New World Café is all vegan1/2/2013
In this post-New Year’s season of diets, resolutions and purges, even a meat-eating sinner such as I figured it was time to try out New World Café, Des Moines’ first all vegan restaurant. What’s that? Vegans avoid eating all the things that vegetarians refrain from eating plus any foods derived from animal products such as milk, cheese, eggs, honey and most wines (because egg shells do the best job of making wine clear rather than murky).
More than other diets, veganism is a commitment usually compatible with strong animal rights beliefs. Fallen vegans are said to have “lost their veginity.” Chefs like George Formaro (Centro, Django, Gateway Market, Zombie Burger, South Union Bakery) have been vilified on social media for dabbling in vegan diets without becoming all vegan. Yet Formaro (dubbed “#fakevegan” on Twitter) provides more vegan and vegetarian options on his menus than any other high-profile restaurateur in town. Besides his places, my frame of reference for vegan cuisine in Iowa is built around partially vegan, vegetarian cafés like Fresh, a 7-year-old West Des Moines place that doubles as a market where one can find amazing eggs that have been laid by chickens raised on wheat grass.
That of course would be taboo at New World Café, where everything is vegan, 98 percent of everything is organic, many things are raw and the menu is dotted with codes: NF (nut-free), GF (gluten-free), etc. I did not wonder long about what hook might lure non-vegan diners. Just as Campbell’s Soup Company found it could drastically increase sales of V8 juice by blending it with fruit juices, New World Café features a seductive full juice bar. Smoothie lovers can choose up to two fruits, plus a juice base (fresh-squeezed carrots, apples or coconut water) and add enhancers such as raw hemp protein or raw vanilla protein. I tried a mango, carrot and hemp version plus an “Overnight Detox” drink that included kale, ginger, apple and lemon juices. Neither gave me the warm, fuzzy feeling I get from fresh wheat grass drinks at Fresh or Campbell’s.
Then I ordered a cucumber limeade sweetened with agave. It was like nectar of the vegan gods with all three ingredients emanating their glories. It was probably blasphemy to true believers, but my mind debated whether it would be best mixed with tequila or vodka. An espresso, made with organic, Fair Trade coffee, was oddly served in a full-sized coffee cup. On my final visit to the café, the menu was limited to less than half its usual size — “to not waste food.” I had some good red lentil soup, with roasted tomatoes, and a raw salad of soaked mung beans, sprouts, avocado, carrots, beets, tired greens and a good olive oil-and-raw vinegar dressing. I was sorry to have missed the green lentil burger on bread from Algona’s Daily Bread, the only bakery in Iowa that mills its grains daily before baking. Other versions which I have tried were marvelous compared to tofu-burger products.
From a non-vegan’s point of view, New World’s opening is a socio-economic event as much as a culinary one. Bustling crowds on my visits suggested that there is a community here that supports this lifestyle. The café even sells memberships, like a co-op. New World’s opening also contributes significantly to the city’s desire to create an environment that can help recruit creative young professionals to Des Moines. Food wise New World is new, compared to places like Fresh, more for what it does not serve (tofu, wheat grass, non-vegan vegetarian dishes) than for what it does.
Corazon Coffee Roasters, an organic, Fair Trade coffee roasting shop, an organic, Fair Trade coffee roasting shop, opened in Valley Junction… Abelardo’s opened a new store in West Glen…Los Cabos closed in West Glen. CV