Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Restaurant Review: Thrive

One winter day, a friend and I set out for adventure. We whisked around town in our little car doing a little shopping, running a few errands and decidedly finding ourselves in that ever so familiar place: hungryland.

I had brought my newly purchased Chinook Book with me for a closer look (for those unfamiliar, the Chinook Book is EcoMetro's Seattle version of an all-green, all-about-sustainable, happy-earth-friendly coupon book filled with discounts from grocery stores, restaurants, manufacturers and so much more. Think Entertainment Book, but all about the greenness. Go to http://www.ecometro.com/ to see if your city has one). We flipped through the book looking for something near Seattle, or just north of Seattle, that would fit what our palates were craving.

Flip. Flip. Flip. So many options. How does one, or two, choose?

And there it was. Something that fit right into our scheme of adventure: Thrive.

Who doesn't want to thrive? Really?

And for those of you who already know or curiosity has crept up so silently you can't stand it, the website is http://www.generationthrive.com/ . Hurry up. Go there, then come back and I'll tell you more. I'll wait.

Okay, good. We're all here now. So, Thrive. Eclectic little Thrive.

When we first walked in, after finding what could be called difficult parking simply because it is right on 65th across from Whole Foods in Ravenna, the first thing we couldn't help but notice was how small it was. Unfortunately, that really did jump out at us. The little store had five tables and a counter for sitting, most of the tables only seating two, except one family-style seating arrangement at the window. My friend and I opted to sit at the counter so we could chat and watch the food denizens preparing our scrumptious fare.

But, of course, prior to sitting, we had to pick what we wanted to eat. At Thrive, you order at the front counter and they deliver it to your table by calling your name. Makes sense since the place is fairly intimate. The woman behind the counter answered most of our questions; she said she'd just come in and wasn't sure what was in the dessert counter, but other than that, she was knowledegable and super helpful. My friend ordered a warm grain bowl - Awaken - with steamed quinoa and veggies galore dressed in a Sesame-Ginger sauce. I chose the Mighty Thai - a raw (did I mention they were a raw food restaurant, except some of their steamed grain options? Did I mention that? Sorry, I suppose I didn't, but for those of you who read my latest review, it was also of a raw restaurant. Well, believe it or not, Thrive was the first raw place I tried, but I decided to review Chaco Canyon yesterday instead. Don't know why. Just did.) salad piled high with shredded red cabbage and carrots oozing with their homemade Thai "Peanut" Sauce and topped with cashews and dates. Delish. It spoke to me right off the menu.

We both decided we needed a smoothie of some sort to top off our meal, so my friend chose a Sweet Tart with fresh strawberries, lime juice, agave and ice. I had to have a Creamsicle of the strawberry variety (there are other options) and their own homemade Almond Milk. Divine.

My friend couldn't help peering into the dessert counter as I ordered - it was cleverly right where we were standing - and on the flip side, there were no labels on the actual food items, nor a list of ingredients, but everything was beautiful, tempting and beckoning. The lack of a label is not a plus for someone like me who is very aware of what I choose to consume. On a white board near the dessert case was a hand-written list of what items were featured for dessert that day. However, you had to be able to discern what was what by either guessing or asking, of which we tried to do the latter but were forced to do the prior. Let me explain. We asked the smiling woman behind the counter for better clarification, but she didn't know what was what. So, we had to guess. My friend chose a little "pudding" container with a layer of what looked like dark chocolate, milk chocolate and then dark chocolate. Her adventurous side won out. She had to have some. I decided to reserve my adventure for my cuisine.

We used our coupon (from the Chinook Book), paid, and sat down. We talked and watched the cooks from the counter spinning various kinds of foods in blenders and cuisinarts, each being plated in cute little bowls, glasses or plates. My friend cracked open her tiny container of pudding and began sampling. She said it was definitely chocolately, smooth and creamy, not too heavy and not too light. She enjoyed it immensely, licking her lips after each and every bite. She didn't want to miss a drop.

I walked over to peruse the tiny retail section that consisted of a self-help wall of grains and beans, cookbooks and other raw food reading fare, and a selection of pre-made goodies in refrigerated cases. I returned just in time to see our smoothies delivered having picked up some silverware and napkins along the way from the self-service center.

My smoothie was a beautiful pink color, creamy and blended to perfection. It tasted just like a strawberry creamsicle. It was fantastic. I wonder if they'll give me their almond milk recipe? My friend's smoothie was also a beautiful reddish pink color. She took a sip and with the sparkle in her eyes, I knew it was a hit.

One of the chefs called our names and placed two large bowls (even though we both ordered regular size, there was a bit of a concern if it would be enough. Once we saw the bowls, we realized, oh yeah, more than enough.) in front of us and we dove in. My friend kept remarking that if this was what raw food tasted like, she wanted more of it. She acknowledged that her bowl wasn't completely raw (the steamed quinoa), but the majority of it was and it was truly delicious. My Mighty Thai salad had a delicious crunch with just the right amount of dressing and flavor to tantalize my taste buds. No salt needed here. It was crunchy, it was sweet, it was filling and there was plenty left over. As I mentioned yesterday, raw food has a way of filling you up. I think it's because of all the crunching and with all that mastication, you have to eat slowly. The brain has a chance to recognize full. That's my theory.

We ate and munched and slurped in happy silence, only breaking to say how good something was. And it really was. Thrive has breathed new life back into raw food eating and I applaud them for cracking open the long-held stigma surrounding raw eateries. They really were a breath of fresh air. Literally.

The only part that stalled my refreshing inspiration was two-fold: for whatever reason, it was really hot inside the store. I must say, I was a bit surprised because for a restaurant that doesn't use stoves (I don't think they even had one in there...maybe to steam the rice or quinoa, but I think they used steamers...baffling) it was extraordinarily hot in there. Once I removed my jacket and acclimated, I was fine, but momentarily, I did wonder if I would be comfortable staying inside. I can't imagine I was just having a hot flash.

And the second-fold was price. Not on everything, mind you. I thought the food was well-priced, certainly for what you got in terms of quality and quantity. Our dishes ran about $6 or $7 for a regular bowl, $8 or $9 for a large, which neither of us got, but of the regular, we both took some home. And the smoothies were in the $4-5 range. They had smoothies that were more expensive and bigger, but alas, I could not find this info on their website and I cannot remember the exact pricing, so, I guess you'll just have to go and find out for yourself. Okay, so what I am talking about is the price of the pudding cup my friend bought. Four dollars. Four dollars? I thought that was a little much for what she got. And the price was nowhere to be found along with the missing labels and ingredient lists, otherwise she may have considered otherwise. The pudding cup came in one of those little sauce-sized take-home containers you get from Chinese restaurants or teriyaki. Tiny. She said it was just enough, but four dollars worth? Come on. That seems a little extreme. I do own a few raw food cookbooks and I know the basics of how they make those puddings and well, two or three bucks would have sufficed.

But other than that, I loved everything about them. Thrive really is opening up the eyes of a whole new generation into the world of raw, healthy eating. Raw food isn't just for rabbits anymore. It's people food. Real, good, delicious, home-style people food. Which makes the people feel good.

Go Generation Thrive.

Happy eating!

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