Zeal, "Food for Enthusiasts"

A healthy new Denver restaurant has been on our radar long before opening here. Zeal, Food for Enthusiasts, is a casual Boulder-based food and juice spot attracting health conscious foodies for the past five years. Due to its popularity, owners Wayde Jester and Chelsea Norton decided to try out the Denver market and opened in the Tech Center’s Landmark development last Fall.

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Zeal offers the best in flavor and quality thanks to their organic ingredients and superb chef. Zeal uses local and organic ingredients, much of which come from their small farm north of Boulder. Their Chef, aka Enthusiast de Cuisine, John Broening grew up in France, the Soviet Union and Portugal where his father was a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press. Broening has worked in several top restaurants in New York, San Francisco, Paris and Denver and has been a featured guest chef at the James Beard House several times.

During our dinner we enjoyed a range of veggie, fish, meat and vegan dishes as well as their cold-pressed juice and house made Kombucha. Their current juices were kale and ginger, beet juice, and carrot based and are available as a flight or stand alone. They also serve as flavor additions to their green tea-based Kombucha. These aren’t the only offerings on tap at the bar, Zeal DTC offers a selection of craft beer, wine and cocktails and offer happy hour 2:30-5:30pm daily.

Mussels with rosemary and white wine, pickled sweet peppers, anchovy, touch of butter

Mussels with rosemary and white wine, pickled sweet peppers, anchovy, touch of butter

We began with a bowl of marvelous mussels and their popular Conscious Kale Salad that’s been a staple since opening in Boulder. We saw, even before eating, how this salad has remained a staple for so long with its colorful array of superfoods portioned out artfully in the bowl. The salad is kale based and features bright pickled carrots, sweet golden beets, crunchy walnuts and sprouted lentils.

For our main we ordered the Lamb Burger and the Poke Bowl. The Lamb Burger comes topped with tzatziki and a tomato jam served with either greens or a side of scrumptious chimichurri smashed potatoes. The Poke Bowl was laid out like the salad with its colorful ingredients portioned out atop a bed of brown rice. The crisp cucumbers and drizzle of spicy aioli were a great flavor addition.

Lamb Burger (right) and the Poke Bowl (left)

Lamb Burger (right) and the Poke Bowl (left)

Our sweet ending was a not-so-sweet, but very much a treat, cashew-based cheesecake. This vegan dessert mimics the real thing in its creamy texture but with much less sugar and no dairy. With a walnut crust, fresh berries and agave drizzle, we loved every last bite of this delicious creamy treat.

Zeal’s casual farm to table restaurant will be opening a new Boulder location this summer and just launched weekend brunch in their DTC location. From 9:30am-2:30pm enjoy their popular Acai bowls and bullet coffee along with new items like Eggs Benedict, pancakes three ways, bacon fried rice, and $14 bottomless mimosas.

https://www.zealfood.com

Words by Tiffany Candelaria @TCdoesFnB Photos by Samantha Bliss @redcapturesherbliss

Juice flight and Conscious Kale Salad

Juice flight and Conscious Kale Salad

The Raw Deal at Vital Root

Vegetarians aren’t messing around these days. Owner of Edible Beats, Justin Cucci, opened up vegetarian restaurant Vital Root on Tennyson Street a year and a half ago and it has been a hit ever since.  Whether you’re on the run or able to stay awhile, there’s an open seat inside or on their two patios and heaping flavors waiting for you in this fast-casual dining concept.

Using only the freshest organic ingredients in each dish, you are sure to leave feeling revitalized and satisfied, and ninety-nine percent of the menu can be prepared vegan and/or gluten free upon request. Not a vegan or gluten intolerant? Try ‘em out anyway - your body will thank you later.

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Vital Root also places a huge focus on sustainability from the front of the house to the back. Supporting over 55 growers, farmers and food artisans, 50% of the ingredients are sourced within Colorado. Edible Beats’ homegrown produce comprises 40% of the produce used in all dishes across the six restaurants. It also supports local wind and solar projects through national clean energy provider, Arcadia Power, to help reduce America’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

We were cordially invited to their monthly Raw Pop Up Dinner held on the first Monday of every month. Why raw vegan cuisine? Vital Root’s chef says, “Raw food has not been heated over 118 degrees, leaving all natural enzyme and nutrient activity of the ingredients completely in-tact and maximizing bio-availability. The raw diet encourages harmony with nature, a nonviolent lifestyle, boundless energy, a healthy relationship to food-as-fuel, and is a remarkable way to experience the beautiful ingredients.”

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Upon being greeted at the door, the hostess kindly led us to our seats where we anxiously awaited diving into the raw experience.

The first course presented before our eyes and our salivating palates was the Giardiniera, served on a spoon and ready to be devoured. Simple yet refreshing, the dish was comprised of eggplant relish, basil tomato and daikon thread. It set the tone for the rest of the meal and left our taste buds wanting more…which is exactly what we got.

The second course came in an array of multi-color roots. It was almost too pretty to eat, but that didn’t stop us. Served in a beautiful radicchio leaf, the Radicchio Beet Hummus executed on presentation and texture by utilizing the ingredient in two ways. We were given a variety of organic vegetables including carrots, bell peppers and cucumbers to enjoy with the hummus. To add a hint of sweetness to the dish, dates were also included.

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The third course was the one I was most intrigued by, and that was the Squash Lasagna. I asked myself, “How are they going to serve warm cooked lasagna that resembled lasagna without the power of a hot oven?” Let’s just say, I was absolutely blown away. First off, the presentation was beautiful. Secondly, cutting into it felt just like eating momma’s homemade lasagna. It was dense yet light, and didn’t come with the typical sluggish aftermath, even after eating the entire plate. What made this dish even more unique was the vegan spin on the cheese. From ‘rawmesan’ and macadamia ‘ricotta’ to walnut pesto and a winter salad—it had me more than convinced.

And for the final course: the Blood Orange Granita, a Sicily-inspired shaved ice bursting with flavor. The dessert melted in my mouth like cotton candy, and refreshed my palate at the same time with the addition of the fresh basil.

If you’re sitting there living vicariously through my words, stop. You can reserve your spot for the next raw dinner through the Vital Roots website. What makes this experience even more thrilling is that the menu is a total surprise! You won’t know what’s coming to your table until it’s presented before you. Get your palate ready and imagination going for the eccentric yet inviting meal at next month’s raw dinner.

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If raw food isn’t your cup of tea, no worries. Vital Root offers a wide array of options and is open Tuesday-Thursday from 10am-9pm and Friday-Sunday from 9am-9pm. Additionally, Happy Hour is Tuesday-Sunday from 3pm-6pm with specials including $1 off beer, $5 wine and cocktails, $2 Banh MI or Avocado Tacos, and $3 Korean BBQ Veggie Wings.

Don’t wait any longer—see what these vegetarians are raving about! http://www.vitalrootdenver.com/

Written and Photographed by Samantha Bliss-Red Follows Her Bliss Photography

New PALEO Cafe Will Please the Whole Family

Its no surprise the Denver food scene is becoming more and more health conscious as we are such a fit, foodie, on-trend city. As Denver expands so too do the amazing variety of dining options and new to the scene is Just BE Kitchen in the Confluence Park/LoHi neighborhood. Just BE Kitchen is pretty unique however for a few reasons.

The main standout is that everything on the menu is PALEO, which means no gluten, grains of any kind, or refined sugars! They’ve also designed the place to inspire presence and mindful eating with calm colors and quotes hung on the walls. Everything on the menu is healthy and delicious, offering salads, burgers, hashes and sweet treats like cookies, muffins and “milk” shakes! The other main difference is their hours are 7am – 3pm daily and feels more like a café with their order-up counter, coffee offerings and cozy/cute interior.

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Given those hours the menu at Just Be is a bit breakfast-centric with many egg and (coconut milk) yogurt dishes, but also offers a few salads, a cheeseburger, green chili and a … Meatzza! The Meatzza is their paleo take on a pizza with a pasture-raised, grass-fed pork sausage patty taking the place of normal dough crust. A sugar-free, house-made tomato sauce and a bacon pineapple jam are spread on the base. To top, they fry fresh kale in tallow and sprinkle nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. I hear it is every bit as indulgent as it sounds!

We went for breakfast and of course tried as much as we could. We started with the Chia coconut yogurt topped with a great grainless granola and berries that tasted light and creamy with the only sugar coming from the berries. Then we had a lovely seasonal salad called Enchanted with arugula, pickled onion, roasted beets, their granola and almond feta. This was really tasty with all the ingredients perfectly coated by the almond feta and vinaigrette.

For our main dishes we ordered their burrito and the seasonal veggie hash. Both were delightful and filling without leaving us weighed down or bloated. The burrito’s tortilla was very much like a regular flour tortilla, except better because it’s free of grains, refined sugars and dairy! It was soft and doughy but dense enough to keep the hearty fillings wrapped inside (even after a night in my fridge it stayed put together and as good as when it was served). The shredded sweet potatoes in both dishes were so flavorful and sweetened up the basic eggs in the burrito, along with the savory, juicy sausage inside. Add a side of their pork green chili and it was the tastiest healthy burrito I’ve eaten!  The veggie hash was beautiful, seemed much healthier, was full of flavorful and texture, making it an amazing meal for a vegetarian. We topped ours with a poached egg shown at top.

In addition to their menu being gluten-free, so many of their dishes are easily made vegetarian, making it a really wonderful place for friends or couples with different dietary needs to eat together. Their manager explains, “Our goal is to cater to many different food sensitivities with a very modular menu.” There’s even a yummy kids’ menu priced at only $6. For drinks you’ve got bullet coffees and lattes, espresso, fresh juice, Kombucha, and natural sodas. There’s even a “bone broth bar” with 48-hour broth that comes with a handful of toppings to choose from. This place is seriously a unique gem in the Denver dining scene and we hope you find the time to treat yourself to something satisfyingly delicious and nutritious!