A small, aging strip mall in West Palm Beach may be the last place you'd expect to find Vanilla Ice taking a lunch break, but if you swing by the Vegan Cafe you might be lucky enough to catch him trying a new flavor of Pond Yum! spirulina popsicle.
Located just a few miles west of I-95, off Okeechobee Boulevard, Vegan Cafe owner Moe Senechal has filled his small shop with a wide array of health-focused fare, from fresh juice to fermented foods.
See Also:Pond Scum Is Good For You
Since opening in July, already a few local vegan-loving "celebrities" have stopped in to check out the small cafe, including Hippocrates Health Institute co-directors Anna Marie and Brian Clement. Located a few doors down from Rinaldi's and beyond a new La Brasa location, the clean space -- and clean food -- is a stark contrast to the meat and cheese laden sandwiches and slow-roasted chickens nearby.
Inside, the cafe offers an open area made bright and cheery with light blue washed walls. Several large tables allow for the lunch crowd to eat-in and enjoy a chalkboard menu of cold-pressed juices, smoothies and a serve-yourself soup bar that changes daily. There's also a short menu of raw, vegan eats. And, for the fully-committed vegan, the entire right wall is dedicated to shelves showcasing colorful jars of Senechal's own homemade, probiotic-infused fermented foods.
The menu offers a variety of vegan entrees ($5.99-$11.99) including several "stuffed" dishes, from a flash-baked tomato with raw spinach, sprouted quinoa, sprouts and seasonal vegetables, to the stuffed avocado or portabella mushroom caps. The nori roll features nothing but raw vegetables and sprouts given a hint of flavor with a special vegan sauce, then rolled in nori. A hearty vegetable meatball sandwich includes plenty of whole-grains and raw seeds, and can be served on a bed of greens and sprouts in place of a baked whole-grain bun. There's also pizza, pad thai made with raw zucchini or mung bean noodles -- even a curry dish offering a creamy blend of sweet potatoes, peas and garbanzo beans served over rice, sprouts and greens.
See Also: How To Make Your Own Raw Vegan Sushi
Our favorite is also one of Rob Van Winkle's, too. The Pond Yum pops made by a Vero Beach-based company known as Hero Pops. Owned by Michael Haggerty, Hero Pops offers a variety of vegan, gluten-free popsicles, drinks and smoothie boosters made using 25 percent living blue-green algae and spirulina.
However, the most intriguing menu items aren't frozen pond scum or made-to-order; they're made to take home. Also known as Moe's Fermenteds, Senechal has created a full line of artisanal, raw, probiotic-infused fermented foods that feature everything from wasabi peas and sauerkraut, to Giardineria -- an Italian-American pickling of carrots, celery, cauliflower, onions and zucchini. Unlike many grocery store fermented foods, Moe's Fermenteds are made with local, organic ingredients in small batches and are unpasteurized for ultimate nutritional value. Many raw vegans consider fermented foods to be a critical part of their diets, providing essential bacteria that aid in digestion and enhance or fortify the immune system.
According to the Moe's Fermenteds website, some of Senechal's most unique products include kvass, a traditional eastern European beverage originally made from fermenting stale bread, but today made with beets and used to help cleanse the liver and restore electrolyte imbalance. You'll also find kefir, a combination of coconut water and fermented milk from local micro farms that offers a combination of bacteria and yeast touted for its health benefits. They also make their own kombucha, or fermented green tea.
The Vegan Cafe is located at 5075-B Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Visit the-vegan-cafe.net or their Facebook page, or call 561-318-5045. To schedule a fermentation lesson, or to buy kefir cultures and kombucha SCOBY, contact Moe at email@example.com.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.