Story and photos by Diane Armitage
Foodie fans, I have a very important announcement to make: The Prodigal Chef has returned to Laguna Beach.
And, oh golly, are we all in for a treat.
In fact, not only are foodie fans in for a treat, but vegetarians, vegans, raw enthusiasts – and people that just want to eat healthier are coming along on this ride, as well.
And! Yet one more reason for rejoicing … this chef’s creations are being delivered directly to your door.
Chef Jonathan Pflueger, with Sourced Cuisine Kombucha and Hazelnut Milk samples, has returned to his boyhood SoLag home with menus on his mind
Sourced Conscious Cuisine is now a partnered endeavor between its founder, Chef Jessica McLeish and now-Culinary Director, Chef Jonathan Pflueger whom, if you’ll remember, was the successful chef behind downtown Laguna’s “Vertical,” a tapas and wine bar, through 2003.
I’ll get to his rather extensive resumé in a moment, but suffice to say that after additional successes in two more restaurant endeavors, Jonathan returned to his Laguna Beach roots just over a year ago, and volleyball buddy Chef Jessica convinced him to try an entirely different concept – her vision and passion, Sourced Cuisine.
Smart Food, Sensible Approach
Chef Jessica McLeish
About two years ago, after working extensively in an organic farm, and devouring every book on nutrition and the role that diet and our food system is playing in chronic disease, Chef Jessica came up with an idea. As she worked her “real” job as the owner of a PR agency, she nurtured the idea along, chewing on its possibilities like a squirrel with a prized nut.
“I’m not a vegan,” says Chef Jessica. “I’m just interested in creating a product to promote health that isn’t hard on the body like so many of our refined and processed foods are today.”
From that idea, Sourced Cuisine was born. Initially, Chef Jessica worked as a private chef for chronically ill people, shifting their menus to more “body-friendly,” digestible foods. The idea simply mushroomed from there.
Now, the company innovates, creates and delivers weekly organic, vegan meal packages – “Farmer’s Bounty Boxes” – to your door.
“As I’ve been looking for my next restaurant location, Jessica’s plan made so much sense to me,” says Chef Jonathan. “Your costs are extremely low when you create a delivery system for food – you’re really just investing in the rental of a commercial kitchen for a few hours each week, the product itself and the delivery boxes.
“I know I’m simplifying it a bit, but it’s a lot less expensive than getting an entire restaurant up and running,” he says. “And it’s keeping me creative, especially as we’re developing these gourmet raw and vegan menus.”
Each week’s offering consists of eight primary items – soups, entreés, salads – and then two desserts.
Don’t be expecting the standard rice, beans or tofu. This is gourmet chefery at its finest. From the “appetizer” Nori Roll with its creamy, spicy meld, to the hearty Yam and Peanut Stew, this is serious creation innovation … because these are very talented chefs.
Weekly 10-Course Menus
While Chef Jessica honed her skills as a private chef, Jonathan had come from a background of high-end resort and Michelin-starred leading roles that traversed San Diego to France. After creating critical acclaim with his first restaurant in Laguna Beach (Vertical), he later accepted the invitation as executive opening chef at The Montage Resort. After a year there, he opened a restaurant in Kauai with his brother and, through the next eight years, stacked up additional awards and “number one” ratings.
End result? Promised gourmet flair in every menu he designs.
Each week, the two chefs meet to put together a new 10-course menu.
“Because Jon is such an expert in creating menus, he finalizes the menus for us,” says Jessica. “Then, I take the lead on my recipes, and he takes the lead on his, and we work through the plating and packaging together.”
On Monday morning, they hand pick all the menu items from three local organic farms. By Tuesday evening, everything is prepped, plated, packaged and delivered.
“Most of our clients say that their Sourced Cuisine delivery takes them through at least four days of great, healthy eating each week,” says Chef Jessica. “And, really, you don’t want our entreés and salads sitting much longer than that timeframe as plants lose most of their nutrients within four or five days from the time they’re picked.
“We deliver nutrient density, flavor and freshness because that’s truly what your body craves for optimal health and fast health recovery … and it tastes pretty great, too,” she says.
No truer words could be said.
It’s Kinda Like Christmas
Considering this is an 8-course ensemble of gourmet menu items with added desserts – each of whose portions far exceed a single serving – the weekly pricing for your Sourcedbox is a steal.
Sourced Cuisine’s hot/cold bag
I made this price-conscious decision before I received my delivery (delivered by Chef Jonathan, himself), and I was expecting it all to arrive in something the size of a shoebox. Instead, Chef handed over an oversized hot/cold bag with stacks and stacks of plastic (recyclable plastic, mind you) “to go” boxes inside.
It felt like Christmas unpacking each of my many boxes. Even the dressings for the Watercress & Endive Salad and the Green Cabbage & Apple Slaw are packaged in their own little, unspillable orbits.
With the order, you have a “summary sheet” that explains each of the menu items, their recommended lifespan (“enjoy asap!” or “keep refrigerated”), warming instructions when needed, and even suggestions for carnivores on added proteins (“try this with seared salmon”). If you lose the sheet, not a worry – each menu item is clearly labeled with its ingredients and instructions as well.
The Many Wonders of Sourced Cuisine
All week long, I find that every time I open my refrigerator, I smile. Stack upon stack of neat boxes greet me, each nestling their own wonderful item that I keep serving up … and these are, hands down, some of the most wonderful vegan and raw food items I’ve eaten.
Were I to post all 10 photos of the menu items I received, Stu Saffer would hang me by my toenails. So, here’s what showed up in those little boxes with a few photos of actual meals I put together for myself as the week progressed. (Keep in mind these are only small portions of the entire menu item that arrives.)
For the record, this is what arrived for my “Christmas in April” …
Combo plate with stuffed chile, watercress salad and stuffed artichoke hearts
There was Watercress and Endive Salad with grilled Portobello mushrooms and a champagne tarragon vinaigrette (peppery, smoky perfection), Stuffed Poblano Chiles with red quinoa sauce and cashew cheese (one of my favorites – the red quinoa is a spicy delight and a perfect partner), Stuffed Artichoke Hearts with black forbidden rice, peas, fava beans and dill (another of my favorites for all its savory, crisp, mellow, bright flavors), and Crunchy Nori Rolls with a lovely blend of cucumber, carrot, red bell pepper, avocado, daikon sprouts and spicy tamari dipping sauce (these should be a must every week!), and Potato, Celery Root and Leek Soupwith shaved black truffles.
Potato, celery root and leek soup with shaved black truffles
(The celery root added a gorgeous tang)
Combo plate with yam and peanut stew, asparagus spears, green cabbage and apple slaw
This combo included Yam and Peanut Stew with kale, beluga lentils, tomatoes, cumin and turmeric (beefy chunks of yam with fantastic flavor depth of Thai-directed spice and cream), White and Green Asparagus Spears aboard Arborio risotto with toasted almonds, gremolata (lemon, garlic and parsley) and Meyer lemon (very light and crisp), and Green Cabbage and Apple Slaw (it’s reminiscent of a tangy, creamy Waldorf salad), with sesame tahini dressing.
Brownie and Peach Tartlet desserts
For dessert there was Chocolate Raspberry Brownie, with dates, walnuts and cacao ganache (a decadent, fluffy mousse-like creation that Jessica creates with raw cacao powder to provide a healthy burst of antioxidants), and Peach Tartlets with coconut cream and a macadamia nut crust (… need I say more? Who would think peach with coconut cream? It’s delightful.)
This Food is Medicine
While she could stop at her informative blogs at www.SourcedCuisine.com, Jessica also offers Farm Tours once a month, hosting them at one of her primary sources, Alegria Fresh Farm at the Orange County Great Park. I’ve been on the tour myself and found it crazy entertaining. After walking us through the farm, she sat us down at picnic tables and drummed up several simple recipes for all to share.
Even with her easy recipes clutched in my hand, I don’t think I could come close to creating what these two chefs are innovating weekly for their OC clients, but the simple education and subsequent choices I’m making are certainly improving my health and – likely – extending my lifespan. Who, really, can argue that?
Order “Farmer’s Bounty Boxes” and register for Farm Tours at www.SourcedCuisine.com or call (949) 294-3554.
A published writer and marketing agency owner for 30 years, Diane Armitage authors the popular blog, www.LagunaBeachBest.com and the newly revised book, The Best of Laguna Beach: The Travelers’ and Residents’ Guide.