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Aug 24, 2016 03:24PM

Ready for raw: Local raw-foods businesses popping up around the region

By Cindy Hadish
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The Simple Superfood Cafe opened in Davenport this summer, and offers a number of nutritious dishes including Simple Granola and Super Fruit Bowls. Pictured are the Granola and Golden Milk Bowl, the Acai Bowl, and the Dragon Fruit Bowl.
Calling all raw food lovers! Need a break from preparing every meal you eat? You now can find a growing number of options outside of your home.

There are a handful of new, local catering and online options available throughout the region, as well as cafes that focus on whole, unrefined, uncooked foods. Generally, raw foods are not heated above 115 degrees, which preserves natural enzymes and other nutritional benefits that could be damaged by cooking.

"The whole premise is you are what you eat," says Clay Grafft, 38, an entrepreneur and self-described health nut who opened Simple Superfood Cafe, at 5345 Belle Ave., Davenport, this summer.

The cafe offers cold-pressed juice, smoothies and "Super Bowls," which are loaded with super foods such as acai berries, chia seeds, raw granola and sprouted grains.

"Voodles," or noodles made with zucchini, carrots, beets and other vegetables, are topped with sauces for another Super Bowl option.

The Davenport man's interest in raw foods began 15 years ago when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His father started researching healthy diets, and he sent along the articles he found.

Grafft's mother died three years ago, but he and his father continue their interest in living healthy lifestyles.

"He's my inspiration," Grafft says of his father. "These recipes are his and mine."

In Cedar Rapids, Jessica LaFayette is working on plans to open Rawlicious, a raw food, vegetarian and vegan cafe, in the coming year.

LaFayette, 36, says she and her husband, Tony, had heard many people travel to Iowa City to find vegan dining options, which encouraged them to bring raw foods to Cedar Rapids at the NewBo City Market, 1100 3rd St., SE.

LaFayette, of Cedar Rapids, graduated from Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in California and has been teaching raw food classes at Brightside Wellness Spa, which she operates in the Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids.

This summer, Rawlicious has been selling smoothies, collard burritos and other food at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids.

"It's been an overwhelming response," LaFayette says. "People are super excited."

LaFayette notes one family in particular who follows a strictly raw diet was happy to know they will be able to dine out at a place that offers raw foods, adding that the preparation time for raw foods sometimes can be extensive.

Green smoothies — made with kale, spinach or Swiss chard and sweetened with peaches or pineapple — have been especially popular. Processed sugars and artificial ingredients are avoided.

LaFayette says vegans, who avoid consuming animal and dairy products, also are excited to find another dining option.

"My goal isn't to convert people to be vegan," she says, "but to make people aware of what they put in their bodies and to make conscious decisions about what they eat."

Laurie Moritz, of Cedar Rapids, discovered raw foods after training for a marathon. After trying raw cheesecake that was shipped to Iowa from California, she began a quest to make her own raw desserts.

Moritz, 54, launched Sweet Raw Joy in July 2014, offering her desserts as a farmers market vendor at the NewBo City Market. She now creates her lemon cheesecakes, triple chocolate truffle pies and other mouth-watering treats from the kitchen of the Cedar Rapids New Pioneer Food Co-op, which carries the items at all three of its locations.

The uncooked desserts are made with whole food ingredients, such as nuts, coconut nectar and medjool dates and are gluten, dairy and soy free.

Moritz even makes her own chocolate, using it for creations such as "Baby Sea Turtles" with pecan centers.

"I had no idea," she says, of her initial foray into raw foods. "I thought it was salads and carrot sticks."

The desserts have proven to be so popular that she started catering and also is launching an online business, called Mystic Chocolate, this month.

Moritz notes the desserts use natural, low-glycemic sweeteners and are full of whole, unprocessed, mostly organic ingredients, so the foods are nutrient-rich.

"Food is medicine, in a good way," she says.

Cindy Hadish writes about farmers markets, local foods and gardening at homegrowniowan.com. For more information, visit sweetrawjoy.com, rawlicious.us and simplesuperfoodcafe.com.

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