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Pure and Simple Cafe

June 21, 2009

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Pure and Simple Cafe sounded strange when first I heard about it -- a combination coffee house and health food restaurant with nutritional counseling and massage.

The reality of Pure and Simple was strangely wonderful.

This quaint house is surrounded by trees and bushes on East Baltimore Street in Greencastle, between Interstate 81 and Pa. 16. The parking lot was full the afternoon Sarah, my niece, and I came for lunch and so we parked by the side, right in front of a flowering mock orange bush.

The sweet, summer fragrance followed us across the parking lot and up the wooden stairs to the porch of this old house turned into a modern dwelling for health and well-being.

We walked through the living room, past the stairs and into what was once the kitchen. To our right was a door from the past, a large wooden door with a window in the middle of it and a transom window overhead. A screen door opened onto the back porch and backyard with a small garden where tomato plants struggled to find light among tall trees. A barn in the distance was painted in a whimsical manner.

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But back to the present. We examined the slate board overhead which listed the menu.

When we looked in the room to our left we saw 17 members of the Red Hat Society. The dining room was awash in purple and red hats and jackets. We watched in awe as a man brought plate after plate out from the tiny kitchen and served each of the 17 women in turn. The salads he carried to them were mounded high and as colorful as the women -- green salads sported red cherry tomatoes and shavings of red cabbage.

Because I was recovering from dental surgery, I chose a soft cheese omelette. My niece chose the special, a plate with a wrap and a bowl of soup. Together we discussed which healthful drink to try. She settled on a smoothie and I chose green apple juice from the fresh juice bar. The woman who took our order told me it was very cleansing.

I paid and we went to the front room. The décor was Art Deco in warm rich tones of brown. The woman followed us and set a plate of chocolate cake before us. "This is gluten-free cake," she said. "We're sorry if you have to wait," she added, nodding to the 17 women in the next room. "This is good for you," she finished and left.

We sat at a round oak table. Sarah tried the cake. "Interesting," she murmured. I said, "I'll wait."

A UPS man walked through with a delivery while we waited. He blended right into the brown décor. The walls had photographs of soothing, natural scenes: flowers, barns, running streams, lakes.

Encouraging words were placed throughout the house. Sarah noticed that the plaque over the room of the Red Hatters read "Sit Long, Talk Much." I looked up and saw the word, "Faith," framed and hanging over Sarah's head. Then she pointed to the sign that read "Every day holds the possibility of a miracle." Our reading spree ended when the man came with our drinks.

Sarah's purple smoothie was in a plastic glass with a plastic bubble over top and a straw sticking out. My fresh juice drink was a lime-green liquid with a froth served in a wine glass with a slim slice of kiwi fruit on the rim of the glass.

Sarah loved her smoothie. She said, "You can tell that they didn't add anything to it, just fruit. Blueberries probably give it color." We got two straws and indulged. The smoothie was delicious, extremely cold and naturally sweet.

My green apple juice tasted mostly of celery. I was not too sure I liked it. A server passed by as I took my sip. He was concerned about my reaction. He suggested the addition of pineapple and took the drink away. My drink returned refreshed by pineapple and his kind care but it still tasted like celery to me. Sarah tasted it and said, "It tastes like drinking sweet celery." I said, "I just need to get used to it. I have never had anything like this before."

Sarah's meal came on an attractive square plastic plate that looked ceramic. There was a cracker with organic, whipped butter and a sprinkle of herbs, maybe oregano. The cracker was delicious with the lentil soup, which was most pleasing. The soup had celery, carrots, onions, lentils, cilantro and herbs. Sarah was happy with the hint of curry.

The wrap was a 6-inch spelt wrap with free-range chicken salad. The chicken salad was delicious and served with mixed greens, tomato, vegan mayonnaise, olive oil and Celtic sea salt. We were curious about the mayonnaise, called "veganaise," and the salt. There were shakers of Celtic sea salt on the table and bags of it for sale upstairs. Veganaise remained a mystery but Sarah wondered why a nonvegan chicken was served with a vegan dressing.

The omelette was substantial -- three free-range eggs, cooked to perfection and filled with feta and mozzarella cheese, then drizzled with bits of yellow peppers. The omelette was served on a green plastic plate which matched the juice and had a side of blue, three-pepper, tortilla chips, which were worth the dental pain to eat.

Now it was time to eat the cake which had sat on the table during the meal. "It has a kick," Sarah warned. I ate the walnuts and peanut butter morsels spread on the cake.

What was most remarkable about this place was that we really tasted our food and thought about it and discussed it. We were aware of what we were eating and aware that it was good for us. Sarah summed up our meal aptly: "Some of it was good. Some of it was too healthy."

Omni Vore is a pseudo-nym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Pure and Simple Cafe

4 1/2 stars

Food: 4 stars (out of 5)

Service: 5 stars

Ambiance: 5 stars

Value: 4 stars

Address: 628 E. Baltimore St., Greencastle, Pa.

Phone: 717-593-0359

Web: http://www.pureandsimplelife.com

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday

Style: Vegetarian and healthful breakfasts and lunches

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