So after the meat debauchery post on Tuesday, I’ve gone in a completely opposite direction today with this one. I’ll have to admit, my experience with raw vegan cuisine has been extremely limited. Really, I’ve only had one meal at Au Lac years ago, and although I remember really enjoying it, I haven’t made a concerted effort to explore this further.
A few weeks ago, I saw a bunch of my friends posting beautiful photos on Facebook of their visit to the new 118 Degrees in Anaheim, and although I hadn’t really thought about visiting the one in Costa Mesa, the photos interested me enough to pay this new cafe a visit. In fact, in a span of a few days, I managed to experience Chef Jenny’s creations twice.
First of all, I visited the new cafe — the space is cute and cozy and the menu offers a nice variety of sweet and savory items.
I sipped on the House Iced Tea ($3.85), a refreshing concoction of hibiscus flowers, cranberries, blood orange juice and goji berries. It had only a hint of sweetness from agave, which was just perfect for me.
I started with Apple Coffee Cake ($6) a layer of pecan crust topped with fresh warm out of dehydration apple slices and drizzled with a sauce infused with coffee. Bits of cinnamon pecan crumble are sprinkled on top for an added crunch. I loved the textural contrast in every mouthful with the apples’ flavor intensified by the dehydration process.
Next came Caramel Crepes ($6) with a dulce de leche filling inside. What totally threw me off and blew me away at the same time was the house coconut wrap — the “crepe” part — made with dehydrated raw coconut flesh. Stuffed with fresh banana and cinnamon, this was so delicious I couldn’t stop eating it.
I’ve heard of Chef Jenny Ross’ Living Lasagna ($14) for years but I’m ashamed to say this is the first time I’m trying it. Comprising layers of squash “noodles”, tomato, creamy macadamia “ricotta”, sweet basil marinara, topped with portabello mushrooms, the combined flavors were very complex, a surprising feat from just using vegetables and nuts. I was really impressed by how delicious it was.
The Fried Avocado Mini-Tostado ($4/$7) uses a crispy buckwheat shell, topped with peppita cheese, chopped spinach, cilantro, corn and “fried” avocado. The avocado is coated with ground flax seed and creates a nice crunch against the softness of the avocado. This is a great appetizer or snack.
Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms ($7) even appealed to my son who cringes at the thought of eating mushrooms. These cremini mushrooms were stuffed with pistachio pesto and served warm with a marinara. I could easily eat a plate of these as an appetizer.
These items concluded my visit to the cafe, but two days later, Chef Jenny was at Tanaka Farms as part of OC Raw Dining Club, a meetup style group created by 118 Degrees to help educate the public about raw vegan cuisine.
Guests were seated under a tent for the meal and Farmer Glenn Tanaka led the group on a tour of the farm on a tractor wagon, stopping sporadically to give us freshly picked carrots, beans, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon to munch on while telling us stories of the history behind his family’s 3-generation farm.
We started with Yellow Squash Rolls with sweet tomato “creme” and fresh basil. The beautiful varieties of squash were hand picked fresh at Tanaka Farm for our meal this evening. The deliciously crunchy squash had a hint of sweetness and I could taste the subtle differences between the green julienned strips and the ribbons of yellow squash.
The main plate consisted of three different items. Tomato Stacked Salad with fresh romaine, chopped kale, capers and Tanaka herb dressing prompted me to use tomatoes and capers together at home. Savory Cannoli with broccoli garnish served with sweet almond green beans created a multitude of textures and flavors in each bite.
The best part was the dessert course and my son ravished both his and most of my Sweet Carrot Ginger Cake with chai walnut crust. The sweet carrots we sampled on our tour were used to create this naturally sweet delectable dessert.
Although I won’t be turning into a raw vegan anytime soon, I feel it is definitely very healthy to add into my diet several times a month. In the past, my lack of understanding caused me to reject the idea that it could be tasty, but Chef Jenny has definitely opened my eyes to how raw cuisine is not only beneficial to your health, but it can be a deliciously palatable experience as well!
As far as the Dining Club is concerned, it is modeled after the dining clubs at Cambridge University, Oxford University, Princeton University and Harvard University. The events include dining and conversation within a community of like-minded individuals and academic presentations by expert guest speakers. Events are held every six weeks. For more information, please contact Leslie Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who would like to give it a try, 118 Degrees has generously donated a $25 giftcard for one of my readers to win this week. Leave me a comment with your FULL name telling me of your raw cuisine experience or there lack of. As usual, entries close on Sunday and a winner will be announced on Monday.
118 Degrees Community Cafe
185 W Center Street
Anaheim, CA 92805