Join the Raw Vegan Gourmet MovementCover Story Features
October 26, 2014
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Until only recently has America put down the super-sized fries and extra-large colas, and slowly begun to embrace “clean eating.” Even a decade ago, the terms “raw” and “vegan” would raise eyebrows in a society drowned in meat, preservatives and artificial flavors.
How times have changed. Today, there’s a smorgasbord of trendy eateries across the country that are committed to 100 percent raw vegan cuisine.
“Raw vegan gourmet is a movement, not a diet,” says Sylvia Thompson, chef and owner of Greens & Vines, a vegan restaurant located across from Neal Blaisdell Center that’s making even the most carnivorous meat eater want to chow down.
Prior to opening the eatery in 2012, Thompson was creating weekly meal plans to-go through her award-winning company Licious Dishes. When she decided to take the next step as a restaurateur, Thompson made history, as Greens & Vines became Hawaii’s only raw vegan gourmet restaurant. And in honor of the vegan Eden’s two-year anniversary, Greens & Vines is hosting an all-you-can-eat buffet today (Sunday) from 1 to 4 p.m. Priced at $65 per person, guests are treated to a 13-item spread, jazz on the patio with Jeannette Trevias and Steve Jones, and happy hour-priced drinks, as well as 5 percent off non-happy hour wines.
“Carrying the banner of a raw vegan gourmet movement means that we are so much more than just a restaurant serving food and drink. We make choices every day, which result in perpetuating our health and Mother Nature’s by not using animal products,” explains Thompson. “So the growth of the restaurant is beneficial not only to profit, but also to the people and the planet.”
The inviting, beautifully designed, cozy establishment boasts dishes that are affirmations themselves — perfectly presented and delicious. The nutty jokes can stop, because nut loaf isn’t the big draw here. Instead, you’ll be compelled by the best-selling Living Lasagna ($18), which features layers of seasoned zucchini “noodles”, basil pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, mac nut “ricotta,” spinach and tomato.
Thompson has been experimenting with oil-free recipes, which she says have received great response. “Whatever I find at the farmers markets is what I use.”
If the terms “raw” and “vegan” are somewhat alien to you, here’s the breakdown: Raw refers to plant-based foods that are not cooked over 118 degrees to ensure that enzymes, nutrients and antioxidants stay alive to aid digestion in the body. Vegans are more animal-friendly than vegetarians and refrain from meat, dairy and eggs.
“Lexi Hada and I toss around ideas for ethnic foods,” says Thompson, adding that Lexi’s Tri-Layer Cake — with layers of calamansi lime, red beet and green tea — is one of the featured buffet items. Everything else on the line of fare also is excellent , each dish showcasing a range of vibrant veggies and grain substitutions. For example, Thompson’s Red Cabbage Wraps & Dragon Fruit Banana Ginger Juice Sauce provides that much desired texture and crispiness to satisfy, as the wrap is made from arugula, bean sprouts, water-melon radish, tangerine and avocado, seasoned with Hawaiian red pepper sea salt. Next, sample Crimini “Escargot” Skewers. Faux escargot with sunflower seed croutons and macadamia nut garlic “butter” are convincing to the palate, as is Mac Nut “Cheeze” & Apple Slices. Watermelon Shiso Soup enhanced with notes of calamansi and ume plum vinegar shines a new light on raw vegan cuisine. And there’s no disputing dessert, Wicked Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Bean Sauce & Raspberry, is vegan and non-vegan approved.
“While not all of our patrons are vegan, those who are just love the fact that they have so much to choose from. They don’t have to worry that something contains gluten or GMOs,” says Thompson. “Our staff is helpful and friendly, and our guests appreciate the upscale vibe, wine selection and gluten-free beer.”
So just how do acclaimed chefs feel about this raw vegan gourmet movement that’s gracing the nation? According to Thompson, top 3-Michelin Star French chefs Alain Ducasse and Alain Passard have excluded meat from their restaurants. Ducasse believes, “The planet’s resources are rare, so we must consume more ethically and equitably.”
Thompson was prompted to spearhead the raw vegan movement in the Islands in 2003 when her husband suffered a heart attack two days after Thanksgiving (he has since recovered).
“That was a wake-up call for us,” she says. “From then on, we’ve fully embraced the vegan lifestyle, and my husband is healthier than ever.”
Thompson took a personal tragedy and turned it into a mission to help others live healthier lives.
“Greens & Vines is committed to organic and locally sourced ingredients. We’re dedicated to preparing whole food, plant-based meals.”
Call Greens & Vines at 536-9680 to make reservations for its two-year anniversary celebration.
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)