Showing posts with label vegan dishes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegan dishes. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Art of Vegan Cuisine At its Wholeness

“From the farm to the table” sums up the idea that prevails at Alive. First time visitors will experience vegan dishes never seen or tasted before at this “rawvolutionary” restaurant in The Farm, so aptly called Alive, located at Lipa, Batangas. In the middle of the forest-like ambience of The Farm I discovered a quiet, unassuming shaded struc­ture conducive for rejuvenation and relaxation. This terraced structure is surrounded by greeneries and a small lake, offering privacy and peace of mind. An occasional visit from the resident peacock is not at all an intrusion as it’s clucking and flapping simply blends with the harmony of leaves rustling, birds chirping, and water splashing from the nearby water fountain. Its location in the center of The Farm already emphasizes the significance of its role in the whole “back to natural” program. Alive restaurant is the physical nutrition aspect of The Farm lifestyle, where every­thing is served, fresh, natural, and well, alive.
 Plant energy
Starting the day with the right kind of food to feel good and energized makes a lot of sense to me.  I cannot argue that my food selection will determine the amount of energy I will have for the day, so it only makes sense to be wise about my choices. Fortunately, at Alive, dishes are prepared carefully and thoughtfully with maximum nutrition in mind. Every meal is special, nothing is regular. The menu changes every day – to be more specific-- every meal. Freshness determines the amount of nutrition in a single produce. Being alive, plants mature every minute and so the amount of energy it can provide varies too, especially depending on the time it is har­vested, prepared, and served on the table. The aim of Alive is to make sure the time to accomplish all these steps is minimized to preserve the nutrition value of each dish until it is finally presented to the happy and hungry recipient.  
Cream cheese made from cashew nuts, cereals made from dehydrated and sweetened coconut, spicy bacon from coconut slivers, burger and pate made from lentils – the menu intrigued me. The jams, made from mashed fruit and honey, especially the lusciously rich mango, makes me adamant about not going back to the unnaturally processed regular jams again.
The granola with nut milk is something to rave about as well. I would have gobbled up this tasty treat without regard to nutri­tion anyway even if I hadn’t known it was made from sweetened dehydrated coconut with almond nuts, walnuts, pine nuts, and raisins then infused with nut milk.  That was just breakfast. Lunch and dinner come as set meals with a choice on the main course. Lunch was divine, starting with an Asian crab cake appetizer with cilantro mayonnaise and tomato green mango tartar quickly followed by a Thai tomato soup with cilantro and a crispy vegetable salad with almond butter sauce. For the main course, I was given a choice between Vietnamese pho and potato crusted tofu cutlet on jungle curry. After a moment’s agony, I decided to sample the flavors of Hanoi. What looked like noodles in the Vietnamese Pho were actually coconut slivers. It made me think more highly of the coconut as a wonder fruit, being so versatile as an alternative to noodles, bacon, cereal and more. The refreshing meal was topped off with a mango and chocolate sundae with lemongrass sauce.

I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t find coffee in themenu. Alive does not believe in caffeine fixes because of its obvious not-too-healthy properties. The chef explains that taking coffee speeds up the adrenalin unnaturally thus, it also drains you quickly after. For the caffeine junkies, fear not. Alive seeks not only to nurture but to please. Coffee is served on special request for those who absolutely cannot do without.
The Energizer, Detox Delight, Sunrise, Mediterranean, and Continental are breakfast selections that include a combination of fresh fruits with homemade yoghurt, wheat grass shot, the chef’s signature smoothie, fruit or green juice, cereal bowl with granola and nut milk, home made breads with jam, coconut but­ter, cashew cream cheese, open-face cheese or pate sandwiches, corn scramble with coconut bacon, and everything that is good and nutritious.
Green chef
organic vegetable garden
Good and nutritious means choosing the best possible ingredi­ent. “Good nutrition and health is based on whole food cuisine—which means everything in its natural state with as less process as possible,” says Chef Felix Schoener. “Instead of white rice, we use brown rice. Instead of white bread, whole wheat bread. Instead of apple juice, fresh apples. Instead of olive oil, olives. Instead of white sugar, we use muscovado, honey or natural sweeteners like sweet fruits, dates and the like. The idea is to look for the best choices. In the end, it is really about quality.”
Schoener is one of a few referred to as a “green chef,” a certi­fied Whole Food chef in Germany and Raw Living Food chef in the United States. The minutest details like the seasonings are not taken for granted in his natural living advocacy. The salt he uses, Himalayan crystal salt, is purchased from a less polluted area like the mountains of the Himalayas. “Every ingredient is carefully selected and scrutinized to see if it is helpful to the body. Since it is still a cuisine, we make sure it tastes good as well. It has differ­ent textures, and it satisfies the need to be creative. Instead of be­ing a traditional cuisine, we are more of an innovative cuisine.”
Grass gastronomy
The mere idea of grass for a meal inspiration seems unappetiz­ing, I know. That’s because we are used to fully cooked meals with all the seasonings within reach. When I prodded about his non-traditional way of preparing dishes that are raw or cooked at very low heat, Chef Schoener explains that in doing so, they are actually preserving the efficacy of vitamins, minerals and en­zymes in these plants that are essential to health.
“We are using different techniques in preparing raw living food so that it will still be close to its natural taste without tast­ing raw. We believe that the product in its natural state, like an apple or orange, has the highest nutrient value. When something is done with it (like baking or boiling), the value goes down. You just can’t improve on what nature has to offer. So in its natural state, it has the most vitamins and minerals, the most absorbable protein, and the most enzymes.”  Listening to him passionately speak of the benefits of going green, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this lifestyle towards natural and quality living could be sustainable to the general popu­lation considering the prices involved.
Chef Schoener believes that eating whole foods is the most sus­tainable diet there is because it’s the natural way, but we went away from this. He reminds us that our great, great grandparents used to grow their own malunggay and kangkong then eat them cooked with coconut milk. He concludes that we need to go back to our roots. According to the chef, it is not complicated to maintain such a diet. “In any country, you can eat whole foods – just go to the market and buy fresh fruits and vegetables and eat them fresh as much as possible.”
After a trip to this isolated inner sanctum of Lipa City, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I take my own health for granted. External everyday pressure and stress that leads to abuse of the body goes unnoticed and unchecked until someone points it out. For me, the message is clear. I should start scrutinizing what I put inside my body and slowly wean out of chicharon bulaklak, crispy pata, and lechon. This “wake up call” to consciously start making changes for a healthier life full of energy and vigor or face certain death sooner, both physically and spiritually, is something I will not take lightly. In the end, it’s really a choice, the choice to be alive.


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