Today, I discovered, is National Pi Day. Not a celebration of the Great American Dessert but more what the Great American Genius, who went by the name of Albert Einstein, represented: mathematics. In fact, Einstein's birthday is today and represented by numbers that also symbolize the mathematical constant: 3-1-4.
But I'm not much of a math person, and, honestly, I'm not much of pie person, either. Except for my grandmother's lemon meringue and its cousin, lilikoi chiffon made famous by Hamura's Saimin Stand in Lihue, Kauai. Oh, and a recent discovery of mango pie at the Right Slice in Puhi, Kauai. Pie may not be my favorite dessert, but I like sweets. Sugar and I go together like Hawaii and beaches.
Earlier this week, while on Oahu, the City Girls (plus John) and I went to lunch at a new restaurant at the intersection of Ward and Kapiolani in Honolulu, and I found a dessert I could crave. One that could get me to swing the rental car on a slight detour on my next Oahu visit. While the tasty treat is called "cheesecake," it's nothing like cheese or cake. It fits much more squarely in the pie category. (Leeway, please.) What's more, it's vegan, made entirely from plant-based ingredients. And raw, not cooked over 115 degrees to keep the health-giving nutrients and goodies of the plant.
Did you know Albert Einstein ate a vegetarian diet?
Sylvia Thompson opened Greens & Vines
in late October 2012 after selling her raw-vegan gourmet-packaged foods under the Licious Dishes label for five years at Oahu farmers markets and a shop at Dole Cannery.
The restaurant is bright and clean, much like her food, with hip artwork decorating the walls, fresh flowers on the tables, and an outdoor courtyard where musicians will some day soon entertain guests.
There are other dangerously good desserts here, like the Wicked Chocolate Tart and Organic Coconut Chocolate Truffles.
It could be argued that Sylvia's entire menu is a guilty indulgence. At least, that's the way I felt when I savored my Living Lasagna, with layers of seasoned zucchini instead of pasta, layers of pesto, sun-dried tomato marina, macadamia nut "ricotta," spinach and sliced kamuela tomatoes.
I felt the same way when I sampled one of the City Girl's Zucchini Fettuccini and John's Kaffir Miso Pad Thai.
When I was a young girl, my grandfather would take my brothers and me to the general store and buy us big brown bags of candy. For Easter, he'd hide so many chocolate eggs that we'd still be finding their foil wrappers, all the chocolate seeped out, in the hot sun of the Fourth of July. For me, eating vegan is like letting me loose in that childhood candy store. For the first time in my life, I want one of everything on the menu.
Sylvia adopted a raw vegan lifestyle after her then-51-year-old husband had a heart attack two days after Thanksgiving in 2003. A couple years later, the couple invited a friend over for dinner and served the raw vegan dishes that Sylvia had been tweaking to perfection. When her guest asked, "Oh, can I get that recipe?" she knew she was getting it right. When he said, "What? You gonna make one restaurant?" her guest planted a seed. The guest was none other than Alan Wong
, chef, restauranteur and co-founder of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement.
It would take eight years before the seed that Wong planted would blossom into Greens & Vines. Now, I'm hoping Wong will pop in Sylvia's restaurant one day soon, order the Tangerine Cheesecake and ask, "Can I get that recipe?"
Because I'm planting Sylvia's next seed with this blog post. One that I hope will germinate into a cookbook, so I can make my own Tangerine Cheesecake.
In honor of National Pi Day, what's your favorite pie?