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Why Eat Raw?

The Point of Eating Raw
The whole point of raw food is the preservation of enzymes inherent within the plant foods as well as preserving the nutrients found within the foods. Since cooking at higher temperatures inevitably destroys nutrients like heat-sensitive vitamins, and also alters the structure of such nutrients as proteins rendering them less digestible to the digestive tract, the preparation of some of the drier foods like raw crackers, breads, buscuits and burgers may require a lengthy dehydration process at low temperatures.

My stance toward the raw food concept is not to take it upfront as a cure-all to our health problems or an indefinite and unquestioning approach to eating heathily for every day of our lives. Especially as a Vata, I find raw food cold and drying, and therefore aggravating to my digestion and will not for my best interests center my health upon incorporating large quantities of uncooked food in my vegan diet.

Having said that, raw food has equal potential of being very beneficial to people of other body types, especially those with strong digestive fire. Such people may feel refreshed yet comfortably satiated, and feel light and energised when converting to a diet higher in raw food.

The Living Cafe
The Living Cafe is an establishment with health-centred approach to food and eating, so expect ‘organic’, ‘vegan’, ‘vegetarian’ and ‘raw’ to be key words when you step in. Though not 100% vegan, it is vegan and vegetarian friendly, with many raw options. Meat and eggs make an appearance in food entrees though dairy is entirely avoided, being replaced by nut cheeses.

The highlight of any raw food experience though I feel is in the desserts which TLC has many to offer.

I’ve always been keen on raw desserts because firstly, they are rich, decadent and absolutely sinfully taste-bud pleasing that makes you unable to forget them. Secondly, because these desserts tend to rely heavily on nutrient-dense, fibre-rich, whole foods like nuts and dates, they will actually satiate/pacify the sweet tooth of even the most rampant sweet vampire. If that analogy even makes sense.

For savory eats, we ordered the Hand-Cut Sweet Potato Wedges, Raw Taco Boats and TLC Cheese Burger (Raw).

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Hand-Cut Sweet Potato Wedges
Not sure why they had to emphasize the ‘hand-cut’ nature because the way they were cut wasn’t anything to boast about. These were thick cut and obviously baked with an oil (olive oil methinks) and spice coating. It was fragrant with a modest seasoning of cumin and coriander seeds.

They were also firm rather than soft for wedges which must be due to their thick-cut nature. While pleasant to have as a healthy alternative to the common deep-fried fries and potato wedges and also reasonably priced, this really is no rocket science dish and one that can be easily replicated at home if you have an oven. So while still happy with this healthy option I was less impressed by it.

Unsurprisingly since these already have their own seasoning and because this is a health food establishment afterall, please don’t expect to have store-bought ketchup or mayo served with these. Upon request for some sort of sauce, the waiter brought us a cashew cream mayo made of blended cashews, which my conventional-diet friends incidentally liked.

It is always heartening to know of people who are receptive to healthy vegan alternatives even if they don’t necessarily taste similar!

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Raw Taco Boats
Nut based taco ‘meat’ rolled into balls served with guacamole, mango salsa and lettuce with cashew cream drizzled over.

This looks deceptively light but the nuts really do fill you up! The taco ‘meat’ seemed damp and crumbled easily making it a bit of a mess to share. I thought this was alright. The taco ‘meat’ tastes obviously nutty and while seasoned well was nothing magical for me. The guac and mango salsa were alright in themselves but perhaps their flavors were not highlighted enough to impress me.

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Raw Taco ‘Meat’ — Crumbly and nutty.

Perhaps this dish needed some tartness to perk the flavors up? Overall, it was pleasant and I wouldn’t mind sharing this with friends but not something I would particularly order again. A nice nutrient-dense, stomach satisfying option to have as a vegan health-nut (like me!!).


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TLC Cheese Burger
Seeing more lettuce, my friends were somewhat dismayed to find that this deviated from their impression of the standard burger pattie sandwiched between bread buns. I supposed we really should have read the description more closely.

As you can see, lots of healthy alfalfa sprouts, raw shredded carrot, beets and onion are sandwiched in-between. The raw onion was a bit too intruding with its spiciness and pungency; which could have been easily prevented by soaking the sliced onions in cold water beforehand.In description, the patty seems to be made of mushroom, walnuts, sunflower seeds and oats. It was very mushroomy which I suspect was because dehydrating it intensifies the flavor.

Because of the strong mushroom taste, I think we agreed we preferred the nuttiness of the taco ‘meat’ to this mushroomy patty.

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There was a tiny dollop of guacamole but as I mentioned had a taste perhaps too insipid to add anything extra to the existing flavors. We did however want to put the cashew cream all over! This also featured an orange, ‘thousand-island’ themed raw sauce which I suspect consists of blended raw zucchini according to my taste buds. Its raw taste is not conspicuous and blends well within the entire dish.

The patty also contained omega-3 rich flax seeds (if you can see them below)!

IMG_5920All in all, this was also pleasant to have but not something I am particularly crazy about. I love that they focus on fresh whole foods and minimal processing, just would have preferred bolder seasonings and flavors that would stand out.

The sweet potatos, raw tacos and raw burger were just nice for the three of us. While definitely a nice change and healthy alternative to eating out, I probably wouldn’t make my way out specially for the entrees. I suppose they are better appreciated by people who commonly lack access to healthier options (such as working people with little time to spend preparing their own meals) when eating out but the menu does seem pretty standard for such healthy food joints with their salads, sandwiches, soups, veggie rolls and brown rice bowls.

Onward to the raw desserts which must be the crowning glory of any raw food restaurant. You may not win everyone’s heart through the food menu but the dessert menu is where raw food restaurants shine in the taste department.

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Plenty of Raw Dessert Options!
TLC features a lot of desserts with raw chocolates, brownies and nut balls occupying the topmost rack, cookies and breads on the middle rack and raw cheesecakes, mousse cakes and chocolate cakes occupying the bottom rack. Prices range from 2.50 for stuff in the top rack to 8.50 per slice of cake. Except for a couple of baked loaves, most of the items were raw. Some desserts that were on offer that day:

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If you can see, some of the cheese/mousse cakes were ‘sweating’ with their plates becoming noticeably watery. This is because these raw cakes are made by somewhat freezing the layers of blended ingredients to make them hold their shape and exposure to higher temperatures will make them less stable. So don’t expect any take away options for these. I do highly recommend though, that you take a seat and enjoy a slice or two before you leave!

IMG_5921We had the Raw Tiramisu (new to the dessert menu), Raw Blueberry Cheesecake and Raw German Chocolate Cake.

These were all very good taste-wise and also pleasing to the stomach. My absolute favorite was the Tiramisu with its bolder chocolate and coffee flavors. The Blueberry Cheesecake was smooth, subtly sweet from the berries and rich because of the blended nuts. My least favorite was the German Chocolate Cake as it turned out quite dry and didn’t have the play of flavors which the other layered cakes had.

Overall, we felt these raw desserts to be very rich and filling though not cloying to the palate. The mouthfeel of these cakes was also smooth and rich making them quite luscious and a delight to eat. We also enjoyed the fact that these were all made with beneficial ingredients like nuts that are nutritious, rather than the more health compromising nature of refined food ingredients used in conventional cakes. Our stomachs and tastebuds definitely felt the difference!

Because of their nutrient dense nature, I felt that one slice is more than enough to satisfy one’s dessert craving. I probably couldn’t handle a proper entree and cake for dessert since these are so rich. I’d recommend having a drink, one of their coffees perhaps or a light soup with a slice of cake.

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Raw Tiramisu
Decadent and rich, this would most certainly appeal to mocha/coffee lovers.

When you bite into this, you first taste the cocoa and coffee, with the coconut flavor from the raw coconut ice cream layer emerging towards the end.

The bottom-most layer consists of almond meal which is pretty neutral tasting and surprisingly light. Slightly gritty but with a soft mouthfeel. The middle layer was a mocha mousse which was much firmer than the other layers. It uses a standard cashew base to which cacao powder and coffee flavors are blended into for a mocha flavor. It uses cacao butter/coconut oil to help solidify it. The texture of the topmost layer is obviously frozen, and tastes quite discernibly of Thai coconut like a fresh coconut meat sorbet.

Overall, densely rich and satisfying.

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Raw Blueberry Cheesecake
This is similar to most raw cheesecake recipes I have seen which use cashews, lemon juice and coconut oil to create the cheesecake layer. What is interesting though is that Irish moss is used here to solidify (more likely for the blueberry layer) and soy lecithin to prevent separation during the freezing stage. The layers went well together and each bite felt smooth, silky and rich without that thick sickly sweetness or cloying richness of conventional dairy inundated cheesecakes. Because fresh blueberries are used, expect the wholesome subtle taste of the fresh berries rather than any resemblance to blueberry jam which you may be more accustomed to in conventional blueberry cheesecakes.

Very very nutritious, very very wholesome, very very rich.

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Raw German Chocolate Cake
Not my favorite but I liked its simple and stunning presentation especially the glaze. Besides the nuts (macadamia), coconut oil and cacao powder which are commonly used in raw dessert recipes, this also had zucchini (!) and is sweetened with dates. Perhaps hot tea would be nice Vata accompaniment to this cake since it tasted quite dry.
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The glaze was a bit of an enigma at first but I finally recognised it to be raw honey, the cream colored types that have a slightly stiff whipped texture to. This was likely mixed with irish moss to prevent from running all over the edges. The dried coconut flakes and cacao nibs scattered over the top made for a beautiful presentation as well as gave a nice contrast in textures and flavor.

The flavor is what I would expected from a raw chocolate cake. But not full-on chocolate enough to appeal to serious chocolate fans.

First impressions and Verdict*
TLC is a place I’m thankful for considering the small number of health-oriented, vegan and vegetarian friendly eateries in general.  Hats off to this place for managing to accomodate different food preferences with their meat and non-meat, raw and cooked options in a fresh and minimally processed way. While I question if I particularly like their savory menu items, I would definitely make a trip for their raw desserts and especially hope to try the Mocha Mint Slice since we maxed out our stomachs with the desserts we’d already ordered.

Note:
This is my first time visiting TLC. My verdict is influenced by my veganised palate and since I am of Vata dosha tend to prefer Vata-pacifying foods. I would have stuck to 100% vegan menu options but as I was eating with two other friends on conventional diets felt it was fair to compromise with the honey.

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