Lunch Box : Gaia Fresh Food Cafe
In Greek mythology Gaia was one of the Mother goddesses. To environmentalists Gaia represents Mother Earth. And in Carlisle, Gaia is the vegetarian eatery serving juices, smoothies, hot drinks, raw foods and baked goods. Having bicycled twenty miles in the morning, we decided to do our bodies a favor and make lunch at Gaia our “after.”
A menu board lists Gaia’s offerings. Plates can be prepared as either salads or wraps and cost $6.90. From a selection of eight possibilities, I requested the organic egg salad (“ask for today’s flavor”) wrap, which was not available, so I chose the Cranapple Quinoa as a wrap. My partner selected the Fruit Garden salad with apple cider vinaigrette dressing. We ordered lemonade ($2.50 a glass), then seated ourselves in the cool comfort of the dining room.
Our lemonades, made from fresh lemon juice and raw sugar, arrived first. In keeping with Gaia’s mission to provide a “healthy experience,” cold drinks are served in reusable containers (i.e., glass, not plastic). The raw sugar smoothed out the tartness of the natural lemon juice making a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink.
The Fruit Garden salad was accompanied by four poppy seed/sesame seed flat bread crackers. The salad, a tasty arrangement of crunchy apples, feta cheese, kalmata olives, and chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and onions on red oak leaf lettuce, was more vegetable than fruit. The apple cider vinaigrette was a good match, enhancing the flavor of the vegetables rather than overcoming it.
The Cranapple Quinoa Salad wrap was a sprouted wheat wrap filled with quinoa, apples, dried cranberries, celery and toasted coconut. There was no feta or dressing with the wrap, although the waitress did say she would bring feta to sprinkle if I wanted. I didn’t but should have. Quinoa, a South American grain valued for its high protein, has a fluffy texture and a bland nutty taste. The grain, fruit and vegetable mixture was very sweet, heavy on celery, and unwieldy as a wrap. The shredded carrot accompaniment, however, was something to savor—crisp shredded carrots mixed with currants, olive oil, mint, chives and a hint of garlic. The flavor contrasted nicely with the sweet salad.
For dessert we selected two large cookies, an espresso chocolate chip and an almond raspberry thumbprint, along with a cup of coffee. All the baked goods at Gaia are gluten free and suitable for vegans. For the rest of us, they are healthy, satisfying treats. The espresso cookie was chewy and had a distinctive chocolate flavor. The crumbly thumbprint, topped with a raspberry puree, was melt-in-your-mouth moist. I imagine that had I brought that cookie home, it would have been an interesting complement to wine and cheese.
The lunch was pricier than expected—$27.08 with tax for two people—but organic ingredients are costly, and preparing dishes from scratch takes time and labor. Although I am neither a vegan nor have food allergies, I found the lunch to be flavorful and a satisfying change from the usual midday fare. I’ll be returning to try the smoothies; they looked delicious.
The café has indoor and outdoor seating, free WIFI, and space for community events.
Reviewer RD | July 2012