This past March, Carol Roizen and Jonathan Goldwasser, co-founders and owners of the whimsical, hip, and organic Parakeet Café in Carmel Valley’s sophisticated, bucolically-designed One Paseo, hosted a media lunch to launch their fresh spring line-up for birds of a feather food writers and bloggers.
The Parakeet pair graciously welcomed guests with warm smiles and icy refreshers, an array of exotic, exhilarating, and immune boosting house-curated mocktails and drinks that transported you to a health spa in paradise. My favorites included the Extra Mary, a tomato juice-based lollapalooza supercharged with anti-inflammatory turmeric, tangy chamoy sauce, antioxidant hibiscus, agave syrup, and savory spices served in a tall tumbler and garnished with a skewer of seasonal fruits and roots; the Espresso Mocktini gave a midday jolt of jo’ with coconut butter, splash of hazelnut cacao cream, aromatic cardamom and vanilla; the Iced Matcha Latte blended with vibrant blue spirulina, creamy oat milk, and raw honey was a feast for the eyes and palate (with an added boon of detoxing the body of heavy metals); while the sassy Collagen Dill ‘N Tonic mixed with tangy pink grapefruit juice provided an anti-aging elixir.
After sampling these fun and invigorating sips of liquid cheer, it’s no surprise that the organically-minded duo started their food ventures with a handful of juice bars around Southern California after settling in La Jolla from their homeland of Mexico City. The drastic change in careers and domiciles came out of sheer, life-saving necessity as their second child (now a healthy, college-bound teenager), was born with a serious blood disorder. Roizen went into immediate survival mode, and became a charter member of the Hippocrates’ “Let food be thy medicine” Club, converting the family to a whole food, organic diet, which eventually launched the collection of Parakeet Café eateries, coffee shops, and juice bars (soon to be lucky 13 in total trickling to Beverley Hills and other Los Angeles hot spots).
During each of the four lively courses at the casual, sit-down luncheon we were regaled with Roizen’s commentaries about her passion for organic, healing foods, infusing the cultural flavors and textures of her native cuisine in many of the Parakeet menu items. All dishes served that afternoon reflected this ethos starting with the thin pickled toast dialed up with an eye-popping Technicolor of reds, yellows, oranges, and greens from the vegan combination of earthy hazelnut miso spread, eggplant and bell pepper escabeche, fresh herbs, and side of spiced kale chips. Starting to feel quite satisfied at this point, the next dish arrived–the Vegan “Carne Asada” Bowl piled high with warm savory delights reminiscent of the traditional zesty meat dish that hails from Roizen’s native land. This blend of grilled oyster mushrooms, vegan “leche de tigre,” (that translates from Spanish for “tiger’s milk,” a spicy, citrusy marinade), rice and beans, seasonal greens, and serrano peppers practically does a fandango in your mouth.
Between the “mmm’s” and “ahhh’s” and the third course, Roizen extended her sincere gratitude to the creative chefs, mixologists, and other devoted team members for their exceptional talents and commitment to Parakeet. The next dish, a sweet, briny, umami salad showcased slices of salt-cured ahi tuna on a layer of heirloom tomatoes, charred fennel, pickled carrots, golden beets, and basil limoneta dressed in a spiced Greek yoghurt.
My table had a backdrop of a vibrant, turquoise wall decorated with a tropical motif of parakeets playfully perched in a jungle setting amidst floating fig leaves and sliced oranges. “They’re colorful, happy creatures, chirping beautiful songs, and eating from nature,” chimes the Parakeet lady. “I wanted to make a gathering place that was fun and uplifting, create a sense of community, a way to connect with people and yourself by eating healthy and delicious food.”
Finally, a dish that is sweet and indulgent but not rich and cloying, a wholesome vegan dessert completed the meal with a pile of house-made Nutella, organic strawberries, granola, and date coconut cream on top of an activated charcoal Belgian waffle. Kind of funky looking, but the earthy, asphalt-tinted waffle treat just hit the spot.
Roizen proudly declares that every ingredient on the menu is made from scratch, along with being organic, sustainable, and GMO-free. They make every sauce, syrup, marinade, nut butter, baked good, and tortilla in-house, and even concoct their own gluten-free flour blend. The organic fanatics, very particular about the providence of ingredients, hand-pick their purveyors using mostly local farmers; the raw honey is sourced from Temecula Valley Honey Company, the chicken from Mary’s, the produce and seeds from J.R. Organics and Sun Grown Organics, among other partners.
The menu, which changes seasonally, includes every single dish that Roizen is passionate about. “I love food so much, I just want everyone to have the same experience. And since everything happens around the table, it’s important to create an environment to nourish, heal, and share.” Her food journey started at a critical juncture in their lives, and now she wants those who are conscious about what goes into their bodies to join that journey and explore the many pleasures of eating healthy foods without feeling deprived, whether they follow a paleo, keto, vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free regimen.
“I took the greatest challenge of my life, and gave it purpose and a reason for being. Now, you’re all invited to the party,” muses Roizen.
Our hosts graciously provided the lunch guests with a take-home party favor bag filled with assorted Parakeet merchandise including house-brand, organic and sustainable Guatemalan coffee beans, a pretty pink eco-friendly beverage tumbler, and a vibrant fuchsia ballcap with the mellow-minded slogan slugged across the brim, “The Take it Easy Club.” After that delightful springtime meal and fun gifts, we were all as happy as a lark!
A little bird told me that Parakeet Café is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The Del Mar Cafe is located at 3745 Paseo Place, Suite 820, San Diego (Carmel Valley) 92130.
Visit www.parakeetcafe.com/location/del-mar/ for more information.