Bringing It Down to the Earth

Posts tagged ‘review’

SOO Good: Cru (Los Angeles, California)

Our Rating: SOO Good
Address: 1521 Griffith Park Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
Hours: Wed – Mon. 5:30pm –10pm Open for lunch Friday and Saturday 12pm – 4pm. Closed Tuesday
Contact: 323-667-1551,

Photo courtesy Cru Los Angeles

Review via Maureen Whitehouse.

This organic, vegan, raw café presents thoughtfully prepares and artfully presents their meals with intention to deeply satisfy their customers. The atmosphere is simple and stylish, the wait staff attentive and the food well prepared. I liked the variety of the menu, catering not just to raw foodists, but to discerning vegans with simple tastes and distinguished palates. The prices are reasonable. But I did feel the salad section to be a bit lacking, especially for a raw food restaurant. I had the house salad, expecting the likes of what I’d experienced at other raw food digs and instead found myself in front of a rather common looking and tasting pile of greens smothered in a way-too-spicy-for-me (and my dining companion, who’s been known to down habanero peppers 3-4 at a time without blinking an eye or shedding a tear) chili lime dressing. I don’t mind eating very spicy food when I’m in the mood for it, but I feel that it should be indicated somehow on the menu.

Photo courtesy Cru Los Angeles

However, the caponata bruschetta more than made up for my dismay. Made with a very fresh Italian chopped vegetable spread in a savory herbed sundried tomato sauce with cashew cheese on a very light but substantial buckwheat flat bread, this appetizer is tastefully bold and satisfying. The wraps, raviolis, pizzas and mezze platter all looked fresh and inviting for those inspired by “fusion” style Asian, South American or Mediterranean dishes. Raw foodists who are especially turned on by cacao—raw chocolate—will be particularly interested in Cru’s dessert selections. Chocolate Brownie a la Mode, Raspberry Chocolate Crepes with Fruit Sorbet and Chocolate Fudge Cake present you with a virtual chocolate nirvana.

Photos courtesy Cru.

SOOOOO Good: Pesce Blue (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

Our Rating: SOOOOO Good
Address: 103 Congress St. Portsmouth, NH 03801
Dinner Hours: 7 nights a week starting at 5:00, Lunch: Monday – Friday 12:00 – 2:00 Brunch: Sunday 10:00 to 2:00
Contact: 603-430-7766

photo by Jack Bingam courtesy Pesce Blue

Review via Maureen Whitehouse

Serendipity brought us to this yummy eatery in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, which I later found out is featured as a dining experience not to miss while visiting Portsmouth in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

I’d hoped to find a Soul-Full dining experience that my almost-vegetarian (fish eating) dinner partners could relish as well one I could feel amazingly good to present to our readers as a sustainable, conscious eating choice. Viola! – Pesce Blue. I found this restaurant to be enchanting. The atmosphere is upscale all-embracing – quite comfortable to sophisticates as well as the tank top/sandal wearing crowd. The wait staff is delightfully attentive and knowledgeable about each dish’s preparation and ingredients, and the owner, Cliff T. Arrand, appears to be easily accessible as he warmly and actively engages in lively dialog with clientele.

The only thing that could possibly have made this dining experience better for me is if I’d opened my eyes after my first sip of organic Pinot Noir, and found myself magically transported to a small coastal town in Italy. Other than that, this is as close to my most favorite Italian dining experiences (and I’ve had many) that I could imagine reveling in while on US soil. This is a high-end Italian eatery—no heavy sauces, just light, obviously inspired and deliciously composed dishes. As a mostly vegan eater (I eat cheese every once in a great while), I found plenty on this menu to delight me, although most of it was in the form of very fulfilling appetizers, sides, salads and pastas. While my dining companions and I munched on hand-rolled and home baked herb breadsticks, focaccia and chipata I found it was terrifically difficult to choose between the Roasted Stuffed Baby Artichokes – filled with goat cheese, lemon and herbs, and dressed with an olive vinaigrette, the Local Roasted Tomato and Basil Salad with reduced balsamic vinegar and Mint and Pine Nut Stuffed Gnocchi. They found the Pesca (Fish) Selections, such as the Risotto al Pescatore (seafood risotto) and Griglia Mista (Assortment of grilled fish) to be equally enticing.

Photo by Jack Bingham courtsey Pesce Blue

A good portion of the Pesce Blue menu changes daily, depending on what foods are in season and can be found locally from New Hampshire farms as well as what’s the local catch—I was told that the only fish on the menu that was not caught in local waters the evening I dined there was the tuna. Which, as many of you know, is best to avoid anyway (for more info, see the “fish to avoid” column of the Fish List found on pg.162 of Soul-Full Eating) because tuna is unsustainably over-fished worldwide, and also due to the fact that as a larger fish, it contains the highest levels of ocean contamination, including inordinate
amounts of toxic chemicals such as PCBs and mercury.

One of my most ardent suggestions is that you begin your dining experience at Pesce Blue with the “Street Food,” dreamily reminiscent of the signature foods you can buy from vendors on the streets of Italy, such as Aroncini—wild mushroom risotto balls filled with goat cheese (yes,I splurged here and allowed myself this non-vegan delight!),Croquette—truffled potato rolled and breaded with lemon aioli, and Mozarella in Carozza—bread dough with fresh mozzarella served with warm marinara. It’s rustically luscious. And the deserts… nothing short of edible works of art – they’re “to live for!”

Photos by Jack Bingam courtesy Pesce Blue.

SOOOOO Good: 118 Degrees (Orange County, California).

Our Rating: SOOOOO Good!

Address: 2981 Bristol St Ste B-5 Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 9am to 10pm (last seating at 9pm)
Sun. 10am – 9pm (last seating at 8pm), Sunday Brunch 10am to 3pm
Contact: 714-754-0718,

Via Maureen Whitehouse…

Sustainable, organic, love-filled, vegan, raw food that’s entirely out of this world!

Venturing out of downtown LA to explore what was, for me, the uncharted territory of Orange County was interesting enough. But my excursion to 118 Degrees became even more captivating when I found myself in Costa Mesa’s oasis of consciousness known to locals as “The Camp.” This eclectic and innovative neighborhood has been labeled an “anti-mall adventure,” a small enclave of hip, eco- and health-conscious businesses, including Patagonia, Cyclewerks, Bikram Yoga, Native Foods and Humanitaire, which sells vegan, faux-leather fashions, footwear and bags.

Back to 118 Degrees…

The restaurant’s design shows a sense of style and sensitivity that’s warm and inviting. We chose a table by the window with a view of the entire restaurant and its open kitchen. Since I’d skipped breakfast that morning, I arrived famished. So my lunch companion and I settled ourselves in for a substantial meal…

The menu is loaded with sumptuous choices, my friend and I opted to share a few dishes so we could not only get a good sampling of the fare, but be sure to fill our bellies. Sometimes getting enough food to satiate a voracious appetite can be a bit challenging at raw food eateries, where meals may be inviting, but diminutive. Happily that is not the case with 118 Degrees, where portions are substantial and the prices still very affordable. We began our dining experience with some “Small Bites” – a Mezze Platter, which is a palate pleasing plate of tahini “cheese” and avocado served with olive bread, cucumber and red bell pepper tapenade. A perfect complement to the Tortilla Soup I’d ordered which I found to be a delightfully light and just-spicy-enough tomato soup with chilies, corn, red bell pepper, and chili squash served with corn chips and avocado.

We moved onto the “Greens” – the salad selection is considerable, so again it wasn’t easy settling on our choices, but we opted to try out the Compressed Spinach Salad – fresh baby spinach tossed with citrus pistachio dressing and herbed cheese, pressed and topped with Applewood Balsamic apple and a half-portion of the Seaweed Salad, which is a lovely presentation of baby romaine tossed with a creamy sesame miso dressing and topped with sea veggie medley along with avocado and coconut strips.
Though my stomach’s growling had by now subsided, I didn’t hesitate to dig in when our entrees arrived. We enjoyed the Lemon Pesto Pasta, spaghetti-thin strips of zucchini with a tangy lemon pesto sauce complimented by mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil, and a Surfer Sandwich, an inventive combination of smashed avocado, kale and mixed vegetables served on house sprouted olive kamut bread.

I must say, the executive chef of 118 Degrees, Jenny Ross has got it all goin’ on. As a decidedly conscious restaurateur she is not just committed to facilitating a superior dining experience for her customers, but when asked, she reveals that she also has a larger, more Soul-Full mission in mind. She feels that by serving the raw food community great food she’s not only helping people be happier and healthier, but advancing the cause of environmentalism. “Eating raw is probably one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the Earth, she says, “You’re eating all plant-based foods, and 99% of the time and you’re supporting organic and biodynamic farming, which replenishes the ecosystem where food is grown. It’s one of the great things you can do for your body, your soul and the planet!”

Forgoing all philosophy, no matter how fulfilling it may be, jf your intention is just to relax and enjoy a superior dining experience 118 Degrees is a sure bet. Not only is Chef Jenny amazingly creative in her dishes, but she is quite happy to make alterations if necessary for those who may have food allergies, sensitivities or express other preferences.
The menu is artful and varied, with sumptuous and satisfying selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner – salads, desserts, smoothies, fresh juices, organic beer and biodynamic wines. And you may lift your eyes between forkfuls to see a famous face or two… as some the more health focused Hollywood celebs have been known to wander in to 118 Degrees for a bite to eat.

118 Degrees mission statement: 118 Degrees serves to empower the community of Orange County with fresh, organic living cuisine, presented in an artful context, to be enjoyed with family and friends. We are here to usher in the future of food by offering a menu that is full of nutrient rich selections that are pleasing to the body and the mind. We hope you’ll join us for a bite, a sip or a divine dessert and enjoy the feel-good energy of organic living cuisine. May you enjoy vibrant health!

As Jenny so Soul-Fully states… “People say the next revolution will be a food revolution, and I believe that.” My intuitive sentiments exactly—You go girl!

Photos courtesy 118 Degrees.

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