by Gretchen Schisla
Each time I have the chance to head west of St. Louis, to either Arizona or California, I encounter some new experience centering around good health and wellness. This time, it was a visit to True Food Kitchen, an Andrew Weil concept restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A sleek and vibrant space, my first impression was outside, where fresh herbs and a lemon tree were growing. It made me smile — I was already hooked! Once seated, the waiter enthusiastically explained the idea behind the food. Diners are offered a menu of anti-inflammatory items ranging from Winter Ingredient Salad to Panang Curry. Large, open, food prep areas with huge, clear bins of brightly colored greens, vegetables and citrus are located next to the dining space — promoting simple and transparent food prep with super fresh ingredients for the customer.
My lunch menu choices included the Tuscan Kale Salad and Herb Hummus, both with amazing flavors. Ever made a kale salad that was so bitter you couldn’t eat it? This isn’t a problem at True Food Kitchen. The waiter explained their process: they marinate the Kale Salad in its own dressing for 30 minutes or more to remove any trace of bitterness. One of their signature dishes, the recipe is included at the end of this article.
The back-story of the venture: Fox Restaurant Concepts restaurateur Sam Fox met Andrew Weil in the late 1990’s. After spending time with Dr. Weil, and especially after cooking with him at his ranch, Fox came to understand how delicious healthy food can be. He realized that Dr. Weil’s concept for a restaurant — one that serves great food that just happens to be good for you — could work. In 2008, the first True Food Kitchen opened in Phoenix to immediate success and inspired more locations in the southwest, with the long-term goal of a national roll-out.
True Food Kitchen dishes follow the principles of Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet — providing delicious flavors and healthy nutrients, with an environmental awareness in an inviting atmosphere.
The True Food Kitchen brand is described on the website:
You don’t have to be a die-hard Yogi to dine at True Food Kitchen. You need only a desire to give your body nutrients, and your palate something memorable. The basis for Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet isn’t meant to deprive a healthy body of great flavors, it’s meant to take popular trends in cuisine and pair them with healthy living. Try the kale and quinoa, you’ll live longer. Drink the seabuckthorn and acai, you’ll feel better. At True Food Kitchen, we want you to feel better, live longer, and make your mouth happy in the process.
True Food Kitchen also uses local, organic sources whenever possible. For example, the Phoenix location receives most of its produce from McClendon Farms, a 25-acre, USDA-certified organic farm in Peoria, Arizona. The restaurants are also decidedly “green” with environmentally friendly materials, high efficiency kitchens, natural purification systems and no plastic bottle waste.
If you don’t want to wait in line an hour (or more) for dinner, or you can’t make it to True Food Kitchen in person, a beautiful cookbook features the Andrew Weil inspired recipes: True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure. My copy just arrived in time to share the Kale Salad recipe with you!
Start with Tuscan kale (also labeled as black kale, Russian kale, cavolo nero or dinosaur kale). In a salad bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed), 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add kale and toss well to coat. Let salad sit at room temp for 10 to 30 minutes to remove bitterness. Add 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 2 tablespoons toasted whole wheat bread crumbs. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings. Leftovers can be covered and enjoyed for up to 2 days, unlike most other salads that wilt.