The raw-food movement isn’t new to the Twin Cities — the restaurant Ecopolitan has been around for the better part of a decade, and you can find a bevy of classes and resources throughout the metro area. But with the establishment of Pure Market Express, a raw-food meal delivery service based in Chaska, it’s never been easier to bring the cuisine into your home. You just go to the website, add meals to your cart, and pay via credit card, and a day or two later a disposable cooler with your order arrives on your doorstep. The question, however, is: Would you want to? The Heavy Table recently sampled five of the service’s vegan offerings and found the food to be across the flavor spectrum, with some dishes bordering on inedible and others being quite tasty.
Before we give you the rundown, though, a primer on raw food: Followers choose natural, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains, that are not heated higher than 114°F. Why? According to Pure Market Express’ website:
Raw, plant-based foods are full of life and vitality. The diet by definition features no meat, dairy, refined sugar or preservatives. That right there makes a difference. Nor is there, obviously, any cooked food. Raw foods’ natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids remain unzapped by cooking’s high temperatures, and so deliver maximum nutritional and digestive punch.
Regardless if you agree with the raw-food movement’s premise, you’d find it hard to argue that a raw-food delivery service will succeed without palate-pleasing options. Hence, the taste test:
Blueberry Pancake Dippers with Honey ($7)
Ingredients: pecans, pine nuts, water, bananas, blueberries, agave nectar, vanilla bean, sea salt
You know Fruit Roll-Ups? Imagine pancakes in that rubbery format and that’s what these dippers most resemble. Unfortunately, what was a fun childhood snack food doesn’t translate well to this dish. The overly sweet, gummy strips in no way reflected a warm, fluffy pancake, and despite the blueberry label, the dippers smelled and tasted more like bananas than any other ingredient. The chunks of nuts were hard to chew, and the honey dipping sauce remained solid and undippable more than three hours after removing it from the refrigerator.
Lasagna & Garlic Bread ($8)
Ingredients: zucchini, tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, cheese (pine nuts, water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, sea salt), marinara (sundried tomatoes, tomato, onion, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, agave, cayenne), pesto (basil, pistachios, olive oil, sea salt, pepper)
Can lasagna without dairy or flour be rightfully called lasagna? (Discuss among yourselves.) But whatever you call this dish, it sure is tasty. The flavor of the fresh, colorful vegetables — particularly the tomatoes — came through with every bite, and the pesto sauce had a tangy zip that was easy to swallow. Lasagna purists may snark at the nut-based “cheese” or zucchini “noodles,” but the combination of ingredients works well together. As for that garlic bread, it went untasted, as none appeared with our sample.
Pineapple Slaw ($8)
Ingredients: sweet potato, pineapple, Granny Smith apples, pecans, mayonnaise, raisin, agave nectar, lemon juice
Though this dish calls out the pineapple in its name, the dominant flavor in the salad was carrot — and there are no carrots in the ingredient list. Hmmm. While not horrible, the soggy slaw was unremarkable both in flavor and texture. Isn’t traditional cole slaw really a raw food, too? It would be a better pick than this version.
Chili Lime Crackers ($7)
Ingredients: buckwheat, zucchini, tomatoes, pine nuts, golden flaxseed, sea salt, ground chiles, cumin seed, honey, lime, ground cayenne, garlic, olive oil, pumpkin seeds
These zesty crackers smelled like guacamole and tasted like it, too. If you’re a guac lover, that’s fantastic; if you’re not, you’d likely not be a fan. Though not as crisp as typical crackers, the little snackers retain a bit of snap when you bite into them. And if you like heat, you’re in luck. Thanks to the ground cayenne, the spice builds up in your mouth with each bite, making the crackers more potent the longer you eat them. Perhaps a little vegan sour cream (not included) would tamper the fire in your mouth if the flavor is too intense.
Chocolate Cheesecake ($7)
Ingredients: crust (almonds, lucuma, agave), filling (coconut meat, coconut butter, agave nectar, maple syrup, cashew butter, cacao, apple cider vinegar, sea salt)
The words “chocolate cheesecake” conjure up mighty high expectations — one would expect rich creaminess, deep chocolate flavor, and a crust that can stand up to the intense filling. This cheesecake gets one of the three factors right, but a delightfully nutty crust can’t compensate for the dessert’s gritty texture and lackluster chocolate notes. The accompanying strawberry sauce performed somewhat better, but it’s hard to improve upon a filling that tastes more sweet than chocolatey.
The verdict? Raw-food enthusiasts, who may be accustomed to the particular flavors and textures of the cuisine, may want to get Pure Market Express a try, particularly if a busy lifestyle prevents them from eating raw as much as they’d like. But if you’re looking to merely improve the nutrition in your diet, there are more delicious ways to go about it, such as adding a few servings of fresh fruits or vegetables each day. A locally grown Honeycrisp or SweeTango apple is sweet, raw, and wholesome — and doesn’t require special delivery.