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raw restaurant review: SAF Wholefoods Kensington

14 Aug

My birthday SAF special raw cashew nut cheese au poivre pour moi

I am very, very lucky. My birthday celebrations have stretched for over four months and my lovely super dooper generous friend Gabrielle decided to humour me with a birthday lunch treat of my choice. Following my fast I naturally gravitated to a raw option and since SAF has opened up in Wholefoods only 10mins away – it was a no brainer.

SAF’s menu is not 100% raw but it is 100% natural, gluten free and healthy and because Gabs is not only Italian but also, like everyone I know and love, as raw as a traditional cheesey meaty pasta lasagne, we were both cleverly and well catered for.

I hate to criticise any raw endeavour but I was a tad disappointed that quite few menu options were not available and as we were the only ones in the restaurant, the atmosphere was, well, let’s say, not as great as its mother restaurant in Old Street.

While Gabs tucked into the bulgar wheat wrap, I chose a SAF raw cheese signature dish of Pesto Au Poivre;  a sage pesto sandwiched between two layers of cashew cheese with pink peppercorn and chive crust served with dehydrated flaxseed and balsamic reduction.

It was delicious and incredible to believe that it was made of raw cashew nuts…I’ve just ordered the muslin online – so will try making it for myself any day now…Thank you Gab!

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Wall St Journal: Raw-Food Movement Pushes Deeper Into New York City

8 Aug

image of Rawvolution co-owner Janabai Amsden in the East Village by Noah Rabinowitz for The Wall Street Journal

I’ve seen a huge rise in hits on my blog in the last six months so am therefore well aware of the raw food revolution’s rise in momentum worldwide. Sumathi Reddy writes this great piece about the very wave of raw food love washing across the US in the Wall St Journal on Monday 1 August 2011.

There will be no oven when Rawvolution opens Monday in the East Village. No stove, either.

“Nobody gets burned here,” said Janabai Amsden, who founded the Santa Monica-based restaurant with her husband. “We try not to ever make anything over 110 degrees.”

Rawvolution is one of a small group of restaurants that once catered to a niche population: the raw food community. But such restaurants and juice bars—which often also sell raw food and juice cleanse packages—increasingly find themselves gaining the attention of a more mainstream crowd.

“Our clientele has definitely changed a lot,” said Sarma Melngailis, chief executive officer of One Lucky Duck and co-founder of Pure Food and Wine, a raw-food, vegan restaurant that was among the first in New York. “Certainly more and more people know about it and people are getting in to juice cleanses and that kind of thing.”

Raw food is defined as food that is uncooked and unprocessed and is usually vegan. Most practitioners and restaurants define uncooked as prepared at less than 118 degrees. Dehydrators are used to make bread. Juice is usually made with a hydraulic juice presser. Advocates believe that such food methods preserve more nutrients and enzymes than more traditional methods.

Rawvolution will be a smaller version of the California outpost, with a grab-and-go menu. And of course there will be juices, like a “green juice” of cucumber, celery, parsley, ginger lemon and kale.

Natural-juice cafes are becoming especially prolific, popping up everywhere from the Bronx to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn.

Denise Mari, founder of Organic Avenue, which has four stores in Manhattan and one in the Hamptons, said its juices have soared in popularity and probably make up more in sales than its menu of raw food. The company is in the process of opening four more stores in the fall.

The company also has a variety of cleansing programs. And it’s not just celebrities that are slurping them up.

“There’s such a thirst for the juice,” said Ms. Mari. “I think it’s like just everyone who needs to be healthier is getting turned on to drink a green juice.”

Some nutritionists warn that a strictly raw-food and juice diet is not entirely healthy.

Lisa Sasson, a clinical assistant professor at the New York University Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, said the premise that raw food contains more enzymes is faulty because our bodies make enzymes that break food down. Also, she said getting all the food groups you need on such a diet can lead to deficiencies in iron, calcium, Vitamin D and B12.

“Unless people are very conscientious they can have some deficiencies with the raw-food diet,” she said. “It is a very difficult diet.”

As for green juices, Ms. Sasson said there’s nothing wrong with having one for breakfast or as a snack. But she said there is no research that supports the idea that juice cleanses clean the colon.

But advocates tout the benefits of the diet, which they say makes people feel more energetic and healthier.

“I like eating raw because it makes you feel like you’re really investing in your body and you’re taking care of it,” said Dana Levy, a Manhattan artist who began eating raw about two and a half years ago but has taken breaks.

“It made me feel like I went from riding a bike to driving a Ferrari,” she said of when she first started eating raw. “My body was just so focused and I felt very energized.”

Raw-food restaurants are still mostly centered in the East Village, though there are exceptions, such as Rockin’ Raw in Williamsburg, which opened two years ago and whose coffee is even made from a cold press (coffee grinds are put into a cheese cloth with water and sit out in the sun).

Doug Green, owner of the East Village’s Liquiteria, said that when he opened in 1996 he served both raw food and juices but found there was little appetite for the food. So he switched gears and focused on the juices. He estimates that sales have been growing about 20% a year.

Have to comment on Dog Green’s name…Could it be more apt? Did he make it up? Should I change my name to Susie Sprout?

“Today this generation of Baby Boomers and younger are just changing the meat and potatoes for the juice and the kale salad,” he said. “We have everybody from sanitation workers coming every morning to police officers to hedge-fund and private-equity guys.”

Mr. Green said the restaurant intends to launch a new menu next year and will return to its roots with a raw-food section. “Basically what we’re relaunching is what we had in 1996 but we’re launching it in 2012,” he said.

Mr. Green said he now expects consumers to have more of an appetite.

Raw food restaurant review: Rasayana

17 Jul

My raw cabbage rolls at Rasayana were rock and roll

My friend San Bao, of tea ceremony fame in Koh Samui, raved about the Bangkok raw food restaurant Rasayana to me two years ago. This year I finally have a few extra days up my sleeve so decided to stop by Bangkok for a raw lunch.

I decided to walk and arrive via a motorway, main road, small arterial road and find the restaurant twenty metres up a private and unnervingly security patrolled lane. The location is obscure so I’m amazed if anyone else ever just wonders in like I’ve done. The first thing I notice is that Rasayana is not just a restaurant but a whole and beautifully calm palm-treed sanctuary in the middle of stinking Bangkok megacity. I almost forget that I nearly died crossing the motorway and sit down at a traditional wooden table with rainforest music tinkling in the background.

True Vision Thailand filming a raw food special

It just so happens that on the day of my visit, the TV channel True Vision was there to film. If you’re watching channels 6 and 7 Friday July 22 in Thailand, you might catch their special on raw food and Rasayana. I think this also proves that some cultures are much more open to raw foodism as a viable option for a mass audience.

I digress.

The menu is overwhelming and I am so parched I can barely concentrate. Hence the first order of the day for me is something they call an electrolyte surge. To you and I – chilled coconut water and celery juice. I’ve never had that combo before and it was delicious. I’ll be making it at home for sure. It also looks a gorgeous lime green colour – for entertaining perhaps?

a glassful of surging electrolytes

I spend the next 30 minutes deciding what to eat and establish a short list:
• Barley sushi – vegetables, avocado, coconut meat in nori roll
• Mexican Taco cup – mixed vegetables in a crunchy flaxseed taco cup and spicy salsa
• Spaghetti and nut balls – marinated zucchini noodles toppled with savory almond nutballs and a marinara sauce
• Sun burger – almond-celery-sage patty served in a cabbage lead and topped with ‘live’ ketchup.

I end up being so boring I can’t believe myself. I choose cabbage rolls (as above). Mainly because the photo made them look sooooooo amazing. And to be fair they are also not your average cabbage rolls. These are stuffed with carrots, celery, avocado and capsicum (peppers) and served surrounded by a delicious raw seeded mustard (mustard seeds, olive oil, garlic, onion, and apple cider vinegar).

Other than the TV crew I am the only guest here today and am seated a right arm’s-length away from a refrigerated display cabinet filled with the raw desserts. While I am so full I can hardly move, I fight with myself. No, you don’t need it. Yes I do. No you don’t. Please don’t, don’t do it.

raw lime heaven on a plate pie

I order the lemon tart – made entirely from macadamia nuts, lime zest and juice and what I presume to be avocado. I eat it, breathlessly, in almost a single mouthful.

I’ve eaten more in one meal than I have over the last 2 weeks and while I feel uber full, I also feel full with nutrients. I planned to return to Rasayana for dinner but alas a tuk tuk driver drove me to shopping emporium (where he no doubt received commission) instead of the grand Palace where I wanted to go. When I refused to enter it – he drove into the middle of nowhere and demanded I get out. I refused as I had NO idea where I was. Luckily, my strange, feeble and terrified insult – ‘you are dishonouring your country,’ seemed to get him going again. This exact thing happened to me in Delhi last year. No more tuktuk drivers.

If you’re in Bangkok and have eaten your body weight in thai green curry– you absolutely must go to Rasayana for a refreshing and innovative raw menu. If nothing else it will provide a gentle respite from the hectic craziness, dirtiness and onslaught of concrete surrounding you

Happy Raw Chocolate Easter with Kate Magic

13 Apr

I’m sure some London-born children must think that, like Parsley, chocolate eggs sprout up from the ground from late Feb to late April. It’s damned well everywhere at Easter time and my willpower can only take so much. So – to help me deal with my chocolate addiction, my nutritionist pal and fellow chocoholic invited me along to the Camden meeting of CFEA (Cooked Food Eaters Anonoymous).

Kate - this is an old pic - she looks ten years younger these days

Kate - this is an old pic - she looks ten years younger these days

OK – there is no such thing as CFEA and it wasn’t really a CFEA addiction meeting. Even though it felt very self-helpish, it was a raw chocolate lecture by Kate Magic, a raw chocolate pioneer, author and guru, mother and raw foody foody for some 16 years! And Kate delivers on her name. She is magical. If she told me she was 172 years old, I would have believed her. She is youthful, glowing and clear eyed with a magnetic, happy energy. And she is for real. Kate’s pink-dyed hair and wholesome, some would say hippy get up, only momentarily distracts from her obvious focussed discipline and ambitious vision for her raw food business called Raw Living.

Kate describes herself and her business partners as ‘long-term, raw futurefood pioneers’.This is a superb description for the ‘raw food movement’, which is fast moving beyond a trend and into the mainstream. Her online shop sells the concept of living raw, alongside the equipment to live the raw life hands on, and a wide range of raw foods; delicious chocolate bars, something scary called high vibrational food, books, DVD’s, natural sweeteners (not sugar) and a range of raw cakes. Either Kate had her publicist planted in the audience or one excited lady could not stop raving about the cakes because they are so good. I’m about to order one.

An important part of the business being these lectures that spread the word and certainly give comfort to those of us who stick to the hypocritical cooked side of life. The topic of tonight’s lecture was ‘raw cacao’, but Kate’s extensive knowledge and experience of living a rewarding raw food life spilled over, almost taking up half the talk. Her advice makes so much sense.

As Kate said; ‘Raw food is a journey. It’s not about going 100% raw, it’s much more helpful to have some basic guidelines and nurture your cravings.’ But Kate, (wishing I asked this at the time) what if your cravings are for a roast pork sandwich?

Besides a tonne of insight about raw cacao (in my next post) – I took three things away with me:

1. The more enzymes in your system – the younger you’ll look. And raw fruit and vegetables are packed with valuable youth promoting enzymes…I like this. A lot.
2. The five most addictive foods are rice, corn, potatoes, wheat and soya. That’s almost my entire diet on a bad day.  I’ll be looking into why all my favourite food groups are no-nos.
3. 1 x Hi-Buzz Bar. This was a delicious raw chocolate bar loaded with bee pollen, and of course, raw cacao.

You can buy Kate’s books from here and her Hi-Buzz bar from here.

SAF is a culinary haven

30 Mar
fine slices of beetroot stuffed with ricotta nut cheese

Delicious slivers of raw beetroot and ricotta nut cheese ravioli

According to the critics, SAF is THE raw food restaurant to go to in London. Well – to be fair – there are only three but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sensational and doesn’t give every mainstream restaurant in town a run for its money. It’s not raw food as you know it and if I can’t ‘turn’ you raw, their macadamia feta cheese will.

As soon as I walked in from hectic, rainy Old St and sat down, I noticed three distinct things:

1.  SAF, so named after the Turkish word for pure and authentic, is a totally chilled out sanctuary of culinary calm. I usually only breathe properly in a yoga class but here I breathed in and breathed out…sipped my biodynamic, organic vegan red wine and breathed in again;

2.  The menu is actually only 50% raw but what is raw is made up of 100% delectable and ingenious combinations of fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables; and

3.  For a Monday night, it was packed, and this, our smiley, knowledgeable waitress told me, was a slow night.

Kindly joining me on my raw adventure was my friend Vivian, who also generously agreed to share absolutely everything, hence the broad spectrum of dishes we powered through. We had raw beetroot ravioli, a pesto au poivre (raw nut cheese), raw vegetable maki, raw pad thai and a raw root vegetable tart, all followed by a raw chocolate granache tart with pear sorbet, spiced rum and pear compote. Yum, yum, yum. Every dish was delicious and filling, made even more rewarding because all those natural nutrients would be heading straight for my blood stream and I wouldn’t be stressing out my poor digestive system to get to them. I won’t spoil your own experience and critique every dish to death but here are the highlights:

For starters, the beetroot ravioli looked and tasted amazing. Extremely fine slices of raw beetroot were stuffed with a cashew nut ricotta and surrounded by carrot, pumpkin seed oil and the most incredible balsamic fig I have ever smacked my chops around.

The pesto au poivre course was a cheese feast deluxe. This was a tough one as I was (am) a cheese obsessive freak and had very high hopes. I purposely avoid making nut cheese as it goes against my fundamental philosophy that delicious raw food meals shouldn’t rely on crazy equipment, weird ingredients and lengthy time frames. However, I couldn’t wait to try it here. According to our waitress, the cheese with sage pesto and peppercorn crust, was made from fermented cashew nuts by one (or all) of the twelve chefs on staff. That’s amazing! Twelve raw food chefs!!

The raw pad thai was spicey but not too spicey, on courgette noodles that were more noodley than noodles and a chipotle almond sauce that was nothing like almonds or chipotle and everything like a traditional pad thai. Only raw.

With surgical precision only acquired by someone with lots of competitive, food loving siblings, Vivian divided the Granache tart in perfect halves. I tried to trick the waitress into telling us the ingredients but only gleaned cacao and coconut oil, which I had guessed anyway. Needless to say it was luscious, even if I was ‘forced’ to share it.

Whether y0u are herbivore or carnivore, I strongly recommend you go and try out the menu for yourself.  The menu apparently changes frequently so I will certainly go back very soon. I don’t want to miss out on the cucumber black peppercorn sorbet and I am determined to figure out the rest of the ingredients in my own full slice of granache!

Where is the Raw Food in Tignes?

17 Mar

Raw food is everywhere in the Savoyarde region of the French Alps, but your willpower will have to work its pants off to ignore the gooey, cheesey, dreamy, creamy, heaven-sent dauphinoises, fondues, raclettes and tartiflettes. 

You don't need this cheesey and potato dream! It's bad for you!

Dauphinoise tastes delicious but you're asking your body to digest cement.

Not to mention the tarte tatins the size of tractor tyres and the mountains of fresh pain au chocolats, eclairs and mille feuilles at the many patisseries dotted around town.  Anyway – enough drooling – it’s not impossible to go raw on the slopes. 

Self catering helps because you will at least have control of the menu.  There are several supermarkets, so prices for fresh fruit and vegetables are competitive, not exorbitant and the selection is broad.  However if you fancy popping out for some restaurant food, I found a fantastic Mexican spot in Val Claret in Tignes. 

 Daffy’s is probably more widely known for its margherita happy hour and free wi fi, but I think it also deserves a mention for its fantastic range of salads that can be easily tailored sans fromage and crème. I enjoyed the obviously named ‘Mexican salad’; a huge corn tortilla loaded with leafy lettuce, tomato and avocado, covered in a light olive oil and French herb dressing.

Raw Food Dover Calais Ferry Trip

3 Mar
three out of your five a day

three out of five a day

I was pleasantly surprised that there was any raw food available in the ‘international food court’ on a P&O Ferry crossing the Channel at midnight. However the trio of a banana, a clementine/orange and an apple was the extent of it. And at £3.50 for the three, it’s no wonder that every average punter, was chowing down on a big greasy plate of hot chips for £1.50.

I differentiate the average punter because our P&O Ferry also offered the more discerning passenger the option to dine in an offshoot of Mayfair’s famous Langan’s Brasserie. Here I am certain there would be many more raw food options on request, from their talented chefs, at their lovely silvered and tableclothed tables, if it was open for the graveyard sitting.

Content on the way

17 Jan

Raw food info will be posted ASAP