blog, Raw Food Adventures, Restaurant Review

2012 Here We Come

durian_smoothie_better_life_LA

The beginning of 2012 is only days away. Are you ready? Do you have your RAW 2012 Calendar? It’s loaded with 13 raw recipes from me.

It’s likely that 2012 will be the most over-hyped year I will see in my lifetime, second only to the uneventful year 2000 and all the Y2K foolishness. Anyone living above ground and keeping up with headlines is well aware that things are heating up on all fronts… economic, political, social, agricultural, spiritual… if you can name it, it’s likely that it’s changing dramatically for better or for worse. We all must do our best to see the big picture regarding the changes that are occurring. In isolation, the news headlines can be a bit scary and I believe that’s the whole point, to scare the public. We need to look beyond the manufactured headlines and try to see the whole picture. I see antiquated, exploitative, unsustainable, unbalanced, unhealthy, unfair and unethical systems being dismantled. The news media isn’t going to point this out because they’re an important part of this dysfunctional system that is on the way out. So it is our responsibility as conscious and accountable individuals to read between the lines and move in the direction of positive change. If you’re reading this then what I’m saying most likely resonates with you, and life is all about resonance and the vibration of things.

One of the best ways I’ve found to raise my vibration is by my food choices. We eat food for energy and energy is vibration so the foods with the highest vibration are the best sources of energy. These foods are fresh, naturally grown, whole foods which include fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds and sea veggies. Fermented foods like miso, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi are also high in vibration.

Things to avoid are low vibration foods or foods with dissonant vibrations. These foods stress the body and create imbalances that eventually lead to disease. To be avoided are flesh foods (meat, fish, eggs), dairy, fried foods, processed foods, white sugar, white flour, corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, synthetic drugs, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, soft drinks and anything made with genetically modified ingredients. I like to say, “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” Stress is a dissonant frequency that should be avoided as well. This is often easier said than done being that almost anything can be a potential stressor. Just remember to breath and be grateful. We are truly blessed. Thoughts and intention have been shown to have an effect on the vibration of things. With this in mind think positively and bless your food and drink with intention when ever possible.

Speaking of being blessed, I recently toured Los Angeles, California and visited an array of raw food restaurants. Here’s a rundown of some of the spots I visited:

Cru_raw_vegan_LA_cafeCru

1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026 / tel: (323) 667-1551

Silverlake is a hip section of LA which is home to Cru, a raw vegan cafe featuring some fine raw cuisine.The decor inside Cru is minimal and sparse but the food is full of flavor and color. I dined that evening with my friend Robyn who was nursing a broken jaw. She ordered a fresh green juice while I enjoyed a young Thai coconut and ordered the evening special – Jicama Raviolis. The presentation was divine, price was right and the portion ample. Oh yeah and it delicious as well.

Cru_slivelake_LA_raw_ravioli

I followed up the entree with a slice of blueberry/strawberry pie which was great… not a religious experience like pie at Cafe Gratitude, but good. In keeping with the minimal decor, the slice was decorated with a strawberry fraiche.  I’m not one to pass on dessert and I didn’t pass on this one, plate was licked clean.

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Nice Slice

Better Life Cuisine

717 Broadway Ave. Santa Monica, Ca 90401 / Tel: 310-458-7620

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Gigantoid Burrito

Better Life Cuisine is home of the “big a$$ burrito”. Enter with an appetite and leave satisfied and with a “to go” container. I enjoyed not only the fried bean burrito but also a durian smoothie, cinnamon bun and kale chips. Everything was fresh, tasty and well priced. The only challenge was finding the place. We had blindly followed the directions from the GPS which had us driving in circles in Venice. Fortunately we didn’t give up on our quest. Check out my video review below and remember to Keep It Live!

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The Atlanta Raw Scene

Loaded with Loquats

I’m off again on another adventure. This time I loaded up the car and headed north, final destination Watervliet, Michigan. Before I got on the road I needed to gather provisions for my travels. As food prices continue to rise I continue to take advantage of the natural abundance that gets ignored and overlooked. Eventually people will wake up to the abundance in their yards but until then it’s just more for me.

Mid April is harvest time for delicious and abundant wild fruits in Florida: mulberries and loquats. If you know what to look for, mulberry trees become a popular part of the landscape. They grow all across the world in both temperate and subtropical climates. I recall feasting on backyard mulberries when I was 8 years old in Chicago and now I do the same thing in Florida. The red/black mulberry is easy to spot by looking for the dark fruits littering and staining the ground. They also fill the bellies of birds that feed upon the berries. When the birds are dropping purple windshield bombs you know it’s mulberry season. Black mulberries are another quality “purple food” that is loaded with the antioxidant anthocyanin . Mulberry trees are in the Moraceae family which also include fig and breadfruit trees. One of the cool things about harvesting mulberries is that all that is needed to collect the fruit is a gentle nudge from your fingertip. When the berries are ripe a gentle breeze or the shaking of the branch will drop them from the tree. Armed with a container in one hand and an extended finger, I nudge the darkest berries. The ones that are ripe just fall into the container and if they hold on to the tree they aren’t ready to harvest. Using this method has allowed me to harvest a couple pounds of berries in a half hour. Be aware, tiny little insects called thrips are often on many of the berries. They’re hardly noticeable unless you really look. If you have an aversion to eating bugs, be sure to submerge the berries for a half hour and then rinse and drain them before eating. Enjoy them on their own or in a fruit salad. Freeze extras to add to smoothies or to make sorbet/ice cream. Use fresh mulberries to give a basic salad dressing a purple twist like we did with this kale salad.

Mulberry Dressing
Mulberry Bowl

Loquat is the second Spring time treat down in Florida and in other states and countries with a similar climate. Loquat trees are a very common decorative tree in Florida, funny thing is is that few people make an effort to eat them. They are also called Japanese or Chinese plum. There are a lot of wild growing foods that we overlook and waste in the States. Mulberries, figs and loquat top the list. That same loquat that goes unpicked and gets devoured by birds in Florida I’ve seen for sale in markets in Taiwan, France and Italy. It’s such a traditional food in Italy that my Italian grandmother used to climb up on the patio furniture (in her 80’s) to harvest “nespola” from my aunt’s pool side tree in San Diego. She didn’t know what they were called in English but she knew you could eat them. So now I carry on the tradition and feast upon the loquats whenever they’re in season. Loquat are in the Rosaceae family and are not related to kumquats which is a citrus fruit. The Rosaceae family includes roses, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and all of the stone fruits. The seeds of apples, stone fruits and even loquat contain trace amounts of cyanogenic glycosides which break down into cyanide when digested. Don’t worry though, you would need to eat a ridiculous amount of the bitter tasting seeds to cause any ill effects. Some argue that this cyanide compound has anti-cancer properties but that’s something you’ll have to research yourself.

Nespola/Loquat Shopping

With my van packed and provisions harvested I plotted a course for Michigan but first I had a stop in Atlanta, GA for a durian night meetup with Raw Food Atlanta. A few days prior I connected with the group through through meetup.com online but I had also met some of the members at Raw Spirit Fest in Maryland back in 2009. Kent put me up in his guest room and hosted a durian night with the meetup group. I was also able to reconnect with Dr. Sam (Samuel A. Mielcarski, DPT) who is a regular speaker and mentor in the raw food world. He gave me a copy of his wellness handbook Revolutionary Rehab Manual and I hooked him up with a copy of my book Zen and the Art of Gadgeting. I’m getting ahead of myself though, before arriving at durian night I first had to procure a durian. Kent gave me the low down on where to get the best deals on durians and all my other bulk produce needs: Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Decatur, GA. This place is The Promised Land for raw foodies and fresh food lovers alike. It’s a Home Depot sized produce market, unbelievable. Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures to be taken inside, but that didn’t stop me from snapping a few picts outside. The place was unbelievable and so were the prices. I was able to get: 1 jackfruit(6.7lb), 1 durian(5.4lb), 10lb organic oranges, 10 mangoes, 4 avocados, 2 lbs organic dates, 1 lb cashews, 2 lbs of pecans for $60. In hindsight I should have loaded my van to the gills but that’s all I got. At Kent’s house there were more durians waiting… at least 8 in total for a meetup with that many people. Needless to say we didn’t finish all the durian but we had a good time trying.

$60 well spent

The next morning I visited one of the local farmer’s markets with Kent and Dr. Sam. We visited fellow meetup member Brian selling coconut macaroons at the farmer’s market. He recently launched The Macaroon Company which provides delicious organic, gluten-free, dairy-free treats in a variety of flavors. He hooked me up with a bag of chocolate orange macaroons that made my big toe shoot out my boot… good stuff.

After the market I dropped by Dr. Sam’s home and backyard garden and fruit orchard. He gave me a tour, showing off all his fruit trees. He was especially proud of his almond trees that already had fruit on them. It was about noon when I got on the road, leaving the South. A check of the weather revealed that I made a wise decision to pack my cold weather gear. My final destination greeted me with 40 degree temperatures and wet conditions… looks like I get to do Spring all over again in Michigan. Check back for my next post on Wild Foraging. More tasty treats growing abundantly in the wild. Until next time… Keep it Live!

Durians
blog, How To, Raw Food Adventures

Durian is back on the menu

Most of you out there probably weren’t aware that during the summer we were in the midst of a durian drought. Not to worry, the drought is over. For those of you who haven’t been formally introduced to durian or had an official durian experience… allow me to make the introduction:

Meet Durian: King of Fruits
Meet Durian: King of Fruits

Durian, commonly referred to as the “King of Fruits” is a tropical fruit that grows on some the oldest living and tallest fruit trees in nature. Durian has 3 properties that make it the King and make it unique: smell, texture and taste.

First off durian has a high sulfur content, which is the chemical that gives garlic, onions and eggs their distinct odor. The potent odor given off by a durian has gotten it banned from public transportation and places like theaters and hotels in Southeast Asia. Don’t be surprised if you hear comments from unschooled observers first encountering durian like, “is there a gas leak?” or “did the cat pee in the corner?” No two durians smell the same and the smell evolves as the fruit ripens as well. It’s this smell that attracts tropical wild life like tigers, orangutan and elephants who are known to savor a good durian.

So if you’ve made it past the smell, now comes the texture. Durian is one of the few fruits having a high fat content like avocado and olives. Durian also has the highest protein content of any fruit. Durian is the total package: fat, protein and sweetness (carbs). No wonder they call it the King. This combination of fat, protein and sweetness give durian the texture of custard when fresh and ice cream when frozen.

It all comes down to flavor and durian is not lacking in that department. In truth, the taste defies all description and any attempt to describe the taste is an injustice that has the potential to deter an individual from having their own durian experience. I’m not going to lie to you, many of the descriptions you will come across regarding the taste of durian is unflattering at the least extreme and hostile at the greatest extreme.

What's that smell?
What's that smell?

One critic compares Durian to “crème cheese onion sauce and sherry wine” another “its taste can only be described as indescribable, something you’ll either love or despise… Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” I know what you’re thinking, “why the hell would I want to eat that?” I’m not sure I can persuade you with words. Let me just say I equate eating durian with a religious or shamanic experience. The durian fruit is considered a warming food, stimulant and aphrodisiac. It’s funny that the foods that compliment durian are aphrodisiacs as well like nutmeg, vanilla and cacao. When consuming durian, especially for the first time,  preparing yourself and the dining environment is a must. Durian can’t be consumed casually like picking up a slushy at the Quickie Mart. A certain amount of reverence has to be shown to a fruit that weighs in at around 8 pounds and is protected by a hard spiked shell. Light some candles, turn down the lights, put on some tribal rythymns and open your heart and mind. Enjoy this brief video introduction to Durian, the King of Fruits: