The cafe was a bit of a mini road trip for us, so we rented a car and zipped over in about 15 minutes. It was located in Sherman Mills, a residential/commercial/artist studio community just past Laurel Hill Cemetery. We took some photos while we waited for the chef to tell us about the food we would be sampling that day.
As the cafe itself was not yet ready for dining, and the owner wanted us to be comfortable, we were invited up to the owner's home, which was on-site. The consulting chef for the cafe went over each of the 4 mountainous salads that will be on the menu, with the nutritional philosophy behind each selection:
Greens Salad with Purple Kale, Spinach, Assorted Greens, with Pumpkinseed Dressing - Each salad weighs about a pound, so you are getting a pound of greens that is nutritionally superior to a pound of meat/starch/veeg on typical restaurant plate.
Smaller then the other salads, but rich in protein, the Sesame Tofu Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing served over greens was very refreshing. I especially like the uncooked tofu.
The Signature Cafe at the Mills Salad was a heaping pile of greens with raw chioga beets, carrots, sprouted lentils, and a vinegar-based dressing. None of the salads had any added sugar, oil, or salt, which I thought was cool, but I think the addition of herbs and spices would kick them up just a bit. I was happy with all of the salads, but I found this one to be the most special.
I noticed right away that the Quinoa & Raw Vegetable Salad was prepared with unrinsed quinoa. Perhaps intentionally? Not rinsing your quinoa can make it bitter, but this salad was tasty, especially with raw sweet potatoes (never thought of dicing them for a salad, great idea!), black beans, and scallions. I love my complete proteins...
A bulgur wheat salad was thrown into the mix, along with some hummus veggie wraps.
Dessert was supplied by Food for All in Mt. Airy, a gluten-free and vegan selection of Black Bean Brownies, Chocolate Cupcakes, and Apple Pie Bites...a devilish reply to a full plate of nourishing whole foods. A little taste of chocolate after a giant salad is always necessary. We both remarked at how moist these desserts were.
The one thing that struck us was how large the salads were - how do you control food costs when you are using local produce and serving 1 pound salads? We all know how much a pound of salad would cost us at Whole Foods. I am curious to see how this will pan out - it's such an inspired idea.
I would like to check it out again soon to see how the cafe and its menu takes shape - I will post the menu when it becomes available. Those of you in the Art Museum area or near East Falls should definitely check it out - they are hoping to open next week.
The owner and team were so welcoming and excited about the food that it was easy to enjoy the afternoon with other healthy food seekers. We had walked in not knowing what to expect, and ended up leaving full and renewed. Thanks for having us, Cafe at the Mills, and best of luck on your opening.