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Cox: Sunflower Center's fare healthful, good

  • Margherita Pizza made at Sunflower Center in Petaluma (CRISTA JEREMIASON/PD)

A food revolution is underway and Lydia Kindheart is helping to lead it.

You can taste this fresh, local, healthy rebel food at The Sunflower Center — the restaurant, shopping venue and community center all in one — at Lydia's Organics Sunflower Center headquarters in Petaluma. Her approach to food is summed up by her vegan, gluten-free, organic tamale plate, which won a blue ribbon at the recent Marin County Fair. Besides the corn tamale wrapped in a banana leaf, the plate holds black beans, salsa, avocado and fresh green salad.

This is not a new revolution, but it has gained enormous strength in recent years as the organic market in the U.S. has grown to $30 billion-plus, and continues to grow at a steady seven percent each year.

Lydia's Kitchen

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The Sunflower Center showcases healthy food, and the menu is split between cooked and raw items. It's supported by Lydia's Organics, a brand that is an international purveyor of vegan, gluten-free snacks, cereals, kale crunchies, dehydrated vegetable powders, spreads, and other foods with a long shelf life. Lydia's Lovin' Foods, a sister brand, delivers fresh entrees, spreads, desserts, and raw soups locally to select stores throughout the Bay Area, as well as at many festivals, fairs and events.

This is not a white-tablecloth, sit-down-and-be-served kind of restaurant. It's more lunch counter than fine dining. You go to the cash register for a menu, then give the counterperson your order. You take a card holder with your number to a table where utensils are wrapped in a paper napkin. Soon, someone brings your order to the table.

Here's the thing about The Sunflower Center's food. If you order the Margherita Pizza ($10.50, 3 stars), don't expect a New York slice. No gooey mozzarella here. Yes, there's a brick pizza oven to cook the crust in, but this pie is different. The crumbly crust is made from sprouted brown rice, amaranth, quinoa and sorghum. The “cheese” is made from cashew paste, the tomatoes are raw, the olives are raw, and the Green Goddess sauce, very much like pesto, is raw.

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