Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant has always been one of the more consistent restaurants in Boulder to find vegetarian or vegan fare. Leaf is one of the restaurants part of the Boulder food empire, Three Leaf Concepts from Sara and Lenny Martinelli. Three Leaf Concepts run their own farm, Dushanbe Teahouse, Aji, Zucca, The Huckleberry, Naropa Cafe and most recently, operators of Boulder’s iconic Chautauqua Dining Hall.
To mix things up, Leaf has been hosting a raw dinner once a month and they plan to have another one in October to round out the year before winter falls upon us. Led by the talented (and young, she’s only 27!) Chef Rachel Best I was intrigued to try their pre-fixe raw dinner with four courses.
For only $35, the courses were well thought out and provided a freshness and unique tasting to what most people eat day to day.
I will note, however, even as someone who was raised vegetarian and enjoys eating raw throughout the Summer, there’s an adjustment to the cold food throughout the entire meal. Nothing is cooked over 118 degrees Fahrenheit when cooking raw and quite often, the food is never even heated.
With many health benefits to eating raw (enzymes vitamins, and minerals are either killed or greatly altered with cooking food) Leaf pushed the boundary serving you more than a standard salad (raw the basic, easy way). Sometimes you taste something expecting it to taste one way and it’s very different. I only state this because these raw dinners are a wonderful experiences for a unique culinary experience and evening, but it’s worth understanding what to expect especially for those whose palette has never tried eating entirely raw.
The meal started with a Brushchetta: cucumber (this was our “bread”), cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and macadamia nut cheese. I loved the variety of soft “cheese” with the crunch of the fresh, cold cucumber. Our paired cocktail was a raw coconut vinegar aperitif with cucumber, black pepper and white wine. This tasted a bit too much like I was straight up sipping apple cider vinegar and it was the only drink throughout the meal I couldn’t stomach finishing. Nonetheless, I appreciate the reach and challenge.
The second course: Butternut Squash Soup with fresh thyme and pepitas. This cold soup was refreshing and instead of being traditionally sweet, there were raw cayenne seeds to add some heat and kick. This was paired with a delicious and sweet, Apple cider martini w/ fresh pressed apple juice, raw maple syrup, winter spices, Moscato d’Asti.
The third course: Creamy Polenta Stuffed Red Pepper wild mushrooms, sage and mushroom gravy. The dish was plated beautifully. I enjoyed the paired Deloach pinot noir with this dish.
Dessert: Poached pears, “milk” caramel drizzle, cacao nibs. This dessert was incredibly delectable and I couldn’t stop lapping up the caramel drizzle. I loved that they chose a Colorado Wine, Two Rivers Syrah and served it as “mulled” wine with fresh fruit, cinnamon and White Water Hill Late Harvest Chardonnay. They warmed up the mulled wine, so it was below 118 degrees.
This meal was such a fun experience and on a Tuesday evening, every table was taken by 7 PM leaving the restaurant bustling and filled with energy. In terms of a unique dining experience, that strives to keep the food local (much comes from their farm), Leaf provides something unparalleled in Boulder. For four courses and paired drinks, $35 is a great price, as well!
They’re gearing up to announce their next raw dinner so pay attention to their website, their Twitter page or Facebook page. Reservations are not required, but they are recommended for their raw dinners. And if raw isn’t your thing, I know many carnivores that love the interesting dishes at Leaf that are vegetarian and/or vegan. It’s a nice change of pace, and different than many restaurants in Boulder.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Leaf for the invite and hosting me to learn more about their raw dinners. All opinions as always, are my own.