Food & Dining Healthy choices to bowl you over
Organika Kitchen is a vegan health food restaurant in Southport. It is by no means a “hole in the wall,” but rather a sleek contemporary looking place. From the outside it looks as crisp and clean as we wish our colons did.
Everything about Organika Kitchen lures you in, but once inside it lures you back out. Why? Because there is no place to sit. There are tall, round tables but no chairs, so when your order arrives you must hover over your table as you Hoover in the meal.
In this day and age of coffee shops like Starbucks begging people to come in, get a cup of Joe and basically set up a time-limit- free home encampment with their laptop and other techno sprawl, this struck me as odd. It is like posting a “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” sign, or as diner cooks used to say in old black-and white-movies, “Eat it and beat it.” Standing while I eat has never been one of my favorite things, so on my first visit I was put off by Organika Kitchen’s flagrant lack of comfort and decided it was not for me.
It took me a while to warm to this place. I am by nature not a dawdler. When I get a meal, I eat it and leave. But even to me, who never outstays my welcome, Organika Kitchen felt like it was not a place I would go for a leisurely chat with a friend. What finally won me over was not the creature comforts but how fresh and special the food is.
I ate my way through much of the menu. I thought the portobello pizza was pretty terrific, but maybe I gave it extra points because the mushroom was not pretending to be a cow or a chicken. Vegans have an affinity with faux food: imitation meat made from soy, ground up nuts and berries. None of these scratch my inner carnivore, so let me applaud that which I do find exceptional here.
The single best item is the acai bowls. There are around six different ones on the menu, all delicious and all food-porn beautiful. Acai is a grape-size berry found in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil. All commercially sold acai comes as a semi-frozen slurry. It is the most amazing color, a royal purple-red that looks like it should be reserved for royalty. It is as good for you as it is beautiful. It wears the lofty mantle of “super fruit” — it cures, it cleanses and it tastes great.
At Organika Kitchen, acia is offered in two ways: as a shake and as a bowl. I prefer the bowl because it is just so darn pretty; I can hardly dip a spoon into it. The bowls (aside from a thick layer of semi-frozen acia berry) are a mix-and-match affair. They come layered with granola, almond milk, strawberries, banana, mango, dragon fruit, coconut flakes, almonds, raw honey, spinach, cocoa nibs, kale, bee pollen and myriad other options.
I am not a health food fancier. In fact, I like to keep a kale-free safe zone around myself, but the acai bowls at Organika Kitchen do not taste medicinal; they just taste yummy. Even the 6-year-old-me, whose diet staples were Tootsie Rolls and Junior Mints, would have gobbled this up.
Boost Bowl has plenty of seating. My favorite place to sit is under the Hawaiian shack-like raffia umbrellas outdoors. Of course, PT Barnum Square needs a major imagination to transform it to The Big Island or any other tropical paradise.
The smoothies are terrific, but again I adore the bowls because they are so pretty in their stratified layers. At Boost Bowls you have the option of your composed dish being served in a takeout-style cup, or, for a few bucks more, in a large glass Mason jar (yours to take home) or a big split pineapple. All are fun to eat and make a great celebration meal.
The options of what can be put in your bowl (or jar or pineapple) is so lengthy that the customer is given a tiny menu pad and a little stub of a pencil. You select and mark what you want, hand the piece of paper over to one of the cheerful and accommodating staff and let them go to work.
As I am a rookie when it comes to making the perfect blend of an acai bowl, I again winged it, simply checking the boxes of stuff that looked like fun. The gorgeous magenta acai is the base, and granola is a given unless you specifically say you do not want it. Then you choose three other toppings. I got bananas because I know what a banana looks and tastes like, but with that safety net in place I flexed my palate with goji berries, bee pollen and pumpkin flakes. I think I paid an extra 75 cents for a big blob of peanut butter, which was well worth it because I am sure on some level peanut butter is considered a health food. It also warms my childlike heart.
Boost Bowls has a second location inside the Riverview Cinemas in Southbury. I imagine a handful of buttered popcorn would enhance this healthful treat. Such a smart idea rather than the usual movie junk food.
Jane Stern, a Ridgefield resident, coauthored the popular “Roadfood” guidebook series with Michael Stern.