blog, Raw Food Adventures, Restaurant Review

Bartertown Diner, Vegan Raw Restaurant Review

 

bartertown vegan diner grand rapids
good vegan eats

Recently I was in Grand Rapids, MI on a raw food detox mission. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of this covert operation at this time… just kidding. I was there doing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raw Food Detox stuff and visiting Lansing for a raw potluck and screening of Forks Over Knives. If you haven’t seen Forks Over Knives you need to get with it and watch it online, rent it, buy it… you could even steal it as long as you promise to show it to everyone in your life. It’s great to see conscious media catching on. This movie was made for all those people that felt totally jipped when they watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Yeah, you know the film about global warming that completely overlooks factory farming’s contribution to green house gas emission… it tops all of the worlds motor vehicle emissions. Al Gore was too busy tending cattle on his family farm and polishing his Oscar and Nobel Peace prize to notice Livestock’s Long Shadow. No worries, even though Forks Over Knives is about degenerative diseases and diet they still manage to squeeze the facts in. Livestock production is the main source of human-made methane which is responsible for 22% of man’s total contribution. I say “man” because I think if it were left up to woman, factory farms would have never come into existence.

The film screening was a great success with close to 100 people showing up. I had the honors of conducting the Q and A session after the screening. A big

forks over knives lansing
full theater in Lansing, MI

“THANK YOU” to Charles Terry for organizing the event in Lansing.

Grand Rapids, MI is one of my new favorite cities. The city has a cozy and clean downtown surrounded by welcoming neighborhoods. There’s a mixture of college housing and residential homes from the turn of the century. My friend Kim lives with in walking distance of the local vegan restaurant Bartertown Diner. This blurb from their website rings true with me for many reasons:

“We as Chefs want to take back the food  and serve it to you the way it was meant to be: fresh and local. We are craftsmen and want to have the space to perform our craft for you. At Bartertown education is the key. We will not hide recipes from you. We will have classes on cooking raw/vegan and vegi dishes, and what it means to eat this way. Our focus will also be on the having a simple diner atmosphere that will be fun and exciting to visit for all”

Bartertown is also a worker owned business. At the time we visited they were a “cash only” establishment but as of Oct. 18th 2011 it shows on their website that they are taking steps to be able to accept credit/debit cards. We stopped in for lunch and tried all the raw items on the menu that day. Keep in mind this review is coming from a seasoned raw food chef who has done his fair share of work in the trenches. With that said, here’s my review of the raw items we tried.

raw pizza bites
Raw Pizza Bites

Pizza Bites

I expected a little more from a menu item touted as raw pizza. There’s 101 ways to peel a mango and just as many to make “raw pizza” but one thing that is critical for pulling off a believable pizza is a dehydrator for making the crust. Then you need some nut/seed cheese and tomatoes. And the final touch is some herbs to bring it home. This was zucchini slices with a cauliflower medley perched on top of it. It was good, don’t get me wrong. It just needed a more appropriate name.

vegan salad
raw trash salad

Raw Trash Salad

Appropriately named this was a hearty salad combination that took me back to my college days of making “garbage time stew”. That’s where you open the pantry and the refrigerator and just start combining whatever is on hand. The only difference here is that there was some tasty method to the raw trash madness. The salad featured a mound of salad greens, walnut taco meat, marinated veggies, sliced apples and a cashew based creamy dressing. Good eat’n! Once again very fresh and hydrating unlike some of the raw food cuisine you encounter at raw cuisine establishments.

raw zucchini pasta
raw pasta

Zucchini Noodles Salad

This noodle salad was similar to Raw Trash Salad, minus the greens, plus the zucchini noodles, cauliflower and brocolli. Very fresh, very tasty. On their own each of the 3 salads is unique enough taste experience but when you have them all on the table at the same time you notice some similarities and overlapping of ingredients. As a chef I know that at times you must create a variety of menu items out of the same core ingredients. Not a big deal though. I realized that what Bartertown specialized in was vegan, local and seasonal cuisine… raw was just a bonus that I much appreciated.

After to speaking with chef/co-owner Ryan about the raw menu at Bartertown I found out they don’t have a dehydrator on premises. That explains a lot. They’re a vegan cooked diner with some raw food items so it’s not realistic to expect exotic and decadent raw cuisine from them. One thing to keep in mind is that with a seasonal menu things change. What we did get were some great fresh salad combinations featuring local produce, prepared with love and a couple slices of quality raw vegan pie.

raw vegan pie
chocolate and lemon pie

Chocolate Pie, Lemon Pie

Bravo to Jeremy Kuhn of Deliciosity for producing raw vegan pies for Bartertown. We tried both a chocolate and lemon slice of cheese cake style pie. I enjoyed that the chocolate wasn’t super super chocolatey. I noticed slight hints of carob in the coconut oil based filling. The lemon pie was tasty as well with hints of banana. Needless to say when Kim and I left the table there wasn’t any food left behind. There’s more to the menu at Bartertown then just raw food so if you’re in Grand Rapids, stop in and give them a try. Keep in mind that as of this post they are CLOSED TUESDAYS. Grow your own, buy local, eat seasonally and Keep It Live!

blog, Raw Food Adventures, Recipe

Chef Franky G's Food Challenge 2010

On Saturday I was having a little meditation session, you know quiet time, OK, I was napping while sitting up. While in this peaceful nap state I was thinking about an “Iron Chef” type challenge show that featured rawfood chefs, but not so much a competition as a collaboration. It was a pleasant little concept. When I finished my daydream I checked my email to see that my little dream had come true… to a certain extent, in the form of Food Challenge 2010 from Chef Frank Giglio. First off, let me tell you about Frank Giglio. Frank is an amazing chef, athlete and an all around swell guy. He was the first apprentice to greet me when I stumbled into the dorms at The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in the dark of night… actually there was another apprentice there as well, but Frank was my roomie for the last few weeks of his apprenticeship, so he gets top billing. That was back in September of 2007. Franky was offered a managing chef position at the TOL cafe and it was during that time that he taught me a thing or two about cheffing Franky G style… beet pesto, who would have thought it would taste so good?

So what’s the Food Challenge 2010? Here’s an excerpt from his site:

Take a look into your cupboard or fridge and pick a few ingredients that you don’t know how to use, or that need to be used up.  With the list, I will then create a recipe for you.  You then try it out, maybe take a picture, then send it back to me.  If the dish was a hit, then I get a thumbs up!

So I’m sending out my challenge in video form to Chef Frank. If he wants to send one back I welcome it. And for those of you at home… send in your challenge to me or Frank if you’d like.

Keep It Live!  Adam