EAT WELL…LIVE WELL…BE WELL
I don’t know what the exact definition of a “foodie” is but I’m usually game to try anything at least once. I’m an all-around type of eater and I don’t really fall into any particular type of category, not even carnivore. I embrace the Pescatarian lifestyle and I’m a fan of vegan fare but I’ve had some issue with raw cuisine just because I don’t like cold pasta (I am not a fan of gazpacho either) but I was excited to try the new 118 Degrees raw food restaurant in Tarzana.
At 118 Degrees, the concept is simple. Chef Jenny Ross serves nothing but fresh gourmet living cuisine and all her menu items are prepared by hand daily, using local organic produce wherever possible. The cuisine is entirely plant-based, dairy free, soy free, wheat free, made from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains, is high in enzymes, vitamins and minerals and is prepared at 118° or lower to preserve valuable nutrients. Any food heated above 118° actually begins to cook.
118 Degrees first opened in 2007 at an alternative shopping center in Costa Mesa and stayed true to its name by not heating food above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Now based out of Tarzana, popular menu items include living lasagna, and butternut ravioli. Ross has also launched a boxed-food program that allows customers to savor her cuisine at home — with offerings ranging from a single-day portion to a week-long supply.
“Eating raw simply means embracing and adding a percentage of fresh living foods to your diet,” Chef Jenny Ross explains. “It’s simple, the living body needs living food – food intact with enzymes and important vitamins and minerals. To enjoy fresh vibrant food is to add that fresh vitality into your own being. At 118 degrees we prepare all of our dishes from mole enchiladas to brownies at 118 degrees or lower using blenders, and dehydrators instead of ovens or stoves.”
Chef Ross is a big proponent of an alkaline diet, believing that certain foods can affect the acidity and pH of bodily fluids and can be used to treat or prevent disease.
“Alkaline foods support a healthy body, acidic foods do not,” Chef Ross points out. “Living foods are alkaline in nature, reducing inflammation and support a vibrant lifestyle, however, that same piece of kale that supports health in a fresh smoothie or salad is actually toxic if you fry it and serve it as a garnish.”
I wasn’t looking to be converted to a raw food diet. I was just looking forward to trying food that while I hoped would be good for me, would at the very least taste good. Mission accomplished.
Having tried a few raw passed food items before, I knew buckwheat was a popular ingredient, which was fine, but if used too much then most food items tend to taste the same. During our recent outing to 118 Degrees, we started our meal with the wonderful Cremini mushrooms stuffed with walnut pesto and I realized Chef Ross’ cuisine is fresh and creative and most important, tasty. Unlike a lot of vegan restaurants, everything here isn’t soy-based, which was a relief. The ingredients are actually fresh.
I was a big fan of the coconut ceviche with slivers of fresh coconut, mango and herbs in a spiced ceviche sauce. This was so good. While you’re not actually eating real shrimp, the flavor is so bold and fresh that it’s a damn fine substitute. I knew I was eating some “fake” version of ceviche, instead I was enjoying a wonderful play on a favorite dish of mine that still managed to please.
To my surprise, the mole enchiladas were amazing. Served in coconut wraps with mole chipotle cheese, marinated Spanish squash, carrots and avocado, this was a lively and flavorful option. Believe me, I’m a big fan of mole enchiladas (I’m talking about the real deal) and I really liked this version. I’d still prefer the real thing but for a raw option, this did not disappoint me.
Likewise, the Living Lasagna prepared with layers of zucchini and yellow squash, tomato, macadamia ricotta and sweet basil topped with marinated mushrooms was delicious. If you’re a fan of vegetable lasagna, you will love this. If you feel that your lasagna must have meat, well, I think you’ll still be a fan if you step out of your comfort zone just once.
Raw food eaters, vegans and vegetarians will love 118 Degrees, but I’m impressed how the non-label eaters, or meat eaters if you must categorize, will enjoy many of the menu selections here. I didn’t concern myself too much with this being healthy, I just wanted some damn good grub. The fact that it’s good for you is an added plus if you’re only going to be a casual raw eater.
118 Degrees is located at 18636 Ventura Blvd in Tarzana, CA 91356. Open daily from 11am to 9pm. Call 818-660-1118.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: 118 Degrees