Raw veganism consists of eating mostly or completely raw, organic, unprocessed foods. That means raw foodists don’t cook at temperatures higher than roughly 115 degrees Fahrenheit, if at all, because they believe high heat causes foods to lose their enzymes. This leaves, essentially, fresh and dried fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seaweed, raw eggs, raw meat and raw fish on the table.
Still, rather than being a fad diet that pushes rapid loss of weight, raw veganism focuses on increasing energy and improving digestion as well as overall health, according to food blog The Spruce Eats.
In San Diego, vegan restaurants have become increasingly more common, and each typically houses a few raw vegan options. Such is the case with Cafe Gratitude (1980 Kettner Blvd.) in Little Italy, a higher-end, gourmet vegan choice. There, I ordered the Fabulous (aka raw Mexican lasagna). Made with squash noodles, cilantro pumpkin seed pesto, cashew queso fresco and cacao mole, this was not the comfort food from my childhood. However, the Liberated dish (aka raw pesto kelp noodles) was delicious. With basil hempseed pesto, olives, cashew ricotta and brazil nut parmesan, it was a welcome and certainly much healthier substitute for a bowl of oiled-up carbs.
Trilogy Sanctuary (7650 Girard Ave., Suite 400) in La Jolla follows the same model, meaning it specializes in vegan plates with some raw options. Yet, Trilogy goes above and beyond by being not only vegan, but also gluten-free, soy-free and pesticide-free in all that it does.
“I think people are becoming a lot more open to trying this kind of lifestyle and things like social media help to make this popular and more well known,” says Trilogy Sanctuary founder Leila Dora. “I think people who didn’t know about it, or considered it in the past, may realize that raw vegan food is actually quite tasty and nourishing.”
At Trilogy, I ordered the Green Goddess salad. A combination of spring greens, spinach, kale, chopped cucumber, grated beets and carrots, topped with avocado and eggplant bacon bits and tossed with smoky tomato dressing. It was essentially the average salad and while the eggplant bacon bits didn’t resemble bacon, they were the main attraction nonetheless.
One thing that raw foodists do amazingly well is dessert. At Trilogy, it was Majestic, a raw carrot cake with hints of cinnamon, spices and nuts plus a vanilla and lemon zest icing. At Peace Pies (4230 Voltaire St.) in Ocean Beach, it was a raw vegan chocolate and coconut cheesecake. Despite being made of fruits, nuts and cacao, it was creamy, full in flavor and doesn’t have the overbearing cheesiness of regular cheesecake. Being potentially the only completely raw vegan restaurant in San Diego, Peace Pies excels in its entire menu, from the Magical Mango Curry Wrap to crave-worthy kale chips. And they’re actually hearty enough to feel full afterward.
“The way the body works, you’re going to eat until your body says you’re full,” says Peace Pies owner PJ Alfred. “So if you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients and minerals you need quicker, your body and brain is going to switch and say ‘Hey, I’m full.’ There’s a reason you can eat a pound of pasta and that’s because it’s nutritionally void, you can just keep going and going and going until your stomach is literally full and then you’ve got the food coma and the nap that follows.”
But the most emphasized commonality between each of these restaurants is eating to healthily satisfy the body’s needs, not adhering to strict dietary limitations.
“I really believe that balance is key and eating to that point where you feel good,” says Alfred. “If you’re having a hard time digesting raw broccoli or whatever it is, then don’t do it for you. Do what makes you feel good. Don’t feel like you’re on this 100 percent raw food thing, and you can’t deviate at all. I feel like that’s where a lot of people fail with trying to do or live the raw food diet.”