food regimen. This bubbly restaurateur also distributes informative bi-monthly newsletters to his customers.
A natural teacher, Arnold says, "We specialize in education--our food is secondary. As most raw foodists can tell you once they have been following this regimen for a few years, simplicity rules. The technical word is monotropic--eating one food at a time."
Included among the raw snack food line Arnold distributes nationwide are his original Arnold's Way Fruit Bars, Carob Cookies, Dry Dehydrated Nuts, and Frozen Pies. His delicious Fruit Bars, one year in the making, "will rewrite the standards of excellence in snacks. These delicious fruit bars are hand-made in small batches; a little bit of love in every dang bar," says Arnold. A blend of bananas, dates, raisins, walnuts, and lemon juice, these exceptional fruit bars are dried for 48 hours and have a shelf life of nine months.
Dedicated raw foodists, along with foodies who crave the adventure of something new, can enjoy biting into Arnold's Monti's Steak, a combination of mushrooms, carrots, flax and sunflower seeds. His Gazpacho is a pleaser with its smooth blend of celery, tomatoes, olives, zucchini and peppers spiced with a touch of ginger. For a sweet finishing touch Arnold offers Fruit Whips, Smoothies, and slices of Frozen Fruit Pie.
ARNOLD'S FRUIT PIE
New on the restaurant scene, Sprout Café opened its doors in June 2002, spreading the message that living foods promote benefits for the mind, body, and spiritual awareness. Before embarking on a restaurant endeavor, owners Jackie and Gideon Graff were career-minded professionals. Jackie, a graduate of the University of South Carolina, spent 32 years in nursing at Georgia's Northside Hospital. Her Israeli-born husband, Gideon, graduated from Haifa Institute of Technology. His studies in Hospitality and Management earned him a career managing resorts and luxury hotels.
The couple gradually adopted the 100% raw-food lifestyle over a period of three years and has experienced the benefits first hand. Now they have combined a restaurant with an organic market and a learning center where they offer classes on site. An intensive three-day, 30-hour food preparation class covers all aspects of raw food preparation from sprouting and growing wheat grass, to soaking grains and nuts, to dehydrating combinations of ingredients.
Jackie, a gourmet cook for many years, easily assumed the role as the restaurant's living foods chef. "We wanted to offer a peaceful oasis where people can come from the community to eat healthy, support each other, and learn," says Jackie.
Diners living in the Roswell area can drop in for a casual meal of raw sandwiches, wraps, organic juices and smoothies. At the Food Bar toothsome offerings include salads with homemade dressings plus a variety of raw soup creations. Among the specialty dishes are Stuffed Portabella, Meetloaf, Zucchini Pasta, and Lasagna. The restaurant's equivalent of mashed potatoes and gravy is made from pureed cauliflower and topped with mushroom gravy. For dessert lovers the Nice Cream Bar features Banana Splits, Carob Brownies, and Shakes made from macadamia nuts and raw honey.
Noasted Nurkey (Tastes like dressing and turkey)
Honey Nut and Date Pie Crust
Note: Crust may be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen.
566 Amsterdam Avenue
353 East 78th Street
Quintessence owners Dan Hoyt and Tolentin Chan, once marriage partners, opened their first restaurant in Manhattan's East Village in November 1999. They opened this small eatery that seats about 22 to 24 diners after learning that a raw food regimen could help them overcome personal health problems.
A familiar story told by many, their health concerns responded well to the raw food diet that the partners tried to maintain but found difficult. Tolentin concluded that opening a raw foods restaurant was the only way to stay on track with 100% raw foods.
Opening any restaurant and achieving success is difficult, but sustaining a totally raw establishment that serves a very small niche market is highly challenging. Yet, the couple has been embraced by the raw community and is now operating two more locations.
Customers can dine on unique appetizers like Black Olive and Cream Dim Sum made of nori cups filled with a spiced mixture of diced avocado and black olives. Their version of Burrito Mini is a creative combo of "refine beans" and "cheddar cheese sauce" nestled in a lettuce leaf with a side of guacamole, tomatoes and onions topped with drops of cayenne vinegar hot sauce. They jokingly warn customers it's so good it can be addictive.
Entrees include the Sun Burger, a creatively fashioned look-alike burger made from sunflower and flaxseeds mixed with vegetables, then dehydrated. The burger is served with all the typical fixings and sandwiched between their homemade pumpernickel rye or kamut essene bread. Other entrée offerings include their Nut Loaf, the Middle Eastern Plate, Livoli, and the Special of the Day.
Dan's dessert specialties include Coconut Crème Pie, a Fruit Fondue, a Berry Carob Moose Pie, and a dramatic presentation of Pecan Pie that some say rivals the traditional version.
When the time came to choose a name for their restaurant, Dan did some cyber searching for a word that described the concept of "natural" and "balance." Quintessence best expressed the essence of their vision.
Both partners had experience in restaurants in the past and work well in dividing up the tasks. While they both work with staff and share in decision making, Tolentin handles the business details such as the money and bookkeeping while Dan oversees all aspects of the food and menu, handles repairs, and keeps the restaurant well-maintained.
Blend until smooth and creamy, then serve.
Bell Pepper or Summer Squash Soup
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until pureed. Serve.
Option: Combine yellow bell pepper and summer squash in the soup.