Chef Chat, Part 3: Nicole Hudson of Conscious Cafe

We're back today at Conscious Cafe (be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 of our chef chat), but enough talking. Time to start eating.

Thank goodness someone at Hudson's mosque was willing to share this recipe for a toasted avocado sandwich, because Conscious Cafe nails it. Fresh slivers of onion crisscross generous strips of avocado. It's all seasoned with a sweet, peppery spice blend. Hidden beneath the layers are chunks of tomato, lettuce, and "Vegenaise" -- eggless mayo, of course. It's all cozied up in a warm, toasty whole wheat bun that's graced with the taste of honey. Flavorful, filling, and vegan -- three words that don't often go together, but definitely do here.

Hudson made me eat my vegetables, but with this sauteed spinach I didn't even try to protest. The side portion is almost large enough to be a meal itself, but since you can't overdose on spinach, I ate the whole thing anyway. Fresh spinach mingles with an oniony broth -- and though the spinach is seasoned, it's not salty. Truly the stuff of Popeye's dreams.

Conscious Cafe's only menu item of debatable vegetarian status is the gourmet salmon burger. So it might seem a cop-out to choose it as my favorite dish, but ever since I ate it, I can't get it out of my mind. I find myself timing my drive home with Conscious Cafe's hours of operation, taking an especially convoluted route down Scott Street just to uh, see what's going on at UH. But truthfully, it's just so I can stare down this salmon burger as it smiles up at me.

Grilled onions, lettuce, and tomatoes are merely backup singers to the diva-esque Wild Alaskan salmon. Hudson's spice blend flavors the salmon beyond any fishiness, and it's grilled flawlessly. It's no wonder why this fish, flaky and tender, is the restaurant's best seller.

You can't leave Conscious Cafe without trying a slice of bean pie, and once you do, you're going to be hooked. If you've been using sweet potato pie as justification for "healthy dessert", say hello to navy bean pie. We've documented the fascinating history of the bean pie before; it evolved as a way for adherents of Nation of Islam to replace forbidden sweet potatoes in the popular Southern dessert. Not that you'd ever know you were beaning up. The filling is light-colored, almost glowing. It's smooth and mild, making the cinnamon and nutmeg accents shine. The combination of all-natural ingredients, including raw milk, make this dessert an absolute guiltless knockout.

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