More and more people are choosing the organic, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free way of life for reasons ranging from medical, environmental, and ethical to the quest for a longer, more energetic life. American dietary preferences (which tend to be high in animal fat, starches, and sugar), compounded by a lack of exercise, result in high obesity rates. It can be difficult to convince fast-food addicts to “eat your veggies,” but the local culinary scene offers enticing possibilities.
Slow Food Desert Cities (www.slowfooddesertcities.org) promotes healthy eating and showcases the farm-to-table opportunities enjoyed by local chefs who participate in the group’s events. Even high-end restaurants will make substitutions in their dishes to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-intolerant customers. All of the Coachella Valley’s Asian restaurants feature vegetarian options, and others are expanding their non-carnivore repertoire.
Here are the valley’s most popular eateries for vegetarians, vegans, and those willing to go meat- and poultry-free for a meal.
Inside Harvest Health Foods
73910 Highway 111
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Owner and Executive Chef Lorraine Ornelas’ mantra is “You were born organic and free,” and she strives to provide the freshest ingredients in her organic menu of juices, smoothies, shakes, coffee, herb teas, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and homemade soup of the day. The daily selections of her De-Luscious Desserts are a must-try. Open for breakfast and lunch, Luscious Lorraine’s also will cater your office party or any celebration, and her staff will help you plan the menu.
Ornelas grows kale, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and more on her own farm to ensure that her clients get farm-to-table; in so doing, she supports sustainable agriculture and promotes sound ecology. In season, she gives demonstrations at the Palm Desert Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings. She also is studying to be a nutritionist to enhance her knowledge of healthy eating and take it to a higher level.
Ornelas has eliminated plastic bags as part of her commitment to reduce, reuse, and recycle, asking customers to bring their own reusable bags for carry out.
Lorraine Ornelas, Luscious Lorraine’s
4 c. – Cabbage of choice
2 – Carrots, peeled and julienned
4 T. – Fresh chopped cilantro
10 – Green onions, sliced thin
1/2 c. – Cooked brown rice
1 c. – Asian dressing (recipe follows)
4 c. – Flavored tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 T. – Chopped toasted almonds
Toss cabbage, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and rice in a large bowl. Coat with dressing. Mound salad in shallow bowls or on plates. Arrange tofu on salad. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
2/3 c. – Organic peanut butter
1/3 c. – Brown rice vinegar
1/4 c. – Raw agave
2 T. – Nama Shoyu (organic soy sauce)
1 T. – Fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves – Fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 t. – Crushed red pepper flakes
(Note: It will thicken if refrigerated; add a little purified water to thin.)
Nature’s Health Food and Cafe
555 S. Sunrise Way
Palm Springs, Ca 92262
Owner Jose Felix was the chef here for 16 years and three years ago bought the market and café; he is now executive chef. Always busy, this one-stop shop offers organic groceries and a café with a 120-item menu. Many clients are not vegetarians but like the variety. Healthy eating is important to Felix, and he ensures that every item is tasty as well as nutritious. The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with seating inside or on the patio with umbrellas and marble-top tables.
The organic menu boasts breakfast all day, including a tofu scramble with vegetables, brown rice, and toast; vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free entrées; salads; wraps; gourmet sandwiches like the Philly Un-Steak or Un-Turkey; individual thin-crust pizza; vegetarian burgers; and side dishes. There are classic and innovative blends of fruit and vegetable drinks, smoothies, iced teas, and an espresso bar. Desserts vary daily. This is a great place to dine and find healthy food to take home.
Jose Felix, Nature’s Health Food and Café
Garlic-Ginger Soy Chicken Stir Fry
1/2 lb. – Soy chicken (mock chicken)
2 lbs. – Organic mixed vegetables
1/2 lb. – Brown rice
2 oz. – Olive oil
Boil rice; set aside. Stir fry vegetables and soy chicken in olive oil. Mix in sauce. Remove from heat and serve over rice.
Organic garlic ginger sauce
5 cloves – Organic garlic, minced
2 inches – Organic Hawaiian ginger
1/2 c. – Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. – Alkaline water
1 oz. – Bragg Liquid Aminos
Combine all ingredients.
Native Foods Café
Smoke Tree Center
1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, Ca 92264
73890 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Owner and Executive Chef Tanya Petrovna is an exuberant exponent of vegan/vegetarian cuisine. Raised by gourmet parents who traveled extensively, she experienced many cuisines and knew early on that her future was in the food world. For 17 years in the desert, she has served delicious, healthy, fun food, made fresh daily using her own chef-crafted recipes.
Her quest has been to maintain a healthy, balanced, nutritious menu using only plant-based foods. She has convinced many that this is the way to honor the environment and not harm a single animal. Diners may select great starters, salads, “earth bowls,” pizza, tacos, “Native (m)eat” burgers, dairy-free desserts, plus organic drinks, beer, and wine. The Palm Springs and Palm Desert restaurants have patio dining and are dog friendly.
There are seven Native Foods Cafés in California and soon to be three in Chicago. The extensive menus include selections for every health-conscious taste, not only vegans. The author of two cookbooks with a third in the works, Petrovna has appeared on the Food Network.
Tanya Petrovna, Native Foods Café – From the Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook
1 c. – Chopped tomato
1 c. – Peeled and chopped cucumber
1 c. – Chopped jicama
1 c. – Chopped avocado
1/2 c. – Chopped red onion
2 T. – Lemon juice
1/2 t. – Sea salt
2 c. – Mixed salad greens or romaine
4 c. – Cooked quinoa, cooled
1 c. – Mango lime vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/2 c. – Fresh cilantro leaves
4 T. – Roasted pumpkin seeds
4 T. – Currants, raisins, or chopped dates
4 slices – Fresh mango
1 t. – Chile con limon (optional)
In a bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, jicama, avocado, and onion. Toss with lemon juice and sea salt. Divide salad greens on four plates or bowls. Top each with 1 cup of quinoa and drizzle over quinoa 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette. On each serving, place one-quarter of the tomato mixture on top of the quinoa. Drizzle a bit more vinaigrette on top. Garnish with cilantro leaves, pumpkin seeds, currants, and mango, and dust with chile con limon.
Mango Lime Vinaigrette
1 c. – Chopped fresh or frozen mango
1/2 c. – Safflower or sunflower oil
1/4 c. – Maple syrup
1/4 c. – Lime juice
1 T. – Rice vinegar
1 1/2 t. – Sea salt
1 1/2 t. – Grated fresh ginger
Place all ingredients in a blender and purée.
Palms Greens Cafe
Desert Sun Center
611 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Owners Greg Schmitz and Jeff Huyett cater to a loyal clientele for breakfast and lunch. They serve only organic foods with no additives, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup. Their distinctive menu uses flavors from around the world. Schmitz has his own herb garden to enhance the fresh flavors of his changing menu.
The cafe’s ambiance is friendly, and comfortable. A Hippocrates quote is displayed on every table: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
The breakfast menu features organic, vegan, and gluten-free choices, including huevos rancheros. For lunch, select from soups, salads, wraps with dipping sauces, and gourmet sandwiches. Healthy libations include iced teas, organic coffee, fruit and vegetable smoothies, and date shake, plus organic or soy vanilla ice cream. Palm Greens Cafe will cater your party, picnic, barbecue, or potluck. It also provides other restaurants with items such as vegan or vegetarian burgers and gluten-free foods.
Palm Greens uses only biodegradable bags; and customers are requested to bring their own bags and water bottles for carry out.
Greg Schmitz, Palm Greens Café
Red Quinoa Tabouli Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 c. – Red or plain quinoa
2 c. – Filtered water
2 bunches – Parsley, chopped
1/4 c. – Lemon juice
2 cloves – Garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring water to a boil. Add quinoa and simmer with lid on for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and toss with remaining ingredients.
Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
The Gardens on El Paseo
73595 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Corporate Chef Jeff Moogk (above) creates the extensive menus for 17 restaurants in Southern California and Nevada. The Palm Desert location is a meeting place for foodies because of its central location and varied choices (especially pizza).
Moogk has introduced many vegetarian and gluten-free selections and plans to add a vegan menu. The wine list and choice of beers complement the extensive menu. There’s generous seating indoors or on the mist-cooled patio on the upper level of The Gardens on El Paseo.
Choose from soups, tapas (seven vegetarian options include edamame, baba ghanoush, Parmesan-crusted artichokes, and hummus), rustic Neapolitan pizzas (available with dairy-free mozzarella), artisan thin-crust pizzas with vegetarian selections, wood-fired pizzas with the option of a whole wheat or gluten-free crust, and salads made with locally grown produce, sandwiches, and wraps. Sammy’s will cater your next party.
Jeff Moogk, Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
Roasted Vegetable Gluten-Free Salad
Serves 4 to 6
10-15 – Frozen or canned artichoke hearts or bottoms
5 – Yellow Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into 6-8 wedges
2 – Red bell peppers, destemmed, seeded, and cut into quarters
1 c. – Shelled, blanched edamame
1/2 – Red onion, thinly sliced
20 – Fresh mini mozzarella pearls (no liquid)
2 T. – Lemon juice
4 T. – Balsamic vinegar
5 T. – Olive oil
1 t. – Salt
1 t. – Pepper
4 c. – Baby spinach leaves
If using frozen artichoke bottoms, soften in boiling, salted water 5 to 7 minutes and then cool. Slice artichoke 1/2 inch thick. Toss tomatoes with 1 T. olive oil and sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet. Place tomato, pepper, and artichoke on rack. Roast 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool. Peel skin from pepper and cut into 1/4-inch strips. Combine roasted vegetables, edamame, onion, mozzarella, lemon juice, vinegar, 4 T. olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve over spinach leaves.