Gourmet food - delivered to my door!
Comida gloriosa comida….
Three weeks deep into my stay in Buenos Aires, I was coming to see that healthful plant based eating was actually really easy to source. All the stereotypical foodie fads were catered for, some not always that well. Puerto cerradas, gluten free, raw live food, fast food ('pop-ups have yet to.. pop up but give it time)..and gourmet food delivery, darling of the US, now taking off in the UK, was rife. My body is still craving crudito, the uncooked, freshest of the fresh. When scouting for an online food delivery to sample Cocina Verde caught my eye. It boasted 'raw live food' and vegan. Their rotating menu has a great sampling of gluten free dishes too. Tronido! (boom!).
How it works - you choose from a weekly rotational menu of 8 dishes plus 1 monthly special and two deserts. Kara, a trained food and nutrition coach can prepare customised health programs. I just asked for a sampling. Not all the dishes are vegan or gluten free, if that is your preference, then the online menu specifies dietary preferences.
It was like awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus on the evening of my food box. A smiling taxi driver handed me over a bag heavy with gourmet delights. One of the dishes was not gluten free (the noodles), I passed that over to my friend, she became vocal with murmerings and many mmmns, and 'dios' followed. All the dishes were tasty and the perfect portion sizes halted any over zealous gluttony.
Gluten free granola - genoruos smashed hazelnuts, sticky dates and seeds. Polished off with gusto!
Hearty vegan sausages - firm and 'meaty' accompanied by a homemade ketchup with a hint of chilli heat
Quinoa & pea soup - seasoned to perfection. A meal in itself.
Raw Collard wraps. - these had me in raptures! Crisp peppers and marinated mushrooms. A hint of warming sesame oil and the BEST cashew cheese I've ever had. Ever!
Always intrigued by a human interest story, I contacted Kara because I was curious to find out how a girl born in rainy Seattle, USA, ends up settling in Buenos Aires…also, because my Spanish study was running with the pace of a snail, and conducting an interview with a Spanish speaker was proving very tricky, I was glad not to be falling over myself with incorrectly conjugated verbs and droning pronunciation and conduct my interview in English.
Kara generously and gracefully agreed to fill me in. She answered many of the questions running through my mind, how vegan raw food was thriving in the city, offered a fascinating insight, and also amazed me how she prepared to launch Cocina Verde.
Interview with Kara Bauer
Interview with Kara Bauer
- what prompted you to open a vegan delivery. Did you choose not to open a restaurant because of your lifestyle/coaching practice. How much as your diet influenced or had an impact on your life and events?
As a Health & Wellness Coach, I coach people in nutrition. Up until recently, there had been very few convenient options for people wanting to maintain a healthy diet. Cocina Verde provides a way for people to have healthy meals delivered on a weekly basis, eliminating the effort needed to prepare healthy meals.
The original concept was delivery (I got the idea from companies in the US doing the same), so for that reason, I never considered a restaurant. Again, the idea was to maintain a healthy diet utilizing a meal service, not just get a healthy meal one time. Also, there are some restaurants that serve vegan and raw food already (although this is fairly new in the past 5 years), but a delivery service such as Cocina Verde (in which you can order online) did not exist.
My diet influenced my decision 100%. I too wanted to have a service like Cocina Verde for my own meals as I had found it frustrating trying to find healthy ingredients in the beginning of my time in BA. After studying at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and becoming a health coach, diet became the central focus of my life and work. In addition to coaching, I also write health and wellness articles forwww.mydietexercise.com.
- Are you vegan or on a high raw diet?
I am 95% vegan. I try to eat at least 50% raw, sometimes more. The other 5% is an occasional ice cream in the summer and possibly a slice of cheese or piece of fish every now and then, but that is a rare occasion (I never eat beef or chicken). When I’m coaching, I don’t tell my clients they need to be perfect 100% of the time. The idea is to eat well the majority of the time and to enjoy it! Eventually, you find that you don’t even want the old trigger foods that you did before…as you change your diet, your cravings also change and you find that you prefer nutrient rich foods.
- What or who influenced you to cook? What or who influenced you to stand aside from the meat heavy typical Argentinian diet and offer vegan/raw food to BA urbanites?
The desire to be healthy and offer others the same is the only thing that influenced me to cook. Prior to Cocina Verde, I spent very little time in the kitchen…just enough to cook simple foods for myself that were healthy. In order to open CV, I had to teach myself the skills for vegan and raw food preparation. I did this mostly by reading and watching videos online and trying out recipes. I also had the opportunity to “intern” with a raw food Chef in Seattle while I was home in the US one summer formulating the plans to begin CV.
- How long have you been a vegan/veggie chef??
I was vegetarian for 10 years prior to living in Argentina (since 1997). About a year into my life in BA, I tried eating meat again after receiving a recommendation from a holistic doctor in NY (at that time I had Candida and was working on reducing all types of sugar in my diet). However, even though the symptoms of Candida disappeared momentarily, I found that returning to a diet with animal products was making me lethargic and causing digestive problems. As soon as I went raw (which I did for 2 months 100%), my energy returned and the Candida disappeared completely. Since then (over 3 years ago) I have been following the vegan/raw foods diet.
- What was the initial reaction to your opening and who now is your typical diner? gender/class/nationality
My original customers were mostly foreigners already familiar with vegan and raw food. However, over the past 3 years, there has been a raw vegan food movement in Argentina. After Dr. Gabriel Cousens came to Argentina to teach his Conscious Living course in 2009, many people were inspired to start teaching about raw food nutrition. Vegetarian restaurants began to offer “raw” meals and media journalists began to write a lot more about veganism, organic, raw food, etc. Now my customers are primarily Argentinean. The customers are primarily women (however there are many male customers as well) in the mid-upper income levels. Organic and raw food ingredients are expensive which makes it fairly pricey for the average Argentine. However, those who can’t afford to buy prepared meals are learning to cook and prepare raw food by the many teachers offering classes.
- What is the % of organic produce you use in your dishes and is the produce easy to source?
It’s hard to say as we have to go with what’s available. We’ve had some challenges sourcing organic vegetables on the days we need them delivered, even then we don’t always know what we can get week to week. We will likely be making some changes to our menu and delivery schedule in the next months to work with better with the organic producers. Our goal is to be 50-75% organic the majority of the time. As organic produce and ingredients continue to grow we expect this to get easier.
- Is there a vegan/vegetarian society in Argentina, other than the uva.org.ar? I've not found any products with an accreditation (I've only found 1 vegan/raw food product in a dietetica).
Jardin Organico and Tallo Verde both have the organic accreditation. So does Campo Claro and La Esquina de Las Flores. The organic certification in Argentina is from the organization called OIA (Organizacion Internacional Agropecuaria).
- What is your most asked for dish?
We have over 100 dishes in rotation so it’s hard to say. However, people love having access to raw foods that take many hours of preparation such as dehydrated crackers, pizzas and wraps. Our nut milks are fairly popular as are our cooked bean and grain dishes.
- What is your favourite dish (if you have one….or at least a current one)?
My favorite dishes would be the falafel and vegetable wrap, buckwheat pizza squares, and tomato, basil and vegan cheese pizza – all raw dishes that require dehydration.
- Favourite ingredient? Do you have to import any of your ingredients? I cannot find an iherb.com or such like equivalent in Argentina.
Importing is highly regulated, expensive and requires and extensive licensing process so we use what’s available and cost effective. I guess my favorite ingredient would be buckwheat – any crusts or crackers made with sprouted buckwheat are excellent. I’m also a big quinoa fan and love just about any dish with it. You can order organic ingredients from Jardin Organico & TalloVerde…there are also a few weekly farmers markets that source many natural organic ingredients (produce, dried, prepared foods, etc.). Even when uncertified (as it’s an expensive process for many small farmers), many still follow organic standards. By talking to them in person you can find out how they produce their products.
- Have you ever featured on elgourmet or the like, or in any lifestyle magazines?
- When you prepare your meals at home or our recipe creating, do you have a favourite piece of music you like to listen to, or ambience you like to create?
No, but that’s a nice idea! The truth is that I prepare very little at home these days after the hours spent in the professional kitchen.
- What is your current favourite restaurant (if you ever get any time off!) in BA or Argentina as a whole?
is a nice “raw” restaurant. I also like Bio and Buenos Aires Verde, both of which offer vegan and raw food meals. But, true, I have very little time for dinners out. ;-)
- What is your vision for your delivery service and the veggie scene in Argentina?
My vision is that Cocina Verde become a platform for supporting people to live a happy and healthy life. I want to offer alternative and effective ways of taking the best possible care of your health and body (beginning with diet and wellness education), so that people can focus on living the amazing life they were meant to. I am open to seeing where Cocina Verde naturally wants to go as a business – it could remain only in Buenos Aires, but grow in products and services, turn into a franchise that can exist in other parts of Argentina or South America, or potentially become the starting point for a more holistic wellness center or retreat facility.
- Do you have plans for a cookbook? My Spanish is improving but not enough to discover if there are already any vegan or vegetarian cookbooks on the market from Argentinian cooks?
We have discussed translating some Spanish raw food cookbooks in combination with Chef BeLive in the U.S. (he was ranked #1 raw food chef in 2010). He has provided us with some of his recipes that we feature on our menu exclusively through Cocina Verde. I’m not entirely sure what’s on the market, but not much..
- What question do you want to answer that I may have omitted to ask?
I’m sending you another interview I did for Sassy Six, a women’s blog. Interview here
I wish Kara continued success, but I think it is a given. When you know how to use the best ingredients, have imagination, a great customer service and genuine warmth and need to serve, success follows.
For more reviews of my travels in Buenos Aires check back over the last few posts, or head over to the search bar…….. here are a couple of them: