Ani Phyo, co-owner of Smart Monkey Foods, is the perfect spokesmodel for the raw and living foods movement; she's intelligent, confident, friendly, athletic, and absolutely stunning. She is exactly who should be pushing foods that are claiming to be "anti-aging." Listening to Ani and partner Ede Schweizer's story of how they made raw foods their life's work (read the story on their website) made me believe that a movement was actually happening. Simply put, raw and living foods are foods that contain enzymes, which are easier for your body to break down. Conversely, all cooked food is devoid of enzymes, thereby making your body do all the work. Living and raw foods also have enormously higher nutrient values than foods which have been cooked. For the curious, every Wednesday night at Three Friends Coffeehouse, the vegan raw food moguls Smart Monkey prepare a multi course feast for anyone willing to foot the bill.
On the Wednesday I attended, I found a summer meal like none I had ever tasted. I began with a dreamy Cucumber Dill Soup ($6) served at room temperature that glowed milky green against the white bowl. It was an explosion of dill and spiciness with a creamy smooth base and crunchy chunks of cucumber. I was immediately impressed and tempted to lick the bowl clean.
Between courses, I cleansed my palate with a purple Blueberry Blast Smoothie ($5), served in a wine glass. Its nutty vanilla bean deliciousness was countered by a slightly sandy texture that led me to believe that even the smoothie was adding to my overall nutrient load.
Next I dove into the Portabella Mushroom Steak with Gravy entrée ($15). Again this was served tepid--which admittedly takes a little getting used to. But as soon as the flavors revealed themselves, I completely forgot about heat and relished in the complexity of what I was tasting. The mushroom steaks were thoroughly marinated, which gave them a fresh springy juiciness. The gravy seemed to melt as I slathered and dipped my steak in it. However, the real star of the meal was the entrée's side dish, the Brazil-Broccoli Mash--a grainy bright green half scoop of raw broccoli and Brazil nuts blended with herbs and spices to create a truly unique substitute for potatoes.
Dessert was a Blueberry Summer Soup with Cashew Cream ($6) that had the consistency of yogurt or custard. This was gobbled in minutes, and I was contemplating asking for seconds, even though I was verging on popping the top button of my pants.
If you're interested in trying one of Smart Monkey's dinners, reservations are a must. The food isn't cheap, but it's an experience you're not going to find elsewhere in Portland. They also package some of their dishes and sell them at local natural food stores, such as Food Front and Whole Foods (where, incidentally, you can find raw and living foods cooking classes). Ani says presenting these meals, making the packaged foods, and teaching the classes is "all about education." What better way to change the world than through food?