I recently appeared on KNPR’s State of Nevada to discuss a report that states the world will have to switch to an almost completely vegetarian diet by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic food shortages. It would be easy to dismiss if it came from a militant animal rights group or some other vegetarian fringe. But it came from the Stockholm International Water Institute, and the facts are tough to dispute: an exploding world population, limited water supply and the inefficiency of using grain to feed livestock.
So just in case I manage to live another 38 years, I tried to expand my vegetarian palate a bit this week at a creative little salad and wrap joint called Fresh Mama. It shares a building with a yoga studio called Vegas Hot. The owner of that studio, Dr. King Rollins, endorses a diet that consists of 80 percent raw vegan dining. When the space downstairs from his studio opened up, he asked his sister Loralee Valdez to open a restaurant.
Valdez endorses veganism for health reasons. “I believe that humans can eat meat,” she concedes. “However, there’s a price that’s paid on the body when you do that. There’s an inflammation of the arteries and different things. So I think the most nourishing diet is a plant-based diet.”
At her restaurant, Valdez hopes to use flavor to convert those who may not be swayed by that argument. “I’m trying to get the person that’s eating at McDonalds, and have them have a delicious fruit smoothie that looks green, and say ‘Wow, I just had a cup of spinach and I didn’t even know it,’” she explains.
Fresh Mama’s menu is relatively small. There are only four wraps and four salads, priced at $6 each. But they’re pretty interesting. The Verdi Florentine wrap I sampled consisted of hummus Florentine, celery, cucumber, red onions, bruschetta and a tasty spread wrapped in collard greens. I also sampled a Spicy Thai wrap with romaine lettuce, carrot, red onion, jalapeno, cabbage, cilantro and tahini in a rice paper wrapper, accompanied by a very spicy almond butter dipping sauce. You can also build your own. Wrappers include romaine lettuce, Ezeikel sprouted-grain tortilla and flour tortillas. Sunflower seed and tahini-almond are among the available spreads. If you’re looking for a salad, check out the Bit o’ Smoke, which includes a nicely spiced eggplant “bacon.”
Valdez plans to expand her food offerings at some point. She’s hoping to add some raw food entrees on a rotating basis, but says it’ll be a while.
The selection of smoothies ($6) on the other hand, is pretty extensive, with 20 offered. They’re divided into four categories: boost (for energy), hydrate (for electrolytes), replenish (for nutrition) and recover (for protein). Each contains a selection of four or more fruits, vegetables and herbs, and almost all of them include at least one green vegetable. While I’m no smoothie expert, the ingredient selection seems pretty diverse, including things like kale, coconut water and hemp, along with the usual suspects like banana, pineapple and spinach. I’ve only tried the Banana Bound Locust, made with banana, orange, mango and spinach. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a fan of drinking spinach, but all in all, it wasn’t bad.
Hardcore vegans should take note that the restaurant is not yet 100 percent vegan. It does use a whey product in at least one smoothies. Moreover, it does not have a dedicated whey-free blender. Valdez tells me she expects to eliminate the product within the next few weeks, and go completely vegan.
Despite the limited menu, Fresh Mama is several steps above the usual wrap-and-smoothie stand. The food certainly doesn’t inspire me to give up my carnivorous ways just yet, but it gives me hope that when the meat apocalypse comes, I’ll still be able to find some good grub.
Fresh Mama 5875 S. Rainbow Blvd., 726-2621. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net.