Roseville's Green Boheme offers artful food in the raw – Sacramento Bee

The food at Roseville’s the Green Boheme is 95 percent organic and 100 percent raw, vegan and gluten-free.

It sounds a bit Paltrow-precious and as tasty as a box of air. But Green Boheme chef Brooke Preston inventively turns cashews into “cheese,” walnuts into “beans” and otherwise infuses her unpretentious cafe’s sandwiches, soups and entrees with impressive flavor.

Green Boheme sits on Lead Hill Boulevard in the same shopping center as the Century Roseville 14 multiplex, where the hot dogs are not vegan and “cheese substitute” means something very different. The sit-down restaurant holds plenty of natural light, its brown-blue floor tiles earthy yet not quite hippie.

Let’s ignore the “raw” aspect of Preston’s dishes for now. Speaking strictly in vegan terms, Preston’s offerings rank among the Sacramento region’s best.

As America’s self-proclaimed “Farm-to-Fork Capital,” Sacramento emphasizes local and seasonal, and by implication, the freshness of those qualities working in tandem. Rare in local restaurants, though, is the produce-based dish that’s not just fresh but refreshing. Green Boheme hits this mark with one of its best plates: the spiralized zucchini pasta with marinara sauce.

The vivid tomato sauce emboldens the squash’s mild taste, with the combination delivering that undeniable burst of “garden” most associated with liquid items such as gazpacho and just-blended carrot juice. Yet this is a dish of great textural intrigue, its noodles firm in the manner of al dente flour pasta, but juicier and crunchier.

The spiralized pasta goes for $13.50. For $3 more, one can order “spaghetti ’n’ no-meatballs,” with the zucchini noodles, marinara sauce and pecan-walnut meatballs sprinkled with fennel seeds and poultry seasoning that help mimic a meaty taste.

Preston, already a chef, put herself on a raw-food diet several years ago for health reasons. Her hypothyroid, seasonal allergy and migraine symptoms subsequently subsided, she said.

She adheres to the school of thought that cooking food at at temperatures above 118 degrees diminishes nutrients and disarms enzymes that enable good digestion. She originally opened Green Boheme in 2009 on Del Paso Boulevard in Sacramento. That restaurant closed in 2014 due to what Preston said were issues with the building. She opened the current location several months later, having been drawn to Roseville partly by demographic research that revealed residents there spend a bundle on health and fitness.

Some of them take Preston’s $45 “Dine ’n’ Demo” classes, in which she serves dinner and demonstrates how to prepare a particular dish. Others enroll in her 30-day, $1,495 “raw immersion” classes that include dine ’n’ demos, a month’s worth of food and weekly instruction from Preston on lifestyle choices and the benefits of eating food free of additives or fillers.

Though Preston does not promise miracles, she “has seen hundreds of people heal themselves” through a raw, vegan diet, she said.

Having eaten at Green Boheme three times, I cannot testify to the food’s curative effects. But I was impressed by its anti-soporific qualities.

If there is any down side to being a food writer, it’s that food can slow writing. A bacon cheeseburger for lunch translates into a sluggish afternoon.

Green Boheme’s burger, its patty of sunflower seed, flax seed and carrot wrapped in a fluffy romaine-leaf “bun,” does not hamper the pep in one’s step.

And Green Boheme goes beyond rabbit food, though Bugs Bunny’s sophisticated palate no doubt would appreciate the jicama “rice” on the $15.95 enchilada plate. The rice serves as a side, along with rich, walnut-based beans, to an enchilada of marinaded mushrooms and avocado rolled in a tortilla made from dehydrated corn and squash. This tortilla is as supple as any made with cooked ingredients.

The “no-sea” tuna sandwich ($14.95), made with sunflower-seed paste, offers a tuna flavor partly derived from a dash of kelp powder but mostly from accoutrements typical to tuna sandwiches – red onion, a mayonnaise made from cashew and Thai coconut meat, and a mustard of seeds that were soaked instead of cooked. Housing this filling are thin but hearty pieces of bread composed of dehydrated nuts, seeds and apple.

The tuna sandwich comes with a lively side salad. But $15 still is a bundle to spend on a sandwich plate. Preston attributes her menu prices to labor-intensive dishes (the bread can take three days to dehydrate properly) and the high cost of ingredients.

Preston does not use soy, she said, because there already is so much soy in American diets, and it can affect estrogen levels. The chickpea miso she uses instead costs twice as much as the product with soy, she said.

Green Boheme’s miso soup, less cloudy and salty than what one typically gets in Japanese restaurants, contains sinuous kelp noodles that provide welcome umami flavor. Green Boheme’s soups start with cold, raw bases to which hot water is added. That process might raise the temperature past 118 degrees, Preston said, but she believes nutrients and enzymes are preserved.

Soups arrive warm but not hot to the table, the vegetables within maintaining much of their integrity. The spicy-bright tortilla soup, for example, held purple cabbage softened just enough to mollify its more bitter aspects.

The worry that accompanies my every visit to a new vegan restaurant, that the food will be bland – borne from a meat eater’s skepticism but also from previous visits to vegan restaurants – proved unfounded at Green Boheme. If anything, the food and drink there can hold too much flavor.

The burger and enchilada, though beautifully conceived and executed overall, contained one too many sauces each – barbecue on the burger and a tomato-chili on the enchilada.

This flirtation with excess bloomed into a full-fledged affair with the house-made “lemon bomb” blended drink. Composed of a whole lemon, including rind, and honey, this drink was so sweet and pungent that I had to water it down. Its taste evoked the smell of lemon Pledge – not the “cleanse” I had in mind.

My favorite drink at Green Boheme was hot coffee. Preston said she sometimes drinks coffee, and counts it among the more innocuous items on the list of foods and drinks that might be bad for you.

My coffee was Pachamama organic, served with turbinado raw sugar and house-squeezed Brazil nut milk. But I ordered it strictly for that splash of rebellion a caffeinated drink provides in a raw, vegan, gluten-free restaurant. Because some of us are potential 30-day immersion devotees, and others, though highly appreciative of what’s on offer, are strictly three-day people.

1611 Lead Hill Blvd., Suite 160, Roseville

Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Beverages: Kombucha. Smoothies. Cold-pressed juices. Hot coffee and tea.

Vegetarian friendly: Very. And vegan-friendly.

Gluten-free options: Whole menu.

Noise level: Low to moderate

Ambiance: The Green Boheme sits in the same shopping center as the Century Roseville 14, and looks earthy, but with some polish. The vibe is relaxed.

Overall

Chef Brooke Preston has found creative ways to showcase raw, vegan, organic food, in dishes that are not just fresh but refreshing. Service at Green Boheme does not quite match the food’s level.

Food

Preston’s creations are inventive and artfully plated. Standouts are the spiralized zucchini noodles, miso and tortilla soups and the enchilada plate. A few dishes nearly edged into being too flavorful. The “lemon bomb” drink was a bust.

Service 1/2

Preston was not there on our review visits, when the service staff ranged from exceptionally friendly to slightly disengaged. The ordering system seemed a touch odd. It’s full service until the end, when you go to the counter to have your bill tabulated.

Value

The Green Boheme isn’t cheap, but its prices are worth it, considering the ingenuity, labor and quality of ingredients involved in its dishes.

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