I'm hung over. Who would have guessed that something called a "Jäger Bomb" could be anything other than harmless? So I've traveled north on Highway 101 with my brother on a recent Sunday afternoon, looking for a suitable place to issue some sort of food apology to my body.
I couldn't have asked for anything more suitable than Swami's Cafe. Born and raised in New York, I have long held an idea of the quintessential Southern California scene: sun, beach, surfers, palm trees, mountains, convertibles, upstart renegade Christian fellowship centers, dogs. If Encinitas is the quintessential California town, then Swami's Cafe is the quintessential Encinitas eatery.
From the moment I entered the outdoor garden cafe, there was reason to feel better. A fountain hummed gently behind the sounds of friendly conversation and passing cars. The sun shine and the people (organic-vegan-granola-Pilates-toddler-soy-hybrid-Nader types, if I must generalize) were in good spirits.
Swami's reasonably priced menu is full of wonderfully creative dishes that claim to pull off the rare feat of tasting both healthy and good. Imaginative ingredients go into typical brunch items such as omelettes, pancakes, salads and fruit plates. The "Green Omelette," for example, is made with asparagus, spinach, avocado, green onions, bell peppers, zucchini and feta cheese. The "Garlic Chicken Omelette" is a whole chicken breast marinated in garlic sauce, Swiss cheese and salsa fresca.
Aside from these cleverly conceived breakfast foods, Swami's signature offering is its extensive smoothie menu. Choices range from sweet and fruity to considerably less sweet, more vegetabley and, in extreme cases, spicy. The "Garlic Go" is a juice blend of carrot, celery, parsley, beet and garlic (insert generic garlic-breath joke). It's like drinking a salad, I guess. For the more traditional smoothie lover, it's not all parsley and beets. The "Tropical Storm" is wonderful, made with pineapple juice, bananas, mangoes and papaya, topped with shaved coconut. All of Swami's smoothies contain fresh raw ingredients.
Many of Swami's dishes are vegetarian. Items that do contain meat can alternatively be prepared with "mock meat," which is some kind of distant permutation of tofu. Blasphemy. A practicing carnivore, this just seems wrong to me, false idolatry. Even though mock meat is out of the question, I guess it wouldn't kill me to go veg just this once. My order:
* Mole enchiladas: corn tortillas filled with brown rice, tomato and avocado topped with cheddar cheese and Swami's famous mole sauce.
* Nirvana Nectar Smoothie: Apple juice, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, ginseng, protein powder, vitamin C and bee pollen.
* A shot of wheat grass.
The wheat grass tasted like wheat grass. The smoothie was thick, naturally and perfectly sweet, and acted as an internal ice pack for my throbbing head. The vegetarian enchiladas were shockingly delicious. Somehow, the combination of brown rice and avocado lived up to the role normally played on my plate by carnitas, without missing a beat. I'm sorry, carnitas. I love you. I'll call you later, OK? The mole, with its subtle chocolate flavor and mild heat, was the best I've ever tasted.
My brother, who ordered the eggs benedict, could not stop commenting on all the MILFs in the joint. In addition, we took notice of a spectacular-looking dish that kept landing in front of MILF after MILF.
It turned out to be the Acai Bowl, Swami's style: A smoothie of blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, bananas, strawberries and acai (an antioxidant-rich Brazilian berry with a flavor almost like chocolate) served in a bowl and topped with homemade granola, fresh bee pollen and shaved coconut. Clearly, this concoction must be the essence of the MILFs' age-defying buoyancy. All in all, this was a superb eating experience that exceeded my expectations. My day brightened. My hangover receded.
I guess it is elementary, but still astounding to me, how directly and quickly the way we feel is affected by the way we eat. I ask myself why a delicious low-fat meal of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains is not the norm but instead an island in my sea of alcohol and chimichangas. I guess the chimichangas would be boats, or submarines.
Swami's Cafe is open daily 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.