I spoke to Green Moustache Café co-owner and co-founder Nicolette Richer on the phone recently about how her business got started. The original Green Moustache up in Whistler came into existence amidst a decided paucity of healthy dining options in the resort town, a place that is every bit as much a training ground for world class athletes as it is a play-ground for the rest of us.
Her original café now plays host to more than 150,000 guests every single year and her concept has been successfully repurposed seven times, with the latest franchise just opened right here on the North Shore in the striking, historic brick boite on West First Street just a stone’s throw from Lonsdale Avenue.
Not being one to mince words, I asked Richer straight up what she thought differentiated the Green Moustache concept from the plethora of other health-minded, vegan restaurants on this side of the bridges, some of which are themselves barely a stone’s throw from her newest franchise location.
I was thoroughly impressed by her response, which was nothing short of a cogent oral treatise on the state of food consumption in the world today. Richer’s thoughtful, eloquent response is not surprising given that in addition to developing a new and responsible model for the contemporary restaurant – one in which strictly organic foods retain their healing and restorative properties without the use of oils or compromising cooking techniques – the entrepreneur and mother of three is also working towards a PhD with a focus on reclaiming the largely lost, more ecologically proximal art of eating from the land.
In short, Green Moustache is unapologetically rigid when it comes to using organic ingredients. According to Richer, food has unmatched healing power that, when harnessed correctly, can not only preclude common illnesses but can even reverse existent ones. The key, however, is that these foods remain organic, free from chemicals that harm us directly through consumption and indirectly through the corruption of the essential properties of the foods to which they are applied.
Richer explains that there are more than 7,000 life-sustaining plants on the planet, but that we in the west tend to employ fewer than 300 and even of those, we routinely neglect to eat a sufficient quantity. While you may not see exotic flora on the Green Moustache menu, you will find the familiar transformed into creative dishes that support human wellness. Moreover, the recipes for these dishes are transparent and eminently replicable, the goal being to inspire diners to internalize the how-to of tasty, healthy meal preparation and to take that knowledge home with them in order to exponentially advance the restorative properties of food; while the Colonel’s henchmen are busy guarding his secret spice blend legacy, the Green Moustache folks are sharing their recipes with anyone who wants them.
For those to whom this all sounds a bit too lofty, let me assure you, the Green Moustache experience is anything but. I would suggest that the majority of the dining population sits somewhere in the middle ground between radical health food advocacy and wanton gluttony. All things being equal, most of us would like to make sound choices when it comes to the food we consume or feed to our families. But for many, it’s this “equal” part that be-comes troubling, the trade-off for healthy and responsible often being the concession of good flavour or adequate quantity. My visit to Lower Lonsdale’s Green Moustache location suggested to me that this need not always be the case.
I popped in on a sunny Saturday and nodded in appreciation of this great old building being back in use and thriving again. It’s a great space with its massive windows and brick walls, and it lends itself well to a café concept. Guests order at the till and all meals are made on premise in a tiny, open kitchen. Green Moustache’s menu consists of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and other novel beverages (like Turmeric Mylk, made with potent ground turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and cashew mylk), soups, a handful of mains, and colourful, inventive raw desserts.
I kicked things off with a Dr. G’s Ultimate Green Juice, an almost phosphorescently green, tangy, tart, slightly bitter juice of green kale, black kale, romaine lettuce, red cabbage, bell pepper, swiss chard and apple to which I added an optional shot each of fresh ginger and fresh lemon. By the time I reached the end of my glass of juice (a hefty Mason jar full) I felt pretty good about myself and noted that I likely had not consumed that many organic raw greens in a single setting since . . . well, I actually failed to recall to another instance.
For my main, I chose the Raw Pad Thai, a truly delicious and satisfying dish that works especially well if you can shelve your preconceptions about what comprises traditional Pad Thaia and appreciate it on its own terms.
Long ribbons of daikon and zucchini form the base of the dish (the “noodles”), which is then topped with shredded carrot, scallion, cilantro, purple cabbage, cherry tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, and toasted cashews. As there are no oils used in any dishes at Green Mous-tache, I was curious about the two ramekins of thick, creamy looking dressing that sat atop the dish. As it turns out, the dressing was exceptionally good and worked to trans-form what appeared to be a big bowl of raw veggies into a complex, vibrant and nuanced meal. The dressing contained, among other things, almond butter, cayenne, and dates, creating a rich and velvety, sweet and savoury flavour boost in which to toss the vegetables.
I finished my meal with an interesting dessert, a slice of raw, vegan turmeric and ginger “cheesecake,” a creamy and silken treat with unusual flavours for a non-savoury dish.
My meal was $27.
Greenmoustachecafe.com. 604-971-1855,117 West First Street, North Vancouver.