Answer: Although Roxanne's, a white tablecloth raw foods restaurant in California, has now closed, items from its menu certainly would have piqued your imagination. Remember that "cheeses" and "yogurts" are usually based in nuts, "pasta" in specially cut veggies, and "crusts" in sprouted grains.
Obviously, if raw foodism is new to you, you'll need to take some time to learn techniques and possibly add knife skills to the list of experiences you'd like your employees to have. Sources for fresh and interesting nuts, produce, and seeds will help, as will commercial juicers and dehydrators. Many raw foods dishes can look quite elegant. Consider how ingredients are arranged on the plate, and then think about the plate type, the linen, and the table settings (how about an aromatic edible bouquet for a centerpiece?).
Renowned Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who occasionally incorporates raw-food dishes into his tasting menus, has written an elegant coffee table raw foods book for Ten Speed Press. You might want to browse through his book to get some ideas, from both the recipes and the photographs. Charlie Trotter is producing 10-course raw menus filled with inventive dishes like okra cured in sea salt with Thai squash and pear sauce, and jicama "packages" filled with preserved eggplant, broccoli rape flowers, and tiny kohlrabi. "Every element of every dish is raw, organic, and vegan - no meat, fish, dairy products," says Trotter, "and now, the food is evolving into a cuisine with its own rules (no heat above 118 degrees) and its own equipment (Vita- Mix blender, Green Life juicer, food dehydrator). My goal is to serve this food to someone and not have her realize it's raw until she's four or five courses into the menu," he said.
Trotter admits that's a challenge, just like learning any new cuisine. "To
be successful, you obviously need to start with exquisitely fresh, seasonal,
organic produce," said Trotter, who uses fine-cutting techniques to break
down fiber and enriches dishes with raw nuts (soaked in water overnight),
avocado, and olive oil. "There are ways to make this food explode with
flavor, using notes from Asian and Indian cooking - ginger, galanga, lemon
grass - along with raw garlic and citrus juice." Other exciting ingredients
are curry spices and the watery milk from baby Thai coconuts (also called
"jelly coconuts" because of their soft meat) sold at Asian markets.
Both Roxanne Klein and Trotter say they find a dehydrator essential to concentrate flavors, and to give the exterior of some foods a crispy "crust." A juicer is essential, too, sometimes in unexpected ways like homogenizing nuts and seeds into dough. A good imagination is also useful: one has to be willing to imagine thin-sliced zucchini as sheets of pasta in a "lasagna" or dehydrated carrot cubes as "croutons" on top of a "soup" of puréed raw tomatoes.
Other raw foods restaurants and caterers around the country are offering:
Almond Vanilla Ice cream
Cashew Ranch Dip served with Sliced Carambola
Apple Cobbler with Old-fashioned Oatmeal Topping
Carrot Walnut Burgers with Tomato Barbecue Sauce
Almond Pesto Cheese Tart
Zucchini Noodles with Sundried Marinara
Cream of Summer Squash Soup
Banana Nut Brittle
Experiment with several raw food entrées until you are satisfied with their taste, appearance, and presentation. You'll then have raw foods "classics" to please your diners.
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