Wednesday, April 29, 2015


1217 2nd Street SW, Rochester, MN 55902
QISA (3.5, 3.5, 3.5, 3.5), $7-17, Vegetarian-Friendly

I just got the news from my doctor; I have borderline high cholesterol. My blood pressure is textbook perfect, and other than low vitamin D levels, my blood chemistry panel is normal. However, my BMI is technically in the “overweight” category, and I don’t get nearly enough exercise. “Don’t worry,” my doctor told me, “You don’t need to go on cholesterol-lowering medication. You should be able to manage it with diet and exercise.”

I suppose we all treat unpleasant medical news differently. Some treat it with indifference, preferring to hide their metaphorical heads in the sand. Others treat it with fear and reverence, following the moment of revelation with an epiphany on self worth, self maintenance, self control, and, occasionally, selfless devotion to their fellow human sufferers.

Me I take it personally. This is a sign of moral weakness. Sure, I live a vegetarian lifestyle. Sure, I eschew white bread for whole grain, sneak flaxseed into baked goods at every opportunity, mix chia with my morning oatmeal, and explore new and exciting uses for leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. Apparently that’s not enough. It’s obviously time to step up my game.

Luckily, I received the news right before my trip to Rochester, Minnesota. If ever there was an entire city devoted to healthcare, this is it. This is where I would start my new mission to create Zev 2.0. Or possibly Zev 3.0. Zev 5.7? Doesn’t matter. It's New, Improved, Even Healthier Zev.

I started my new life by walking a mile to and from Tonic, a restaurant and juice bar. Tonic prides itself on its healthy, delicious, locally sourced food, with options for a wide variety of needs, including vegetarian, nut-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free. The restaurant definitely pushes the juice bar image with bowls of fruit on the counter (limes, lemons, apples, and avocados) along with a modern restaurant design including tall lucite chairs, low intricately patterned green plastic chairs, and soft benches. The restaurant pretty much screams “trendy."

I began my meal with a signature smoothie called “Grin and Berry It," a concoction of blueberries, cranberries, acai juice, red grapes, and coconut water. I don’t think it's possible to cram any more antioxidants into a single beverage without violating FDA regulations. The smoothie was a bit tart, but otherwise tasted like your standard multi-berry smoothie. Nonetheless, it must have contained some very rare, exotic, and possibly magical ingredients, because it cost me $9.

My lunch comprised a cup of black bean soup and a black bean burger. Perhaps I was skirting social disaster with so many black beans in a single meal. However, I had finished my professional meetings for the day, and I decided to risk gastronomical verbosity because, well, the soup looked pretty good. And it was. It was a hearty mix of beans, tomato, celery, and a medium amount of spice. The bean burger, which came with fresh greens, tomato, pickle, and barbecue sauce, was a bit bland but had a decent crunchy burger texture. The pickles on the burger were spicy, which was definitely a surprise, but a good one. The greens were shredded, which made it much easier to keep them on the sandwich.

I decided to try the chunky monkey bread pudding as well, hoping that it would also be full of cholesterol-lowering goodness. The bread pudding was a kitchen sink of coconut, banana, raisins, walnuts, and cocoa nibs, all covered in a light vanilla cream cheese sauce. The pudding was thick and tasty, without being overly fatty or buttery. It was an affable mix of flavors, and the cocoa nibs came an overall chocolate effect without any noticeable pieces of chocolate.

Bottom line? Tonic is a good restaurant, albeit way overpriced. If you are traveling on someone else’s budget, and you want a healthy alternative to fried cheese curds (or whatever else you can find in southern Minnesota), definitely check them out. But be prepared to pay an exorbitant amount for a smoothie.

I should let you all know that I am doing my darndest to maintain the healthy, cholesterol-lowering lifestyle. Despite a pinched nerve in my back, I’ve started working out again, and I’ve been working up quite a sweat on the exercise bike at Planet Fitness. Just recently, I took a long walk between gates at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport, and had a dinner of raw vegetables, hummus, nuts, and red wine in the Delta SkyLounge.

Oh, and I had a peanut butter cookie. One can only take healthy eating so far before it gets silly, right?