Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Raw revelry at 105 Degrees

I’d heard about it. I’d read about it. I’d researched it online. I’d seen tales of it on other blogs, both from those who have dined there (like Kristen) and those who have actually attended the academy (like Michelle and Robyn). And finally, over Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to visit (and stuff my face at) Matthew Kenney’s all-raw restaurant 105 Degrees in Oklahoma City, OK. The Matthew Kenney, visionary king of raw, vegan, living, organic cuisine. The 105 Degrees, a groundbreaking, state-of-the-art facility housing the first-ever school for budding raw chefs. To say I was excited would be an outrageous understatement.

Matt (my Matt, not Mr. Kenney!) and I left Kansas City after work on Friday, and finally arrived in Oklahoma City after midnight. (More on our Friday night meal later this week.) We headed into the city shortly after 11am, navigated the Classen Curve with ease, and arrived at our destination immediately awed. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are stunning, allowing you peer right in at patrons eating in one half (the café) and students working in the other (the academy). Inside the clean, bright space, the employees were dressed smartly, and the kitchen was completely open to the dining room (no ovens, no problems!). It’s readily apparent how thoughtfully designed 105 Degrees is. Everything there, from the lighting to the bamboo tables, is eco-friendly and sustainable. The smoothie I ordered to start even came with a glass straw.

Said smoothie was called the Blue Bee Milkshake—blueberries, local honey gelato, white chocolate, and bee pollen. Yes, raw vegan local honey gelato and raw vegan white chocolate. This was one of the best smoothies to ever pass my lips. Matt (who also sipped on a mimosa) was equally blown away by it.

Matt ordered a taco salad, which came topped with a huge fan of avocado and crumbled dehydrated corn chips. We all know I'm not a salad person, but I tried some of the corn chip bits, and they were much crunchier than I thought anything dehydrated could be.

My entrée...oh, my entrée. This raw mezze platter was absolute love at first bite. The marinated olives were herby and succulent. The eggplant chips were mildly seasoned with a crisp bite and a hearty chew. The macadamia hummus was impossibly creamy, and so rich that the mere 1/4 cup of it satisfied me. The hemp seed tabbouleh was crunchy and refreshing, and the warm nut-based falafel absolutely melted in my mouth. This was simply the best meal I could have ever hoped for at a raw food restaurant, and one of the best at any restaurant, period. "Delicious" does not even begin to tell the tale.

We would have been fools not to indulge in dessert! Matt let me choose, and I couldn’t resist the raw white chocolate mud pie. One word: DENSE. No, two words: DENSE and DIVINE. This was like an ultra-rich white chocolate fudge atop a dark brownie base, sitting beside a pool of cacao-nib-dusted ganache. In other words, an orgasm on a plate. We both utterly adored this.

I browsed through the shop for a few minutes, gazing longingly at all too many items, before leaving, sated and giddy with raw glee. As I’m sure Matt would tell you, I couldn’t stop talking about this meal...which is why it’s not surprising at all that we stopped back by 105 Degrees again on our way home Monday. (More about the days in between later this week.) I called ahead, and we picked up a couple smoothies. Matt got the Antiox-C (left), a blend of orange, lime, goji berries, black cherries, and raspberries, and I had the Maca Pitchu (right), containing raspberries, cacao nibs, maca powder, banana, and coconut butter. As Matt declared, "These raw people sure do know how to do smoothies, I’ll say that!"

(There’s another example of 105 Degrees’ eco-consciousness—those cups and straws are made of 100% corn and are designed to biodegrade in 30 days or less. Wow!)

I also got myself a takeout dinner of raw sesame noodles—kelp noodles (which I jumped for joy at the chance to finally try!) tossed in an almond butter sauce with spiced cauliflower, sweet peas, green onions, and spicy cashews. The slight crunch of the kelp noodles caught me off guard at first, but I soon began to savor the unique texture. Though the noodles are practically calorie-free, all the other elements of this dish combined to make it extremely filling—it took me two sittings to finish it off.

I just can’t say enough about 105 Degrees. It represents the very best in raw food and imaginative, nutritious culinary innovation. Five hours south of KC, it’s so close, yet so far away!

I’ll admit right here and now that I have a (no-longer-so-)secret dream of attending the 105 Degrees Academy. If I could guarantee it’d net me a lucrative career in food, I’d do it in a heartbeat. In the meantime, I’ll probably look at these pictures often and sigh at the perfection of the masterpieces I was lucky enough to get to eat there, all the while plotting how (and how soon) I can get back.

In my next entries, I’ll backtrack a bit and show you the rest of our Memorial Day weekend road trip to Dallas.

If you like this, you might also like...
All my other travels!

* * * UPDATE!! * * *
There I was, finishing up my workday, when my email pinged with a new item. What I discovered in my inbox was something I never expected...a Facebook message from Matthew Kenney himself!

Aaahh! To a food nerd like me, a personal email from Matthew Kenney is like an email from Elvis. Or Jesus. Provided either of them had internet access, of course. Anyway, I was totally thrilled—it made my day! Matthew, 105 Degrees deserves all the flattery one can heap upon it, and then some. Thank YOU for creating such an incredible foodie paradise!

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  1. Oh my god that looks and sounds absolutely delicious! You always go to the best places to eat! I'm so jealous! I wish there were more places like this in Denver.

  2. amber i am so jeolous! that looks so incredible. what an amazing dinning experience. lucky you!

  3. Hi! I just found your blog, and I was excited to see that you're in Kansas City-- my home town! I live in LA at the moment, but I still visit KC quite often for work. :)

    I'm so jealous you got to try 105 Degrees!

  4. So glad that you got to eat at 105! Isn't the best place ever :) They really have great smoothies, and that dessert looks to die for!

  5. That was really awesome!

  6. Amber,

    I LOVE 105 Degrees... such a great place! Next time you're in Dallas, we'd love to meet up with you and give you some of our raw, vegan goodies! We're currently in TX, NM, OK, LA, and NY, but we might be making our way up to Kansas City soon! We're a raw, vegan, gluten-free snack food company called Hail Merry - ... sorry we missed you over Memorial Day! You coming back anytime soon? =)

  7. WOW, how amazing Matthew Kenney wrote you!!!!

    I am SOOOO jeal of the peeps that get to attend 105 degrees...I WISHHHHH they had one in Philly :( I'd be there in a HEART BEAT!!!

    How exciting for you!! Good luck!!!!!!

  8. Aimee—I wish there were more places like this EVERYWHERE! Hehe.

    Fit&40—I feel very lucky. It was beyond incredible :]

    Megan—A fellow KC girl?! That's awesome! I was just in L.A. in January (see here), and it's definitely a whole different world, MUCH more vegan- and raw-friendly than here!
    By the way, I see you're training for your first marathon—good luck!

  9. *whimper*


    That dessert. That dinner. Those smoothies. Amber, can we pinky-promise to go here WHEN WHEN WHEN I come visit? Otherwise I don't know whether it'll be worth going on with life. Honestly, something inside my hurts right now. Canberra has... not this. Nothing like this.


  10. coconut butter? that's a thing? I need it now!

    Also, I'm very fascinated by those cups. Biodegradable is good, but was manufacturing them a sustainable process? I wonder.

  11. Hello,

    I am so excited to have found another amazing blog I can read! I will be checking back often.
    I am doing a project that has me making a recipe every day by Matthew Kenney, I am using his Everyday Raw and Entertaining and I have been so blessed to have been sent some new recipes. Check it out.

  12. Pure2raw Twins—It very well may be the best place ever! That dessert really was dreamy.

    Lewis—Thanks! It was an awesome experience.

    Hail Merry—I love the look of your raw vegan treats, and I'd LOVE to meet up next time I'm in Dallas! There's no telling when that'll be, but with any luck, later this year :] In the meantime, I hope you make your way to KC!

  13. Amber

    All I knew of Matthew Kinney was: another great-looking young chef; no idea he was a specialist of raw food, plus that his food was so stylishly presented! I am now, thanks to your review, dying to stop by his place and hoping he would consider opening one in Beirut! We have amazing fresh fruits and veggies and he could have a ball! (now my grey matter is churning, french chefs are coming here, why not him?)
    So cool to get a hello personally from him, sounds like the man is a great guy too!

  14. Laury Ann—I know, right?!
    I wish he’d built 105 in Kansas City instead of Oklahoma…but, on the bright side, at least I’m still driving-distance away.

    Hannah—Aww, you poor cute pitiful thing! I pinky-promise with both hands, and both my little toes, that WHEN you come visit we’ll road trip down to OKC to eat here :]

    landanimal—Haha, yup, it’s a thing! Though I used to read that coconut oil and coconut butter were interchangeable names for the same thing, it turns out that’s not the case. Coconut butter is actually ground whole coconut meat. I just got my first jar last week; Artisana is the only brand I’ve seen so far in my area.
    Re: the cups, that’s a very good question. It does seem like something the 105 folks would have researched/verified, but I suppose you’d have to ask to know for certain.

  15. Hi Amber
    What a great post. I really want to go to 105 and have been hesitant because of the drive. Do you think they'd open a franchise in KC??? Well, maybe the drive makes it even all the better. Thanks for the post - I'll let you know when we go out there. Marly

  16. Angela/LivingRawesome—Thanks so much! I’ll be checking yours often as well. Your project is a really cool and ambitious undertaking, especially with those super-complex recipes from Entertaining in the Raw! You have my due admiration and support :]

    tasteofbeirut—A great and great-looking guy, indeed! Hehe. As far as exotic locations go, Beirut would be a very intriguing place to put a raw restaurant! Considering he chose to put 105 in Oklahoma City, of all places, nothing’s impossible :D

    Marly—I didn’t realize you were in/near Kansas City too! That’s so cool. 105 is absolutely, without a doubt, worth the drive. I don’t foresee him expanding it, sadly, but I do think it’s about time we got a raw vegan restaurant of our own in KC. (Have you been to FüD, by chance? I still haven’t, but I should be trying it soon.) Maybe if I attended the 105 Degrees Academy, I could open KC’s first raw food place...hmm :P Do let me know if you go down there!

  17. OK, that is awesome. I'm am totally excited for you now. I mean, I went with you. I heard the stories. I ate the food. And now you get an email from the guy who made it all happen? That's super!

    Here's what I noticed immediately about the place. It didn't smell terrible. I can't say the same about the place in LA, which smelled like a musty shoe (and people acted as though they didn't smell it!! A total emperor's-new-clothes scenario).

    Anyway, you're awesome!

  18. Oh my goodness that is amazing!

    I have yet to get to Saf, which is daft of my as it is a mere 20 munite bus ride away and really cheap before 7pm!

  19. Wow, that all sounds and looks amazing! I think it might be worth a trip to OK just to check this place out!

  20. I keep hearing about this place, which is pretty amazing consider it is probably 1500 miles from where I live (Seattle). Neat to see what the food looks like, quite delicious. I've had some pretty bad raw experiences, nice to know there are good examples out there too.

  21. Matt—Thank you, love! I know you understand why that email was so exciting to me. I’m so happy we went there together, and that it was a tasty, non-smelly experience for you :P

    Helen—I’d never heard of Saf, so I just looked it up, and WOW! It looks unbelievably good! You MUST go, and tell me all about it! Why didn’t I know about that place when I was in London?! I now know exactly where I’m eating when I go back someday.

    Bittersweet-Hannah & Michael—As I have told and will continue to tell everyone, 105 really is worth a trip, at least if you’re ever in or around the Midwest. And Michael, I know what you mean about bad raw experiences; at Planet Raw in L.A. my boyfriend Matt was nearly made sick by the foul smell of the place. 105 was nothing like that, though—it was clean, bright, beautiful, and above all delicious.