1919 CLIFF DRIVE
Three years ago, Mesa Verde brought a vibrant new world of plant-based cuisine to Cliff Drive. Since then, the casual spot has become a locals’ favorite for delicious vegan food blending vibrant Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. Chef de Cuisine Chris Rayman talks about the need to “build flavor” in vegan dishes, and build he does. Polenta fries come with smoked patty pan squash, white beans, and za’atar, a thyme-based Middle Eastern spice mix with toasted sesame and cumin. Caramelized fried Brussels sprouts team with pickled red onions, pumpkin seeds, fava bean puree, za’atar, sherry vinegar and tamari. Zucchini “pasta” comprises strips of the raw vegetable with warm heirloom tomatoes, oven-dried crimini mushrooms, fresh basil, and Rayman’s macadamia nut ricotta cheese and grated cashew parmesan, plus gluten-free breadcrumbs. Regulars love the cheeseboard - two kinds of nut cheese with condiments such as blackberry-red wine jelly, pickled apples and mustard seeds, local honey, and tamari almonds. The uniquely delicious desserts include a superb baklava. One local forager calls whenever he has a haul of chanterelles, and Rayman turns them into a special, and every week, another local forager delivers a box of edible flowers that adorn a wide variety of dishes. This is food with a firm modern connection to flavor and to good old Mother Earth.