Aspen Times Weekly: Sacred feast |

Aspen Times Weekly: Sacred feast

by Amanda Rae


True Nature Healing Arts Café

8 a.m to 6 p.m

100 N. 3rd St., Carbondale

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True Nature Kitchen

914 Hwy. 133

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MIDWAY THROUGH the fourth course and nary a wineglass in sight: I’m giddy. Set before each of us at the long table for twenty is a plate of manicotti Bolognese, fragrant with rich heirloom tomato sauce and sprinkled with vibrant green herbs. Diners ooh and aah between bites of this tidy Italian tableau, decorated with dots of lavender-rose-hibiscus gastrique and which the menu indicates carries a unique vibration: LA 852 Hz.

The numbers printed above each course description are the first clues that this is no ordinary tasting. Closer inspection reveals that the classic pasta dish isn’t made with pasta at all — nor cheese or slow-simmered sauce. Instead, paper-thin slices of zucchini roll around a fluffy mousse of cultured cashew cream studded with earthy oyster and shiitake mushrooms. The sauce only tastes like it’s been bubbling on the stovetop for hours. In fact, it’s entirely raw: a purée of red bell pepper and vine-ripened tomatoes, beefed up not with pork or veal but cubes of candy-like chioggia and golden beets.

“We want you to understand that this food vibrates at a very high frequency,” announces chef Pam Davis, who runs True Nature Kitchen with chef David Avalos. “It’s the most alive food.”

To kick off the second annual True Nature Healing Arts Sacred Fest, an anniversary celebration at the holistic wellness sanctuary in Carbondale, Davis and Avalos have prepared a seven-course meal of high-prana food. (Prana is Sanskrit for “life force” or “vital energy.”) As such, nearly everything on the menu is raw and all of it is vegan. Ceviche on the Oaxacan platter is made with young coconut meat; the sweet chile relleno with poblano mole is stuffed with “chorizo” made of beet pulp left over from the kitchen’s fresh, cold-pressed juices (which are sold in the True Nature café and at kiosks at the Aspen Club & Spa, in the Ute City Building, and at Roxy’s Market in Aspen).

“We try to be as sustainable as possible,” says Avalos, a self-described science geek wearing a funky, feathered cap made of mushrooms. (Yep, his hat is sewn of fungi.) “Our food is 98 percent raw — you won’t know that, and we don’t want that to scare you. We go to great lengths to make the food taste great. The supplemental aspect is that it’s really good for you.”

Indeed, each plate is rainbow of color, with bold, concentrated flavors to match. But instead of coming across as obnoxiously virtuous in their healthfulness, the creations are decidedly playful. The second course is a riff on a crabcake: it’s made with jackfruit, an ingredient indigenous to India that has a sweet flavor and meaty texture. Accompanied by a sweet purée of fennel and Olathe corn, local pear marmalade, sugar snap peas, and curried cashew remoulade, the dish is a revelation for most of the wide-eyed guests here, few of whom have ever tasted jackfruit before.

In place of sparkling wine, we toast to the chefs with flutes of effervescent jun — an ancient fermented beverage made with green tea, local raw honey, and probiotic cultures. “It has more of a yin flavor to it,” Avalos tells us, adding that the fizzy health tonic is thought to have originated in northern China and Tibet even before kombucha. The beverage is twice-fermented with chamomile, rooibos, and vanilla; the jun yeast culture is also used to prepare kimchi with bamboo salt imported from some far-flung land.

I suspected that the dinner might provide a deep holistic experience even before the first course was served, when Davis passed a vial around the table: spruce oil, which we were instructed to daub on our hands, forehead, and throat.

“When we all put on the spruce, we all come into the same frequency,” explained Deva Shantay, True Nature Healing Arts co-founder with her husband, Eaden. “When we eat the food, we’re experiencing it together.”

Indeed, from the first bites of mini pizzettas — topped with cashew “cheese” made with live kefir cultures and local ingredients including pear, tomato, spinach, and basil — diners seem to be in sync. We’re grooving on food so flavorful and nutritious that it is uplifting; our conversation is surprisingly animated despite no booze being served. In a way, our energy at the table mirrors the synergy of Davis, Avalos, and a crew of about a dozen at the True Nature Kitchen located just a few blocks down the street.

“We’re been working together about 18 months, and in that time they’ve created more than 30 unique items — from cheeseless cheeses, entrées, desserts, jun,” Eaden Shantay tells us. “They take things from the outside world and reverse-engineer them to make them better [for us]. It’s energy: If you go into the production kitchen, there’s a vibration and an intentionality that goes into everything that they make. They are culinary alchemists.”

Not only does the True Nature Kitchen prepare a range of raw foods, smoothies, and packaged meals and soups—all of which is vegan, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and as local as possible — but soon the company will sell a line of cold-pressed beverages and raw desserts and snacks in Whole Foods Markets across the Rocky Mountain region.

“We put a high level of importance on our selection of ingredients,” Avalos says. “We spend a lot of time getting to know the people we get our foods from. Everything we do in our kitchen has tonalities. We’ve got sacred geometry on the walls and crystals buried in the ceiling. That’s important to us because we know our gift to the world is the passion we put into our food.”

When Deva mentions that a gong in the True Nature Kitchen facilitates workplace meditation, I can’t help but think it all sounds so…hippy-dippy. And perhaps it is. But true enlightenment arrives with the final course: Davis’s dessert trio, comprised of matcha-cashew “cheesecake” with crumbly miso crust; fudgy dehydrated cacao cake with maple crème fraîche, orange marmalade, and pistachio brittle; and an apple lollipop coated in raw caramel and crunchy pumpkin seeds.

Despite being dairy- and gluten-free, made without refined sugars, and with nothing heated above a hundred degrees, each bite is sinfully sweet and decadent. At once I realize what high-prana food is all about: The true nature of each ingredient honored.

Amanda Rae is contemplating a raw lifestyle while walking barefoot through the reflexology labyrinth at True Nature Healing Arts.