Ahhh restaurant review day…My favorite!
Review days always rock! Go to new places, meet cool people, eat awesome food… There’s only one downer that rains on my parade on review day... All. Those. Calories.
Guilt sometimes follows after sampling the rich and decadent dishes on many of the menus here in the 573. But not today my friends!! Today we made a visit to Fresh Healthy Cafe in Cape Girardeau and it was delicious!
Meet Rick Hetzel & Cheryl Mothes. An amazing 573 couple who saw a need and jumped to fill it! With Rick being Vegetarian and Cheryl being Vegan, they've been able to enjoy the health benefits that come with being "plant-based" including increased energy and feeling great! However, their special diet needs would often put a crimp in the couple’s plans, limiting them to very few choices with restaurants and menu items.
With many area restaurants offering little more than a salad bar to cater to special dietary needs, there weren’t a whole lot of options for eating out or swinging by somewhere to get a bite on the go. With these personal needs presenting an issue for Rick & Cheryl and anyone like them, while also considering the clean living/clean eating trend that’s been steadily on the rise, it just seemed logical to this power couple to find a good business solution to satisfy this ever growing need.
After deciding to buy into Fresh Healthy Cafe, a Vancouver based clean foods restaurant franchise, the couple started up a conversation with St. Francis Medical Center as a means to find a smart venue for their new venture. And smart it was! After all, the # 1 thing to consider when growing your business is location, location, location. What better location for a healthy restaurant that meets the nutritional needs of just about any kind of special diet than in the same building as a medical facility and a physical fitness center? When I walked in and saw that the cafe is not only inside a medical center, but also shares a lobby with Fitness Plus, I knew I was about to meet pure genius.
On top of being incredibly intelligent, sophisticated, and totally business savvy, Rick & Cheryl are also extremely green, and always looking for ways to help the environment. One way they accomplish this is by using planet-friendly dishes and utensils. All of the containers, to-go boxes, cups, and cutlery at Fresh Healthy Cafe are 100% plant based and completely biodegradable. With the containers being made from corn starch and the cutlery coming from the sugar cane plant, this eco-friendly haven is doing everything it can to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.
Nutritionally, environmentally, economically, and just generally conscientious, the couple has become accustomed to being very aware of the ingredients that go into the foods they eat and the health benefits or hazards that come with them. “Most people think healthy eating is having a salad, but there’s so much more to it than that.” Rick stated as he told me more about the menu and the idea behind it.
Extending that knowledge to find healthy choices for their consumers, they, along with friend and business partner, Steve Hamra, started Amanzi Farms. Amanzi is a Zulu word meaning “from the water” and Amanzi Farms is, as you’ve probably guessed already, a totally hydroponic farm.
I was very impressed at the size of their operation and the nature of their initial mission. After all, catering to the needs of pretty much everyone is quite a task. But here they are killing it! They wanted to cater to all dietary needs, and they totally nailed it! Even the sweeteners used are all natural, using agave, and natural fruit juices as opposed to sugars and syrups. Whether you’re diebetic, vegan, allergic to gluten, or just craving the delicious fresh taste of a good hearty chicken wrap, they have you covered!
I was, admittedly, a little leery to be trying some of the menu items they described to me when we sat down and discussed the review meals. After all, I’m a fairly average, carnivorous, deep fried, sugar coated, bacon loving red blooded American, so initially a “vegan friendly” menu was a little intimidating, and not quite as appealing, initially, as options presented at places I’m a little more familiar with. I soon realized how wrong I was about all of my misguided assumptions on healthy eating. After all, like Rick said earlier, there’s a lot more to a healthy diet than having a salad… Although, it is a good way to start.
My first dish was the Beach Salad. Aptly named, this cooling breath of fresh air has a beautiful base of spring mixed greens including romaine, arugula, and spinach, tossed with hemp hearts, feta cheese, and huge ripe blueberries and topped with avocado slices and a nice vinaigrette. Filling, and tasty with the clash of flavors between the soft salty savory feta cheese and the sweet bursts of juicy blueberries, this salad’s consistency was nothing short of beautiful. The perfect meal for a hot summer’s day.
Along with the salad, I enjoyed the most attractive smoothie I’d ever seen. Bright pink with speckles of dark red seeds and some white milky swirls, the Pitaya Passion Smoothie was really a treat for both the eyes and the tastebuds. With an initial flavor somewhat reminiscent of cotton candy, there’s a wonderful sort of confusion that occurs when you realize the drink itself is not actually “sweet”. At least not in that traditionally overwhelming way that comes with the complex sugars in candy and common sweets. The flavor is there, but it’s more refreshing and satisfying, and not at all sugary. I can see myself easily becoming addicted to this place.
If the smoothie hadn’t had me hooked already, they definitely would have got me with the next dish. The Turkey Bacon Avocado Panini had me salivating from the moment it hit the table. Thick, juicy strips of turkey layered with slices of picture perfect bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, avocado, and a light spread of ranch, all on a ciabatta bun, and grilled until everything just melts together with every bite. After complimenting Rick on the extraordinary sandwich I was shocked to discover that the bacon was actual turkey bacon. I eat a LOT of pork, bacon especially, and can usually tell the difference right away. It tasted just like the real deal!
Next up was the Kale Vegetarian Wrap. A gluten-free spinach tortilla stuffed to the brim with hummus, red peppers, beets, tomato, cucumber, a light glazing of a balsamic vinaigrette, and of course, a king’s ransom of dark green leafy kale. Surprisingly delicious, once I tasted this glorious wrap, I couldn’t get enough and very nearly spoiled my appetite for the rest of the tasting by attempting to eat the entire (very large) wrap. Luckily the dish was removed and boxed up in a doggie bag to make way for the next hot menu item before that could happen.
Both the Panini and the Wrap were served with a healthy side of their special house recipe Quinoa. Mixed with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, lemon and several herbs and spices, this side is a healthy and refreshing alternative to wild rice and seems to lighten up the whole meal with its fresh flavor.
The Hummus Toast arrived not a moment too soon and looked like a work of art. All of the striking contrasting colors of the fresh ingredients made this dish almost too pretty to eat, but once I noticed that familiar hummus and red pepper combo I got over that real quick! With the same spring mix as the Beach Salad I enjoyed earlier, a thick spread of that wonderful humus, a generous amount of sweet red pepper and onion, garnished with a lemon twist, all served on that herb encrusted ciabatta toast, the best word to describe this simple yet savory snack is Lovely.
For dessert, breakfast, or even an after work out treat, I would suggest one of the Power Bowls. I had the Acai Power Bowl. A silky smooth puree of Acai mega berries topped with crunchy granola, and fresh; blueberries, banana slices, and coconut shavings. This deliciously contracting dish has a complex mix of sweet and tart flavors with soft, smooth, and crunchy textures.
The Kale Pineapple Smoothie, seemed to threaten my confidence with its vibrant green color. After all, it’s usually chocolate or strawberry shakes for this sweets lovin 573 girl… But WOW! It was amazing. Sweet, refreshing, and totally energizing, this smoothie blew away any lingering doubts I had about clean eating and healthy foods.
Last, but not least was the only thing left in the store that I was still just a little bit afraid of… A shot of wheatgrass. That’s right, Fresh Healthy Cafe has wheatgrass shots. In fact, it’s so fresh, they grow it right in the store and harvest this super-veg as it’s ordered. For those of you that are familiar with this dietary phenomenon this is pretty exciting news, because, as I understand it, there’s nowhere else in this area that offers these doses of vitamin-packed awesomeness. If you’re not, like I wasn’t, here’s a nice little tidbit of healthy information… 1 ounce of liquified wheatgrass is equivalent to eating 2.5 pounds of deep green leafy vegetables. Served with an orange wedge for a nice sweet finish, this little shot of super-food smells like a freshly mowed garden in spring, but has a surprisingly sweet yet subtle flavor. I liked it so much I asked them to make the second one a double!
After finishing my amazing meal, I asked Rick what’s next for Fresh Healthy Cafe? “I’m glad you asked!” He said enthusiastically. “We’re just about to unleash our Fresh Beyond Burger!” He went on to explain that much like the Impossible Burger coming out at select establishments, the Beyond Burger is a completely plant based burger that looks, smells, and tastes exactly like high quality beef. The Beyond Burger is newer and has had the opportunity to improve beyond the impossible standards. “We should have it rolling out by the end of July.” He said. I will definitely be back to try that one!
While saying our goodbyes, Rick handed me the doggie bag he’d made up for me, explaining that due to their time on mission trips to help impoverished communities in Haiti, he and his wife fight world hunger however they can starting at home with the simple daily philosophy of waste not want not, a policy I am all too familiar with myself.
Luckily being the mother of two teenagers and a preteen, I don’t have to worry about anything going to waste in our house.
In fact, I knew as soon as I got home and walked through that door carrying a take out bag they would swarm like locusts, and devour all of those nutritious meals before they could realize they were tricked into eating healthy, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened! My 16 year old son couldn’t believe that the Kale Wrap didn’t contain meat because of the hearty savory and satisfying flavors, my 14 year old completely bogarted what was left of my Pitaya Passion Smoothie, my 10 year old smashed the other half of my Turkey Bacon Avocado Panini, and I had to intervene twice when they all started fighting over the remnants of the Acai Power Bowl!
I had the feeling when we walked into Fresh Healthy Cafe that some of these dishes would be better than I had expected, but what I hadn’t predicted was the aftermath. Upon leaving I realized how up and motivated I felt. Renewed, replenished, and re-energized, I felt amazing! And that feeling followed me all through the day, in fact it’s still going!
My family and I would like to thank Fresh Healthy Cafe for turning us on to a whole array of new, healthy and delicious choices, and we’ve already decided to make eating at this amazing place part of our weekly routine. I’m excited to see the difference it makes in my health and my life and I can’t wait to go treat myself again! Until then 573, be happy, be healthy, be well.