If you’re at all involved in the raw food blogosphere, you probably heard about Ani Phyo visiting 105 Degrees this week in support of her newest book, Ani’s Raw Food Essentials. She held a class/demo Tuesday evening, and a dinner and book-signing event Wednesday night. On Tuesday, I was four hours east of Kansas City with two friends, seeing Hole in St. Louis (fulfilling a 90’s-teenage-dream of mine), so I couldn’t attend the class. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t drive home from St. Louis overnight, snag 5 hours of sleep, and hop right back in my car Wednesday morning to drive five hours southwest of Kansas City to Oklahoma City…that’s right, I went to the dinner!
I made great time on the way down, and was able to find and check into a hotel beforehand and stop at Pearl’s Oyster Bar for a drink. I breezed on over to 105 (it helped that I remembered the area from the last time I was down there) and arrived just before 6:00, which is when Facebook said the event started. Turns out it didn’t begin till 7, so I had a seat at the bar with a few other ladies who had also thought they needed to be there at 6. We chatted aimlessly, and I sipped a pineapple tonic (kale, ginger, cilantro, and pineapple juice). Other guests began to filter in shortly after, and before I knew it, it was 7:00.
As a solo diner, I’d been assigned a seat right up front, at the same table as the Academy’s current students. I met Joy, Hayley, Orit, and Jacki (a fellow Overland Park-er; what are the chances?!) and talked to them pretty extensively throughout the night about their backgrounds and experiences at the Academy. I also sat next to Russell James, another renowned raw chef and the lead Level I instructor at the Academy. Everyone was so kind, and I reveled in having smart, like-minded foodies to talk to during the event.
Before dinner was served, Ani (looking as glamorous as could be!) spoke for a bit about her personal journey to raw food and her take on the raw lifestyle. She was vivacious and spirited; you can tell just by listening to her how passionate she is about what she does. For our dinner that evening, she’d designed a junk-food-inspired meal full of all-American goodies. It’s funny—I really dislike comfort foods, and had I seen these items on a regular menu, I would have felt somewhere between uninterested and repulsed. But knowing that everything was going to be composed of raw, living, organic, vegan ingredients, I was excited!
As soon as the food started coming out and she finished her initial talk, Ani began walking the dining room to sign books and visit with guests. Ours was one of the first tables she stopped at. I talked to her a bit about my blog, giving her one of my spiffy new blogger business cards, and we chatted briefly about running. Ani was so super-tall in her heels and so super-pretty in her dress that I, with my atypically-earthy-hued attire, flip-flops, and I’ve-been-in-a-car-all-day hair and makeup, was put to utter shame by her radiance. She was so genuine and nice, too—it was just great to get to interact with her.
But you wanna see the food, right?! The first course was a French onion soup with a sourdough crouton, which Ani said was risen with kefir grains. (I also got a glass of organic Côtes du Rhône to have with dinner.) The soup was full-bodied and very umami—I think I detected miso in there. (The only way to improve the event might have been to provide recipes for what we ate!)
The second course was an heirloom tomato slider—a mini portobello burger with eggplant bacon, cheddar, and thousand island dressing, plus a couple of kale chips alongside. I’ve been scared to try kale chips (you know how I am about leafy greens), but I actually enjoyed them; the noochy coating was great. The burger was really good, too—I liked the contrasts between the meaty mushroom, the soft, mildly flavored bun, and the crispy wisps of eggplant.
The last of the savory courses was a chili dog—portobello sausage in a sprouted grain bun with chili, chipotle cheese, and caramelized onions. This is the one I was the most “scared” of – you couldn’t pay me to eat an actual hot dog, ew! – but you know what? It was my favorite! Thankfully, it did NOT taste like a real hot dog—it was sooo much better. The mushroom was moist, with a somehow silky mouthfeel, and the rest of the ingredients worked together like a dream. Love!
The sweet courses began with a root beer float—a fizzy (kombucha-based?) sassafras concoction with vanilla bean ice kream. I’m not a big fan of root beer flavor, so I couldn’t finish all of this, but it was cool that they were able to come up with a raw version!
The banana split was the dessert I was really looking forward to. It had chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice kreams, caramel and cacao syrups, and almond-butter-cup bits on top. Yum!
I was so full after that, there was no way I could have eaten the final course. Luckily, they seemed to have anticipated this, and gave us our raw Twinkies shrink-wrapped and ready to take home. Yes, raw Twinkies! I had these as a midnight snack later, and they were outstanding—obviously not identical to the real deal, but they did an awesome job with the delicate, flaxy cake and the creamy filling.
But the real icing on the cake was getting to talk to Matthew Kenney afterward. He was so kind, gracious, and intelligent, and it was a privilege and a pleasure to finally meet him.
I got a couple pics with Matthew and Ani together as well. Gosh, they make me look even paler than usual, don’t they?!
Matthew signed my Entertaining in the Raw book…
…as well as Everyday Raw…
…and I had Ani sign her new Raw Food Essentials book.
What a meal. What an event. What a night! As I’ve mentioned before, I am absolutely dying to attend the 105 Degrees Academy. Have you ever wanted something out-of-reach so badly that the thought of it simultaneously elates and depresses you? I want to do this so very much, but I’m simply not capable of shouldering the financial burden right now…though I’m scrambling to find a way, any way, to do it, I’m running into walls. It’s difficult and discouraging, but I’m not giving up…I feel like this is what I should be doing, that the raw food world is the place I need to be. We’ll see where the future takes me, but in the meantime, getting to meet two of my culinary idols in one night was something I’d never imagined. Thank you again to Ani, Matthew, and everyone at 105 Degrees for a stellar evening! It was well worth the drive.