Santa Barbara’s Alchemy Cafe

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By Nancy Smorch

As I mentioned last week, Mike and I recently took a quick trip to Southern California to visit with some relatives in San Clemente, to spend a day at a “Spiritual Workshop” in Murrieta, and to just take a couple of days to just chill out in Santa Barbara.

One of the highlights for me, aside from visiting with family, was this little gem we found near downtown Santa Barbara - Alchemy Arts Center.

I was searching for a place to have lunch - something healthy, organic, tasty, and something different than I would find back home. When I saw that the Alchemy Arts Center had a Cafe (Alchemy Cafe), I looked through their menu, and I knew we had to go there - the food was local, organic, seasonal and healing. The menu was perfect for me, as it was mostly gluten-free and dairy-free, but still looked interesting.

When we first sat down and looked over the menu, Mike looked at me as if I had lost my mind. He was thinking, here we are in Santa Barbara, and you are taking me to this place that has food you would probably only find at a serious health retreat. I had to laugh as I imagined he and his friends going to a place like this for lunch or dinner - I just didn’t see that happening. I think Mike was hoping I would change my mind and we could leave and go elsewhere for lunch, but I had to at least give this place a try!

And I’m soooo glad I did! It was amazing! It was so good that we went back for breakfast and lunch the next day.  And, Mike decided to get a massage at the spa that was part of the Alchemy Arts Center and he said it was the best massage he’s ever had. The therapist was actually legally blind (which, to me, says she’s going to be more intuitive, which is great), and didn’t need to do deep tissue, like Mike usually requests. She was able to release a lot of tension and some areas where he was “stuck” (shoulders) with some blend of massage and energy work. Unfortunately we were leaving the next morning or I would have loved to have had a massage from her as well.

But back to the food.  You can check out their menu here and see what you think of it. Do you side with me, or with Mike at first glance?

For lunch the first day, I chose to have what was called a Cordyceps/Chaga or Chocolate Latte to start. It was a blend of almond milk, roasted dandelion blend, cordyceps and chaga powder, tocotrienols, and a touch of maple syrup.

Honestly, I didn’t even know what some of those ingredients were, but I went with it, and it was actually quite good. I was off to a good start.

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Then I went for the “Alchemy Salad” which consisted of a lettuce mix, avocado, sprouted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, soaked goji berries, and beet puree salad dressing. It inspired me to attempt to re-create it when we got back home, so I planted some more sunflower seeds (hopefully they will survive the cold), and I used pomegranate seeds for the color and flavor instead of the goji berries. It turned out really good!

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I also got the Mung Bean Kitchari, which Mike and I shared. It is a traditional Ayurvedic dish made with organic mung beans and quinoa, fresh almond milk, steamed vegetables and healing spices. When that came out, I wasn’t so sure about it, but it was full of flavor, and although I don’t know what the specific spices were, they were a perfect blend.

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Mike was thrilled with what he ordered as well. He couldn’t believe it. But you know what the biggest thing he noticed about the food?  He wasn’t hungry for a looooong time after that meal. For me, that pretty  much says it all. The food was full of nutrients and combined just right to satisfy the body’s needs.

All of this played right into the lectures I was currently listening to from IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition) on a macrobiotic and Ayurvedic way of eating.

So, although I didn’t share any specific recipes today, I would encourage you to check out the Alchemy Cafe’s menu and use it as an inspiration to create some new dishes at home.

OR, better yet, if you can, take a trip to Santa Barbara and experience it first hand!