It has been YEARS since I had a Latte and I must admit that I miss them. I was a “Grande Non-Fat Latte” or “Double Tall Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato” kind of girl for years before I said goodbye to dairy (…and coincidentally my ‘paunch’ disappeared at the same time) and switched to black Americano’s and coffee (and more recently, decaf). So when I heard that my friend Freya Ravensburgen and her beau Clinton Pontes were opening The Primal Grind – the FIRST (EVER, I think) paleo/primal cafe – inside of the Academy of Lions, I knew I had to check it out to fulfill my Latte fantasy.
Located in downtown Toronto on Dundas St near Ossington, the name speaks for itself…staying true to its Primal roots – No dairy, no grains, no sugar and no soy. This is REAL food kids! To the everyday Starbucks customer, it might seem like it is lacking everything of familiarity. But to me, it offered a whole new level of indulgence. Want a Latte or Chai Latte? You can get one with Almond or Coconut Milk. Want a muffin? They’ve got that too! The baked goods from Primal Indulgence are to die for…more on that in a second.
I asked Freya about what inspired her and Clinton to open The Primal Grind and she said it had always been their dream to open a cafe. The idea came into fruition during a (blueberry picking) trip to Quebec last year and from that point forward the wheels were in motion to open The Primal Grind. They use Intelligentsia’s Black Cat espresso blend on a slick Nuova Simonelli espresso machine – But rest assured, although the ‘inputs’ are the Christian Louboutin of the coffee world, The Primal Grind maintains the same hardcore yet warm (kind of like Eddie Vedder) attitude as Academy of Lions.
OK, enough chit-chat….I was ready for my Coconut Milk Latte…I had been dreaming about it all week. Although I have significantly reduced my caffeine consumption since November, I knew I had to make an exception for this. I have tried to mix coconut milk and coffee before, but it never turns out right. The coconut milk always separates from the coffee and ends up being a lonesome glob floating in the coffee. But with the coconut milk steamed, it mixed perfectly with the espresso….and looked like a real latte. I topped mine off with some cinnamon and was good to go. From the first sip I knew I was in love. It is so rich and creamy and amazing and delicious and so SO perfect. I brought along my 2 non-primal co-workers and they also tried out the Coconut and Almond milk latte’s. We savoured every sip and my non-primal co-workers were pleasantly surprised by how much they loved their drinks. The Coconut Milk Latte is amazing and fills you up almost like a meal. If you’re looking for something lighter, go with the Almond Milk Latte which is equally as delicious, but a bit lighter in your tummy. The verdict: It surpassed my Latte fantasy and made me want to rollerblade around in a crop top and jean shorts like Mariah Carey (from the Fantasy video…get it??) while singing at the top of my lungs.
Next we had to try the baked goods from Primal Indulgence – all made with REAL food…no grains, refined sugar, agave, processed crap or dairy. Being a baked good fiend, I was stoked to taste test them all. It’s not often that I have a legit excuse to sit and eat 4 different treats. OK, I shared them with my 2 co-workers…I’m not that much of a pig….although I did hog/inhale most of the Choco Zucchini Spice Loaf. Each treat was amazing and I was impressed…This is a big statement from me because I am a baked good aficionado. The Banana Cacao Muffins contain ZERO flour (not even coconut flour) and are made with walnuts, banana, raw cocoa, honey and a couple other ingredients. O…M…G… it was good! So moist and satisfying….If this Banana Cacao Muffin went head-to-head with a regular banana muffin on American Gladiator, this muffin would win hands down and that poor gluten-filled banana muffin would be jousted from the stage in seconds. We also had the Apricot Nutballs which are a bit sweeter from the fruit and were the favourite for my co-workers. Then we had the MACaroons which were coconut-y goodness rolled up in a cute little ball. They were crunchy and light…and I could eat 4,000 in 1 sitting. I saved the best for last…The Choco Zucchini Spice Loaf which was my personal favourite…super moist and chocolaty with a little kick of spice. Hot DAMN… that squash makes a mean brownie base! The verdict: I was so tempted to eat the entire display case…I can picture myself with crumbs and raw cacao all over my face running down Dundas St jacked up on espresso laughing hysterically and rolling in the street like cookie monster on crack.
As I write this I’m drooling for more of everything….but alas, I must wait until my next visit.
All REAL ingredients…
Once I was able to take my mouth away from the Latte and treats, I had to ask whether they have had any customers come in from the street and ask for a Starbucks clone… “Non-Fat, no whip, extra hot SOY Latte.” Freya told me that they have had people request ‘Starbucks’ fare. Rather than making them feel like they’ve entered the twilight zone, she kindly tells them that they choose to use Coconut and Almond Milk instead and provides them with some information on WHY they choose to serve it up Primal style. For the most part, it sounds like people are willing to ditch their “Venti Mocha’s” in favour of trying something new which is pretty awesome. I can speak from experience that once you taste the rich, creamy Coconut Latte you will be hooked for life. And I think I’ve converted my non-primal co-workers too.
And it’s not just about the drinks and food….the experience ROCKS….literally. The combination of enjoying a Coconut Milk Latte and some of the Primal Indulgence treats while watching a Crossfit class at Academy of Lions do deadlifts and handstand push-ups was my idea of heaven. Of course the whole experience was elevated to another level with GnR’s Patience blasting in the background. Take note Starbucks….I’d much rather sip on a Coconut Milk Latte to some sweet Axl than your Jack Johnson boo-hoo music any day.