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Puree Organic Cafe is more than mushed up baby food

Whirled Peas

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If you asked for a description of my own personal hell, I'd be surrounded by babies babbling, moms talking about their precious children, toddlers speaking nonsense, and a handful of women wearing spandex talking about weight loss, served with all the tasteless beer I can drink. At first, I thought Purée Organic Café would be a lot like this.

The bright little cottage housing Purée resides in the old Capriccio space on Chuck Dawley Boulevard next to The Mustard Seed. Inside, it has pale green walls, tables dressed in white tablecloths, and a few booths in the back lined with coral cushions. The color palette could be that of a nursery, and the front half of the space is filled with baby clothes, baby food, and toys. A small infant bathtub hangs near the window. I thought I was walking into a restaurant, but it seemed more like Babies R Us.

But the worst part of my nightmare scenario was not being able to find anything I'd want to eat. The unsettling thought of puréed baby food being spoonfed to me crossed my mind more than once. But the name is somewhat misleading. While they make organic baby food (which can also be ordered as an adult side), not everything served at Purée comes into contact with a blender or food processor, and while the food may not be for everyone, it's surprisingly good.

To start, a smooth blend of cannellini beans, garlic, and parsley creates a creamy pale green dip that's quite delectable. Served with crispy, toasted pita points and a hefty dose of oregano, this vegan dish makes a great appetizer ($7). From the salads, deep burgundy roasted beets, fresh strawberries, and herbed goat cheese complement a bed of bitter arugula dressed in a tangy vinaigrette ($9). 

All the wraps and sandwiches can be made vegan (say no to cheese), and a good portion are gluten free. I ordered the blackened jalapeño cheddar burger ($11), subbing cashew cheese for the cheddar. An off-white paste that's more like a spread, the housemade cashew cheese wasn't bad, but wasn't memorable either. The patty is tempeh with hints of fennel and caraway adding rye, herbal flavor. It's topped with sautéed onions, baby greens, shredded carrots, sprouts, and tomato and served on a whole wheat bun. Much to my surprise, the meatless burger was packed with flavor and, despite the fact that the soft tempeh falls out of the bun, I liked it quite a bit. I'd order it again.

The Mediterranean platter includes falafel, a tangy roasted red pepper hummus, quinoa, olives, red pepper, and a pepperoncini. To the side there's also a fresh salad of tomatoes, cukes, and greens tossed in tahini dill dressing ($11). Nothing to complain about here — it's the standard platter you'd get at any Mediterranean joint — and the red pepper hummus is full of flavor and the tomato and cuke salad is fresh and tantalizing. The generous portion is perfect for sharing with a friend.

The dinner menu features options like pad Thai, minus the fish sauce ($14), handmade ricotta , garlic, and spinach ravioli ($14), and a bowl of fried tofu tossed with chili garlic sauce with brown rice over a bed of greens, cucumber, carrots, and ginger ($12). Breakfast and brunch offer up staples such as biscuits and tempeh sausage gravy ($7), vegan pancakes ($11), and oatmeal with fresh berries ($6).

Staying true to the name, Purée will let you mix and match a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, and "purée" everything to make a healthy concoction in a glass. I liked the Picanté ($6/$8), a blend of carrot, spinach, apple, and jalapeño that wasn't very spicy.  As recommended, we also tried a vivid green mix of kale, pear, and cucumber, which was also tasty. They stock a variety of organic beers, wines, and cocktails, as well as a juice bar, also organic.

Between the baby store and the dining room is the checkout counter, where you are enticed to indulge in whoopie pies, chai tea cupcakes, and fruit tarts to name a few. And don't be afraid of the vegan chocolate chip cookies. They're super sweet and a perfect cap to your meal.

The organic versus non-organic debate will roll on, but regardless of who makes the better case, the food at Purée is fresh and healthy. This is not a place for everyone, but vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten-intolerant will fall in love with it. I'd go back too, but I'd bring a woman with me to dispel those personal hell demons.

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