REVIEW OF: mooi
Gourmet – Organic – Vegan - Raw
Quote from website mooifood.com: “Our restaurant will be opening soon in Echo Park, serving as a home base for our catering & packaged food, while creating a new outlet for healthy & nutritious life food to our neighborhood.”
Stephen Hauptfuhr, who has been 95% raw for almost two (2) years, and vegetarian or vegan for twenty or more years, has a dream of being able to serve raw food, which tastes great, to the public at a reasonable price. At the same time, he wants a place that they can come and enjoy an elegant dinner at a price that will not break the bank.
His ability to do this will be tested later this year as he opens Mooi, a restaurant in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. Echo Park, a community northwest of downtown Los Angeles has long been home to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Stephen does not plan to serve a Dodger Dog. Instead, he hopes to use his 2-story restaurant to introduce people to reasonable priced raw food that is more than a salad and a fruit plate. With approximately 1100 sq ft downstairs, and a mezzanine of about 400 sq ft, he has the start of great “little” restaurant with the potential to grow. Hopefully starting with a staff of 10-12 locals, Mooi will be serving raw vegan ice cream, desserts, juices & milks during the day, a Sunday brunch menu and a sit down dinner Wednesday thru Saturday night featuring such dishes as beet fettuccini with cilantro pesto, marinated jackfruit & green tomatillo sauce in corn tortilla and collard green vegetable wrap with mint leaf & curry cashew nut cheese. During the other hours of the day, Stephen will continue preparing foods that are sold and distributed to stores locally, with the hopes of one day going nationwide.
Today, I was treated to a sampling of his desserts. Since the restaurant is not yet open, Stephen was nice enough to meet me at my hotel, and brought a smorgasbord of desserts for me to try. His assortment consisted of five flavors of ice cream including blueberry cheesecake, ginger snap cinnamon cookie dough, peppermint chocolate chip, pumpkin (special for Halloween and Thanksgiving) and chocolate peanut butter swirl. He also does a vanilla and strawberry banana ice cream. He brought several pies including pumpkin pie, apricot pie with brazil nut & cacao nib crust, Snikrz pie, Milky Way® Bar-like pie with strawberry topping made with Irish Sea Moss, a chocolate pie with dark chocolate topping, and a couple of others.
Normally, I would interview the chef, try his foods, and write a review based on what I thought of his food. Here, I am going one-step further. Since I was not able to bring outside food into the hotel’s restaurant for health regulation reasons, the manager of The LaQuinta Hotel & Suites – Los Angeles Airport location was nice enough to set me up a table in the lobby. JV Hernandez, the Front Office Manager went out of his way to help and I want to thank him for that. Meanwhile, waiting for Stephen to arrive an older couple, the Smiths from West Virginia, sat with me, and we struck up a conversation. This couple, in their mid-60s, was visiting Los Angeles to see their son. When Stephen arrived, I invited them to help me sample the desserts laid out in front of me. Remember, these were simple “hill people,” according to Mrs. Smith. She looked at the pumpkin pie, and mentioned that she has been making pumpkin pie for years. Mr. Smith had already told me that he had 35 years experience in the dairy business, where he bottled milk and packaged and help make ice cream. I was afraid that I had messed up. Here I had a simple country cook and her husband who knew more about ice cream then I could ever learn.
The tasting began. Every bite brought bright eyes and wide smiles from the Smiths. They were pleased with everything they tried, as was I. Then Mrs. Smith dug into the pumpkin pie. Here was the ultimate test for that dessert. She chewed; she smacked her lips, and then exclaimed, “Oh my, this pumpkin pie is even better than mine.” What a testament to the quality of the pie. Then Mr. Smith dug his spoon into the blueberry cheesecake ice cream. Remember, he had just told me that the richness of ice cream is determined by the amount of cream that going into the ingredients. Just like with Mrs. Smith, he tasted, went back for seconds, and then exclaimed, “And this is made out of what!?” Neither of these meat loving, cooked food-eating people could find nothing negative to say about any of the desserts. Everything was smooth, tasty, and every bit as good (or better) than its non-vegan, non-raw equivalent. Like the Smiths, I was quite impressed with the quality and taste of these delectable desserts.
Since becoming raw, I have had several non-raw friends try things I have prepared, and although their comments may not be negative, they do not have anything positive to say. The Smiths had nothing but high praises for each dish, and while Stephen and I finished the interview, they even took an ice cream each and more pie to eat while listening to the interview. I do not know if Stephen converted anyone today, but he did teach them that they do not have to be afraid of trying raw cuisine.
With the opening of Mooi later this year, the residents of Echo Park and the surrounding area are in for a treat. For a gourmet style dinner for two in the $25-$30 price range, a couple will be able to eat an excellent meal, in a stylish restaurant, and not strain the billfold. This critic hopes that Stephen can succeed with his dream to serve the public a great meal, and a reasonable price.
|The Raw Gourmand
|P.O. Box 520
Sardis, MS 38666-0520