Greens & Vines’ famous “living lasagna.”
“It’s good, but…” my dining companion says through crunches of a flax seed crisp piled high with a spicy coconut dip reminiscent of Thai curry. “It’s really tasty,” she begins again, “but it’s a little unnerving.” As I dig into another bite of Greens & Vines’ falafel boat, made with almonds and a pungent mix of spices, I begin to understand what she means.
Chomping through what looks like tomato paste but is actually a macadamia nut spread, I can’t help but think of the first time I tried, ironically enough, dinuguan, a savory, Filipino pork blood stew. My first bite then, I thought about how wonderful and tasty the flavor of the stew was; after about the fourth or fifth, I was reminded of what I was eating, the grittiness and iron of the blood becoming stronger with each bite. This comparison came to me at Greens & Vines, from the same observation that my dining companion had; that seedy, nutty, compressed taste harkens back to the origins of the dish and becomes all the more noticeable as the meal goes on.
The falafel boat.
Dip sampler: tri-layer dip of sunflower seed dip, guacamole, and cashew sour Cream, mac nut spread, and spicy coco dip with flax seed thins.
Full disclosure: I, along with my dining fellow, enjoy meat of any variety. I like my bacon burnt, list fries as one of my all-time favorite foods, and while I did attempt the Daniel Fast (described as a “vegan diet with even more restrictions”) for 28 days, I have never had an entire meal that was raw as well as vegan (meaning no food of animal origin or food that’s cooked to above 118 degrees). Basically, I am not exactly the raw-vegan eatery’s precise demographic, but it’s something that I wanted to try. And while the food at Greens & Vines may come across as a bit odd for those not accustomed to eating this way, what it lacked in animal protein and temperature, it made up for in flavor and, as our servers would inform us, health benefits.
Diners, now more than ever, are becoming increasingly conscious of what they put in their bodies, from where their food comes from to how it’s grown. Greens & Vines owner Sylvia Thompson began preparing vegan meals after a heart attack sent her husband Pete to the hospital in 2003. “Eighteen months later, Pete was free from all heart disease,” our server informs us, her eyes growing wide and serious, “And look at her,” she continues enthusiastically, looking back at Sylvia, who sports a black peplum dress and a string of pearls. “Doesn’t she look great for her age?” Sylvia, it turns out, is 20 years older than I had assumed.
Sylvia originally broke into the business with Licious Dishes, a raw-vegan catering service and farmers market staple whose living lasagna became beloved by even the most serious carnivore. Wide ribbons of marinated zucchini set between layers of sun-dried, tomato marinara, pesto, and a creamy ricotta “cheese” made from macadamia nuts make for a fluffy yet decadent table favorite—served cold, of course.
Wicked chocolate tart, made from raw organic cacao powder, extra-virgin coconut oil, and agave nectar, atop an almond crust.
After Licious Dishes won her a Hale Aina award, Sylvia decided to open the brick-and-mortar Greens & Vines, bringing her living lasagna with her, as well as the “not-tuna” that we opted to try. Despite its long list of ingredients—organic sunflower seeds, mac nut “mayo,” coconut water, dill, dulse (a type of seaweed), green onions, celery, and date mustard—the dish tasted like the real thing and was something I could see myself easily substituting for its fishy counterpart. For dessert, we chose the “wicked chocolate tart.” “I have one of these almost every day,” our server tells us as she brings out the tart. It’s dense and rich, and I find it hard to believe someone could eat something this decadent more than once a week, but I suppose even raw-vegans need to splurge. “It’s definitely a process,” our server tells us. “I was a vegetarian for years before becoming a vegan. And now, I’m slowly adjusting to eating completely raw.”
Walking out of Greens & Vines, it’s easy to see the allure of raw-veganism. The health benefits for the owners are apparent; meanwhile, the extra pep in the step of each of our servers was undeniable. With their expert ability to transform organic products into dishes curiously similar to the familiar, Greens & Vines just may have made a convert out of me. Although I’m guessing that similar to a well-intentioned workout vow, only time will tell.
Greens & Vines is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday and is located at 909 Kapiolani Blvd. For more information, call 808-536-9680 or visit greensandvines.com.