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The Best of the Sunny Raw Kitchen
The Best of Raw Freedom Community
Delightfully Raw and
Deliciously Raw

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Healthy food never tasted so good!

To learn more about my recipe books, click here!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Raw Restaurant Review: ChocolaTree in Sedona

I guess that a warning would be in order here; this post might sound harsh to some. I'm generally now not of a bitchy disposition (thank goodness! hehe) but I do feel compelled to give you my honest thoughts about ChocolaTree in Sedona. Last time we were here we had looked at their menu outside the door and didn't feel moved to go in. Instead we went to a vegan restaurant called D Lish (which has since closed, unfortunately) that offered a few raw items and enjoyed a generous and delicious meal.

The first thing one notices when walking into ChocolaTree are shelves of raw products that are made on the spot, such as crackers, kale chips and nori snacks. I thought that the decor looked inviting and warm. I was particularly drawn to the ginormous display of chocolates - apparently their specialty - but more on that later.

We started off with a Carrot Ginger Soup made with carrots, avocado, coconut and ginger which was tasty. It came with Pumpkin Chia Crackers that I thought was an interesting addition. They were also quite good.

Next came our entrees...We shared a Falafel Platter: Sprouted Falafel Balls, tomato, cucumber (or in this case zucchini), red onion and mixed greens, with a side of Cream Garlic Dill Dip, Veggie Hummus and their famous Onion Bread.

While it sounded mighty good, I was rather disappointed with this dish (to put it mildly). For one thing, the advertised mixed greens didn't make it onto the plate and were replaced by a teeny bit of sprouts. The real deal breaker, however, was that a copious amount of olive oil had been poured over almost everything! The Falafel Balls were soaked with it and both the Dip and the Hummus had a huge ring of oil (and I'm talking about easily 1 tablespoon per bowl!) I did my best to soak the oil away with a paper towel; the kind of thing I expect to do at a junk food place, not a raw restaurant. When I later suggested that they omit the oil the waitress rather defensively replied that "it's the way falafels are traditionally served." Hum, interesting as it hasn't been my experience during my SAD days and it certainly wasn't how Omar of Rawtopia, who is Lebanese by the way, served his. *shrugs*

Eeew is all I'm gonna say!

The Dip and Hummus were ok, although I couldn't really get myself to enjoy them, trying to sneak spoonfuls around the pools of oil. The Balls were so intensely flavored that I only reluctantly ate mine. I was certainly glad that I was sharing the plate with Don and didn't have to eat the whole thing by myself!

We also ordered a Veggie Sandwich: Creamy Garlic Herb Pate, Tomato, Avo, Red Onion, Sprouts & Spring Greens on a Onion Flat Bread. The bread was tasty and pliable which made for a good sandwich. However I found again the flavors overwhelming and by the time I finished my half I was glad there wasn't any more.

A sign at the entrance proclaimed that they are famous for their raw desserts, so that sounded a little more promising. Their display was quite varied and rather impressive: Pecan Pie, Coconut Pie, German Chocolate Cake... We went for the Tiramisu which I thought was very good. It had some kind of almond flavored cake base, a light Irish moss cream and some kind of other topping. I just wished that the coffee flavor had been more pronounced since it's one of the distinctive features of traditional tiramisu. It came drizzled with a young coconut cream which looked uncannily like the SAD white cream I used to pipe on top of bake-your-own Pillsbury's Apple Turnovers. (Yah, yah, I know... Not a happy thought! lol)

On the waitress' suggestion we also had a (gigantic!) piece of Chocolate Ganache. The texture was very firm and I was surprised to later discover that it only contained coconut oil and no cacao butter. The flavor would have been good except that I could detect a rancid aftertaste (probably from the coconut oil) which sorta ruined the experience.

Believe it or not, neither Don nor I could finish our desserts (that's something almost unheard of! lol) and had them wrapped up to go. We also chose a couple of chocolates from their very large selection. Someone told me that they are the biggest importer of raw cacao in the US and I can believe it! I have to say though that their choccies are ridiculously expensive: $2 for the teeny small ones and $3 for the slightly larger cups. Ouch!

I would have liked to try a few but in keeping with our budget we just took a couple. After much debating we decided on one made with crystal manna and one with rose essential oil. We also took them along to enjoy later. I guess there's no easy way to say this but we weren't impressed with them AT ALL. While they looked beautiful and they've certainly got the tempering process down pat (as they held well at room temperature like traditional chocolates), the flavors were rather blah and unbalanced. I thought that they overdid the rose essence which was way too overpowering. Not what you'd expect from master chocolatiers.

While on the topic of their chocolates I guess I should also mention that when we visited Jozzie in Oregon she shared with us some L.O.V.E. cups that ChocolaTree sells via The Raw Food World. We hadn't been swooned by these either; in fact, the pecans on top of one of them were clearly rancid. (Someone local confirmed that rancid nuts has indeed been an issue with their food.)

And lastly, before we left we bought a package of their Curry Wraps as we're starting to run seriously low on cracker supplies. While these were pliable they tasted as though someone had dropped the bottle of curry powder into the mixture; a very strong yet unrefined flavor. Of course that could have been just that particular batch I suppose...

In hindsight I see that our intuition had been right not to eat at ChocolaTree the first time. With all the restaurants that have had to close down in this time of economic struggle, it is a mystery to me that a place like that can stay in business. I'm also surprised that there is a demand for their products and chocolates locally and beyond. Granted that we've sampled a very small amount of the food they prepare, but virtually none of the dozen items or so we tried wowed us. Or perhaps it's just that our taste buds are very much misaligned? In any case, we're sorry we have to say that we certainly won't be eating there again!


  1. aww, I'm sorry you had such a bad time with the food, I've eaten there several times and it's been uneven to say the least. I once ordered the Guacamole plate and when it arrived, the waitress said today's was "a little salty". I figured it must be ok since she let me buy it & brought it to my table, but it was unbearable! I could only manage the tiniest amount on the tip of a cracker. It's so hard to find anything remotely vegan/raw here in AZ :(

    I always enjoy the big room of crystals though, do they still have it?

  2. Sorry to hear you've also had a bad experience eating there. To me your vignette borders on the unethical. ;-(

    And yep, they still have the crystal room.

    Did you know that a raw resto just opened in Cave Creek? Check it out:


    We're going to eat there next week and I'll be posting my review later.

  3. I didn't know about it, thanks!

    btw, if you are heading toward Phoenix, there's a lovely little teahouse/raw/vegan spot called Chakra 4, great ambiance & medicinal herbs

    another btw, your blog is my #1 source of great recipes and inspiration, whenever anyone asks about raw info, I send them to you :) Thanks for offering so much great information!

  4. Thank you, Carmella, for your honest appraisal. I don't think you were in the least bitchy. You weren't hurling insults willy-nilly, you just called it like you saw (and tasted it) and you did make an effort to point out some positives as well. Rancid nuts and oils are really inexcusable. I'm not anywhere near a chef, but I know how to care for those items properly, so certainly they should too. Overpowering herbs and spices can definitely ruin a dish. The first time I experienced this was years ago when a roommate sauteed some beautiful fresh squash, seasoning it with so much rosemary that that is all I could taste. Mishaps happen in the kitchen, but again, should not happen routinely in a professional kitchen. It almost makes me wonder if the "chefs" are actually SAD eaters (or recently SAD) who haven't yet adjusted their taste buds to appreciate the subtle and bright flavors of fresh fruits and veggies. Also, when a customer makes a suggestions (even if it were totally off or out of left field, which it wasn't) the only appropriate response from a "server" would be to apologize that you didn't care for the dish, and offer to pass on your suggestion to the kitchen. You have definitely done a service to anyone who might be visiting the area. Money is tight for most everyone these days. For people like me, who virtually never go "out" to eat, it can really be crushing if you spend all that money for poor food and service. It's really a shame, too, given that there are so few raw restaurants in most of the country, to think that someone who might be excited to try raw cuisine could potentially go to a place like that and be totally turned off and wary to try again. Thanks again, Carmella.

  5. Sorry about your bad experience, but thanks for the heads up. My husband and I are headed to Sedona in April so you save us some money on a subpar meal. I'll check out the other restaurant you mentioned.

    Any other suggestions for vegan places from Phoenix, Sedona to the Grand Canyon?

  6. How disappointing!

    I have tried the LOVE cups and didn't care for them either.

  7. Wow, Carmella, your experience sounds just like the one I had! And jill, the comment that my wife had was that the food we ordered was way too salty! And their little chocolates for $3! I nibbled on it in order to get three $1 bites. I believe anyone can make better raw chocolates by following the recipe you have on your site!
    I have to admit that the crystal room was pretty cool. But, I don’t think I’ll be visiting there again. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that had YOUR experience!

  8. I ate at Chocolatree last April. I had the same falafel plate but without all the oil. Yes, uneven to say the least.

    I'm headed back to Sedona, via Phoenix, in May. I'll check out the two restaurants mentioned.

    Thanks for your great website. I just found it recently and have enjoyed it immensely. BTW - Just got your latest cookbook in the mail. Fantastic!

  9. I have to say that rancid nuts/oils would have earned them a chat with the kitchen manager on duty. I would have also asked why I didn't get mixed greens as advertised.

    Coming from a middle eastern family, I would have been personally disappointed if the hummus and falafel did not come with a generous amount of olive oil.

    I also find it funny you didn't want so much olive oil (which is a much used ingredient in raw cuisine and your server is correct - the way hummus is traditionally served) in one dish, but more coffee (which most raw foodists eschew) in another.

    Having been the only veg in my family for over 20 years and my family having been in the restaurant business (yep - middle eastern food!), I always talk to restaurant staff to find out about the food before I order. And if something is off, I mention it right away to give the staff a chance to remedy it.

    I also give places 3 chances before I decide if they are worth going back to... you never know when a place is having "one of those days"

    I hope you have a better experience if you ever decide to go back.

  10. Carmella, I read your blog often. I enjoyed your review, even if it was on the negative side. I would love to have a raw food restaurant near here! You all are lucky. Although, maybe it's a good thing that I can't spend the extra money!lol

  11. I'm suprised to be honest. Being in England some of my raw snacks travel and I have some cheesy bites which Im sure are from Chocolatree and they are addictivly amazing.

    I best not go..you know what they say never meet your heros :)

  12. We were in Sedona in April 2010 and had a delightful experience. We sat outside and soaked up the Sedona sun with our cat and dog. We even kept a dog for another customer while they shopped inside. The staff were warm and friendly, the food was wonderful, and of course the surrounding scenery was gorgeous!

    I am a southerner by birth and love spicy foods, not so much the drabness of most northern or midwestern foods even after being raw for most of three years. So maybe staff changes, personal spiritual place or differences in taste preferences account for the differing experiences.

    The person with the middle eastern restaurant experience and I agree on hummus sprinkled with olive oil for authentic taste. Not much more simple and pure than the process used in Spain or Italy to make olive oil. It is a very good fat (most of Americans are fat-fearing because of the effects on the body from a SAD diet including processed foods and meats). Coconuts are also a fine example of a very good fat that your body actually uses well instead of storing it poorly.

    We now live in Northeastern Montana (to find work) where it is almost impossible to find anything without meat that isn't deep fried, much less raw vegan, iceberg lettuce and carrots if you are lucky. So I have now begun "cheffing" for all our meals as we never eat out anymore. There may be some raw vegan choices in a few other places in this country, but not within 600 miles of here.

    That's why I really appreciate you and others like you that share their talents online (and ingredient sources) with the rest of us eating raw. I have tried some of your recipes with success (with a little preferential taste "tweaking"). I also enjoy your posts along your journeys. Thanks for all you do.

    Peace, Love and Light

    P.S. We just made a journey to CA, OR and WA last month as well as other journeys and we can recommend:

    1-Trattoria (vegan-best in-house kombucha) and Yoga Pearl in Portland, OR (although MANY choices in Portland)

    2-105 degrees in Oklahoma City, OK

    3-Pure Food and Wine in NYC

    4-Grassroot in Tampa, FL (when they are open)

    5-The Present Moment Cafe in St. Augustine, FL

    Many mexican restaurants will accomodate raw foodists with guacamole, salsa, greens,etc.

    Pricey generally comes with the territory of fine raw cuisine...