Glowing Bowl Café: A Raw Deal [CLOSED]

The Glowing Bowl Café (711 Irwin St., 545-4088)

Here's what's keeping me up at night recently: the idea that you really are what you eat. Given my love for quesadillas, pizza, mac and cheese, tacos, French fries, potato chips, and Cheetos, I fear there is a very real chance that I am literally a glob of cheesy carb-a-licious goo—and have been since 1982.

In some ways, I'm okay with that. Who doesn't love cheesy goo? In other ways, I've realized my diet is dragging me down. I'm getting older now, my metabolism is drooping, my booty is sagging, my energy level is plunging. It's all going south, and I don't have the same inherent youthful vigor to drag myself along on a low-nutrition diet, no matter how much coffee I drink. My sister-in-law recently pointed out to me that maybe—just maybe—I'd feel a little better if I got a few more vegetables in my diet. Vegetables that aren't deep-fried or smothered in processed cheese food.

An interesting theory, that. But how to test it? I found the answer at The Glowing Bowl Café, adjacent to the Glowing Body yoga studio. The place specializes in raw food, and offers an abundance of fresh green, orange, red, and yellow fruits and veggies that practically scream, "Good health!"

Now, the raw foods movement has always left me, ahem, cold. The idea of gnawing on fibrous vegetables (all that grim chewing!), spending days slaving over a dehydrator, and/or getting married to a Vitamix blender just seemed too fringy, too extreme, too—well, difficult. I'd heard compelling testimony about the benefits of such a diet—the radiant skin, the healthy body weight, the improved stamina, the sheer vibrance of it all—but could never muster the energy to explore it on my own.

Now that I have the Glowing Bowl to do the heavy lifting for me, I realize a diet heavy on the raw foods does make you feel great. And what's more, it's surprisingly tasty.

Take, for instance, the Broccolini Salad ($6, like nearly every salad on the menu). It's raw broccolini, sure, and tastes just as herbaceous and grassy as you would expect any cruciferous vegetable to. But combined as it is here with golden raisins, feta cheese, and pine nuts, broccolini is elevated to haute cuisine. The resulting dish has a magical combination of textures (creamy, crunchy, chewy) and flavors (sweet, salty, astringent, nutty) that make it completely satisfying on nearly every level.

The same is true of the seasonal Summer Corn Salad now on offer (hurry to try this one before summer passes you by): Fresh nibblets scraped from organic ears offer a pleasing starchy crunch, and the natural sweetness is skillfully offset with pungent cilantro, crispy celery, pungent scallions, sour lemon juice, and sweet coconut water. Taken all together, and it offers a perfectly balanced combination of flavors. And the name is apt: It's like summer on a plate.

Not everything on offer is completely raw. Glowing Bowl does offer plenty of whole grains—which, of course, need cooking. Try the Forbidden Rice Salad, a delectable combination of black rice, carrots, and cashews tossed in a light dressing of peanut butter, ginger, maple syrup, lemon juice, garlic, and chili sauce. Fascinating. Or perhaps the Israeli Cous Cous and Carrot Salad is a little more your style, with its chewy, giant grains tossed with fresh veggies and exotically spiced (cardamom?).

And then there is my absolute favorite: the Sweet Potato Salad. This one is also a mix of the raw and the cooked, built around incredibly creamy and caramelized oven-roasted sweet potatoes and tossed with green grapes, toasted almonds, and dried cranberries in a salty-sweet glaze with a hint of cumin. Each bite contains a juxtaposition of flavors and textures that make the dish maddeningly compelling. It is incredible; I never get tired of it. Moreover—and I never thought I'd say this—I'd rather eat it than any kind of junk food I've ever encountered, including chili cheese fries, deep-dish pizza, and Nachos BellGrande. Truly, it is health food done right.

Glowing Body also offers an inventive array of raw soups, which can be combined with the salads to create a personalized blue plate ($8 for two choices; $10 for three). A personal favorite is the aptly named Mollie's Most Wonderful Gazpacho, another seasonal delight. The name says it all—this is gazpacho in all its tomatoey glory, rendered to perfection by chef Mollie Moran, who has served as personal chef for Jewel, Dave Matthews, and even Bob Dylan. (Disclosure: Mollie is married to MP reporter Chris Barrett.)

Other soup choices include Curry Yellow Pepper, something called Pumpkin Pie in a Bowl, and Avocado Wonder. On a recent visit I sampled the Raw Chili, a smooth, cold version of the American classic concocted of tomatoes, peppers, celery, cucumbers, and chili powder. I downed bite after bite in sheer disbelief: How could something so simple, light, and healthful be so complex, rich, and satisfying? I can't answer, only note that there is an alchemy that happens at Glowing Body, and—as with so many other dishes on offer—you simply must taste it to believe it.

Raw chocolate is another of the house specialties, and an incredible array of raw desserts is on offer. If you can possibly swing it, try the caramel pecan bars, which feature a rich, date-laden center topped by gooey, intense raw chocolate—the flavor of which will knock you out. I love the Energy Circles ($4)—an agave-sweetened cookie chock full of nuts—and the "Sun Flowers" ($2), which comprise two heart-shaped slabs of dehydrated pineapple encasing a heart of deep, dark chocolate. Glowing Bowl employs its own "raw chocolatier" in one Damien Welch. Every little raw ingredient he touches, no matter how simple or humble, he spins into gold.

While you're there, catch a yoga class—the studio offers some of the best in town—and be sure to leave with a glass of fresh juice in hand. I heartily endorse the Green Lemonade ($8). The price may seem steep, but the juice contains an entire head of Romaine lettuce, kale, lemons, and ginger. It's astringent, sour, spicy, and just a little sweet—something totally unique, just like The Glowing Bowl. m

This is an expanded version of the review.