Larkspur, California – Take a look at the menu at the year-old Roxanne’s –one of the hottest new restaurant in America – and you might well be dining anywhere in the modern world. The ever-popular gastronomic hits are all there: Sushi rolls, hearts of Romaine Caesar, Thai curry, lasagne terrine, Mediterranean platter.
But comparisons to any place you have ever eaten, or ever will, stop right there. For Roxanne’s – situated in Marin County, just north of San Francisco -- is a totally revolutionary new world concept. The owner, Roxanne Klein, goes beyond vegetarian, beyond anything you might have sampled before. She and fellow devotees call it “living food,” for no ingredient is heated above 118 degrees, on the belief that a living foods diet leads to a longer, more energetic life.
Take a look at the slight, blonde, 38-year-old Roxanne, mother of four, and you need no other coaching to believe in her theory. Her eyes sparkle, her face beams, her skin shines, her posture is perfect, her earnest demeanor is convincing. She has been a living, living foods advocate for the past five years, and that means no beans, no pasta, no rice, no dairy, no eggs, not even tofu.
But we’re here to talk about good food, and that’s where Roxanne is more than revolutionary. I was a longtime, committed, vegetarian but gave it up in the 1970’s because fare such as Walnut Cheddar Loaf was not getting me anywhere. We knew so little back then. And much like today, too many proponents of a healthy diet focus more on a fear of food than the more positive aspects of flavor, pleasure, enjoyment.
Roxanne takes what she believes and coaxes her fresh ingredients into fare that is beautiful, exciting, flavorful, satisfying. This is not hippy-time carrot sticks and celery or lists of ersatz fare designed to make you feel superior to the rest of the world. As always, the proof is in the eating, and a meal at Roxanne’s is as pleasurable as any well-prepared, well-conceived meal. To say that you won’t even notice that the food is raw is not a criticism, but a compliment to the chef’s who took the time to create such lovely, satisfying fare.
From the sushi rolls with fresh wasabi to the marinated olive and tomato pizza, on to the Thai yellow curry and the tortilla soup of fresh corn with cilantro, avocado and tortilla strips you love every bite. The food is vibrant, colorful, layered with flavors, textures, aromas. In short, you don’t miss a thing (well, except that little slice of crusty, toasty wholesome bread.)
Perhaps the best thing about this modern, elegant one-of-a-kind restaurant is that it does not preach. It teaches by example and let’s you decide on your own. Every thing is set up for you to love it: The former coffeehouse, now a clean, elegant, warm and modern fine-dining establishment seats just 64 diners, and reservations are hard to come by. There are no signs telling you that the flowers were organically grown, the tablecloths and napkins are woven from natural hemp, the lighting is made from recycled glass. No one shouts at you that much of the food here comes from the Klein family’s three-acre organic garden that includes figs, plums, pears, peaches, tomatoes, melons and edible flowers. You just sit down and enjoy.
For perhaps 99% of us, the living foods concept is new and not one we are quick to swallow or even digest. But the staff is incredibly knowledgeable and they seem to be equal partners in this new learning curve. It all succeeds because the professionally-trained Roxanne has worked hard to get where she is. Combining an equal passion for good health and flavor satisfaction, she spends hours and hours on each dish, slicing, dicing, juicing, blending, dehydrating, but never taking the soul or character out of the food. Couscous may be made from parsnips and pine nuts, blended to a couscous consistency. Noodles use in her pad Thai may actually come from ribbons of coconut. Ice cream, with a super-satisfying consistency, may well be made from nut milk. Some 25 different seasonings may go into her vegetable tajine, and food is served on warm plates, to help release natural aromas.
Wine, alas, is part of the living foods diet, because it is a fermented, not a cooked food. And the wine list, created by master sommelier Larry Stone, is one to behold. New world and old world wines are all there to enjoy, sip, and savor.
320 Magnolia Avenue
Larkspur, CA 94939.
Tel: 415 924 5004
fax: 415 924-7294.
Dinner only, Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. All major credit cards. Menus at $29, $38 and $47, not including wine or service. Taste of Thailand menu, $69, not including wine or service. Tasting menu, $100, including wine but not service.