Sunday, 21 September 2008

RawforLife Goes to the US Part II (Raw Spirit Festival, Sedona, Arizona)

Sedona is an easy one-and-a-half hour's drive from Phoenix (well, bar the storm we ran into at Cottonwood), past hills covered with thousands of cacti taller than houses. The town itself nestles between enormous red rocks and is said to be a magical place - the site of several 'energy vortexes'. Some say that the energy from these vortexes saturates the whole town, and affects people in a very positive way. Consequently, Sedona has become something of a 'New Age' centre. However, I'm really not sure that I felt any differently from how I usually feel attending raw events, which is...happy, relaxed and positive!

Before I take you 'inside' the Raw Spirit Festival, some words about the raw restaurants outside the site that are there for Sedona's lucky raw foodists all the year round - D'Lish and Cafe Raw Bliss - which are at opposite ends of Highway 89a, the main road running through Sedona.


Although D'Lish also serves cooked vegetarian, they always have raw dishes on the menu, and Thursdays are special raw nights. So, on Thursday September 11th - my birthday, and the night before Raw Spirit Festival - D'Lish was packed with raw foodists. I celebrated with a huge 'raw platter', which included amongst many d'lish morsels a red cabbage 'slaw', nut pate, sea vegetables, guacamole and sprouts, all topped with a raw raspberry dressing. The atmosphere was wonderful and Denise played her guitar and sang to us!

Cafe Raw Bliss

Cafe Raw Bliss, at the other end of 89a, we visited on the last day of the Festival. I went for raw pizza, which is not something I'd normally order in the UK, as I find it a little taxing on the digestion. But, here, as at the farmers' market at La Jolla, the pizza was very light, and covered with leaves - I'm experimenting with 'lighter' pizzas at home right now! Leigh had a very good carrot and ginger soup - creamy and sweet. We both drank ginger lemonade, made with lemons, ginger and agave. Now, I'm never quite sure about agave nectar, as even the agave marketed as 'truly raw' is nevertheless highly processed, but, when the temperature is 90 F, ginger lemonade is...nectar.


Imagine being in a place where you don't have to explain (let alone apologise for) your food preferences, where there are around 1000+ people just as 'odd' as you, where you can eat (mostly) anything you like from the food on offer, and where everyone is friendly, so that you feel confident (whether alone or in a group) talking to anyone you like, or simply wander around on your own, just taking it all in.

Imagine being able to watch, live, rather than on 'youtube'', a host of top raw food names from around the world speak, including the authors of your favourite raw books, and see chefs demonstrate (with lots of free tasters!), and imagine being able to meet them in person at their booths too!

Imagine being able to meet face-to-face those you feel you've got to know a little, on line, eg through raw food forums.

Imagine wandering around in hot sunny weather (come on, UK raw foodists, I did say 'imagine'!), looking at all sorts of stalls (in US they say 'booths') on all sorts of areas of the raw food lifestyle and those that, for some, are associated with it, eg hemp clothing, yoga, art.

Once you've imagined all those things, you have in your mind something that gets a weeny bit close to what you will experience at the Raw Spirit Festival. If you weren't there this year, and haven't been before, make a visit to RSF something that you intend to do as part of your essential raw food education (visualise... manifest - seemed to work for me!)

The lovely man who sold me coconut butter asked if the UK people had chartered a jet there were so many of us there! 150, he thought, but I certainly only managed to meet up with a small fraction of this contingent so I'd recommend anyone going next year to wear something to encourage other UK raw foodists to make contact. Union Jack hat?

There was a free meal served as part of the ticket price, each day available between 2 and 8 pm. I had this the first two days, and although the second day's meal must have been relatively unremarkable as I can't remember it, the first day's was very good - kebabs with a salad, and what I think was a spirulina-based dish. Very tasty, although in the rest rooms I discovered that instead of giving people what I'd hoped had been beautiful smiles, I'd been wowing them teeth.

Organisation overall - not bad...but a big omission for me (and I should think most people there?) was that the toilets were not marked on the Programme map and there weren't even any posters with arrows telling us where, leaving the volunteers to answer the same question over and over again.


Coming up to two years as a UK raw foodist, I'd heard of around a half of the speakers (mostly from the US, but UK speakers included Karen Knowler, Sukie Zoe and Joel Gazdar). There did seem to be a good mix of the really big names and those who have appeared on the raw food scene relatively recently but who have made their presence felt. And of course when one compares being able to listen to all these luminaries over three days at just one venue with the cost of going to see them all individually at various more argument for booking those 2009 tickets as soon as they become available.

I saw fewer speakers than I wanted, mainly because I did have Leigh's interests to consider, ie I wasn't at RSF all the time we were in Sedona. I would have liked to have seen Dr Doug Graham and Karen Knowler speak, but had seen both in the UK and felt my time should be focused on those speakers that are in the UK less.

I did manage to see:

Philip McLuskey

Philip went raw a couple of years ago, and lost 200 lbs! In fact, he now tours the world giving talks under the banner 'Half the Man'. Philip is not only a very inspirational speaker, but, with many raw foodists coming from vegan, 'alternative' cultures, in contrast his culture was more gangland (and he has the tattoos to prove it). He gives a compelling account of how raw has transformed him physically, psychologically and spiritually. If you know anyone who is overweight, please, please direct them to Philip's site at

What resonated with me (do you know I never used the word 'resonated' until discovering raw, but find it so apt so much of the time now!) was Philip's describing how in the early months of raw he listened to all the raw 'gurus' and read everything he could get his hands on, but, in the end, decided treading his own path and eating just what he felt like (as long as it was raw) was the right thing for him. Philip lost masses of weight on what many would describe as a high-fat raw diet, and it was only after he'd been raw for some time that he started to feel like eating fewer nuts, avocados etc. Although I now generally follow a high-fruit, low(ish) fat diet, (because that's what lights my fire right now) my experience in the first few months of raw mirrors Philip's. If you are relatively new to raw, please don't be too concerned about various gurus' pronouncements on what foods you should or shouldn't eat. The experts all disagree with each other anyway; just eat raw! (for some very broad guidelines see the 'What is the Raw Food Diet?' section at my website at

David Wolfe

Now, I had actually seen David speak before at Brighton, UK, with Leigh. David is always entertaining, but I didn't stay for the whole talk at RSF, because...he was getting just a little too whacky for me this time around. I left as he was explaining that shamans always carried with them cacao, tobacco and something else I can't remember, as if because shamans did this and that, it must be a great thing to do - a theory I have never subscribed to. Anyhow, there's no doubt that David has brought thousands of people into the raw lifestyle, and transformed many lives in so doing. If you haven't read it already, do consider buying his 'Sunfood Diet Success System' - an interesting, informative, and inspirational book.

Victoria, Sergei and Valya Boutenko

Victoria is the mother in the famous raw family (Sergei and Valya are her adult children - Igor is her husband) whose journey to raw, in which all family members saw all sorts of illnesses disappear, is chronicled in her book 'The Raw Family'. I've reviewed two other of her books - 'Green for Life' and 'Twelve Steps to Raw' - in past RawforLife e-zines. Sergei and Valya are both raw chefs and enthusiastic advocates of raw, and the talks of all three Boutenkos were entertaining and informative.

Sergei talked about those raw foods that are just right for world financial crises - those free greens growing in our gardens or the wild. Valya described how resistant she had felt at times when her mother had questioned her eating of certain foods, and suggested we try reverse psychology on loved ones along these lines, 'You just carry on eating just the way you like to eat, as I love you no matter what you eat. If you changed too much I might not like you so much.' Hmm..could be worth a go!

Victoria included in her talk a reference to a comment made by a figure prominent in the raw food community (she didn't say who, but I think the initials may be BC) that, in blending we lose lots of nutritional value through oxidation. She pointed out that when we cut an apple, yes the cut pieces go brown, due to oxidation. But when we cover the cut pieces with water, they don't go brown. So, use water when making smoothies, and problem solved...seems so simple really!

Dr Gabriel Cousens

Dr GC is the founder/director of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Centre in Patagonia, Arizona. Gabriel and is well-known for a lifetime of work in raw foods, and has most recently achieved great success in reversing Type II diabetes, culminating in the publication of his book 'There is a Cure for Diabetes.' He was speaking about his diabetes programme, but unfortunately I arrived at the talk a little late. Of course, it was jam-packed, so standing right at the back wasn't ideal, but what I could hear sounded good stuff!

Because many of the stalls were around the Outdoor Main Stage, as I wandered around (stuffing myself with raw food goodies mainly) I also heard snippets of talks from Viktoras Kulvinskas and Matt Monarch.


The music stage was a bit of a poor relation to the other stages, tucked away in a corner, and drowned out to quite an extent by the necessary amplification of speakers' voices on the Outdoor Main Stage.

But one high note for me was seeing one of my RawforLife e-zine subscribers, Emily Cantrell, perform with her husband Al. The Cantrells' music has been described as a 'pop spin on acoustic folk and bluegrass, with detours into Celtic, western swing and Americana.' Their set was a little oasis of tranquillity for me on the Saturday afternoon, and for many others in the audience, some of whom were dancing. My favourite was Emily's own composition, 'Eva Marie', that she had written for a father and his little girl. More about Emily and Al (and some of their music) at

And does anyone know who this is? I'm talking about the lady in the background who, in the photograph, appears to have two heads, although I only remember seeing one on the day. She was on the Main Stage for around 15 minutes midday Sunday, but wasn't listed in the Programme. Her singing was so beautiful (about the sea), and so was she, that I ran after her as she left the stage and asked if she had a website, leaflet...anything? But she didn't! If it wasn't for the fact that I have the photograph, I might think that I'd imagined her. So, if you know who she is, please let me know.

STALLS (or 'booths')

OK - mixed feelings...obviously this comment will reflect my own biases, but there was a plethora of stalls selling supplements, and in my view a fair sprinkling of snake oil around. RSF stalls were in general quite...New Age/alternative. I'm commenting on this only because any of you bringing non-raw partners/friends from mainstream backgrounds need to be aware that RSF for three days could be just a little too much for them...Leigh and I agreed that he would attend all day on Day One, but after that, whilst I attended much of the remaining days, he did his own thing, exploring Sedona and the surrounding area. This worked well!

However, Leigh, following the Venice Boardwalk experience, is certainly a convert to young coconuts, which were sold at one stall (reasonably priced at $3), and, as spoons weren't supplied for the jelly, devised his own method of using the glass straw to scrape around the inside before sucking it through the straw. Although there were a couple of other stalls selling drinks, I feel more were needed; I passed on superfood shakes that appeared to consist of everything but the kitchen sink in the blender for $12 to $15.

There were several stalls selling paid-for food, and I think I must have tried something from each. Lots of nori wraps (I was persuaded that this nori was truly raw and even bought some to take home) and they were all very good. One stall (each day a long queue would form shortly after its opening) sold amazing 'tostadas'. At Chef Bruce Horiwitz's stall I tasted the best dessert ever. It was basically a base of macadamias, topped with bananas and peaches, with a topping made from hemp seed, vanilla and coconut cream. I didn't manage to get the recipe, but one of Bruce's helpers told me what was in it, although she didn't know the quantities. Suffice to say I did try recreating it at home yesterday (using hazelnuts instead of macs as we can't get these raw easily in the UK) wasn't quite the same. If anyone does have the recipe, I'd love to have it.

There were a few raw chocolate stands, but I wondered why most of them found it necessary to include non-raw ingredients such as maple sugar and soy lecithin, as UK raw choc makers don't (OK, I know...agave is a 'debatable'!). Although one vendor did give me a lengthy explanation as to soy lecithin's emulsifying qualities, is is nevertheless interesting that UK raw choc makers appear to be able to make chocolate of all sorts of consistencies without it. I think Gnosis chocolate was free of such ingredients, and did taste very good, but was also very expensive!

Waving the flag for the UK were Sarah Best and Karen Knowler. Sarah was promoting Get Fresh! magazine, which is a glossy magazine that manages to straddle the alternative and mainstream sectors, thus helping to get raw out to 'the masses'. Get Fresh! is now distributed in the US and thousands of readers are very much looking forward to the next issue ( Karen Knowler, as well as speaking, was promoting her international raw food directory, out in October. This is the first of its kind, and I look forward to seeing the first issue (

Good to see one of my favourite 'gurus' - Dr Doug Graham (author of the high-fruit 80/10/10 Diet) - at his stall, helped by Simon, who was very understanding when he saw me sneaking past with my cacao shake. Although... Dr D's stall would have been even better with an array of fruit on offer. One stall I did find giving out free slices of my favourite watermelon was a Hippocrates one, and the irony of this will not be lost on those who are familiar with the differing pronouncements of Dr Doug and Hippocrates on fruit. (I also found a stall selling yellow-fleshed watermelon; it tastes just like red.)

And, there was an excellent 'farmers market' section, selling all sorts of fruit and other raw plant foods, including a stall manned by Barry Koral, who I'd met back in San Diego.

I enjoyed browsing through the various clothes stalls. The designer hemp clothes, though beautiful, were a little out of my price range, but I did buy two tops made from soy!

At Tonya Zavaste's stall ( I was able to try her famous skin cream 'Your Right to be Beautiful'. It was so good to be able to try before buying, as in the past I've wasted money buying creams on-line that were either too heavy or too light. This one was just right, and smelled gorgeous. In fact, Leigh said 'Mmm...I can smell the coconut', which is interesting, as coconut isn't listed in the ingredients. I think he has coconuts on the brain.

I waved goodbye to Raw Spirit at 1pm on the Sunday, as Leigh and I had agreed to go gift shopping in Sedona together in the afternoon before going on to Cafe Raw Bliss. I was to meet him in the carpark at 1 pm. Deciding that I would test the theory that raw fooders don't burn in the sun, and that we don't need sun protection, I threw caution to the (desert) wind, and positioned myself in full sunlight in the middle of a 90 F day, with large areas of skin exposed. Leigh was half an hour late, having fallen into a river, and I can report that later on that day my back was red and a little..sore. It wasn't too bad, in that I could sleep fine, and didn't feel the need to put anything on it, but my feeling is that, although it may be true that raw fooders might not burn (cook?) as much as others, don't push your luck.

And to sum up?

I'd highly recommend Raw Spirit Festival, but, whether it's held in Arizona or California next year, do try to combine it with a few days extra for the California 'raw trail', as explained in Part I. If I could, I'd go every year - it's only the cost of getting there holding me back. On the other hand, that's what I was saying this time last year...

RawforLife Goes to the US Part I (Southern California)

Yes, I've just returned from an amazing trip to the US, or - to be more specific - two small parts of the US - the stretch of Southern California (SoCal) from Los Angeles to San Diego - followed by Sedona, Arizona, for the Raw Spirit Festival.

I've so much to write that the report is split into two parts - SoCal first, Sedona second. And, it's not a travelogue; we holidayed in the US for many non-raw reasons (eg my husband, being in the film business, had 'other things' to do in LA, and I had an amazing birthday trip to the Grand Canyon), but the blog articles will focus on raw food experiences.

And if such a holiday seems a pipe-dream to you right now, believe me when I say that it was exactly the same for me this time last year. Loved the sound of the Raw Spirit Festival, but cost was out of reach, 'we always go to Greece', etc. But just before the end of December persuaded myself that I just had to go for business/research/personal development reasons (!) and floated the idea to husband. Shortly after, found myself booking Raw Spirit Festival tickets for two (note - I saved $100 dollars per ticket by booking nine months in advance), then main flights, then over a period of several months put together the other parts of the holiday and somehow managed to pay for them.

Articles written by other raw foodists on raw food restaurants and Raw Spirit 2007 proved very helpful in planning the holiday, and I hope this article could itself prove useful if there is a seed in any reader's mind of SoCal being a holiday destination one day, and, if you have ever felt that it must be much easier being a raw foodist in California than elsewhere, I can personally confirm that... yes, it is. MUCH easier! Californian raw foodists are very fortunate!

And in fact the 'galloping raw gourmet' holiday 2009 should cost you fewer £ or $ than it did fme, AS...rumour has it that the next Raw Spirit Festival will be held in Southern California itself rather than Sedona, Arizona. Although Sedona is a wonderful place, this did mean a two-location holiday for us, with all the extra cost re accommodation/flights that entails. However, I've heard that the next RSF will be in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is just north of LA, halfway between San Francisco (which we didn't manage to include on our trip) and LA.

So, if you spend, say 6-7 days driving down the West Coast between San Francisco and San Diego, you could take in lots of raw food cafes, restaurants, farmers' markets, Wholefoods outlets, AND the Raw Spirit Festival - all within a few hours' drive of each other. In fact, it makes me want to plan another US holiday just thinking about it, but, as I'd like to stay married right now, think it might be Greece next year.

So, first things first..


We flew Heathrow to LA with Virgin Atlantic and, although many airlines now (even budget ones) do offer raw vegetarian meal options, VA doesn't (bar small fruit salads). So, I took lots of fruit and salads to keep me going through the 10-hour flight (yes, it's also good to fast, but I am not the best of flyers, and needed 'comfort food'!). And, having not taken a long-haul flight for a few years, it was good not to experience the blown-up tummy and general discomfort I'd always experienced wedged into a budget airline seat pre-raw.

Shortly before landing, the stewardess informed us that we were not allowed to take fruit and vegetables into the US, and that anyone in possession of said offending items were required to hand them in to her. So, not wanting to waste, I quickly ate my one remaining banana.

On arriving at LA, a sniffer dog made a beeline for my bag and found...banana peel! I was then told to join a special queue with other criminals (eg small boy with banana) and submit the peel to an agricultural specialist. So that held us up a bit. Luckily, I was then allowed into the US. (It wasn't the same going back - when re-entering the UK we were told bananas were fine, but meat, dairy etc wasn't, so no problem there!).


Just one non-food thing must say about LA/California generally that hit us as soon as we arrived - FLOWERS!! So many beautiful flowers everywhere. In the UK, we have hedges. In California, hedges have beautiful red flowers growing out of them! The roads are also full of great clusters of the sorts of pink and purple flowers (such as bougainvillaea) we'd previously seen in such abundance only in Greece. What a beautiful place to live.

We had an RV, and were self-catering for some meals, so early on we made a supermarket stop, at 'Ralph's', which had a good selection of fruit and veg, including organic. Differences between US and UK? Far bigger selection of peaches, including those 'squashed'-shaped ones - flavour incomparable to anything I've tasted in the UK recently. Bananas weren't just the long, yellow kind - but RED, and short, fat 'n' stubby! Organic romaine lettuce was a revelation! I love organic romaine at home, but this did have an amazing flavour - quite extraordinary.

The one food that wasn't as good as in the UK was large papaya. Papayas of all sizes have tasted good at home, but this large papaya was...not good. I can quite understand now the anti-papaya comments of those on US forums if papayas of this sort had been their only experience. Reassuringly, small papayas we bought later were fine, so if you think you don't like papaya and have only tried large, please try the small. All the vegetables we see in US recipes but can't (generally) obtain in the UK were available, such as jalapeno peppers, and the root vegetable jicama (which I understand from my San Diego friend Prescilla is pronounced 'hikker-ma'.)

And, a paragraph to itself for the WATERMELON - Oh those lucky Californians, and anyone else in the UK or otherwise living in an area where proper watermelons are still available. About a year ago in the UK (and New York, so I understand), the shops were flooded with small watermelons with pink-red rather than red flesh, a few pale, rather than black, seeds, and insipid-tasting flesh - such a disappointment. The watermelon I had in California was the real thing, and tasted so sweet and flavoursome. The pic shows me in shut-eye bliss on Watermelon Day One. However, I did buy a massive one, and still had some left three days later. I'd detected some fermentation in the taste, but did I listen to my body? No, I scoffed the lot, and suffered with a blown-out belly and pain for the rest of the day. The facial expression on Watermelon Day Three was somewhat different from Day One, so no pic.

Now, at this point I should explain that back home for the preceding few months I'd been following a relatively simple, high-fruit, lowish-fat raw food diet. But I decided to 'relax' this for the trip, and relax it I certainly did...still ate lots of fruit but also ate quite a few complicated raw meals, quite a lot more raw fat than usual, and...enjoyed it very much!


The 'shopping/beach' districts of Santa Monica and Venice are on the western edge of LA. We walked from one to another along Main Street. Certainly to a visitor, they seemed relatively trendy/arty compared with other parts of LA, and the walk along the beach was full of the sights we tend to associate with California - upscale beach houses, palm trees, rollerbladers and lots of tanned beautiful people, although should say that California certainly has a lot of overweight/obese people as well - it's not quite as the TV series' portrays it. And, along with relatively healthy-fare restaurants, there are plenty of junk food outlets (and it's just as much of a challenge to get an all-raw salad in a 'cooked' restaurant as it is anywhere).

The raw gourmet tour started in a small way at a juice bar on the Venice Boardwalk where I was able to introduce Leigh to the delights of young coconut juice sipped from the coconut. In the UK, this is occasionally available at raw food events, and it's sometimes possible to buy young coconuts at Tesco (or ethnic markets). However, in the UK we are generally presented with a whole green coconut. Every time I had young coconut in SoCal, or indeed Arizona, the coconuts were white, that is, they'd been shaved of the green outer layer. This I understand is done to save air freight/shipping weight. However, it does mean that the coconuts then spoil quickly so need to be dipped in chemicals. Whilst this is obviously not ideal, I'm assuming (hoping?) that perhaps the chemicals don't get through to the inside of the coconut, as the shaved coconuts are very popular with raw fooders in the US, and if the insides are 'intact', then they would certainly be as good, if not better, than any whole green ones sold at Tesco as I'm told these can be kept in storage for a year before being put on the shelves.

Also at the juice bar I was very excited to see pre-packed gourmet raw food from 'Leaf Cuisine', who also run three raw food restaurants in the US. I bought collard (spring greens) wraps, served with a dipping sauce. Now, non-raw fooders don't quite understand our excitement at finding ready-made stuffed green leaves, butwhat a treat when in an RV with just a few square inches of food preparation space and no gadgets! The Leaf Cuisine foods did include ingredients like 'nama shoyu', which I never use at home, as it's not a raw food, but, as I did want to sample most things, let's just put that in my 0.4% 'non-raw' (please?)

It was in Santa Monica that I was able to test my mosquito theories. For reasons that are probably best left for another article I intend to write one day, I theorised that either a) the mozzies wouldn't bite me at all, or b) the mozzies would bite, but my body wouldn't react much. Seemed both were operable. They feasted on Leigh, and his skin reacted dramatically - he still has sores weeks later. I had a few bites, but they didn't develop; there was the odd spot, but no swelling and virtually no irritation. Although, a sample size of two is hardly conclusive so I'd welcome comments based on your own experience.

'Euphoria Loves Rawvolution'

Walking back down Main Street to Santa Monica, we found Matt Amsden's 'Euphoria Loves Rawvolution' and stopped for lunch there. In the daytime it has a relaxed 'cafe' feel, with people wandering in and out for sit-down food and takeaways. We started with an excellent spiced durian (fresh) shake. For mains, I ordered the 'Big Matt' and Leigh had a 'Cocophoria.' The 'Big Matt' was a burger between onion bread with dressing and salad. Although the burger was actually quite small, it did taste very good, and so did everything else. Altogether a most enjoyable meal, as was Leigh's, which was similar, but with curried coconut.

'Juliano's Planet Raw'

In the evening we went to Juliano's - probably the best-known raw food restaurant in the world. Juliano was there, although I believe his partner, Ariel, is now in charge of the food preparation. For starters we each had a 'platter' including stuffed peppers, tortellini, a soup and chips, and these were delicious.

However, main meals, and the experience from that point onwards - thumbs down I'm afraid. I'd given Leigh quite a big build-up, as I'd heard so many rave reports about Juliano's, and had been told that it was just the place to take non-raw people (although Leigh eats more raw than he used to, he is still 'part-cooked'), as it was reknowned for it's 'imitation cooked food', eg 'cheese' burgers etc. So, for main course Leigh ordered the special - 'meat and potatoes' - and I ordered 'kelp pasta'. Now I think one problem here is that the starters had been very highly-flavoured (spicy, vinegary, fermented) and we were fine eating these sorts of foods in small quantities, but the next course seemed to be more of the same. Leigh's greens were so hot neither of us could eat them. The 'meat' appeared to be a round patty with a vaguely mushroomy taste. He then tried a few mouthfuls of the remaining food on his place but felt no enthusiasm for eating anything more on the plate, which was a pity. I did finish my course (mainly because I'm a pig) but can't say was bowled over by the food. Also, it was so dark (despite candles) that we couldn't really see what we were eating, which didn't help.

I then ordered 'Berry Fruit Crepes' for dessert. The berries and cream tasted good, but the crepes themselves were like boot leather (and no, I've never tasted that, and before anyone shouts, I don't buy leather boots any more either!). But I can't think of a better analogy. I couldn't cut them using cutlery, so tried picking one up and trying my hardest with teeth alone. These crepes would have presented a challenge for the strongest teeth (mine are quite good - I crack nuts with them!). So don't know what happened there - perhaps they had been left for too long after dehydrating.

So, a very 'raw gourmet' day all in all. We both much preferred the lighter raw food at Rawvolution to the complicated food at Juliano's. The next morning got quite a shock when testing the pH of my wee (yes, I'm a sad obsessive who does this quite regularly), and got a highly acidic reading (in the 5's - it's normally 7) and my tummy didn't feel good. Was this something to do with the food at (either of) the raw restaurants? Both restaurant's meals included vinegar, which is something I rarely have at home. More likely explanation is that I ingested far too many digestively incompatible foods in the space of one day.


Orange County is between LA and San Diego Counties, also on the coast, although we travelled inland a little.

We had to visit Orange County for non-raw reasons as firstly my children were avid viewers of the TV series 'The OC' a few years ago and secondly because Leigh wanted to visit 'Orange County Choppers' (motorbikes). I hadn't watched 'The OC', so photographed a few suburban streets thinking that maybe they were the sort that the characters lived in, only to be informed on returning that the TV houses probably cost a few million dollars more. Oh, and we discovered that 'Orange County Choppers' is actually in New York (although Leigh did manage to pick up an OCC T-shirt later in San Diego!).

Anyhow, apologies for digression - back to the raw bits! My raw food reason for driving into Orange County was 'Au Lac'.

Au Lac

'Au Lac', in Fountain Valley, Orange County, is basically a restaurant serving Oriental-style food run by Vietnamese (and the faschia advertises 'humanese cuisine'). Situated in a plain precinct, it has an unprepossessing exterior and an interior just like your neighbourhood Chinese/Thai restaurant, with leatherette seats. In other words, the restaurant itself looks quite ordinary, but the food isn't!

'Au Lac' has two menus - a raw, and a cooked vegan/vegetarian menu. I ordered two starters (all in the name of research): 'salmon' rolls with dipping sauce, and 'Love Raw not War' soup. The nori rolls tasted exquisite and were beautifully presented. The soup was also excellent - warmed (but I'll assume not beyond 118 F...) green, with chunks of avocado and sea vegetables. I followed with a 'seafood primavera' including amongst other things courgette noodles, coconut, cauliflower and aubergine, and it reminded me (in the most favourable way) of a cross between a vegetable biryani and a sag aloo from my cooked food days (but less spicy). I wish I could show you photographs of the food, as it all looked so beautiful, but they came out a little blurry.

Leigh chose from the cooked vegan menu, which did include soy textured and shaped to look like meat and fish, but it was very, very good and the prawns so...'prawn-like' that we found ourselves wondering if they'd really just popped in some real ones. I do recommend you visit 'Au Lac', as the food is of such high quality, and it's quite different from standard gourmet raw food. Portions are large; work on the basis that all dishes, whatever the menu says, serve at least two! We had our left-overs boxed and enjoyed the meal all over again later in the day.


Farmers Market, Hillcrest

No farmers' market in the UK I've visited has come anything near this one for variety and quality of fresh produce. You want tomatoes? Tomatoes in every size, shape and colour, often chopped up and handed out on tasting trays by vendors. Same with fruit - sweet, juicy peaches, plums, melons... a financially-challenged fruitarian could probably sustain themselves for a day on the freebies alone! I tried two fruits new to me -prickly pear (soft, sweetish, but with quite large, hard pips), and sapote (vaguely appley but with a fleshy texture).

One stall had trays piled high with different sorts of beautifully-ripe figs (so often in the UK they aren't quite ripe, which makes such a difference to flavour). The black figs are like the ones I buy from my local Waitrose; the greeny-yellow ones are sweeter and taste more like the dried figs we remember from cooked Christmasses. And I discovered that the owner of the stall was a raw foodist! Barry Koral ( told us about his own health transformation through raw, and was so sparkly and enthusiastic about the raw life; we later passed his stall and heard him whipping up the passers-by with 'If you love avocados clap your hands!' and we later saw him at Raw Spirit Festival, where he was manning a stall in the Farmers' Market section! Small world indeed. many farmers' markets near you have a gourmet raw food stall?! (Californians - don't answer - it would be too hard on the rest of us!) Here I sampled some delicious raw pizza quite unlike any I'd had in the UK. The topping was light, eg very little 'cheese' (if any?) and more tomato and other vegetables (including tiny yellow 'grape' tomatoes - about half the size of our 'cherry tomatoes') and the base was essentially a flax cracker mix, made thicker than usual to minimise sogginess.

Prescilla and Ken Molitor

After the farmers' market we went on to visit Prescilla Molitor and her husband Ken in La Jolla (pronounced 'La Hoya'), San Diego. Prescilla is known to members of the forum (which I belonged to until quite recently until I did a little self-counselling re my 'forum addiction') as 'Pink Lady Apple', although when I met her (for the first time) and cried 'Pink Lady Apple!', husband Ken was quite mystified as he'd not been aware of this 'alter-ego'...

I'd brought Prescilla some figs from the market, and noted later she had a fig-tree in her garden (of course!). Prescilla entertained us in style. On arrival she offered us a choice of green juice or freshly-made young coconut juice. Lunch was collard wraps with a selection of delicious fillings: an excellent home-made zucchini (courgette) hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, long green sprouts she'd grown herself, alfalfa/broccoli sprouts, raw Kalamata olives, and carrot. This was followed by Prescilla's gorgeous home-made raw chocolate.

We had such a lovely time at Prescilla's! Both the conversation, food, oh - and the glorious Californian weather - made for a lovely afternoon. Both our husbands were 'part-raw', so they had the raw fillings, but in cooked tortillas. Prescilla has a beautifully-equipped and large raw foods kitchen, and I know she is thinking of starting classes at some point. Californian readers - I can personally vouch for the quality of Prescilla's food and her level of knowledge and expertise.

Wholefoods, La Jolla

Our last raw food stop in San Diego was the Wholefoods Market at La Jolla. Now, in the UK we only have one branch of Wholefoods, in Kensington High St, London, which is very large and includes a sumptuous range of of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts and pre-prepared vegetarian and vegan food (as well as a little meat and dairy). I'd heard that the US was covered with branches of Wholefoods and assumed that the average branch would be quite small. Wrong! The Wholefoods Market at La Jolla, although perhaps a little smaller than Kensington, and only on one floor, was nevertheless huge, and, for the raw fooder, better than ours as, of course, it contained many more morsels of interest to us - for example, 'Leaf Cuisine' packed raw food meals, and fresh durian!

So...that's the Southern California bit of my holiday, or at least the 'raw food' bits, and, if any of you are thinking that you really wouldn't mind doing the 'raw gourmet' tour yourself, I do recommend you add to the above key areas we hadn't managed to include - the stretch from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I know there are many raw venues there - 'Cafe Gratitude' springs to mind. Return fare to California? Roughly £500.

In Part II I'll be taking up the story in Sedona, Arizona.