THE GOCHISO GOURMET: No stove top needed

I’m sure you all know that a strict vegetarian diet is devoid of all animal flesh. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can still consume animal products like milk, eggs and cheese, usually if said animal products originated from animals that were humanely raised. For pure vegetarians or vegans, however, even humanely raised animal products are taboo, so their diet is totally devoid of animal products. And then there’s the raw vegan diet. In the words of Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” Not only is the raw vegan diet devoid of any animal products, but any processing or “cooking” of the food cannot exceed 118 degrees F (I’ve also seen references citing an upper threshold of 104 degrees F).

Why Raw?
Many converts to the raw vegan diet feel that traditional cooking can produce toxins by the use of excessive heat and destroy vital enzymes in the food. Some also feel that consuming food that is alive is a healthier alternative that can enhance your spiritual well-being as an added benefit. It is known that certain B vitamins and Vitamin C levels are reduced when heat is applied to foods containing these vitamins. On the flip side, heating also liberates other nutrients that would remain trapped in plant cells like lycopene from tomatoes or improving the availability of beta-carotene from carrots. Heating also helps denature natural compounds that reduce the availability of minerals like iron, selenium, calcium and zinc.

Planetary Benefits
Consuming more raw vegetable matter and less animal matter, namely livestock, can help to reduce the production of greenhouse gases several times over. For starters, along with saving the copious amounts of water needed for livestock husbandry, those critters also produce a load of methane. Methane has at least a 20 fold potential as carbon dioxide to trap heat in our atmosphere. And once you get that shrink wrapped piece of meat home, you’re probably cooking it via an electric or gas stove top,  which again creates an abundance of greenhouse gases, since gas and electric burners are usually less than 50 percent efficient at cooking any meal. However, plant matter doesn’t use as much water to propagate, and many veggies don’t even need any cooking — in the case of raw vegan it’s zero cooking. But if you must cook your veggies (or meat for that matter), consider an induction cooker that is 84 percent energy efficient.

Almost a Raw Vegan
I think I’m almost there. I mean, I consume my fair share of raw cuisine like oysters, ahi, salmon and even beef (carpaccio and tartare), but I guess those products wouldn’t make it on the vegan list. In fact, they’re almost polar opposites. But then again, I also consume my fair share of real vegan foods like whole grains, legumes and plant material from the leaves and stems all the way down to the roots. But I do apply heat in the process of preparing these foods especially the grains and legumes so that nixes the raw part. So I guess that makes me a
Sometimes Raw Sometimes Vegan.

But all jokes aside, I do occasionally enjoy a good raw vegan meal and there’s none better in the 50th then Greens and Vines. Run by the wife and husband team of Sylvia and Pete Thompson, it began about 10 years ago after Pete suffered a heart attack and Sylvia was determined to reverse the usual course of heart disease via the vegan diet. The initial business was Licious Dishes, which created raw vegan takeout meals offering several meal plans which eventually spread to various weekly farmer’s markets throughout the state, and with the couple’s love of wine, turned into Greens and Vines which, is now situated in a brick and mortar setting in Honolulu. Sylvia handles the food preparation (remember that nothing is cooked) while Pete manages the restaurant wine list. Greens and Vines serves lunch and dinner and occasionally special wine seminars usually facilitated by one of Hawai‘i’s three master sommeliers. And with the arrival of the Coravin in Hawai‘i, they can offer most of their wine list by the glass if you desire, including a glass of 2010 Sassicaia.
On an earlier visit, we sampled several appetizers including:

Not Tuna2

“Non-Tuna on Onion Bread.” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

*Non-Tuna on Onion Bread
organic sunflower seeds, macadamia nut “mayonnaise,” coconut water, dill, dulse, green onions, celery and Licious Date Mustard.
Bread: organic sunflower seeds, organic brown flax, yellow onions, extra-virgin olive oil and Organic Ohsawa Wheat-Free Tamari

The seed and nut based “mayonnaise” more than adequately replaced the traditional mayonnaise, while the dulce ably substituted for the seafood flavor in tuna. The “bread” provided a pleasing crunch not unlike a good whole grain cracker and tied the dish together.

Falafel Boat
Falafels made of almonds, marinated sweet onions, Ho Farms Tomatoes, tahini sauce, in Kula Butter Lettuce cups.

These falafels obviously weren’t fried, as frying requires at least 350 degrees, so my guess is this dish combined different textures of ground almonds with various spices. The marinated onions balanced the richness of the almonds and tahini while the cherry tomatoes added a vibrant component to the dish.

Living Lasagna
Layers of seasoned zucchini instead of pasta, basil pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, macadamia nut “ricotta,” spinach and sliced tomatoes.

Lasagna2

“Living Lasagna.” photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Though the rich spicy flavors of any good lasagna were there, the zucchini “pasta” really lightened and brightened the flavors of the dish, so much so that I could have had seconds and thirds. This dish really exemplified the fresher flavors that can be created with raw cuisine while still staying true to the original.

Wicked Chocolate Tart
100 percent organic raw cacao powder, organic extra-virgin coconut oil, organic raw agave nectar and an almond crust with organic maple syrup powder.

Wow! What else can I say about this dessert, other than the Mrs. would have consumed a whole dish by herself if you gave her the chance. Rich, chocolaty and decadent!

Greens and Vines also caters and makes Party Platters To Go so even if vegan or raw isn’t your cuisine of choice, the next time you’re visiting the 50th and tire of the endless buffets and rich “vacation” food, consider a take-out or party platter to refresh your taste buds. And sample a glass or two of vino from Pete’s extensive wine list.

Am I a raw vegan convert? Well, as you know I love my “sunny sides” and lox too much to even consider a vegan diet let alone a raw vegan diet, but every now and then, it is a refreshing change from the usual.

Greens and Vines
909 Kapiolani condominium
909 Kapiolani Blvd. Unit B
Honolulu
(808) 536-9680

Dinner: Monday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.
Lunch: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m..
Sundays: Closed

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

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