It’s probably been obvious to you, my readers, that I’ve been carrying on something of a flirtation with raw foods. Oh, I haven’t actually made very many recipes in my own kitchen, but after my very pleasant experience at Berkley’s Cafe Gratitude I started to think that Raw Foods might have something special to offer the gluten-free diner. First, the majority of raw foods dishes are naturally gluten-free. Any time I hear that about any cuisine my ears perk up. (Yes, I was a cat in another life.) Second, most raw foods are also vegetarian. Yay! And third, raw foods cuisine uses a variety of cool ingredients (nuts, sprouts, gluten-free grains like buckwheat) in amazingly creative ways. What’s not to like about that? I bought a raw foods cookbook and started to daydream about dehydrators (no, I still haven’t bought one). Meanwhile it seemed like I was finding references to raw foods everywhere I went. But what is raw food?
Proponents of the raw foods movement have been vocal since the 1900’s, but there has been special interest in the Western United States recently, especially in California. This diet focuses on “living and raw foods [such as] fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts that are not heated above 118 degrees.” (Source: Wikipedia) Nuts and seeds are often sprouted to “remove the enzyme inhibitors naturally present in raw nuts, making their nutrients available to the body.” (Roxanne Company Page)
Many of my Gluten-free blogging peers, like the amazing Naomi of Better Batter, and Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl, have been creating some gluten-free, raw foods masterpieces in their own kitchen.* Gluten-free, vegetarian inclined chefs and a cuisine that relied on fresh, naturally gluten-free ingredients seemed like a natural combination that went together like dates and walnuts. (Deliciously!)
*If you are one of these marvelous individuals, please comment and link to your fabulous raw recipes*
Just as I was all set to jump into exploring this new, natural cuisine- the new school term started and I found myself swamped with Chinese-inspired Japanese texts (kanbun), academic articles in Japanese, Modern Japanese history and Japanese Buddhism. Oops. Needless to say, I had no time whatsoever to start experimenting, especially with raw foods projects that require long-time soaking and planning ahead.
Luckily, on one of my rare days off I happened to go to Androncino’s Grocery and found, to my astonishment and delight, that they were having a sale on a locally available California product, Roxanne’s Raw Foods*. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen her products. Actually, they were prominently displayed at the Los Altos Whole Foods in a special refrigerator case for weeks prior, with a sign near the elevator advertising a new “gluten-free and raw-foods company.” But those products were priced just high enough that I couldn’t quite bring myself to purchase them, so I looked, briefly but longingly, and moved on. But here they were, priced on SALE, with a lovely variety right before my very eyes. Not only that, while I was looking, a very nice woman wandered up to the counter and started picking out some of her favorites. I asked her for her opinion on different types, because the variety was quite impressive, from breads, to fruit crumbles, to live “cookies”, and I was a bit lost about where to start first. As we were chatting, a man came up and said “Hey! We’re about to do samples of those soon!” and gave us each a coupon. How fortuitous, right? A gluten-free sample fest and coupons and a sale too- how often does THAT happen? I picked out a few products, checked out and then… guilty secret… came back in to see if they’d set up the sample booth. Yay! They had! Apparently Roxanne, the founder of the company, formerly had a successful raw-foods restaurant in Larkspur, California under the same name. She also collaborated with chef Charlie Trotter on a fancy raw-foods cookbook, entitled simply Raw.I found out that all of their products, with the exception of the ice cream was gluten free. The ice cream had barley malt, so they “weren’t sure yet.” Erm, yeah, that’s not gluten-free. Anyway. Ice cream??? I’d never thought about raw foods and ice cream, but I suppose the temperature is going the Other Way, down instead of up, so that makes sense… But, on to the samples.
I was very pleased to try both the Sweet and Spicy Cashews and the Triple Layer Chocolate Torte, neither of which I had bought. The former was very tasty, although in essence it was just a snack nut and less unique, to my mind, than other products. My “informant” at the counter had told me that she’d bought the Triple Layer Chocolate Torte and found it a bit too rich, but the mini bite I had as a sample was just right. I’m not sure I’d buy it, because I really am trying to cut back on chocolate, but it was good.
I enjoyed my samples, but I was really excited to go home and try the food I’d bought.
This beauty above is the Tu-nut Pinwheel Sandwich, a gluten-free raw-foods sandwich made with a variety of products also available separately.
Tu-nut Pinwheel Sandwich
The company blurb:
“Seems like a simple wrap sandwich, but really it represents one of Roxanneâ€™s great raw innovations. Wrapped in her unique Sprotaâ„¢ Bread â€“ a completely raw and living bread made from sprouted nuts and seeds â€“ and wrapped around a delicious raw and vegan version of tuna salad, this light and satisfying sandwich is a great way to get your raw on the go.”
I like being able to get a gluten-free “Sandwich” to go, definitely. It’s also a good way to try several of her products at once, like the Sprota bread, tu-nut salad, and nutmilk cheese, although it’s a little difficult to taste the nutmilk cheese as distinct from the other ingredients. I thought the bread was interesting, and tasty, although it IS a raw bread so you can’t go into the experience expecting it to be like a baked bread or wrap. However, for me the winners were the tu-nut salad, which tastes miraculously tuna-nutty without any actual fishies involved, and the nutmilk cheese that adds creaminess to the mix. I love the combination though, and my secret addition of an avocado slice made this the perfect snack. I found that half of the sandwich satisfied for a while, so I could eat half, put the rest in the fridge, and have it later. I will purchase this again, and in fact, did, just the other day. Alas, due to the high quality and expensive ingredients, it’s pricey, so a luxury. alas. 8/10
Tu-nutâ„¢ Salad: I’ve essentially reviewed this above, but I like the texture and the flavor is spot on without being overwhelmingly “fishy.” Remember, this is a vegan, vegetarian product. It satisfies my urge for tuna salad, cruelty-free, and I love that. 9/10 I would love to buy this again, even on regular GF bread. Mmmm.
Nutmilk Cheezeâ„¢, Garlic Onion
The company blurb:
“As creamy and sumptuous as the original, with the sharp tang of garlic and onion. Great as a vegetable dip or spread on Roxanneâ€™s Snap Crackers.” This is the “Seasoned” version of the cheeze on the pinwheel sandwich, and has delightful fresh chive bits on top. I have a weakness for these creative raw “cheezes” and this one was super yummy. It’s a lot of cheeze, though, unless you have a specific plan. I think if I were to buy it again, I’d plan it around a whole raw menu- maybe have a raw zucchini lasagna or something. Or, I could be totally fusion and try it with *gasp* cooked pasta and greens. If I remember correctly, I used part of mine on a baked Chebe pizza with veggies and thoroughly enjoyed it. A million times better than most cheese subs, but you have to be in the raw foods mindset and think of it more as dip or sauce than CHEESE.9/10
Apples, dates, blueberries and pecans are all components of this pleasant crisp.It also contains a vanilla parfait with coconut, although to be honest, I couldn’t really taste that part all that much- the apples rule the roost in this recipe. It’s a nice treat, and one I shared with my DH, but it felt more like something I could make myself. (Although I think it may be more complex than I realized at the time.) And you all know I’m a savory girl at heart anyway. I probably wouldn’t buy it again- but for those dedicated to the raw lifestyle and craving sweets, it is lovely.7/10
So this was my first experience with Roxanne’s Raw Foods. I think that Roxanne has a lot to offer, both to Raw Foodies, and to us gluten-free folks with a taste for vegetarian dining. I have a coupon or two left that I’m hoarding for sandwiches, so I’m really happy about that. But, I have to admit, I’m a little worried. Food prices are skyrocketing and niche markets are going to be hurt by that. The prices of the products at Whole Foods were high enough that even I hesitated- and I am a noted impulse buyer. Having blogs helps with that. I can always say, “Oh, but it’s for the blog,” as if the blog itself has gourmet tastes and needs feeding. But as my friendly informant at Androncino said “Gosh, it’s so nice that they are on sale. I wish they’d always be this price- I’d buy them all the time!” I’d love to make raw foods, and Roxanne’s Raw Foods in particular, a regular part of my diet instead of an occasional splurge. But, at their current price, I don’t know that I can, or even that I should. I noticed the other day at Whole Foods that they have reduced Roxanne’s shelf space to about half the volume. I really hope this reduction of shelf space isn’t permanent, and that it doesn’t indicate that the goods are being phased out. But I do wonder about the future. This has been the year of “gluten-free” as the new dietary miracle. More and more companies have begun catering to us gluten-free folks and to those interested in alternative, gluten-free living. But as customers struggle over the high price of basics like milk (of all kinds) and even produce, how can luxury goods continue to be supported by a struggling market? I’m really concerned that we’ll see many bright stars, like Roxanne’s, be snuffed out by rising costs. So… in the interest of supporting this company, and others that can and do make our gluten-free life so much more interesting, I hope that you will at least consider trying her products- or, if raw foods is not your thing, support local gluten-free companies that do make your heart sing. These are tough times, for everyone…
PS I sent Roxanne’s a message telling her about an upcoming meeting of Celiac Bay Area on May 9th, hoping she might be interested in sending some literature or even doing samples for us. Haven’t heard back yet, sniff…
Can’t buy Roxanne’s in your Area? How about making Gluten-Free Raw Foods in your own Kitchen?
Here’s one of my experiments:
A Pine nut Un-cheese recipe inspired by Raw foods (yes, I broke the rules and heated it, but you don’t have to.)
But Naomi is the real mistress of raw cuisine. Try her:
Raw Fried Rice Cauliflower Recipe
Raw Vegan Caesar Salad with Macademia Nut Cream
Raw un-meaty marinara with spaghetti squash
Raw Mock Fish Stick Recipe
And at Ginger Lemon Girl we also saw a recent recipe for
Chocolate Raw Brownie Bites
Hope these recipes will inspire you! Please post any comments or reviews you have for Roxanne’s Raw Foods Products to share with my readers, and I’d also love to hear about your favorite RAW recipes. Non-commercial links welcome!