Friday, January 15, 2010

Re-introduction + Airport travel + south Florida eateries

Here I am!

Dang. I didn't think I would be scrambling this much to find a decent minute for blog dedication. Alas, things never turn out the way you expect, eh?

So, here I San Francisco.
Evan took this amazing photo early morning overlooking downtown San Francisco swimming in sun-illuminated fog.

I realized a few days ago that I've paid at least one visit per year to San Francisco since 2004. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful long-time friend that lives in this city who has opened her home to me on numerous occasions. She is Tennille and she is a gem.

I was thinking back to last year - exactly one year ago today - when I was on my way out of Los Angeles moving to Portland for the first time. There were so many unknowns. I had just split up with my boyfriend who I had been living with in L.A., heading to Living Light Culinary Institute to learn about raw vegan culinary arts, following dreams of backyard gardens, clean air, and one day opening a vegan restaurant. Those goals still make up the foundation of my dreams today, although, they're now a bit zestier - the garden morphed into a farm, the air is even purer, and the vegan restaurant will be a comfy little music lounge. It's amazing to think how much has happened over the past 12 months. My hair went from black to blonde and back to my natural auburn-brown color. I crossed paths with a lovely soul named Evan Wilson, my current boyfriend, travel companion, employer, and inspiration. I grew a psuedo-garden (we tried), breathed the beautiful Portland air, and got a job at an all-organic vegan restaurant. Once again, things did not turn out the way I had imagined, but they worked out for the best, in my opinion.

Anyway, 12 months ago today, I found myself in San Francisco visiting Tennille - seeking temporary solace as I traversed the volatile San Pedro fault up to Fort Bragg where, unbeknownst to me, I was about to have one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
*Read more about my experience in Fort Bragg at the incredible Living Light Culinary Institute here.
*Learn more about Living Light Culinary Institute here.

----fast-forward one year---

At first, I saw myself contributing to the blog on an almost daily basis. Then my computer was in the repair shop for two weeks, then I went to Florida without my laptop, then I flew to Tahoe and got bogged down in family stuff and boyfriend stuff and foodie stuff. Then I found myself making excuse after excuse that kept me from updating the blog - "I'm tired" was the one that popped up most frequently. Eventually, the task just seemed too daunting to even attempt to tackle, but I am a dedicated person when I have an intention.

So I will start at the beginning:

I quit my job at Papa G's Vegan Organic Deli and moved out of my Portland, Oregon apartment on January 24th, 2009. I have embarked on an amazing world journey with my ambitious and delicious boyfriend, Evan. Our collective mission is to experience different cultures and heighten our spiritual awareness while working together to develop his translation business, Alter-Eco Translations. The next year of my life, I imagine, will be quite the experience and I plan to document our travels as we go along. My personal goal for this journey is to discover the fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices native to the regions we explore and to discuss the challenges I am faced with as a raw foodist traveling through the U.S. and abroad.

---End re-introduction---

I left Portland on the 24th of December and kicked off the tour in Pompano Beach, Florida where I spent 10 days basking in the glow of my Dad's side of the family - parents, siblings (in-laws) aunts, uncles, cousins, and most dynamic of all - Grandma (she's a firecracker these days).

When I travel via airplane, I always make sure I am fully stocked with quality raw food because we all know the crap fast-food chains and over-priced food carts one finds at the airport. This is especially important traveling over the winter holidays when delays, cancelations, and long lines inevitably come into play. Exhibit A is a series of photos displaying the items I packed in my bag for the long, cross-country flight.

Exhibit A:
Raw Organic Collard Wraps: (stuffed with) shredded red cabbage, red onions, raw tahini, avocado, and fresh salsa

Bring-your-own (BYO) hot cup, tea ball, loose-leaf tea, herbs, and sweetener (stevia). I just asked Coffee-People for some FREE hot water and brewed my own tea - maté with pau d'arco and cat's claw.

BYO books (lots and lots of books!). You never know when you'll be stranded at the airport. Feed your mind, not just your mouth.

---End airport travel---
Three planes, two delays, and 13 hours later, I arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. My dad made reservations at this swanky organic vegan restuarant in Ft. Lauderdale called Sublime. While it boasted plush interior, eye-catching fountains, liquid windows, and an overall zen-like atmosphere (not to mention celebrity patrons like Pamela Anderson, Paul McCartney, and Alec Baldwin to name a few), the raw options were limited. I opted for a salad and snuck some hummus and cooked quinoa tabouli (eep! Not raw). It was tasty, but I went home with an awful stomachache.
The owner of the restaurant, Nanci Alexander, came by each table and talked to the customers gifting them a Happy New Year Sublime calendar with 12 photos of fancy and titillating entreés. To my chagrin, my family took the liberty to announce that I was a raw vegan. She was aware that there weren't many raw options on the menu and suggested next time I call 48 to 72 hours ahead to let the kitchen know that I am a raw foodist. She assured me that they would happily accommodate my needs with a spactacular raw vegan gourmet dish. This means I have to go back.

Final say: I would go back - if not for the food, definitely for the atmosphere.

Sublime Restaurant (and mom).
*note: We made the earliest possible reservation. The restaurant soon filled up. Almost every table was occupied.

Window waterfalls! Water trickled down the windows on either side. It looks cooler in real life.
The next day I did some research on raw vegan restaurants and local farmer's markets in the area. We went to two different farmer's markets - the one in Pompano Beach was pretty barren and contained absolutely no organic produce and the other one was incredibly abundant and contained only organic produce.
Josh's Organic Garden is open every Sunday from 9 A.M. to 5:31 P.M. located on the boardwalk in Hollywood, Florida. It was amazing. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. Also, located adjacent to the market is Josh's Organic (open-air!) Juice Bar:

I feel like the organic juice bar is open on a daily basis, however, I can't find the hours of operation. The juice bar was excellent. They were really busy and it seemed a bit chaotic, which is a good thing. It just seemed mildly disorganized. I still highly, highly, highly recommend it.

The view from Josh's Organic Garden in Hollywood, Florida.
The viewers from left to right: Dad, Mom, Muir, and Yenny

During my research, I came across a raw vegan restaurant called The Green Wave Cafe located in Plantation, Florida.
From what I could glean from the website, Chef Lisa Valle (A Living Light Graduate!) has organized a raw food school that meets at The Green Wave Cafe for Chef training and education. The cafe itself is open Tuesday - Friday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M., but check the link because the hours may have changed by the time you read this.

The Green Wave was wonderful. It was everything I expect from a raw food cafe - simple, clean, delicious and nutritious! I ordered a fresh green juice and the hummus sandwich (raw, sprouted chickpea hummus on sprouted grain onion dehydrated bread with sprouts, avocado, tomato, and romaine lettuce served open faced). It was excellent! I would definitely go back again and again and again. It was nice to see that the place was busy, as well! My only criticism, though slight, is that the soup (I forget what kind) was a little bland. I remember dousing it with a good shot of salt and pepper. Other than that, the service was suitable and the chef was a charm - Tomás was his name. Tell him I say "Hi".
Say for example, I can't get to a farmer's market or a restaurant that caters to my specific needs as a vegan raw foodist. There were several occasions over the course of this trip where I accompanied my family to standard food chains, such as iHop, thai, indian, and mexican restaurants. Sometimes I would order a salad, but they were rarely organic salads (boo). Other times, I would eat beforehand and order some tea or mineral water with lime. In one instance, we went to a family favorite called El Mariachi. I would say mexican foodsis one of the easier types of "standard fare" restaurants to dine at as a raw foodist. I ordered a large side of guacamole and brought in my own sliced veggies - red bell pepper, zucchini, and raw flax crackers to use in place of fried corn chips. Mexican restaurants tend to bring out an endless supply of salsa with a basket of chips so with my raw veggies, guacamole, and salsa....I was all set! I did get some strange looks from the waiter when I ordered a side of guacamole as my dinner, but I got over that real quick. :)

I forgot to take photos during dinner, so I captured one as we were driving away.
4th Generation Organic Market
75 SE 3rd Street Boca Raton, Florida.
Monday - Saturday 9 A.M. to 7 P.M.
Sunday 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.

This was a great little organic grocery store with a deli and juice bar. It contained a lot of the things I envision in my own organic market (should I open one) including a wide selection of packaged raw foods, raw food "baking" ingredients, raw food bars, nuts, and seeds. The most exciting part of 4th Generation Organic Market, in my opinion, was the deli. There were several raw food deli salads, appetizer, and entreés to choose from including:

Raw Enchiladas: Yams, macadamia nuts, and spices

Raw Falafel
Raw Mozzarella Stick

(Unfortunately, I don't remember the ingredients but they were both delicious and tasted astonishingly similar to the real thing from what I can remember ;-)

The deli case contained an entire section devoted to raw food items prepared fresh daily.

Packaged foods leading to the produce department

Time and again, I'm faced with the temptations of highly processed, refined, and sugar-laden "foods" (i.e. toxins). I can only speak from experience, but I assure you the cravings don't last forever. I've been consuming a diet consisting of predominantly raw foods for about 12 months and while pizza, donuts, burgers, french fries, and decadent desserts still trigger my senses in a way that makes my mouth water, the consequences of eating such "foods" outweigh my desire to eat them. The key is to always have an alternative on hand should you find yourself in a similar predicament.

Por ejemplo:

My immediate family took a short road trip down to the Florida Keys.

Along the way, we stopped at a Dunkin'Donuts where my brother ordered a half dozen donuts.

Jenny ordered an omelet sandwich with ham and some coffee.

Mom ordered a muffin and tea.

I stayed in the car and ate a handful of raw mixed nuts. No temptation. No sticky fingers. Chalk full of selenium (brazil nuts), vitamin E (sunflower seeds) and the mood-enhancing amino acid tryptophan (pumpkin seeds)!

I win.
We made it to Bahia Honda on Big Pine Key
At the time of this photo, I was reading a book called "80-10-10" by Dr. Douglas Graham. "80-10-10" is a low-fat raw vegan lifestyle comprising of 80% carbohydrates (from sweet fruits), 10% protein (from vegetables, nuts and seeds), and 10% fat (from fatty fruits like avocados/olives and nuts/seeds). Dr. Graham claims 80-10-10 is the most effective dietary lifestyle for optimum health and athleticism.  He basis his claims on scientific studies, personal experience, and discusses various cultures with the healthiest and longest living people whose diet breaks down into a similar ratio of high carbohydrates, low protein, and low fat.

More on this topic and the different types of raw food diets in a future post!
Located on US 1 at mile marker 30.2
Big Pine Key, Florida
Monday - Saturday 9:30 to 7:00 P.M.
Sunday 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Also, located in Big Pine Key is a quaint little natural food store called Good Food Conspiracy Health Food Market (juice bar and deli). We all got fresh juice, smoothies, and lunch. They have daily vegan soup options, salads, vegan and vegetarian sandwiches with some organic ingredients (but not exclusively organic).
They pack a lot of STUFF into this place.

Fortunately, they also had an outside seating area...

917 Simonton Street
Key West, FL 33040-7450
(305) 292-0043
After crossing the 7-mile bridge, we arrived in Key West where we found Sugar Apple Natural Foods. Although, we didn't have time to check it out the night we got there, we did stop in for breakfast the following morning and enjoyed some fresh juice. Unfortunately, my camera battery died before I could capture any inside photos. I do remember them carrying raw packaged goods, dehydrated crackers, cookies, desserts, and salads in their cooler from Glaser Organic Farms (a local southern Florida Farm that makes and distributes pre-made vegan raw food items). Their juice bar also sold mostly if not exclusively vegan soups, salads, and sandwiches. Good find. 

For more info on Glaser Organics click here.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

The journey has begun!

Aaah! I have finally been reunited with my laptop after a four-week separation. I just uploaded hundreds of photos from the last couple weeks of traveling and I plan to update the blog asap. Stay tuned, kids. You won't want to miss hearing about the myriad restaurants, natural food stores, and farmer's markets I've had the opportunity to experience.

Current location: Sonoma, California

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