Mar 112009
 
Authors: Kate Bennis

Last weekend, C.J. Eliassen had what he later described as one of the most delicious bowls of fettuccini in his life. He followed it with a slice of coconut cream pie.

At least a couple things made this meal radically different: It was raw food, and the fettuccini was made of cucumbers and nuts. Dishes prepared in this manner are cooked at temperatures below 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Proponents of this movement claim less heat preserves more of the enzymes that are good for people.

For the first time that most residents said they can recall, Fort Collins has its first nearly-vegetarian-vegan-raw food restaurant, a dramatic comparison to Boulder, where such menus are more common than burger joints.

Tasty Harmony, whose only non-vegetarian offering is locally produced goat cheese, opened Feb. 3 and has since received praise from longtime members of the state’s plant-eating movement.

“It was phenomenal. I loved everything I had,” Eliassen, a board member of the 34-year-old Vegetarian Society of Colorado, said in a recent telephone interview.

Matt Harrison, a CSU dining employee and vegan, believes that the restaurant could help to bust some common misconceptions about veganism.

“I hear that there isn’t any variety in vegan food and that it’s unhealthy, which is completely untrue,” Harrison said. “I can see [Tasty Harmony] getting vegan cuisine out there for people to try.”

A vegan diet mainly consists of plants, nuts, beans, fruit or anything that is made without animal products. Some vegetarians supplement the vegan diet with dairy such as eggs, milk and cheese. To be specific, Eliassen said, those who do eat dairy and eggs are technically “lacto-ovo vegetarians.”

While some may be a little intimidated by the idea of eating their favorite dishes sans the traditional cheese and butter components, the menu caters to both the health-conscious and the self-indulgent, owner Sacha Steinhauser said.

“Our spectrum of foods ranges from nachos, to raw, to everything in between,” he said. A California native, Steinhauser’s travels have inspired a number of dishes on the menu.

While living in Sri Lanka, he became familiar with jackfruit, the world’s biggest fruit. Before it ripens, its taste is similar to meat and can be used in Mexican dishes such as tacos, Steinhauser said.

In addition to being primarily vegetarian and vegan — as well as offering raw food dishes — business co-owner Jill Steinhauser said she hopes that in the future, the menu will offer nearly everything as local and organic. Currently, the restaurant offers more than 90 percent of its food as organic, which means the greens and other produce used were grown without chemical pesticides.

Further, Jill hopes by late this spring to have a large board in place that will tell diners where the restaurant obtained its organic produce and other food and where they can purchase it as well.

Entrees include a grilled Reuben made with marinated tempeh and cashew cheese, the “Harmony Wrap” served with baked tofu and vegan Caesar dressing and many other plates piled with seasonal and available vegetables —- many of which come from local farmers.

“I try not to be so fundamental about things,” Steinhauser said. “I want to show people what you can do with plants.”

For dessert, the Tasty Harmony staff recommends the coconut cream pie with chocolate sauce, and the key lime pie- both made entirely with raw ingredients. Fresh juices and shakes are available and a liquor license is soon to come, Steinhauser said.

In a room off to the side of the main dining room, an oversized community table is set for meetings and gatherings. Steinhauser hopes that Tasty Harmony will not only encourage healthy and local eating, but will also bring people together.

“I think of the restaurant as its own entity, but it’s up to the community to make it what it’s going to be,” he said.

Community opportunities and events specifically for vegetable-lovers are becoming more frequent within the community. The “2009 VegFest,” held in Denver, will take place this year at the Denver Marriot City Center on April 11. The event features vendors, speakers and performers with a focus on promoting a lifestyle that is both vegetarian as well as environmentally-friendly.

Similarly, this Friday at 6 p.m., the Fort Collins vegan meet-up group, Fort Vegan, will dine together at Tasty Harmony to celebrate the restaurant’s opening. The public is encouraged to attend the event, become acquainted with other vegans, vegetarians and raw foodists in the neighborhood, and see for themselves what carnivores may be missing out on.

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Tasty Harmony

Where: 130 S. Mason St.

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 to 9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday 11 to 9 p.m.

Closed Mondays

Number: (970) 689-3234

Events:

What: Fort Collins’ Fort Vegan Meetup!

Where: Tasty Harmony, 130 S. Mason St.

When: Friday 6 to

8 p.m.

What: 2009 Denver VegFest and Health Expo

Where: Denver Marriot City Center

When: 9 to 6 p.m.

Concert 7 to 9 p.m.

Staff writer Kate Bennis can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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