Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, April 13

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Friday Foodporn: La Crêperie B-A-N-A-N-A-S »

Feature Fri May 14 2010

Raw Abiding Citizens

If you've been to the French Market, you've probably seen the brightly-colored Raw food stall in the back corner. I visited recently and was not only impressed with the samples I tasted and the willingness of Polly Gaza, one of the shop's owners, to talk and answer questions. I have to admit, I was also really impressed with Ms. Gaza's glowing complexion. It made me want to get rid of my oven, clear out my pantry full of pasta, cereal, and cookies and become a raw foodist. In Chicago, that isn't such a hard thing to do. Besides Raw, which has been open since December, there are a number of caterers, restaurants and even classes offering food (or the chance to prepare food) untouched by mysterious additives or processing.

Gaza says she's been eating mostly raw foods for the past year and a half, though she's eaten extremely healthy for years. The more raw food a person eats, the better their immune systems will function, she says, but adds, "I don't feel everybody has to walk into this and say, It's all or nothing." Raw has samples of their snacks and meals available every day, and Gaza says it's hard to determine what items are the most popular. "We sell out on everything almost every day," she says. They have prepared meals, such as pizza and lasagna; snacks and desserts; and ingredients for smoothies available each day. Gaza has a spirulina smoothie every morning, with Udo's oil added for essential fatty acids, something vegans and raw-foodists need to be sure to include in their diets. Raw will arrange uncooking classes in your home; Gaza recommends groups of five, and charges $55 per person.

greenspirit.jpgLinda Szarkowski (pictured at right) trained at the Living Light Culinary Institute, an international raw-foods culinary school in North Carolina that offers chef certification, and then brought her know-how back to Chicago. She spent some time in the kitchen at Chicago Diner, before launching her own business, Green Spirit Living, a little more than two years ago. She now teaches raw culinary-arts classes and prepares food packages for delivery ($75 for a weekly package). Meals are made with nuts, mushrooms, grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and a lot of dehydrating for texture. "I never make the same thing twice," she says. After preparing Sloppy Joes for her delivery packages, she changed the recipe so instead of serving it on bread, which she found too heavy, she wraps it in lettuce leaves. It was a hit: Some customers say it reminds them of P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps. Her classes cover such foods as appetizers, breakfast and brunch, and desserts. Later this month, she's teaching raw-food basics and a course on dehydrating, an important step for preparing "unbaked" crackers, breads and crust for pizza or pie.

Among Chicago's raw-food pioneers is Karyn Calabrese and her Raw Café, a white-table-cloth restaurant with an adjoining shop and juice bar that's been around for more than a decade. The shop, with its raw bar and take-out offerings, is bustling at lunch. When I visited I picked up some ravioli, chips and live salsa, and a salad and brought it home to my family, who seemed to like it. Karyn's vegan and raw-food empire includes another two restaurants offering cooked, gourmet vegan fare; a day spa, for those who need a little boost to achieve the raw-food glow; a prepared-meals service ($175 a week, plus delivery); and food-prep and wellness classes. She, too, is offering a raw-foods basics class later in the month.

Cousin's Incredible Vitality is less formal than Karyn's, but just as popular. The restaurant has a living buffet or a menu chock full of familiar favorites, like pizza, noodle dishes made from zucchini or kelp, musakka, and sandwiches. Catering is available, as is a live-food boxed-meal service (prices vary depending upon plan). Proprietor and chef Mehmet Ak is committed to spreading the word about the benefits of a raw-food diet, especially to people suffering from weight and health problems. He opened Raw Gourmets International, a culinary arts and hospitality certification program (with three-hour mini-workshops throughout the year), and he maintains one of two Chicago raw-food meetup sites. Cousin's web site even has recipes for those looking to test the waters (ionized, of course--an important part of the raw-food pyramid).

Outside the city, the Borrowed Earth Café in Downers Grove has been featured on Check, Please! and won raves from Metromix. The café sells raw perogies, quiche, burritos and a banana-split dinner for kids. A weekly meal plan is available ($99.95 for two weekly pick-ups) that, according to some dramatic photos reminiscent of Subway's Jared Fogle, helped one local man lose 75 pounds in six months.

32_truffle_sacred_cacao.jpgEating raw doesn't mean skipping dessert. All the raw-food menus around town include modified cheesecakes, pies and cakes made with fruits and nuts. Karyn's and Cousins have ice cream. And Chicago is one of the few places in the country with locally made raw chocolate. Chocolatier Blazej Mikulicz says he grew up in Poland with "the nicest, richest, creamiest chocolates." His diet has changed over the years, he says, from meat and potatoes to vegetarian to vegan to, now, mostly raw foods. But his love of chocolate remained. So he used his culinary training to create Cru Cacao, his line of raw, organic, vegan chocolates (gift box of truffles is pictured above). Ingredients include coconut oil, nut butters, agave for sweetener, raw cacao, cacao powder and organic herbs, spices and flowers. Minimal heat is needed to melt the butters and the chocolates, but temperatures remain below 118 degrees, allowing the cacao to retain its nutritional properties. "The only heat source we use is double boilers, hot water baths or professional chocolate melters," says Mikulicz. His truffles are available online and, when in stock, at Green Grocer. And once he and Whole Foods work out storage and stocking issues, he hopes to sell chocolate bars there. Left out at room temperature, his truffles suffered at Whole Foods. This might have bothered Mikulicz, but he kept his cool. "Processed foods make us jump of the handle," he says. And that's not a worry for him.

GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

GB store



Drive-Thru on Flickr

Join the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Robyn Nisi,
Drive-Thru staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15