DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sylvia Thompson holds a meal-to-go order of Zucchini Linguini with Alfredo Sauce, marinated Crimini Mushrooms and Greek Salad. Behind her is a selection of seeds and nuts used in the raw dishes at 'Licious Dishes. Customers take home the meals that last three to five days.
Lick your lips raw on ’Licious Dishes
I was on the phone last week playing catch-up with an acquaintance I met via shared culinary tastes. He'd been eating his way through Italy and France this summer and wanted to catch up on all the restaurant comings and goings of the past couple of months. So I ran through all the big restaurants that had opened, and was about to launch into the amazing raw-food, vegan menu at 'Licious Dishes when he stopped me.
650 Iwilei Road No. 170 / 536-9680
Hours: Pick up between 2 and 5 p.m. Fridays. Reservations required. (Subject to change.)
Cost: $60 for three meals; $100 for five
"Whoa, that's not for me," he said. "I mean, I understand you have to try everything, but I don't."
"Oh, no, it's not like I have to force myself to eat it. It's really good!" I said.
Well, I made no convert of him that day, but that doesn't mean there aren't others looking for exactly what 'Licious Dishes is offering. It's a welcome addition to Honolulu's culinary mix, especially for anyone who wants to eat more healthfully, without sacrificing flavor.
One thing needs to be made clear upfront, and it's that 'Licious Dishes is NOT a restaurant. It's a food assembly kitchen where meals are packaged to be picked up and eaten at home.
Those who want to try it can pick up a $60 three-meal package, or $100 five-meal package. For those who don't want that much of a commitment, a few a la carte snack items are offered as well. These include crisp flaxseed thins ($8), macadamia nut "cheese" of nuts, red bell peers and lime juice ($8) and almond butter ($5).
For owner Sylvia Thompson, a Realtor in her other life, the kitchen is an extension of meals she began creating at home in 2004 after her husband had a heart attack. The couple started reading up on dietary change as a means to reverse the damage, and now consider themselves 85 percent vegan and raw-food devotees. And it hasn't been a sacrifice.
"We ate out a lot and were so into gourmet foods before. It wasn't until I discovered raw food that I learned how gourmet vegan could be," she said.
The idea that a meal of vegetables and raw food might be labor-intensive sounds like an oxymoron, but these meals do take hours to prepare, so it's nice that Thompson enjoys the work. The rest of us can just dig in.
COURTESY 'LISCIOUS DISHES
Shown are sunflower seed "cheese" and veggies in collard wraps.
RATHER THAN open a restaurant "and wait for one friend to show up for dinner," Thompson said, she went for the guarantee of making only enough to fill reservations for meals people can pick up every Friday. That was a problem for me because I prefer to eat out on weekends and have meals waiting for me weekdays. Many customers felt the same way, so Thompson is in the process of switching to Monday pickup. Logistically, it means she'll have to work weekends like a typical restaurateur.
She's offering four menus that rotate weekly. I ordered week one's offerings of Porcini and Crimini Mushroom Enchiladas, Butternut Squash Shiitake Mushroom Torta, Not Tuna Salad, Middle Eastern Tacos and Spicy Almond Thai Veggie wraps. Every item is painstakingly labeled so those who care about what goes into their bodies will know exactly what's in each dish.
There were a lot of veggies in the batch, so I worried about keeping them fresh throughout the week. It worked for the most part, but there were some lapses. I didn't realize guacamole was packaged with the enchiladas, and that suffered in hanging around to the end of the week. I later noticed it's listed first for consumption on her menu.
Trusting people to put dishes together the right way is also an iffy proposition. It was easier to deal with the complete meal-in-a-tray torta than the Middle Eastern tacos, which meant reconstituting a sun-dried tomato tortilla, then layering it with a spread of garlic tahini, marinated onions, romaine and no-bean curried falafels. The falafels are sure to generate cravings by themselves.
For those unfamiliar with the raw-food movement, the belief is that cooking at temperatures above 118 degrees destroys the beneficial enzymes and some of the nutritional content in food. Thus, food is not really cooked. When "baking" is called for, foods are dehydrated to create crackers and breads made mostly from nuts and seeds, with natural oils and juices as binders.
One example is the onion flat bread that came with a meal of Not Tuna Salad. At first I thought the sweet, no-wheat-Tamari-soaked onions were sautéed, then dehydrated. But knowing the raw-food rules, I knew that heat was a no-no. Thompson said the onions were massaged to soften, mixed with other ingredients like organic flax seeds and organic sunflower seeds, and dehydrated for 20 to 26 hours, ending up with the flavor and mouth-feel of a sweet onion "jerky."
The bulk of Not Tuna Salad is organic raw sunflower seeds with the crunch of chopped organic celery, bound with Thai coconut water and a touch of lemon juice.
It was filling enough for me to make two meals of it, which I expect at a breakdown cost of $20 per day. Yeah, it's steep, but you'd understand why if you had to make this stuff yourself. Others were left hungry after a meal, but I wonder how much was actual hunger and how much was psychological desire.
The food was truly 'licious, but just as in going to a restaurant, I still had that "save room for dessert" mind-set. I was OK at the office, when I could eat and be too distracted by work to have cravings. But at home, even if I felt full, for three out of five days, I felt I had to munch afterward on something bad, whether it was a shortbread cookie, green tea ice cream or piece of chocolate.
I never feel guilty about having dessert at a restaurant, but after eating 'Licious' food I felt torn about ruining the whole experience by ingesting something likely to contain wicked fats and chemical preservatives.
Of course, the trick would be to fill your kitchen only with good snacks. These are the things you'll start thinking about when you start putting good things in your body.