New York City is such a vibrant happening place that you can’t help but feel great when you step off the plane into this exciting whirlwind of life going on. When I visited back in January I knew that finding terrific healthy food would be mandatory to maintain my energy with an alkaline diet while traveling and with the incredible offerings in NYC I had no doubt I would find what I craved. I intentionally stayed close to two perfect businesses that offered exactly ‘what the doc ordered’! Doing so saved me hauling my juicer (which I’ve been know to drag on airplanes explaining to x-ray technicians what the hey was in my carry on) since I could easily pick up my fresh morning juice and/or smoothie along with an array of raw breakfast nibblies. Can I tell you… I was in heaven, floating on a cloud, with a rainbow over my head! And for dinner, let me tell you… I was seen at the restaurant more than once–eek, 3x’s in only 4 days!! Have you done this before? …been traveling and your restaurant meal was so friggin’ good, you don’t know when or if you’ll ever return so you have it again, and maybe again? Uh Huh… I know it’s crazy when you are overcome like this, it happens, but guess what? This time I was dining on the healthiest food on the planet, no kidding! No guilt from an indulgent, gourmet meal eaten far too many times! Wanna know where I was?? Read on and I’ll share my favourite spots.
I’ve been a bit of a fanatic with books since I chose an alkaline lifestyle 2 1/2 years ago and friends know this, so they also contribute to my ever growing library of books on health and raw, vegan or vegetarian cook books. Two of my favourite books are authored by Sarma Melngailis, Raw Food Real World & Living Raw Food and I often pour over the gorgeous healthy food and recipes for inspiration or as a reminder of how tasty and fabulous healthy food can be. I’ve also bought many a book that has few or none photos but it’s the designer in me that is sooo attracted to aesthetics that makes me fall for gorgeous books. And wouldn’t you know, Sarma also owns two amazing places to find this yummy food in NYC where I was headed. So naturally I thought, while I’m there, I should help spread the word about my favourite places to eat. All I had to do was ask Sarma for an interview and she so kindly obliged! and we had lunch! at her restaurant called Pure Food and Wine and that was after I’d already had my juice at her adjacent One Lucky Duck juice bar. Sooooo glad my hotel was near cuz it was faaahreeeezing outside-we had had threats of another record December snow storm over the city that thank goodness hardly materialized or I’d have been stuck for a few extra days-but at least I know I would have eaten well! (how can you tell I’m a fair weather Pacific Northwest gal!)
Today I have a recipe to share with you created by Sarma from her Living Raw Book that I tinkered with a bit. And…. you will get a chance to know Sarma a little better and her story from Wall Street to Raw Food Restauranteur & Author.
I’ll start with the tasty recipe and you can scroll down anytime for our chat over lunch.
Sesame Mixed Vegetable Noodles
Yield: Approx 10 cups or 4 generous servings
1/2 daikon radish, julienned or spiral noodle cut, about 2-3 cups
2 small yellow zucchini or patti pans, julienned or spiral noodle cut, about 2 cups
2 carrots carrots, julienned, about 1 cup
snow peas, thinly slivered, about 1 cup
2 cups arugula
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
for the sauce
3/4 cup tahini, preferrably raw but either will do
1/4 cup braggs liquid aminos
1 tsp freshly grated ginger, optional
juice of 1-2 lemons or 1/4 cup
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil, optional (this isn’t raw)
1-2 tbsp filtered water
1 mango, thinly slivered about 1/2 cup
black sesame seeds or white for garnish
Combine vegetables & herbs in a large, pretty bowl and toss. Combine remaining ingredients except water in a measuring cup and stir well, adding filtered water a bit at a time until smooth and creamy. Either offer the sauce on the side or toss only what you will be serve. Both the noodles and the sauce keep well separately so this can be a quick and easy meal the next day. Garnish with slivered mango, sesame seeds and a sprig of cilantro. Enjoy:)
I chose to tweek the recipe a wee bit cuz I typically don’t eat miso (fermented soy beans) because they are fermented. Dr. Young, author of the pH Miracle suggests that yeast, fungus and mold are the roots of disease so when ever possible I choose not to eat them. It means that now and again I can still enjoy a glass of white wine that too is fermented but THAT can be my zigging and zagging! I substituted braggs liquid aminos (not fermented or heated and Gluten-Free) and some toasted sesame oil (I know it’s not raw but it’s optional). I also used a couple different veggies and added a wee bit of slivered mango.
Go easy with combining sweet fruits and veggies as small amounts will not really disrupt your digestion but if you over do it, you’ll pay for a poor food combination. Fruits digest quicker than any other food, veggies being 2nd fastest so it’s tricky for your system to handle over doses of unmatched foods.
Sarma suggests that you can really get creative with this recipe and use what you can find that looks fresh and local at the market as the sauce pairs nicely with most any veggies. The tasty dressing keeps well so any extra is ready for a quick meal with the simplest being just a pile of zucchini noodles.
When I arrived at Pure Food and Wine I was greeted by the friendly staff and seated at a Sarma’s favourite table. Outside it was verrry chilly but inside the restaurant, warm reds, deep browns and twinkling candles instantly made me feel welcome and cozy. Only moments later Sarma arrived, looking fresh, vibrant and excited to meet me. After peeking at the extensive menu we both decided on a salad, an eeeenormous bowl of greens upon greens that was just delicious, topped with raw cracker croutons. But somehow I wondered if I should have blended my greens as it was tricky chewing those tasty greens AND talking up a storm! But I got thru it and was thoroughly energized by both the salad and Sarma’s energy as she shared the answers to my curiosities that I hope you will also find intriguing and enjoyable to read. So here we go!
How did you wind up choosing such a healthy raw food lifestyle?
It was completely by accident since I always ate everything prior. I chose to study at the French Culinary Institute (after 6 really rough years working in Finance in NYC surrounded by volumes of bagels, cookies, coffee, and less then healthy takeout junkies) and shortly thereafter I found myself very inspired during a meal at a raw cafe that a friend invited me to. The food was delicious and I couldn’t help but notice the healthy vibrant pretty girls that were waltzing in and out living a raw food lifestyle. I was intrigued, this was an ‘lightbulb’ moment for me. I didn’t suffer from any health issues so my motivation to try this lifestyle was purely out of great curiosity and I decided I really liked it and felt great when I ate this way, so it stuck.
If you had to explain the raw food lifestyle to someone who had never heard of it how would you define it?
You could say raw vegan, but it’s essentially a diet of raw plant based foods; fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains grown wild or organically and unprocessed nor heated over 115f to maintain the live enzymes. Some may eat raw meats such as fish, but most do not, and for the most part ‘raw’ refers to raw-vegan. It’s eating as naturally as possible, the way you would likely eat if you were left alone on a tropical island, living and eating fresh plant foods, unadulterated.
Why do you continue to maintain a raw food diet?
I LOVE how I feel eating raw food–when I first went raw it was like an awakening, a cloud lifting. I hadn’t known it was possible to feel that good. Also, I like to be mindful of the social and environmental impacts of our food, and I maintain organic choices as often as possible, buying from local green markets.
Is raw food a new trend or is this something that has been around for a while?
It’s been about 8 years for me since I chose this lifestyle but it’s certainly been around for a really long time–it’s only that more recently it’s been getting more attention in the press. Celebrities might make it seem trendy as they experiment with it, but for a lot of people it’s a permanent shift. It may fall in and out of favour with the media, but more and more people are choosing this healthy, more natural approach to eating. Right now with such enormous health issues nationwide we are seeing a real shift where people are realizing the health impacts of eating more naturally, and part of that is increasing their raw food consumption.
Did you gradually go raw or was it cold turkey?
I had to slowly phase out coffee and diet coke, since the cola was a daily thing for me during my years in the financial world. And of course if you go cold turkey with those addictive substances you get migranes and such. But otherwise, yes, I went totally raw from the beginning mainly because I thought I was only going to be doing it for a two week experiment. That’s how I started, but less than a full week into it I felt so amazing and awakened, that I realized it was going to be a permanent change.
How committed are you to your lifestyle? Do you eat 100% raw?
I don’t eat 100% raw. I like to say I’m mostly raw, most of the time. It’s easy for me with my restaurant and all our food from One Lucky Duck to have whenever I want, and fresh green juice, so I’m spoiled. But when I’m traveling or going out to a new restaurant or to a business dinner, I’ll try other foods. It’s most important to me that it’s quality food, quality natural ingredients. For example, if I’m at my Mom’s house and she brings home eggs from the neighbors farm… I’ll probably be eating some. But I don’t ever want to be a ‘consumer’ of the less natural products, I don’t ever want my dollars or choices supporting the parts of the food industry that are destructive and cruel.
Do you take supplements?
On a regular basis, I take MSM, enzymes, and adaptgens to maintain my thyroid health but I believe that you can get most of what you need nutrient wise from raw foods. I also take B-12 and some green powder supplements. If we lived where the soil was as nutrient rich as it was meant to be, supplementing wouldn’t be necessary, I think. But living in a city like New York and in a somewhat polluted environment, taking extra precautions can help a lot. And taking good care to eat those foods that are rich in certain nutrients, like Brazil nuts are high in selenium, something most people are deficient in. Hemp seeds are a great source of Omega-3’s, so while hemp seeds and Brazil nuts aren’t “supplements” I do make an effort to eat those, and certain other foods, for their particular nutritional qualities.
Can you share your top 3 or 4 health benefits of a raw diet?
Dramatically increased energy levels, sleeping well, brain clairty and most exciting of all, no more PMS! In a less specific way, there’s a clarity and happiness that usually comes along with it too. About a year after I went raw, my sister said I seemed like a different person–she said I was just “more open”, which I think is a good thing!
How did the businesses begin & what’s your role?
After my meal in the raw food cafe I began researching, experimenting with raw food noticing exciting changes in the way I felt. My partner at the time and I saw an opportunity to create a comfortable, sexy and inviting space that would attract not simply raw foodists, vegans or vegetarians but anyone who is interested in eating vibrant, flavourful food, perhaps trying something new AND feeling great! Pure Food and Wine was born the summer of 2004, minus ovens, burners, fryers & grills! The majority of our guests on any given night are not vegetarians, some may be interested in raw food but are just there to enjoy the experience for what it is. And sometimes because our menu doesn’t even say everything is raw, one may not realize that they just ate an entirely raw meal.
As for One Lucky Duck, the website grew out of a desire to create a fun online source for all the unusual and hard-to-find ingredients people would need to go with the recipes in my books and then also as an online store for our own packaged raw cookies and other snack items. I wanted a cute brand name that people would remember so I went with the duck, and then we rebranded our existing juice bar connected to Pure Food and Wine as One Lucky Duck. Our 2nd location for One Lucky Duck opened not long ago in the Chelsea Market with more restaurant items, snacks, juices and shakes. We also carry my books at all the locations. The first, Raw Food Real World, with Matthew Kenney and my most recent, Living Raw Food.
Can you name a few of your favourite raw meals?
Personally I love to eat a huge salad… I’m a big fan of kale, and we have a salad on our lunch and One Lucky Duck menu that’s made with shredded cabbage, with a sweet sesame dressing, wasabi cream, and crunchy salted cashews and black sesame seeds, and cilantro. I could eat a bucketful of that salad every day. For dessert, I always want one of our mallomars, or a sundae, or else from home, I’ll eat out of a pint, our own raw ice cream-almond butter cup is the best flavor.
Do you cook at home much when you could easily eat at work?
Not very much as I am here so often, but I do make my green shakes in a large batch as they keep well.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you could turn the clocks back a little?
I learned some hard lessons where I didn’t listen to my instincts, choosing the wrong people, but it makes you stronger and wiser.
What’s your favourite thing about owning your own restaurant?
While you aren’t free as you are attached to the space, you are your own boss and in control of creating something wonderful. I do like the flexibility that I create. I can’t imagine not doing a restaurant. It’s hard work but I love it. In my first week on Wall Street I put in exactly 111 hours but this is much more enjoyable even when I work long hours–it doesn’t feel like ‘work’.
Can you tell us a little about writing your cookbooks-did you enjoy the process?
Some say it parallels to child birth! It can be an enjoyable process creatively, but also painful, aggravating, and you just can’t wait to get it done and ‘birth’ it out. Then, once it’s out, you forget how hard the process was and want to do it all over again! On top of everything else that I already do with the restaurant and website and other projects, it’s hard to get books done. This last book, Living Raw Food, I wrote mostly in the middle of the night as that was when it was quiet enough for me to focus productively.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of your business, sharing your passion?
Definitely the feed back from the guests and the readers of my book. When I hear that someone lost 50lbs, or they are happier, or have seen improvements in their kids health, it makes it all so much more worthwhile. I like how I can reach and hear from people via the books and also thru my blog, the rest is one on one in the restaurant. I’m lucky to have a great staff of which all of us are a close team and we work hard together. They’re truly amazing people and they keep it all running well. I have lots to be grateful for.
So there you have it, a nice chat with a super gal that is making a difference in peoples lives by inspiring healthy food offerings, either elegantly prepared for you or recipes that you can make in your own kitchen. It was an absolute pleasure meeting Sarma and working with her on this post. I look forward to another occasion to be in New York so I can dine on her delicious food. Thank you Sarma! And if you made it to the bottom of this lengthy post, I thank you for hanging in there:)
I’m headed off to an exciting Food Blog Forum in Orlando, Florida this weekend (sooo excited to be inspired by some incredible bloggers and meet fellow blogging students). Then I am off to London, England, to meet Holly Becker of Decor8 and join in the celebration of her first Book Launch at Liberty of London for her very first book, Decorate. Can’t wait to get my signed copy of her book and peek inside at the gorgeous inspiration she has gathered from all around the world. But don’t worry… I’ll have a post or two for you to read while I’m away!
Hope the sun shines on you and that spring really truly arrives while I’m gone! (it’s been in hiding for some time now in our neck of the woods)
psst. If you are game to read just a little more Durango Mom did and interview with me just on Monday! You can get the scoop on me now!
bowl & glass with buildings, checker edged plate, all from Fishs Eddy, NYC
fabric and cutlery from my own collection