Nourish May Be Good for You, But It Also Tastes Like It

Imagine a restaurant where all your food allergies and dietary restrictions and concerns about making choices that are good for the Earth were the central considerations behind the preparation of every dish.

How would the food taste?

It would probably taste a lot like the food at Nourish, a cafe that's been open in Scottsdale since May 2010. And that's not such a good thing.

Jackie Mercandetti

Location Info

Map

Nourish at Optima Camelview Village

7147 E. Rancho Vista Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Category: Restaurant > Comfort Foods

Region: Central Scottsdale

Details

Nourish
7147 East Highland Avenue, Scottsdale
480-684-2233
www.nourish123.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Sweet potato and avocado salad: $6
Roasted chunk chicken salad sandwich: $11
Veggie quiche: $11.50
Tuscan chicken pizza: $15

Consider owner Kristin Carey's menu, color-coded to indicate the nutritional features of every item. To get the full impact, examine the Optima sandwich: gluten-free (by request), lactose-free, corn-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegetarian, and vegan.

Unfortunately, the Optima also turned out to be taste-free. Bland slices of dried-out cucumber, spinach, and tomato were stacked high on barely chewable bread moistened only slightly by a thin layer of lemon-artichoke hummus. The Optima, alongside most of the rest of the items we tried, was a fulfillment of every negative stereotype about health food.

If you're looking to educate yourself about the possibilities of gluten-free eating and allergen avoidance in the restaurant business, then Nourish is the place for you. If, however, you're looking to enjoy a light, healthy meal that also tastes good, I suggest you take your business elsewhere.

Nourish has perhaps bitten off more than it can chew. Carey set out to create a haven for those who feel like "a freak at the table," which is how she describes her own experience as someone with gluten allergies and an aversion to dairy. This haven is pretty expansive: Nourish also offers catering services, grab-and-go lunches, meal plans, educational programs, and an online cooking channel, all aimed at helping people eat healthier while complying with their dietary restrictions.

Our first visit was a weeknight dinner. The restaurant, nestled in the jungle of the Optima Camelview Village luxury condos off Highland Avenue in Scottsdale, was practically empty. But the atmosphere was inviting and warm thanks to friendly, fast service and an open, bright floor plan. Green abounds in the accent paint, and two walls of the dining area are glass, opening up to a patio and numerous plants.

Inside, don't expect to get a whiff of anything frying or baking. The kitchen at Nourish has no open flames or cooktops. All hot items are prepared in a panino maker, low-temperature Alto-Shaam ovens, or air-fryers. The air-fryers are like little electric convection ovens that are heated to around 500 degrees, using hot, moist air to quickly cook your food without any oils.

My dining companion and I were eager to taste the restaurant's organic cocktails, and this was one category at Nourish that didn't disappoint. The ginger and spice was refreshing and original, with a spicy little kick at the end. Nourish makes its own spiced rum, but don't expect much buzz. If you have a sweet tooth and are in the mood for a stronger drink, I recommend the acaí berry martini — clean, crisp, and beautifully presented. A single, perfect raspberry rested at the bottom of the glass, bejeweled by bubbles of the clear, candy-flavored liquid.

Before we knew it, the tapas plate of appetizers was before us. Of the long list of starters, we tried four; the winner by a long shot was the sweet potato and avocado salad, with warm chunks tossed in a tasty Asian dressing. The roasted root veggies were essentially the same idea, but with parsnips and beets. The lemon-srtichoke hummus lacked the chunkiness and chickpea flavor you would expect of the spread, but it tasted good and came with warm triangles of gluten-free garlic pita and a few slices of cucumber and organic baby carrots thrown onto the plate almost as an afterthought, adding nothing to the presentation or taste of the ensemble.

Our final starter choice was a scoop of the Nourish healthy mac and cheese. At first taste, I was pleased: The creamy, comforting noodles were accented with a smooth blend of herbs. As I continued to chew, however, an unpleasant surprise assailed my teeth: hard bits of uncooked macaroni lay hidden within. The little dish was almost good enough to ignore this oversight, but it turned out to be an omen of things to come.

The plump, rosy fillet of wild salmon with pineapple mango salsa that came next was beautifully nestled next to a dune of black and cream quinoa and a pile of what looked to be succulent and vibrantly green asparagus. I was shocked to discover that the asparagus was practically raw and completely unseasoned. The coarseness and bitterness of a couple of pieces were enough to cause me to abandon the vegetable altogether.

But nothing could have prepared me for the shock of the Tuscan chicken pizza. The gluten-free Nourish pizza crusts are made with quinoa flour, chia seed, and a blend of herbs. What arrived on my plate was a dark brown, messy, ragged flatbread-style "pizza" that was unappetizing in every way. Brittle, burnt, and almost tasteless, the crust resembled a cracker more than any sort of dough. Its tattered surface crumbled under the toppings: a dab of bland tomato sauce, bits of sun-dried tomato and spinach, and large chunks of grilled chicken. To be fair, the chicken pieces were juicy and tender, and we picked a few off to enjoy on their own. The whole thing was lightly sprinkled with melted mozzarella and covered with ribbons of pesto mayo that looked like they had just been squeezed out of a tube of Aquafresh.

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5 comments
Kim Pebley
Kim Pebley

While I agree that this is a healthy dining establishment, your review is unfair and inaccurate for those who are on restricted diets. Once you begin to take offending foods from your diet, you palate changes (and I question yours at this point.) Let's face it, we all want to see & taste something fabulous on our plates! Many nutritionists and RD's will tell you that overcooking vegetables depletes their nutritional value. When we dine out we allow the restaurant do the cooking by using their talents and recipes. I would like to know how you can be so critical of these ingredients and how they were presented to you? Do YOU have a plethora of food allergies? Do YOU personally have experience with a limited DAILY diet? Is it possible that you are one of the many people following the Standard American Diet (SAD) diet that considers bread, pasta, corn and pizza as staples? As a consumer and someone who must adhere to a limited diet, I thoroughly enjoyed all that was put before when I dined at Nourish. I find your review closed minded and unhelpful for those who NEED Nourish's enlighten cooking style.

Maya
Maya

Hi Kim, Thanks for your thoughtful response. You are right that my palate may not be sensitive or accustomed to this type of food since it's not the kind of thing I ate regularly. For the record I try to avoid corn and corn derivatives in my food, only eat pressed grain bread, and almost never, ever eat pizza or burgers or fries or any deep fried foods. However, it's true that I don't have a plethora of food allergies. This is why I attempted to to taste not only the menu items designed for extreme diet restrictions, but also things that were directed at a more flexible eater yet were supposed to be healthier through the use of special techniques and ingredients. Perhaps I just COULDN'T appreciate some items because I never eat the kinds of things they're made of. But the bottom line is that this is a restaurant that wants to give EVERYONE a healthy eating experience, not just the minority of people in our community with intense dietary restrictions. I understand and appreciate the kind of service Nourish is trying to provide. But there is absolutely no argument to validate the under cooked state of the asparagus that I received there. To absorb the nutrients you first have to consume the food item, and it was simply not fit for consumption. Perhaps if you've never had properly cooked asparagus you would think it's ok, but I assure you there are myriad restaurants around the Valley that offer it to you in a delicious and edible format, not over cooked, firm, juicy, and nutritious.

To be honest with you I think that Nourish suffers from a lack of well trained and experienced staff to prepare this food. Go down Scottsdale Rd and eat at Green. Same idea, excellent food. Most of the problem with what I ate at Nourish was not actually the unusual flavors of the tweaked ingredients, it was the carelessness and inconsistency of their preparation. They didn't keep the asparagus in the oven long enough, they over cooked the pizza crust once and under cooked it the second time. They didn't serve the soup when it was still hot. They weren't careful in dressing the salad. Nourish needs better chefs, not a better concept.

TofuToYouToo
TofuToYouToo

Amen. I had the same experiences and posted on Yelp. I'm so sad that healthy food is represented this way when there is so much more than it could be. As a vegan with great options in the Valley, this place is on my "Don't Go" list. Bummer. But thankful for the validation.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

It's unfortunate that restaurants don't understand gluten-free flours. Gf pizza crusts can be just as good as regular ones, but you can't expect it to come out of the oven with a nice golden brown color. Gf flours just don't look as pretty, and when restaurants try they end up over cooking the pizza crust.

 
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