I’ve partaken in my fair share of Raw Nights at the Green Owl Cafe—just take a gander at my three previous reviews of their monthly uncooked cuisine. During my first sampling, I experienced disappointingly small portion sizes that did not merit the prix fixe cost, as well as subpar service. On the second occasion, the service had not significantly improved, though both the food quality and amount did indeed. My third visit offered satisfying service, though the food proved less than stellar. However, my sixth raw night excursion (I’ve not blogged about two of them), proved astounding. Impeccable. Utterly superb. I honestly harbor but one ridiculously miniscule qualm with the entire five-course meal and congratulate the Green Owl on finally perfecting their table service. Cara Mosely, the pastry chef at the Owl and mastermind behind their increasingly popular Raw Nights (as a former raw foodist of eight years), truly outdid herself with July’s Thai-inspired meal, imbibing it with powerful flavor, creative dishes, and farmers-market-fresh veggies. Confident that this most recent Raw Night signals the onset of many impressive and well-thought-out uncooked meals to come, I lament (well, not really. I can’t wait for my college experience to begin.) my departure to Vassar College in late August and will have to deem next month’s Raw Night my last until I return home for winter break in January.
Though a bit embarassing (or flattering?) to admit, the Green Owl waitstaff has begun to consider me a regular, at least of their Raw Nights. Upon sitting down underneath a kelly-green umbrella outside to enjoy the pleasant summer evening, our lovely waitress exclaimed, “Well, it’s nice to have you back—I haven’t seen you in a while!” What can I say? I love me some raw vegan food.
Our meal began with a small glass of watermelon mint juice, of which I failed to snap a photo, unfortunately. Suffice to say that the bright magenta-colored juice flecked with finely minced mint leaves served as a refreshing swig of summer’s essence—a foreshadowing of the astronomical deliciousness about to ensue.
A cup of unctuous coconut lemongrass broth, rife and chunky with plump shiitake mushrooms, juicy cherry tomatoes, and crunchy scallions—a chilled take on the classic Thai soup known as Tom Kha—soon graced our table. Briefly forgetting the raw nature of our meal, I expected a steaming hot sip of soup with my first spoonful, but performed a gastronomic double-take as the cool liquid hit my tongue, coating it in a masterful balance of spice and tang. Though the broth did not carry the familiar bright white hue of traditional Tom Kha (I would venture to guess that they implemented coconut water instead of the non-raw coconut milk usually present in cooked versions of the soup), it certainly satisfied the creamy texture expected at any Thai restaurant.
Never tiring of salads, I happily welcomed a Som Tum as our next course. Shredded green papaya coated in a slightly spicy citrus vinaigrette, studded with crispy green beans and scallions, topped with more succulent cherry tomatoes, and served over a bed of sweet, tender lettuce served as an enlivening palate cleanser after our more full-bodied soup.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the meal, the Summer Rolls literally brought me close to tears of sheer joy. A wafer-thin dehydrated coconut wrapper artfully flecked with black sesame seeds surrounded a rainbow-colored filling of shredded vegetables (which I assume had marinated in a sesame ginger dressing) including purple cabbage, carrots, and various herbs—the juxtaposition of the soft, chewy wrapper with the crunchy veggies provided ample textural interest. However, once dipped in a thick sauce composed simply of peanuts and spices, the summer roll catapulted itself from the earthly Raw Night King to the divine Raw Night Magistrate of the Universe. So, um, yeah, like, the roll was really good.
A popular dish in the raw food realm, Pad Thai constituted our entree of the night. Shredded daikon, summer squash, and carrot coated in a creamy cashew dressing that imparted a smidge of spicy chile flavor sat atop a bed of green cabbage, cauliflower florets, mung bean sprouts, and cashews. The tender, saucy noodles felt pleasantly light on the tongue and the tummy—a vast improvement over the usual heavy rice noodles that sit in a lump in your stomach. An uncomplicated yet genius sprinkling of toothsome cashews elevated the entire dish. However, my single culinary qualm of the night enters here: the raw cauliflower florets and shredded green cabbage offered nothing to the otherwise inspired Pad Thai and seemed like rather amateurish, completely unnecessary garnishes. Omit the offending crucifers, and I would have deemed our entree as infallible as the rest of our meal.
Finally, a deep bowl filled with a generous scoop of banana-coconut ice cream studded with vanilla beans, surrounded by a thick mango-lemongrass-ginger mousse, and topped with crispy banana chips concluded our tour of Thailand, following the close-to-perfect model exemplified by our previous four courses. This Siam Sundae had invaded my dreams during the week leading up to the July Raw Night, and the tangible manifestation of my foodie psyche set before me met and exceeded my every expectation. The creamy, smooth ice cream redolent with banana flavor and an undertone of coconut; the mysteriously spicy, intensely complex mango mousse with a consistency similar to lemon curd; the simple yet elegant garnish of crunchy banana chips—all three components culminated in a symphony of tropical Asian flavor to satisfactorily round out our meal.
The six Raw Nights I’ve experienced, from February’s disappointing dinner to July’s magical meal, have steadily increased in both food and service quality, reaching their current climax in this unparalleled gallery of fresh, colorful, lively, and playful uncooked goodies. I await August’s Raw Night with bated breath—Cara has promised a late summer meal featuring the bounty of heirloom tomatoes.
Until next time, Ali.