REVIEW OF: Full O’Life
Quote from www.fullolife.com: “In the restaurant, the food has always been hand prepared, using the freshest natural ingredients.”1
Remember, my job as a raw food critic is to evaluate raw food, along with the processes that go into making it and its presentation to the raw food world. Sometimes this includes books, magazine, television shows or even restaurants that are not “raw food restaurants.” This review is a classic example. I had the opportunity to visit a natural food market and their restaurant. They are not raw, but they are all-natural, and have a couple of salads on the menu that would satisfy any raw vegan.
Full O’Life is a natural foods supermarket that was founded by Barney & Kay Matheson in June of 1959. Their website says that they “were one of the first modern, up-to-the-minute natural food centers in the west.” I was only six (6) months old when they opened, so I cannot testify to that fact, but I can tell you that I met many people in the area who have shopped there for years.
The restaurant, managed by Cindy Moon, the daughter of Barney and Kay, is a hard-working, energetic manager with a passion to please. I noticed that she inspected most plates coming out of the kitchen, and has an eye for particulars. Since they operate Monday thru Friday, 11:00 am until 3:30 pm, I would not be surprised to learn that she is there every hour that they are serving food, five (5) days a week.
Cindy was slightly leery about having a raw food critic visit her restaurant since they are not a “raw food” establishment. More than once, she stressed on the telephone that they “are not a raw restaurant.” She mentioned at least once that they “cook most of their foods” and that they “do serve animals and animal products, as well as using honey in the desserts.” I assured her that my mission was to critique foods on the menu that would be satisfying and proper for a raw vegan. So, that was where my journey began.
Upon arriving at Full O’Life, I noticed that there was only a few parking spaces down the narrow drive by the building. I took the first parking place, and as I left my car, I realized there was a whole parking lot behind the building with a sign that read “RESERVED FOR FULL O’LIFE CUSTOMERS.” That was great. This store has plenty of parking in an area of Burbank with limited parking.
Before taking a table, I walked around the store and noticed many organic, natural and raw products. I was most impressed with their cooler and freezer sections, and the fresh fruits and vegetables, which looked as if they were cutouts from magazines. Every piece of produce was brightly colored and appeasing to the eye. Any photographer would have been happy to use these items for photo shoots, and probably would have been accused of using wax produce. They were that perfect. I wanted to meet the produce and grocery manager and compliment them on their attention to detail.
The shelves were immaculate, and all products were well stocked, easy to find and shelved properly. As an old “grocery man” myself, I pay special attention to whether the products have been “fronted.” That is the practice of pulling products to the front of the shelves for display purposes. These were, which told me that someone was paying attention to his or her stock. That normally means that the products will be fresher and better rotated.
Before eating, I asked to speak with the grocery manager, and was introduced to Chris. After several minutes of conversation, I asked Chris his last name for the article. When he said Moon, I knew that name sounded familiar. It was then that I realized that this was Chris Moon, the son of Cindy Moon, the daughter of Barney & Kay Matheson, the founders of Full O’Life. Therefore, the grocery manager was the grandson of the founders of the store. That explains a lot. This young man had been reared in this store, and this was his life. His life had been “full o’life” since birth.
Chris told me how he has a duty to provide his customers with fresh, in-date products and how he is always looking for other products to stock in the store. “I am willing to try new products from new vendors. If the customers like them, then that is great. It doesn’t hurt to try new things to see what the customers like.” He is so right. As a business, it is Full O’Life’s goal to make a profit. You cannot make a profit unless people are buying, and you cannot get people to buy unless you stock the products they want. So keeping his grandmother and late-grandfather’s purpose in mind, Chris tries to give his customers nutritious products, at a reasonable price.
Now it was time for me to go into the restaurant. The small restaurant seats about 25 comfortably. The tables were 4-toppers, which of course could be pushed together to make 6-toppers. Behind the seating area was a counter area that would seat twelve (12), followed by the kitchen behind swinging doors. Although I did not go into the kitchen, behind the doors I could see a neatly organized and calm cooking environment. The servers efficiently went into the kitchen, and then back out again in short order, with the diners’ food.
Tammy, my server, asked what I would “be having to eat today,” and I explained that I eat raw/vegan, and wanted to know what she would recommend. She was very knowledgeable about the menu and told me that they had two (2) choices that were strictly raw and vegan. First was a “Raw Vegetable Salad” consisting of shredded beets, carrots, zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, cole slaw, tomatoes and cucumbers. The second was the “Sunshine Salad” which contained fresh romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, green onion, parsley, red cabbage, Italian squash, avocado, tomato, mushrooms and cucumber, then topped with sesame seeds. Both salads sounded great, and at $8.95, were reasonably priced. I was having trouble making a decision, and that was when Cindy, as manager, stepped in. She insisted that I be served both. I told her that two salads would be too much for me to eat, but she wanted me to see the presentation of both salads.
She was right. They were beautiful. I was most impressed with the “Sunshine Salad.” The cook had taken the avocado and sliced it very, very thinly. Then, this thin sliced avocado was “fanned” across the middle of the plate, and surrounded by the vegetables. It was magnificent, and just like the produce in the grocery store, looked like something from a picture. Every vegetable was fresh, crunchy and tasty. In the “Raw Vegetable Salad,” they shredded beets were scrumptious (is that a proper word here). Raw beets have a tendency to be strong tasting, and sometimes too strong for some palates. With the shredded beets, only small portions were mixing with the other vegetables you placed on your fork, and was therefore enjoyable. You got the full beet flavor without the strong bitter taste.
What impressed me the most about both salads was the combination of flavors. Unless you picked up a particular piece of one vegetable, you got a cacophony of flavors bursting in your mouth as you ate. Many people complain that salads can be boring, but these salads, in combination with a good dressing (a balsamic), make it a winner in any raw food critic’s books. Combine that with the excellent service, and anyone would be proud to bring his or her friends and family in for a visit.
|The Raw Gourmand
|P.O. Box 520
Sardis, MS 38666-0520