September 19, 2014

Fresh in Topanga­­­

 

PHOTO BY SAGE KNIGHT, MESSENGER, 2012©

Fresh in Topanga­­­

Fresh in Topanga, an all-organic produce and raw foods restaurant, co-owned by, “conscious living” chef Jeremiah Shattuck (l.) and Simon Ozon (center), display some of their fare with assistance from employee Pam. Ozon and his wife, Christine (not pictured), also a co-owner, are organic avocado ranchers. A cooked-food menu is on the way.

You may have seen the roadside flower display on Mother’s Day and the tables loaded with local, organic honey and avocados. However, the doors to our newest hotspot, an all-organic produce and raw foods restaurant, opened on the last weekend in May, during Topanga Days.

The business, aptly named Fresh in Topanga, is located on the straightaway, just south of Pat’s Grill at 1704 North Topanga Canyon Boulevard, the Topanga Roadhouse building. The tiny structure once housed the legendary Marco Polo’s and then re-opened as the California Trail Restaurant and Watering Hole. If you Google the address, you’ll also find at least one report of an assault with a deadly weapon. The place once held the nickname “Stop and Fight,” but those days are long gone.

Eric Rassmussen, owner, has leased the space to organic avocado ranchers Christine and Simon Ozon and “conscious living cuisine” chef Jeremiah Shattuck. Together, the trio is creating a magical experience that is sure to give both Planet Raw and local markets a run for their money.

All three owners live nearby, the Ozons in Calabasas and Shattuck in Fernwood, and each has his own areas of specialty. Simon mentions he originally had no idea they would have raw food, though he promises a cooked-food menu is on the way soon. He’d envisioned a market, as he and Christina love the idea of providing local produce at competitive prices. All of the produce is local, which Christina defines as “grown within four hours.” She and Simon bring in the best greens, avocados, watermelons, honey and more from Santa Barbara to San Diego, where their own ranches are located.

If you want to know anything at all about raw food, ask Jeremiah. He lives and breathes the stuff. “All of our food is conscious living cuisine in the best bio-available forms for the best absorption into the body.” He uses “mono-atomic spring water and specializes in medicinal nutrition and cultured living foods.” Shattuck greets everyone with a smile, and his menu promises all items come with “120 percent Aloha.”

Donna Shattuck, his mom, says she raised him in Hawaii and he began cooking at age eight. “Everywhere Jeremiah goes, he brings peaceful loving energy and he does it through his food. These kids have good hearts; they’re honest, hard working. They want to serve the community. This place is gonna rock.”

Which it was at an after-party for the Reggae ‘Pon the Mountain festival. Stevi Daft and Courtney Lavender, members of the band Exit, played a rousing acoustic set to enthusiastic applause. The drummer for the band works at Fresh and music will soon be added to the regular schedule. Though it may be unusual to hear live music while grocery shopping, Fresh is more like an indoor farmers’ market mixed with a hip Hawaiian cafe. After the first song, Stevi smiled, saying, “Thank you. I always wanted to play the produce section.”

The place has a feeling of play in it. One customer remarked, “Perhaps I danced here in a past life; whenever I walk in, I feel like dancing.” The guy also licks his plate, which seems to be an acceptable dining habit in the casual environment. Why waste such good food?

Places like Fresh serve as effective activism. Jeremiah’s vision is ultimately to support Topanga in becoming self-sustaining with an ultimate goal to go off-grid. Every dollar spent on organic, healthy food supports a healthier planet, so while you wait for your order, you may want to add your name to the petition on the counter for a “Toxic-Free Topanga” which anyone can sign. In part, it states, “We demand that any entity operating in the Topanga Creek watershed, immediately and permanently stop using toxic chemicals.”

Their best sellers are avocados, honey and the raw food. Warning: the fresh juice is hardcore. It will knock your socks off. It’s like ingesting an entire farm of greens. If you want it mild, simply let Jeremiah know when you place your order. At last visit, they had one size only (20 oz). However, more than once I’ve seen them fill a customer’s quart-sized glass jar and pro-rate the price.

The Ozons and Shattuck are vital, happy people doing what they love to do. With their different, yet complementary strengths, they share one goal: to make people in Topanga happy and give them a place to be. There’s an old-style jukebox in the corner and the patio has a comfortable couch. No one will notice if you take off your shoes. No one will complain if you do a little contact improv dancing near the honey display. If you like a relaxed environment, organic living foods, and you know at least one word in Hawaiian, you may find this to be the coolest hangout place in town. According to Christina, “We believe our concept fits Topanga. It’s what people want and we don’t have it here.” Until now.

Fresh accepts cash and credit, with “no official hours yet, but we’re here seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”