Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Best Thing About St. Croix (besides new friends) - Raw Food!!!!!

As a reader of this blog you have heard me whine about food quite a bit - especially the lack of choices here in Puerto Rico. I have never been a big fan of meat, especially beef, and beef is the only decent meat here. All other meats (unless it is frozen chicken breasts) have bones and tendons and sinew and skin and tattoos and other gross things attached. Fresh fish? Nope. So going to St. Croix was an opportunity to have a few more choices than Puerto Rico although having been there before I was not expecting much. I was, however, elated to find a Raw/Live Vegetarian Food Restaurant called Lalita! This was a true find and I had a juice drink there one day and had two dinners there which were both superb. I had met a couple local vegetarian people at the airport (one was the nice gal distributing the free rum samples) and they had told me about it.
One of the appetizers was a "pizza." First I have to add a little about "raw" food. Raw food is not cooked. They use a lot of nut pastes made by soaking nuts and macerating them in the food processor and they make a lot of cookies and "baked" goods by dehydrating components that are held together by sugars (agave nectar, honey etc). I think some things at this restaurant were cooked - the bread and tortillas used for sandwiches and maybe this wafer for the pizza? When I suggested the restaurant the people I suggested it to were great sports...but didn't realize it was a raw food restaurant, they thought it was just vegetarian! One of the guys, "Kellog" (his code name) was a little disappointed when I told him his lasagna wouldn't have melted cheese and noodles! He was a great sport and ate there AGAIN, and then AGAIN when his wife joined him on the last day of class! So this "pizza" had a wonton-like crust with basil pesto, Parmesan cheese, tomato, spices and bell pepper puree. It was alright but not my favorite of our choices.

Another thing we tried was the Pad Thai. Since rice noodles are only soaked it counts as raw I suppose but I don't even care about raw or cooked really. I was ecstatic to have yummy, flavorful, and beautiful food! This is the most excited I have been about food in a long time! The white ribbon on top is made of young coconut meat - something we have LOTS of in the yard. The baby greens and reds are things I want to grow hydroponically and I don't know what the sauce was but I figure it is fish sauce, hot peppers, sugar, lime juice and other typical Thai spices.

CJ ordered the watermelon gazpacho which was really yummy and beautiful. There was mango, watermelon, tomato, onion, cilantro and I don't know what else but very flavorful.

I had the beet ravioli. They used a mandolin I suppose to slice the beets. I don't know if they were raw or not - maybe they were tender because of the thinness? Inside was a cashew paste and the sauces were pureed bell pepper. There was pistachio dust on top. Very tasty.

Greg had this spinach soup that had Dr. Seuss-like swirls of pureed bell pepper. Very tasty flavorings.

This is the lasagna and side salad. The "noodles" are shaved zucchini and there was corn, ricotta, some kind of green (spinach?), sun dried tomatoes and other stuff. Kind of a deconstructed lasagna really.

Another appetizer we had were these rolls that had seaweed, avocado, carrot, other veggies and instead of rice - grated jicama! I love the crunch of jicama! Like I said, this was the most excited I have been about food in a long time. For dessert we shared a few things - mango cheesecake, a silky chocolate torte that was killer (very very rich), cookies-n-cream (non dairy non-soy ice cream and a broken up cookie (dehydrated nuts, sugars, and other stuff). All were amazingly delicious!

Besides the raw place I went with Ricardo and Stephen to a sushi sashimi place called Dashi. It was very good and had some nice combinations besides the normal yellow tail (can't get enough of it) and smoked eel (gotta have it). It was Ricardo's first time eating sushi/sashimi and he enjoyed it with only a teeny tiny bit of wasabi.  So I managed to corrupt a few people and get them to try new things with great success. Now I am super excited about getting a raw food cookbook so I can start trying to eat like this at least once a week. I know I can get nuts here and possibly some of the other main ingredients. Instead of growing veggies with fish I will probably go hydroponic and look forward to designing a covered area for that and possibly a few special chickens?


Rosa said...

It looks good, great presentation!

Fran and Steve said...

Somewhere I heard or read that "raw food" can be heated to close to boiling temperature and still be considered "raw". Have yet to try it, but your post and pics have piqued my curiosity.... Fran

Anonymous said...

Depending on what you read some "raw" folks dehydrate only to 104 and others to 118. At some point in the heating process important enzymes and vitamins get destroyed which defeats the point of eating raw. As always I'll probably do a hybrid version where I maybe use raw zuchinni in the spiral cutter as the noodles and have a warm sauce (heated) over it depending on the weather. In the tropics it makes great sense to eat things cold and uses less power too. Eating less processed crap can only be a good thing. Reading about raw stuff is interesting. Like most food you find out things about how they are made that are kind of disturbing. I didn't realize that steel-cut oats and rolled oats are cooked during processing. Sugar isn't vegan because it is processed with bone char. A lot of "better" sugars are processed with heat. I knew fruit was waxed with animal based fats but never thought about oats!

Anonymous said...

There was a good raw food restaurant in Rincon a couple of years ago - but it closed - only tourists used it, only in season.
Ann Wigmore Institute in Aquada is raw, but they do (did?) not offer individual meals, only - heavily overpriced - day passes and thgeir food is the blandest possible (most restrictive) variety of raw food. It helped me lose 20 pounds in 4 months I worked there, and this I remember fondly... especially now, when I need to lose them again...:-(

Anonymous said...

When you have stated that there really isn't any fish to eat in Puerto Rico, what exactly do you mean? Little variety, no access to fish at all, or the waters are 'fished out' and it is all imported so why bother?
Also, from reading your blog it also sounds like leafy greens are pretty much nonexistant too partly because they cannot be grown in such a hot climate. Is that what you have experienced?

Lovin the kit pix...


Anonymous said...

Wil - Puerto Rico imports over 90% of its food but all it imports is stuff you CAN actually grow here somewhere on the island or what they buy is a very limited selection. They import what people want which is mainly Viandas (yucca, name, malenga, yautia, platano, guineo, mostly starches)bad tomatoes (typical not ripe ones), onions, garlic, ginger and green peppers. There is lettuce but it is sad romaine or iceberg. The typical salad here is iceberg lettuce with a single slice of tomato and thousand island dressing. There is frozen fish that is all from China and looks freezer burned. Sam's Club used to carry salmon (farm raised but fresh) but hasn't had either the fresh or frozen lately. Otherwise it is bacalao which is dried, salted codfish. There are a couple fish markets you can get fresh fish from or spearfish for parrot fish, cero, mero, hogfish or a couple other types. Good luck finding anything of size - plus the larger the fish the more likely it could have cygetera toxins (didn't spell that right). I believe everything can grow here but not in the ground. Lettuce is better in January/February but on St. Croix grows in water year-round. There is a climbing spinach vine I just got that seems promising (yes a vine). Tomatoes crack with big rain surges and don't like humidity but cherry tomatoes grow great in the right months. Eggplant grows, beans grow and a host of other things. I think the key will be hydroponics (I have dropped the aquaponics idea - more on that later). There are beautiful fruits and ample great ingredients to work with - just not in the stores and it takes some rethinking about how to use things! Growing in the ground is hard because the ground is either saturated or cracked and no amount of organic material helps! katrina

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the food detail. We have the same POV on food as you do, and miss the variety when we visit Puerto Rico. Wil