There is something magical about waking up to bright sunshine in Southern California after surviving six months of winter in Toronto and, upon skipping down the stairs in the home of the family friends who’ve known you since you were three and are letting you stay with them cozy-like for several weeks, being greeted with the words “I’ve found a raw vegan restaurant in Costa Mesa; would you like to have lunch there today?”
Would I. Oh, the joy of having friends who not only know your heart completely, but will do their best to make said heart sing.
Thus it was that, back in May, my Orange County family-away-from-family and I explored the delights of 118 degrees, a raw vegan (or “plant-based gourmet living cuisine”) café in SoCal. And I’ll tell you this for free: I’d go back in a heartbeat.
I started with the “Bloody Mary: Tomato juice, celery, beets, apple and cucumber, add cayenne to make it spicy!”, to which I most definitely added cayenne to make it spicy (!), because far be it from me to resist a demand that comes with an exclamation mark.
I also tried a little of Emily’s “Chocolate Supreme: Raw cacao, cinnamon, banana, vanilla crème, agave, maca root, nature’s first food”, which was thick, creamy, not too sweet, and a little unusual at first sip. It grew on all of us, though, so three cheers for nature’s first food. (I’m not sure I believe that claim. Did all food matter really originate from maca? Hey there, science!)
Although we shared everything we ordered, my personal pick was the “Pineapple Sandwich: Pineapple slices filled with layers of avocado, berry puree, strawberry and banana”. I’m not a big fan of avocado, so imagine my delight when the “sandwich” arrived as an enormous tower of sweet, perfectly ripe, fruity zingy sweet creamy incredible goodness… sans avocado.
You know, that imaginary butler I have. Along with my imaginary pug puppy that doesn’t shed, is toilet-trained, and never grows up.
Hana took a gamble on the “Alfredo Pasta: Zucchini pasta with diced tomatoes and fresh basil topped with basil cheese”. Not having eaten normal alfredo before in my life, I can’t attest to how well this mimicked traditional flavours, but I will say that its blend of the creamy, the crunchy and the herbal worked well.
Emily and Carolyn decided to truly throw themselves into the experience of unique raw food by ordering the “Heirloom Squash Samosa: Zucchini flax wrap filled with our award winning tahini cheese, heirloom squashes and herb squash. Served warm!” We all enjoyed this dish mightily, as the spicy (and spiced) flavours of the several sauces, combined with the pliable zucchini flax wrap and just-warm colourful veggies within, made for a hearty and moreish take on samosas.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying one of 118 degrees’ raw desserts. (Considering my blog teeters on the brink of being almost entirely desserts, and predominately vegan/raw desserts at that, you pretty much have to drag me screaming from vegan restaurants if you deny me dessert.)
We opted for the “Fresh Fruit Cobbler: served warm with a pecan crust and sauced to perfection!!”, partly because crumbles and cobblers are great and partly because there were two exclamation marks. You know what they say about two exclamation marks: there are two of them.
Inanities aside, this raw vegan apple cobbler was a delight. The crumble/crust was nutty and sweet, the apple slices were bathed and softened in cinnamon syrup, and the nut crème on top added that little extra somethin’-somethin’.
All told, I enjoyed everything we ordered at 118 degrees, and I’m very grateful to Carolyn for treating me to such a lovely lunch.
(And I’m still glad there was no avocado on my sandwich.)