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HEALTH & WELL BEING Combined with RECIPE of the MONTH - August 2007

An Organically Grown Oasis in the Desert
by Joan Gough

Owner Julie Fox

EklectiCafe is an oasis in southeastern Utah. It comes with a refreshing water fall and pond, exotic goods for sale that evoke the old names of Dark Continent and Orient and mouthwatering smells that become body and soul satisfying meals. In fact, Salt Lake Magazine once named it The Best Oasis in the Desert.

While exotic describes the wakeme breakfast of brown rice and seaweed, and the collectible African masks and trade beads, homey and even nostalgic describe the Green Goddess Dressing, the Ruben sandwich and the depression glass for sale in the window. It is a winning combination. There is a third aspect of the restaurant that makes it complete for today’s customers—the techno necessities. I love sipping a Cubano and answering my e-mail thanks to the WiFi connection. If you don’t have your own laptop, there is a computer you can use. On the homey side of the balance sheet is the personable staff who are fast, friendly and very good at their jobs.

But back to the Cubano--great hot or iced, it is two shots of espresso with a little brown sugar, steamed evaporated milk, topped with Mexican chocolate. This is the “Latin Latte” as Julie describes it. Another summer favorite is the iced white mocha.

Owner Julie Fox tells the story of the wakeme which, appropriately enough, can be read “wake me”. “When I was diagnosed as hypothyroid, Molly Fitzpatrick (our cook at the time) said, ‘You need seaweed’ and she created the wakeme with brown rice, tofu or egg, veggies and an abundance of Nori. At first it was a special, but people asked for it so much we made it a regular part of the menu.”

This story is typical of how things grow at EklectiCafe—organically. Originally Julie opened a shop called Eklectica. She sold coffee, some baked goods and antiques and collectibles often gleaned as a result of her yard sale shopping habit. The coffee has always been fair trade, organically and shade grown. But people asked for more food and after a couple of years, the café evolved.

Another example of this organic growth explains why you might get a plastic orange after placing your order at the counter. After expanding the outdoor serving area, and since people seat themselves after ordering, a system was needed to get the right food to the right hungry customer. Thus, the plastic fruit. When Cheshire comes to deliver your eggs, potatoes and toast, he just looks for the orange or calls out for it if you have hidden yourself away in the garden.

Speaking of the garden, it’s a xeriscaped paradise created and maintain by “the garden angel” Julia Meyers. The butterfly bushes attract swallowtails and monarchs in season and the red honeysuckle temps hummingbirds as does the trumpet vine. Julia has brought together the old locals such sunflowers and zinnias and complemented them with Japanese maiden grass, lavender, and hosta.

Another aspect of the organic growth at Julie’s is the menu. The current menu wouldn’t exist without the creative genius of two former chefs, Lee Truesdell and Brittany Sheain. Building on their legacy is Amy Stock, vegan and vegetarian specialist, and Jesse Ferguson, comfort food and soup master. The team is rounded out by manager Crystal Washburn, wait staff Ali Fuller and Cheshire, pastry chef Mary Franklin who adds vegan desserts to the menu and line cooks Jason Millhouse and Liz Quagliaroli. There is also a silent (only in terms of the restaurant) partner that Julie says was critical to the café’s startup and continuation—her husband Ken Davey who has supported her throughout the growth of this venture.

So, the question is, “What is next in the evolution of the EklectiCafe?” Julie speculates that after their son Cisco is out of high school, she may add an evening meal once a week. I can see it as the new version of a couple of past greats, the restaurant at Pack Creek and La Cocina here in town, where you took your chances on whatever the cook felt like doing that night. As with those places, the only chance you would really be taking would be on one superlative or another.

So whether you find yourself sitting under the Japanese maple having a Latin Latte while you check out the news of the world on your lap top or warming up on a wintry day with a salmon burger by the stove, you’ll find yourself in a warm, eclectic atmosphere where the only thing better than the exhaust smells from the kitchen is the food that Cheshire will bring in exchange for your plastic orange.

Green Goddess Dressing
1 glove garlic
½ C mayonnaise
½ C packed parsley leaves
½ C sour cream
¼ C green onions, chopped
1/8 C buttermilk
¼ t salt
1T dried tarragon
2 T red wine vinegar

The original green goddess contained 1 teaspoon of chopped anchovies. Another change at EklectiCafe is to use Vegannaise to replace the mayo and milk products.

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