Arts & Culture Business Development Deal Family Food, Restaurants & Dining Spotlight Travel, Shopping & Leisure Fara Illich August 18, 2011

I don’t live an extremely healthy lifestyle food-wise. I eat Lean Pockets and copious amounts of tuna salad. Plus, I fancy red meat and eat it whenever possible.
So when Michelle Lavis-White invited me to try Fair Trade Kitchen’s new expanded healthy lifestyles menu–featuring homemade and mostly homegrown vegetarian and gluten-free dining options–I was all kinds of skeptical.
As a small-minded Welshman with meat-and-potato roots, I’ve always associated vegetarian dining, let alone vegan and gluten-free, with words like “tasteless,”  “unfortunate,” and “Oh, no thanks, I’m good.”  So imagine my uneasiness when Michele and her chef Ingrid presented me with tofu steaks and tofu cakes, along with sides of carrot salad, quinoa, and peanut pasta. On this overflowing, completely meatless plate, some roasted zucchini and carrots were about the only recognizable fare.
FairTradeFeeling brave and feeling the pressure of Chef Ingrid’s gaze, I dove in without any regard for my taste buds. And after about 15-20 chews I came to a startling conclusion:
This food, vegetarian or not, was really good.
The lentils were spicy, the tofu savory, the peanut noodles creamy and delicious. There was comforting rice and cheek popping carrot salad, all packed with incredible flavors.
“This is a culture shift,” said White, who is part of an ownership group that oversees both Fair Trade locations (Civic Space Park on Central and Roosevelt on First Avenue). “We’re not only preparing good and affordable food, but we’re educating people that what we should be eating is not only good for us, but good for the community and good for the planet.”
The healthy lifestyles menu is being beta tested at the Civic Space Park location but eventually White says the same items will be found at the Roosevelt shop.
White said that in developing the menu it was a top priority to keep the price points in line with budget-minded students, government workers and ASU faculty, so complete meals (like the one pictured above) will be available for between $5 and $6.
In addition to the vegetarian/organic/gluten-free menu, Fair Trade will continue to offer the salads and sandwiches (like the famous chicken curry) longtime fans of the cafe crave.
Fair Trade Kitchen, located on the bottom level of the AE England building, is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.