Feeling rather full after stopping at two delightful veg restaurants in Scottsdale, we headed north toward ChocolaTree Cafe in Sedona, Arizona, a mostly raw cafe with an awesome reputation. The journey through the mountains was breathtaking.
The landscape slowly transitioned from a desert-scape dotted with saguaro cacti to a high mesa semi-desert grassland with clumps of riparian forests and a rocky balsatic plateau of dormant volcano rock. The road danced around the Agua Fria river creating dramatic landscapes and vistas.
We diverted off the main highway to the old mining town of Jerome, now an artist colony and tourist destination.
Around the corner from a popular biker gathering at the local saloon, we discovered an early 20th century diner which originally served the Chinese mine workers in an era of oppressive segregation. This unfortunate history explained why the diner was tucked away and out of sight from the main street. Today, the location is appreciated for its spectacular panoramic view and the new owners are committed to working with local farmers to supply fresh produce for the restaurant, which was probably done when it first opened over 100 years ago. A nice addition to a meat-centric tourist town like Jerome.
As the sun was reaching for the horizon, we meandered down the mountain and continued our journey into Sedona. Every time I come here, I am in awe of the incredible red rock formations which frame the town. This time, with the intense pre-dusk light, the town looked like it was surrounded by a large, gold picture frame. Sedona is known for connections to planetary energies–a place to commune with natural forces and to recharge. I often wondered why the much-touted spiritual connections bypass food as a vehicle of awareness–this culinary adventure turned that around.
We arrived at ChocolaTree just as the setting sun made the red rocks surrounding Sedona glow like burning embers. The outside of the restaurant building and patio was adorned with handcrafted art pieces and paintings. Walking in, we were greeted by a four foot tall Shiva Lingam from India, the centerpiece of this warm and cozy restaurant.
We were encouraged to peruse the offerings of both packaged and fresh menu items. While ChocolaTree puts most of their energy into raw living food, they offer some cooked vegan dishes. The Curried Spring Roll and the Raw Falafels were recommended as appetizers. We also ordered the All Raw Wrap and the cooked Ethiopian Collard Greens on Quinoa for entrees.
We walked to the open-air garden courtyard, past the retail displays of crystals, essential oils, talismans and artwork. Tables surrounded a beautiful old tree strung with delicate lights. Adjacent to the seating area was a kitchen garden full of borage, amaranth, basil, oregano and many other scented herbs in various states of growth and harvest. The patio held magical appeal and gave us something to ponder and discuss.
The food arrived in a timely manner and we applauded the suggested Curried Spring Rolls–we consumed them in a flash. The Falafels were a good attempt, but had not been dehydrated quite enough. The All Raw Wrap was more like a salad–leafy greens and vegetables in a seasoned wrap with a light dressing.
The Ethiopian Collard Greens on Quinoa didn’t look appealing on the plate, but once I tasted it, I was hooked. The collard greens, cooked to a buttery perfection, had a touch of fresh ginger and were topped with crumbled kale chips, giving it a slight crunch. The bed of quinoa was the perfect match, making the dish a delicious and sensuous home run. After dinner, we met owner Jen Moore and discussed mutual acquaintances and what a cafe like hers can do for a community. We polished off the meal with a piece of Pecan Pie–raw and creamy with a fantastic maple-like flavor. It left us practically speechless. Wow! We left with a few packaged food items and, finding all rooms booked in Sedona, proceeded toward Flagstaff.
The meal was not only fulfilling, but, energizing. We stopped on top of the mountain and gazed at stars so profuse the sky seemed white. We discussed the power of food, how it can create change in society, the quality of life and spiritual pursuits. Perfect meal, perfect night…
Please check out our next travels through dust storms and dessert to reach Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.
To see the entire Veg Tour as it unfolds, read more here…
Here is my version of The ChocolaTree’s Ethiopian Collard Greens:
Ethiopian Collard Greens
with Red Quinoa and Kale Chips