What: Globally inspired cuisine that is nourishing and healthful without sacrificing on flavor.
Where: 2800 East 2nd Ave., Denver
Neighborhood: Cherry Creek
When: Monday-Friday, 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Pros: True Food is committed to giving the reputation of health food a makeover with bold flavors and top quality ingredients. Now, the brand is about to get a fresh push forward in its mission with the addition of new Executive Brand Chef (and former Boulder resident), Arik Markus.
Cons: There is often a wait during the weekday lunch rush in Cherry Creek, and with the large, open layout, the noise level can get loud. Try it out for dinner or brunch if you’re looking for a more subdued experience.
Eating clean and healthy has been a trend in Colorado for some time with the increased focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients and restaurants that cater to a variety of dietary choices. But many people still associate healthy food with bland flavors and skimpy servings that will leave you still craving that giant burger.
At True Food Kitchen, the menu offers cuisine that is low in sugar but high in whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins and fresh produce that is locally sourced whenever possible. But beyond the health benefits this food provides, the flavors are first and foremost, crave-worthy.
True Food Kitchen launched its first location in Phoenix, Arizona in 2008. Now, with 10 locations spanning six states, it’s continuing to make healthy eating accessible and, most importantly, pleasurable. The inspiration for this restaurant’s cuisine comes from business partner, Dr. Andrew Weil. He is a best-selling wellness author who promotes an anti-inflammatory diet while seeking out fresh and often unique ingredients that pack both a nutritional and flavorful punch.
Recently, True Food Kitchen brought on a new Executive Brand Chef, Arik Markus. After a 20 year career in the industry which included time in the Boulder culinary scene, Markus will now oversee all True Food Kitchen locations nationwide, and he’s got a plan.
The goal: to be 100% GMO free. To do this, Markus plans to concentrate driving high standards by finding and using only suppliers that operate with honesty and responsibility. By committing to responsible sourcing, True Food will be able to build trust with diners and the communities surrounding its locations and will make dining conscientiously something that can be done with ease.
Markus will also continue to source ingredients locally whenever possible. In order to maximize on each region’s flavors and offerings, his is also planning on giving more freedom to each location’s executive chef. In Denver, Executive Chef AJ Buchanio is excited to get creative with local, seasonally available ingredients. But words like “fresh,” “local,” and “responsibly-sourced” don’t mean much without delicious food to back it up.
If you’ve ever been to True Food before, you’ve probably tried popular favorites like the filling Inside Out Quinoa Burger or Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Casserole. While those items are well-liked for a reason, several new items from Markus highlight the changes to come. These new offerings (which are availble now) show a glimpse of the bold flavors that will resonate in a soon-to-be-released spring menu.
For a kick of spice, the Sustainable Seared Scallops (wild caught off the coast of Japan) come with a mole sauce that has just enough heat to awaken the palate. Beyond the heat, though, are layers of flavor including a slightly nutty accent thanks to the addition of a grain called freekeh. This Arabic grain is actually young, green wheat, harvested using a process that involves burning the wheat, giving it a slight smokiness. While an ingredient like freekeh may seem too adventurous or unfamiliar to the masses, True Food’s real success comes from the fact that when you close your eyes and take a bite, it’s not the “strange” ingredients you’ll be concentrating on. It’s all about the flavors.
The new Moroccan Chicken is another welcome addition to the menu, the highlight of which is the sauce made with True Food’s own spin on Ras El Hanout, a traditional Moroccan spice mix. Markus uses the customary spices like cumin and coriander as well as additions like rose petals for a complex flavor that seems to offer something new with each bite.
One thing that remains the same across all of True Food’s offerings is the undeniable feeling of satisfaction without being overstuffed. Food is, as we all learned in elementary school, fuel for your body. But of course, not all foods are created equal. At True Food, a meal leaves you energized, not in need of a nap – although be warned, it will likely leave you craving another visit.
All photography by Delmy Gooch