A Return to Raw Night at the Green Owl: An Eastern European-Inspired Raw Dinner

Upon returning to my hometown of Madison, WI for a month-long winter break from my hectic life at Vassar College, I’ve engaged in a number of activities that have contributed to a true sense of homecoming. Even though I now happily consider the Vassar campus as my veritable stomping ground, Madison’s liberal, progressive, vibrant, eclectic, environmentally-minded community earns an eternal place in my heart, and during my extended visit back I’ve truly enjoyed partaking in the activities that, for me, define the Madisonian lifestyle. Those translate to frequently patronizing my two favorite heated yoga studios, Inner Fire Yoga and The Studio; shopping for high-quality, organic, and local produce as well as specialty health food items at the Willy Street Coop; supporting the Dane County Farmers Market every Saturday; whiling away the hours in my well-equipped kitchen; and sampling the generous amount of veg-friendly restaurant cuisine this fine city has to offer.

Concerning Madison’s restaurant scene, once again experiencing a certain special, monthly dining event excited me more than returning to any other eatery while back in my hometown: Raw Night at the Green Owl. I’ve returned to the Green Owl for their Raw Nights on six occasions now, determined to pay that sixth visit during my winter break after an excruciating four-month hiatus from the gourmet raw cuisine offered by Cara and Jennie. Last Thursday night, I, accompanied by two of my dear friends, satisfied this fierce determination at the Owl’s “Eastern European Winter Themed” Raw Night, which featured light, colorful, uncooked variations on the heavy traditional dishes of the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and the like.

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Foreshadowing the party of pink and parade of pickles that would characterize our meal, a creamy apple slaw mixed with locally fermented red cabbage sauerkraut and garnished with chives began my long-awaited reunion with the Owl’s ever-improving raw fare. An intriguing meld of tart, tangy, sour, and sweet flavors united by a lovely undertone of caraway, the slaw served as a fresh opening to the five tantalizing courses to come.

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Yet another brilliantly pink dish followed the slaw—a chilled borscht served with a dollop of cashew sour cream and topped with fresh dill and chive oil. I’ve long hesitated to sample borscht or to make it myself out of a fear that the soup will taste simply like, well, a pile of soggy shredded beets. Don’t get me wrong—I adore the earthy sweetness of beets, but always felt that an entire soup devoted to them would taste rather overpowering. Indeed, my skepticism proved accurate, as a beety boxer knocked out my tastebuds with the first spoonful of borscht, and I could only stomach another couple experimental tastes before handing off the cup to my dining companions (we opted to share two prix fixe menus between the three of us due to the generous portion sizes). However, I don’t want to blame the fabulous folks at the Owl for a less-than-appetizing soup, for I feel strongly that any rendition of borscht would inspire in me the very same negative reaction. Offering a redeeming quality to the second course, the creamy cashew sour cream inspired me to save it from drowning in its beety ocean as I stole the dollop from both bowls of soup.

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The final small plate of the meal included crisp endive leaves filled with a savory pumpkin seed pate and accompanied by cumin-spiced pickled turnips. Though the pate tasted like just about every other nut pate I’ve sampled in the past (not bad, just nothing special), I positively fawned over the brightly hued, impeccably tangy, surprisingly spiced pickled turnips. Blame my powerful adoration of all things pickled, but I would call these pickled turnips a work of culinary art, especially due to their employment of cumin—a spice I never would have considered adding to pickles. Green Owl: I’d like a barrel of the pickled turnips, okay? Thanks.

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Temporarily straying from our dinner’s otherwise pink theme, our main plate of Kofta Biryani drove our party of three into a symphony of “Mmm’s” and “Oh my god’s” with its quartet of dazzling components. Crusty on the outside with a delicately textured center, three deeply flavored walnut balls bathed in a creamy gravy boasting an undertone of cinnamon. Beside the walnut balls glowed a sunnily hued saffron-cauliflower “rice” pilaf studded with dates, bell peppers, and coconut flakes. Providing a refreshing flavor contrast to the three other unctuous aspects of the dish, a side of crunchy house-fermented brussels sprouts rounded out our main course.

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As per usual, dessert proved the most decadent, astounding, and utterly mind-blowing course of the entire meal…or of all of the meals I’ve eaten over the past couple of months. This cardamom-poppy seed cheesecake with orange blossom-blood orange glaze and citrus-apricot sauce left all three of us literally speechless, as we devoured both slices in complete silence, communicating with each other only with strained expressions of, “I finally understand what it truly means to experience a food orgasm.” And now I cannot force myself to think about anything else other than this cheesecake…so thank you, Green Owl, for ruining all my intellectual hopes and dreams. I’m okay with that, though, as long as I can curl up with a slice of your cheesecake every night.

Needless to say, my “welcome back” Raw Night dinner fulfilled and exceeded all of my expectations, and I’m currently attempting not to allow my absence from Madison, and thus from the Green Owl, during my spring semester of freshman year to cause me too much gastronomic suffering. Sigh. If any of you, dear readers, experience the pleasure of dining at the Green Owl for their Raw Nights, please let me know so my palate can live vicariously through yours.

Until next time, Ali.

August Raw Night: My Last of the Year

Lo and behold, last Thursday marked the end of an era, the finale of an epoch, the conclusion of a generation—I enjoyed my last Green Owl Raw Night of the year. After six progressively stunning ventures to Madison’s hub of vegetarianism for six increasingly complex dinners, culminating in a veritable uncooked feast of impeccable Thai flavor, I must bid adieu to my beloved monthly Raw Nights as I relocate in a mere week to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. While I anticipate a plethora of superb eating excursions to New York City, living only a simple hour-long Amtrak ride away from Manhattan, I won’t feel the welcoming sweep of the Green Owl’s kelly-green wings into its palace of raw yummies until returning to Madison in January for winter break. In the meantime, I’d like to mourn my four-month hiatus from the Owl by commemorating the astounding amalgamation of pure summer bliss in which I reveled last Thursday.

The Last Supper of summer’s bounty began with a juicy salad of yellow watermelon and heirloom tomatoes in a balsamic drizzle, topped with fresh basil. Literally any dish featuring heirloom tomatoes will smack a huge smile on my face, guaranteed, and this tangy, acidic, ever-so-slightly sweet salad certainly proved no different, especially considering that the refreshing crunch of the watermelon mingled amusingly with the tender succulence of the tomatoes. I only wish the Owl had perfected some sort of raw baguette (is that even possible?) to sop up all the juicy tomato deliciousness left behind on my otherwise clean plate.

A creamy soup of cucumber and dill followed, providing effective textural contrast and a palate-cleansing flavor against the bold salad that preceded. My waitress informed me that cashews formed the base of this soup, though I could only detect an incredibly fresh lightness of cucumber rather than a heavily cloying nuttiness. Every spoonful reminded me of biting into a crisp, perfectly fresh cuke.

Our last appetizer consisted of flax crackers with veggie hummus. The crackers harbored an intense sundried tomato flavor studded with Italian spices, rendering them rather pizza-like, while the cool, creamy squash-based hummus served as a mellow accompaniment. I did, however, think that the plate came packed with a few too many flax crackers than I would have cared to enjoy—I still had to save room for an entree and dessert!

And oh, what an entree for which I saved room. From left to right, the Green Owl mad genius team offered a cob of sweet corn slathered in garlic-infused coconut “butter”; two kebabs of tender red bell pepper, earthy cremini mushrooms, and crunchy summer squash; and two slabs of juicy barbeque papaya “steak” coated in a spicy dry rub. While the notion of a papaya steak blew my mind (not to mention my taste buds), the unbelievably sweet corn, brilliantly coated in coconut oil to mimic the melting deliciousness of fresh-off-the-grill corn cobs, claimed the title of my favorite aspect of the entire meal…

…except, perhaps, for dessert (how can you blame me?). While not the most photogenic dish I’ve enjoyed, I could not have wished for a more satisfying denouement to my numerous Raw Night experiences than this messy, juicy, fruity, tangy berry cobbler with banana ice cream. A bright magenta sauce of mixed berries that popped upon contact with my tongue pooled around a surprisingly smooth, walnut-based cake topped with fresh raspberries, while an ice cream consisting simply of bananas and vanilla bean rounded out the dish. According to my waitress, the cake contained some sort of seaweed that I would assume to be irish moss, since that would certainly account for its meltingly tender texture.

Farewell, Green Owl. You’ve fulfilled my yearning for gourmet raw goodies over the past 6+ months, and I will miss your joyous atmosphere, your unceasingly friendly waitstaff, your neverending creativity with uncooked vittles, and your ability to make me and my tummy incredibly content. Until January, thank you.

Until next time, Ali.

July Raw Night at The Green Owl: The Best Ever

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.

Mexican-Style Raw Night at the Green Owl

While I last visited the Green Owl for a third sampling of their Raw Night an entire month ago, somehow I never took the time to summarize it with a blog post! How dare I. Needless to say, I now feel obliged to offer a at least a brief bit of commentary on my April excursion to Madison’s only restaurant offering gourmet raw cuisine.

Juice: Pineapple Jalapeno.

Rating: A+!

The citrusy sweetness of the pineapple mingled surprisingly well with the spicy kick of jalapeno, culminating in a veritable chorus of liquid deliciousness to wake up the palate.

Appetizer: Cucumber Pineapple Gazpacho and a salad of fresh greens, orange sections, red pepper slices, corn tortilla croutons, and creamy avocado-citrus dressing, topped with pumpkin seeds.

Rating: Gazpacho=A, Salad=C-.

A chunky blend of classic south-of-the-border ingredients, including cilantro, bell peppers, and tomatoes, the gazpacho offered a wildly different take on the soup I know quite well (just check out my family’s longtime recipe for perfect tomato gazpacho), though in this case, different meant incredibly tasty! However, the salad proved more…mediocre. Rather limp greens and raw bell pepper slices (one of the only vegetables whose taste I don’t enjoy) lacked almost any of the promised yummy-sounding avocado dressing—I only found a small dollop hiding amongst the lettuce—while the blue corn tortilla croutons offered little flavor and a displeasing overly crispy texture. Come on, Green Owl, shouldn’t vegans take a bit more pride in their salads?

Entree: Sweet baby pepper rellenos (top right corner) filled with a nut-based taco “meat” filling with creamy cilantro-lime sauce, tacos in blue corn tortillas filled with spicy sunflower seed “bean” filling, lettuce, tomato, onion and yellow zucchini, served with guacamole, pico de gallo, another dollop of the taco bean filling, and a veggie-packed spicy coleslaw.

Rating: B.

Somehow, the Green Owl managed to impart a roasted succulence into their baby pepper rellenos—I had to continually remind myself of their rawness! Hearty and slightly sweet, the nut meat provided a tasty filling and worked well with the creamy cilantro-lime sauce; who doesn’t love a good avocado-based dressing? The pico de gallo, a palate cleanser of tomatoes and more pineapple, proved refreshing and yummy, while I would venture to call the guacamole some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Much more enjoyable in their complete taco shell forms due to their more pliable texture, the blue corn tortillas redeemed themselves from the so-so salad croutons. On a less positive note, both the coleslaw and taco bean filling held undertones of an unpleasantly bitter flavor—most of my dining companions left their second dollop of the filling untouched. While coleslaws should function as refreshing dishes, this spicy version rested heavy on the palate.

Dessert: Pina Colada Cheesecake with a macadamia-coconut-based filling and top pineapple layer.

Rating: A-.

As with any raw meal, dessert proved one of the highlights. Creamy and unctuous, the middle macadamia layer contrasted beautifully with the toothsome coconutty crust, while the citrusy pineapple layer on top provided a welcome note of acidity. I would have enjoyed a bit more of the pineapple layer, expecting more of a fruitiness to the cake based on its description as a tropical drink.

Service: Steadily improving! In my previous reviews of the Green Owl, I’ve commented heavily on the less-than-desirable quality of service, especially the restaurants tendency to rush meals. Happily, this time, our server imposed no hurried sense upon us, making our dinner much more pleasant. She also became adamant about ensuring that one of my dining companions recieved not a dash of avocado in her meal due to an allergy, which all of us admired. One criticism, however: our server did forget to bring silverware with a couple of our courses.

While I will have to miss the Green Owl’s next Raw Night (which is tonight, actually!), here’s the very spring-like menu for the evening:

Small Plates: Cream of spinach soup with fresh herbs, topped with marinated mushrooms; Vegetable rawvioli of thinly sliced beets with a savory nut cheese filling, drizzled with herb oil; Seasonal salad of spring mixed greens, radishes, sunflower seeds, red onion, and grapefruit-basil vinaigrette.

Entree: Nut gnocchi Carbonara in a creamy sauce with fresh peas and eggplant bacon. Served with a side of marinated asparagus with a creamy raw “hollandaise” sauce.

Dessert: Vanilla bean cheesecake with a chocolatey sauce and fresh berries.

Until next time, Ali.

Raw Night at the Green Owl: Take Two

Last month, I ventured to The Green Owl, Madison’s only exclusively veg*n restaurant, for their monthly Raw Night. While I found an astonishing quality of food, both the rushed service, high price tag, and extremely small portion sizes left much room for improvement. I suggested serving the meal in separate courses, instead of as one platter-sized plate with small bites of each menu item, which felt more like an appetizer sampler than an entire prix fixe dinner and certainly did not satiate me or my dining companinon, Connor. Surprisingly, the lovely and gracious owner Jennie Capellaro personally left me a comment on my last Raw Night review, explaining that preparing a varied, delicious meal of raw food requires a boatload of extra labor, special ingredients, and time—just consider all the soaking, sprouting, and dehydrating!—which certainly justifies the $25 per diner cost. She also apologized for the confused service and agreed that perhaps a multi-course meal would improve Raw Night. Indeed, Jennie served separate courses at her March Raw Night to my great contentment and hunger satisfaction, though the service remained a bit too eager.

Connor and I both began our predominantly green meal (hello springtime!) with a glass of freshly squeezed cucumber-honeydew melon juice. With an aroma evocative of a spa, the juice tasted wonderfully refreshing after my yoga class—cool and hydrating from the cucumber and succulent with a hint of sweetness from the melon.

Our first course of creamy herbed zucchini soup arrived promptly and in a much larger vessel than the thimble-sized ramekins presented to us at our last Raw Night experience. Smooth yet studded with surprising crunches of bell pepper, the soup tasted like the vegetable essence of pizza, probably due to the use of herbs like basil and oregano.

Our salad course arrived shortly after we had scraped every last silky drop from our soup bowls. Described as an apple-fennel walnut napoleon, the salad featured crisp pink apple slices and subtlely sweet shaved fennel layered together and sprinkled with walnuts, drizzled in a strawberry-agave vinaigrette, and topped with sunflower sprouts. Not necessarily the most exciting menu item, but tasty, nonetheless.

After our salad, I began to notice the hurried nature of our service. Before either Connor or I had cleared our plates, the waitress appeared with our next course, forcing us to awkwardly shift our place settings around mid-bite and rush to finish the last of our salads. I quickly forgave the slight bump in service, however, in excitement of our final appetizer course—crispy zucchini-carrot fritters with cranberry-ginger sauce. Redolent in the lovely nutty savoriness so familiar to raw foods, the crunchy patties balanced perfectly with the tart-sweet cranberry sauce (though Connor thought it overpowered the dish). I only have two minor qualms with this course: first, the fritters proved difficult to cut through, though I mostly overlooked this issue since they almost melted upon touching the tongue; second, a pile of pitiful, limp iceberg lettuce lay as a completely unnecessary garnish next to the fritters. All I must ask is “Why?”

Again, our next course arrived before we had finished our previous, and I began to question why the Green Owl would want to turn over our table so quickly? We had late reservations for 8:00 and by the time our main dishes arrived, the dining room was by no means crowded. Shoving this notion to the back of my mind, I focused on the gorgeous entree presented to me: a Raw Shepherd’s Pie with a side of marinated green beans. A raw interpretation of colcannon (a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage), made with creamy cauliflower instead of potatoes, topped an unbelievably flavorful mixture of walnuts, marinated mushrooms, carrots, and other veggies. I would have happily eaten (or swam in) an entire bowl of the walnut-mushroom layer, reveling in its richness and smooth mouthfeel, and greatly appreciated that the Owl served the pie warm out of the dehydrator (not above 114°F, though, mind you!) to give a crusty finish to the colcannon layer as well as impart a comforting feel to the dish. While I enjoyed the crisp-tender texture of the dehydrated green beans, both Connor and I had trouble detecting any trace of their supposed marinade described on the menu and agreed that we would have appreciated a more well-seasoned side dish.

 

As I had come to expect, the waitress arrived with desserts in hand as the last forkful of shepherd’s pie entered my mouth. While I would have welcomed a pause in the meal to linger over my stunning entree and digest slightly, the gorgeous slice of brown-green-white striped raw Grasshopper Pie distracted my displeasure in feeling hurried. Undoubtedly, dessert claims the prize as my favorite aspect of any raw meal, and this cheesecake of chocolate crust, fresh mint cashew cream, coconut cream, and chocolate ganache studded with cacao nibs proved no different. I must confess that normally I don’t enjoy mint’s pungent flavor, but the herb did not overpower the cake at all, instead subtlely complementing the more prominent coconut and chocolate flavors. I also verily appreciated that the cake did not taste too overly sweet—a happy gift to my sugar-sensitive tastebuds. Each cream layer held a velvety, decadent texture and distinct flavor, combining in a symphony of utter deliciousness.

Meal Checklist: Proteinvarious nuts. Whole Grain—none. Vegetables—zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, herbs, cucumber, fennel, carrot, ginger, green beans, mushrooms, cauliflower. Leafy Green—sunflower sprouts, iceberg lettuce, cabbage in colcannon.

All in all, I would consider my March excursion to the Green Owl’s Raw Night a vast improvement over that of February. The food quality remained superb (with a few nit-picky errors), while serving each course separately produced a much more special atmosphere to the entire meal, actually merited the relatively high bill, and left Connor and me with very satisfied tummies, indeed. I only hope that the Owl works on timing their courses better and relaxes the speed of the meal to allow diners sufficient time to adequately savor both the food and their company.

Until next time, Ali.

Raw Night at The Green Owl

As the only exclusively vegan restaurant in Madison, The Green Owl often beckons me into its kelly green, owl figurine-laden dining room for a hearty bowl of three-bean chili, a side of crispy kale chips, or a slice of decadent coconut cream pie (all of which I sampled at my previous excursion to the Owl). However, every second Thursday of the month, the chefs at the Owl break out their dehydrators, spiralizers, and Vitamixes to uncook a gorgeously crafted prix fixe menu of completely raw food. Unable to visit the Owl for their famed Raw Night since last August, I’d eagerly awaited this culinary outing for a good long while. As expected, the food proved absolutely delightful, though Connor and I left disappointed with the service and unjustifiably large price tag.

Upon arrival, the host informed us rather curtly that the kitchen had no more raw prix fixes available for diners without reservations, but ceded that we could still order à la carte and seated us anyway. Immediately terrified that I couldn’t sample their entire tantalizing raw menu (especially the carrot cake with “cream cheese” frosting), I breathed an enormous sigh of relief once our smiley waitress assured Connor and I that only two more raw prix fixes remained for non-reservation diners. Miscommunication between staff: bad service strike one.

To drink, Connor ordered a small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for $3.50. Not realizing that “small” essentially meant “in a shot glass,” Connor asserted that “this better be the best damn glass of orange juice I’ve ever tasted.” Overpriced drinks: bad service strike two.

Once our waitress delivered a colorful platter of uncooked goodies, we again lamented the size of the meal. Expecting individual courses of the mixed green salad, creamy broccoli soup, flax crackers with nut cream cheese, and veggie noodle entree, I instead recieved an elliptical platter housing relatively tiny portions of each menu item. Small amount of food: bad service strike three.

The plate’s components, though more modestly sized than I would have enjoyed, proved astoundingly delicious. Clockwise from left to right: creamy broccoli soup topped with eggplant “bacon” bits, caraway flax bread topped with nut cream cheese and a cucumber slice, jicama coleslaw with red peppers, zucchini and carrot noodles tossed in a creamy orange-jalapeno sauce with cilantro, and a mixed green salad with oranges and pepitas in a cumin-avocado dressing. Served in a tiny ramekin, reminiscent of the miniscule paper cups used for ketchup at ballparks, the chilled broccoli soup did not taste too fatty or heavy as many creamy nut-based raw soups do, instead offering brightly flavored spoonfuls studded with salty bits of eggplant. The flax “tea sandwiches” definitely earned the grand prize for tastiest plate component; a thick, wonderfully crunchy cracker evoked spot-on memories of rye bread thanks to the prominent use of caraway seeds, which contrasted beautifully with the nut-based cream cheese sitting atop. While I could attempt to describe the sheer perfection of this cream cheese, flecked with scallions and imparting an indescribably mouthwatering flavor, I feel that I would not do it justice. Suffice to say: best raw cream cheese I’ve ever put in my mouth. Light and refreshing, the jicama salad served as a great palate-cleanser against the heavier avocado- and nut-based meal elements, as did the citrus-coated vegetable noodles, spiralized in an impressively lengthy and quite slurpable fashion. Finally, the mixed green salad, though based upon ever-so-slightly wilted greens, sported a lovely dressing of avocado and cumin, one of my favorite flavor combinations.

Connor cleared his plate before I did, provoking our waitress to whisk the platter away almost immediately after he had swallowed his last bite, and to bring us dessert while I still munched on the last of my tea sandwich. Rushing the meal: bad service strike four. (This ball game has more than three strikes, but oh well.)

Luckily, the decadence of the raw carrot cake inspired our (semi) forgiveness of the night’s abysmal service. Based (I assume) on walnuts, carrots, dates, and coconut, the cake itself harbored a dense, chewy texture that provided a moist yet crumbly mouthfeel, while the subtle sweetness of the carrots shone through the dominating (though not in a bad way) tropical coconut flavor. The frosting, too, tasted redolent of coconut oil and provided a superbly smooth, creamy contrast to the cake. Utter bliss in raw dessert form.

Meal Checklist: Protein—various nuts, flax. Whole Grain—none. Vegetables—cucumber, jicama, red bell pepper, zucchini, carrots, avocado, cilantro. Leafy Green—broccoli, mixed salad greens.

The last strike (yeeeer outta here!) against the Green Owl’s service arrived with the bill: $25 per prix fixe for a total of just over $50. Considering the less-than-generous servings of food, I don’t believe our dinner merited that kind of money. Nevertheless, Connor and I certainly did not want to scrub dishes to pay off our meal and shelled out the cash.

I’ll most likely return to the Green Owl for their future Raw Nights to sample some extrordinarily delicious food in the hopes that their service improves…and their prices lower.