Raw food in the News
Learning how to 'uncook' dinner
Crudessence restaurants and academy show, in delicious ways, that a raw meal is in no way a raw deal
Eighteen people gathered in a Mile End loft with a view one recent Saturday to learn more about healthful eating. The daylong workshop focused on the principles of what its leaders call living food -plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, consumed raw, for the most part -along with culinary techniques and a couple dozen recipes: an uncooking class, as it were.
Revolutions have started with less.
The eighth-floor loft, in a commercial building on Casgrain St., is where Crudessence had its beginnings in the fall of 2007 with twentysomethings David Cote and Mathieu Gallant helping each other prepare lunch boxes of vegan raw foods delivered by bicycle to stores and businesses along St. Denis St., and to brew and sell a healthful sparkling fermented tea beverage called kombucha. The two Quebecers had met in Hawaii, where raw food is a big deal -and they wanted to make it better known here.
In three years, Crudessence has expanded into a company with two Montreal restaurants and a juice bar, a central kitchen in another loft, a catering and food-supply arm that counts among its clients a major bank and the McGill University residences, and classes at the Crudessence Academy of Living Foods that are booked solid: in 2010, there were 1,600 students. When a three-hour cooking class was offered recently for $35, less than half the regular price, on LivingSocial, a website offering daily deals on such venues as restaurants and spas, 600 people signed up.
Their kombucha and other Crudessence products are sold in Montreal-area stores and beyond. There's a boutique area in the restaurants for food and equipment, and an online boutique. In 2008, the company had 15 employees; today there are 70. Revenues have climbed from $160,000 the first fiscal year to more than $1 million in 2010.
"If we are successful, it's because people are waking up," said 28-year-old Crudessence president Cote, a relaxed fellow who smiles a lot, before opening the morning session of the workshop this month. Co-founder Gallant, director of the Crudessence academy, led the afternoon session.
Increasingly, people are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy-based foods, said company CEO Julian Giacomelli -for their own health and for the planet's.
"I find people are more and more aware, and they are looking for new things, both for their health and in terms of gastronomy," said Delphine Boillot, a corporate lawyer who has long been interested in food and health. She has been taking courses at the Crudessence academy for three years -and changed the way she eats to incorporate more raw food: smoothies - made with fresh fruit and almond milk, maybe raw spinach and leafy greens -have replaced the whole-grain toast she used to eat at breakfast. "It's very, very good -and I'm not hungry until lunch." Lunch might be a salad with sprouts; sprouts, rich in vitamins and enzymes, are an important element of living food.
Boillot, 29, who had been feeling sluggish and often had stomach aches, has energy to burn these days -and no more stomach aches. "I'm not a radical or extreme person," she said, "but, increasingly, I'm finding my body likes more raw."
The participants in the workshop earlier this month, most of them women, were curious, they said when Cote went around the room and asked why they'd come: they liked the idea of eating in a more "green" way -foods that are locally grown, organic and unprocessed, they said. And they liked the food at the Crudessence restaurants: there's one on Rachel St.; a second, larger resto on Mackay St., with a sleek and inviting decor, opened last summer, as did a juice bar on Laurier St. E., with a smaller menu geared to takeout.
"I ate at the Crudessence restaurant on Mackay and said 'Wow,' " one participant said about why he'd signed up for the workshop. "I want to learn how to do that."
One finds the salads and smoothies one expects to find on the menu -but also dishes such as lasagna, which is prepared with layers of zucchini slices, sun-dried tomato sauce and "rawcotta" made with macadamia nuts; and shepherd's pie, with sprouted lentils in place of meat, and cauliflower and cashews in place of mashed potatoes. Serving dishes resembling those that people are familiar with makes it more likely they'll try them, said Crudessence head chef Barry Pall.
Gazette casual dining critic Sarah Musgrave used words such as inventive, lively and lovely to describe her meal at Crudessence last spring: it included a quiche made with cashews and vegetables, and a burger made with flax and sun-dried tomatoes. A layered raw chocolate-vanilla cake proved that "raw food isn't a raw deal," she observed in a roundup of her favourite dishes of 2010.
For co-founder Cote, Crudessence is more than a restaurant.
"It's a lifestyle," he said. "I believe that by changing what you put in your body, you change who you are, slowly. If I have more energy today, feel more vibrant and healthy, it has changed me from being in survival mode to living. And I feel like giving back. It sounds intense, but it's the way it is."
As Giacomelli put it: "We really believe that a mostly plant-based diet of real food -not doctored, processed, chemically infused -around whole foods is what counts the most ... (it's about) eating less and with more mindfulness, but also for pleasure, about letting our food and our approach to food be healing and helpful as well as sustaining."
Crudessence food is vegan -no eggs, dairy or other animal products -as well as organic and gluten-free and mostly, although not exclusively, raw: there's a soup on the menu, made in a rice cooker; a hot dish of the day, maybe a chili or jambalaya, is made in the central kitchen in a countertop plug-in roaster and kept warm in a chafing dish in the restaurant; and a wrap features cooked quinoa.
"It is equally important that we are organic and as committed to being vegan and sustainable in our approach to food as we are to being raw," said Giacomelli. To him, strict raw foodists are "dogmatic and, in my humble opinion, narrow-minded, seeing the raw-food diet as the ultimate place to aim for and anything less as somehow, well, less."
Stephanie Audet, vice-director of the Crudessence academy and its main teacher, said: "We teach people to increase the raw food on their plates to maybe to 70 or 80 per cent -and we teach them how to do it."
Methods include blending vegetables, fruits and nut milk into smoothies; spiralizing machines create long strands of vegetables such as zucchini for the spaghetti; and sprouting seeds and germinating nuts that are incorporated into dishes.
Dishes requiring advance preparation, such as the lasagna and the shepherd's pie, are made at the central Crudessence kitchen -a light-filled ninth-floor loft in a commercial building on de Gaspe St. withnoneof thetrappingsof a conventional kitchen: no ovens, no fans, no grease traps -and the plates are assembled at the restaurants, where the chefs there come up with the look of the plate.
For some dishes -the breads, say, which are made with such ingredients as flax, nuts and buckwheat, the burgers, and a clever riff on bacon for a BLT developed by Pall using eggplant marinated with chipotle and sun-dried tomatoes -dehydrators provide enough heat to modify the texture and consistency of foods without cooking, which would change their chemical composition: the temperature in the dehydrator goes no higher than 115F (50C).
Crudessence regulars who spoke to The Gazette expressed enthusiasm bordering on zeal about the restaurant and favourite dishes. Natalie McLennan, who has been vegan for four years, eats at the Mackay resto four or five times a week. "I love food, and I love to go out to eat," said the 30-year-old yoga teacher. "It makes it easier to go out with my friends ... and it is such a fun, cool culinary experience to try."
She declared the caesar salad and the tiramisu dessert as "the best I have ever tasted" and said she loves the raw crepes and the smoothies. "What I love is that there is really enough variety in the menu," Mc-Lennan said.
"Their brownies are my favourite thing in the world: it's almost an addiction," said Karine Abergel, a designer for a line of loungewear and sleepwear.
The brownie is made with pecans, dates, date paste, raw cacao powder with a little salt and some vanilla; it's mixed until it comes together in a dough, spread into a pan and iced with a fondant featuring more cacao, agave nectar and pure coconut oil and then chilled before serving. No flour, no filler, no baking.
Abergel, 28, is gluten-intolerant, which means she doesn't eat foods containing flour. "Crudessence is one of the only places in Montreal where I can order anything on the menu," she said. "The ingredients are amazing and everything is delicious: eating there, I have found my energy is increased and my skin is better, so now I try to eat raw almost every day."
Montreal lawyer Greg Harris, who works out and runs on Mount Royal and goes to Crudessence often for juices or smoothies, salads or desserts, calls the cheesecake which, of course, has no cheese, "the best I have ever eaten anywhere.
"I think that anyone who is serious about their health needs to know something about raw food - and this is the place in Montreal for raw food.
"The kitchen is spotless, and the people running the place are clearly committed. I have never seen such a healthy positive vibration in a restaurant," said Harris, 47.
"We have a mission: We want people to eat well, at the end of the day," said head chef Pall. "I like to believe we are doing good for society as a whole."
For more on Crudessence restaurant locations, menus, classes and products, go to www.crudessence.com.
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Raw brownies and more about Crudessence
Crudessence head chef Barry Pall makes brownies with no flour, no fillers and no baking in this video by The Gazette's Pierre Obendrauf. montrealgazette.com/life
Can he live on mainly raw foods for 7 days?
Well, the only way to find out is to literally throw a challenge at him! Why not challenge the man in your life who has a hard time giving up his stake and his cheese-puffs and who constantly criticizes your food choices? How about those friends who clearly think that you are straight up crazy with a fruity twist, and who love teasing you about your funny looking green drinks and funky looking salads?
Here comes: Eat Like a Rabbit, Feel Like a Stallion - a program specifically designed for those men and friends in your life to consume nothing but rabbit-food (raw, plant-based foods) for 7 days and have an abundance of energy, maybe even loose a half an inch or so of the beer belly, who knows?
There are just so many great resources included in this program, see it for yourselves!
Hurry up, we will be starting the program with a few days of preparation on February 1st!
Will see you at the start line honorary veggie lovers!
Raw Food Recipe- Cranberry Date Squares- reduced fat version
I few days ago I found this recipe on the website of Raw Epicurean for cranberry date squares. I must admit, I love the cooked version and have been trying to recreate the same gluten-free, low-fat but have never imagined to be able to do it raw!!!
The original recipe is by Natasha Kyssa (of Simplyraw) and although it did look amazing, it seemed a bit high fat for my taste! These days I am trying to keep the recipes I make more low fat and more affordable and my motto has become: the cost does not have to affect the taste! So, I used less nuts and added a few little things of my own, according to our tastebuds. In addition, my husband is allergic to almonds, so I had to replace those as well. We had our first taste test yesterday night and I must admit, I love these better than any baked version! Yeah for amazing, delicious and ingenious raw desserts!
I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!
Reduced fat cranberry date squares
( the original recipe can be seen by Natasha Kyssa here)
Crust:1 1/2 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of pecans
a generous dash of salt
3tbsp agave, raw honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a bit of water from the dates soaking (see below)
1 cup of sprouted and dehydrated buckwheat
Process nuts and buckwheat first in food processor until they break down. The buckwheat will prevent this mixture from forming into a ball right away. Add the salt, cinnamon, sweetener of your choice and pulse it a few times. The mixture should start to resemble a crumble texture. If your mix is too dry, add a few tbsp of the water from the soaking dates. Spread half of your crust mixture at the bottom of a 9inch square pan.
Date filling:1 1/2 cup of dates soaked for 2 hrs (reserve water)
1 cup of dried cranberries soaked for 2 hrs
juice and grind of one orange (instead of the grind you can use 2-3 drops of orange essence)
Process wet ingredients in food processor until well mixed and resembling a smooth paste. Spread date filling on top of crust evenly. Cover the date filling with the second half of the crust mixture. Refrigerate for 2 hrs before serving.
You can sprinkle some coconut flakes on the date squares or add them on top of the date filling, this will make it even more yummy!
Serve it at room temperature with your favorite beverage!
Raw Food Tip- Guide to being raw vegan on the East Coast
Confessions of an East Coast Raw Vegan is the first book that deals with eating raw foods while on the east coast or in other cold climates. Let's face it, eating raw foods in cold climates can be a tricky and requires a whole different set of strategies than eating raw foods in California or other warm climates. However, it can be done and this book will show you how!
This book will teach you many strategies for creating and maintaining a raw vegan lifestyle while living in cold climates, as well as highlight the benefits to eating raw vegan on the east coast. You will also learn over 50 recipes to create beautiful entrees, desserts, smoothies, juices and milks, breads and crackers, and soups, salads, dressings, and dips! These recipes are simple and low-cost, and truly celebrate all the produce that the east coast has to offer!