The Java Dive Organic Cafe is exceptional in the true sense. The owners, Roni Liberman and Romy Sanders, bring lifetime knowledge and a genuine love of real food into reality with this business. This business has many facets. It is a restaurant, a haven for coffee lovers (with coffee roasted there on the premises), a market, a provider of take out meals, an ice creamery, and even a place to languish in summer months while enjoying the outside patio.
For those of us with celiac disease and other food intolerances this is surely a place to frequent. Roni himself is gluten sensitive. And Romy is a naturopathic physician, trained at Bastyr University, with experience dealing with people with different food allergies. They know the consequences to their clients and take it seriously.
And, not to be taken lightly, almost all of the offerings are organic. Roni is working on obtaining official certification as an organic restaurant. Once in place, he said that Java Dive would be in the company of other restaurants in the country so few in number that you can count them on two hands. Ironically, the gluten-free offerings tend to be the non-organic offerings, simply because some of the core ingredients are not available in organic form.
There are typically nine employees, including two chefs. Turnover is very low. Detailed discussions occur weekly regarding the procedures related to preparing and serving gluten-free food. I was able to meet the chefs and one of the employees, as well as to tour the kitchen and prep areas, all of which reinforced their commitment level.
Roni and Chef Kate welcomed a discussion about minimizing cross-contact wherever possible. Roni is planning to develop an employee manual and a book of ingredients. He has already developed a gluten-free pamphlet, stating all of the ingredients for their gluten-free offerings. The only exception may be with some of the baked goods, which can change over time, however, that information can be provided if it did not make it into the original pamphlet.
All gluten-free orders are handled in a special manner. Sandwiches and breakfast tacos are made using individual foil pieces placed on the prep surface. The panini sandwiches are made using Kinnikinnick bread and are heated using the dedicated left side of the toasting grill. Wraps and breakfast tacos can be ordered with Food For Life’s brown rice tortillas or Whole Foods’ organic corn tortillas. The corn tortillas are not labeled as gluten free but are the Whole Foods organic brand, which many of us are familiar with already.
The individual breads remain in their original wrappings until use, and are also kept in a separate refrigerator in the prep area.
Virtually all the pasta used is the Tinkyada gluten-free brand. Separate packages of soba noodles exist, but are rarely used. They know never to reuse the water for boiling.
All meats are Boars Head brand natural meats, cheeses are pure with no adders, and the mayonnaise and mustard are gluten free with minimal ingredients.
Almost all of the soups are gluten free and with this clearly noted. They are made fresh daily.
Daily “Chef’s Specials” clearly state whether they are gluten free or not. Only one special is made each day, minimizing the chance for cross-contact. Although they do not use separate preparation areas, Roni has identified certain utensils to be used for the gluten-free products and employees know to thoroughly clean the surface or utilize the dedicated foils.
The bags of flour are kept at the same level in their original sacks within the cooler. The gluten-free flours are kept separately in plastic containers. This both helps identify the gluten-free ones and minimizes contamination.
Salads do not contain croutons, but for non-celiac customers a piece of pita bread is added. Employees know not to place this bread on the plate of gluten-free customers. If a mistake were to be made, they understand a new plate would need to be made.
There are many fantastic gluten-free baked goods to satisfy everyone’s love of sweets. Each week a gluten-free cake is made, then kept in its own, specially labeled glass cake container. All brownies made at Java Dive are gluten free. The numerous gluten-free cookies and biscotti are all baked on dedicated trays and then individually wrapped.
The cheesecake, which is also suitable for diabetics, has no crust. They use ZSweet as their natural and gluten-free sweetener. Some of the baked goods even include vegan and dairy free options as well.
Homemade gluten-free waffles are also available, and Roni has just ordered a dedicated waffle iron for his celiac customers.
Java Dive employees make all of their own dressings and sauces, and all are gluten free.
For recipes with soy sauce, SanJ Wheat Free Soy Sauce is used.
They use Frontier spices, considered pure and organic. I contacted Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, www.frontiercoop.com, to see if their spices are gluten free. They do not claim to have an allergen-free facility, although I reviewed the ingredients online and no gluten ingredients stood out to me in their products.
The menu is quite clear regarding the various offerings and relative to being gluten free or organic.
This restaurant is more oriented towards breakfast and lunch, a point for timing when you plan your visit.
I dare say the contents in the market area greatly resembled my own pantry at home, with a nice variety of products for sale – from rice bran through organic, gluten-free soda. There are pre-packaged meals ready to go, and I even saw gluten-free doughnuts in the frozen-foods case, along with the various breads.
Prices are quite reasonable, particularly when you think of the wonderful fresh – and largely organic – ingredients used.
Their Web site is helpful and states all the offerings, including the daily chef’s specials. There is even a special section on the site titled “Food Allergies” for additional guidance.
When I left, the happy lunch crowd was clearly forming.
There’s even some talk of having another Java Dive in downtown Austin one day. (JW 03/09)
Java Dive Organic Cafe