Chow Bella

24 Carrots Makes the Move to Tempe, Serves Healthy Fare (Including Gluten-Free)

When you're gluten-free, your friends and family are always looking out for new places to go out for a meal together. It's a great gift to get a phone call or e-mail suggesting a new place to eat, sit, and share the day's events.

Recently, as I switched jobs, many friends invited me to congratulatory lunches. One friend, a foodie who manages events and regularly seeks out great food experiences, was excited to introduce me to 24 Carrots, Natural Café & Juice Bar.

See also: Jewel's Bakery and Café: The Savory Side of Gluten-Free Dining

The healthy cafe started as a smoothie and juice bar in 2008 and moved from Chandler to Tempe in December. It serves vegan, raw, and gluten-free food. The menu varies daily, so check their Facebook page for updates.

The day we went, I had the Pesto Pasta Primavera off the raw menu. I actually missed the fact that it was the raw menu and thought I would be getting a cooked pasta made with zucchini and some non-wheat flour.

But when they delivered my plate, the "pasta" actually was raw zucchini cut into long curly strands. It was drenched in a nut-free pesto sauce with carrots and peppers served over greens and seeds. And it was amazingly good -- fresh and crunchy and studded with chewy seeds -- with a rich, smooth flavor.

My friend ordered the Jeweled Kale, a salad with quinoa, pomegranate seeds, smoked almonds, orange, and basil fennel dressing. She'd had it before and loved it so much that she ordered it again.

We ate and talked and reminisced about eight years of working together, about the fun and the frustration, about our dreams for the future. It was a wonderful lunch, tasty, healthy, gluten-free food, even more special because it was an invitation from a friend looking out for me.

Invite one of your gluten-free friends and share some love.

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Judith Nichols