Let me say this up front. I am not disciplined enough to become a vegan or a vegetarian. I honestly wouldn’t last a week. All it takes is one sniff of a hot, sizzling steak, and I’m done for! To be fair, I can’t resist hot, buttered popcorn or fresh baked chocolate chips cookies . . . or bread just from the oven . . . or . . .
Knowing that I’m weak in the self discipline department, Mart has long asked me to commit one day a week to eating vegetarian/vegan or raw foods. Fortunately, there are some absolutely wonderful and delightful ways to try out the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, even if only one meal at a time. So for the next few blogs, we’re going to get out and discover some of the best places to eat both healthy and delicious!
Not too long ago, it was explained to me that vegetarians and vegans are not one and the same. A vegetarian practices abstaining from the consumption of red meat, poultry, and the flesh of any animal. Vegetarianism can include variations to the diet as well: Some vegetarians eat include fish in the diets, while an ovo-vegetarian will consume eggs, but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian will include dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products . . . whew! Vegans would take exception to each of these variations of the diet. A vegan is a strict vegetarian whose diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, beeswax and honey.
And then there is the raw food diet, eating only uncooked, unprocessed and often organic or wild foods. Raw food diets may include a selection of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish (such as sashimi), meat (think carpaccio or steak tartare), and non-pasteurized/non-homogenized dairy products. That means raw milk, raw milk chees and raw milk yogurt. It may also include unpasteurized fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut. Does wine fit in that mix? Probably not!
One of the ways I found to fully enjoy my fruits and veggies is a popular new restaurant called Beauty of Sprouts, located on the southwest corner of Fruitville Road and Lemon Avenue. Believe me when I tell you, the clientele is wildly devoted to the owner Rano Halikova, who prepares every dish herself and is always looking for customer suggestions regarding the menu! In fact, if you check out Beauty of Sprouts Facebook page, you’ll see that she posts new menus all the time, which (I’m learning) means she’s only using the absolute best in organic produce.
Beauty of Sprouts is a small venue, with only 15 seats or so. Rano is the server, chef and dishwasher, with a sunny disposition that shows how thrilled she is to serve her delicious food. Our first decision was beverages. A cold ginger tea for me, with Mart trying something he’d never had before; a kombucha. Kombucha is a lightly effervescent, fermented drink made from sweetened tea infused with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast called “scoby.” The scoby in kombucha have been shown to inhibit harmful microorganisms in the system, and both Mart and I really liked the flavor.
As mentioned, the menu at Beauty of Sprouts changes every 5-6 days or so, to reflect the organic ingredients available that day. On the menu most days, however, is Beauty of Sprouts play on Pad Thai. Unlike the versions you normally get at a Thai restaurant, the vegan version doesn’t used processed noodles. This verions is made with kelp noodles, mixed vegetables, sprouts and cilantro, mixed with a tangy coconut tamarind dressing. The flavor profile isn’t exactly like a standard Pad Thai, but a few bites in, you’re ready to let any preconceived notions on what the dish was “supposed” to taste like, and just enjoy the flavors in front of you. This was one of those “I’m ording this again” dishes.
I wanted to try something completely different, and after reading the menu, I wondered what Beauty of Sprouts “Pasta” would taste like, since there is absolutely no pasta – wheat, rice or otherwise in the pasta dish at Beauty of Sprouts. Instead zucchini is sliced into fine strips, like spaghetti (only shorter) with ginger coconut, turmeric sauce, peanuts and a carrot garlic salad on top. This dish was almost too beautiful to eat! But I was there for a nutritious meal, and I felt absolutely empowered for having done so! I especially like the crunchy texture and freshness of my “pasta” and refused to leave until every last morsel was gone from my bowl.
Celebrating a healthy vegan or vegetarian menu doesn’t mean shying away from dessert. Mart and I decided to share a Chocolate Bliss for dessert, which got one of those “wow” reactions from both of us. Thicker than a mousse, but thinner than fudge, the Chocolate Bliss is made from Irish Moss, cacao and almond milk. Irish moss, I come to find out (thank you, Wikipedia) is a red alage (seaweed) that grows along the rocky part of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America and is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in products like ice cream. It’s also used in the brewing of beer, so it’s entirely probable that you’ve had Irish Moss before and just didn’t know it!
Regardless of all that knowledge, the Chocolate Bliss, like every other dish at Beauty of Sprouts easily scored 5 stars, and that includes our two beverages.
So, while the space may be limited at this absolute gem of a restaurant, Rano certainly proves that there’s a whole big, wide world of flavors in this charming little establishment that everyone should experience!