Sprouting Up Bountiful Raw, Vegan Cuisine
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When her husband suffered a heart attack two days after Thanksgiving in 2003, Sylvia Thompson heeded the “wake-up call” and embarked on a journey with a course set for upgrading to a healthier lifestyle.
More than a decade later, Thompson has turned her appreciation for raw vegan cuisine into a successful restaurant concept dubbed Greens & Vines. The raw vegan gourmet eatery is situated conveniently in downtown Honolulu across from Neal Blaisdell Center.
After gaining an education about raw vegan food and recipes through extensive reading, traveling and consultation with existing restaurant concepts and experts in the field, Thompson began converting recipes from vegetarian to vegan, then to raw vegan; “I’ve gotten comfortable in adapting recipes with meat,” the owner explains. “It’s exciting to get to the essence of each recipe. When converting recipes, you really get to see where all the ‘hidden salt’ is.”
Everything on the menu is made from scratch using vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, in addition to only the best oils, raw, plant-based sweeteners, including dates, raw maple syrup powder, coconut sugar, raw agave nectar and more. Greens & Vines is non-GMO (no genetically modified organisms), 100 percent gluten-free and incorporates as many organic ingredients as possible. Thompson notes that dehydrators are used to “cook” the food at a temperature not exceeding 118 degrees, which is necessary to keep the live enzymes of the plant “alive,” thus aiding in digestion and making it easier for the body to absorb vital nutrients.
Thompson cultivated her business by launching Licious Dishes, an award-winning raw, vegan, gourmet meal preparation kitchen at Dole Cannery in Iwilei, in May 2007. Licious Dishes gained popularity, and continues to attract diners. Thompson explains that the meals are packaged for customers who pre-order for pick-up Friday midday; sometimes the meals are ready by Thursday afternoon. Licious Dishes also features a Grab ‘N’ Go refrigerator by the door for customers looking for a quick lunch or various selections to share at home or at the office.
The burgeoning success of Licious Dishes allowed Thompson to expand to multiple farmers’ markets put on by Hawaii Farm Bureau, including those at Kapiolani Community College, Neal Blaisdell Center and in Kailua. The business also has expanded to the Kakaako market run by Farm Lovers’ Farmers’ Markets, and Queen’s Medical Center’s “First Wednesday” event each month.
“It’s the farmers’ markets that have been an immense help in creating a following for us,” Thompson says. “We sample out a lot of our food and get comments such as ‘Wow! I can totally eat your food!’
“People have been conditioned to think of healthy vegan or vegetarian food as bland. So, in that light, they think it would be a ‘sacrifice’ on their part to eat veggies.”
Thompson recommends her signature dish: Living Lasagna ($16). The culinary craftswoman explains that the popular favorite has morphed seven times and is touted on multiple social media platforms as “the best lasagna,” even among those with real cheese and meat. Its 12 “layers of love” include: seasoned zucchini instead of pasta, layers of pesto, sundried tomato marinara, macadamia nut ricotta, spinach and sliced tomatoes. The lasagna also is served with a side of local, organic green salad.
Kaffir Miso Pad Thai ($15) draws rave reviews as well, and features sea kelp noodles (high in calcium), a “sensual” Kaffir Miso dressing, salted cashews and bean sprouts for protein and colorful veggies to provide vital antioxidants.
Diners also are encouraged to try a new appetizer Crimini Escargot Skewers ($9.50) with sunflower seed croutons, macadamia nut garlic “butter” pesto with shallots, parsley and micro greens — a new French Tapa gracing the menu.
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Greens & Vines Raw Vegan Gourmet
909 Kapiolani Blvd. Unit B, Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (lunch) and 5-9 p.m. (dinner)
Note: Happy hour available from 5 to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, which includes wine, sake and beer specials. Also, stay tuned for special events such as wine and tapa pairings, and live jazz every second Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m.